Every Spring the Workmans head south to visit our Kentucky relatives: piled into the minivan with morning coffees, magazines and the paper, a stash of road snacks [my dad cannot allow a car trip without chex mix], drinks and sandwiches – hoping Louisville has warmer weather than Wisconsin. We usually fill our long weekend with activities and food on the fly. This time we’d still be spontaneous, but were promised a gourmet food and wine pairing meal prepared by my uncle, as well as armed with a few ideas of our own.
Flabby’s Schnitzelburg is a quintessential saloon located in the urban neighborhood that Louisville calls “Germantown,” in the core of a 14-block district named “Schnitzelburg.” Family-owned since 1952, Flabby’s serves up a large selection of Germanic fare. Everything we ordered was very well-made. The food is so good that it garnered a mention in the Jan/Feb 2009 Saveur in an article featuring Louisville bar snacks. My dad took the article and our German heritage as signs that we must eat there. And seeing as my vegetarian cousin was in Paris and London until the next evening, we seized the opportunity to celebrate being voracious carnivores.
We tucked into the rounded booth at the window [under the caribou head pictured in the magazine] and ordered a pitcher of Warsteiner to aid in planning our order. Heavy on the meat.
For appetizers we shared fried chicken livers, a fried rolled oyster [a specialty of the house], and a classic – Braunschweiger on a slice of rye bread with raw onions and spicy mustard. The Braunschweiger – aka liverwurst – was thickly cut and melted in your mouth. The very generous portion of chicken livers were heavily breaded and crispy, yet light, with a creamy interior – ahem, the very liver-y liver. I wanted to like it, glad I tried it, but one was enough. Surprisingly, the softball-sized rolled oyster was a hit. The recipe is a Flabby’s secret, but sources say it’s an overflowing handful of fresh-shucked oysters rolled in a cornmeal batter, breaded in a thick cracker-crumb coating and then deep-fried until sizzingly hot and caramel brown. Crunchy on the outside with a moist, silken interior of steaming, barely cooked oysters.
A brief respite. Breathers and more beer. Then the entrees came forth…
The fried chicken is famous here, touted as “one of Louisville’s best.” And it’s only available after 5p on Fridays and Saturdays. Too tempted to share, my dad, Sandy and sister each got an order, receiving a good half chicken each. My uncle went with the wurst plate – a trio of German sausages served with rye bread and red and green cabbage. For my part, I chose soup after the deep-fried grease onslaught. Sides around the table included: moist kernel-studded corn pudding cake, light and bright coleslaw, refreshing cucumber and onion salad, and airy little potato pancakes with applesauce.
I belong to a family of sharers. We purposely order things off the menu we all want to try, then swap and pass and grab from everyone else’s plates. The best way to go about eating out, we think. Especially when food is this tasty.
For restaurant fried chicken, Sandy – our resident fried chicken connoisseur – claims this was one of the better recipes she’s had. We all agreed it was excellent. Much like the chicken livers, the breading was heavy yet light and not overpowering, nor too greasy; the right amount of crunch when you bit in. Underneath the meat still juicy and tender. My uncle devoured his sausages and cabbage – always a good sign. The bean and kale soup was a creamy mixture of slow-cooked white beans and long-simmered kale, with tiny bits of carrot – the whole thing hinting of pork hock or country ham.
This was such a treat. Everything was unexpectedly delicious. We drove back to the hotel, watched U of L win the Big East Championship, and slept very well, in deep-fried-induced comas.