Being of German and Austrian descent, I love my schnitzel, sauerbraten, spätzle and such. And yet, it’s easier to find Ethiopian fare – which I also love – in Utah than to find German cuisine. To my knowledge, the only German eateries here are Rimmels in Orem, which specializes in döners, Das Cafe in Spring City, and Siegfried’s Delicatessen in SLC.
So I was thrilled when I learned of Weller’s Bistro, which opened in Layton in August of 2019. It replaced the much-beloved local spot, Gabor Brothers Main Street Grill & Pizzeria, which I was sad to see go. But, I welcomed the pivot toward German fare that Weller’s Bistro promised. And when German-born friend and colleague Petra Vigil – the owner of Petra’s Backstubchen – had complimentary things to say about the new bistro, it got my attention. Plenty more raves are to be found on Weller’s Facebook page from satisfied customers.
Well, now I am one of those satisfied customers. Having enjoyed both takeout meals and dine-in, I now think of Weller’s Bistro as a hidden Davis County gem. In a landscape littered with franchise and chain eateries, Weller’s is a much-welcome independent restaurant where the owner/general manager, Jan Weller, is seemingly always on hand greeting customers old and new and keeping a sharp eye on the proceedings. No wonder it has garnered such a loyal following since opening.
Jan, who is from Germany, completed a European-style three-year culinary apprenticeship in German restaurants which would eventually lead him to cooking at London’s prestigious Savoy Hotel. Savoy Grill by Gordon Ramsay is without doubt one of London’s most legendary restaurants, frequented by celebrated diners such as Sir Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Frank Sinatra and HM Queen Elizabeth herself – before Ramsay became involved, obviously. Jan met and married a Utah gal which is how he wound up cooking at the posh Promontory Club, east of Park City, and ultimately opening Weller’s Bistro. Layton is lucky to have him.
Maybe you’re not fond of German food. Well, fear not. Because Weller’s isn’t only a German restaurant. In addition to German fare you’ll find dishes such as soy-glazed salmon, shrimp carbonara, hummus with flatbread, artisan pizzas, burgers, wraps, chicken wings, mushroom linguini, and weekly specials like blackened mahi mahi with beurre blanc and pineapple salsa, or this week’s sandwich special: an Italian sub with capicola, ham, salami and mozzarella on ciabatta. In short, there’s something to please just about everybody, including kids.
Before I get too deeply into the food, I should note that the old Gabor Bros. space got a much-needed reboot and remodel to become Weller’s Bistro. The bar near the front entrance still exists, but essentially the entire restaurant was gutted and made anew. As noted, there’s a bar in front with a few comfy counter seats and a small table or two. The main dining room – as well as the rest of the space – is now warm and inviting, with lots of natural wood and a soothing color scheme.
The dining room is furnished with both booths and tables, and unique modern art on the walls give Weller’s the feel and ambiance of a contemporary rathskeller, although it’s completely above ground; not in a basement or cellar. Jan told me that the artwork came from a small company in SLC called Urban95. “All the pieces are iron & acrylic and were exactly what I was looking for,” he said.
Such an appealing restaurant space. But, I wondered, would the food be on par with the dandy decor? Especially given such an eclectic menu? Well, I haven’t tried everything Weller’s has to offer, but the meals I’ve enjoyed there make me want to return again and again – whether to dine in or for takeout.
According to Jan Weller, by far the most popular menu item is called simply “The Schnitzel.” It’s pounded pork loin crusted and fried with parmesan breading, with a choice of lemon caper beurre blanc or mushroom gravy called jagersaus in German. But Jan is skilled in executing various cuisines – not just German – so on a given night you might find chicken marsala, spicy Nashville chicken, red wine-braised lamb shank with rosemary demi glace, or perhaps steak & eggs rancheros during brunch on the menu.
Appetizers at Weller’s include comfort foods like deviled eggs ($7), homemade pretzel with beer cheese and whole grain mustard sauce ($8.50), a charcuterie board ($14), and Alsatian flammkuchen, which is flatbread with creme fraiche, red onion, scallions and speck. But we couldn’t resist the artichoke dip ($9.50), served in a hot cast iron pan and made with artichoke hearts, chopped scallions, a three-cheese blend, and toasted slices of kaiser roll crostini.
A German dish my wife and I really liked was hühnerfrikassee ($18). As you might guess, this is a type of fricassee dish made with shredded and chopped chicken with mushrooms, peas, carrots, and served with parsley-topped dill rice. Another traditional European menu item I’m eager to try is Weller’s goulash – a rich and hearty beef stew in a paprika-tomato sauce served with sauerkraut and spätzle ($19.50).
