It’s not quite October yet, but it’s never too soon to fill up on beer and bratwurst. Oktoberfest celebrations are already under way in Munich, so we’re ready to do Prince Ludwig proud. and so is Harald Neuweg.
The owner of Fritz & Franz German/Austrian restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables is organizing big public bashes in both cities, bringing plenty of oompah to mark the wedding of the Bavarian crown prince more than 200 years ago. The first celebration will take place this weekend on the Riverside Hotel lawn on Las Olas Boulevard; the Coral Gables event is at the restaurant’s Bierhaus plaza. Both will feature traditional foods, giant mugs of beer, live music (practice your chicken dance) and lots of Lederhosen sightings.
If you don’t make it to the parties, and even if you do, Neuweg offers schnitzel, spätzle and other Teutonic faves all year long. His Fort Lauderdale venue has a mixture of booths and wood tables, including communal seating for big parties. Colorful crests representing the nine provinces of Austria, Neuweg’s homeland, are hung over the bar, which offers five German beers on tap and 21 by the bottle. Of course, Fritz & Franz will be selling beers especially brewed for Oktoberfest during the month.
The new Fritz & Franz (the original opened in the Gables in 2003) is one of three restaurants Neuweg launched in 2011 in a 12,000-square-foot, two-story building; the other venues are Bouillabaisse and the jazz club Satchmo (reopening in November).
Sweet servers in dirndl skirts are especially helpful and accommodating, and we promise they will not laugh as you try to pronounce dishes like schinkenteller (a Black Forest ham plate) or schweinshaxen (a crisp roasted pork shank). The schweinshaxen, the Wednesday night special, is so popular that fans usually call ahead to reserve a platter. This newcomer discovered that too late — they ran out of the homey dish on my visit.
But we started out on the right path. What’s a mug of beer without a pretzel, and Fritz & Franz makes one giant pretzel — a 12-inch version you can slather with Liptauer, a savory, paprika-spiced cheese spread you’ll want to try on multiple items here, including their cold cut plate. We shared the Brettljausen, a generous plate with sliced meats and cheeses, including prosciutto and soft, zesty knockwurst. You’ll find the best of the wursts from Emil’s Sausage Kitchen in Pompano Beach and Colorado, where Neuweg also ran a German-Austrian restaurant.
German food is known for its rich sauces, and you’ll find those here, but you can also start with marinated salads with a vinegar-tweaked tang.
The kitchen keeps a light hand battering its schnitzels, whether you get one made with lean cuts of pork, meat, chicken or veal, served with potatoes or a huge mound of buttery spätzle, Germany’s beloved pasta dumplings. Another classic comfort dish is beef goulash, big chunks of meat simmered in a paprika broth. Sauerbraten is more of a sweet-and-sour pot roast, offset by tart red cabbage.
Despite its rich mushroom-bacon gravy, thin slices of pork jäger schnitzel were light and fork-tender, pounded to thin fillets.
For dessert, we couldn’t pass up the classic apple strudel, made in-house with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and strawberry and orange sauces, scrumptious — but forget about fitting into that lederhosen.