Buffalo had lots of German restaurants a generation ago, but today there is no kraut to be had in Kaisertown. Ulrich’s 1868 Tavern is the last German restaurant in city limits, which means Amherst now has more German restaurants than Buffalo. Lucky for me, as a hankering for spaetzle, schnitzel and potato pancakes drew me up Niagara Falls Boulevard to Black Forest Adler. ¶ The family restaurant run by Gerhard Braun and his wife, Laura, has Deutschland decor like cuckoo clocks and nutcracker dolls. But the real German accent comes from a straight-outta-Stuttgart menu that goes beyond tourist favorites to regional specialties of southeastern Germany. The result is a place that will sell you sausage and schnitzel, but also currywurst, goulash soup and liver dumplings. And Limburger cheese, which I tried for the first time, and maybe the last.
But that’s not as important as my most satisfying discovery: Black Forest Adler made us want to return, for the right reasons. It offers satisfying blue-collar German favorites, delivered hot and in large amounts. Plus eight classic German beers by the bottle for under $6, on a menu where almost every entrée is under $20.
Spaetzle, fork-sized strips of Swabian fresh egg pasta, are everywhere, starting with the kindermenu (with gravy, $4.95). They’re buttery, tender noodles yellow with yolk, and great at soaking up sauces like the dark beer gravy that swaths one of the most comforting roast pork plates I’ve met in ages ($15.95). We ordered a special, with a side of tender braised Brussels sprouts in bacon cream sauce ($16.95). The spoon-tender meat was veined with the right amount of fat, and the gravy tasted like pan drippings with some oom-pa-pa from the beer.
Either way, the pork and many other entrees come with one of the sneaky-good house salads of Western New York. Beneath a facade of mixed greens with creamy dressing and scattered croutons lies buried treasure: corn kernels with kidney beans, shredded carrot, cucumber in dill cream, and dabs of potato and macaroni salads. “It’s a salad salad,” Cat said happily.
My mother sometimes made potato pancakes when I was young, an activity I may have supported more if I wasn’t phobic about skinning my knuckles on the grater. Black Forest Adler got me thinking it might be time to get out that grater again. Three crispy-edged discs of well-browned potato shreds come with applesauce, sour cream, or if you ask nicely, both ($7). They’re basically Tater Tots by the square yard, just not as greasy.
The hits kept coming with schnitzel, pork pounded thin, crumb-coated and fried to a light golden expanse. Paprika schnitzel ($17.95) is two schnitzels, and a sauce that tastes distinctly like sweet roasted red peppers. (It comes with fries and one of those salads.)
A Nurnberger platter of three sausages, spaetzle and sauerkraut ($15.95) offered juicy links and the realization that Polish kraut has me expecting vinegar and sugar. Swabian kraut is milder, cooked with a touch of white wine, honey and herbs. Black Forest Adler also has a red cabbage, braised in red wine. I ordered sauerbraten, beef round braised, sliced and served with a sour, gingery gravy. It was fork-tender but its leanness left it feeling dry.
Two soups ($5.95) both had their fans. A special creamy mushroom with gray flecks of fungi was husky and soothing, which everyone enjoyed. Leberknodelsuppe floated a large, tender liver dumpling in broth, which the liver lovers liked.
Another thrill was currywurst ($5.95), a sausage smothered in a sweet tomato sauce flavored with Worcestershire and curry powder, a postwar German snack favorite. I was surprised by how much better it was than its description as sausage in curry ketchup, and we used the soft pretzel that came with it to mop up the last of the sauce.
People sometimes ask if there’s anything I won’t eat. The answer is no, not if it’s on a Western New York restaurant menu. I’m fond of stinky cheese, but Limburger’s fearsome reputation kept me away.
At Black Forest Adler it comes “with music” ($8.45), bite-sized slices topped with shaved raw onion, parsley and smoked paprika. First bite: not bad, like half-ripe Gorgonzola with more pungency. Second bite: a thin swipe on a thick piece of bread is bearable. Third bite: This was forgotten in the back of a refrigerator by a vengeful god.
I washed away my dismay with Spaten and ordered fried apple rings in vanilla sauce ($7.95), called apfel himmel, for dessert. Plus Black Forest cake ($5.90), because cherries, chocolate and whipped cream are right up my alley, and the kirsch-soaked version from Wheatberry Bake Shop hits the spot. Apple strudel ($5.90), made for the restaurant by Farmers and Artisans, also was worth the splurge. It’s tender sliced Blackman Farm apples, walnuts sautéed in butter, and golden raisins plumped in cider, all in layers of wispy pastry.
Excellent food delivered with dispatch by a cheerful, capable server added up to a feeling of gemutlichkeit, the German art of hospitality, making strangers feel like they walked into an ongoing dinner party. At Black Forest Adler, the eagle has landed.
Black Forest Adler - 8 plates
German classics, Swabian specialties pack families into Amherst restaurant.
WHERE: 2447 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst (564-2447)
HOURS: 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $5.25-$9.95, entrees, $14.95-$21.95.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.