Fans of authentic German cuisine — served with a distinct Polish accent — have been coming to Margaret’s German Restaurant for more than 30 years.
The restaurant, located at 5107 S. Sheridan Road in the Farm Shopping Center, dates back to the early 1970s, but it came into its own when Margaret Rzepczynski took over as owner.
But now, after 32 years, Rzepczynski is planning to retire from the restaurant business by the end of this year.
“It’s not that I’m sick or anything,” she said. “It’s just that 32 years in one place is a lot of time. My husband is at home all the time now. My daughter lives in London. I’d like to be able to spend more time with them.”
With the assistance of Catholic Charities, Rzepczynski and her husband, Andrew, came to the United States in 1982 to escape Communist-controlled Poland. She started out cooking for chef Jacques Lissonnett at the fine dining establishment in the hotel now known as the Hyatt Regency downtown.
She learned that a shop known as Pierre’s Deli, a German-European deli, was for sale, and on Oct. 19, 1989, opened Margaret’s German Restaurant.
“I was 34 when I opened, and I did everything,” Rzepczynski said. “I did the cooking, I did the dishes, everything.”
As time went on, Rzepczynski would expand the menu to include some dishes from her native Poland as specials, to go along with the traditional German dishes such as sauerbraten, various preparations of schnitzel and sausages, kassler rippchen (smoked pork loin), leberkaese (baked German bologna) and huhnerbrust (grilled chicken breast in a dark sherry mushroom sauce).
Rzepczynski’s cooking and hospitality has built up a dedicated customer base — one that helped the restaurant weather the storms of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be honest, we did well during the pandemic,” she said. “That was due mostly to our regular customers, who supported us by getting carryout and tipped the wait staff very well. Many of the people working for me have been with me 10, 12 years.”
Ensuring that the dedicated lovers of fine German cuisine continue to have a place to dine is very much on Rzepczynski’s mind.
“I would love for someone to want to take the restaurant over,” she said. “I would be happy to teach them the recipes. It’s been a successful place for 32 years — it would be nice for it to continue beyond that.”
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