Zum Stammtisch celebrates 50th anniversary

Iconic German eatery serves Glendale for 50 years

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Zum Stammtisch’s comfortable interior. Photo: Zum Stammtisch.

Known for its hearty meals, fresh beer and comforting ambiance, Zum Stammtisch on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale is a neighborhood staple.

The well-loved German restaurant first opened its doors in November 1972, marking half a century of operation this month.

Zum Stammtisch was founded by John Lehner, who emigrated from Freising, Bavaria, Germany in the 1950s, along with two partners.

It was always Lehner’s dream to have his own German restaurant, as his father had a small establishment he took pride in back home.

After much dedication and hard work, Lehner found it rewarding to see his restaurant become a hub for the large German population that resided in Glendale. Within 10 years, he bought out his two partners, and became the sole owner of Zum Stammtisch.

Since Lehner’s death in 1993, his two sons, Werner and Hans, continue to keep the family business alive as co-owners.

Werner, Erna (mother) and Hans Lehner inside Stammtisch Pork Store. Photo: Zum Stammtisch

Werner Lehner, the eldest of the two, said that while many restaurants feel the need to change with the times, Zum Stammtisch prides itself on staying original and old-school.

“We do have some specials now that would be what you’d call a little more Americanized, like shrimp cocktail or prime rib. But we try to keep the same style of food, the same everything,” Lehner said.

“Back when we first opened, it was a very German neighborhood; everybody on the streets spoke German,” he continued. “Now, it’s almost like the UN out there, everybody’s different…which is great because instead of just having one type of clientele, you have everyone.”

Zum Stammtisch keeps things traditional in a multitude of ways, as seen by their waitresses in dirndl dresses and German specialties on the menu, such as goulash soup and Jägerschnitzel, a breaded veal cutlet served with a fresh mushroom sauce.

But the thing that truly makes the Zum Stammtisch experience different is the interior decor, which features a dimly lit atmosphere, stained glass windows, vintage artifacts at every glance — from German newspapers to beer steins — and even a large moose head on the wall to keep you company as you dine.

The Lehner brothers have taken steps to experiment with the establishment over the years, such as opening Stammtisch Pork Store & Imports in 2011, which is located right next to the restaurant.

The Pork Store offers authentic German meats and delicacies to its patrons, including fresh wurst, cheeses, salads, breads, chocolates, dairy products and more.

Lehner said that while all the standard sausages, such as bratwurst, krainerwurst and knockwurst, come from the Pork Store, the team switches things up with their “Weekly Wurst.”

“When we make our own, we try to make them a little more interesting…we make habanero mango bratwurst, which everyone really loves, we make Philly cheesesteak sausage, currywurst and even teriyaki pineapple,” he said. “It’s nice to have the place next door so we can experiment a little bit and bring different things over to the restaurant from there.”

In terms of beer, Zum Stammtisch keeps things simple with just five beers on tap: a lager, a dark beer, a weiss beer, a pilsner beer and a seasonal beer that is available as a novelty.

“We tap the kegs almost every day…there’s never a keg on there more than a couple of days,” Lehner explained. “It’s always extremely fresh.”

Many community members admire the dedication to quality that Zum Stammtisch offers, and have made it a regular part of their celebrations and feel-good moments. This is true for Gillian Guile, a Glendale resident.

“I have been going to Zum Stammtisch for as long as I can remember. My favorite memory was my family’s annual trip there for my Oma’s birthday every August. Her birthday was never complete until we went to Zums,” she said. “I was also lucky enough to celebrate my 21st birthday there before COVID with my friends and family. Prost to 50 years of great food, service and gemütlichkeit.”

The phrase “Zum Stammtisch” roughly translates to “to the special table,” and the team’s efforts have stayed true to its name for the last 50 years.

Lehner said that he’s had countless special memories in the restaurant over the years, but some of his favorite ones come from World Cup celebrations and watch parties, which are just around the corner.

Zum Stammtisch is a great place to watch the World Cup. Photo: Zum Stammtisch.

“It’s always a ton of work, but it’s always so satisfying to see the place so packed with so many people having a good time, as well as people you haven’t seen in a while,” he said.

It is important to the Lehners to continue serving the community for years to come, and keep German culture and traditions alive.

