The Student Prince (Springfield, MA)

A recent trip down for the weekend to New York City had us driving again through Western Massachusetts, stopping off for dinner in Springfield. Western MA has quite a few pockets of different immigrant heritage cuisines, including Italian, Polish, and German. Indeed, there’s one German place that’s been on my radar for a long time, and that’s The Student Prince, which has been serving up German and German-American food in Springfield for over 80 years. Our trip through at dinner time was a perfect excuse to finally stop in and check them out.

Located on Fort Street just east of I-91 in downtown Springfield, The Student Prince (also known as “The Fort”) has long been the anchor of what is basically Springfield’s Little German, serving up beer and food in a warm, cozy restaurant that’s brimming with old German style: beer steins on shelves, flowers, bunting, and old-school wooden tables served up by a combination of smartly-dressed waiters and waitresses in dirndls. It hasn’t always been that way, however; despite being a the German gathering place for Springfield since the mid-20th century, the Student Prince actually closed back in 2014 for a bit until new owners purchased the place, gave it a thorough updating, and reopened it.

Like any respectable German restaurant, they’ve got quite a decent beer list, with a nice selection of classic German beers (Ayinger, Franziskaner, Munich Hofbrau, and Riedenburer), European beers (Hoegaarden), and local beers (Jack’s Abby, BBC, …). We both got the Franziskaner Hefe Weisse, and were pleasantly reminded that in this era of highly-hopped IPAs (which I do adore) that there are plenty of breweries still making classic German style beers, and still doing a great job at it.

I started out with one of those classic salads that has started to fade from US menus: a salad with fresh-made Roquefort dressing. Like the classic “wedge” salad (also on their menu, by the way), it’s one of those older restaurant stalwarts that I remember a lot from my childhood in the ’70s: a simple green salad topped with a tableside mixed roquefort blended from an old-fashion Southern-style boiled salad dressing into which a golf-ball size wedge is mashed in one of those table-side presentations of the sort usually reserved for Caesar salads, guacamole, or crepes Suzette. But the result here is worth it: a good, tangy salad dressing over some greens with a nice amount of largely chunked Roquefort, I can see why the Student Prince still does this, and it’s worth the modest upcharge.

For the main course, I opted for doing a variation on the classic Schnitzel: a Paprika Veal Schnitzel. While it’s hard to photograph due to the heavy paprika sauce, this was a very nicely executed schnitzel: a nice pounded slab of veal, breaded just to a crisp, and served enrobed in a rich tomato and paprika sauce that had a very robust and pleasant pepper flavor to it, just starting to soak into the breading. Add in some perfectly lacy spaetzle on the side for dabbing up the extra sauce, and a nicely executed rotkraut, and this was a fine meal…

…Almost as fine as Carol’s German Sampler, a sample platter with bratwurst, a smoked pork chop, and a scoop of ghoulash. The bratwurst was a nicely done, very coarse-ground sausage that was just oozing with pork and spicing with a nice casing snap to it. I usually eschew smoked pork chops because they tend to be salty, but chop here was lightly salted and smoked, making it one of the more pleasant pork chops I’ve sampled in recent history. Adding in a good rich ghoulash, a bit more of the spaetzle, and a nice seasonal side of fiddleheads with almonds (making up for not having spargel) made for a nicely rounded meal that was quite satisfying.

Overall, the Student Prince seems to be back in true form: the place was popular, the food very good, the staff pleasant, and the ambiance quite enjoyable. Hopefully they are back to stay around for the long haul again.

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