You can tell that Gustav's Jagerhaus is a no-frills, no-nonsense operation. The sign on the building says simply, German Food. And come Sunday morning, they serve breakfast, not brunch.
Ditto for the spry, white-haired waitress who made it quite clear there would be no funny business while taking orders. "No, we don't have Bloody Mary's. If we did, I'd be drinking them."
Some of the best German food in Orange County is served in this homely setting on Ball Road in Anaheim. For five generations, Gustav Riker's family has cooked bratwurst, Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle and strudel to families hungry for authentic Old World cuisine.
The family opened its first restaurant in Crailsheim, Germany, in the late 1800s, specializing in hearty meals with local beer and wine. Over the years, Anaheim's Jagerhaus has developed a reputation for wild game, and at dinner, meals revolve around venison, rabbit, wild boar and deer flanks.
Jagerhaus, which Gustav Riker opened in 1986, is also known for its hearty breakfasts. The restaurant serves giant plates of German-style fruit pancakes covered in powdered sugar and meat-stuffed omelets with bratwurst or bacon on the side. Forget calorie counting; there are no light meals here.
Guten Morgan begins with juice or fruit. Of the more than 30 choices, select the dishes served with crunchy hash browns, garlicky Polish sausage, lightly smoked knockwurst or spaetzle. Omelets come with various combinations of either Polish (mildly spicy) or bratwurst (finely ground, not smoked or spiced) sausage, onions and potatoes, vegetables and cheese. (The Czechs in our party went wild for omelets with knockwurst and sauerkraut, the sour in the kraut softened by lengthy cooking with sugar and onions as in their homeland.)
Potato pancakes are chunky and crisp, served with applesauce or homemade strawberry jam. The corned-beef hash is not to be missed, either. It's made with excellent corned beef and potatoes and topped with poached eggs.
Fried thinner and crispier than most flapjacks, German pancakes at Jagerhaus are doughy and almost chewy--the best I have ever tasted. You can choose cherry, raisin, apple, peach or lemon fillings, and skip the syrup.
This kind of cooking takes a dedicated professional, Riker said. It hasn't been easy.
"This is a specialized restaurant, and the food has to be cooked a certain way. I train my people, and when I see they can handle it, I move them up from busboy to cook."
Something tells me the Riker family will be serving sauerkraut and bratwurst for years to come.
Anaheim was founded by German immigrants in 1857. It's comforting to know their descendants are still cooking Old World cuisine.
* Gustav's Jagerhaus, 2525 E. Ball Road, Anaheim, (714) 520-9500. Sunday breakfast price range: $3.60 for French toast to $10.95 for eggs with New York steak. Sunday hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.