One of our very favorite restaurants in the entire world is Spa Brauhaus, located in Ballston Spa, NY. It’s a German restaurant, decorated in the most fascinating 1970’s rec-room-chic. Blond wood paneling, macramé planters holding silk flower arrangements, stained-glass ceiling fixtures, cheesy wall art…but somehow it all works – I love it!

They have a very attentive and professional wait staff, one of whom is a German woman who wears a traditional blue dirndl every night (although with a short skirt instead of a full one). She’s got a very thick German accent, and makes sure we’re pronouncing everything correctly when we order. She’s not warm, but extremely efficient – that’s how we Germans operate: you’re here to eat, I will serve you, and you will go home.

The decor and the staff are great, but the food is just amazing – and the value is the best you’ll find anywhere. Their dinners are traditional German fare – schnitzels, sauerbraten, roulade of beef, bratwurst and knockwurst – and they serve soup, salad, and vegetable with every meal. Two of us can eat a dinner, with an appetizer of potato pancakes, drinks, and coffee for about $50 or so. This includes leftovers for lunch the next day. Incredible!! They’re not wasting any money on an interior decorator, so I’m guessing that’s why the food is so cheap. 🙂

Here’s my usual order: Rahm Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets with cream sauce), Spaetzle (“Pronounced SPATES-luh!“, the waitress told me), and red cabbage.

Bob always gets: Sauerbraten, Spaetzle, and carrots. (there’s a family joke about Bob’s Grandmother’s Sauerbraten – I promise to share it at some point – probably when I share my great-great-grandmother’s recipe for sauerbraten).

We both love their vegetable barley soup, fresh-baked onion bread, and their homemade secret recipe salad dressing (I think it must contain buttermilk, because it’s creamy and tangy all at the same time). They have another soup that they serve (Cream of Mushroom), but we never seem to go on the nights they serve it.

BUT – our favorite part of the meal is the potato pancakes. They are so delectable – creamy shredded potato and a hint of onion, cooked until fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Served with a side of homemade applesauce…omg, I dream about these things. So, of course, I had to learn how to make them at home.

After much trial and error, I’ve finally perfected potato pancakes. I daresay they are even better than S.B.’s. And, I wish to share my knowledge with you. They’re amazingly easy – I promise. I think it’s their simplicity that makes them so incredible. Enjoy!  Recipe after the jump.

Potato Pancakes

  • 2 cups peeled shredded potatoes (I use Yukon Golds)
  • 1 half a small onion, shredded (you can use less if you want)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder (leave this out if you prefer them flatter and crisper)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (you can leave it out if you don’t have any, but you’ll be sorry!)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp butter

Wrap shredded potatoes in a clean dishtowel and wring to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Combine potatoes and remaining ingredients (except oil and butter). Heat oil and butter in a large heavy skillet (I use cast-iron) over medium heat until hot. Add scoops of the potato mixture to the hot oil, and flatten into rounds – you should be able to fit 4 of them in at once. Cook for 4 minutes or until browned (you may need to turn the heat down a little at this point), then flip over and cook for 3-4 more minutes, or until brown and crisp.

This recipe makes about 10-12 pancakes (depending on how big you make them), so you can put them on a pan in the oven (350 degrees) to keep them hot until you’ve finished making them all. They freeze GREAT, and are even good cold. You can reheat them in the oven, a toaster over, or a TOASTER!