Authentic Germanic cuisine is served at Grünauer in Kansas City, offering locals the chance to experience European fare without ever leaving the heart of America.
Peter Grünauer, his son, Nicholas, and long-time friend and Viennese restauranteur Klaus Piber collaborated to open the Viennese restaurant in the historic Freight House located in the Crossroads.
Nicholas grew up in the restaurant industry, spending summers in Vienna with his family at the original Gasthaus Grünauer restaurant located in the Neubau neighborhood that his grandparents opened back in 1957. Peter has owned and operated several Austrian restaurants including Vienna ’79 and Grünauer Bistro in New York. Nicholas and his sister, Elisabeth Grünauer, currently run the Kansas City restaurant that opened in May 2010.
The history behind the Freight House further adds to the beauty of the restaurant.
“The building was built in the 1880s. It was a train station and then a freight depot for most of its life to service the train tracks that run right behind our restaurant. Union Station is on the other side of those train tracks,” Nicholas says. “It was a depot for various companies over the years where they would pull up the rail cars to the bay doors along the building and store items before moving on to their next location. Its last use in that capacity was a beer warehouse until the early ’80s.
“It’s a gorgeous 500-foot long building that sat vacant for 20 years until a developer came in, and it was one of the first projects to launch downtown. In 1996, nothing was really here. The developer had a vision for these three big restaurants—you’ve got Jack Stack, Lydia’s and he operated a restaurant in this space for seven years before us. Then, we took over the space from the developer to open Grünauer.”
Germanic cuisine is a regional cuisine defined by its influences from central European countries.
“The Hapsburg empire ruled all of central Europe for a few hundred years, so all of those cuisines from around central Europe melted in Vienna,” he says. “There’s a lot of influences from northern Italy, Hungary, Bavaria, southern Germany and the French Alps. Our menu tries to regularly feature classic dishes from all of these areas.”
Because the cuisine is so diverse, there are several different techniques used to prepare the food, including roasting, frying and braising. They carefully select dishes to put on the menu that are both appealing to Midwesterners yet traditional.
“We want each dish to be as authentic as possible. That’s taken a lot of trial,” Nicholas says. “We try not to put things on the menu that you wouldn’t be able to find in a restaurant in Austria.”
If it’s your first time dining at Grünauer, Nicholas recommends trying their most popular items first.
“Start with the schnitzel, which is the classic dish from Vienna. The Hungarian beef goulash is also very popular and really nice this time of year—it’s a spicy, hearty stew made with fresh Hungarian paprika. On a cold day, it’s a nice warm up.”
The Wunderbar is separate from the main dining room with different music, lighting and overall atmosphere, making it the perfect place to grab a drink before or after dining.
“As far as our bar and beverage menu, we’ve gone to great lengths to curate a diverse and interesting selection,” he says. “We’ve acquired a really diverse selection of Austrian wines, Austrian beers, German beers and unique spirits, including Schnapps, which is a famous after-dinner drink in Austria. Those paired with any of our food items go well together. For dessert, of course, the apple strudel. We make all the strudels every day in-house.”
Hosting an event? Book the Vienna Zimmer private dining space that’s lofted above the restaurant. It’s ideal for any gathering, from rehearsal dinners to business meetings. It’s a warm and inviting setting with a bar and large fireplace. The beautiful outdoor biergarten is a little piece of paradise that’s open to the public but can also be reserved for a private party.
For more information, visit GrunauerKC.com.