During World War II, Phoenix was home to what was a rather large camp for German POWs. The camp was nestled in the Papago Buttes area of East Phoenix along the Scottsdale border. After the war, many of the German POWs decided to stay in the Valley of the Sun and make a life here in what would become a huge metropolis.
Despite that fact, the Valley has always been lacking in quality German restaurants. There used to be a large German restaurant on 7th Avenue just north of Camelback, but that closed decades ago and has been a bazillion things since. There was the old Felsen House on Camelback Road that is now an Oregano’s. Then, there was a German restaurant at 49th Street and Indian School Road that recently closed only to reopen as another German restaurant just a couple of weeks ago.
Still, a small handful of German restaurants seems pretty paltry for a metro area the size of Phoenix. Of course, German food is quite hearty and I can understand why people would shy away from a German meal in the middle of July. Since it was May, Dave, Neil, J. and I decided to try our luck with German food in the Valley anyway and ended up at Haus Murphy’s German Restaurant located right in the heart of old town Glendale.
As we drove down Glendale Avenue, Neil remarked that we needed to pull onto the street right after Haus Murphy’s in order to find parking. Sure enough, we found a spot fairly close and made the quick stroll past a Bed & Breakfast and women’s fashion boutique before hearing the melodic tunes of um-pah-pah music wafting onto the street from Haus Murphy’s biergarten. We approached the host station that was a few feet from the public sidewalk and we were taken through the biergarten and into the back part of the restaurant. Some of the tables were busy with patrons enjoying beer and food, but the place was relatively quiet except for the music.
We were seated at a community table that would have sat 12 people, but we had the section to ourselves. We had only been seated a few seconds before our waiter arrived bearing glasses of water and menus. He also introduced us to a second waiter who would be helping him out throughout the evening. He took our drink order of three Diet Cokes ($2.50 each) and one Iced Tea ($2.50). He departed, stating he would be back to take our orders momentarily.
While we scanned the menu, we were presented with a basket of bread and some small plastic cups of butter. The basket featured two kinds of bread: rye and pumpernickel. The butter had some sort of herb in it that I couldn’t place, but it was a great accent to both of the breads. I preferred the rye, but others liked the pumpernickel. The bread was soft and fresh and each had subtle flavors. This was a pleasant way to kick off the meal.
When our waiter returned with our drinks, he told us about a special and then took our order. To start, we decided to try the Sausage Sampler ($8.95) and the Poached Pears ($7.95). We also ordered a side of Sauerkraut ($2.50). For the entrees, Neil ordered the Huehner Schnitzel ($13.95), Dave decided to get the Schweizer Schnitzel ($14.95), and J. and I split the Bauernplatte for Two ($29.95). Our meals came with Onion Soup which Neil and I looked forward to. J. and Dave, however, upgraded to the large house salad ($2.00 each add on). J.’s and my platter of food came with a plain schnitzel and our waiter asked us if we would like to try the Paprika Sauce ($1.00 add on) or the Jaeger Sauce ($1.00 add on) which we decided would be interesting. Rounding out the meal, we also ordered two orders of Spaetzle ($2.50 each).
After our waiter left, we had only been talking a few minutes before our appetizers arrived. First to the table was the side of Sauerkraut. The metal dish contained a serving of the pickled cabbage complete with juniper berries. The sauerkraut was slighty tart, somewhat sweet, and completely delicious. We loved every bite because it was a welcome change from the standard sour presentation you get at cookouts and hot dog stands.
The Sausage Sampler arrived and we were knocked over by the scent. Polish sausage and spicy Bratwurst had been cut into slices, placed atop a bed of German Fried Potatoes and served with a creamy mustard. The sausages were excellent. They were heavily seasoned and when dabbed with the mustard, they were an outstanding treat. We also loved the German Fried Potatoes that were piping hot and quite flavorful.
The Poached Pears were a work of art. The presentation alone was beautiful. Three small pears had been poached and then centered on a plate. Around the edge of the plate were three dollops of soft Goat Cheese that had been topped with a bit of balsamic vinegar. The cheese reminded me of a very light and fluffy chevre. The entire dish was outstanding. The pears were subtle, but when teamed up with the cheese and the vinegar, we all agreed that this was a fine dish. We did remark that the amount of cheese was a bit of overkill, but we managed to enjoy every bit of it.
After another round of drinks and bread, the Onion Soup arrived for Neil and myself. The small cup of soup was blazing hot with plenty of steam rising from the top. The broth was dark in color and had plenty of onions. The top was capped with a small round of pumpernickel that had a exceptionally thin layer of cheese baked onto it. After a few tastes, Neil and I were stumped by the seasoning. It really made the broth stand out, but we couldn’t identify the ingredient. The small toast on top was crisp and had softened only slightly from the broth. We loved the soup because it was not just another standard French Onion Soup. This was quite different and we were pleased.
J. and Dave were happy with their house salads. The medium-sized plates held a substantial serving of greens topped with plenty of cucumbers and framed by a bed of shredded carrots and shaved red cabbage on either side. The dressing was a creamy dill. J. remarked at how fresh the salad was and that the dressing was superb with the strong dill taste. Dave agreed that the salad was excellent, although he wasn’t a fan of red cabbage. Still, they had nothing but praises for the salad. From my vantage point, it was brilliant with color and looked very fresh.
