In 1826, Betty Hanselman’s family emigrated from Bavaria, Germany, to Jasper, Indiana, a small Midwestern German community, to start a new life. Betty’s commitment to her German heritage never wavered as she and her future husband Larry Hanselman, whose great grandparents emigrated from Switzerland, paid tribute to their ethnic roots by opening Schnitzelbank Restaurant in 1961. More than 50 years later, the Olde World ambiance lives on at the restaurant through its authentic German cuisine, the wait staff’s attire, and décor.
“Back in the 60s, Dad knew a lot of the families around here and he put the word out that he was looking for authentic German recipes,” says Alan Hanselman, who took over ownership of the restaurant with his sister Gail Hettinger. “He ended up getting recipes originally from Germany and they are still cooked the same way they were today. The Goulash, the Rolladen, the Wiener Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, those are all still local family recipes.
“People who live in Germany will come in and say that you can’t get as authentic of food as this over there anymore because they have gone touristy. We are proud of that.”
Located at 393 Third Ave. in Jasper, Schnitzelbank receives help from Larry and Betty’s six children and a third generation of grandchildren. Daughter Lori Braun is the catering general manager, a second daughter Jill Otto serves as the front office manager, granddaughter Shelby Hettinger is the assistant manager at the Schnitz Brewery & Pub, and grandsons D.J. Hanselman works as the catering kitchen supervisor and handles marketing, and Nathan Hanselman is the KlubHaus 61, a wedding event facility, manager.
“I knew this better than anything else because I grew up here,” says Shelby, who also coordinates sales and marketing for Schnitzelbank. “There are things I still hope to do, but I have a good sense of pride and passion in this. This was a no- brainer for me.”
Average employees at Schnitzelbank stay for at least 20 years, with some into 40 years.
“Our employees really know the community and the people that are coming in,” says Alan. “At other restaurants, the turnover rate is so high that you can hardly keep a person trained before they are going somewhere else. It really has helped us how our employees have stuck with us after all these years. People who had been here 20 years ago are still sending us customers because they know we are still around and still under the same ownership.”
The employees of Schnitzelbank take pride in the German authenticity of the restaurant from the playing of the glockenspiel, a percussion instrument housed in the clock tower, to lyrics of the “Schnitzelbank Song,” a children’s German ditty, painted on the wall. Those attributes and the mouthwatering cuisine and beverages draw patrons from miles away to a seat at a wooden table in Jasper.
“The look and feel of places in Pfaffenweiler (Jasper’s sister city) are just like this,” says Alan of the restaurant. “When my parents were piecing this place together, they wanted it to feel the way it does in Germany.”
One taste of the German Sampler Appetizer and guests will be transported. The appetizer includes six mini Bratwurst, two Reuben rolls, four kraut balls, one German pretzel with cheese, and two potato pancakes served with dipping sauce. The plate serves up to four people.
Continue to dine on the restaurant’s German specialties by ordering the All Meats German Sampler Platter, which includes Goulash, Sauerbraten, Wiener Schnitzel, Schweine Schnitzel, Kassler Rippchen, Bratwurst, Knackwurst, and Bockwurst.
To eliminate any ordering anxiety, the staff explains any dish and provides samples. Goulash is Spätzle, or homemade German noodles, smothered in seasoned beef chunks and simmered in a rich wine sauce. The sauerbraten is tender beef marinated with sweet and sour wine gravy. Wiener Schnitzel is a tender veal steak dipped in egg batter and breadcrumbs, then fried to a golden brown hue. The Schweine Schnitzel is pork tenderloin breaded and pan-fried. The Kassler Rippchen is a hickory-smoked meaty pork chop. The restaurant offers three types of sausage including the Knackwurst, cured and smoked highlighted with garlic; Bratwurst, which has a noticeable onion flavor; and the Bockwurst, mild-flavored with accents of chives and parsley.
“A lot of people haven’t had any of the German foods that we carry and this way they get to try them all at one time in a smaller portion. Two people order this and eat it together,” says Alan.
All entrees include a tossed salad or guests can substitute a soup and the salad bar, known as the “Wunderbar,” for only $3.95. Substitute a German specialty side for $1.
Alan says the salad bar may be the most popular menu item overall because of its wide array of homemade salads, breads, and soups, all traditional to Germany.
Remember to save room for a slice of the German Chocolate Pie served with cinnamon ice cream, the coconut crème pie, or my personal favorite, the hot apple strudel with cinnamon ice cream. The restaurant also has a large selection of “bier” including a full line of imported beers and several draft beers from Germany, as well as German schnapps and a variety of German and Indiana wines.
If not a German fan, Schnitzelbank serves delicious steaks including its 2-inch pork chops and other local favorites.
The restaurant also features a gift shop with a large variety of German souvenirs including cuckoo clocks, beer steins, glassware, chocolates, specialty foods, and more, which Shelby says is extremely popular among guests.
Because of Schnitzelbank’s popularity, the Hanselman family’s businesses have expanded to Schnitzelbank Catering, the Jasper Hampton Inn, directly next door to the restaurant, KlubHaus 61, an event center, and the new Schnitz Brewery & Pub. When asked about the finesse it takes to oversee multiple ventures, Alan joked: “That’s why you have a lot of family members.”
Location: 393 Third Ave., Jasper, IN
Dining and Bar Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Adult Beverages: Yes
Payment: All major credit cards accepted.