Strudl Haus — a trip to Austria1/7/2015
Des Moines’ food scene began simply some 20 years ago with flour, yeast and water. Before George Formaro built a Sicilian-style brick oven and Steve and Joe Logsdon began making French-style breads, Des Moines travelers often carried loaves of bread home from San Francisco and New York City. After those men raised the quality of our daily bread, other things followed. Formaro’s South Union Bread Company spawned five major restaurants, all of which feature different specialty breads. Steve Logsdon’s Lucca recently added a second floor to its state of the East Village art restaurant. Joe Logsdon’s La Mie is a French-style bakery and café that packs people in regularly and recently opened a satellite café across the street from the sculpture park.
A fourth player began serving decadent Austrian pastries and desserts about the same time as the others. Michael Leo landed here from Austria after marrying a local girl. He and Formaro shared space at the Downtown Farmers’ Market before either branched out to more prominent retail venues. Leo opened Salzburg Café in Altoona a decade ago, but closed it a short while later. He’s been spending winters working in top Austrian sky resorts and summers here since then. Last year he bought a building on Indianola Avenue and began transforming it into a Central European café and bakery.
When he opened last month, it was nearly impossible to tell it had recently been a barbecue. The new place has a plush look with red wallpaper matching stuffed red armchairs. Wreaths hang on the wall with food art by Ben Schuh. Russian chandeliers dangle from the ceilings. A bakery case greets people at the entrance, and an immaculate kitchen openly invites visitors to walk in and see for themselves that Strudl Haus has nothing to hide.
Treats are many: Pastries of various flavors; almond-filled Dutch letters; strudels of several fruits with a vanilla flavored Bavarian cream sauce; Napoleons (puffed pastry filled with layers of Bavarian cream sauce); spritz, linzer and macaroon cookies; torts; sheet cakes; rouladen (rolled cake); and crepes are available daily. Drip-brewed and espresso-style coffees are, too. The wine list ($27 – $270) is written European-style including both the location of the winery and also the appellation where the wine is actually created.
An Austrian breakfast ($10) included a Coyote Run Farm egg, a variety of breads, cold cuts and cheese, jelly and orange juice. Crepes ($4.50) were served with Nutella, maple syrup or jelly fillings. Other menus changed weekly. One week’s goulash was the next week’s Tyrolean bacon soup. Mixed salads were quite generous. Cold cut platters ($7) included breads, butter, Austrian mountain cheese and five kinds of European-style salami, bologna and mortadella. Ham and cheese spaetzles ($11) included salads. Wiener schnitzel ($11) was made Iowa-style, with breaded pork tenderloin instead of veal and served with potato salad.
Strudl Haus also has a considerable inventory of Austrian and German-style sausages made in Tulsa by an Austrian butcher. These alternate on the weekly lunch menu but can be ordered in bulk any time. Hot dogs are made with smoked beef and pork. Nuernbergers are small brats of pork and veal. Kaesewurst are beef and pork sausages stuffed with Swiss and cheddar. Knackwurst are pork and beef with onions and garlic. Grobewurst are spiced veal and pork. Vienna sausages are pork and beef with paprika and caraway. Other bratwursts, hot links and Polish sausages were also available.
Bottom line: Strudl Haus brings a distinctly new kind of café and bakery to town. From its trappings to its menu, it’s a trip to the Tyrolean Alps.
1951 Indianola Ave., 259-9886
Mon. – Thurs. 6 a.m. – 6 p.m., Fri. – Sat. 6 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sun. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Pastry chef Katy Nelson (Table 128) prepared to open her Scenic Route Bakery in East Village… Angelo’s closed its store on Eighth Street in West Des Moines. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.