When it comes to German cuisine in America, Brauhaus Schmitz (Philadelphia) is the wurst. Executive chef Jeremy Nolen‘s “New German Cooking” makes Brauhaus Schmitz a must-visit destination for classic German dishes and creative variations like foie gras liverwurst, schlachtplatte butcher’s plate for two, pilsner-horseradish mustard and more. (Pictured: housemade bratwurst.)
Behind the scenes at Brauhaus Schmitz
RIA: How would you describe your cuisine?
Brauhaus Schmitz: Our cuisine is a mix of traditional German and our own brand of cooking that we call “new German cooking.” We pay homage to classic dishes like sauerbraten, carefully cooking it to ensure that it retains its original content while making it more flavorful and exciting. With our New German Cooking, we take ingredients that are traditional to a German kitchen and create our own dishes based on those ingredients.
RIA: How has the menu changed since opening?
Brauhaus Schmitz: The menu has changed a lot since the opening. When we first opened, we were very traditional. We always created specials that we featured on the weekends but they weren’t always on the menu. Due to the popularity of these items, we decided to put them on the menu and the response has been amazing.
RIA: What style or signatures of “street food” do you serve?
Brauhaus Schmitz: We have currywurst on our menu, which is a traditional street food in Germany. It’s a grilled sausage served with french fries and topped with curry ketchup. We also offer Döner kebab during the weekends for Bundesliga, the German soccer league. Döner kebab is the most popular street food in Germany. It’s Turkish in origin, but has been adapted to German tastes. It’s a flatbread filled with a beef and lamb meat mixture, cooked on a spit and sliced thin. It’s topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, radishes, cucumber, cabbage, hot sauce, and Döner sauce, which is a white garlicky mayo-based sauce.
RIA: List your signature dishes. What makes them signature and why are they so popular?
Brauhaus Schmitz: Foie gras liverwurst is one of our signature dishes. It’s not our most popular, but it represents our style, new German cooking. We take the traditional liverwurst, typically made with pork or calves liver, and use foie gras instead. It’s a smooth, spreadable sausage that we serve with a red currant-shallot preserve and whole grain rye bread. It’s a great starter shared between two people and has become increasingly popular, especially with industry and foodie types.
RIA: Do you serve any dishes “for two”?
Brauhaus Schmitz: We serve a schlachtplatte, a butcher’s plate for two. It’s similar to the Alsatian choucroute garni. It’s a sauerkraut dish with beer-braised sauerkraut topped with bratwurst, bauernwurst, a crispy roasted pork shank, a smoked pork chop, blutwurst, liverwurst, and a potato dumpling. We feel this is a great dish to share and allows the diners to experience several different types of food on one plate.
RIA: Do you make housemade condiments?
Brauhaus Schmitz: We make several different condiments. We make curry ketchup, a traditional German condiment for fries and sausage, as well as a variety of mustards, such as Bavarian sweet whole grain mustard, a spicy doppelbock beer mustard, a pilsner-horseradish mustard, and a variety of other specialty mustards.
RIA: Do you do a lot of curing in your restaurant?
Brauhaus Schmitz: We do a lot of curing. We recently installed a 5′ x 7′ curing room that is temperature- and humidity-controlled by a digital thermostat. We cure salami, ham, whole-muscle meats, bacon, pork loins and more. All of our charcuterie is German-style, which sets it apart from the rest of the chefs and restaurants that cure meat. The seasonings are different and some of the stuff is cold-smoked before and after being hung to dry.
RIA: Do you have a retail area?
Brauhaus Schmitz: We just recently opened Wursthaus Schmitz, a retail and sausage sandwich store in the Reading Terminal Market. We sell our housemade sausages and prepared items like spätzle, sauerkraut, and German potato salad, as well as hot sausage sandwiches.
RIA: What was the restaurant’s goal in designing the beer list?
Brauhaus Schmitz: Our goal is to have the best possible German beer list in the United States, focusing on rare or overlooked German breweries and those that have never been imported before. We currently are awaiting a few beers that will be new to the U.S. Our general manager visits breweries while she is in Germany visiting family and talks with the breweries about importing. Then we talk to the importers and get the beer on a container so we can offer something new and exciting.
RIA: Draft beers: how many beer handles?
Brauhaus Schmitz: We have 30 handles comprised mostly of German beers with a few American craft breweries that specialize in German styles. Our draft list represents all styles and regions of Germany. Many of the beers are available only at Brauhaus Schmitz or we’re one of the few in the United States to carry it. Our draft beer changes regularly due to what’s in season and what’s available. Germans typically drink beers that are in season, like maibocks in May, lighter beers in summer like pilsners, helles lagers, and wheat beers, and Oktoberfest beer in fall to doppelbocks in winter.