San Juan Bautista is known for its pristine mission and Spanish
charm, but a little bit of the German countryside is hiding within
the city limits thanks to Joan and Peter Lottermoser, owners of
amp; Peter’s German Restaurant.
San Juan Bautista is known for its pristine mission and Spanish charm, but a little bit of the German countryside is hiding within the city limits thanks to Joan and Peter Lottermoser, owners of Joan & Peter’s German Restaurant.
The unassuming eatery sits tucked away on the city’s scenic Third St., just a stone’s throw from Mission San Juan Bautista. But inside lies a world completely separate from the Spanish heritage of the town. Here there are hand-painted plates depicting village homes alongside woodcarvings of flowers, decorative beer steins and watercolors of damsels and drunkards. At the far end of the main dining room, reflecting the light of a slow-paced weekday afternoon is a giant ox bell.
“I always tell people that if they ring it, they have to buy a round for the house, but everyone wants to ring the bell,” said Joan, giving the brass tongue a pull as the low clang fills the room.
The Lottermoser’s set up shop in this sleepy town 25 years ago, when business boomed thanks to the German wives many servicemen brought home to Fort Ord.
Here they could repose in the sights, tastes and smells of home, and sometimes even tap a foot to the sounds of an um-pah band in the outdoor beer garden.
These days honest-to-God Germans are less likely to drop in than people who once visited the country or those with some tenuous connection to the culture in their family past, but the couple continues to serve up authentic fare the likes of which even a native could love.
Potato pancakes, at once fluffy and crisp, tangy and sweet delight breakfast-goers at the restaurant’s $11.49 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunches. There is even the sound of um-pah occasionally, as local artists turn up for a weekly jam session on Sunday afternoons.
Peter, a German immigrant, had worked as executive chef at the Hyatt in San Jose for 17 years before branching out on his own, and he and Joan brought with them the desire for a small, homey feel to the restaurant.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the couple seats a maximum of nine tables, preferring to give every customer a bit of personal attention.
“When someone comes here, they’re getting truly homemade food, and we want to have plenty of time to serve them,” said Joan. “We do everything from scratch except the sausages … make soups, sauces, desserts, bread, sauerkraut … everything.”
Guests aren’t to miss Joan’s Bavarian-style apple strudel or Peter’s from-scratch German chocolate cake, but they shouldn’t pass up the bar either. On tap is imported Spaten, and several other German labels are available in bottles, while light, fruity German wines like riesling, gewürztraminer and pfalz are served alongside local Californian favorites like Ravenswood and Guglielmo.
“We don’t have 1,000 bottles, but we do have something to fit just about anything you could order,” said Joan.
And if you don’t find what you’re looking for on the menu, ask Peter.
“We do special requests,” he said.
Joan & Peter’s German Restaurant is located at 332 Third Street, San Juan Bautista. Open 11:30am to 3pm and 5pm to 8pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the restaurant is also open 9am to 5pm on Sunday. Reservations are recommended, especially for holiday brunches. Call (831) 623-4521 for reservations or more information.
From the kitchen of Joan & Peter’s German Restaurant
3/4 lb. yellow onions
2 1/2 oz. bacon grease
3/4 lb. apples
2 1/2 lbs. red cabbage, cleaned
2 c. water
1 oz. chicken base
3 oz. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 grated potatoes
1/4 tsp. whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste
Step 1: Sauté onions in bacon grease, add apples and sauté. Add shredded cabbage, then salt, pepper sugar, red wine vinegar, water and chicken base (or substitute 2 qt. chicken stock and reduce).
Step 2: Add whole cloves and bay leaves in a cheesecloth and cook until tender.
Step 3: Add grated potato, stir and bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning to taste.
German Homemade Egg
2 lbs. all-purpose flour
3 cups water
3/4 T. walt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Step 1: Mix all ingredients by hand or with an electric beater, starting on low speed carefully and then turning to the next speed up. Mix for five minutes.
Step 2: Let dough rest for 15 minutes. In the meantime, bring to boil one pot of salted water.
Step 3: Pour batter through a spaetzle grater or cut by hand (see note) directly into the water. When the noodles boil to the top, stir them, let them come to a boil and scoop them out immediately with a slotted spoon, depositing them into a bowl of cold water. Cool and drain.
Step 4: Sauté in clarified butter, adding parsley, chives, salt and pepper or even onion and bacon bits. If spaetzle will not be used immediately, mix them with a very small amount of olive oil to prevent sticking and store them in a refrigerated airtight container.
If you don’t have a spaetzle grater, have no fear. There are two options for creating this delicious side dish.
First, there is the hand-cut method, which will create long, thick noodles.
Balance a small breadboard at the edge of the pot filled with boiling water, pressing the batter flat and toward the cutting board’s edge.
With a palette knife, cut small strips from the edge of the board, allowing them to fall into the water. From there, cook as directed.
Or, for small, fine noodles, you’ll need a pastry scraper and a small colander.
Using the pastry scraper, press the dough through the colander’s holes, allowing the small beads this will create to fall into the boiling water on their own. Ta-da! Cook as directed.