Restaurant review: Valter's at the Maennerchor

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

For a city brimming with German heritage, Columbus is sparsely stocked in the German restaurant department. Enter Valter's at the Maennerchor, a welcome and history-rich addition to the German cuisine scene.

Familiar with the Columbus Maennerchor? Founded in 1848, it professes to be "the oldest and largest continuously operating German singing society in North America." About five years ago, the culture-and-music club moved from its longtime Brewery District headquarters to a smaller, more affordable location - right next door, into the German Heritage House, built in 1907.

Significant renovations ensued, which included sprucing up original fixtures and the construction of Valter's - named for chef, restaurateur and Maennerchor member Valter Velieu, who agreed to a 10-year lease with the Maennerchor.

Open since January, Valter's comprises an inviting patio plus two smallish rooms displaying a quaint mix of vintage character and modern convenience. Gawk-worthy Maennerchor memorabilia, old photos and colorful coats of arms honoring several German cities fill the museum-like rear room - along with a piano, because the choir practices there Tuesday nights.

The adjoining room similarly features old-fashioned appointments embellished with Teutonic touches. It also has an abbreviated bar, wooden tables and TVs that often broadcast European soccer matches. Show up there on a Tuesday evening, and you might be treated to a free choral concert, contemporary music from house speakers and televised sports - all at once.

Whether or not you find this kind of clubby ambience endearing (I do), a bicep-building, colossal glass stein of draft beer is a fine idea. There are 20 taps (try the Konig Ludwig weissbier, $11 per liter), but beverages compatible with Valter's rustic fare await on the nice little German and Austrian wine list, too.

The Sauerkraut Balls ($10) are a great way to get your meal rolling. Seven crisp, not greasy, orbs filled with melted cheese, sauerkraut and distinguishing bits of housemade corned beef (slabs of which likewise elevate the $11 Reuben) are served with strong mustard. That's a recipe for snacking success in my book.

Ditto for big and crisply seared chicken wings in a zingy, slightly sweet and lightly creamy mustard sauce. They're called Jagermeister Wings ($10); I'd call their scarcity of namesake booze flavor a blessing in disguise.

I also enjoyed Valter's two homey soups ($5 each): Goulash (potato, "cube steak" and corned beef lumps in a light broth livened by paprika and vinegar) and tangy beer cheese, enriched by three not-so-little pigs of bacon, roast pork and a sizeable slice of seared, locally sourced sausage.

That same good sausage - it's from Columbus meat packing outfit Falter's - stars in the gloriously messy Stout Bratwurst sandwich ($8). The other components: spicy house mustard, sauteed peppers and onions, warm sauerkraut and a toasted pretzel roll. Like all sandwiches, it's served with fried-here potato chips and, playing the role of dipping sauce, a little beer cheese soup.

I found the Schweinshaxe ($19) fun to say, and even more fun to eat. It's an enormous meal of herby, falling-off-the-bone roast pork with sauerkraut and Valter's German potato salad (smashed spuds packed with various pork meats).

Another classic that would feed two people is the characteristically simple but winning Wienerschnitzel ($18) - two expansive, pounded thin, gently breaded, fork-tender veal cutlets served with spaetzle (stubby pasta strands) sporting an unexpected smoky flavor from a high heat saute.

I was told that desserts arise from two sources: a local bakery (excellent Honeykiss) and Valter Vilieu's dentist, an obviously multi-talented man and Maennerchor member who might know something about drumming up business. He certainly knows how to make a light and tangy cheesecake brightened by lemon zest ($6) - and how to provide diners with extra reasons to visit pleasant Valter's at the alluringly quirky Maennerchor.

Valter's at the Maennerchor

976 S. High St., Brewery District