Emmy’s German Restaurant
200 North 13th Street
Fort Smith, AR 72901
The renovated space in Emmy’s new locale, under the new ownership (mostly the same recipes as the original locale) is warm and inviting, classy without being stuffy. Very nice wood touches and furnishings throughout.
First things first. We never ate at the old Emmy’s. For whatever reason, it just never happened. Mainly, we were not yet Fort Smith Eats and were still able to not go to every restaurant in town. So all of you who loved the original Emmy’s and miss it dearly, tell us all about it in the comments. This review is about the food there now, the food we’ve eaten. It’s not comparing new food and old, because we can’t. So you’re stuck with what we’ve got to work with here now. And since as far as we know there is only one other real German restaurant in the state, a touristy place in Hot Springs that didn’t impress us, we’re awfully happy to be stuck with this joint in our fair city.
Speaking of which, after every Emmy’s meal we’ve eaten, we’ve practically been stuck in our chairs. This is a lot of food, and it’s usually excellent, in a thick-gravies-on-savory-meats-with-10-pounds-of-various-sides way. This is not, however, the restaurant to go to if you’re just feeling a mite peckish.
Emmy’s is open for lunch on weekdays, dinner six nights a week, and Sunday brunch. All are hearty and can get pricey if you’re not careful. (Tip: sign up for weekly e-mail coupons on their website for great un-advertised deals.) We’re just going to concern ourselves with dinner today.
We’ll start with our favorite appetizer, what we call the Block O’ Fried Cheese.
Emmy’s, we’re converted.
Fried sticks of breaded mozzarella with cold marinara? That’s so Applebee’s 1992. Emmy’s gives you a brick, nay, a veritable slab of Swiss cheese, battered and fried till molten. Then they serve it not with marinara or ranch dressing, but with two mustards: one honey-sweet and one spicy. Slice the cheese like you would a small loaf of bread and slather each gooey morsel with the mustard of your choice. Scrumptious.
We will say, however, that on the occasions we’ve had the fried cheese served with other hors d’oeuvres at an Emmy’s-hosted party, the fried cheese has been disappointing. This is because it’s no longer melty, just a dense lukewarm thing that has become Previously Fried Cheese. You know? So make sure it’s fresh and hot when you try it, or don’t try it at all.
Someday we hope to be able to pull this block of fried Swiss out of our pocket in a back alley of Fort Smith and say, in our best Crocodile Dundee voice, to an evildoer wielding a mozzarella stick, “You think that’s fried cheese? That’s not fried cheese. Now THIS is fried cheese!”
If you’re a sausage person, don’t miss the knackwurst and bratwurst appetizers. Delicious. The potato pancake appetizer at Emmy’s is also relatively light and very flavorful. Served with applesauce and sour cream. Excellent pre-meal choice.
Pancakes make people happy. Even when they’re German and made out of a vegetable.
Don’t forget the drinks! We enjoy sometimes having drinks and appetizers (or desserts) in the small, semi-private bar at Emmy’s.
Emmy’s has a nice wine list and a decent selection of imported beers. On principle, we stick to the German ones like this Riesling.
Now that your appetite is nice and whetted and your beverage and entree choices have been made, your friendly server will begin what we like to think of as Emmy’s Grand German Parade of Food. Because your entree comes with so many extras, there’s a non-stop arrival of small dishes of foods to your table. Seriously, whoever is the dishwasher at Emmy’s must have really screwed up in a past life.
First comes the complimentary German potato soup, a thin but creamy puree of potato. The first time anyone tries this soup, they stop and get that thinky look on their face. Usually, they’ll then try it again and once again get the furrowed brow as they try to figure out what this soup tastes like. Because it definitely:
- Is unlike any other soup we’ve tasted.
- Tastes very much like something.
Then one day we figured it out. Actually, our waitress told us what she thought it tasted like. Ready?
The brown gravy on the mashed potatoes at KFC.
And she was right! It does, sorta. But being fans of the brown gravy on the mashed potatoes at KFC, we like this soup anyway. Just now when we order KFC potatoes, we request them with “that German soup” on top.
German potato gravy/soup. Strange but not bad. And it comes in a very small portion.
Next up in the parade is the salad. You don’t order the salad, you just get it. And you get it the way it comes. Iceberg lettuce, one or two tomato slices, a ring or two of purple onion, sliced egg, Emmy’s special dill dressing, and parsley. No ranch dressing, no Thousand Island. Don’t even try. This is German salad with German dill dressing. Like it or don’t, this is your salad.
It’s an interesting little salad. Best if you get a taste of each thing in every bite.
Besides the soup and salad, you’ll get fresh pumpernickel rolls, and family-style sides of German red cabbage (sweet and tangy, very good complement to the entrees) and German-fried potatoes. This is in addition to any sides that already come with your entree, so before the meal even arrives your hunger has become but a dim memory.
