After taking the Cog Train to the top of Pikes Peak during our visit to Colorado Springs, we got back to the hotel to change clothes courtesy of a late check-out provided to us. It was around 1:30 and we were getting hungry. We had thought about getting German food the night before, but we ended up getting Italian at Paravicini's (click here to see the entry on Paravincini's). This time, we decided to go seek out a German place toward the east end of town - Uwe's - primarily because it was close. But we got there just after 2 p.m. and they had already closed their lunch serving. We then plugged in the address in the GPS for a place toward the south side of Colorado Springs - Edelweiss. Pulling up there about 15 minutes later, we found that it was definitely open.
Edelweiss has been around since the 60's when Eric Grundel opened the restaurant in what was formerly an old two-room school house. The school house, originally, was just up the street, but was moved to the present day location to be a residence. The sub-terranean foundation of the building features three-foot-thick rock walls because it sits on land that used to be a pond before it was filled in with ash from a power plant in downtown Colorado Springs. It had turned into a building for commercial use before Grundel bought the building and established Edelweiss in 1967.
Two years after Edelweiss opened, German immigrant Helga Schnakenberg began to work at the Edelweiss as a waitress because she believed the place and the people made her feel more at home. Trained in business and tax consulting in Germany, Helga soon got more responsibility within the restaurant, eventually becoming the general manager of Edelweiss in the 70's. In 1979, Schnakenberg's husband, Gary, took a job in Montana and she left Edelweiss to follow him there. But she stayed in touch with many people at the restaurant.
In the late 80's, the chance to buy the restaurant came up for the Schnackenbergs, and along with their son, Dieter (who had been born in Montana), they moved back to Colorado Springs and bought the restaurant in 1989. The family lived in a small house next door to the Edelweiss on land that is now that parking lot. Dieter Schnackenberg began his career at the restaurant as a young boy folding napkins and sorting silverware. He became a dishwasher in the restaurant in his early teens, then eventually spent his summers as a line cook at Edelweiss. Dieter then took a three-year culinary apprenticeship program at the prestigious Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs before returing to his family's restaurant. Today, Dieter Schnakenberg runs the day-to-day operations of Edelweiss.
Head chef Ana Perez, a native of Panama, was first hired by Helga Schnakenberg (when she was the G.M of Edelweiss) as a dishwasher in 1975. Sensing that she had a good feel for food, Schnakenberg eventually paired Perez with Wolfgang Kaufmann, the first executive chef at Edelweiss. Perez learned all there was to know about German food and preparation from Kaufmann.
And head pastry chef, Alfred "Freddie" Hiltbrunner has been associated with Edelweiss off and on since the business opened in the 60's. Hiltbrunner, a Swiss native who was trained as a pastry chef in his hometown of Zurich - where his father was a baker - is in charge of the delectable pies and pastries that Edelweiss has become famous for.
Edelweiss is not on the beaten path, but it's a couple blocks off Nevada Ave, a main north-south street on the south side of Colorado Springs. The GPS had us take a right on Ramona Street and we pulled up to the restaurant at the corner of Ramona and S. Tejon Street. (see map) We were greeted by a woman with a heavy German accent at the hostess counter and asked if we wanted to eat inside the restaurant or on the patio. It was a glorious sunshiny day in Colorado Springs - one of the over 330 sunny days they see on an annual basis. The patio featured tables with umbrellas and shade awnings to keep diners cool on even the hot days. We decided to eat on the patio and enjoy the day.
We were seated at a blue-checkered cloth-topped table near a thermometer on a post that showed the temperature at 91 degrees in the shade. But with low humidity in the air, it felt wonderful. Our server, Susanne, who also had a bit of a German accent, came to greet us and take our drink order. I took a look at Edelweiss' beer menu and at the top was the Paulaner lager. I ordered a stein of the Paulaner and Cindy got an iced tea.
Looking through the lunch menu, we saw a number of sandwiches, soups and salads available, along with smaller portions of favorite German dishes such as weinerschnitzel, jagerschnitzel and zigeunerschnitzel - a breaded and sauteed pork cutlet topped with a tomato, mushroom, onion and bell pepper sauce. I found the sauerbraten on the menu and decided that I was going to have that.
