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Schoolhaus Brewhaus returns to its roots — in a perfect setting

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Schnitzel comes with German potato salad, red cabbage and lingonberry sauce at Schoolhaus Brewhaus in Jacksonville. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
A glass of house rose is refreshing on the Schoolhaus Brewhaus patio. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Mushroom pappardelle features housemade noodles at Schoolhaus Brewhaus in Jacksonville. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
A pint of Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse is one of numerous German beers on tap at Schoolhaus Brewhaus in Jacksonville. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
German chocolate cake is a mainstay at Schoolhaus Brewhaus in Jacksonville. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

The local appetite for German food hasn’t diminished in the past decade, judging by the return of Jacksonville’s Schoolhaus Brewhaus.

With the pandemic’s grip on restaurants relinquished, Southern Oregon diners are ready for a little excess, a little kitsch and the chance to exchange everyday surroundings for an Old World aesthetic with some historical significance. The old Jacksonville school building on Bigham Knoll still provides the perfect setting.

Although the Schoolhaus tried to shed its German identity last summer in favor of a casual, almost cafeteria-style “grill,” the concept simply didn’t stick. A few German dishes were restored, but they couldn’t carry the operation through last winter and spring, when the Brewhaus closed for more than six months. Upon the eatery’s mid-June reopening, customers greeted by dirndl-clad staff may have experienced deja vu.

Returning to its roots, in the words of co-owner Brooke Ashland, the Schoolhaus gave the region in 2010 its first German restaurant in almost two decades. The menu was strong on German specialties, from schnitzel to spaetzle, even sauerbraten and roast pork knuckle.

Condensing its latest menu to longtime bestsellers, the Schoolhaus also introduced a new lineup of housemade sausages, touting locally sourced pork, ground and stuffed by hand. The sausages are one of the restaurant’s first major moves toward “local food circles,” says Ashland, explaining that the locally raised pork is handled by a local sausage maker. Previously, the Schoolhaus purchased sausages from a Seattle company.

The fare is a solid start with plenty of room for expansion if customers start clamoring for old favorites. Plans also are in the works, says Ashland, for a “Schoolhaus Backdoor” menu, which will feature vegetarian, vegan and other dishes highlighting produce from the property’s large garden — all available for takeout and visitors to The Rogue Grape’s nearby tasting room. In 7 acres of open-air spaces surrounding the Schoolhaus are a bocce ball court, nine-hole miniature golf, playground, water features and lush lawns.

The type of on-site service depends largely on where diners choose to sit. Despite the heat, outdoor seating was in high demand on the evening we visited and opted for a table on the restaurant’s back patio. There’s no wait staff assigned to the spot, however, so customers are obliged to come inside and place their orders with the bar.

German beers are de rigueur at the Schoolhaus, an antidote to the typical Oregon tap list of 10 IPAs, offset with perhaps one other style. I requested a pint of the Kolsch ($6), a light wheat beer perfect for summer sipping. My partner asked for the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse ($6), confessing that prior to his love affair with IPAs, he was a Hefeweizen fan. Offered the choice to garnish the brew with a lemon or orange wedge, he chose the latter.

We took our beers outside to bide our time for a table. Once one opened up, we trekked back indoors to place our dinner order: the schnitzel plate ($19.50) and mushroom pappardelle ($20).

The “doner salad” would have been an obvious first course if it had consisted only of greens, vegetables and tzatziki dressing. But we didn’t care to have its grilled kebab meat and thought $13 was too much to pay if we had simply requested the meat’s omission. The full kebab served on flatbread surprisingly costs a dollar less.

Potato-leek soup failed to entice in the evening’s 100-degree air. We also skipped the cream-sauced schnitzel in favor of the version with lingonberry sauce.

But we couldn’t refuse the Schoolhaus’ housemade pretzel ($5) with a side of beer cheese ($3). While the pretzel was passable, the cheese sauce was slightly more distinguished. Such pretzels, nevertheless, are classic companions to beer for good reason, and we gobbled ours up.

