Valdosta Daily Times


May 4, 2014

Focus On

The Hofbrauhaus

VALDOSTA — Sometimes your life changes with something as simple as a phone call.

That’s what happened to Daniel Johnson.

Last November, he got a call from his grandmother, Ursula Meindl, who owned Willie’s Restaurant on North Ashley Street.

She asked Johnson if he could help with a few repairs around the restaurant.

“I thought it would be a little bit of flooring and some painting,” said Johnson.

When he arrived, he found the need was more in-depth. As Johnson, Ursula and other members of their family worked on the place, more things needed attention.

“Ursula was there the whole time,” said Johnson. “If I was here until 11, 12 … she’d be right there beside me.”

The repairs took a few months. As the work progressed, there was talk about what to do with the place.

Ursula had opened it with her husband, William, in 1976, and after he passed away six years ago, she kept the place going.

Now 88 years old, she wavered between selling the restaurant and reopening it following the repairs.

Johnson was busy enough with his business, Sound Vision Audio and Tint, so the idea of taking over the responsibility of the family restaurant was the furthest thing from his mind.

But he had grown up at the place, starting as a busboy when he was 12. By the time he left it at 19, he was a waiter.

It was truly a family restaurant, with multiple family members working there. The murals on the walls, the ones that had been there for decades, had been hand-painted by family members.

“It was something I prayed about, talked with my wife about, and my other business partner. I got a lot of positive feedback.”

His son, now the same age as when Johnson started working, encouraged him, too.

And there was the tradition. After almost 40 years, Willie’s had become a Valdosta mainstay.

“It was basically going to disappear.”

So, Johnson offered to buy the place from Ursula and take it over.

Through the years, Willie’s had changed its name from Willie’s Hofbrauhaus to Willie’s Restaurant. Many of the original German dishes had been pulled from the menu; that’s something Johnson and Ursula wanted to change. They would bring those dishes back and call the new restaurant, The Hofbrauhaus. They wanted to return to the German roots while keeping the more recent dishes.

“You can’t get German food just anywhere. We wanted something unique, something you could only get from us. With all her recipes, and just growing up on all that food, knowing how awesome it is, I thought it’d be neat if we could continue that on for the generation to come, pass on those old recipes. She’s still back there with her recipes, cooking and that sort of stuff.”

Ursula’s youngest daughter, Ursula Hodges, serves as head chef. Other family members work the kitchen and are on the floor.

The restaurant opened April 22. Their German dishes are the most popular menu items.

“To me, it’s a meat and potatoes kind of thing — a lot of strong flavors. If you like meat and potatoes, you’re going to like German food.”

Rouladen is the most popular dish. It is a thin beef cutlet with a mayonnaise and mustard sauce that’s rolled up with pickles and onions, cooked in gravy and served.

There’s Sauerbraten, which is a beef roast marinated in a red wine vinegar, cooked with a savory gravy and served with potato dumplings, each the size of a small orange.

There’s more German food on the menu — bratwurst, beef-schnitzel, jager-schnitzel, but diners will also find seafood and steaks.

German desserts, homemade cakes and apple strudel round out the menu.

Hofbrauhaus also rotates specials, giving regular customers a chance to try different German dishes. Looking forward to the future, Johnson and the rest of Hofbrauhaus wants to have an Oktoberfest celebration, but that’s still a few months away.

“I never planned on getting involved in this. It isn’t something I set out to do, but it’s been a blessing.”

The Hofbrauhaus is located at 2325 N. Ashley St. and is open Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m.-9 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 4 p.m.-10 p.m.

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