240 East Kossuth Street, Columbus OH 43206 (614) 444-6808
Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant is the beating heart of German Village. The historical landmark is a hub of activity at the end of the otherwise quiet Kossuth Street. Oddly enough, it’s one of the few German restaurants in German Village, and it attracts visitors from across the state for its food, charm and history. The restaurant captured national attention in 2002 when The Food Network showcased the famed Cream Puff as a “Best of” dessert in Ohio, and it’s appeared on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel and NBC’s Biggest Loser. Once you’ve found the brick streets of the German Village, Schmidt’s is easy to find and impossible to forget.
The Schmidt family has been a notorious presence in the German Village for five generations and counting. J. Fred Schmidt arrived in Columbus from Frankfurt, Germany in 1886. He opened a meat packing house very close to where Schmidt’s Restaurant stands today. His son, George L., was the force behind the family’s venture into the restaurant business by opening a wildly popular sausage stand at the Ohio State Fair. But it wasn’t until 1967 that the actual restaurant opened at the hands of George F. Schmidt, a third generation family member, and it saw success immediately. Now, the restaurant is operated by Geoff Schmidt, George’s eldest son who spent his youth working in the restaurant. Geoff’s five other siblings, too, are all in someway involved with the family business.
As its name suggests, Schmidt’s menu offers a selection of sausages, and the star of the show is the Bahama Mama, a sausage seasoned with a secret blend of spices. In addition to links, the restaurant serves other traditional German dinners, sandwiches, soups, salads and has a daily buffet, if you’ve got to have it all. And you shouldn’t go to Schmidt’s without indulging in dessert—the Cream Puff is infamous, but the other cakes and pies are equally delicious.
Kossuth Street comes to life when Schmidt’s opens every day at 11 a.m. Between motor coach tours, road trippers and German Village regulars, the restaurant is rarely still. If you want to bring the German flavor of Schmidt’s home, order sausage, buns, sides and dessert from their carry-out case, or online. And for a large gathering, the second floor banquet room and full bar is a cozy backdrop. Even during an economic recession, Schmidt’s has seen business boom—a testament to their consistently high-quality products.
During the last several decades, Schmidt’s menu has seen very few changes except the addition of the “German Autobahn Buffet.” The original menu in 1967 was the result of recipes pooled from Schmidt family members and personal recipes from the first employees of the restaurant. We tried some of the most popular dishes on the menu—although the buffet is the true number one order made by most customers.
We started with Schmidt’s Pretzel Nuggets: a plate of warm pretzel pieces, with a hint of salt. They’re made to be dipped in a sweet and tangy mustard sauce. The crisp outside and soft center make it impossible to eat just one. The Old World Sausage Sampler, the perfect choice if you want to try more than one of Schmidt’s famous sausages, landed in front of us next. The platter offers a half link each of the original Bahama Mama, the bratwurst, the Milder Mama and the knockwurst. The sausages are served on a bed of hot kraut and with a light potato salad. A bite of any one of their sausages reminds diners that the Schmidts really know how to do sausage right.
We followed up with a duo of Bavarian Cabbage Rolls. A large cabbage leaf encases a blend of pork, beef and rice, and is topped with tomato sauce. It’s unlike anything else on the menu, but undoubtedly a must-have no less.
Then we got our hands on the Schnitzels. In German, schnitzel means a cutlet without bones. Schmidt’s has two: Wiener Schnitzel and Hofbrau Schnitzel—we tried both. Schmidt’s version of the Wiener Schnitzel, a very traditional dish with Austrian roots, is two lightly breaded, milk-fed veal cutlets, topped with a mushroom burgundy based gravy. Their Hofbrau Schnitzel is delicious too—substituting pork loin instead of the traditional veal.
For dessert, we had a taste of the Chocolate Cream Puff and the popular Cherry Cheese Tart. While the Cream Puff is a meal unto itself, the Cherry Cheese Tart is almost too pretty to eat. But one taste of either and you won’t feel bad about digging in, especially with a warm cup of coffee in hand.