Oct 7, 2019

An exercise in authentic German fare at Kegel’s Inn, West Allis, Wis.

Every year when summer turns to fall and Oktoberfest celebrations abound, it seems like everyone is eager to satisfy their cravings for authentic German beer and food.  I’m the type of person, however, who has a fondness for both year-round.  Fortunately, my travels have helped me discover quite a few excellent German restaurants (and let’s be honest, if you can’t find good beer and sausage in Wisconsin, you’re probably not really trying), and for my tastes, one of the best can be found just 10 minutes from downtown Milwaukee in the suburb of West Allis …

… let me introduce you to Kegel’s Inn.      

The décor of Kegel’s Inn, inside and out, certainly fits the role of authentic German beer hall, so it’s somewhat hard to miss as you drive along Highway 59/National Avenue through the heart of West Allis.  Between rain and the colder than usual air (for me, not for Milwaukee), I could tell I came on an off-night, but I rather enjoyed being the first customer to arrive.   

I quickly found solace at the bar and took in the ambiance.  It was suddenly rather easy to pretend I was somewhere in Bavaria.  As one would expect, Kegel’s offered several German drafts on tap, and I selected a Fruh Kolsch to cleanse the palate.  It was nice, smooth, refreshing and not overly filling, so I could keep my appetite for a full meal ahead.   

Being the first customer to arrive has its advantages.  For instance, I didn’t feel bad about asking the bartender about what I should order as a first-timer.  It would have been too easy to go with something porky for an appetizer, so when he suggested the French onion soup, I went all in.   

Quite frankly, it was some of the best French onion soup I’ve ever had.  Cooked in the crock it’s served in, the rich dark broth under the layer of rye croutons and melted Swiss and mozzarella cheese blew me away.  Between that and the mini loaf of bread served with every meal (not to mention the chive butter accompanying it), I could have easily stopped eating right there and been perfectly content.    

But sometimes commoners can be gluttons, too.  With several classic German dishes on the menu to choose from, I figured it would be a wasted trip if I didn’t try something you just don’t see that often on your run-of-the-mill restaurant menu.  So, without hesitation, I ordered the hasenpfeffer. 

Loosely translated as “peppered hare,” hasenpfeffer is a traditional rabbit stew.  I think it compares favorably to your standard chicken and dumplings, especially when served over spaetzle as shown above.  The gravy was indeed peppery but also mildly savory.  Herbs were not ignored in the preparation of this dish.  The chunks of rabbit had just the slightest bit of gaminess but in a way that only made it more flavorful.  The carrots and peppers were thoroughly cooked down just as you’d want in any stew.  All things considered, I could not have been happier with my main course. 

The entire Kegel’s Inn experience was, in fact, just what I had hoped for.  Authentic German food, good German drink and a traditional setting that can’t be easily replicated.  In a city known for an abundance of German influence, Kegel’s Inn stands out to me.    

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