Sprawling across an oval platter, the schnitzel looks like a larger meal than it actually is. Sides of German potato salad and red cabbage are judicious, and the sauce is precisely portioned. Deceptively simple, each component worked in harmony with the rest, the flavors distinct.

Caraway complimented the warm potatoes while just the right addition of vinegar created the cabbage’s contrast, echoed in the slightly tart lingonberry sauce that my partner loved. The pork cutlet was pounded ultra thin and fried until commendably crisp, resulting in a protein that was two parts crunch, one part chew — and totally delicious. My sons would love the kids’ version, served with fries for $8.

The pasta, a dish for which I had no particular expectations, boasted superior texture that elevated all the other elements. If the Schoolhaus advertised these noodles as housemade, the kitchen may not be able to meet demand. A single bite betrayed their artisan origins, which Ashland confirmed.

Chef Ricky Garcia gets all the credit for the dish, mingling fresh mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes with toothsome bacon lardons in a restrained cream sauce. I’ve had far lesser pasta dishes at fine Italian restaurants. It paired particularly well with a glass of house rose.

Another house specialty, Black Forest cake, appealed to our preference for fruity desserts over chocolate. Sadly, other customers’ cravings had exhausted the restaurant’s supply, so we settled for the German chocolate cake ($10). Devotees of this coconut-enriched dessert won’t be disappointed, although I wondered if it was precut and plated for service, given the slightly dulled faces and hardened icing just around the edges.

The Schoolhaus is open from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Seating is first come, first-served. While the restaurant updates its website, follow @schoolhausbrewhaus on Instagram or see facebook.com/BighamKnoll

Tempo Tidbits

Noonie’s Boba Tea has opened a third location in Southern Oregon.

The fast-casual restaurant for smoothies, “bubble tea” and Southeast Asian fare announced the completion last week of its Grants Pass storefront, 560 N.E. F St. The eatery is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Owners Noon Korapat and Neil Belt had been renovating the Grants Pass shop for more than six months after operating a food truck there.

Noonie’s original location — serving only smoothies and boba tea — is inside Medford’s Heroes American Cafe, 1020 Biddle Road. Opening a downtown Medford restaurant, 149 Central Ave., gave Korapat room late last year to prepare and serve her genre of cuisine. The native of Thailand worked as a chef in Thai restaurants and moved to Southern Oregon about five years ago.

See @nooniesboba on Instagram and facebook.com/Nooniestea

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Citing an “unprecedented” staffing shortage, Medford’s Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub has closed its To Go outlet.

The perennially popular restaurant also has suspended online and phone orders while directing customers to visit its 3084 Crater Lake Highway location — in person — to place takeout orders. Kaleidoscope management instituted the change July 3 and has characterized it on social media as temporary.

Takeout at Kaleidoscope soared throughout the pandemic, constituting half of the business’ total volume, according to management. The main kitchen can’t absorb the demand for takeout while serving dine-in customers, as well.

“The reality is we don’t have enough staff, both front and back, to service both restaurants,” Kaleidoscope’s social media accounts stated last week.

The restaurant also has made a plea on social media for job applicants, namely servers and kitchen staff. Listings are on indeed.com and facebook.com/KaleidoscopePizzeria, or available to download and print from its own website, kaleidoscopepizza.com

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The following restaurants in May received perfect scores of 100 on their semiannual inspections by Jackson County Environmental Public Health:

Lumpy’s No. 2, Phoenix; Mario’s Sandwiches, Phoenix; The Millennial, Rogue River; Phil’s Frosty, Shady Cove; Purple Parrot No. 15, Eagle Point; Purple Parrot No. 6, Biddle Road, Medford; River Station, Rogue River; Savage Creek Scoops & More, Grants Pass; Shinsei Sushi, Medford; Starbucks, North Bartlett Street, Medford; Stone Ridge Golf Club, Eagle Point; Subway, Crater Lake Highway, Medford; Subway Sandwiches, Highway 62, Eagle Point.

The county’s searchable database of restaurant and food service inspections is at healthspace.com/Clients/Oregon/jackson/Web.nsf/home.xsp

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole. dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.