Nestled among the beautiful homes of the Mansion Hill area of Newport, Ky., is the new German-style deli Katharina’s Café-Konditorei. Outside, a folding chalkboard listing the daily specials and several wrought-iron café tables with red umbrellas surround the corner restaurant. Inside, the small interior is warm: Giant windows light up the bright white walls and hardwood floors. The café’s tiled fireplace and painted mantel, gold chandeliers and bright red accents (including lacquered high chairs, an Astoria espresso machine and the cherries on top of the homemade Black Forest cake) ooze German gemuedlichkeit
or “German coziness.” It’s a tiny restaurant, seating maybe 20 people at a time, with tables in nooks and along the wall, plus wooden benches with pillows and cushions in the windows.
In addition to looking beautiful on the inside, the service is outstanding. It’s a family-run operation with the entire staff hailing from Mainz, a small town in Germany where owner Elena Williams says there are more cows than people. (Williams immigrated to the United States from Germany in 2005.) Williams’ sisters and dad bustle around the café, named for her grandmother, gathering plates and delivering drink orders to the patrons, who surprisingly all thank the family in German; her mother bakes.
The restaurant doesn’t have a stove or fryer; they only have an oven to prepare hot foods. This seems like it would put limitations on the menu, but since they serve only breakfast and lunch, they simply need the basics to serve their crowd — meat, breads, cheeses and, of course, cake. Katharina’s proudly uses local ingredients; for example, their metts come from a local butcher (Brooks Meats in Walton, Ky.), their rye bread is baked in-house almost daily and they use local bakers for their other artisanal breads.
The traditional German menu is bilingual — all of the dishes are titled in German, but the descriptions are in English.
The breakfast menu, served from 7-11 a.m., is along the lines of a more savory traditional German breakfast, offering of various breads, marmalades, honey and butter plus choices like cheese, smoked salmon and ham. (Germans don’t really do chocolate chip pancakes.) They offer a breakfast for two, Katharina’s Frühstück für 2 Personen ($23.50), with ham, cheese, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, breads and jams that looks perfect paired with a cup of coffee.
But my friend and I went for lunch, when they offer salads and sandwiches plus pastas like the Nudeln Mit Gemüse ($9.50), a baked rigatoni layered with mixed vegetables and béchamel sauce, served with a side salad. (They also have Nudeln Mit Fleischsosse rigatoni with meat sauce.)
Feeling the warmer weather upon us, I ordered Katharina’s Salat ($12.50) with mixed greens, prosciutto, dried Turkish figs and pine nuts, dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and served with a few slabs of sliced baguette. The salad comes out on a big round plate, stacked high with freshly prepared ingredients. Ribbons of deep pink prosciutto surround the mounds of greens. Figs are cut in half and tossed throughout the salad with the pine nuts. Then the salad is topped with big shavings of Parmesan. The presentation alone won me over, but the sweetness of the figs mixed with the saltiness of the cheese and meat was perfect. The olive oil and balsamic dressing hung out on the bottom of the plate without oversaturating my greens.
My friend ordered the 2 Siede-Oder Mettwurst ($7.50), definitely more traditional-looking German fare. It comes with your choice of Siedwurst or Mett sausage served with potato salad and a Brötchen — a plump-looking German roll that’s light as air, but with a soft crumb. The two Mettwurst sat on a plate next to a scoop of mustard and lettuce leaves topped with sliced hard-boiled egg, cucumber and tomato. On the other side of the plate was a heaping serving of potato salad. Everything tasted straight from a home kitchen, especially the potato salad.
We finished our meal with espresso ($2.50) and a cappuccino ($3.50). The beans they use for their coffee come from a neighboring local roaster, Newberry Bros. Coffee in Newport, and did not disappoint. Maybe it was the expertise of the barista or the beans, but there was not one drop of bitterness in our cups.
This neighborhood café is certainly a boon to the area, giving Newport a tiny place to enjoy great food. It also doesn’t hurt that the owner and her family are lovely and the cakes that live in a glass display case by the counter look like a million bucks. Next time we’ll leave room for a piece of lemon cake, German cheesecake or the Black Forest cake.
Go: 529 Overton St., Newport, Ky.
Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday