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What's Cookin' Behind the Curtain - A Taste of Oktober

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Every Friday, LAist is taking you on a trip down to Orange County to uncover the unique dining experiences that await adventurous eaters willing to explore beyond the county line.

Ah, the beginning of fall. The leaves changing color onset of football season, cooler temperatures. And Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is of course the infamous two-week German festival annually held in Munich, mostly known for the consumption of copious amounts of beer. Last Saturday marked the beginning of the official Oktoberfest. Out here in LA, celebrations are somewhat muted as compared to other American cities, owing to our relative lack of German heritage, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t rock our lederhosen and get our beer stein on. Alpine Village in Torrance and Old World Village in Huntington Beach hold two of the more prominent festivals in the Southland.

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I was in a mid-week mood to get in touch with my inner German, and since a trip across the Atlantic was out of the question for me, I went for the next best thing and popped over to Anaheim to hit up Jägerhaus, one of the few authentic German restaurants around.

From the outside, Jägerhaus looks like a total dumpy dive bar, with faulty lighted signs and a forgettable paint job. Similarly, the immediate observation upon walking into the restaurant is, “what is this décor?” Old floral wallpaper with shelves of beer mugs on the walls, green carpets, and wooden tables. Plus, German polka music softly playing in the overhead speakers. I gather the longtime owners Anton and Sandra Schwaiger sought to bring a homey feel to the place, but it was rather disorienting for me.

Fortunately, sitting down and taking a look at the menu chock full of traditional dishes helped bring some familiarity back. Jägerhaus serves ample numbers of breakfast items, featuring classic German-style pancakes and omelettes. However, it’s the completeness of the lunch and dinner menu that is most notable. There are eight types of schnitzel to choose from (including turkey), as well as multiple variations of goulash. Of course sausages are on the menu. More interesting are the different kinds of meat, including lamb shank, grilled deer, roast ham hock, and braised wild boar. Entrees are served with two sides, with a long list of options like traditional sauerkraut and potato salad to creamed spinach and baked beans.

I am partial to schnitzel, but instead of getting a traditionally prepared pan-fried dish, I opted for the Butter Schnitzel, a thinly-sliced cut of veal topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions. And by topped, it’s not just a few sliced mushrooms. It’s literally a mound of mushrooms; if I didn’t know any better, I would have just assumed it was a mushroom dish with a side of meat. True to its name, it was quite buttery. The veal cutlet was cooked really nicely, moist and juicy, and the absence of the breading as would be served in a Wiener Schnitzel reduced some of the heaviness. The flavor of the mushrooms, especially considering the sheer volume, did drown out a lot of the taste of the veal. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I suppose, depends on your flavor preference, it was fine for me.

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The best part of my meal was the potato pancakes that I got on the side. Accompanied by a small serving of applesauce, the pancakes were amazingly light and fluffy. Rather than a hash-brown style pancake, the potatoes were minced into batter, and it seemed that a greater portion of egg was used than I’ve seen at other places, though the taste and texture of the potato was still evident. I felt that cooking it this way enhanced the use of the applesauce as a topping.

In addition to the potato pancakes, I also got a side order of spätzle. The thick macaroni-like egg noodles were topped with gravy, and I think were the primary cause of my stomach filling up about halfway through the meal (though I plowed through like a champ). And what German meal would be complete without washing it down with a little brewski? Jägerhaus has several bottled German beers, as well as a few on draft – I went with the Hofbräu lager, which is lighter than I would normally drink, but given the denseness of my meal (or the wussiness of my stomach), was actually a perfect complement.

In the movie Office Space (one of the all-time greats), there’s a classic line by Stan the flair-centric manager who tells Jennifer Aniston’s character Joanna, “People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, OK? They come to Chotchkie’s for the atmosphere and the attitude.” And he goes on to rant more about flair. Jägerhaus is like that only completely opposite. People can’t get authentic German food anywhere in LA. So they come to Jägerhaus for a good meal, even though the atmosphere and attitude don’t bring back any such associations with Germany. That’s OK with me; I’ll just put on some Hasselhoff when I get home.

Jägerhaus
2525 Ball Rd.
Anaheim, CA 92806

Photos by Ryan Young for LAist