There was a small lull between our soup and salad and the arrival of our entrees. We pushed our plates aside and made room for the feast at hand. Dave’s Schweizer Schnitzel was a pork tenderloin topped with Emmenthaler cheese and Black Forest Ham, then breaded and fried. It was served with a side of German Fried Potatoes and Wirsing, a type of German cole slaw. Dave cut into the schnitzel and released a puff of steam. Upon letting it cool, he took a bite and was thoroughly enjoying the mix of tastes. The ham, cheese and pork put a smile on Dave’s face and he raved about how tender the schnitzel was and how great the potatoes were. He wasn’t a fan of the Wiring, but, as he admitted, he isn’t a big fan of slaw. Still, he enjoyed his dinner.
Neil’s Heuhner Schnitzel was a chicken schnitzel covered with a creamy mushroom wine sauce. It looked fantastic and very hearty. It also was served with German Fried Potatoes and Wirsing. Neil was in heaven with this dish. The schnitzel filled over half the plate and he noted how moist the chicken was. He was also a fan of the creamy wine sauce that had plenty of mushrooms. Neil praised the German Fried Potatoes because they were hot, soft and flavorful. He was unsure about the Wirsing, however, and wondered if it might be an acquired taste.
When our waiter set down the Bauernplatte for Two, J. and I both said, “Oh, my!” This platter was colossal. The amount of food was borderline obscene, but the aroma was purely addictive. On the platter was: Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Weisswurst, Kassler Kotelette, Pork Schnitzel, sauteed red cabbage, sauerkraut, German Fried Potatoes, and German Potato Salad. On top were our two small sauces. J. and I just cut everything down the middle and began to indulge ourselves. Everything on the plate was delicious. Of the sausages, I preferred the Bratwurst with its spicy undertones while J. was all over the Weisswurst because of the mild, but plentiful, seasonings. The Kassler Kotelette was a smoked pork chop that tasted more like ham than a pork chop, but it was great. We thought the best side on the platter was the German Fried Potatoes, followed by the red cabbage. The German Potato Salad was decent, but I wish it had been a bit more vinegary.
The knockout on the platter, however, was the Pork Schnitzel. It was sublime and had the best flavor of anything on the platter. J. and I tried both the Paprika Sauce and the Jaeger Sauce but found that the Schnitzel was best when it was on its own. Both sauces were very good (we preferred the Paprika Sauce to the rich Jaeger Sauce), but they tended to get in the way of the satisfying flavor of the pork schnitzel.
We still had to conquer the Spaetzle. The small, curd-like noodles were light, fluffy and outstanding. They were slightly buttery and had a bit of a salty aftertaste. We gobbled them up after dousing them with the rich brown sauce that accompanied the dish. I think we would have enjoyed them more if we hadn’t been quiet so full.
After polishing off as much as we could, all four of us were not sure if we wanted dessert. Dave and Neil had helped J. and I finish our platter (which could have easily fed three or four). Our waiter returned telling us about the desserts and with the name of each one, he had us hooked. So, Dave ordered the Bread Pudding ($4.50), Neil requested the Black Forest Cake ($6.75) and J. and I split and Apple Strudel ($5.50).
The turnaround time on the desserts was lightning quick. Neil’s Black Forest Cake had all the markings of the traditional dessert with the dark cake, plentiful cherries, whipped cream and nuts on top for a bit of crunch. Unfortunately, Neil felt the cake was rather “institutional” and “corporate.” He said it had a decent taste, but didn’t have the earmarks of a housemade desserts. It might very well have been made at the restaurant, but Neil said it really lacked the qualities that would have made this a great dessert.
The Apple Strudle J. and I shared was also disappointing. There was plenty of apple taste and the layers of pastry were clearly visible, but the dessert was flat in taste. The vanilla sauce on top only added texture instead of taste and the whole dessert lacked a certain freshness. After some discussion, we thought it might have been because strudel deteriorates rather quickly and if it had been made early in the morning or the day before, it had suffered in quality. I also thought the serving size was lacking in relation to the cost.
Dave, on the other hand, was dancing on Cloud 9. The Bread Pudding was a phenomenal hit with Dave. Layers of pudding had been interspersed with cream in a tall fountain glass. Dave said the pudding was delicious and noted that they were not shy about the cinnamon, which is Dave’s favorite spice. He raved about the dessert and that it was a satisfying portion with a great taste.
At this point, we had to throw in the towel. Any more food and we would have exploded or been arrested. We requested our bill and our waiter returned with the tab. The total was $126.20 which included tax. We all agreed that this was a bargain considering the quality of the food (sans two of the desserts) and the portion size (sans one of the desserts). The service at Haus Murphys was lively, engaging, often funny and very good. We always seemed to get refills at the right time and we even had a few bawdy jokes thrown our way for good measure.
By this time, the um-pah-pah band had broken up for the evening and a few lingering customers in the biergarten were enjoying the last of their beers and sausages. We strolled back to the car and made our way toward East Phoenix. We were all quite pleased with the food at Haus Murphy’s. Even though two of the desserts were disappointing, we still felt that our meal was a success and all said we would recommend Haus Murphy’s to anyone who was craving German food.
I thought Haus Murphy’s was a great find in Glendale. Many of the citizens of Glendale rightly complain that there are few “local” places for food. I do wish there were more places like Haus Murphy’s with live music, a great attitude and not part of a huge chain.
I also wish we had more German restaurants on the East side of Phoenix. Sure, we have the history of a German POW camp at the Papago Buttes. That, however, doesn’t satisfy my occasional schnitzel craving.
Haus Murphy’s German Restaurant
5739 West Glendale Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85301
Dress: Casual, but Lederhosen is always appropriate.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday – 11 AM to 9 PM; Sunday – Noon to 8 PM; Closed Mondays.
Notes: Live music on weekends. Parking is on-street.
Alcohol: Full bar service, but the focus is on German beers.