Dining in the Amana Colonies
Ox Yoke Inn or The Ronneburg Restaurant?
Don and I were eager to have a meal in the old Iowa town, settled by German immigrants over 100 years before I was born.
We both love German food and we loved the idea of eating the foods that were once prepared in communal kitchens... homes in Amana didn't have their own kitchens! Which place should we pick?
Ox Yoke Inn
But it was already clearing out by 6:00. We stepped into this newer room to see if we could grab a beer at the bar. Where are the Crowds?
Cindy Welcomes Us!
Cindy had just collapsed into a chair near the bar. "Come on in and pull up a seat!" she said, patting the chair beside her. She and her grown children had worked a busy 2-day Apple Festival weekend and Cindy didn't try to hide her weariness. We joined her after ordering a beer at the bar. Cindy began filling us in about the history of the restaurant, stopping to introduce us to her daughter and son in law who were bustling in and out. Her grandfather had run the restaurant for 40 years and she pretty much grew up in it.
Lina and William
Cindy had us follow her upstairs to see a few things. She pointed to a portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Leichsenring, who opened the restaurant in 1940. Mrs. L. appeared to be holding a bible in the photograph... unless it was a cookbook.
Evidently she worked in one of the communal kitchens as a young woman, until the depression. That's when the Colonies found they could no longer remain self-sufficient... the end of the communal kitchen. Cindy remembers when Mrs. Leichsenring used to come in daily to test the potato soup. The Ox Yoke is still owned by the Leichsenring family.
Yokey and Our Cookbook
Cindy took us to a room filled with antique crocks and stuffed beasts. She wanted to show us Yokey the Bear. She laughed about how that stuffed bear scared her as a little girl. I then had to share my silly cook book with the water color illustration and recipe for Ox Yoke Sauerbraten. She was pretty surprised to see the restaurant featured in the 55 year old book.
On to Ronneberg!
We tried not to rush, but wanted to check out the other nearby German restaurant we had heard about.
Don and Elsie Oehler opened the Ronneburg in 1950. Elsie's grandmother had been a "kitchen boss" during the communal day.... I believe in this very building. In this photo you can glimpse at a few folks through the windows, some wearing suspenders. We were too late for the German band, but we saw a few gentlemen in lederhosen relaxing around the bar.
Our table was almost too small for all the dishes that cluttered the checkered cloth. Meals are all served family style as they were 150 years ago. The only difference is that Don and I got to sit at the same table. Men and women ate at separate tables back in the day.
More Than 15 Minutes
We felt a tiny bit rushed since we were some of the last diners, but at least we got more than 15 minutes, which had been the allotted time for Amana dining. How would we have eaten our Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzel that came with cottage cheese, slaw, fried potatoes, gravy, green beans , Spaetzle and bread!! I'm guessing we wouldn't have had wine and beer either!
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The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.