If it sounds like an odd ball idea, well, it is. Sort of. The quirky, old-school schnitzel dishes come courtesy of The International House of Schnitzel in Oakland Park, a three-month-old lunch and breakfast spot situated next to the Fox and Hound on Dixie Highway.
It's safe to say schnitzel are not as buzz-worthy as pancakes, the
specialty of another, well-known International House. But when you
think about it, the breaded cutlet is even more popular worldwide. In
Austria and Germany, schnitzel is typically a thin, pan-fried veal
cutlet. But just south in Italy, it's known as cotaletta alla milanese. In dozens of Spanish speaking countries it's called milanesa,
and it's hugely popular. No matter the country of origin, the schnitzel
is a working class staple, even if may not always get the recognition
owner, Rudi Pollak is trying to change all that. A Romanian-born
Israeli who grew up in Dusseldorf, Germany, Pollak has had a long-time
love affair with the cutlet. "If you look all over the world, I'd say
about 70 percent of the countries make schnitzel," he says. "In
America, you call it a chicken cutlet. It's very simple, and everyone
can eat it."
The almost universal appeal of schnitzel, along
with the stagnant economy, is what prompted Pollak to open IHOS along
with his business partner Eli Hershkovich. Each day, the pair creates
their entire menu from scratch; everything from the schnitzel to
homemade garlic mayonnaise for their custom sandwiches and burgers.
Hershkovich creates the restaurant's signature apple strudel and
knishes by hand, which IHOS ships out to customers across the U.S.,
while Pollak works his schnitzel magic, using quality chicken cutlets
instead of veal. "Where I grew up in Dusseldorf we used chicken instead
of veal or pork," he says. "Plus, where other restaurants sell their
schnitzel for $12 I can sell mine for $5."
Pollak is a 30-year
industry veteran who's done everything from food
and beverage management to executive cheffing throughout Europe and the
U.S. His genuine enthusiasm for food is a result of years of following
his dream. "The great thing about food is you can completely change
what you do. It's also the great thing about life," he says.
I sampled two of IHOS's many specialty schnitzels at the tiny, cafe-style restaurant:
the Holstein, seen above, and the Kaiser, with Swiss cheese and
mustard. Each schnitzel was tender enough to cut with a fork, and
thoroughly crispy. With the Holstein, I really loved the saltiness of
the anchovies against the creamy eggs
-- swiping bites of schnitzel through the yolk was awesome. The one
side effect of the toppings, however, was the cutlet went soggy
slightly faster than I could eat it. I'm eager to try Pollak's
favorites, the jaeger schnitzel with a "hunter's-style" mushroom sauce
and the gispy, a spicy Italian take on the cutlet.
of the platters at IHOS come with some great sides. If you like red
cabbage, Pollak's version is otherworldly. The German dish can either be too
sour or too sweet, but as served here it's perfectly balanced. You can
really taste the fresh apples Pollak adds to the mix. His mashed potatoes are even better;
tangy, fluffy, and perfectly seasoned without adding anything at all.
I had to ask him what his potato secret is. "The secret is there's no secret," he says. "I peel and boil potatoes
every morning, and mash them with a little milk and real butter, not
margarine. It's just real, fresh potatoes."
restaurant also serves killer schnitzel sandwiches with that custom
mayo, subs, burgers, and salads. Breakfast is served all day, as are
homemade soups including goulash. For dessert, a slice of
Herschkovich's sweet and flaky apple strudel for just $2.50 is amazing;
as good as any German grandmother could make.
With the low
prices and old-school, homemade dishes, I could see the quirky little
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International House of Schnitzel garnering some buzz. Could schnitzel
finally be getting the respect it deserves? At least for me, that's a
International House of Schnitzel
4820 N. Dixie Hwy., Oakland Park 33334