Old Heidelburg, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

I recently stopped over in Fort Lauderdale on a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and visited the fabulous Mai-Kai, of course! I was also able to dine at a German restaurant in town that I’ve wanted to check out for a while – Old Heidelburg.


photo by The Jab, 2014

photo by The Jab, 2014


The restaurant has been open since 1988, in a large building that once was a New England Oyster House, one of many locations of the restaurant chain in Florida. The photo above shows the restaurant from the road, but the entrance is actually in back next to the parking lot. On entering you are greeted by a hostess in traditional Bavarian costume (a dirndl), who escorts you to your table in the dining room, a long room with dark wood paneling and beams, heavily shellacked wooden tables (which look like the tables in the Molokai bar at the Mai-Kai) with carved wood partitions, lamps in various styles, pictures of Bavaria and other German subjects on the walls, interesting bric-à-brac, and festive streamers.



photo by The Jab, 2014



photo by The Jab, 2014


The menu is very extensive, but the restaurant specializes in food from Bavaria, particularly the roasted meats popular in the 425-year-old Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich (and its offshoots), such as lamb shanks, schweinshxe (a huge pork shank), smoked pork loin, schweinebraten (roast pork), sauerbraten (marinated roast beef), roast suckling pig, roast goose, and roast duck. They also offer many schnitzel (fried cutlet) variations, seafood (usually great in South Florida), sausage plates, chicken, steaks, and more. And don’t forget to leave room for house made apple strudel!


lamb shank with red pepper sauce, spaetzle, and red cabbage - photo by The Jab, 2014

lamb shank with red pepper sauce, spaetzle, and red cabbage – photo by The Jab, 2014


The lamb shank I had was excellent, as were the sides of spaetzle and red cabbage. I chased it with a Krombacher dark from their good selection of German beers on tap, served in glassware appropriate to the beer you are having. And I like that they still use vintage plates from the New England Oyster House.


photo by The Jab, 2014

photo by The Jab, 2014


There is a festive atmosphere in the place, with live entertainment nightly in the bar. It is like being in a real German tavern when you are inside because most of the friendly staff are from Germany and speak to each other in German part of the time. I got the impression that they have a lot of loyal regulars who frequent the place, which is not surprising judging by the good food and service and friendly atmosphere. To sum it up in one word, Old Heidelburg offers a feeling of gemütlichkeit!


Old Heidelburg
900 SW 24th Street (State Road 84), Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
Open Mon-Fri 11:30am – 10:00pm, Sat-Sun 4:00pm – 10:30pm
(bar open later, until approx. 11:30pm Sun-Th, 1:00am Fri-Sat, always call first)


The Iron Door, Johnsville, California

Every fall I like to do a long weekend drive into the mountains of Northern California to see the fall colors. If timed right there are some areas that rival anything back east or in the Rockies, such as massive groves of aspen turning gold in front of dramatic snow-crowned mountain peaks. My favorite areas for fall color are the eastern Sierra along U.S. 395 and the surrounding roads, such as the spectacular June Lake Loop highway, and the Feather River Canyon from Oroville to Portola in Plumas County. This year I went with some friends back to the Feather River route (we previously went together in 2010), but this time instead of starting in Oroville to a base in Quincy this time we started in the overdeveloped gold country towns of Grass Valley & Nevada City, heading northeast on scenic highway 49 through sparsely populated Sierra County (pop. 3,240 and only one traffic light) to the hidden Lakes Basin, then on to Portola to spend the night. The next day we drove to Quincy and down the beautiful Feather River Canyon.

image by http://www.fromvalerieskitchen.com

Along highway 70 between Quincy and Portola lies the charming small town of Graegle, which used to be a company town for the Graegle Lumber Company, a box manufacturer for the California Fruit Exchange in the 1920s through the mid-1950s. The town consists of several small red houses from the company town (some converted to businesses), the friendly Knotty Pine Tavern, a few motels and cabins, and, surprisingly, three golf courses. It makes a great base for exploring the Lakes Basin Recreation area nearby, a beautiful mini-Sierras of cragged peaks and dozens of lakes. Nearby to Greagle is the tiny town of Johnsville and its only business, the Iron Door restaurant.

Placemat art at Iron Door. Image by Joel E. on Yelp.com.

In 1951 gold was discovered on the slopes of Eureka Peak in Plumas County. Johnsonville was founded in 1876 at the base of the peak to house and cater to the growing mining population. The building that is now the Iron Door was built in 1906 and served as a general store and post office, but the mine closed in the 1940s (some of the mine’s artifacts, buildings, and equipment are preserved in the interesting Plumas Eureka State Park next to Johnsonville). In 1961 the Iron Door restaurant opened; and it remains in the same historic building (the only commercial building left in the small town). When entering the restaurant you pass the bar on your left and then enter the main dining room, a large room with an open ceiling of beams and rafters and a floor of pine. The room is filled with antiques and artifacts, making for a cozy, homey atmosphere, and giving you plenty to look at when nature calls. Be sure to look at the longboard skis on display above the bar. In 1853 a Norwegian miner introduced longboard skiing to the region and in 1861 the miners on Eureka Peak started the first downhill ski competition in the western hemisphere! Every winter longboard ski races are still held by the Plumas Ski Club, with the skiers wearing period attire. Our waitress told us that she even participated in the race, and that you reach very high speeds because you have to go straight down the mountain!

The menu at the Iron Door consists of steak, seafood, German schnitzel, and pasta dishes, with some daily specials such as veal piccata. Everything is house made and delicious. I went with a steak, which was tender, flavorful, and done perfectly. After dinner we tried the house “Johnsville special” dessert of vanilla ice cream, crème de menthe, and Ovaltine sprinkled on top, served in a parfait glass. It sounds strange but it was good! And it was old-fashioned, which I always appreciate.


