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Craving a little schnitzel? Try one of these 5 Tacoma area restaurants. Bitte!

Bruno’s schnitzel with potato dumplings and cucumber salad at Bruno’s European Restaurant in Lakewood.
Bruno’s schnitzel with potato dumplings and cucumber salad at Bruno’s European Restaurant in Lakewood. jbessex@gateline.com

Back in 2012 when I went looking for schnitzel for reader Bill Durkee, I offered one suggestion — Bruno’s, the European restaurant serving the greatest hits of German and Polish dining.

Fast forward five years and now we have five options for the fried breaded pork cutlets.

German dining has never looked so promising in the region.

I’ve written dining tours of cabbage rolls and piroshki, but my true European dining love is schnitzel. Few things in life are as satisfying as biting into a crunchy coated cutlet. Even better when it’s laden with gravy.

Read on for a tour of schnitzel, plus two restaurants that host occasional German dining nights.

BRUNO’S EUROPEAN RESTAURANT

Where: 10902 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood; 253-719-7181; brunoseuropeanrestaurant.com.

When Bruno and Krystyna Tomaszewska operated Bruno’s European Restaurant in Parkland, they hosted an experimental schnitzel day. Every Wednesday, they offered 10 variations on the fried pork cutlet dish. Toppings included everything from brown gravy to bacon and eggs. Schnitzel Wednesdays didn’t migrate when the restaurant moved to Lakewood in 2015, but the current menu lists five schnitzels, plus a schnitzel sandwich at lunch. Three are breaded, but two — zigeuner and jager — are not. Adding a breaded cutlet to those two is as easy as a $3 upcharge.

The delicious crunch comes from those housemade bread crumbs. “They’re made from our dinner rolls,” said Krystyna. “It is so much work, but it is good bread crumbs for anything you need. It’s a very important thing that you have good bread crumbs.”

Bruno trims and pounds the pork loin, then dips the cutlet in an egg wash before the bread crumbs, then each cutlet is pan fried individually.

Of the breaded options, the Bruno’s schnitzel is the most popular, said Krystyna ($15.95). A magnificent crunch broke to the tender cutlet. No steak knife was offered, but that’s because none was needed.

Rahm schnitzel used the same crunchy cutlet, but with a creamy mushroom white sauce ($16.95). Schnitzel sunshine is one of those experimental dishes that made it onto the permanent menu, a breaded, fried cutlet topped with a spicy, sweet and sour mango-peach sauce served warm ($17.50).

Jager schnitzel arrived with a brown mushroom gravy ($16.95, plus $3 upcharge to make the cutlet crispy). Zigeuner schnitzel with a spicy pepper-onion sauce also can be made with a crunchy cutlet for $3 more ($16.95).

Two sides accompany every schnitzel. There’s a choice of sweet-and-sour cold red cabbage salad, slow-cooked warm sauerkraut or marinated cucumbers sliced paper thin. A choice of potatoes includes the restaurant’s famous potato dumplings (my first choice), cold potato salad, spaetzle, pureed potatoes or a new menu addition, pommes frites (spiral-cut fried potatoes).

RHEIN HAUS TACOMA

Where: 649 Division Ave., Tacoma; 253-572-4700; rheinhaustacoma.com.

The newly opened German beer hall in the Stadium neighborhood opened with one style of schnitzel, but now has two. Soon, diners will have three choices when a chicken schnitzel is added.

The schnitzel here follows the menu’s theme of German-American fare painted with Northwest brushstrokes.

Rhein Haus executive chef Pete Fjosne and on-site executive chef Kelly Wilson use pork loin from Carlton Farms for the pork schnitzel, which is pounded thin and dredged in flour spiked with dill and caraway, then finished in a coating of crushed pretzels.

The result was quite a sturdy coating, thicker than any other tried for this tour, but carrying a satisfying crunch that broke to a tender pork cutlet topped with a lemon-shallot-butter sauce. The schnitzel was dotted with capers and a tart Granny Smith apple slaw that cut the richness of the cream-licked mashed potatoes ($18).

The restaurant’s beef schnitzel was made with a Wagyu eye of round cutlet carrying the same crunchy pretzel coating ($20). The beef version was just as tender and came topped with a mushroom gravy heavily flavored with smoky bacon. Red cabbage was barely cooked, still crunchy and flavored with a red wine vinaigrette. Creamy mashed potatoes finished the plate. Sound rich? It is. Don’t fret, the digestif bitter, Underberg, is on the menu if you want to survive overindulgence like a true German ($3).

MARY MARY’S CAFE

Where: 16511 Pacific Ave. S., Spanaway; 253-537-4039.

Note: Schnitzel offered Thursdays only until 2:30 p.m.

Thursday is schnitzel day at Mary Mary’s Cafe, a real-deal Spanaway restaurant with the greatest hits of American diner fare. When chef Renate Viney was growing up in Germany, the schnitzel she ate was made with beef. “Real schnitzel is made with veal. Veal is so expensive, so you would have to sell it for $30-$35 a plate, and nobody will spend that much,” she said.

That’s why at Mary Mary’s, she uses affordable pork loin, pounded thin, coated in panko crumbs, and grilled with butter to order. Her panko breading offered an airier crunch with a rich, buttery backbone ($11.99). The schnitzel was served with a lemon wedge for squeezing, plus sweet-and-sour red cabbage served warm and bacon-heavy cold potato salad with green onions and a light vinegar tang. Sliced marble rye also came with the dish.

Sometimes it will come with spaetzle or another dish in lieu of the potato salad. Schnitzel also comes with soup or salad.

Owner Mary Sloan — the cafe is a nod to the nickname she earned back when she worked at Paradise Bowling — said if diners are lucky and there are schnitzel leftovers, they’ll show up on the breakfast menu with eggs.

CITRON EUROPEAN BISTRO

Where: 10716 A St. S., Tacoma; 253-212-1153; bit.ly/2oTqCH7.

How fitting that the former home of Bruno’s European Restaurant still has outstanding schnitzel. French-born chef Christophe Durliat opened his Alsatian restaurant Citron European Bistro in 2016 in Parkland. The bistro features French, German and Swiss fare.

The wiener schnitzel arrived as two pork cutlets, pounded thin, wearing buttery jackets that slipped off easily with a nudge of the fork ($19). Served simply with lemon for squeezing, the schnitzel came with a cold potato salad flecked with bits of bacon and a mustardy vinaigrette. A thin-sliced cucumber salad tasted heavy on dill. The entree came with a crisp garden salad, too. If you want it jager style, just ask. A creamy gravy with sliced mushrooms will arrive on the side.

GORDON AND PURDY’S PUBLIC HOUSE

Where: 17136 state Route 410 E., Sumner; 253-750-4756; gordonandpurdys.com.

This Bonney Lake pub features a broad European pub menu with German, British and American fare. Jager schnitzel here was a blanket of pork that carried a snappy coating and nearly covered the entire dinner plate ($15). A little gristle clung to the edges, and the bland gravy with rubbery mushrooms could easily be skipped. Instead, ask for a squeeze of lemon. Served with creamy mashed potatoes and red cabbage salad.

GERMAN NIGHTS

Spring Lake Cafe: Call ahead or check the Fircrest restaurant’s Facebook page for its occasional German nights that sometimes include schnitzel. 616 Regents Blvd., Fircrest; 253-460-0919; facebook.com/springlakecafe.

Browns Point Diner: The Northeast Tacoma restaurant hosts occasional German nights, sometimes with schnitzel. The next one will be in May on a Wednesday. 6622 East Side Drive NE, Tacoma; 253-952-3743; brownspointdiner.com.

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