ABOUT THE DISH
What: Rooster Schnitzel.
Includes: 8 ounces of pork-loin cutlets topped by two fried eggs and choice of two sides.
ABOUT THE RESTAURANT
Where: Brewhaus, 224 Frazier Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.
Chattanooga's first Volkswagen-era restaurant to offer up German cuisine is hoping to attract patrons with off-kilter twists on traditional foods from both sides of the Atlantic.
Since the Brewhaus opened its doors on Sept. 16, the Rooster Schnitzel has been among the most-popular items on a menu full of double-take dishes, such as cherry ale mustard-glazed chicken and cheeseburgers smothered in sauerkraut and pickled beets.
Some German patrons have balked at the Rooster's untraditional use of fried eggs to top schnitzel (a pounded meat cutlet), but those who try it have been won over, co-owner Michael Robinson said.
"I was thinking, 'How can we make this a little more colorful? It looks a little plain just being fried schnitzel,' " he said. "That's how the Germans like it, but I thought it needed something, so I decided to try it with eggs fried sunny side up."
The Brewhaus is located in a freestanding building on Frazier Avenue, a location most recently occupied by The River House restaurant.
In the pub's tiny kitchen, Robinson begins by lightly coating 8 ounces of thinly pounded pork loin with a house flour blend before dipping it in an egg wash.
The schnitzel is then transferred to a pan of hot oil, where it is fried until golden brown and crispy. In a neighboring pan, Robinson cracks a pair of large eggs, which will be fried and eventually plated atop the cutlet.
Like all Brewhaus entrees, the Rooster comes with a pair of side items. Selections include German potato salad, home fries, vinegar slaw, a vegetable medley and spaetzle, a dish of egg noodles cooked with sautéed mushrooms in a boiling pepper cream sauce.
Once assembled, the dish weights in at more than a pound. Robinson said that heft is par for the course at the Brewhaus.
"We try to give pretty hearty portions," he said. "When most people think of German food, they think of a big plate full of starches and meats with a liter of beer. We try to promote that atmosphere."
The Brewhaus is the end result of Robinson's two-year planning process to open a restaurant of his own.
He began working in the food industry at age 11 as a dishwasher at his father's Outback Steakhouse franchise in Hamilton Place, where he was on the line by age 14. He has since worked in kitchens around town, from St. John's and Northshore Grille to Terminal Brewhouse.
About a year ago, Robinson settled on the concept of a German-American pub, a decision motivated in no small part by Volkswagen's decision to build its plant here.
"That was the final push to go out and do it," Robinson said, adding that the Brewhaus helps fill a long empty niche in the cultural landscape.
"There's a total void of good German food, whether Volkswagen is here or not," he said. "Every good-size city has a German restaurant, and Chattanooga is missing that."
With the exception of long wooden benches, a small outdoor beer garden and a stuffed boar's head above the bar, the Brewhaus has a ways to go before it achieves a truly Teutonic air.
Over time, however, the decor, like the menu, will reflect a twist on German traditions, Robinson said.
"We wanted to do a more modern take on the traditional German brewhouse," he said. "We wanted to slick it up a little bit and have a new, fresh take."
Within a week of the restaurant opening, the city's German residents already have begun providing feedback in the form of suggested tweaks or, in the case of the spaetzle and potato salad, half a dozen new recipes.
Robinson said he welcomes their suggestions and is already making significant enough adjustments in the kitchen to warrant printing an entirely new menu in the coming weeks.
Ultimately, the German community's input will be vital to the Brewhaus's future success, whether they like eggs on their cutlet or not.
"They come in, and they're excited that someone is tackling the whole German restaurant challenge," Robinson said. "They understand that we're new and want to work with them to work out the kinks and get the best menu mix possible for everyone to enjoy.
"We really want it to be Oktoberfest year-round down here."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...