Spending the evening in Green Bay recently, I wasn't certain what I wanted to have for dinner. When you're on the road as much as I am, it gets to be a grind trying to figure out what you'd like to get on a specific day. I did a quick Urbanspoon search for different cuisines in Green Bay and saw a place called the Lorelei Inn in the "German" category. Reading up on the place that has been open for 60 years, I decided that I'd give the place a try.
Tom Eschelweck founded the Lorelei Inn in 1953 offering a number of German food items from recipes he had. David Eschelweck took over the family business in the mid-70's when his parents retired. In 1983, David Eschelweck sold the business to Chicago native Leonard Hack and his wife, Marilyn. The Hack's kept many of the original recipes the Eschelweck family had used striving to keep the food as simple, yet as good as it had been. Hack's two children, Dave and Lynne helped out in the restaurant with their family before they eventually took over running the day-to-day operation from their parents. Lynne's daughter, Meagan Colombo, a Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-trained chef, heads the kitchen at the Lorelei Inn.
Right smack at the epicenter of Green Bay Packers football, you wouldn't think there would be too many fans of the hated rival Chicago Bears. However, Leonard Hack put up a Chicago Bears shrine in the dimly lit bar area of the Lorelei Inn after he took over the place and many Bears items still adorn the walls. A couple years ago, Dave Hack (who happens to share the same name of a good friend of mine) brought in a new beer dispenser system and he has a revolving seasonal menu of eclectic beers on tap in addition to every day offerings such as Guinness, Stella Artois and Bass. In addition to beers on tap, the Lorelei Inn has a number of imported and domestic beers to choose from.
The Lorelei Inn - named after the mythological river mermaids on Germany's Rhine River - is actually located in the Green Bay neighborhood/suburb of Allouez on S. Webster. (see map) There's a parking lot on the south side of the small brick building and I was able to find a spot to park there when I pulled in around 7:30 p.m. In addition to the bar area, there is a dining area off to the left of the bar area as you come in. I was greeted by a lady who asked if I wanted to take a table in the dining room, but a quick look inside showed that it was nearly full. Other than a couple three people seated at the bar, the bar area was nearly empty. I asked if I could sit in the bar and she said, "Sure! But, I just want to let you know there is no wait service for drinks if you sit in the bar area." I looked at her a little funny and she said, "You have to order your drinks at the bar." Ah ha! I understand. (Photo courtesy Green Bay Nightlife.com)
I found a table in the corner and she dropped off a dinner menu. She said, "We have a special tonight. It's called the Alpine Schnitzel which are two breaded pork tenderloins topped with a marsala wine sauce with onions and mushrooms." I almost didn't open the menu after she told me that. And she was nice enough to ask me if she could get me a drink, even though she originally told me that they didn't have wait staff service for drinks. I looked at the chalk board above the bar and ordered up a Hacker-Pschorr lager.
In addition to German specialties at the Lorelei Inn, they also feature steaks, grilled salmon, chicken and beef liver on the menu. They also have a large selections of sandwiches including reubens, burgers and something called the Sacher Sandwich - your choice of thin-sliced ham or a quarter-pound burger patty topped with sauteed bacon, mushrooms, onions and green peppers, then topped with Swiss cheese and served on a Kaiser bun.
Quite actually, they only had a couple three German foods to choose from on the menu. They had a Weinerschnitzel plate, as well as Sauerbraten. They also had a "hot meat plate" that featured a pork loin and knackwurst steamed in sauerkraut. The nightly special was sounding better and better to me, even though the Sauerbraten was calling my name.
When my server for the evening came over to take my order, I decided on the Alpine Schnitzel special. I got a choice of a couple sides and I got a potato pancake and some red cabbage. I was told that I also got a dinner salad and she rattled off some of the housemade dressings they had. When she said, "Creamy peppercorn...", I stopped her right there.
The dinner salad was piled high with fresh greens, carrot and radish slices, and a large slice of a fresh cucumber. The dressing was creamy and had a nice peppery taste to it. But the highlight of the salad was the pumpernickel dinner roll I got on the side along with a white bread dinner roll. The pumpernickel had a great and intense flavor to it. I almost asked for a couple more, but I was afraid that I'd eat too much of them and it would spoil my dinner.
My Alpine Schnitzel came out not long after I finished my salad. The breaded pork cutlets were covered with a thick marsala sauce teeming with sliced mushrooms and chopped onions. The potato pancake was thin with a deep golden color to it.
The schnitzel was a little overcooked in my book. It was a little hard and chewy, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me. The marsala wine sauce was very good and very rich. It helped the overall taste of the schnitzel and made it much more palatable.
The potato pancake was crispy on the outside and had a creamy middle. Actually, it was a little drab in its taste - some sour cream would have helped it - but it was still all right.
But the sweet and sour red cabbage was outstanding. The consistency of the cabbage was excellent - it wasn't overcooked and mushy like I've had from some other places. The sweet and sour taste combination of the red cabbage was an exceptional balance. It was the first thing I finished out of the three items I had for dinner.
Finishing most of the very rich schnitzel and leaving a portion of the potato pancakes, I was stuffed at the end. While I can't call the food at the Lorelei Inn outstanding, it was good enough to quell my hankering for German food for the evening. I don't know if you can call the place a "German" restaurant because they really only have three or four German items to choose from, but it's a quaint little neighborhood place that has stood the test of time in Green Bay. I'm definitely heading back to try one of their reubens at some point. The diverse selections of beers would impress even the most demanding beer snob. It's a cool little place that has above average food and a nice following in the Green Bay area.