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Photo by Nick SchouAnaheim's Jägerhaus Authentic German Restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside. The modest restaurant occupies a stuccoed corner of a mini-mall, and it seems almost lost, situated as it is off the Ball Street exit of the 57 freeway, hidden by shrubbery. Nonetheless, it remains one of Orange County's best-known—and -loved—German restaurants. The food? Terrific. Whether it's a succulent bratwurst sandwich, the tender-beyond-belief weinerschnitzel, the equally tender and tantalizingly tangy sauerbraten, Hungarian beef goulash, or the unpronounceable but unforgettable Weiner Roastbraten—gahzoontite!—a.k.a. pan-fried New York steak with grilled onions. There are great potato pancakes and thick old-fashioned blue-cheese-drenched green salads and wonderful dark bread.
And beer. Ah, the beer. All kinds of beer. Dark and light. Heavy and not. German and domestic filth. Is it any wonder that Jägerhaus has become the place for shell-shocked families to decompress after their ordeal at nearby Disneyland? (Note to parents: request the booth in the back called "the Pit." It's almost totally surrounded by planters, so you can drink and your children can froth without fear of attracting attention—a little bit of beer-soaked heaven.)
All this explains why, over the years, the Jägerhaus has swollen from its early days as a hole in the wall to a place large enough to consistently host groups like Los Amigos of Orange County, which reserves Jägerhaus' banquet room for breakfast meetings every Wednesday. What doesn't compute so easily is that Jägerhaus has maintained its place—and quality—even though original owner Gus Riker, originator of all Jägerhaus recipes, sold the place a year ago.
"The original owner got to know a young lady from Mexico," says Amin David, chairman of Los Amigos. "So he sold the place and went after her."
Fortunately, one of the original chefs still is on staff. That would be Herr Francisco Pinedo, you know, of that well-known burg Jerez in Zacatecas (in central Mexico). Pinedo has been with Jägerhaus for 12 years and learned his skills directly from Riker. He has been at it so long that he's starting to feel out of touch with the culture—not to mention the cuisine—of his homeland.
"I don't even know how to cook Mexican food anymore," Pinedo joked during a recent break. "I just cook German food. That's all we serve here. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. "
At breakfast, Pinedo specializes in inch-thick German pancakes, stomach-stretching German omelets (served with Polish sausage or bratwurst, sauerkraut and onions) and the house favorite: a plate of delectable Crailsheimer potato pancakes served with applesauce. Ole!
Pinedo has always been a crowd pleaser and has already become popular with the folks from Los Amigos. For nearly a decade, they held their weekly breakfast meetings at the since-passed La Isla before moving to Mimi's Cafe and then to a Sizzler. After Sept. 11, Sizzler could no longer afford to open for breakfast, so someone suggested Jägerhaus. A few members staked the place out and got hooked like just about everyone does—and the rest is history.
At a recent meeting, David introduced Pinedo to the crowd, which roared with laughter when David called Pinedo "a 100 percent authentic German from Jerez, Mexico."
It was about the time the restaurant added a banquet hall eight years ago that Pinedo briefly stopped working at the Jägerhaus to make room for a new feature: a genuine German cook. The vacation didn't last long.
"People started complaining about the food," said Ruben Velasquez, Jägerhaus' matre d'hotel. "We said, 'Hey, the new cook is from Germany. The old cook was a Mexican guy.' So they said, 'Bring back the Mexican cook!'"Jägerhaus Authentic German Cuisine, located at 2525 E. Ball Rd., Anaheim, is open Mon.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. (714) 520-9500. Beer & wine. Dinner for two, $20-$40, food only. All major credit cards accepted.