By Rebecca Rose
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - On a busy afternoon, Claudia Campbell browsed the aisles at Pfeifer's Deli and Bakery, stopping to read labels of many of the speciality items filling the shelves.
"Es schmeckt gut," she said, speaking the familiar German phrase - "it tastes good."
The phrase can be heard on any given day here and through the greater Killeen. Central Texas is home to several locally owned German restaurants, specialty bakeries and delis, and many of their customers know firsthand what traditional German cuisine is all about.
Patrick Pfeifer, a native of Baden-Baden, Germany, opened his namesake store five years ago.
Besides German meats and baked goods, the store also offers an extensive selection of German-imported grocery items, including snacks, seasoning mixes and sauces.
"During a typical day, we get about 200 people in the store," said Adriana Sanders, manager of Pfeifer's, located on Indian Trail. "On the weekends we see more, about 350."
She said the shop's most popular items are Black Forest cake, German cheesecake and pretzels, which are all made from scratch at the deli/bakery.
"People are surprised sometimes, because our store doesn't look that big from the outside," Sanders said. "They're very excited by the variety of what we have here."
Many of the store's grocery products are ordered from New York-based Stark Foods, an importer and distributor of European specialty food products.
Campbell, a native of Würzburg, Germany, who now lives in Killeen, is a regular shopper at the Harker Heights store. "If I want something particular I come here and buy the ingredients to cook it myself," she said. "It's the only close place around here you can get them."
Campbell said she loves to cook German food and specialty shops, such as Pfeifer's, provides access to the necessary ingredients, even though imported foods can be expensive.
For example, Campbell said one seasoning product sold at Pfeifer's would normally cost about 89 cents in Germany but at the shop it was $3. "Compared to what you can get in Germany, the prices are high," she said. "But it's worth it, because you have a piece of home.
"If I want to have German food, I don't care about price," said Campbell.
German native Annemarie Wallace opened Zum Edelweiss in Harker Heights in mid-March. At the restaurant, the most popular item is Jägerschnitzel, or "Hunter's schnitzel," a breaded, thinly pounded pork dish, served with mushroom gravy.
To appease to local customer tastes and control overhead costs, the restaurant makes some tweaks in the traditional recipes, said Wallace.
"Usually (Jägerschnitzel) is not done breaded," said Wallace, "But we know that the Americans are so used seeing it breaded, that's why we do it that way." The dish is normally made with veal but since the meat is expensive, she opts for pork instead.
Wallace attributed the local popularity of German food to the large military population. They are frequent customers at the Edwards Drive restaurant, which has between 150 and 200 patrons on an average day.
"So many people who are here now have lived over there, and they enjoyed the food," she said. "That's why it's more widespread here."
Since 1988, the Kempner Brick Oven has been serving traditional German food to Central Texas customers. Originally started as a bakery by Slyvia Tucker, the venue changed hands two times and added a full dining room, before Bruce Rogers and his wife, Angela, bought it 2008.
"My wife was raised in Northern Germany, in Rosebach" said Bruce Rogers. "She thought she could make a go of something like this."
Rogers said a lot of their customers are military residents who were stationed in Germany and are looking to relive the culinary experience.
"The goal when we took it over was to not change the recipes," he said. "The customer base has been coming here for a long time. This is what they expect."
On an average day, Rogers said the restaurant and bakery sees about 150 customers daily. The most popular menu items are bratwurst, freshly baked pretzels, schnitzel sandwiches and the Jägerschnitzel.
"There's so many different types of schnitzel," he said. "All over Germany, they're made differently, everyone has a different twist. The one we produce seems to be popular."
Rogers said German beers also are popular at the restaurant, which offers three imported beers: Erdinger Hefeweizen, Erdinger Kristallweizen and König Pilsener.
"We sell much more German beer than American beer," said Rogers. "Typically, customers want the German beer to go along with the German food experience."
Like Pfeifer's, Rogers said the restaurant also relies on Stark Foods for speciality items
"Imports are about 10-15 percent of the total business," he said. "You have to order a lot of from them in order to not pay shipping costs, which are pretty high with them."
Rogers said the secret to a German restaurant's success ultimately lies in what is served to customers.
"We stress quality and consistency," said Rogers. "If we didn't have quality, we wouldn't survive."
Contact Rebecca Rose at email@example.com or (254) 501-7548.
German food in the area
Pfeifer's Bakery and Deli, 716 Indian Trail No. 240, Harker Heights, (254) 698-0211
Zum Edelweiss, 708 Edwards Drive, Harker Heights, (254) 680-3653
Kempner Brick Oven, 12093 E. Highway 190, Kempner, (512) 932-2597
German Imbiss, 308 East Avenue D, Copperas Cove, (254) 518-3206
Heidi's German Bakery, 302 W. Highway 190, Copperas Cove, (254) 542-2253
Eve's Café, 521 East Third St., Lampasas, (512) 556-3500