Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, Columbus, Ohio
I’m not sure why Columbus was a popular spot for German immigrants in the 19th century, but the effect they’ve had on Ohio’s capital is obvious to this day. About one-fifth of the city is German, the Columbus Crew’s fan section is known as the Nordecke (German for the North End) and German Village is arguably the most famous section of the city.
Of course, sausages are some of the first things that come to mind when one thinks of German cuisine, and at the heart of German Village sits the legendary Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, which has been dishing out German favorites since 1886. When you’ve been around for that long, you have to be doing something right, and Schmidt’s certainly is.
The first thing you notice about Schmidt’s is that it is as German as you can get without actually making a visit to Deutschland. Outside of the bar staff, the waiters and waitresses are all attired in traditional German clothes, and the red, black and yellow flag of Germany hangs in the restaurant along with the Stars and Stripes. The bar has plenty of German brews on tap, with the staff even recommending which kind of beer would work for your particular tastes for those unfamiliar with German beer.
Where Schmidt’s shines is their food. Entrees such as the Hoffbrau Schnitzel (pork loin in mushroom gravy), Weiner Schnitzel und Gravy (breaded veal in a mushroom gravy), Alpine Chicken Spatzel (chicken on noodles in a garlic-basil sauce) and saurbraten (lean beef) provide guests with several traditional German meals to decide on, many of which are quite tempting.
But this place is called Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, which means that a trip here would not be complete without trying the traditional German delicacy. If you do, you’ve got four kinds to choose from. From left to right, you have the pork bratwurst, the Bahama Mama (Schmidt’s signature spicy beef and pork sausage, seasoned with their own blend), the garlic knockwurst (mix of beef and pork with a hint of garlic) and the Milder Mama (the Bahama Mama with less heat and without the traditional casing, making it more of an American-style).
All four can be ordered on their own, or you can get the sampler platter which includes all four. However, if you plan on more than just sausage, Schmidt’s also offers the Autobahn buffet, which includes all of the sausage you want, plus the soup of the day, salad, bread and several traditional German side dishes. For those who want an American taste (why?), baked chicken is also available. The Autobahn (named after the famous German highway) includes another perk: a discount on your choice of dessert. We’ll get to that later.
Back to the main course. The sausages are conveniently grouped with respect to heat, with the bratwurst and Bahama Mama on the left and the knockwurst and Milder Mama on the right. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of them. If you’re not a fan of heat, you might want to stay away from the Bahama Mama, which easily has the strongest bite of any of the four, but even it isn’t that bad. It’s more of a strong sense than setting your mouth on fire.
Regardless of your heat tolerance, all four meats have the perfect amount of snap and juice to them, and all boast a high quality of meat. I’m not even a huge fan of sausages, but all four sausages here are just perfection. I went back for more of the knockwurst and Milder Mama, and would have grabbed more sausage if I wasn’t interested in the high-quality sides available.
Again, you’ve got German favorites here, such as German potato salad, sauerkraut, chicken and rice, redskin potatoes and, for reasons known only to Schmidt’s, macaroni and cheese. I’m seriously not sure what that last one is doing there since there’s nothing German about it, but regardless, all of the sides work wonderfully. Like with sausages, I’m not a huge fan of potato salad, but I might have to revise my opinion. This stuff was excellent, as was the kraut.
The one problem with the Autobahn is that you have to be careful not to fill up on sausages and sides, because if you do, you’ll miss out on one of the best parts of Schmidt’s: its jumbo cream puffs. These are so famous that they have their own Facebook page. Yes, one menu item has a Facebook page.
A Schmidt’s cream puff weighs a full half-pound, and you have your choice of vanilla, chocolate or peanut butter fudge. Of course, I had to go with the peanut butter fudge.
What a dessert. The peanut butter is light and sweet, the shell is given a good texture and taste and the fudge just ties it all together. There’s a lot of cream in this puff, and it’s totally worth the cost. If you’d like a different dessert, that’s no problem. Schmidt’s also carries apple strudels, cream pies, German chocolate cake and tarts. You can also go a few feet down the street to Schmidt’s Fudge Haus and try some chocolates.
I wasn’t familiar with German cuisine before this trip, but after seeing what it can be when done properly, I feel like I’ve really missed out in the past. If all German food is like this, man, I can’t wait to visit Berlin.
Time to go: Lunch or dinner. Either is a good option.
Wait during my visit: Would have been long if I wasn’t by myself and sat at the bar. This place is very popular and lines do get very long. There are no reservations at Schmidt’s and the restaurant will not seat incomplete parties, so your best advice is to have everyone together and budget for a wait.
Location: Schmidt’s Sausage Haus is at 240 East Kossuth Street in Columbus’ German Village. Its Fudge Haus is at 220 East Kossuth Street.
Cost: Most platters are $12 or $13, while the Autobahn is $15. If you want a dessert, it’s $5 to $6 without the Autobahn, $3 with the Autobahn.
Parking: Not as bad as it looks. There is a small lot behind Schmidt’s, and an overflow lot across the street, which you don’t see until you go into the first lot.
Specialty items: German cuisine, sausages, cream puffs