One of the most satisfying restaurant dishes I’ve enjoyed in a long time was beef rouladen ($24) at Weller’s. Wow, this was impressive. It’s beef sirloin that’s stuffed with cornichons, speck and mustard, rolled and slowly cooked until impossibly tender. The beef rouladen – like some other entrees at Weller’s – was accompanied by the best homemade spätzle and sauerkraut I’ve eaten in Utah. A lot of people, like my wife, don’t like sauerkraut because, well, it’s sour and bitter. But really good sauerkraut is made – as Jan does it – by squeezing out the overpowering juice and rinsing the kraut until it’s mild. The sauerkraut is made with onions and small specks of speck and is available also as a side dish, as is the spätzle. Spätzle – small egg and flour dumplings – is one of my favorite foods and I haven’t tasted better, even in Germany. In a nutshell, the beef rouladen is simply a stupendous dish.
To take out one evening, I ordered what is to most people probably the quintessential German food: bratwurst. For anyone who is unfamiliar, brat (brät in German) means finely chopped meat and wurst means sausage. There are a zillion types of bratwurst, from blutwurst (blood sausage), knackwurst, leberwurst and teewurst, to gelbwurst, bregenwurst and others. On the regular menu at Weller’s Bistro are two types of bratwurst. There’s currywurst & pommes ($10.50), which is German bratwurst tossed in a ketchup-based curry sauce and served with fries. This is a very popular street food in Germany and beyond. I opted instead for the bratwurst plate to take out ($17). This is one link of weisswurst – which is veal and pork bratwurst – served with that amazing sauerkraut, mustard, and another excellent side dish called bratkartoffeln: rib-sticking roasted potatoes with speck and onions (also available as a side dish). The weisswurst was ridiculously tender and tasty and when I asked Jan where he got it, he said he had scoured all sorts of bratwurst makers before settling on Intercontinental Sausage in Denver, saying “There’s nothing around here that comes close.” I agree. It’s a bodacious brat.
As I’ve said, not all of the good things to eat at Weller’s Bistro are of German origin. Like the soy-glazed Atlantic salmon that my wife loved, for example. It was a perfectly cooked fillet bathed in a scrumptious soy glaze and lemon-butter sauce, topped with almond slices and parsley and served with broccoli (the veggie of the day) and dill rice ($17.50).
Weller’s also offers salads, soups like potato & leek, burgers, a Reuben sandwich, and as mentioned, pizza. There is a Margherita pizza, a veggie pizza, Reuben pizza, and the one I ordered: All The Meats ($15). The pizza at Weller’s, too, is above average. A wonderfully chewy, crisp, rustic crust was topped with a bed of homemade tomato sauce, a three-cheese blend, and an array of meats including ham, Italian salami, bacon, and speck (I think). Add to that caramelized onions, oregano and freshly julienned basil and you’ve got a pizza that the Gabor Brothers would have been proud to call their own.
An additional enticement: Weller’s Bistro serves wine, beer – including some imported German brews, cocktails and more for your drinking pleasure. You might indulge, for example, in German Mule Cocktail ($10) or perhaps Messmer Winery Spätburgunder from the Pfalz region of Germany by the glass or bottle ($9/$43).
Did I mention dessert? You should not be surprised, at this juncture, to know that the homemade desserts at Weller’s, too, are outstanding. In particular, I can’t recommend highly enough the apfelstrudel ($6), a luscious, layered dessert of baked cinnamon-spiked apples, raisins, berry sauce, and strudel pastry topped with chocolate and powdered sugar on a bed of vanilla sauce. It’s nothing less than divine.
For those who live in Davis County, consider yourselves fortunate to have a terrific independent restaurant like Weller’s Bistro in your backyard. For you who live further north or south, it’s time to plan a road trip. Weller’s is only a block from the UTA Frontrunner train, so there’s no excuse for not hitching a ride to Layton. Jan Weller is justifiably proud of the restaurant he’s put so much work into. And, with a top-notch service staff of people like Scotty – who was a chef at Gabor Brothers – a wonderful ambiance, and outstanding cuisine, what’s not to be proud of? I said last year that Nikko Sushi & Ramen in Kaysville is the best Davis County restaurant you’ve never been to. This year, I’m saying that about Weller’s Bistro. Prost!
Photos by Ted Scheffler & Courtesy of Weller’s Bistro
Culinary quote of the week:
“There are more different sausages in Germany than there are breakfast foods in America, and if there is a bad one among them then I have never heard of it.” — H.L. Mencken
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.