In what was once considered a German enclave, Heidelberg is now one of the last remaining German restaurants, not only in Yorkville, but in the country.
Cabarets and a speakeasy resided in this same building since before the 1920s. Following them was Cafe Vaterland, which in 1939, reopened as The Heidelberg and has remained a fixture on Second Ave ever since.
Owner Eva Matischak’s parents bought the restaurant in 1963 after Eva’s mother, Luise Edler, had worked there as a cook. Luise and her husband were from Italy and Poland, respectively; they emigrated to the United States in 1961 with Eva and her three siblings when she was seven years old. Both parents had experience in the restaurant industry, and successfully operated the Heidelberg until it was passed down to Eva in 1988. She has since retired, but Eva is proud that her son, Andreas, followed in her footsteps in 2018 - keeping the legacy of the family-run business alive.
The Heidelberg is celebrated for its authentic German food and Oktoberfest-like atmosphere. What contributes the most to the restaurant's success is its friendly and nostalgic character. Many of the employees have been working there for decades, and most of the items on the menu have remained the same since 1963. Though the neighborhood has changed drastically from when Heidelberg first opened, the restaurant will forever remain an historical monument of the German culture that once dominated these streets. “We are proud that it has been a family business, focused on the basic down to earth unpretentious home cooking. It’s a local spot where you can feel at home.”
Just south of Schaller and Weber, another longtime neighborhood favorite, Heidelberg, has been in the same spot for almost a century. Commissioned by the same developer of the buildings to the north, Henry Hines, 1648 Second Avenue is the only survivor of a pair of buildings, built in 1873 and designed by NY-born architect John McIntyre. The buildings both featured streamlined brownstone lintels, and galvanized iron cornices. Before being home to one of the oldest family-owned German restaurants in the country, 1648 Second Avenue was occupied by a music store. Century Music Shop was actually sued by its neighbors in 1929 for playing music too loud.