Wunder-Bar is back.
Seven years after closing, the Antioch restaurant has reopened. But all is not the same. New owner Ricky Krew -- former owner of the now-closed Harbour Club in Antioch -- cooks alongside the chef who ran Wunder-Bar's kitchen prior to its closing.
Wunder-Bar40805 N. Route 83, Antioch, (847) 395-4900
Cuisine: German American
Setting: Casual supper club
Entrees: $10 to $30
Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
The restaurant offers both German and American food and beer selections along with a full bar, live music and traditional desserts. Although Wunder-Bar can be hard to recognize along Route 83 (unless you know exactly what you're looking for), a meal there is definitely worth the trip. Both adventurous and timid eaters can find a dish they'll enjoy, and the friendliness of the other customers and staff will make diners feel like they've stumbled into an old German supper club. Antique instruments line the walls, and the open dining area with low-volume oompah music fosters conversation.
The appetizers were mostly shellfish -- shrimp, crab and escargot -- but we went another route and began our meal with an order of medium wings and potato pancakes, along with the restaurant's hot sourdough bread and relish tray. The wings were on par with standard wings, not dripping in sauce but not too sparsely covered. Coleslaw, pasta salad and German potato salad comprised the relish tray. All were true to the old standards, if bland. The potato pancakes, however, were a standout. While some area restaurants use an almost mashed mix for the pancakes, Wunder-Bar stays traditional with grated potatoes. Muted spices play well with the standard sour cream and applesauce accompaniments.
Next we had the liver dumpling soup and the sauerkraut soup. Both tasted exactly like their namesakes, so you need to be a fan. We are -- and loved both. The liver soup comes with one large dumpling in a broth with green onions. The sauerkraut soup had the kraut and ham in a tart orange-hued broth, with a little lemon flavor.
Wunder-Bar has German specials every night in addition to German and American standards. All entrees are served with red cabbage and spaetzle on the side. Spaetzle can be difficult to cook, but it was just right at Wunder-Bar -- soft but not gummy, as often happens when it's overcooked.
The regular pork Wiener schnitzel entree didn't come with gravy or sauce -- it was just breaded pork fried in butter -- and as a result was rather dry. But, the Wunder-Bar Schnitzel, the same dish topped with red wine sauce and fresh mushrooms, was tender and moist. The schnitzel is also available with chicken or beef.
After a quick debate over the sauerkraut platter (sauerkraut accompanied by three types of sausage) and the Wunder-Bar Sampler, we put off the sausage and went for the sampler. It came with one piece of schnitzel, sauerbraten (sweet and sour marinated beef roast) and half a beef roulade (rolled beef stuffed with chopped pickle, onion and bacon, with gravy). Other diners in the group ended up getting each of those dishes individually, and the differences between them were surprising. The selection on the platter seemed dry and overcooked, but the dishes as the entrees were cooked perfectly -- tender and flavorful. The beef roulade had a decent tang from the pickles, but it was never overwhelming.
We also ordered the German meatballs. Think Swedish meatballs, but with a beefy mushroom sauce instead of a cream gravy. This was one of the favorites of the table. The sauce had a robust mushroom flavor and the meatballs weren't tough or too loose: They fell apart in your mouth, but not on the plate.
We ended our evening with a selection of desserts. At first glance, the berries seemed to overwhelm the hot raspberry sundae, but the taste was perfectly balanced between the tartness of the fruit and the mild vanilla ice cream. The apple strudel was my favorite. Phyllo dough enveloped warm cinnamon apples like a little pouch that burst with flavor when forked open. Combined with the ice cream, it was a divine, yet very different, version of strudel.
• Reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.