Heimat House and Beer Garden – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Heimat House and Beer Garden, Serving European Food in the Northeast Heights

“We’re not normal people. We’re the Griswolds.”   Laughs abound in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, the 1985 movie which follows the antics of well-meaning blunderer Clark W. Griswold and his equally inept family.   In a television game show called “Pig In a Polk,” the Griswold family accidentally wins a trip to Europe where they leave a trail of destruction everywhere they go (who can forget when Clark knocked down Stonehenge by accidentally backing into it with a rented car?).

The family foray into Germany was no less fraught with hapless humor. In a German village, the Griswolds burst in on “Fritz and Helga”, a bewildered elderly couple whom they mistakenly believe are long-lost relatives.  Though language barrier issues prevent any mutual dialogue, the Griswolds never quite seem to grasp that all conversations are one-sided and avail themselves of all the hospitality–including large bowls of sausage and sauerkraut with plenty of German rye bread–befitting family ties.

The interior of Heimat House

Like Clark W. Griswold (who’s intensely proud, but blissfully ignorant of his Germanic heritage), many New Mexicans haven’t cut through the sauerkraut and remain unaware of the diversity and deliciousness of German cuisine.  Ask your friends and colleagues what dishes comprise German cuisine and they’ll probably answer “sausages, sauerkraut, potatoes and rye bread.”  These stereotypes have long been reenforced by movies such as European Vacation and television comedies such as Hogan’s Heroes.   In fact, Hogan’s Heroes was probably  responsible for many of my generation being afraid to try German food, especially the dreaded sauerbraten. 

In the world’s culinary stage, the cuisine of Germany may not be as recognizable or popular as the cuisine of its neighbors France and Italy, but compared to the cuisine of Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary), it’s made significant inroads, even in New Mexico.  For nearly two decades, Duke City diners were graced by the wit, beauty and culinary talents of Dagmar Schulze  Mondgragon who served wonderful German food at her eponymous restaurant.  A Polish restaurant in the northeast heights was short-lived in the 1980s and to my knowledge, the cuisine of Hungary hasn’t been featured at any restaurant in Albuquerque.

Wurst Plate with Sauerkraut

Shortly after health issues forced Dagmar to bid a fond auf Wiedersehen to the Albuquerque restaurant scene, (but sadly not in time for Oktoberfest) the Heimat House and Beer Garden opened its doors on October 25, 2014.  Located at the familiar location which previously housed Liquid Assets, the Independence Grill, Los Compadres and a number of other restaurants, the Heimat House bills itself as a “modern German restaurant” which will also feature a number of Polish and Hungarian dishes. 

The Heimat House inherited the dark, masculine woods look and feel of an authentic Teutonic tavern from previous tenants, but it won’t be mistaken for any of them.  A curio cabinet near the entrance displays German collectibles such as Hummel figurines, Christmas nutcrackers, and beer steins.  The beer garden incorporates elements of an outdoor patio, indoor atrium and the interior bar.  The restaurant’s sound system pipes in not only the familiar bassy oompah and accordion beat of German music, but other music designed to put you into a festive mood.

Vadgombalves (Hungarian Mushroom Soup)

Perhaps the best descriptor of German, Polish and Hungarian food is “comforting” as in stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods (CNN Travel named Germany’s deep-fried potato pancake as one of the world’s ten greatest comfort foods).   For my friend Bob of the Village People (BOTVOLR), the comfort food properties of Polish and German food in particular evoke memories of enjoying these foods in his youth.  Bob visited Heimat House shortly after it opened, knowing that there would be “start-up” issues, the type of which all new restaurants seem to experience during the “feeling their way around” period.  Bob’s descriptions of his meal were so enticing that we visited two days later. 

Predictably, our inaugural visit was fraught with kinks to be worked out.  None of those kinks detracted from what turned out to be a very satisfying, very pleasant dining experience, one we’ll want to revisit soon.  Because neither potato pancakes or pierogies were available, it gave us the opportunity to try other dishes we might not otherwise have ordered.  The most grievous faux pas was not serving a great German rye bread or perhaps a broetchen, but this, too, was forgivable because plans were in place to correct this gaffe.  By our second visit, Heimat House’s baker, who was already preparing the restaurant’s decadent desserts, began baking breads using dough from Albuquerque’s Swiss Alps Bakery.  The light rye is served with a sweet honey butter an is quite good at sopping up some of the restaurant’s terrific sauces. 

