Cafe Society

Plum good: Golden Europe's schnitzel, spaetzle and strudel

Visiting Golden Europe is like going to your Middle European auntie's house for dinner on a Friday when you're craving schnitzel, spaetzle or strudel. The Czech family that's owned the place for fifteen years bustles around the kitchen as you eat, with the soft-spoken father periodically visiting the tables to chat with strangers and regulars alike. The young waitress who served us said she'd been there for three years because her employers are so kind.

The building that houses Golden Europe was once a Pizza Hut, and the dining room is bright, clean and open, with no nooks or odd little corners. Decoration is minimal and unsurprising: photographs of the Tyrolean mountains, a big painted cowbell hanging by the door that you're supposed to ring on exiting if you liked your meal — and ring it I did, with some enthusiasm.

The cuisine is Czech, German and Austrian. We ordered soup with liver dumplings, jaeger schnitzel and a Czech plate: pork, duck, dumplings and sauerkraut. The portions are so large that my Czech plate eventually provided three extra meals: I snacked on the duck for lunch the next day and shredded what was left, along with leftover pork, into a risotto that served both me and my husband amply that evening.

The Czechs don't customarily use dried cherries, orange sauce or other sweet-savory accompaniments to tart up duck, and this one had simply been seasoned and roasted, so that the skin was crisp and the flavor of the meat predominated. The pork medallions were a little dry — in Prague, roast pork is usually served dripping with fat, which is delicious and exactly how it should be, but I imagine that preparation wouldn't go over very well in the States. Still, the restaurant provided plenty of thick gravy on the side to remedy the problem, and also to soak the light, savory bread dumpling slices arrayed at the side of the plate. The jaeger schnitzel was huge, too, which was lucky — because otherwise my friend and I would have fought each other for extra bites. The pounded pork, expertly breaded and fried, was served with a mushroom sauce I'd happily have eaten with a spoon. The only stumble was the sauerkraut that adorned both entrees. What was needed was something sharp and light to cut the heaviness of the meats, but this was thick and gloppy, and managed to be simultaneously too sour and too sweet.

Fruit dumplings weren't available for dessert, since Golden Europe doesn't serve them every day, but apple strudel was, and a shared slice made a pleasant ending to the evening. In short, this is a nice, homey spot — especially if your home has its roots in Middle Europe.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman