While in Kansas City earlier this spring, I was looking for something that was more of a "stick-to-your-ribs" type of meal. I was staying out in Lee's Summit on the far southeast side of the city and it turned out that there was a German restaurant not far from my hotel. I decided to head over to Dietrich's Modern German Cuisine and Biergarten for dinner that evening. (The name of the restaurant is quit a mouthful, so I'm just going to shorten it to Dietrich's for this post.)
Randy Schulenberg was an Internet Technology Engineer in the Kansas City area with a son - Craig - who was working as a sous chef in an area restaurant. Randy Schulenberg's grandfather - Dietrich Schulenberg - had emigrated to the U.S. in 1874 and the family had a number of old world German recipes that had been passed down through generations. Randy Schulenberg took a look around Kansas City and saw that there were a half-dozen German restaurants in the area, but none were near Lee's Summit. Along with his wife Becky, who was an accountant, the Schulenberg's decided to make a mid-life switch and get into the restaurant business. Their son was brought into the plan to have him run the kitchen using modern and traditional German recipes.
After finding a spot in Lee's Summit in what was the former Monetti's Italian restaurant, the Dietrich's set out to turn the space into what they called sort of a distressed old-world castle motif. They installed stone hearths and walls, and put in an indoor-outdoor biergarten with seating out in front of the place inside a tall wrought iron fence. The Schulenberg's opened Dietrich's in August of 2014.
The indoor bar area features a small stage for live music, primarily during the weekends and festival times. Beers on tap include many different varieties from the KC Bier Company, a small German-style brewery that has been in business for a little over two years.
Helping get things in order for the Schulenberg's menu was Martin Heuser, the owner/chef for Affäre, an upscale modern German cuisine restaurant in Kansas City. Heuser mentored Craig Schulenberg in the ways of modern German cooking while helping fine tune some of the recipes the Schulenberg's were going to use in their restaurant. The connection between the Schulenberg's and Heuser continues today as the family buys their bratwurst from Affäre, basically because Craig Schulenberg feels that Heuser's house-made bratwurst are the best he's ever tasted.
It was just after 7 p.m. when I pulled up in front of Dietrich's located in a strip center of three or four restaurants along N.E. Douglas in Lee's Summit. (see map) I was met by a young guy by the name of Kurt who may have been the front of house manager. He showed me to a booth in the main dining room and gave me a menu. He told me that my waitress for the evening - and I didn't get her name - was brand new and it was her first day on the job, so he would be helping her out. I took a look at the beer list and ordered up a beer that it turned out they were out of. Kurt suggested a German helles (a light pilsner) from the Kansas City Bier Co.
The menu isn't all that extensive at Dietrich's - they featured such German favorites as schnitzel, sauerbraten short ribs, beef rouladen, and hendl - a slow-roasted chicken seasoned with spices. The main entrees also included an oven-roasted trout and a beer-battered tilapia. Sides include spaetzle, German potato salad, mixed vegetables, and kartoffel - mashed potatoes with cabbage.
While I was looking through the menu, my waitress brought out a small loaf of house-baked bread. It was cut into slices and served with some butter. The bread was fabulous - warm, spongy and tasty. I was worried about eating too much of it so it would spoil my appetite.
Because the menu was so short, I pretty much knew I was going to get either the veal schnitzel or the sauerbraten. It was a mental coin flip in my head when it came time to order and I got the sauerbraten. It was marinated in a ginger and juniper for over 24 hours, then slow roasted and pulled from the bone. The sauerbraten was served with a side of kroppkakor - dumplings stuffed with bacon. And I got a choice of one side, so I went with the red cabbage.
The sauerbraten was fine, not the best I've had, but it was good for what it was. It seemed to be a little underwhelming in taste, but I was still happy I got it. The kroppkakor dumpling was very good, as was the the red cabbage. Thankfully, I had some bread left over to sop up some of the sauce that came with the sauerbraten. There was a lot of food on the plate, much more than I could finish on this visit.
For being new on the job, my waitress did a fine job. I would describe her as a middle-aged woman who probably had extensive experience as a waitress prior to her first day at Dietrich's. She did a fine job of checking up with me and taking care of me that evening.
My meal at Dietrich's was fine. It wasn't the best German food I've ever had, but it was still fine for what it was. The sauerbraten was just all right, but the bacon-filled dumplings were very good, as was the red cabbage. But the highlight was the great house-made bread they served before the meal. My server - for being new on the job - did a good job as I'm guessing she had restaurant experience prior to her coming to Dietrich's. My overall experience at Dietrich's was pleasant and I was happy I gave the place a try.