I cheated and took a bite before taking the picture! Image by The Jab.

The Iron Door is only open in May-October and is very popular among locals and visitors-in-the-know so it’s best to make a reservation. And go early (they have a lovely bar for that before dinner cocktail) because most small towns in the mountains roll up the rugs at around 9:00 or 10:00. Although I like fall best, the Plumas County area is also great in the spring and summer. There are some nice lakes and the fishing reportedly is some of the best in the state. The area is much less crowded than the mountains south of I-80. Just don’t tell everyone. Let’s keep it our little secret, OK?

Here are some fall color shots I took on this trip and last year in the Eastern Sierra. See you next fall, fellow leaf peepers!

Walker River Canyon, CA, Oct. 2012. Image by The Jab.

Walker River Canyon, CA, Oct. 2012. Image by The Jab.

La Porte Road, Plumas County, Oct. 2013. Image by The Jab.

La Porte Road, Plumas County, Oct. 2013. Image by The Jab.

June Lake Loop, Oct. 2012. Image by The Jab.

June Lake Loop, Oct. 2012. Image by The Jab.

Convict Lake, Oct. 2012. Image by The Jab.

Convict Lake, Oct. 2012. Image by The Jab.

The Iron Door
5417 Main Street, Johnsville, CA, 96103
Open from May until the last Sunday in October, Wed through Mon 5pm – 9pm

Schilo’s Delicatessen, San Antonio, Texas

Opened at its original location in San Antonio in 1917 by German immigrant ‘Papa’ Fritz Schilo, Schilo’s Delicatessen has been serving customers hearty German & deli food at its present location since 1942.

image by Schilos.com

The main dining room looks like it dates back farther than 1942 (perhaps it was another restaurant before Schilo’s?) with its pressed tin ceiling, wooden booths on one side, a deli counter on the opposite side, wooden tables and chairs on beautiful tile floors, and many windows to let in plenty of natural light during lunchtime.


They are famous for their homemade root beer, split pea soup, potato pancakes, and the Reuben sandwich on dark rye. I tried all the above, but I could have just had a large bowl of soup and a root beer and left satisfied. Their split pea soup is one of the best I’ve ever had. But the Reuben was a bit of a disappointment as the bread got a bit soggy from the sauerkraut.


During your visit make sure you look in the side dining room, which is filled with taxidermy, old postcards, and photographs.

image by © Darren Travels 2013

Schilo’s Delicatessen
424 E. Commerce St., San Antonio, TX 78205
Phone: (210) 223-6692
Open Mon-Sat 7:00am – 8:30pm, closed Sunday

Henne Alt-Berliner Wirtshaus, Berlin

There aren’t many historic restaurants or pubs in Berlin that are as old as Henne Alt-Berliner Wirtshaus (translation: old Berlin inn or pub) in the happening Kreuzberg neighborhood. What wasn’t destroyed in WWII was probably demolished in the former East Berlin to make room for housing and public buildings. I couldn’t find an exact date when it opened, but many sources state it’s been open for a hundred years or more. So the Nazis probably visited it in the 1930s and 40s. And the Berlin Wall was built right in front of it. That’s a lot of history.

Henne’s specialty is chicken, organic and milk-fed, served in half-chicken portions. I’m pretty sure it’s broasted (cooked under pressure) because it’s cooked to order but only takes about 30 to 45 minutes (roasting would take longer). However it’s cooked, it comes to your table piping hot with dark brown, crispy skin and juicy, tender and delicious meat. Some of the best chicken that I’ve ever had. Popular side dishes are the excellent potato salad and cabbage salad. If you don’t feel like chicken there are other German classics on the menu such as wurst. Beer on tap is the excellent Schultheiss.

Henne, Berlin, chicken

The decor is classic cozy pub, with beautiful decorative wood, old tables and chairs (with plaid tablecloths), vintage lamps, and many pictures and paintings on the walls. When I was there in October on a Tuesday night at 9pm it was pretty quiet, but it’s usually very popular so reservations are recommended.

Henne, Berlin, interior

Leuschnerdamm 25, 10999 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 6147 ext. 730
Hours Tues-Sat 7:00pm – 12:00am, Sunday 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Hofbraühaus, Munich, Germany

I recently spent some time in Germany and Scotland, so I’ll be blogging in the next few posts about some of the historic restaurants and bars I visited on my latest trip.

Munich’s Hofbraühaus brewery and beer hall dates all the way back to 1589, when it was built to supply duke Wilhelm V and his family with better beer than they were used to getting in Munich. The beer hall was relocated in 1606 and again around 1800, to be torn down and rebuilt in 1896. A portion of that building survived bombings in WWII and was fully rebuilt in 1958, which is the current Hofbraühaus.


photo by cooltownstudios.com

photo by cooltownstudios.com


The main hall, Schwemme, is a large room with many wooden tables (some are original from 1896) and is usually filled with a happy, boisterous crowd enjoying music by a Bavarian oompah band. There is also a smaller dining room, the Bräustüberl, upstairs on the second floor along with a large festival hall, and an outdoor beer garden.



The beer comes in three varieties at the Hofbraühaus: dark, original (helles), both served in one liter mugs (or maß), and weisse (wheat), served in half-liter glasses. The waitresses can carry up to ten or twelve full liter mugs at one time! The beer is super fresh and delicious!



I ordered a traditional crispy roasted pork knuckle with a potato dumpling and a pretzel. Hearty and tasty!



The Hofbraühaus is a must-visit when in Munich!


Platzl 9, 80331 Munich, Germany
Tel: 089 290136100
Open: Mon-Sun 9am–11:30pm