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Karl Ratzsch's

320 E. Mason, Milwaukee, WI - (414) 276-2720
Posted By Michael Stern on 4/20/2015 6:47:00 AM
Now in its second century of operation, this grand restaurant has earned fame for its German food, served by a staff of dirndl-skirted professionals in an extremely atmospheric dining room: dark woodwork, antique steins, romantic murals, sentimental paintings.

The old world menu includes such stalwart classics as liver-dumpling soup, roast goose, beef rouladen, and sauerbraten with ginger-snap gravy. There isn't a more beautiful roast duck in the state of Wisconsin; the wiener schnitzel is magnificent; and the crackling pork shank is one of the most awesome-looking (and tasting) meals imaginable. The beer-on-tap list includes some from Germany as well as local Milwaukee brews (and the waitress will gladly describe each one, if you have any doubts); and there is a whole array of Kümmel, Kirshwasser, and Rumpleminze liqueurs for after dinner.

Most people come To Ratzsch's for German food, and rightfully so. But here’s a secret: the "regular" food is grand, too. Steaks and prime rib are regal (get Ratzsch’s thick, crusty potato pancakes on the side), and the Porterhouse-for-two is one of the Midwest's most magnificent meat monuments. Whitefish here is a Great Lakes treasure – tender, sweet, and juicy – served on a wood plank in a ring of mashed potatoes. There is a "lighter fare" menu, too, for those who prefer angel hair pasta or a veggie plate to stuffed pork chops and spaetzel or potato dumplings.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Crackling Pork Shank
Chateaubriand for Two
Wiener Schnitzel
Iceberg Lettuce Wedge
Potato Pancakes
Schaum Torte
Planked Lake Superior Whitefish
Chicken Liver Pate
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Beautiful potato pancakes, crisp on the outside, creamy inside, gently spiced enough only to accent the basic potato flavor, are served with a ramekin of chunky HOT apple sauce.
"Beautiful potato pancakes, crisp on the outside, creamy inside, gently spiced enough only to accent the basic potato flavor, are served with a ramekin of chunky HOT apple sauce."
Michael Stern





Hail iceberg lettuce! When impeccably fresh and well-chilled, it has a refreshing flavor and mouth feel that none of the more delicate high-fashion greens can match. Here's a wedge blanketed with 1000 island dressing.
"Hail iceberg lettuce! When impeccably fresh and well-chilled, it has a refreshing flavor and mouth feel that none of the more delicate high-fashion greens can match. Here's a wedge blanketed with 1000 island dressing."
Michael Stern


At first, I was a little scared by my Crackling Pork Shank, a gigantic hunk of hock that arrives with a sharp knife plunged into it. While the knife was indeed handy for sawing through the extremely crackly parts of the skin on the outside, I found fingers were well-suited for pulling large nuggets of moist meat from the interior as well as strips of crisp cracklin's from the drier parts. This is a vast eating adventure! The shank is accompanied by four-star sauerkraut, brown gravy, sharp mustard, and boiled red potatoes.
"At first, I was a little scared by my Crackling Pork Shank, a gigantic hunk of hock that arrives with a sharp knife plunged into it. While the knife was indeed handy for sawing through the extremely crackly parts of the skin on the outside, I found fingers were well-suited for pulling large nuggets of moist meat from the interior as well as strips of crisp cracklin's from the drier parts. This is a vast eating adventure! The shank is accompanied by four-star sauerkraut, brown gravy, sharp mustard, and boiled red potatoes."
Michael Stern


Expertly-fried wiener schnitzel has a thin, seasoned crust and interior ribbon of meltingly tender meat. Jane asked for a few extra lemon wedges, and so the plate came rimmed with them.
"Expertly-fried wiener schnitzel has a thin, seasoned crust and interior ribbon of meltingly tender meat. Jane asked for a few extra lemon wedges, and so the plate came rimmed with them."
Michael Stern


Liver-lover Jane declared this chopped liver to be excellent. Nothing like the kind of chopped liver you'd get in a Jewish deli – more granular, less schmaltzy, not as unabashedly rich.
"Liver-lover Jane declared this chopped liver to be excellent. Nothing like the kind of chopped liver you'd get in a Jewish deli – more granular, less schmaltzy, not as unabashedly rich."
Michael Stern


While dark and atmospheric inside, festive German music – and festive customers clinking steins of beer – make Ratzsch's a good-time restaurant where a lot of people go for celebration meals.
"While dark and atmospheric inside, festive German music – and festive customers clinking steins of beer – make Ratzsch's a good-time restaurant where a lot of people go for celebration meals."
Michael Stern


There's no mistaking Karl Ratzsch's for anything other than what it is: a vintage German restaurant that reveres Old World traditions. We found it especially convenient when staying at the Pfister Hotel downtown … one block away.
"There's no mistaking Karl Ratzsch's for anything other than what it is: a vintage German restaurant that reveres Old World traditions. We found it especially convenient when staying at the Pfister Hotel downtown … one block away."
Michael Stern



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