There’s an old-fashioned feeling at Koenig’s, a 70-year-old restaurant in Floral Park where German food is served in a comfortable welcoming setting. The large American flag dedicated to September 11th in the main dining room and the group of businessman, gathered in a side room enhanced the feeling of a place that cares about tradition. The men are from a club in Bushwick and they meet at Koenig’s twice a month, says owner William Fitzgerald.
Don’t be fooled by the Irish name. Fitzgerald’s mother is German and he grew up enjoying all the dishes that are served in his restaurant. Fitzgerald says that when he started as a manager at Koenig’s 32 years ago, he was pleased to see that the food there was like his mother’s. He also received early training to be a gracious host as an usher in church when he was growing up. “It was my job to bring people to their pews,” he says.
Generations of community residents have been coming to the restaurant to get traditional German specialties such schnitzel, potato pancakes and bratwurst. A meal at Koenig’s starts with their special bread that is prepared for them by nearby Tulip Bakeshop. This “secret recipe” is the same as when the restaurant first opened.
Sausage is a significant part of Germany’s culinary history and for our appetizer we chose the wurst (sausage) platter of baloney-like knockwurst (pork and beef spiced with garlic), bauenwurst (veal and pork heavy spices) and bratwurst (pork and veal with light spices). All the sausages are made on the premises and the wurst platter is served with black beans, sautéed onions and gravy. Beer and sausage are always a great combination and there are several German beers on tap that include Spaten original, Hofbrau Dunken, Hofbrau Weiss and Krombacher Pilsner.
Fitzgerald says there a lot of history in his restaurant. He is very proud that the New York City Fire Department holds events there year after year and behind the bar is a firefighter’s helmet that had belonged to a friend of Fitzgerald’s and is inscribed with “343,” the number of firefighters who died on September 11th.
For our meal we had pork schnitzel hunter style and sauerbraten, two classic German dishes. Schnitzel is a cutlet that is pounded thin, lightly breaded, sautéed and served with mushroom sauce. An interesting side note: it is believed that chicken fried steak is an outgrowth of this dish brought to the United States by German immigrants. Sauerbraten involves marinating bottom round beef in a mixture of red and white vinegar, water and pickling spice for three to four days and then roasting it in the marinade; it is served with a ginger snap gravy. We also enjoyed a heaping portion of thinly sliced onion rings that had been lightly breaded and fried.
Remember when most restaurants charged less for lunch than dinner? At Koenig’s they still do that. At dinner, too, they also include a “salad of the day” with entrees: cucumber, beet or tossed.
The desserts are either made in house or at Tulip Bake Shop. The apple strudel is packed with fresh apples and the black forest cake is a rich combination of chocolate cake, cherries and whipped cream icing.
Catering is a big part of Koenig’s business and in addition to the main dining room and two smaller rooms on the main level, there is a large banquet hall upstairs that can seat up to 240 people. Koenig’s, 86 South Tyson Ave., Floral Park (516-354-2300).