Gerhard and Laura
by DEVON DAMS-O'CONNOR
THE USA PLATTER INCLUDES A JAGER SCHNITZEL (a pork cutlet
pounded thin, breaded, fried, and smothered with a dark pork gravy and
mushrooms), a generous pile of spatzle (homemade noodles boiled and
pan seared), a rouladen (paper-thin slices of beef stuffed with dill pickle, onion, and bacon) and a maltaschen (a filling of ground beef, pork,
and smoked bacon, spinach, and spices stuffed between thin sheets of
pasta, topped with crispy onions). A second plate holds small mounds
of prepared salads—cucumber dill, grated carrot, German potato salad,
corn and bean, and macaroni—all topped with field greens and shredded
Romaine tossed with a creamy house-made dressing and croutons.
WHY IS IT CALLED THE USA PLATTER?
GERHARD BRAUN: “When I had my
restaurant, Maltaschen, in Germany,
every once in a while, a server would
come back to the kitchen with an order
for small portions of a few dishes. I’d
say, ‘Oh, we have an American?’ It’s a
very American tendency, so we honored that.”
LAURA BRAUN: Many of our customers grew up around German food, but
we have others who are new to it, so
this gives them a chance to try a few
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE FOOD YOU
LB: It’s home cooking; it’s very labor
intensive. That’s why we’re only open
4–8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
and not for lunch.
GB: Many restaurants are one-third
prep, two-thirds serving. We’re the oth-
er way around.
LB: Think of when your grandma
cooked for five hours to make one meal
that’s eaten by a handful of people in
twenty minutes, then times that by a
few hundred people in a restaurant.
He makes everything from scratch and
does it all by hand.
GB: I’m a recipe and ingredient pur-
ist. I’m not changing either to fit anoth-
er way. I hired a second chef from
Berlin who knows what is what.
ARE YOUR DISHES INFLUENCED BY A
PARTICULAR REGION OF GERMANY?
LB: Gerhard grew up in the Swabian
region in southern part of the country.
Other restaurants here are more Bavarian. The maltuschen is a uniquely Swabian dish.
GB: The story goes that there was
a monastery of monks in Swabia who
wanted to eat meat on a Friday during
Lent, so they hid it between sheets of
pasta so God couldn’t see it. The Swa-
bian nickname for the dish is Herrgotts-
bescheißerle, “little cheaters of God.”
LB: A lot of people assume all German food is the same, but it’s like Italians and sauce. You might have German
potato salad in five restaurants, and it’ll
be a little different depending on where
the cook came from.
Devon Dams-O’Connor is a frequent
contributor to Spree.