German food is shamefully stereotyped as a cuisine being nothing more than sausages and sauerkraut…with plenty of beer. Thankfully Strudl Haus shows us that German fare is so much more tasteful and intriguing.
Tucked away just south of downtown on Indianola Avenue, Strudl Haus offers a refreshing take on German and Austrian food in an elegant, yet cozy atmosphere that makes you feel as though you’ve discovered in a little-known café somewhere in central Europe.
The menu at Strudl Haus offers a mix of centuries-old favorites including lesser-known German dishes. You can savor t an array of sausages, spaetzle, or schnitzel – or take the road less traveled by sampling the duck, German sausages, or even wild boar.
Each main comes with a salad course, but this is not your typical tossed first course. The salad plate is composed of four different salads: carrots tossed in yogurt, a zesty bean salad, sauerkraut slaw, and a spritely vinegar-based salad. The different textures and flavors provide excellent contrast, but my bias gravitated toward the carrots.
For our mains, the Weiner Schnitzel (fried veal cutlet) is worth seeking out – flashbacks of childhood memories eating schnitzel danced in my head. Perfectly fried but not too heavily breaded with a squeeze of lemon over the top, the schnitzel was tender and moist. The parslied boiled potatoes further complimented the authenticity of the dish. Prefer pork to veal? No problem, you have that choice. My wife opted for the Pork Raindl – seared pork medallions in a light tomato-mushroom sauce with crispy potato pancakes. The brightness and acidity of the sauce was a perfect counter to the richness of the pork and pancakes, highlighting how refined German cuisine can be.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying the desserts so we split the Napoleon (puff pastry layered with creme patisserie) and the day’s special cheesecake. While the cheesecake was refreshingly light (its made with cottage cheese and a hit of lemon juice), the winner was the Napoleon. Perfectly flaky pastry filled with a vanilla pastry cream, its tough to imagine finding pastry in Des Moines that is comparable to those in Europe.
It’s worth noting that in addition to being a restaurant, Strudl Haus is also a bakery. It was delightful seeing patrons come in for a nightcap of espresso and pastries.
So, will we be back? Absolutely. While I have a few qualms such as the music being a little loud and the service lasting almost two hours, the food was worth it. What sets Strudl Haus apart from other restaurants is the depth of their wine list. Owner Michael Leo’s knowledge of different wine varietals from nearly every geographic you could think of was impressive. For instance, our hearts were set on a bottle from a vineyard we recently visited in Napa. However, with the bottle no longer available, Michael recommended an alternative at the same price point with nearly the same blend, and we enjoyed a story on why this particular wine (from New Zealand, no less) made it into his cellar. This knowledge, along with the overall attentiveness of the staff and the quality of food, make Strudl Haus a welcome addition to the Des Moines dining scene.