Eating Wiener Schnitzel in the Twilight Zone

My in-laws said they’d meet us. My father-in-law had a hankering for wiener schnitzel — the German version of chicken parmesan made with veal — and found this restaurant online. Jager-Haus had been around forever and had a reputation for authentic German cuisine.

We drove right past it the first time, missing the sign in front of the old wood building, the color of a faded barn. The sun was setting. One dim neon sign in the window told us they sold German beer. A piece of trim dangled loosely from an upstairs window. The only thing missing was haunted music.

My mother-in-law wasn’t sure she wanted to go in. But it takes more than a dilapidated facade to discourage hungry German men, especially one looking forward to wiener schnitzel.

Inside was surprisingly cozy.

The decor was Grandma’s kitchen meets German tavern, decades past. Beer steins lined the walls, potted plants graced the windows, and bird houses decorated the ceiling.

Jager-Haus Tavern

The only other people in the place — one couple and a white haired woman wearing an apron — leaned over a table, lost in conversation, Corningware serving dishes half empty between them. Were we interrupting a family dinner?

A large, old dog ambled past. Somewhere in the back, a woman with a German accent spoke loudly on the phone. I imagined it was the kind attached to the wall with a long, black spiral cord.

We stood there for a minute before the white haired woman said over her shoulder, “Annemarie will be with you.” She turned back to her conversation.

Annemarie finally emerged from the back, a grey haired grandma, wiping her hands on her apron. We were still standing in the entry. She stood on the other side of the room and called across to us, “So, what will you have?”

We looked at each other. Had we missed the chalkboard menu?

“Tonight we have,” she continued in her thick German accent, “schnitzel, potato, and vegetable.” She waited.

“Oh,” Pete said after a pause, “well, I guess that’s what we’re having.”

“Okay, then sit down,” she said. “What would you like to drink? No Coke. It’s not cold. No iced tea.”

A couple of us asked for water with lemon. Two of us ordered seltzer, one with lemon, one without. It didn’t matter. We all got water with lemon, poured out of a pitcher by the white haired lady, fork held over the spout to catch the ice, and water splashing out onto the tray.

It felt wrong somehow, this grandma standing to serve me. I kept feeling like asking her to sit and let me do it. I noticed Annemarie was wearing a back brace under her apron.

The carrots came first. Sliced carrots prepared like German potato salad — a touch of onion, splash of vinegar, and maybe a dab of mustard. They were actually quite good. I’ll probably try making it sometime.

The wiener schnitzel was tender and juicy with a crispy crust. “Always chicken or pork,” the man at the other table informed us. “Annemarie says veal is too expensive these days.” It was served with real, mashed-by-hand mashed potatoes and a smattering of buttery green beans on mismatched plates circa 1950.

Annemarie gave us portions based on gender. The men had decidedly larger pieces of meat.

wiener schnitzel at the Jager-Haus

No one asked if we wanted dessert. But Annemarie brought out tiny dishes of Neapolitan ice cream.

The couple at the other table got slabs of blueberry pie. But they have a second home in the area and come almost every night for dinner. Sometimes they bring groceries — German sausages, beets, potatoes — and Annemarie cooks. “She’s my second mom,” he said.

The bill was handwritten, ballpoint pen:
schnitzel $56
waters $4
beer $1.50

The white haired lady told us a story about a boy who worked at the restaurant twenty years ago. Annemarie came out from the kitchen and we heard it again. They told the same story, the way proud grandmas might.

“He’s a chef at a big hotel in Germany. 700 people a day in his restaurant! And he comes back here every two years. He was here this summer. When he left he said, ‘I’ll see you in two years.’”

“But who knows what will be in two years. We’re old.”

Later I googled Jager-Haus. It has been cited for multiple violations. Inspection “findings” included:

  • A glass jar was observed in the hand wash sink in the kitchen. Not easily accessible at all times.
  • Observed a very large white dog lying on the floor in the kitchen.
  • Observed a dog biscuit on the table in the kitchen and a box of them in the bar area.
  • The Person in Charge did not demonstrate adequate knowledge of the PA Food Code.

There were more serious violations, but nothing you might not find in any grandma’s kitchen.

Who knows what will be in two years. Jager-Haus Golden Retriever

Before we left, I took pictures of the petrified animals frozen in time.

Jager-Haus animals

If you’re ever in Snydersville/Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and have a hankering for wiener schnitzel, you might want to check out the Jager-Haus. They’re open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Call ahead and ask Annemarie what she’s cooking.

Your thoughts?