Hungarian Spicy Sausage Soup

21 February 2015: German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once postulated that “a diet that consists predominantly of potatoes leads to the use of liquor.”  If those potatoes are used in the creation of some Eastern European favorites, I might be inclined to agree with the existentialist giant.  We found the Polish pierogies (stuffed potatoes and cheese) at Heimat rather boring and tasteless.  Served with onions fried to a pearlescent sheen and a dollop of sour cream, they paled in comparison with the delicious pierogies at the Red Rock Deli.  The German potato pancakes with applesauce made the pierogies seem exciting in comparison.  With most of my favorite foods redolent with bold, assertive flavors, it stands to reason that the pierogies and potato pancakes would seem boring to me.  Your experience might differ.

21 February 2015: As boring as we found the pierogies and the potato pancake, we were thrilled with the Hungarian spicy sausage soup, an invigorating soup redolent with fiery red paprika, the national spice of Hungary. Imbued with the characteristic rusty red color and smoky aroma of many Hungarian soups, the soup showcases a sausage that is indeed spicy though not necessarily piquant.  It’s sliced link sausage, not sausage resembling fried ground beef.  The soup also includes potatoes and onions.  This richly fragrant and deeply flavored soup is especially good on a cold winter day, but will satisfy anytime, anywhere.

Currywurst with French Fries

1 November 2014: Satirist H. L. Mencken once noted that “there are more different sausages in Germany than there are breakfast foods in America, and if there is a bad one among them then I have never heard of it.”  Stereotypes be damned, when you visit Heimat House, you’ve got to try the sausage which is procured from the Duke City’s Alpine Sausage Kitchen.  The Wurst Plate is a terrific appetizer featuring two types of sausage served with a mound of sauerkraut.  Neither of the finely blended sausages are especially spicy, but a small dab of German mustard will give you all the punch you need.  The sauerkraut doesn’t have the lip-pursing tang some ascribe to German sauerkraut, but it’s not bad. 

1 November 2014: Four different soups, including an intriguing Dill Pickle Soup which BOTVOLR enjoyed, adorn the menu. The Hungarian Mushroom Soup is the type of soul-warming, deeply satisfying, robust and creamy soup that cures all ills.  It’s brimming with woodsy mushrooms and translucent white onions in a rich, buttery mushroom stock.  The sliced mushroom are deliciously meaty and earthy; they’re clearly the starring attraction of a very good soup.  If your experiences with mushroom soups are associated with Campbell’s labels, you owe it to yourself to try the real thing.

Konigsberger Klopse (Meatballs in Sour Cream Sauce With German Noodles, Cucumber Salad and Beet Salad

1 November 2014: During their holiday season visit to Los Angeles in 2013, my friends über podcasterbloggers Hannah and Edward considered the currywurst the best meal they had in the City of Angels.  Currywurst is a Germany meets India meets America dish which has exploded onto the European culinary scene where it’s especially popular as a street food option.  In recent years, currywurst has even begun to ensnare even American affections.  What’s not to love?  The three essential elements of the currywurst create an addictive flavor when combined.  Germany’s contribution is the wurst (sausage).  The curry is Indian and the tomato ketchup is an American invention.  It’s the ketchup and curry powder combination that gives this entree a rich, spicy flavor and perhaps has a nostalgic effect on diners (hot dogs with ketchup anyone?).   The currywurst is served with cubed French fries which you’ll lovingly dip into that delicious curry ketchup. 

