ADAMS -- Even with the influx of multicultural food into the Berkshires during the past decade, Haflinger Haus may be the county's first Austrian-American restaurant.
"My mother and father are Austrian," said owner Donald Sommer in a conversation some time after my meal there. "And I've been to Austria 46 times in the past 12 years.
"Most people wonder what a Haflinger is -- it's an Austrian horse. I import and breed them, so I decided to name (the restaurant) Haf linger Haus. We have in the tavern area many pictures of Haflingers -- kind of a Haflinger theme."
Sommer's previous experience with restaurants was mostly at the other side of the table.
"I owned a little country bar 25 years ago," he explained, "but nothing like this .
In addition to taking great care in selecting a chef, Sommer also put a lot of work into the building, which formerly housed Harrington's Restaurant.
"I bought it for two reasons: to preserve the building, and to run a good restaurant," he said. We worked on it for about four months, did a lot of cosmetic work, and it's changed considerably inside from Harrington's. I have a good chef, an excellent bar manager with 25 years of experience, a couple experienced waitresses, a couple not so experienced. We have a good team, I think."
Admittedly, my evening at Haflinger Haus left me wishing that Sommer had stuck with the experienced waitresses.
My water glass remained empty for most of the meal, and bread (even after I inquired) only showed up with my entree. However, I saw another waitress doing a fine job with an adjacent table, so hopefully the subpar service is an anomaly that will soon be corrected.
The decor, on the other hand, was lovely. The remodeled historic building looked very elegant on the inside, with a fireplace and mantle, old pictures hanging on the walls, nice table linens, and some classical music that all combined to provide an upscale sort of feel (notwithstanding the room's acoustics, which amplified the sounds of tables being set or cleared).
The menu, though not overly large, was a mix of American and Austrian dishes. I'm a sucker for big words in a foreign language, so for starters I had to try the Fritattensuppe ($3.50) and Leberknodelsuppe ($4).
The former was a nice homemade chicken broth with bits of chicken, chives, and sliced crepe, which had more body than noodles and nicely complemented the soup. The latter was an unremarkable beef broth with some liver-flavored dumplings. The flavor was earthy and a bit subtle, and subtlety seemed somehow out of place in such dense dumplings.
At dinner, we ignored the steak, shrimp, and haddock in favor of traditional Austrian specialties, which all came with a tiny salad topped with an (unannounced) blue cheese vinaigrette.
The Jaeger Schnitzel ($17) was a breaded and fried flattened chicken breast, browned to a lovely golden color with a nice texture that was just crispy enough, even if the meat itself was somewhat bland.
Thank fully, the spaetzle (small Austrian dumpling) on the side had a rich brown mushroom sauce. There also were carrots with poppy seeds, an odd combination but pleasant.
By far, the best thing I ate was the Käsespätzle ($11 or $17), a deep dish of spaetzle and Em mentaler cheese with a few carmelized onions.
This is Austria's answer to mac and cheese, a bowl of spaetzle with cheese throughout and a layer of Emmentaler baked on top.
The portion size was very generous, and the spaetzle perfectly blended with the rich and creamy cheese for a very hearty entree that left a smile on my face. I paid the larger price to get Weiner Schnitzel on the side, but I was served what appeared to be chicken instead.
Anyone who likes mac and cheese but wants to try something a bit fancier should be very pleased with the Käse spätzle. I enjoyed it very much at dinner and again as leftovers the next day.
What: Haflinger Haus
Where: 17 Commercial St., Adams
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays
to Thursdays and Sundays;
5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; tavern 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays; restaurant and tavern closed Mondays
Handicapped accessibility: Yes
Price range: $11-$21
Credit cards: Major
Information: (413) 743-2221
Rating: 3 chef's hats
Chef's Hat Rating (an explanation of the ranking system)
3: Good food,
with no reason not to try
4: Worth repeat visits
5: Take your visiting friends
here to impress them