Cindy was in a bit of a quandary. She was hungry, but was afraid to go hog wild on lunch as I had promised her that I would take her to Chianti Ristorante near where we were going to stay in Denver that evening. (Click here to see my entry on Chianti.) She decided to get a sandwich and ended up ordering the reuben when Susanne came back to take our order. She also got a dinner salad to go with her sandwich. I got a couple sides with my sauerbraten - the red cabbage and the bacon potato dumpling.
Cindy's house salad consisted of a mix of lettuce greens, cold green beans, pickled beets and German potato salad. She said, "Well, this is interesting." A large tomato wedge rested on top of the German potato salad. She said the concoction was very good. She had me try a pickled beet and some of the German potato salad and I'll have to say that both had very good flavor.
Susanne brought out our lunch plates and we were ready to eat. Cindy's reuben was stacked high with thick cut corned beef topped with Swiss cheese and an ample amount of sauerkraut. The light rye bread was lightly toasted. From her first bite, Cindy was impressed with the sandwich. "I wasn't certain I wanted a reuben," she said. "But the meat is so tender and has a lot of flavor. I'm glad I got this."
My sauerbraten featured two cuts of their marinated beef and topped with a sweet and sour brown sauce that was delicious. The meat was tender and I could easily cut it with a fork. The red cabbage was wonderful with a nice sweet and sour taste to it, as well. The two small bacon potato dumplings were good, but I couldn't get much of a taste of bacon with them.
The first beer had gone down rather easily, so I ordered a second beer from Susanne to help close out my meal. This time, I ordered a Warsteiner pilsner beer. I like the taste of Warsteiner with German food. And I have to say that I was more than impressed with the selection of German beers Edelweiss had at the restaurant, both on tap and in bottles.
The amount of food was just right for me and I wasn't stuffed, nor was I wanting for more. But Cindy had designs of looking through the dessert menu. Susanne brought out a dessert menu for us to look through and I immediately saw the bread pudding and the tiramisu - all made in house Freddie Hiltbrunner. They even had a tray of both for $20 bucks, probably for large groups of diners. Then I saw something else on the dessert menu - the lemon mousse torte, a multi-layered lemon cake from Freddie Hiltbrunner's in-house bakery. Cindy saw they had a hazelnut torte, as well. I told her that I really didn't want anything, doing my best to push away the dessert urge that I was having. But then we compromised - Cindy suggested we get a piece of the lemon torte to take with us. We had a cooler in the car and we had it later that evening after dinner. It was absolutely and sinfully wonderful.
Before we left, I wanted to take a look through the restaurant. While Cindy went to the restroom, I popped my head into the west wing room of the restaurant (below left). The ornate room featured some interesting woodwork on the ceiling in an elegant and cozy setting. I then looked over into a room across from the west wing room - the middle room (below right). Like the west wing room, the equally ornate middle room also had an interesting ceiling and a fire place.
While I was browsing about in the middle room, a guy came out of the kitchen and asked if he could help me. I explained that we had just eaten on the patio and I wanted to look around at the restaurant. He said, "Be sure to go downstairs to take a look at our downstairs Rathskeller." I took the stairs down to the Rathskeller area and it was dark. But I found this picture (below left) of the downstairs lounge area on Edelweiss' web site (along with the other interior shots of the restaurant). I wish I would have found a light switch because the lounge at Edelweiss looks like it would be a great place to have a beer while waiting for a table in the main dining area upstairs.
Before we left, I took a quick gander into the large east wing room at Edelweiss. Used primarily as a party/reception facility or overflow on a busy night, the room was set up that day with long tables like it was getting ready to host a banquet. The brightly lit room was the antithesis to the other dining rooms at Edelweiss with light-colored walls and a high ceiling, but still possessed the same style of interesting ornamental artwork throughout the room.
We loved a everything about our visit to Colorado Springs. And Edelweiss was no exception. The food was very good, the patio area was comfortable - even on a 90 degree day, and the service we received from Susanne was impeccable. We were very happy that circumstances brought us to Edelweiss or we wouldn't have enjoyed one of the better meals we had on our trip to Colorado. Edelweiss' great authentic German food and interesting decor is worth the visit.