1 November 2014: Konigsberger Klopse, an alliterative Prussian entree that resonates with rich flavor is yet another comfort food entree you’ll appreciate more as the seasons transition to colder climates.  Essentially meatballs (or meat dumplings) in a sour cream sauce, this dish has a flavor profile quite unlike Swedish meatballs.  The meatballs inherit a salty intensity from capers and (perhaps) anchovies (as called for in many traditional recipes).  The sour cream sauce lends a creamy, rich tartness.  At Heimat House, this dish is served with German noodles and a cucumber salad.  The cucumber salad is impregnated with dill and sour cream.  For an interesting contrast, order the beet salad, too.  The beet salad has a sweet-and-sour quality courtesy of the light tartness it gleans from vinegar. 

Stroganoff

21 February 2015: My very first memories of Stroganoff stem from having prepared a reconstituted version as a Boy Scout some thirty plus years ago. No one else in Troop 512 would even sample this “sophisticated” (albeit packaged and dehydrated) dish, which as it turns out, was a good thing for me.  Alas, my love for stroganoff has, until rather recently, been unrequited.  It just hasn’t been available at very many Albuquerque restaurants.  The Heimat House not only serves Stroganoff, it serves a magical version of a dish that looks and tastes like a stew, but with gourmet elements.  Packed with rich, tender beef and deep, stick-to-your-ribs flavors with “cooked all day long” properties, it’s the essence of comfort food especially on a chilly deep winter day.  As with all great Stroganoff dishes, the noodles are perfect, the antithesis of al dente or mushy.  The sauce balances creaminess and rich, browned flavors with addictively savory notes.

21 February 2015: Beef, it’s what’s for dinner!  Sunday dinners, especially in the Midwest from where my Kim hails, are a veritable celebration of a German favorite: Bavarian Pot Roast.  Now, Bavarian Pot Roast is one of those dishes critics and spoilsports will decry for its high-calorie, high (very) fat, high protein, low-carb properties, while proponents care only that it’s delicious and it’s filling.  That’s the camp in which my Kim stands.  The Heimat House version of pot roast could well have been lovingly made by a German mutter.  It’s rich, tender and pulls apart easily.  Prepared with a spice mix which includes ginger and nutmeg, it definitely resonates with Old World flavors and deliciousness.  The Bavarian pot roast is served with aromatic German red cabbage and potatoes.  Only the potatoes struck out with us.

Bavarian Pot Roast with Red Cabbage and Potatoes

1 November 2014: Hogan’s Heroes might have you believe strudel is the only German dessert there is.  In truth, German desserts are very diverse and sinfully delicious.  Surprisingly, the most famous “German” dessert of all didn’t actually originate in Germany; it originated in the United States.   German chocolate cake is actually named for Samuel German, the man who created German’s Sweet Chocolate for the Baker’s Chocolate brand.  The Heimat House version of German chocolate cake is moist and decadent with sweetened coconut and chopped pecans spread between three layers and on top.  The chocolate itself has notes of cocoa and butter.  German chocolate cake belongs in the pantheon of great German desserts, even if it’s not really German. 

1 November 2014: One of my very favorite German entrees is Rouladen, essentially a meat that has been rolled around a filling.  It didn’t surprise us to see Roulade (which translates to roll) on the dessert menu.  The Hungarian Raspberry Cream Roulade is a light and creamy slice of heaven served with housemade whipped cream. This is a very popular and very traditional Hungarian dessert favorite which Duke City diners will enjoy, too.

Deutsch Schokoladenkuchen (German Chocolate Cake)

The Heimat House and Beer Garden celebrates all that is great about Germanic cuisine, a broad swath of deliciousness that frankly hasn’t received the respect and adulation it deserves.  Here’s betting Duke City diners embrace the Heimat House and incorporate German cuisine into their rotation of favorites.

Heimat House and Beer Garden
6910 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 21 February 2015
1st VISIT: 1 November 2014
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Currywurst, Hungarian Mushroom Soup, Meatballs in Sour Cream Sauce With German Noodles, Beet Salad, Cucumber Salad, German Chocolate Cake, Hungarian Raspberry Cream Roulade, Stroganoff, Bayerischer Schmorbraten

Heimat House Restaurant and Beer Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dagmar’s Restaurant & Strudel Haus – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Dagmar’s Delectables on Juan Tabo in the Northeast Heights

According to the 2000 United States Census, there are 47 million Americans of German ancestry, making them the largest self-reporting ethnic group in the country. German Americans represent 16 percent of the total U.S. population.  With such a large ancestry group, you might wonder why German cuisine isn’t as popular as the cuisine of its European neighbors Italy and France.  It’s a question which also seems to baffle the National Restaurant Association which posits that Americans characterize German food as “rich, indulgent foods; good, hearty portions; and irresistible desserts.” 

