Whenever family from north of Willow Creek came to town looking for an authentic Fredericksburg Main Street experience, I took them to the Altdorf Restaurant.
Nothing said “gemutlichkeit” like the outdoor biergarten, shaded barrel tables, smiling staff, and comfortable ambience. There was something on the menu for those wanting real German schnitzel, for those with a taste for Mexican, hearty salads and stuffed baked potatoes for the no-meat crowd, and desserts containing actual chocolate.
And cold beer.
So when Cameron and Lisa Baird decided to step away from the grill after three decades and sell the business to the owners of neighboring Crossroads Saloon & Steakhouse, I was apprehensive. What was going to stay the same and what was going to change at the welcoming property on the corner of Main and Orange?
New owners Gary and Maggie Klenzing put my mind, and mouth, at ease.
“We decided to keep the Altdorf alive,” Gary said.
That’s a good thing, because locals harbor strong feelings of attachment to their establishments. Due to my Meusebach-free history I can never claim to be a “local,” but I have been here long enough to lament the passing of beloved Main Street businesses such as Dietz Bakery, Travelers Café, and Kiehne’s Exxon.
The new owners were meticulous in their desire to keep faithful to the original architecture. They spent a year and a half giving the property “a lot of love.”
Architect Randy Stehling, who helped restore the Crossroads, was very protective of the history. As much as possible, the new regime kept the original longleaf pine flooring, limestone walls, and beaded board ceilings. They scraped off seven coats of paint to get back to the original shades. Workers disassembled the existing windows frame by frame, then reassembled them keeping as much of the original material as they could.
Some of the upgrades were due to building codes. For example, the wonderful pea gravel in the biergarten — an irresistible playground for our children — had to be replaced with stone pavers and ramps for ADA compliance. A welcome improvement, according to my mobility-restricted lunch companion.
There were also a few surprises. While removing concrete slabs that sat outside the old restrooms, workers uncovered a hand dug 30-foot well, perhaps one of the earliest in town. It was so remarkable, the new owners decided to incorporate it into the footprint.
“The design of the building had progressed to the point where it didn’t fit in the plans,” Gary said. “So we had to move the rooms around to make it fit.”
They made it a feature of the entrance hall. Now visitors can gaze down into its lighted depths through a clear plexiglass cover.
So what about the food? The Klenzings admitted they considered major menu changes (Italian!?), but squarer heads prevailed. While two of my favorites didn’t make the cut — Speedy Gonzalez and baked potato — the rest of the menu is intact with some tweaks.
Maggie did change up the enchiladas. She incorporated her mom’s West Texas stacked enchiladas, added hatch peppers, and offered the option of being topped with a fried egg.
“My dad liked a fried egg on top,” she explained.
They also converted the office into a full bar.
And the music remains. I spent many a sunny Saturday afternoon both playing and listening to acoustic music on the small stage tucked in the back corner. A new stage awaits.
With this property and others they are developing, the Klenzing’s want to keep Frederickburg Fredericksburg.
“When we choose to do something, we know in our gut when it feels right,” Gary said. “This matches well with our vision for providing good things to do for people who come here. We hope people enjoy the things we create from the west end to the east end of town.”
Those projects include another restaurant and inn.
“When we buy a building, we like to bring it back to life, but bring it back to where it’s beautiful again,” Maggie said. “We just love what we do. We hope people will find their way here and enjoy it as much as we do.”
Altdorf Restaurant and Biergarten is located at 301 West Main in Fredericksburg.
Hours are still being set, but for now they serve lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday.