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In Dining Commentary

The traditional wiener schnitzel. (PHOTO: Cody Kinart)

In Dining Commentary

Reuben sandwich. (PHOTO: Cody Kinart)

In Dining Commentary

Portions (and side options) were ample. (PHOTO: Cody Kinart)

In Dining Commentary

Kegel's Inn has been going strong for over 80 years. (PHOTO: Cody Kinart)

In Dining Commentary

Its wall paintings are just part of the restaurant's unique old-world ambience. (PHOTO: Cody Kinart)

In Dining Commentary

Save room for cobbler! (PHOTO: Cody Kinart)

Table for two at Kegel's Inn


For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."

Evan: Here we are again. Our first blog post was on a restaurant you had never been (Odd Duck). Our second was on a place I'd never been (The Noble). For our third installment, we went to a place that neither of us had ever even heard of – Kegel's Inn.

I actually prefer this, since the slate is totally clean and neither of us has any preconceived notions. I also love discovering new restaurants, even super old-school German ones that describe their veal as "lightly glazed in special sauce" and have a clientele with an average age of 85.

One important point before we get started. For anyone looking for info on Kegel's Inn, do not forget that apostrophe when Googling "Kegel's." Just trust me.

Savanah: Ha, thanks for pointing that out. I myself had trouble even saying the name out loud without blushing.

This place was indeed a far cry from, frankly, any restaurant I've ever dined at before. The minute I stepped in the door, I felt like I had traveled back in time. The inside is filled with intricate woodwork and elaborate paintings on every wall. I should note that the paintings aren't in frames; they are on the actual walls. We were led by the host into the dining room, where only two other tables were occupied, at the one closest to us a family was in the middle of singing "Happy Birthday" to its son. I couldn't help but appreciate this scene.

Evan: Yes, we are two very mature adults.

But, yeah, there is definitely something very charming about the whole experience. When I was there, at one table four elderly people (is that PC?) were enjoying their dessert – each had a single scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was all very adorable.

All that aside, I really enjoyed my meal. I started off with the pork shank rolls, which were basically giant egg rolls stuffed with tender shredded pork. There was allegedly also Swiss cheese and cabbage in there, but I didn't taste any. They came with a horseradish cream sauce that played well with the deep-fried porkiness.

From there I ordered the beef goulash over spaetzle. I figured if I'm at a German restaurant, I might as well go native. Besides, if it was bad I knew there was a Taco Bell less than a block away. If you don't know what goulash is (and I didn't) it's basically chunks of meat in a thick, paprika-infused gravy. That's it. And, man, it was good – seriously the perfect meal for a cold October night. The beef was fall-apart tender and the gravy was rich and buttery. It was so rich, in fact, I could barely get through half of it. But it made a delicious lunch the next day.

What did you get?

Savanah: Along with the complimentary warm rolls and butter, my boyfriend and I chose to start off with the onion rings. I chose the reuben for my main course, which the waitress said was their most popular dish. My boyfriend had the same mindset as you and decided on something traditional – the wiener schnitzel. I was impressed with the number of options we were given to go on the side. I selected sour cream and chive fries, while my boyfriend's meal came with soup, salad and choice of potatoes.

I must admit something to you ... this type of food is not really my style. Though I'm not a vegetarian, I'm not a huge fan of a lot of meat (this is a very disappointing statement to most of the men in my life). That being said, the authenticity of the food was the most impressive part of the experience for me. The dishes came out looking almost too perfect to eat. My reuben sandwich was anything but bland, and I was happy to find out that the Thousand Island dressing came on the side. The wiener schnitzel was perfectly breaded but a bit chewy for my taste (although my boyfriend scored it an eight out of 10). All in all, I was very impressed.

What did you think of the service?

Evan: Ah, yes, the warm bread. That's the surest way to my wife's heart.

I was curious how the reuben was because my wife's tenderloin sandwich was ... weird. By that I mean it wasn't really a sandwich, but just a filet served atop a single piece of toast. Very strange. The meat was cooked to perfection, though, even if the side of jus was pretty flavorless. I was disappointed that the rabbit wasn't available (our waitress said it would be back in about an hour, whatever that means).

Service was great for me. The teenage busboys (also adorable) called me sir and never let my water glass run dry. Looking back, I guess the entrees did take a little while to come out, but not so long that I got antsy. Besides, I was pretty full from the appetizer, soup and salad course. This place does not skimp on the portions, that's for sure, and the final bill was a reasonable $48. So, what's not to like?

That said, places like this are curious. I appreciate its history and I loved the historic setting and I truly enjoyed my meal, but it's not a place I'd ever go back to. And I don't really have a good reason why.

Savanah: I feel exactly the same way. It was a great experience, but I see it more as a once in a lifetime kind of thing. The drive out there was a bit of a hassle, and with nothing really around the restaurant, there wasn't much else to justify the trip.

The service was my favorite part of the restaurant. The few other customers there seemed to have come just to visit our waitress, who is obviously very close with the regulars. I overheard her asking about their recent travels and discussing her favorite take-out. The whole atmosphere just really made me feel at home (even though my home is far from an authentic German beer hall).

Evan: I'll have to take your word for that, since I've never actually seen where you live.

Seeing as it's been around for more than 80 years, it does seem we're in the minority with this opinion. I went on a Tuesday evening and it wasn't packed, but it was doing solid business, which is good to see. Milwaukee needs places like this to survive and thrive. And if I ever find myself with an insatiable craving for goulash, now I know where to go.


Talkbacks

olderwiser | Oct. 31, 2012 at 3:20 p.m. (report)

Kegels is a matter of preference and the atmosphere of this German Beer Hall environment is not for everyone. That being said, I am hopeful that Evan will find some adjectives that more accurately and respectfully describe bus boys and elderly couples. "Adorable" does not necessarily come to mind. And is it even necessary to mention that the seated diners eating scoops of ice cream were elderly? I am not concerned about whether or not it is PC, but assume you want us to assume this restaurant appeals to patrons over eighty. Last but not least, the Friday fish fry usually makes the 'best of' lists all around town because it is pretty darn delicious.

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Evan | Oct. 31, 2012 at 2:15 p.m. (report)

Chappie75: It definitely looked difficult, ha.

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Chappie75 | Oct. 31, 2012 at 12:40 p.m. (report)

Evan, yes, you are supposed to eat the open faced sandwich with a knife and fork. Personally, I would find it hard to bite a hunk of meat off of a filet.

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buck | Oct. 31, 2012 at 12:15 p.m. (report)

that drive out to 59th and National must have been grueling. i hope you packed provisions!

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alwaysrocking | Oct. 31, 2012 at 11:46 a.m. (report)

My wife and I went there last year for the Friday Fish Fry and I must say it was excellent. We live near 27th and college so its a bit of a drive, but we will definitly go there again. I think its time for another trip to Kegel's.

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