With reasons like those, you might expect that there would be more German restaurants across the fruited plain (and more than one German restaurant in the Land of Enchantment).  Bon Appetit‘s restaurant and drink editor Andrew Knowlton gives hope that this will change, “In a refreshing departure from the Italian comfort food craze, America is enjoying a Germanic cuisine boom.  I chalk it up to the perfect storm of craft beer and charcuterie and the overall pork-obsessed times we live in.”

Liverwurst with dark German rye bread

If you grew up in the Midwest where German is the most reported ancestry, chances are you’re well acquainted with German food. My Kim grew up in Chicago where she was introduced to braunschweiger and weinerschnitzel years before she found out about tacos and tortillas. If you grew up in New Mexico, however, your first impressions of German food may have been formed (as mine were) from watching Hogan’s Heroes, the television situation comedy set in a German prisoner of war (POW) camp during World War II.

During one particularly memorable 1969 episode, Colonel Klink, the prison’s commandant, hosted an Italian POW commandant who had studied under Klink. This meant a visit to a local hofbrauhaus in which copious portions of German beer and food were served. Although the gastronomic distress suffered by the Italian commandant was hilarious, it made me wary of such German dishes as weinerschnitzel, bratwurst and especially the dreaded sauerbraten. Worse, there was nowhere in New Mexico, where my wariness could be allayed.

Roulade

My first actual experience with German food took place in a Boston suburb in 1978. Contrary to the Italian commandant’s reaction (a combination of disgust, distress and disdain), I fell in liebe with the flavorful cuisine and the preponderance of pork, beef and poultry deliciousness and its stick-to-your-ribs qualities. It would be eighteen years before Dagmar Schulze Mondragon would launch her eponymous restaurant on South Broadway and seventeen years until I returned to the Land of Enchantment for good.  What a wonderful convergence of fates!

Save for well traveled New Mexicans and those who served in the armed forces,  Dagmar’s is likely where many of my fellow New Mexicans  first sampled the rich diversity of German cuisine. She has shared the cuisine of her maternal homeland throughout the Duke City in four different locations since her inauspicious launch in 1996. The current home of her full-service restaurant is in the Brentwood Hills shopping center in Albuquerque’s far Northeast Heights. On March 29, 2012, Dagmar launched a satellite operation in Rio Rancho, but it was open for fewer than six months, much to the consternation of Rio Rancho residents like me who love Dagmar and her food.

Kassler

Unlike some ethnic restaurants in Albuquerque, Dagmar’s doesn’t overwhelm diners with colorful nationalistic displays celebrating all that is great about that ethnicity. It’s got some steins here, a few banners there and several framed posters and sketches of German landmarks, but not enough to steer your focus away from your meal. You won’t need traditional German oompah-pah music resonating from ceiling speakers to let you know you’re feasting on terrific Teutonic treats.

The cover of the menu does feature a photograph of Ludwig the Mad’s Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle and one of the most beautiful castles in all of Europe. Within the menu are pages of German favorites as well as several sandwiches and even a green chile cheeseburger that was once voted best in the city during a polling of a radio station’s listeners.

Sauerbraten

Most entrees include a salad of mixed field greens. A dressing of Balsamic vinegar and canola oil at your table means is all the salad dressing you’ll need. Slices of traditional rye bread along with pads of butter are also brought to your table though you can also dip the rye in a mixture of Balsamic vinegar and canola oil. The rye, either dark or light, is outstanding and it’s homemade.

