16 March 2009

A Yorkville Postcard


One hears a lot about Yorkville's Germanic past, but it's hard to picture these days when all you've got to go on is the Heidelberg Restaurant and Schaller & Weber.

So I took an interest this weekend, when, at an antique store, I stumbled across a postcard for something call the Bavarian Inn, which used to stand at 232 E. 86th Street, the one-time main drag of German Yorkville. Looks cozy. The back of the card reads "Come in & stay with us a while. Eat and drink the German Style." They served broiled steaks and hamburgers and had an oyster and clam bar. Heck of an impressive bar, with plenty of stools and a scenic mural.

It opened in 1943, during wartime, and shut up for good in 1983. Dei Lorelei, another very popular German restaurant of the time, was right next door, and Karl Ehmer, a renowed German butcher, was on the other side. What a line-up!

There's a Barnes & Noble there now, and no trace of the original buildings that house the Inn, Lorelei or Elmer.

14 comments:

Ken Mac said...

what a find!

Carol Gardens said...

I can't recall if you ever wrote about Glaser's Bakery (probably, right?) but it is still in that neighborhood.

http://www.glasersbakeshop.com/

I used to love the Ideal Restaurant on East 86th. They made some kind of enormous farmers omelette with lots of bacon that was really cheap--quite perfect when I was a broke student.

ManhattAngeleno said...

Karl Ehmer, not Karl Elmer.
"Karl Ehmer is good meats."

Sarah Goodyear said...

The Bavarian Inn totally rocked. We used to go there when I was in high school and enjoy the entertainment...some guy on the accordion accompanied by "Fritz and his cowbells," I kid you not. All wearing authentic Bavarian garb. The waitresses had enormous shelflike bosoms and could carry multiple beer steins, which they would serve to slightly underage guests with a stern look and maybe a wink. Excellent place.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks for those memories, Carol and Sarah.

HarryJ said...

I lived in Yorkville from early '80s to late '90s, so I recall these places (Ideal, Ehmer, Bavarian Inn, Heidelberg), plus Kleine Konditorei and Bremen House, plus Elk Candy (which closed a few years ago), and more.

But with rare exceptions (like Ideal, Bavarian and Heidelberg), these places were noted for their lousy customer service - brusque, rude, and generally unfriendly.

Bremen House - a big imported-food department store - was especially famous for rudeness. Unless the staff knew customers personally, they treated them an unwanted invaders. Such as:
- At Christmastime, lots of people would be lined up, ready to pay for or pick up special holiday goodies - and staff would very conspucuously pull 'friends' out of the line to be served first.
- I was once behind a woman who paid for a $20 order with a charge card. The cashier processed it, but showed obvious contempt, reprimanded the woman for charging such a small order, then kept venting, in English (to a nearby customer 'friend') about people's irresponsibility, lack of cash, etc.
Everyone on line could hear this. And when the angry-embarrassed customer left, the cashier kept venting to her friend, but switched to German-plus-English.
- A neighbor-lady of mine had to return a $3 jar of sauce she'd bought the day before, since it was clearly spoiled. She had the receipt, the jar's price sticker SAID "Bremen House," and the item was some imported exotica that no one else could possibly carry ... but the store reps got huffy, insisted that it wasn't theirs, she'd switched labels, etc. (They eventually gave her a refund - but with ubiquitous contempt.)
So, in general - not a positive experience.

Other places weren't as bad as that, but did tend to treat nonregulars as nuisances, or as "wrong" in some way.

Carol Gardens said...

It is possibly that Elk candy may reopen. They say they are looking for a new location. See their blog:

http://blog.elkcandy.com/

Dan Myers said...

I dropped by Heidelberg today and had a chat with a kindly old bartender named Hilda, who had apparently worked at the Bavarian Inn after emigrating to Yorkville from Germany in 1954. She worked there from 1958 to its closure in 1982, when she said the landlord raised the rent from $7,000/ month to $18,000/ month and they were forced to close. Quite a shame, but thank God Heidelberg and Schaller and Weber are still there.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Great story, Dan! Wow. I'll have to talk to Hilda myself.

Bill said...

I grew up at 150 east 86th Street (a tenement that's now torn down) in the 70s and i remember the Bavarian Inn very well. It had a huge hunter's cuckoo clock. I brought dates there when i was 16 and they treated me like a bigshot (and served me beer!).

I also remember the Berlin Bars, one on 2nd ave, another on 3rd ave. My father would drink beer and i would eat hotdogs!

Erich Berger on UberMedia said...

I was present on the last night the Bavarian Inn was open for business in 1983. I was introduced to the place by my father, who first encountered it as a serviceman during WW2. At that time, Yorkville was still going strong, despite the fact that we were engaged in a world war with the Nazis! He related that he an his buddies went up and down the street, having beers at the B.I. and other german joints - everything was on the house. Not a single bartender would charge a G.I. in uniform for a beer. I used to visit the place often myself when I moved to manhattan, and even turned on an intern at my ad aency from Austria to the B.I. - he thought is was a blast. The Cafe Geiger, and Kleine Kondittorei were two other authentic german spots that are now history as well.

Drew said...

Erich I knew you wrote that- I posted an independent comment before I saw your name on it- your words were posted without attribution by the blogger!! Yes Yes Bavarian Inn!
The Eljer or the American Standard?

Livia said...

As a little girl I remember visiting The Bavarian Inn. My Aunt and Uncle owned it. I have a box full of matches with the Bavarian Inn logo on them.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Would love to have that book of matches!