All you have to do is pick apart a steaming hot plate of pig knuckles to know that Jim and Jerry Chandler know German food. After all, the brothers have owned the Gerst Bavarian Haus on Franklin Street since 1998. Now, they’ve branched out to offer authentic dishes from another European country with Smitty’s Italian Steakhouse.
Cindy Reitz, office manager, explains that the name Smitty’s comes from an old bar that was located on the corner of Franklin and Main streets. The Chandlers bought the back bar of the old establishment, put the bar into their new restaurant, and decided to keep the name.
“It is another thing that has been added to the personality of Historic Franklin Street,” says Romie Kimbrell, the executive chef for Smitty’s Italian Steakhouse and the Gerst Haus.
When Smitty’s first opened across the street from the Gerst Haus, the menu consisted of just pizza and burgers. Today, the menu is a blend of dishes like chicken and veal Marsala, homemade baked lasagna featuring six layers of meat and cream sauce, and a number of different steaks.
“The steaks are very good, and I am not saying that just because I work here,” says Kimbrell. “We have people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s saying it’s the best steak they have ever had.”
He’s worked as a chef for the Chandlers in their restaurants for 20 years. Before he was transferred seven years ago to the Gerst Haus in Evansville, he worked at Sportsman’s in Nashville, Tenn. When asked what would be good for Evansville, Kimbrell recommended adding pasta dishes and other Italian favorites. Before he knew it, Smitty’s was a full-scale, made-from-scratch restaurant.
Smitty’s signature steaks are U.S. Department of Agriculture choice, selected from corn-fed, Midwestern beef, and are seasoned with a butter dipping sauce. Everything at Smitty’s is made to order. While it may take a little longer for your food to make its way to your table, the quality of the dish is worth it.
The portions will not disappoint, either.
“I’ve heard oohs and ahhs, from the sandwiches to the lasagna, when it comes to the portion sizes,” says Shannon Slygh, Smitty’s dining room manager.
The same homemade care is used with desserts, too. Two made-from-scratch customer favorites are the Italian cream cake and the bread pudding with praline sauce.
“When you’re making it (the praline sauce) from scratch — you know you always taste it — (and) let’s just say you would get a (sugar) rush just off the praline sauce,” Kimbrell says.
Smitty’s expanded its hours in the middle of May and is now open for lunch, as well. The relaxing and comfortable environment is perfect for lunch meetings and afternoon meals on the patio.
Smitty’s has an extensive list of wines to go along with its full-scale bar that offers spirits and craft beer. Every Monday through Thursday, Smitty’s has $5 martinis. Some of the favorites are the raspberry martini and peach martini, or — if you are eager for a little hint of dessert in your drink — try a tiramisu martini.
The restaurant has a large party room featuring a full-service bar away from the rest of the restaurant for rehearsal dinners, retirement parties, and business parties. Party catering also is available.
Smitty’s diverse menu offerings are the latest in the continuing development of Franklin Street. Try a little Italian on your next bar hopping venture.
Location: 2109 W. Franklin St.
Dining Hours: 3:30-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat., noon-9 p.m. Sun.
Adult Beverages: Yes
Payment: Accepts all major credit cards