To truly make the most of that rye bread, ask for a side order of braunschweiger, a type of liverwurst (pork liver sausage). This meat has a very soft texture and spreads very well on rye bread, even better if it’s dark rye. Though it does have a distinctive liver-based flavor, it’s not at all overwhelming. Dagmar’s version is even better than some we’ve had in Chicago where garlic is more liberally applied during the smoking process.

Brautwurst and sauerkraut with German fried potatoes

Brautwurst and sauerkraut with German fried potatoes

Portions at Dagmar’s are profuse. It’s not uncommon to take home enough for your next meal. It’s also heartening that most of the entrees are accompanied by several side dishes, each of which might elsewhere constitute an entire meal.  Some entrees are accompanied by saltzkartofteln (German-style baked potatoes) and perfectly seasoned, homemade sauerkraut.  While many American hot dog stands serve a sauerkraut that will purse your lips, Dagmar’s version is much more refined and not nearly as tart. It’s among the very best sauerkraut you’ll find anywhere.   Other sides include German potato salad which is punctuated with perfectly fried bacon.

One of the restaurant’s more popular entrees is Kassler (pictured above), a delicately smoked bone-in pork loin (German smoked pork chop) that is pickled before it is smoked. It looks and tastes like a smoky ham albeit not as salty and a tad drier. Dagmar’s Kassler is about half an inch thick and has an absolute minimum of fat with a mild and sweet aftertaste.  Los Angeles Times restaurant critic calls it “German food for beginners.” Most will call it absolutely delicious.

From Dagmar’s in Rio Rancho: knackwurst with German potato salad and saurkraut

My favorite entree, one that the menu refers to as “The Ultimate,” is Roulade (pictured above), a beef roll stuffed with bacon, onion, pickle and mustard. Roulade is slow simmered in a rich brown gravy. Despite the tanginess of mustard and pickle, the preeminent taste is beef, a fork-tender cut that may have been braised in wine or perhaps burgundy. It is delicious.  The Roulade is accompanied by traditional German potato dumplings and vinegary red cabbage, both of which are noteworthy. The taste contrasts make this meal special.

Another popular entree is the Jaegerschnitzel (Hunter’s Schnitzel), a large moist pork cutlet prepared similar to chicken-fried steak which is covered in a brown sauce known as “Hunters sauce” or “sauce Chasseur.”  It’s made with mushrooms, shallots, garlic, white wine and possibly cream.  Jaegerschnittzel is served with traditional spaetzel noodles. Spaetzel, a term which literally translates to “little sparrows,” are technically little dumplings, though most people refer to them as noodles.  The Hunters sauce complements the spaetzel very well.

Black Forest Ham and Cheese Sandwich

As for the sauerbraten the Italian commandant dreaded as much as he did being found complicit with the allies, it is absolutely wonderful.  Dagmar’s rendition is in the Rhineland tradition which means the braised roast beef is marinated in vinegar and a sweetening agent with seasonings that include cloves.  It is served with a sauce redolent with crushed lebkuchen (a type of gingerbread) spice cookies.  Also on the plate is Dagmar’s red cabbage which marries well with the sauerbraten.  The red cabbage is well spiced and has a terrific sweet-tart flavor. 

Dagmar’s offers a full-service menu including a number of sandwiches.  Sandwich options include Black Forest ham and cheese, breast of turkey and cheese, roast beef and cheese, albacore tuna, chicken salad, egg salad and vegetarian.  The Black Forest ham and cheese sandwich is terrific with a generous amount of ham piled on some of the very best sandwich bread roll you’ll ever have anywhere. The bread roll is good enough to stand on its own or with a smear of spicy mustard and mayo, but the Black Forest ham and cheese elevate it.

Dagmar’s Reuben, among the very best in the Duke City

Another sandwich option is your choice of bratwurst or knackwurst.  The latter is a short, fat and highly seasoned frankfurter, the skin of which makes a “cracking” sound when bitten into (similar to the “snap” of great American hot dogs).  The knackwurst is a couple of inches shorter than a standard hot dog, but it’s thicker than most.  Most people dress knackwurst the same way they dress hot dogs, too.  That is they add a good mustard, preferably a spicy German mustard which complements, but doesn’t detract from the spiciness of the sausage.  The knackwurst is served on a brochen (more about his magnificent bread later) and is accompanied by sauerkraut and German potato salad.

