Before you take a trip to the polka and brewing hotspot known as New Ulm, do the prudent thing: Call the town’s sausage merchant and ask the clerk to ID the town’s best restaurant. She’ll likely tell you, with an encouraging air of confidence, that Veigel’s Kaiserhoff is the place to go.
The throbbingly Teutonic Kaiserhoff has been doing its thing since its 1938 conversion from 3.2 bar to German eatery. Beers from Schell’s, Germanic drinking murals, and dark wood interior details make this place spot-on, from an ambiance perspective, and the menu of German favorites is unpretentious and soulful.
One particular novelty on the menu commands immediate attention: the Sauerkraut Balls.
Yes, the sauerkraut balls are spherical in shape. And yes, these fried lumps of house-made sauerkraut — if compared to sporting equipment — resemble balls more than they look like bats, rackets, gloves, or Frisbees. But there’s gotta be a better name for these appetizers than “balls.” Maybe Sauerkraut Puffs? Sauerkraut Bites? Sauerorbs? Sauerkraut Shout-Outs?
Sauerkraut Bites it is. The bites (which come 6 for $6.95) are served hot and have a crispy / crunchy exterior that recalls a good coconut macaroon in its depth of texture — the individual strands of kraut protrude a little from the mass as a whole and lend far more crunchy surface area to each bite than you might expect. The moist, sharp, pungent kick of the kraut inside of each bite is an ideal contrast to the exterior.
Better yet: The bites are a great fit with the Kaiserhoff’s house BBQ sauce, a substance served in syrup pitchers and essentially identical to Russian dressing. The cool tangy tomato kick of the dressing sauce plays well with the amiable warmth and crunch of the appetizers.
Awkwardly named, strangely conceived, absolutely addictive — these things may not be able to justify the entire drive to New Ulm, but they make a significant contribution.
(And if you’re intrigued but not ready for a pilgrimage, a slightly more elaborate take on these orb-shaped delights are available on Nicollet Avenue at the Black Forest Inn, which offers deep-fried Ham and Sauerkraut Balls made with ham, cheese, and sauerkraut.)
German food in New Ulm, MN
221 N. Minnesota St
New Ulm, MN 56073
OWNERS: Don and Jan Veigel
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Not a bad idea on weekends
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Even the salads have meat
ENTREE RANGE: $7-22