“Back in the old days, if you were German, you went to a German restaurant, if you were Italian, you went to an Italian restaurant,” he recalled. “I feel people have become much more adventurous, looking for new experiences. As old-school as we are for a lot of people, we are definitely a new experience.”

Village Grill: A town center in Forest Hills

Embracing the magic touch and humanitarian values for 10+ years

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Owner Dina and waitress Angela.

For nearly 11 years, owner Dina Stergiopoulos of Village Grill has opened her heart to Forest Hills patrons and the greater community by working long hours to freshly prepare signature Greek meals and classic American favorites.

Situated on an inviting corner of Ingram Street at 73-01 Yellowstone Boulevard, patrons have sparked friendships with the owner, waitress Angela and fellow patrons, all while enjoying diverse scrumptious foods at reasonable prices.

Along with her late husband, Panagiotis Stergiopoulos, they opened Village Grill on Feb. 28, 2012, which may seem as if it was yesterday.

He was a much-admired face of the community, but passed away on Dec. 31, 2021 after battling cancer.

“My husband was funny, outgoing and always smiling,” Stergiopoulos said.

Panagiotis with food to be donated during the pandemic.

Today her husband is fondly remembered by patrons, and she is committed to keeping his spirit alive with every meal she cooks and by continuing to give back to the community by donating meals to people in need.

Stergiopoulos will host the “Village Grill Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway” on the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“There will be 50 turkey meals with mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, biscuits and apple cake. My goals after my husband passed were to become a better person and try to help people and carry on his legacy,” Stergiopoulos said.

“I want to provide a warm home-cooked meal to people in need. This is a way to remember my good-hearted husband, so his soul can be at peace.”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple donated a total of 40 meals to Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Northwell Health, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and the 112th Precinct.

Patrons do not need to travel far to feel as if they are in Greece for an afternoon or dinner engagement, thanks to the charming ambiance that features the color scheme of the Greek flag, model sailboats, paintings and ceramic artwork. One can even take a Greek crash course, where a sign features catchphrases such as “kalo fagito” for “good food,” “orea mera” for “nice day” and “kalimera” for “good morning.”

Stergiopoulos was raised in America, but when she was 16, she built upon her family’s Greek heritage in Athens. Her husband was born and raised in Volos, Greece.

“We came to the USA in 2003 and got married on Oct. 28 of that year,” she recalled.

Dina & her late husband Panagiotis preparing sausage.

They lived in College Point and later relocated to Forest Hills, a close distance to Village Grill.

A tradition runs in the family. “Everyone in my family likes to cook,” said Stergiopoulos.

“My grandma, Pige, was an influence on all of us, as she made everything good, but her signature dish was stuffed grape leaves with rice. My grandma taught me how to prepare them two years before she passed. Mine are good, but my grandma’s were excellent.”

Pige did not use a recipe book. “Her measurements were a handful of this and a pinch of that,” Stergiopoulos chuckled.

Stergiopoulos and her husband had a dream.

“We wanted to work hard and retire in Greece at a small village outside Athens, where he could have a small parcel of land and raise his own chickens and plant vegetables,” she said. “I am focusing on the business very much these days, so I do not feel the pain that is left behind when a loved one goes away. I am very blessed that I have customers; my friends that have supported me. My customers walk into my shop and I mostly know them by name. They walk in and say, ‘Dina, what am I eating today?’ That is a beautiful feeling. I greet my customers like friends that come to visit. It’s beautiful how even customers that moved away still come to dine.”

Village Grill has a “recipe for success.” “I always say we are not perfect, since mistakes happen, especially when it is very busy. If a dish is undercooked or overcooked and is brought to my attention, I will make it right. The one thing I say and I am always proud of is that it’s fresh. This is how I managed to stay open for nearly 11 years,” she said.

Between the walls are many timeless memories.

Dina & her husband Panagiotis upon first opening in 2012 .

Stergiopoulos considers the restaurant as her home that she erected with her husband, and she spends more time at the restaurant than her residence.

“It is our baby,” she said.

A memory of the recent past surfaced. “Even when my husband was ill in the wheelchair, he spent his day at the restaurant window, greeting people as they walked. He did not want to stay home.”

Another fond memory was celebrating her husband’s 55th birthday on April 9, 2021, where not only family was in attendance, but a family of close friends. To mark the occasion, there were 55 balloons.

