It is hard to believe I know, but I had never been to the Rathskeller before this review. It has been on the list since the beginning, but I don’t know, it just never seemed to happen. Recently, during Devour Downtown, it seemed like an excellent time to give it a try because their Devour menu had some nice sounding choices. I really liked the way Rathskeller let you make a mixed plate with several of their special items (you could choose 2 things from a list of 4-5) and then add two sides (out of many many choices).
We sort of decided to get one of the Devour menus and then also order a straight off the menu entrée and just share the appetizer and dessert. This turned out to be a good plan, because the Devour items were large (I don’t think they reduce portions here during Devour Downtown like many restaurants do). So we started with the onion dill bread for our appetizer. It was a large sized piece of bread with lots of dill flavor, garlic, provolone and Parmesan cheese. It was cut into strips and was a great thing to share. No way would I want to eat this whole thing myself (well, I might want to, but I wouldn’t want to eat anything else.) This was one of my favorite parts of the meal. The bread was quite hearty and the dill seasoning was unique and went well with the mild cheese. It was served with Ranch dressing on the side, as well as a pickle spear, which I thought was kind of odd, but actually, I really enjoyed dipping the bread in the dressing and eating the pickle to give a little sour flavor along with the rich bread (have I mentioned, I love pickles, so anytime I see a dill pickle with something, it makes me happy).
Our appetizer was served quite promptly, but after eating it, we had a few minutes to really look around. I really enjoy the atmosphere at the Rathskeller. It is clearly quite old, and has kept lots of the charm that comes with being in an historic (19th Century) building. It is a rather large place as well, but it was pleasingly full of people while we were there. The staff is also extremely professional and attentive. As soon as your water glass gets low, it is refilled. And when your beer stein needs a refill, you will be quickly asked if you would like to order another. I found this quite refreshing.
Next we were brought out a delicious basket of various breads—although I sort of got hooked on the warm soft pretzel and ate that mainly. They served it with a mustard dip that is so full of horseradish, the server warns you before you eat it. I thought it was over the top, and it would have been nice to have an alternative offered, because mustard and pretzels are such good friends.
For our main dishes, we got a regular order of schnitzel. Regular entrees came with a side salad as well as two side dishes. With the schnitzel we had potato pancakes and spaetzle noodles (nothing like a bit of starch with your meal). We also had a Devour Downtown combo with Jaegerschnitzel and Kielbasse with sides of red cabbage and German potato salad (no salad with the Devour Downtown special).
Sadly, the schnitzel was not good (which was particularly bad since we had two schnitzel based dishes). Schnitzel is just pounded pork tenderloin that is breaded and pan fried. The regular schnitzel was served with some lemon slices on top as well as a lemon sauce on the side for dipping. It was strangely really pink in color but at the same time really tough. The dipping sauce was pretty thin and didn’t have enough flavor for me. The sides on this dish didn’t fare much better. Both starches were pretty bland, and the potato pancake was kind of tough. The noodles had a sauce on top that was slightly sweet, but not really imparting anything beneficial in my mind.
The Jaegerschnitzel was the same schnitzel as above (with the same inherent problems) covered with a sauce of mushrooms, shallots, garlic, red wine and herbs. Because the meat was so tough, the sauce could not really do anything to save it. The cabbage was pretty sweet (to be fair, our server informed us of this when we ordered). I didn’t mind it so much, but hubby really didn’t care for it and was annoyed when any portion of it came into contact with his other items. The German potato salad was the best side dish we had by far. It is a warm potato salad and had a slight tangy and sweet flavor to it (because it is made with vinegar and sugar instead of mayo) which was really nice.
The best part of our main dishes though, was clearly the kielbasse. It was a very flavorful sausage. Simple and plain, but with great smoky flavor. Hubby loved it, and because of it alone, is already planning our next trip back.
We also shared a dessert—for Devour Downtown, they gave you a huge list to choose from. We went with the soft pretzel with chocolate sauce. It was the same pretzel from earlier (which was fine because it was delicious) served with a little dip of chocolate. The dip was really quite good. I am not sure what kind of chocolate it was, but it had a very rich chocolate-y flavor. And I tend to like salty things with chocolate. My only complaint was the container they chocolate came in was disposable plastic, obviously then heated, and the plastic itself was a little melty. That sort of freaked me out. A ceramic dish would be much nicer.
This was an interesting experience, because even though we didn’t really care for much of the food we had on this night, we both discussed that we would like to return. The menu is large, and who knows, maybe you would be better off with just one of the steak or pasta dishes (even though they aren’t really German). I think the service and atmosphere won us over a bit. I think this was an example of when really good service can make a dinner better even when the food wasn’t that great. So I would like to hear from you all about what you think—a lot of you have recommended the Rathskeller. What are your favorite things food-wise, and/or is it something besides the food that keeps you coming back? After all, this place has been around forever, so they have got to be on to something.
401 East Michigan