Jager Haus Bistro and Coffee Shop
833 Conti Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
Napoleon's Rating - ***/*****
Traditional German cooking is often dismissed as being too heavy or too dull with its consistent mainstays of meat and potatoes. But as Jäger Haus shows, there's a lot to love with this type of cuisine when the old recipes are presented right. In fact, they often reveal similarities to the types of dishes New Orleanians love to eat anyway, especially the schnitzels we locals would call paneed meat.
The narrow space has been remodeled since Jäger Haus first opened in 2007 and is now much more open and roomy, with yellow walls and a mellow, uncluttered feel. It is a very casual place, and some patrons use it as a coffee shop while others just stop in for a Bavarian wheat beer.
Service matches the casual atmosphere and overall approach here. The waiters seem well versed in the kitchen's traditional specialties. However, it rarely seems that more than two or three people are working at the café at any time, so service can be slow and appear inattentive if there happens to be a rush.
The appetizer list is short on options but long on potatoes. The potato pancakes are thin, crisp and loaded with garlic, while the menu also lists two types of potato salad, available together as a sampler plate. The German version has thick potato slices dressed with vinegar, mustard, onions and pickles; and the Bohemian rendition is more finely chopped and bound by mayonnaise, egg, peas and bits of apple. There is usually a daily pate, and the rabbit liver one I tried was smooth and spiked with cognac. The cheese plate was composed purely of supermarket brands.
As mentioned above, schnitzel dishes of pounded, breaded meat will be instantly familiar to fans of the local paneed meat tradition, and they are mainstays on the Jäger Haus menu. The wiener schnitzel and the jäger schnitzel each start with pork cutlets, which are fried for the wiener schnitzel and sautéed and topped with cream sauce and mushrooms for the jäger schnitzel. The wiener schnitzel came out thin, greaseless and crisp, while I preferred the jäger schnitzel primarily for that rich and gratifying sauce. The traditional, tiny German dumplings called spaetzle accompany many of the entrees but unfortunately turn out a bit plain. It works much better if you ask to have them pan-fried, giving the little doughy wads crisp edges. This goes especially well with the Hungarian goulash, which has chunks of beef smothered in buttery gravy flavored with paprika. It makes a good winter-warmer. It was hard for me to try something as common as a burger with so many other more German options, but it turns out Jäger Haus makes uncommonly good burgers with very fat patties on sturdy rolls.
Given its theme, this restaurant is practically required to serve German chocolate cake. It's pretty good but my pick would be the apple spaetzle, fried with butter and cinnamon.
German beer, the natural accompaniment to all this hearty Bavarian food, is the drink of the haus. While the tiny bar doesn't have much selection, quality German imports are represented on draft or by the bottle and are served in traditional stemware. Coffee is also serious business at Jäger Haus, which doubles as a café with a whole menu of specialty coffee drinks.
Prices are moderate, with most entrees around $15. A couple should expect to pay between $50 and $60 with drinks and appetizers.
Jäger Haus assembles hearty and satisfying samples of the comforting German cuisine rarely see in New Orleans. It is not fancy or terribly creative, but rather resembles a postcard rendering of the typical sort of casual café food one would find in Bavaria or just over the order in the Czech Republic. It's a refreshingly different, mid-range option to keep mind when in the Quarter.