Iconic German eatery serves Glendale for 50 years
By Jessica Meditz
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 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.
“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.”