If ever there were an icon in the central county region, it would be Schneithorst’s Hofamburg Inn.
The imposing German structure has held court at the southeast corner of Clayton Road and Lindbergh Boulevard since 1956 when Arthur Schneithorst opened the restaurant at 1600 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Going to the Hofamburg and eating in the magnificent main dining room with its red carpeting, dark wood, and stained glass was “de rigueur” for Frontenac and Ladue denizens. Its reputation for serving excellent German fare in addition to its famous prime rib spread far beyond its boundaries.
The original restaurant included a drive-in complete with car-hops and a device in which you could call in your order from your car.
Steve Stockhausen, manager of operations, said when the Schneithorst’s built on the corner, it was all farmland. “A lot of his friends told him he was crazy for building this far out into the country, but he was a pretty astute businessman and, as this corner developed, you can see now; it’s a hub.”
Since then, the restaurant has gone through several transitions. The restaurant and Kaffe Haus were the first built in 1956. In 1967, the Schneithorst’s expanded the restaurant and added the Bierkeller, which is still part of the restaurant.
“They imported stone from California to use on the ceiling,” Stockhausen said. “The developers had to make a special bonding to hold it in place so the stones wouldn’t fall off and hit people. That would not have been good for business!”
Stockhausen said the old restaurant had three separate dining rooms, nine banquet facilities, two kitchens, two bars and the traditional big dining room.
“The walls of that room were done in real pigskin leather,” he said. “The rumor went around that the floor was done in pigskin leather too, and I was there when they tore down the pigskin room in 2002. The truth was they had carpeted over the pigskin because it gets slick, and people were slipping and falling down.”
In 1995, the old Kaffe Haus was gutted and rebuilt into what it is today. In 2002, the Hofamburg fell victim to age and was demolished. However, the Biergarten was born.
“The Biergarten was the idea of Jim Sr. and Jim Jr.,” Stockhausen said. “They brought the idea of the rooftop atmosphere. Besides the full bar, they serve 12 draft beers, and we have a special deck menu.”
The restructuring ushered in the time for James E. Schneithorst, Jr. to put his mark on the famous corner which now houses much more than a revamped Schneithorst’s.
"One of the casualties of the modernization, however, was the demise of the German dishes that brought customers from near and far to the Hofamburg. Cooking the dishes was complicated and required more equipment than could be fit into the smaller Kaffe Haus kitchen.
Memories die hard, and not a week went by that someone did not come in and want German food, Stockhausen said.
“The only thing German left on the menu was the braised short ribs of beef that still runs every Thursday night, but that was it,” he said.
So, bowing to pressure, Stockhausen redid the menu. It now has some German items including a pork tenderloin rouladen with mashed potatoes and sweet-and-sour red cabbage ($13.95); Schweine schnitzel, which is a pork loin cutlet, ispounded, breaded and fried crisp topped with lemon sauce, and served with spaetzle and sweet and our red cabbage ($14.95); and a German sausage sample with bratwurst, knockwurst, mashed potatoes and sweet and sour red cabbage ($13.95).
For those for whom lack of German food is not a deal breaker, Stockhausen said they are “widely known” for their fried filet of soul. ($9.95).
“When the deck opens, we’ll bring out the chicken salad and shrimp and crab salads with fresh fruit,” he said.
Schneithorst’s also serves a dynamite breakfast that includes German Utopia, bratwurst, eggs, hash browns and toast ($9.25), corned beef hash with eggs, hash brown and toast ($9.25), or waffles, pancakes, and biscuits and gravy.
In time, change is inevitable, but Schneithorst’s has managed to make those changes more than palatable for customers.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Bar is open until 1 a.m. except Sunday when it closes at midnight.
Where: 1600 S. Lindbergh Blvd.