Almost all the German cafes, restaurants, and beer halls in Yorkville are closed. Cafe Geiger. Rheinland Restaurant. Bavarian Inn and Bar. Cafe Hindenberg. Foresters Restaurant. Maxl’s. Bremen House. Cafe Wieneke. Once thriving businesses, now a memory.
But one German restaurant perseveres — Heidelberg Restaurant. It’s been in the same location for more than a century: 1648 2nd Avenue at 85th Street.
An enterprising woman named Luise Edler worked there as a bartender in the late 1950s and bought it in 1964. She then made a shrewd business decision to acquire the entire building. Consequently, it remained her family’s home over the years. Born in Germany, Luise moved to Buenos Aires with her parents during World War II. After some time, she found her way to Yorkville with her husband and daughter, Eva.
Heidelberg Restaurant now run by third generation
Eva Matischak currently owns the Heidelberg Restaurant. Her son, Andy, represents the third generation of the family to run the business. He feels a tremendous sense of pride that he’s “able to keep such an upstanding business his family has created going.”
Heidelberg’s exterior stands out with its white stucco, dark wood door and awning flanked by two large windows sprinkled with greens. The lights and glass-encased menus add to the sense of a warm and cozy feeling within. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to walk by without peeking through the windows. Of course, we wandered inside.
Pull open the door and you find yourself transported from 21st Century Yorkville to 1930s Yorkville. To this day, Luise’s presence is felt everywhere. Needlepoints made by her hands illustrate a castle, a gypsy, a group of people celebrating. Her daughter and grandson have thoughtfully placed them throughout the restaurant.
Eva and Andy have worked hard to preserve the Heidelberg’s historic charm. The mural behind the bar dates back to 1939. The landscape paintings are over a century old. Almost as old are the wooden tables and chairs, beer steins and wall hangings.
Original recipes in an original interior
Luise’s influence extends beyond the interior: Every single dish on the menu uses her original recipes. Not a spice has been added. Not a garnish has been taken out. Not a name has been changed. Wurste. Schnitzels. Pork. Beef. Duckling. Strudel. Sauerkraut.
‘We don’t give into trends and fads of what’s cool or not cool,’ Andy says.
Only one dish has been added in more than 50 years, Andy’s Sandwich Special. When Andy was young, he would run downstairs to make himself a sandwich. The same one every day. One afternoon, a customer asked if he could have the same sandwich he’d seen Andy eating. Thus, Andy’s Sandwich Special was born.
Andy sees owning the building and the restaurant’s consistency as critical to their success. “We don’t give into trends and fads of what’s cool or not cool,” he says. “We pride ourselves on quality and being consistent.”
Julio, now Heidelberg manager, started off as busboy
That quality and consistency extend beyond the food and interior. You’re welcomed by Andy’s big smile and warm handshake. You’re treated as a guest in his home, enjoying a pleasant meal and sitting down to chat with him. Like you’re part of his and his mom’s and his grandmother’s family. Customers and employees are part of his clan.
This is one of the main reasons the man everyone knows as Julio has worked for the Matischaks for 15 years. “Eva and Andy have given me a chance and made me feel needed,” he said. After starting off as a busboy and then filling in whatever hole appeared, Julio is now the manager of Heidelberg Restaurant. He’s been part of the family all this time.
Thanks to Andy’s and Eva’s and Luise’s big family, Heidelberg Restaurant carries on Yorkville’s history and sense of community through its gemütlich charm.
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