My fiancee and I recently moved to Danbury, CT from Westchester County and have embarked on a search for great restaurants in the Fairfield County area. We realized we're probably not the only Westchester/Manhattan transplants who have suddenly found themselves in this situation -- used to being surrounded by fabulous restaurants and now struggling to find places we would ever return to. So, we decided to document our "adventures" and review each of the restaurants we visit. Starting with...
The Old Heidelberg restaurant in Bethel, CT.
The Heidelberg offers "fine German cuisine" in a quaint, cozy atmosphere. They offer the option of outdoor or indoor dining -- the outdoor area has picnic-style tables and an area for children to play. We chose to eat inside as it was a particularly windy evening. We were seated in the front of the dining room near a window which was the main attraction for a number of flies & spiders -- not the most appetizing introduction. We actually considered moving at one point because the flies were so bothersome, but decided to stay inside rather than deal with the wind. The dining room is charming and very cozy -- very simple, rustic decoration. Adding to the atmosphere is the Bavarian music playing in the background -- a nice touch. Our evening began with a rather indifferent young server who actually seemed bothered by our presence. After taking our drink order, she disappeared. Eventually a woman came to our table and welcomed us and took our order -- we assumed she was the owner, but didn't confirm. We ordered two appetizers -- the curry wurst (the menu states this is "THE appetizer from Berlin" - essentially bratwurst smothered in a sweet & sour mild red curry sauce) and the Kasespatzle (a traditional spatzle with carmelized onions & melted cheese.) The curry wurst was decent -- nothing fabulous, but not terrible, either. The quality of the bratwurst didn't seem especially great. The curry sauce was definitely the feature of the dish as opposed to our expectations of a great sausage accompanied by the curry sauce. The spatzle was an average rendition of the German staple with very little evidence of carmelized onions and in need of salt. The melted cheeses tasted more like one giant heap of Swiss instead of being a blend and had become dried out by the time it reached our table. In all, not a great start to our meal.
For entrees, we ordered what the restaurant featured as being specialties -- the Bayerische Schweinshaxe (a slow roasted pork shank served with homemade mashed potatoes & sauerkraut) and the Holsteiner Schnitzel (the classic favorite served with a fried egg and sides of braised red cabbage & spatzle.) Our entrees were served in a very timely manner and both plates came out piping hot. We weren't quite prepared for the size of the Schweinshaxe -- it's HUGE! In addition to our sides, each plate contained a "side salad" that amounted to nothing more than 2-3 pieces of lettuce, a tomato and dressing - a completely unnecessary and, frankly, strange addition to the plate. The Schweinshaxe was very good -- the meat was tender and juicy and fell off the bone. It had good old-world pork flavor and was seasoned well. The mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy (which I happen to like) and the sauerkraut was done well -- homemade and great flavor. It was slightly overcooked, however, which made it a bit on the mushy side. In all, it was a good dish which would be great on a brisk Fall night - not the best meal for a summer evening, but who ever said German food was light?? The Schnitzel was an unspectacular but fair rendition. The cutlet was underseasoned but not greasy and also evident was the use of butter in the frying process, which gave it flavor. The fried egg was slightly overcooked as you would expect the yolk to be a bit runny -- it did not. The spatzle was average and the red cabbage was the strongest item on the plate -- well-seasoned, nicely textured with a good balance of sweet and sour.
We opted to skip dessert after indulging in such heavy meals. We received the check and it was eventually taken away by a server. When the server brought the check back, he placed it on the opposite side of the table so I had to get up out of my chair to get it. A strange thing to do right before I'm about to decide how much tip to leave.
To summarize, I would say the Old Heidelberg is an average dining experience. The food is adequate - portions are generous and good value for the money. The service leaves a lot to be desired -- an unfriendly, borderline rude group of servers. The atmosphere feels authentic and cozy, though we could have done without the flies. Probably not a place we'll be returning to or recommending to others.