Dina’s husband Panagiotis, head of table on his 55th birthday with 55 balloons, April 9, 2021.

Family-style recipes are always on the menu, in contrast to gourmet recipes.

Stergiopoulos said, “People want to eat, especially if they’re enjoying their food, so we serve a good-sized portion.” For example, a platter consists of a Greek salad, a side dish and meat. Once a patron orders a platter, they receive their salad as the meat is freshly being prepared.

“Every souvlaki and meat is cooked to order,” she continued.

Stergiopoulos is detail-oriented, which also contributes to her success.

When patrons often ask what makes a great Greek salad, her response is the olives and the feta cheese.

“I only use imported Greek feta and olives. I am in general a big cheese eater, and when I go out to eat, if another restaurant doesn’t know the brand of feta, I won’t order the salad,” she said.

Since day one, she goes on a trek for quality meat. She explained, “I don’t order meat to be delivered, but have to hand-pick it to ensure it is not laying around on a truck. I cut and marinate all of my meat at the restaurant, and it’s never frozen.”

Spinach pie is among her patrons’ favorites. “It is prepared with many fresh herbs and original feta to make the difference,” she said.

Dina & her “Never trust a skinny chef” collectible.

A popular soup is chicken avgolemono, featuring celery, carrots, lemon and orzo.

A unique pita sandwich is Bifteki souvlaki sandwich, which consists of a meatball with spices, tomatoes, red onions and tzatziki sauce.

A beef gyro platter (80 percent beef and 20 percent lamb) and features a small Greek salad, tzatziki, pita and a side of one’s preference.

Also available is a variety of starters, salads, burgers and wraps, such as the Santorini fish wrap and a Mediterranean wrap. Authentic sides include oven-roasted lemon potatoes and grilled vegetables.

A meal is not complete without dessert, such as baklava, galaktoboureko and rice pudding.

A full line of beverages includes Greek coffee, cappuccino and shakes.

Every day on Village Grill’s hot table, comes the “Special of The Day,” which remains identical on certain days. Stergiopoulos said, “Monday is always oven roasted chicken legs. Wednesday is spaghetti Bolognese, and Thursday it’s chicken again, since people love it. Friday is usually a fish dish, Saturday is pastitsio (Greek lasagna) and Sundays is usually beef stew. People ask me what is in this dish, and my answer always is ‘a lot of love,’ since I like to cook and create new recipes.”

Village Grill is open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with the exception of Tuesdays, and free delivery is available until 8:45 p.m.

Village Grill’s authentic Greek ambiance.

On her day off, she is an early and determined riser who cleans her home and then enjoys a leisurely walk with her dog, goes shopping and watches TV with Sophie at her side.

“Cleaning is another obsession. If your space at home or in your ‘second home’ is clean and orderly, your life will be,” she said.

If Stergiopoulos decides to retire someday, she hopes to relax, but cannot visualize herself sitting and doing nothing. “I want to volunteer in helping people in any way I can, and especially young children,” she said.

Until then, her priority is Village Grill, where every day she shares her magic touch among a community of friends.

She is open to community partnerships for the upcoming Village Grill Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway, particularly to benefit the needy. Interested organizations can email [email protected] or call 718-544-4024.

Restaurant coming to McCarren Park

Community Board 1 recently reviewed plans to redesign the old park house in McCarren Park.
The board is in the process of approving a new restaurant to open in the iconic but decaying McCarren Park House at 855 Lorimer Street.
The renovation and restaurant will be managed by Aaron Broudo and Belvy Klein, a duo of businessmen who have previously worked on the Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Greenpoint and the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.
The renovation project will cost approximately $1.2 million, and will result in the arrival of a new restaurant in the middle of McCarren Park. The restaurant, which is yet to be named, will serve coffee and snacks in the morning and then alcohol and dinner in the evening.
Broudo and Klein are currently applying for a liquor license for the space. The renovated park house is also expected to be completely electric.
Elaine Brodsky of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is confident that Broudo and Klein’s track record is reason enough to support the project.
“These are local guys and have proven they know how to run a business,” she said.
This new project in McCarren Park adds to the trend of development happening directly around the greenspace. A developer is currently applying to rezone 840 Lorimer Street in order to build a ten-story, mixed-use building across the street from McCarren Park.
If approved, the new construction would include 74 apartments, 30 parking spaces, office space, and retail space. Nineteen of the apartments would be affordable in line with the mayor’s Inclusionary Housing program.
The 840 Lorimer project is located next to the Grand McCarren Park, a new six-story rental building that opened in 2019 in a refurbished industrial facility.