This red cabbage that comes with your meal is not sauerkraut. It’s more like those red cinnamon apple rings. Except minus the cinnamon and the apples. Try it.
Mmmmm. Fried potatoes. Mmmmmm. These are good in any country.
But the entrees arrive, and boy, do they.
Tell us this isn’t fun to say: Schweinshaxe. As in Swine Shanks, if you were saying it whilst being completely smashed on good German beer. Germans make food like this pork shank sound much more interesting. Though honestly, this hunka-gravied-meat is huge enough and juicy enough to keep you interested for a long while. The menu tells us it’s braised in a mirepoix (hey, aint that a French word?) of carrots, onions, celery and leeks, then served with pork gravy and handmade gold potato dumplings. We think “hunka-gravied-meat” pretty much has it covered.
From our new book, Schweinshaxe for Dummies: “Tender pork. On the bone. In gravy.” All you really need to know about it. Not for the tiny-tummied.
Wouldn’t be a German restaurant without a few Schnitzels on the menu. Here you see J’ager Schnitzel, a hand-breaded veal cutlet with mushrooms, onions, and gravy. It’s sort of like a large meat pancake with mushroom syrup. Sort of. Except it’s actually infinitely better than that sounds. Anyway, it’s tasty and comes with a side of the tragically unattractive spåtzle (a type of popular German egg noodle) and gravy. All the Schnitzels are basically pork or veal variations on this theme.
J’ager Schnitzel and spåtzle. Don’t tell us Fort Smith doesn’t have variety.
Honestly, we’re a little weird. Mama always said so. Maybe that’s why why we like a dish as weird as Beef Rouladen Mit Kartoffel Klosse. Here’s the official description of this German favorite: Thinly sliced beef, spread with horseradish and mustard and stuffed with a filling of chopped bacon, onions, celery, spices, and dill pickle in the center. Topped with a delicious, rich gravy and served with handmade gold potato dumplings.
We’ll tell you right now. Almost any entree in Fort Smith that has a dill pickle in the center of it is going to get ordered by Fort Smith Eats. How can we resist that? A dill pickle in the center! Better than a Tootsie Pop.
The potato dumplings look like snowballs made of potatoes (below, right) and were the only thing we didn’t care for. Bland and strange. We know people that love them, but with a smorgasbord of other more dazzling dishes on the table already, they didn’t merit too much attention from us. We weren’t hurting for food.
Beef Rouladen. Gonna hafta trust us on this one. Yes, it’s a big brown log in a bowl of dark brown gravy and it’s strange that it is a dill pickle wrapped in beef, but it’s all manner of awesome.
From what we can tell, the most popular dish at Emmy’s German Restaurant isn’t even really German. It’s Swiss or French or Austrian or something. Emmy’s Chicken Cordon Bleu is a thing of legend around Fort Smith. Put aside any notions of those football-shaped processed chicken heaps that they serve in school cafeterias and out of the back of Schwann’s trucks. This Chicken Cordon Bleu is amazing.
Fresh chicken breasts are pounded into thin, pancake-shaped cutlets, breaded and perfectly sauteed, then stuffed with thin slices of ham and two cheeses. The entree comes with an optional fried egg on top, which we like. It’s great both ways. Tender, crispy, melty, and delicious.
Two chicken cutlets cradling thinly sliced ham and two kinds of cheese. Tell ya what. KFC’s Double Down sandwich ain’t got nothin’ on Emmy’s Chicken Cordon Bleu.
The be-egged version:
Two great tastes that taste great together. Chicken Cordon Bleu with Egg. Like many Emmy’s specialties, it tastes better than it looks.
Still got room for dessert? Call Guinness now and get yourself tested. But everyone should at least get a dessert to share or to-go. There are typically three options, and all are excellent and homemade. You’ve got your Apple Streudel, your Black Forest Torte and your German Chocolate Cake. Personally, we have a hard time choosing, but have a weakness for the kirsch-drenched torte. Chocolate and cherries are on up there with pickles in Fort Smith Eats’ book. This torte is the best combination of those flavors we’ve found in Fort Smith. And it tastes just as good the next morning for breakfast if you get it to go.
Do us a favor. If you like chocolate at all, don’t deprive yourself of this cake.
We can’t say whether the new Emmy’s is better than, equal to, or far less than the original, much-beloved Emmy’s in the tiny house on the North side was. We know people still talk about the old place that they ate at for many years growing up and its irreplaceable quaint atmosphere. But we’d place good money on the notion that this new iteration will be around for awhile and for a new generation of German food fans, the food will be well-remembered on its own terms.
Also because you won’t have to eat again for at least a month.