Top of the Town

There was a time when men always wore suits and sauerkraut balls were considered a fancy appetizer.
touffer’s Top of the Town was born of this era and became a downtown dining icon that lasted more than three decades.

Sauerkraut Balls
originally served at Stouffer’s restaurants, including Top of the Town
[makes approximately 75]

1/4 pound ground pork sausage
1/4 pound ground cooked ham
1/4 pound ground cooked
corned beef
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup milk
3 cups firmly packed sauerkraut, drained and chopped fine
3 cups fresh bread crumbs
Melted shortening or oil for deep-frying

Egg batter
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

*Recipe note: While the ground meats in this recipe are generally not available at local stores, you can use a food processor for the same effect.

Break up pork sausage into small bits and fry in a heavy skillet until lightly browned. Add ground ham and corned beef, chopped onion and parsley; continue to cook, stirring frequently with a fork until hot.

Sift flour, salt and dry mustard together once; add to meat mixture, stirring constantly to combine.

Add milk, and continue to cook over low heat until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.

Stir in chopped sauerkraut and mix well. Chill mixture thoroughly. For rapid chilling, spread in a shallow pan and place in freezer for 30 minutes.

Shape mixture into 3/4-inch balls. Roll lightly in flour.

Combine beaten eggs, water and salt to make egg batter. Dip floured balls into egg batter, then in fresh bread crumbs.

Deep-fry in 360-degree fat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot with mustard sauce.

*Note: Balls can be frozen after shaping. Defrost for 30 to 45 minutes before breading.

Mustard Sauce
[makes 1 cup]
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup hot heavy cream
2 1/4 teaspoons cider vinegar

Mix sugar, dry mustard, cornstarch and salt together in a heavy saucepan.

Beat egg yolk slightly; add to dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

Gradually add hot cream to egg mixture, beating until smooth.

Place over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and starch taste disappear.

Slowly add vinegar, beating constantly.

Remove sauce from heat and cool at room temperature, stirring frequently to prevent formation of a crust.
*Recipe is made available as a courtesy of Nestlé USA.
The year is 1964. You’re working downtown, just signed a big client and want to celebrate in style. Where do you go?

To the newly opened Top of the Town restaurant, of course, on the 38th floor of Erieview Tower in downtown Cleveland. Looking like Don Draper (at least a little) in your sharp suit, you head for the bar and order a whiskey. What hors d’oeuvre do you order?

Sauerkraut balls, naturally.

Back in the days before business-casual and buffalo wings, these tangy treats were the most-ordered appetizers at Top of the Town and other Stouffer’s restaurants. They were made with a slew of meats and deep-fried, meaning you got both flavor and a nice crunch.

But Top of the Town — and its fancy foods — weren’t just for business deals. The restaurant, which closed in 1995, wasthe place to celebrate. Betsy Helmuth, whose grandfather and great-grandfather opened the first Stouffer’s restaurant in 1924 on East Ninth Street downtown, remembers her early trips to Top of the Town. Her parents took her there for special dinners, particularly when guests were in town. “It was our introduction to the city we lived in.”

By 1975, Betsy was all grown up and on a date at Top of the Town when the waitress brought a tiny, wrapped box to her table. She and Ted have been married 33 years.

It was that kind of a place.
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