Federal funds offer lifeline to hospitality industry

More than $28 billion in pandemic-relief grants are now available to restaurants, bars and food suppliers, thanks to a new SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Online applications opened May 3 at noon, and will remain open until all funds are exhausted.
“These grants are going to provide direct aid to hospitality businesses that have suffered great losses throughout our country and especially here in the epicenter of the epicenter in Queens,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce president & CEO Tom Grech, who was joined last week by elected officials and other business leaders in Flushing to kick off the federal effort.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who helped secure the grant program through the newly enacted American Rescue Plan, is encouraging Queens businesses to apply.
“Queens deserves more because we have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus,” she said. “We need to make sure that our restaurants get their fair share back.”
Before the pandemic, there were 23,000 restaurants and bars throughout the five boroughs providing more than 300,000 jobs. According to the state Comptroller’s Office, employment in the city’s restaurant industry fell to 91,000 in April, with sales plummeting more than 70 percent.
“It’s essential for us to support and enact policies to help these businesses in their time of need,” Meng added.
Yoon Joo Lee said her family’s once bustling Korean barbecue restaurant, Hahm Ji Bach, is barely surviving.
“We almost had to close, but with the money from these funds, we hope it will help us continue towards the American Dream,” she said.
The new program will provide restaurants and other eligible businesses with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss. For the first 21 days, however, the SBA will approve claims from priority groups, which include businesses owned by women, veterans and individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Establishments that are publicly traded or owned by a state or local government are not eligible, nor are franchise owners that operate more than 20 restaurants.
Businesses can apply through SBA-recognized Point of Sale vendors or directly through the SBA using the application at restaurants.sba.gov. The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. The minimum amount is $1,000.
Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used by March 11, 2023.
“The diversity of our restaurant industry is really what makes Queens great,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “We’ve been suffering over the last year and New York City is a little slower to open than the rest of the state.
But the worst is behind us, the vaccines are here and we are beginning to get out of this mess,” he added. “Hopefully the best is yet ahead.”

Federal funds offer lifeline to hospitality industry

More than $28 billion in pandemic-relief grants are now available to restaurants, bars and food suppliers, thanks to a new SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Online applications opened May 3 at noon, and will remain open until all funds are exhausted.
“These grants are going to provide direct aid to hospitality businesses that have suffered great losses throughout our country and especially here in the epicenter of the epicenter in Queens,” said Queens Chamber of Commerce president & CEO Tom Grech, who was joined last week by elected officials and other business leaders in Flushing to kick off the federal effort.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, who helped secure the grant program through the newly enacted American Rescue Plan, is encouraging Queens businesses to apply.
“Queens deserves more because we have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus,” she said. “We need to make sure that our restaurants get their fair share back.”
Before the pandemic, there were 23,000 restaurants and bars throughout the five boroughs providing more than 300,000 jobs. According to the state Comptroller’s Office, employment in the city’s restaurant industry fell to 91,000 in April, with sales plummeting more than 70 percent.
“It’s essential for us to support and enact policies to help these businesses in their time of need,” Meng added.
Yoon Joo Lee said her family’s once bustling Korean barbecue restaurant, Hahm Ji Bach, is barely surviving.
“We almost had to close, but with the money from these funds, we hope it will help us continue towards the American Dream,” she said.
The new program will provide restaurants and other eligible businesses with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss. For the first 21 days, however, the SBA will approve claims from priority groups, which include businesses owned by women, veterans and individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Establishments that are publicly traded or owned by a state or local government are not eligible, nor are franchise owners that operate more than 20 restaurants.
Businesses can apply through SBA-recognized Point of Sale vendors or directly through the SBA using the application at restaurants.sba.gov. The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. The minimum amount is $1,000.
Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used by March 11, 2023.
“The diversity of our restaurant industry is really what makes Queens great,” said Assemblyman David Weprin. “We’ve been suffering over the last year and New York City is a little slower to open than the rest of the state.
But the worst is behind us, the vaccines are here and we are beginning to get out of this mess,” he added. “Hopefully the best is yet ahead.”

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