May. 8, 2023 By Anthony Medina
More than 80 diners stood shoulder-to-shoulder inside the main dining room of Zum Stammtisch on Friday night, May 5, as the historic German restaurant and bar in Glendale hosted a particularly packed house to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Regardless of whether or not they’re close friends or complete strangers, patrons shared a few laughs, joined in on the songs played by a live band, and took more than a few swigs of authentic German beer.
Overwhelmingly warm lighting only complimented the Tudor-style architecture that makes those who entered wonder if they’d accidentally stumbled into a traditional old German pub.
Most notable to those both near and far who walked into the swinging doors at Zum Stammtisch on May 5 were the golden-colored balloons, streamers and decorated flyers in celebration of the establishment’s 50th anniversary.
“I really am grateful to all the people that kept this going through all these years,” said Hans Lehner, co-owner of Zum Stammtisch.
The brothers and owners of Zum Stammtisch, Hans and Werner Lehner, have operated the establishment for roughly 40 years. The origins of the iconic Glendale staple began with their father, John Lehner, when he established the restaurant in November 1972.
“He opened it up with the thought of giving this authentic German food back to the people, a lot of them who emigrated from Germany, and it was a winning idea,” Hans Lehner said. “The restaurant, thank God, survived all these years and even as the neighborhoods changed and the clientele has changed.”
John later expanded the dining space in 1988 when the building next-door was up for grabs. The space was then used to host party groups and separate smoking and non-smoking dining areas, as the restaurant’s history indicates.
After John died in October 1993, Hans and Werner took the reins of the family-owned business. Since then, they’ve seen it all the way through to 50 years of service.
They also spearheaded the opening of the Stammtisch Pork Store and Imports in March 2011, only steps away from the restaurant today.
“What’s interesting to me, or what was a challenge to us, especially right after our father died, was to keep the food the way it’s always been,” said Werner. “You can come into us and have a Jaeger schnitzel and it’ll have the same taste it had 40 or 50 years ago.”
The iconic food at Zum Stammtisch earned the restaurant notoriety as the best German restaurant listed in the Queens Best of the Boro magazine for the last six years and recognized in other news outlets like The New York Times 100 Best Restaurants in NYC list.
For the 50th anniversary celebration, the restaurant offered a night full of both classic and unique German meals, including a mango habanero bratwurst, steak with a peppercorn sauce, jägerschnitzel, goulash soup, sauerbraten and a Munich-style pork shank.
Those who were able to book their spot for the night also received a commemorative glass stein and T-shirt. A major part of the night’s services also included quality German beers like the Hofbrau, a traditional Munich beer and Warsteiner Pilsner.
Live music played by the band Die Spitzbuam kept spirits high throughout, especially when the band encouraged everyone to toast their beer and drink as they shouted, “zicke zacke, zicke zacke,” and the crowd would respond, “hoi hoi hoi!”
Paulette Atanson and Keith Fisher were first-time visitors of Zum Stammtisch and they traveled from Long Island to Glendale. What really brought them to the restaurant, besides enjoying the food and beverage, was the restaurant’s legacy.
“We’ve been to similar places on Long Island and they give off the same vibes, but this one is older,” Fisher said.
Although much as the successes behind the restaurant are revered, there are the more challenging moments that have helped shape what the business is today.
The ability to operate an outdoor dining space, right behind the Glendale War Memorial at the Glendale Veterans Triangle on Myrtle Avenue, helped to save the business during the pandemic, Hans said.
“We just kind of dug in for the long haul and we said, whatever comes after the pandemic is what’s going to be,” Hans said. “After the pandemic was over, thank God, we had a lot of our customer base back and the business was doing well again, so we’re happy we made it through.”
Continuing to operate after many trials and tribulations made it possible for one group of Glendale residents to celebrate another occasion at Zum Stammtisch on May 5.
Arlene LoMastro, with friends Janet Kragler and Karen Kunz, were celebrating Kunz’s 73rd birthday just before the restaurant’s anniversary celebration began.
Despite any challenges the Lehner brothers have faced in their years of service, both remain vigilant of how much their customers and long-time devoted staff have contributed to the many years of service.
“Honestly, it’s a testament to our customers,” said Hans, speaking on what drives the success of the business all these years. “They’ve been really loyal to us. Even when they’ve moved further out, like if they relocated from Glendale to Long Island or to other places, they’ve always managed to make trips back in.”
As the night progressed, Council members Joann Ariola and Robert Holden honored the Zum Stammtisch restaurant with an official proclamation from the New York City Council for 50 years of community service to Glendale.