It was one menu description in particular that persuaded me to drive to Rowlett and try Fritzl’s Euro Grill.
“Kick Ass Schnitzel,” it reads. “Ja! Ja! Ja! Hey, Bubba. Still feel Macho, Try me. I am a lonely Pork Loin covered in a Fresh Habanero Garlic Sauce and can’t move. ‘Beyond Spicy!’ Eat Me!! Don’t hate me. ‘Angel Soft’ not included.”
With a menu item like that, who could resist?
The Kick Ass Schnitzel, like all of the schnitzels at Fritzl’s, comes in a “half” portion suited for normal humans ($15) or a “full” portion capable of feeding triathletes, sumo wrestlers or Michael Phelps ($20). When I persuaded a meat-loving, heat-loving friend to try it, he ordered the sauce on the side, and the platter came groaning under crisply breaded schnitzel cutlets, potato salad, sauerkraut and a soup cup of the notorious Kick Ass sauce.
We each dipped pieces of bare, golden schnitzel into the habanero sauce. The moment of truth had arrived.
On the front of the tongue, it’s not spicy at all. Garlic, a bit; paprika, yes; the brightness of fresh tomato, certainly; there’s a savory smokiness to the sauce that is divine. And then the bite hits the back of the tongue, sliding toward the throat, and the habanero heat arrives, curling upward into my sinuses, rolling along the edges of my mouth, rising like high tide to a burning aftertaste. It’s like a spice sunrise. With each additional bite, the habanero sauce grows more powerful, but it’s fantastic.
Fritzl’s Euro Grill defies expectations in many ways. It advertises itself as a biergarten but has only a small, seasonal patio and doesn’t feature the long, communal tables which my imagination conjured up. Instead, the interior, which is tiny, wood-forward and dotted with goofy signs, looks more like an alpine ski bum bar. There are dollar bills pinned up with Sharpied messages like, “I (heart) Fritzl’s, U got ME DRUNK!” Oompah music doesn’t play; instead there’s an unironic radio station playing “We Will Rock You” and Nickelback. Indeed, one of the wall’s signs says: “Welcome to America, Now Speak English.”
Owner Klaus Fritz arrived in Texas in 1991, and he speaks English. “I’m a one-man show,” he says, “but I’ve been doing it for 22 years pretty much by myself.” He preps, cooks and waits tables, although he has had waiters in the past when reliable staff could be found.
A “fifth-generation pastry chef” from Austria, Fritz settled down in Texas after years working kitchens in fine-dining spots, hotels and cruise ships. His menu at Fritzl’s is simple, straightforward and schnitzel-heavy. The schnitzel, pounded, breaded and consistently crisply fried, is available plain (Wiener, or Vienna-style, $14 for a half plate, $18 full) or under a variety of sauces and toppings. Without gravy, a squeeze of lemon is all that’s needed. The mushroomy jaegerschnitzel ($15 half plate, $20 full) is unconventional — with creamy white cognac gravy instead of the more common deep brown — but quite good. Indeed, one night at dinner, Fritz tells us that the jaeger is his best work.
There’s a Texas schnitzel, too, Fritz’s way of connecting with his new homeland ($15 half plate, $20 full). It comes topped with slices of reasonably smoky brisket, tomatoes and a gooey, thick layer of mozzarella. (Yes, mozzarella. Go with it.) Fritz arrived at our table theatrically blasting the mozzarella with an enormous blowtorch. Woodcutter schnitzel, with a Parmesan-based white wine gravy and bacon pieces, is pretty good, too ($15 half plate, $20 full). Happily, none of the food is too salty.
Fritzl’s two best sides are red cabbage and potatoes. The potatoes are softly roasted, with only the occasional rewarding bit of crunch, topped with a good amount of herbs. The real secret, though, is pretty simple: a whole lot of butter and salt. The red cabbage is mild and mellow, as is the sauerkraut. Spaetzle was more disappointing. It’s yellow from cheese but underwhelming; my tablemates could tell that it'd been sitting out.
That’s a risk of this restaurant’s approach to service. Food comes out fast at Fritzl’s. Like, really fast. I’ve had slower meals at Whataburger.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Fritz explains. “Everything is homemade. Everything is prepped.” The schnitzels are so ultrathin they take less than a minute to cook. Thus, Fritz says, platters can be assembled as quickly as a Tex-Mex enchilada plate.
A handful of non-schnitzel items are worth trying. Grilled kielbasa is excellent, with bold flavor to match the red color and a nice spicy snap. The conventional bratwurst is fennel-heavy, nothing like the brats most Americans are used to, and Fritz gashes it with a knife to create more crispy edges on the grill. (Either, or a sampler of both, comes with sides for $15.) Hungarian goulash is on the menu ($17), and it stars tender cubes of meat in a brown gravy that is a little light on paprika.
The draft beer list is short and impeccable: Spaten Oktoberfest, Franziskaner, Warsteiner Dunkel and the like. Ask about homemade schnapps; once, to pair with the Kick Ass Schnitzel, Fritz prepared a Kick Ass Schnapps with Carolina Reaper, ghost peppers and scorpion peppers.
“That thing was just like gasoline,” he recalls, but customers liked it. “These people must be dead in their mouths.”
But Klaus Fritz has a secret weapon, his biggest strength, and he’s saving it for last: dessert. Pastry runs in his family and is his background, and he is planning a fall run of weekend dessert specials like a vanilla rum napoleon.
Just look into the pastry case: the decadent carrot cake, the chocolate cake so tall it could be a footrest, the German cheesecake. But strudels are the restaurant’s pride and joy, like an apple and blueberry strudel with flaky, fresh pastry encasing rich, practically molten filling ($9). It’s a world-class sugar rush.
One of the changes Klaus Fritz is planning as his restaurant passes its 22nd birthday is to place a greater emphasis on those divine desserts. A new menu is on the way, too, keeping the classics but adding a tower of schnitzels and onion rings named after an alpine peak.
One thing that won’t change? The restaurant’s nonexistent marketing budget.
“I always wanted to be a little hidden niche place,” Fritz says, “a little dive.” As luck would have it, Fritzl's Euro Grill was just the dive Rowlett needed.
Fritzl’s Euro Grill, 3390 Lakeview Parkway, Rowlett. 972-412-3555. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday.