It was my last trip of 2015 and I found myself in the Kansas City area looking for a place for lunch. It was sort of a cold day and I thought some "stick-to-my-bones" food would be good that particular day. I did a quick search for German restaurants and to my surprise I found one in Independence, MO on the east side of Kansas City. I had an appointment in Independence later in the afternoon, so I decided to go to the Rheinland Restaurant beforehand.
I love good German restaurants, but for whatever reason they're slowly fading away from the Midwestern restaurant landscape. The Rheinland Restaurant was the only German restaurant in the greater Kansas City area for a handful of years after the Berliner Bear in the Waldo neighborhood closed nearly 10 years ago. A couple others have opened since, but the Rheinland has one thing going for it - their owners are actual German immigrants.
Heinz and Rosie Heinzelmann (pictured right) left their hometown of Ruedesheim, Germany to immigrate to the United States in the early 80's. They ended up in the Kansas City area and settled in Independence in 1986. The Heinzelmann's became friends with Nina Anders who ran a Scandinavian furniture store in the historic Independence Square area of downtown Independence. Independence Square had suffered since a large mall had opened on the far east side of Independence and there were a number of store fronts and restaurants that had closed down. However, Anders was able to convince the Heinzelmann's to open a German restaurant in a building across the street from her store.
The Heinzelmann's opened the Rheinland Restaurant - named after the Rhein (Rhine) River that flowed past their hometown in Germany - in 1991. They cooked everything from scratch using recipes that had been handed down in Rosie's family to her mother and eventually to her. The Rheinland became an instant hit with people from all over the Kansas City area coming to Independence to have authentic German food. This year, they're celebrating their 25th year in business.
The Rheinland Restaurant is located on N. Main Street in downtown Independence just south of Truman Road. (see map) I was able to find a parking spot on the street just down the way from the restaurant. I went in and was greeted by a hostess who sat me at a small table along the wall in the main dining room. Since it was the Christmas, the dining room was decorated for the season. Tiffany-style lampshade fixtures hung from the ceiling.
They also have a second dining area with a small bar window along the wall. The dining rooms featured tin ceilings and more antique-style light fixtures. The overall decor could be described as quaint.
Sandwiches such as reubens, boiled ham rolls, bratwurst, and knackwurst were available during the lunch time, but not on the dinner menu. Main entrees such as jaegerschnitzel, wiener schnitzel, and kassler rippchen are available during the lunch time and in the evening.
Everything sounded good to me, but then Candrea came back with my beer and told of the lunch special - roasted pork loin topped with gravy. I signed up for that along with a side of the red cabbage. Fried potato pancakes came with the meal along with a small bowl of applesauce came with the meal - I wasn't interested in the applesauce - and a couple of hard rolls were also included in the meal.
The pork loin was tender and easy to cut with the fork. Along with the gravy topping, the taste of the pork loin was superb. This was exactly what I was looking for on this particular day - a good hearty comfort food meal, but having it in a German restaurant was a plus.
As good as the pork loin with the brown gravy was, I have to say the sweet and sour red cabbage was even better. The flavor of the red cabbage was just outstanding. But even BETTER than the red cabbage were the potato pancakes. Now, I can usually take or leave potato pancakes, and had they not come with the meal I wouldn't have been unhappy. Well, that was until I HAD the potato pancakes at the Rheinland Restaurant. The taste was just out of this world. I don't know how they prepare them or what makes them taste so good, but the potato pancakes - alone - were worth the price of admission.
For my first - and definitely not my last - visit to the Rheinland Restaurant, I was very happy with what I had. The roasted pork loin with the gravy on top was very good, but the red cabbage and the potato pancakes were just outstanding. The Rheinland is a nice place, nothing big, but cozy and comfortable. The service I experienced was good and my server was on top of things the whole time I was there. This was a very good little German restaurant and one of the very few that are left in many parts of the Midwest. Here's hoping the Rheinland Restaurant sticks around for another 25 years and beyond.