Over the weekend, Vincent and Jessica Johnson met a woman who grows spinach in high tunnels. They said she had more than she knew what to do with, so on Monday, they decided to add a “spinach salad on the fly,” to their list of specials. That’s how most of Schnitzel Bomber’s specials are conceived: what’s fresh and what’s around.
The Johnsons opened up Schnitzel Bomber nearly one year ago. They have a limited menu, with variations of schnitzel, bratwurst and bread pudding.
“We keep a small menu to work a lot on specials, to keep things variable and show what is local and what’s in season,” Vincent Johnson said. “A lot of times its very last minute.”
The Johnsons admit that while most of their specials are last minute, some have been in the works for weeks. Patrons of Schnitzel Bomber can expect spaetzle, a time-consuming homemade egg noodle, as a special sometime soon.
Jessica Johnson has worked at multiple German restaurants in the past, and Vincent, who has German heritage, cooked on the slope, and in restaurants in Anchorage.
“We’ve wanted our own restaurant forever,” Vincent Johnson said.
They also wanted to start with a blank slate, which is what they say schnitzel gives them.
“It’s fried meat,” Vincent Johnson said. “Everybody’s got a version of it. In Japan they’ve got tonkatsu, they’ve got a version in South America, Germany… Those old world flavors are a blank slate to take fun spins on.”
Schnitzel is a thin, tenderized piece of meat that is coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Schnitzel Bomber offers both pork and chicken schnitzel, with a side of homemade gravy for dressing. He said the dish is both new and familiar to his customers.
“I want to give people a lot of food and make them feel like they’re getting something that’s not too far out of their comfort zone,” he said. “You know, ‘what’s a schnitzel?’ They finally see it and they’re like ‘ah, I know what this is, this is fried pork, I’ve had this before, but it was called country fried steak last time and it had a different gravy.’”
Something the Johnsons established early on was a relationship with local producers.
“We tailor it to fit the palette of Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula,” he said. “It’s still the old flavors that people from Germany are going to recognize, but it’s going to be paired up with stuff that’s not so far out of the box.”
The Johnsons said their biggest goal for Schnitzel Bomber is to have fun.
“We want people to feel like they got their money’s worth and that they had a good time for the short time they were in our drive-thru, and to feel a little connected to their food,” Vincent Johnson said.