It's hard to say exactly when Mickey and Minnie's Inn Restaurant in Galloway Township started to be thought of in connection with German food such as bratwurst and weinerschnitzel.
These days, Dottie Garbutt runs the kitchen while her sister-in-law, Carol Filling, manages the front end of the restaurant that's been in the Garbutt family since 1938. But when Garbutt started working there about 30 years ago, Mickey and Minnie's was just a regular family restaurant trying out specials. Then they hit on what area diners find really special.
"This area has a lot of influence from Germany. That's why we decided to try the German theme; it goes well with the area," Garbutt said. "People love it and in this area there are just not a lot of restaurants serving German food. So people travel to come here."
But Dottie didn't rush off to Germany to learn how to perfect dishes like sourbraten, which takes a week to prepare. Like many young girls in the section of Galloway Township called "Germania," Garbutt had grown up making spatzle, the German noodles that are served with the Oktoberfest specials, at home with her mother.
Back then, her mom would roll out the soft dough on a cutting board and then hold it over a pot of boiling water, slicing the spatzle so they fell right into the pot. But as word spread that Mickey and Minnie's was serving hackbraten (meatloaf) and kartoffelpuffer (potato cakes), the restaurant grew busier. So Garbutt had to devise a way to make the homemade noodles faster.
She researched recipes she could adapt to her liking and practiced with others from her childhood, such as her German grandmother's version of black forest cake and apple strudel.
"Back then you didn't share recipes ... she just passed it on as we were doing it together," she said. "My grandmother was an awesome baker."
But some things don't change. Garbutt draws on old lessons from her grandmother, such as patience in the kitchen. And she makes all the spatzle herself, no matter how long it takes.
"It's very time consuming, it's not going to be a 30-minute meal," she warns. "You have to really like being in the kitchen. It's not rocket science, you learn as you go. I really like to cook."
Of course, it's not all German cuisine all day at Mickey and Minnie's Inn. Hackbraten, for example, is really just German meatloaf. And there are regular menu items for those few who don't want roasted pork with gravy and apple sauerkraut (schweinebraten) or sauteed veal medallions with jumbo shrimp, mushrooms, shallots and Swiss cheese deglazed with white wine and veal stock (Schnitzel Christian).
For the rest of us, it's lucky Dottie Garbutt doesn't mind the time it takes to offer Oktoberfest food all year long.
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