Dagmar, an absolutely delightful person, will tell you her restaurant serves the very best hot Reuben sandwich in Albuquerque.  I won’t argue with her–especially since she may just be right.  The Reuben is piled high with corned beef, sauerkraut and cheese on a bread roll that may also be the best home to any sandwich in the city.  The last bread roll we’ve had that is comparable to this one was a floury bap in Lechlade, England.  It’s a bread roll to inspire rhapsodizing especially with high-quality ingredients such as those Dagmar procures.

Apple Cheese Strudel and Cherry Strudel

Dagmar’s bakery features more than thirty varieties of German strudel, some of which are seasonal and others which are, to say the least, unique. Among the former are pumpkin strudel at Thanksgiving and eggnog strudel at Christmas. Among the latter is a raspberry green chile strudel that showcases the taste of New Mexico’s favorite fruit (no, not raspberry; chile is a fruit, a member of the nightshade family).  Heat these decadent darlings in a microwave and the intoxicating aroma of green chile wafts toward your happy nostrils.  The raspberry green chile strudel actually has more piquancy than entrees at some New Mexican restaurants, but that piquancy is balanced beautifully by the tartness of the raspberries.  This is a winner!

The bakery sells cookies, pies and cakes and can custom make just about anything you request. You can even purchase handmade pirogis made Polish style.  We often buy a dozen or so broetchen, the breakfast roll with the gruff exterior and doughy heart of delicious gold.  Time magazine described the broetchen this way, “It lacks the elegance of the croissant, the sophistication of the English muffin, the intrigue of the bagel.  But for millions of West Germans, the day begins with Broetchen, the hand grenade shaped breakfast roll so tough that it travels will in trouser pockets and can bear giant charges of Schmalz or butter and jam without buckling.”  This is a breakfast roll tailor-made for butter.

Traditional German Christmas Stollen and Lemon Raspberry Strudel

Traditional German Christmas Stollen and Lemon Raspberry Strudel

Not surprisingly, Dagmar’s German chocolate cake is delicious, but those strudels are so good you’ll behave like Sergeant Schultz at the mere mention of this flaky pastry. The thin sugary strudel crust enveloping tart raspberries or apple-cheese (pictured above) are two of our favorites.

Equally good are the apple turnovers in which paper-thin flaky dough covers sweet apples. Though the crust falls apart all over your clothes as you bite into it, this messy treat is worth every crumb you pick off your shirt. Dagmar’s coconut maroons are as light as air and sinfully delicious. In fact, just about everything we’ve sampled at Albuquerque’s only German restaurant is wonderful. From the minute you walk in the aromas of bread in the oven covers you like a warm blanket. 

Holidays are special at Dagmar’s.  Valentine’s Day specials include chocolate covered strawberries.  For  Christmas a must-have is the traditional German stollen (pictured above left).  Though Dagmar doesn’t agree with calling it a fruitcake, that’s essentially what it is–though it’s several orders of magnitude better than the much maligned fruitcake many people treat with derision.  The traditional stollen is shaped like a bread loaf and is covered with powdered iced sugar.  Cut into it and you’ll taste candied orange, lemon, and citron peel as well as raisins, sultanas and other fruits.  It’s a very dense loaf and despite the added fruit, is quite low in sugar.  At Dagmar’s each loaf weighs in at a hefty two pounds or more.  Baking it is a two-day process.  Eating it will take less time, it’s so good.

When you’re done with your meal, you’ll feel as if your mother herself fed you in anticipation of warding off a cold winter day. This is comfort food at its German best prepared by what would probably be the best German restaurant in Albuquerque even if it wasn’t the only one.

Dagmar’s Restaurant & Strudel Haus
2120 Juan Tabo NE
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 4 April 2012
# OF VISITS: 10
RATING: 23
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Kassler, Jaegerschnitzel, Roulade, Apple Cheese Strudel, Raspberry Strudel, Cherry Strudel, Sauerbraten

Dagmars Strudel House on Urbanspoon