Kiefer's Restaurant

The old sign still hangs outside this Ohio City landmark that served an unforgettable Wiener schnitzel and provided its patrons a place to reconnect with the old neighborhood.
Weiner Schnitzel with Saurkraut and Spaetzle
originally served at Kiefer’s Restaurant
[serves eight]

Wiener schnitzel
8 pork cutlets (3 ounces each)
1 cup flour
4 eggs
3 tablespoons water
2 cups plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Paprika to taste
Vegetable oil

Trim cutlet, and pound out to 1/2 inch. Season with paprika and set aside. Whisk together eggs and water in a deep bowl.

Combine breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a flat container and set aside.

Flour seasoned cutlets and immerse in egg mixture, making sure to moisten all the flour. Allow excess egg to drip off, and lay cutlet on top of breadcrumb mixture. Evenly coat both sides of the cutlet with breadcrumb mixture.

Heat frying pan containing 1 inch of oil. Cook cutlets four minutes per side, allowing them to brown. Pat dry excess oil, and enjoy.

3 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons salt

Blend ingredients together, adding more flour if necessary, to make a stiff batter. Drop by teaspoonfuls into boiling, salted water. Cook 10 minutes, rinse with cold water, drain.

1 pound sauerkraut
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 to 3 small/medium white potatoes, cubed (with skin)
8 slices of bacon, cut into
1-inch squares
pepper and garlic to liking

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker (or low heat on stovetop) and cook, covered, for 4 to 6 hours. Best prepared a day in advance.
Kiefer’s history can be traced back to 1936, the year William and Anna Kiefer ran their beer-and-bratwurst stand at the Great Lakes Exposition. It was such a success, they decided to open a restaurant — Schwarzwald, just across the bridge from downtown.

Since its founding, the name changed (Schwarzwald wasn’t a big hit during World War II) and so did the ownership (county treasurer Frank Gaul bought it in 1975), but not much else.

“The recipes never changed, from the days of Bill and Anna Kiefer to when we closed the door,” says Joe Wallison, Gaul’s son-in-law and Kiefer’s night manager since 1985.

And Wiener schnitzel, that crispy, tender classic, was the favorite of them all.

It’s one thing to find a good schnitzel. It’s quite another to meld the flavors of it with the tart of the kraut and the joyfully irregular shapes of a homemade spaetzle.

It’s even rarer still to serve them in the warmth of a wood-paneled room complete with alpine mural and filled with chatter and banter. It was the place to be if you were a politician. Or knew one. Or just liked your sauerbraten, paprikash or bratwurst.

It was also a place to reconnect. “People came back to the old neighborhood on Friday and Saturday nights,” Wallison says. They came at seven and stayed till past midnight.

Kiefer’s demise is, even today, a painful story to retell. When the Main Avenue Bridge closed for repairs, construction starved the restaurant of downtown business. It struggled to hang on during the year-and-a-half repair but shut down in 1991. “It was kind of like losing a family member to a slow death,” Wallison remembers.
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