Schmidt's serves up authentic German food at its best

Schmidt’s Deli, a utilitarian if pleasant new German cafe from the owner of Walzwerk, pairs sausages and other cured meats from an authentic German butcher in Mountain View with housemade potato salad, sauerkraut, vegetable salads, German wines and fabulous German beers. Low prices and huge portions charm the Yelp crowd. High-quality German ingredients paired with skillful on-site cooking and friendly service please everyone.

Now that hot dogs are so hot, why not try them from their source? German frankfurters here are boiled so their smooth, juicy interiors plump up in a natural casing that pops when you bite into it. Three franks, along with nine different grilled sausages, come with housemade braised sauerkraut, evocative of fresh, sweet cabbage, and a mountain of the most delicious German potato salad bound with hot potatoes — themselves seasoned with chervil, grain mustard, a little mayonnaise, a splash of mild vinegar and just the right amount of salt. Almost every table takes leftovers home in a deli box.

In a class by itself, pan-fried, Berlin-style blood sausage ($10), has an unctuous, provocative, spice-scented filling, completed with braised apples and onions and that sublime potato salad.

A simple, crisp sliced cucumber salad ($6) with pickled onions refreshes and counterbalances the richness of the sausages, though a tossed mache salad with julienne apples and tiny cubed beets was so lightly dressed one night, it was boring.

Kohlrabi and endive in a thick gratin ($10) were firm and moist yet tender, their distinct flavors mellowed by butter. The mass of green bean salad next to it was overvinegared. “Onion cake from the Rheinpfalz” ($6.50) turns out to be a wide wedge of onion tart with a buttery crust slathered with delicately sautéed sweet onion, cut so thin it looks like cappellini. A crisp pickle and a wedge of perfectly hard-boiled egg go brilliantly with it.

The coating fell off a chewy veal schnitzel ($14.50), topped with a runny fried egg, as I tried to cut it. But the cheese-crusted, pan-fried cauliflower and leeks beneath the schnitzel made up for it. For that always satisfying egg and meat combo, try pan-fried leberkase ($12), a pork and veal terrine with the texture of a frankfurter, with crisp, caramelized onions and that great potato salad.

Dreamy chocolate pudding ($5), dark and full flavored, defines “velvety,” especially when bathed in vanilla custard sauce. The apple strudel ($6.50) stands tall, thick with vivacious apples barely sweetened with a little custard, cinched with flaky filo layers. I’d drop in just for these.

For me, a small glass of cold Reissdorf Kolsch ($2) is perfection, but beer drinkers rejoice over big mugs of clean and refreshing Bitburger Pils ($5), one of eight German beers on tap. Schmitt’s Sonnenstuhl Sylvanner Kabinett, ($8) a fruity, just off-dry white that goes down like lemonade, obviously is made for this food.

The airy corner space, sparely furnished and finished with wood, gets lots of natural light from windows on two sides. Jazz plays. Talk of Chicago and Berlin bounces off the hard surfaces. Servers wait on tables with a no-nonsense, but pleasant demeanor. When I pulled out a credit card, they directed me to the ATM by the kitchen. Cash only is accepted here. At these prices, it’s no surprise.

Patricia Unterman is author of the just released second edition of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at pattiu@concentric.net.

 

IF YOU GO

Schmidt’s Deli

Location: 2400 Folsom St. (at 20th Street), S.F.
Contact: (415) 401-0200
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 5:30 to 11 p.m.
Price range: $5 to $18
Recommended dishes: German sausages and potato salad; kohlrabi and endive gratin; onion cake; blood sausage; pan-fried leberkase; chocolate pudding; apple strudel
Credit cards: Not accepted; cash only
Reservations: Not taken

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