The Cutlet of Your Dreams is at the International House of Schnitzel

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John Linn
The Holstein schnitzel is topped with two eggs, anchovies, and capers.
A chicken cutlet, pounded to a perfect quarter-inch thickness, coated in breadcrumbs, and baked until a luscious, crisp coating forms on the surface will set you back just $5.95. That same breaded slice of love topped with two over-easy eggs, crisp at the edges, a few salty anchovy filets, and a handful of capers -- called the Holstein -- is only two dollars more. Each plate comes with tart-sweet red cabbage laced with apples and onions and a scoop of mashed potatoes so flavorful they required no gravy at all.

If it sounds like an odd ball idea, well, it is. Sort of. The quirky, old-school schnitzel dishes come courtesy of The International House of Schnitzel in Oakland Park, a three-month-old  lunch and breakfast spot situated next to the Fox and Hound on Dixie Highway.

It's safe to say schnitzel are not as buzz-worthy as pancakes, the specialty of another, well-known International House. But when you think about it, the breaded cutlet is even more popular worldwide. In Austria and Germany, schnitzel is typically a thin, pan-fried veal cutlet. But just south in Italy, it's known as cotaletta alla milanese. In dozens of Spanish speaking countries it's called milanesa, and it's hugely popular. No matter the country of origin, the schnitzel is a working class staple, even if may not always get the recognition it deserves.

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John Linn
IHOS's owner, Rudi Pollak is trying to change all that. A Romanian-born Israeli who grew up in Dusseldorf, Germany, Pollak has had a long-time love affair with the cutlet. "If you look all over the world, I'd say about 70 percent of the countries make schnitzel," he says. "In America, you call it a chicken cutlet. It's very simple, and everyone can eat it."

The almost universal appeal of schnitzel, along with the stagnant economy, is what prompted Pollak to open IHOS along with his business partner Eli Hershkovich. Each day, the pair creates their entire menu from scratch; everything from the schnitzel to homemade garlic mayonnaise for their custom sandwiches and burgers. Hershkovich creates the restaurant's signature apple strudel and knishes by hand, which IHOS ships out to customers across the U.S., while Pollak works his schnitzel magic, using quality chicken cutlets instead of veal. "Where I grew up in Dusseldorf we used chicken instead of veal or pork," he says. "Plus, where other restaurants sell their schnitzel for $12 I can sell mine for $5."

Pollak is a 30-year industry veteran who's done everything from food and beverage management to executive cheffing throughout Europe and the U.S. His genuine enthusiasm for food is a result of years of following his dream. "The great thing about food is you can completely change what you do. It's also the great thing about life," he says.

I sampled two of IHOS's many specialty schnitzels at the tiny, cafe-style restaurant: the Holstein, seen above, and the Kaiser, with Swiss cheese and mustard. Each schnitzel was tender enough to cut with a fork, and thoroughly crispy. With the Holstein, I really loved the saltiness of the anchovies against the creamy eggs -- swiping bites of schnitzel through the yolk was awesome. The one side effect of the toppings, however, was the cutlet went soggy slightly faster than I could eat it. I'm eager to try Pollak's favorites, the jaeger schnitzel with a "hunter's-style" mushroom sauce and the gispy, a spicy Italian take on the cutlet.

Most of the platters at IHOS come with some great sides. If you like red cabbage, Pollak's version is otherworldly. The German dish can either be too sour or too sweet, but as served here it's perfectly balanced. You can really taste the fresh apples Pollak adds to the mix. His mashed potatoes are even better; tangy, fluffy, and perfectly seasoned without adding anything at all. I had to ask him what his potato secret is. "The secret is there's no secret," he says. "I peel and boil potatoes every morning, and mash them with a little milk and real butter, not margarine. It's just real, fresh potatoes."

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John Linn
Delicious apple strudel is served with a mountain of powdered sugar.
The restaurant also serves killer schnitzel sandwiches with that custom mayo, subs, burgers, and salads. Breakfast is served all day, as are homemade soups including goulash. For dessert, a slice of Herschkovich's sweet and flaky apple strudel for just $2.50 is amazing; as good as any German grandmother could make.

With the low prices and old-school, homemade dishes, I could see the quirky little International House of Schnitzel garnering some buzz. Could schnitzel finally be getting the respect it deserves? At least for me, that's a yes.

International House of Schnitzel
4820 N. Dixie Hwy., Oakland Park 33334
954-626-0723

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