By Aaron Tanner
Thanks to the space and military industry, Huntsville is a melting pot of German tradition. Tucked away in a small yet busy shopping center is a cozy restaurant serving culinary staples from one of Europe’s premier nations.
Since 2003, Hildegard’s German Cuisine has served authentic comfort food from the Bavaria region of Germany to hungry customers. Many popular German staples are available on the menu, including authentic imported sausages, house-made soups, a large selection of German beers and wines, and classic German schnitzels.
The schnitzels – thin slices of meat – are best-selling items, including Jaeger schnitzel, a breaded, pan-fried pork cutlet covered in a brown mushroom gravy sauce, and Rahm Pils, another schnitzel served with a mushroom cream sauce. Other favorite dishes include Geschnetzeles (tender pork with mushrooms, onions, and a light cream sauce) and a Chicken Cordon Bleu made with smoked Gouda cheese and Black Forest ham. For a sweet after-dinner treat, Hildegard’s decadent desserts include apple strudel and German chocolate cake.
Before founding her namesake restaurant, Hildegard Collins migrated from Germany and worked at Redstone Arsenal with other women who moved from the same country after World War II. Together, they made traditional German meals for the soldiers stationed on base once a week. “The dishes brought a little bit of home back to Huntsville,” current Hildegard’s owner Amy Miller explains.
After retiring from Redstone and opening a restaurant where she served salads and sandwiches during the week and traditional German dinners on Sundays, Collins sold the restaurant in 2009 to her daughter Sabine. The latter expanded the kitchen and sold full-German meals daily. Sabine’s ability to run her mom’s restaurant and another location she opened across town in 2014 caught the attention of Miller, who had been working in the restaurant industry since age 14.
While catering a private event at her house, the two discussed the challenges of the foodservice industry and Sabine’s struggles of operating both restaurants at the time. “We started talking and lamenting how hard it is to find good people to run a restaurant,” Miller recalls.
Although German food was not originally on her radar, Miller always dreamed of owning a restaurant. A combination of Sabine looking to sell Hildegard’s, Miller being fascinated with German culture and food and having a grandfather and father from Germany inspired the two to negotiate a deal for Miller to buy Hildegard’s German Cuisine in 2016 while Sabine focused on her restaurant. “I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” she says.
The scratch-made dishes on the menu combine Hildegard’s family recipes with ones from a cookbook of Miller’s oma (grandmother). Miller takes pride in the kitchen staff’s methods of prepping food, including hand-pounding each schnitzel and preparing the house-made soups, dressings, gravies, sauces, and desserts. “We won’t sell something that is not up to our standards,” Miller says.
Like many restaurants, Covid-19 affected business at Hildegard’s. Besides supply chain issues and temporarily reducing hours due to staffing shortages, social distancing forced the restaurant to suspend taking reservations and reduce seating capacity. During the height of the pandemic, the staff worked for free to continue serving guests via curbside. In return, customers turned up in droves to support the restaurant and staff. “We saw the best of the community come out,” Miller says.
Despite the challenges, Miller enjoys running a fast-paced business and treating staff and customers well. “I am a very fortunate person in that I found something that I love doing,” she explains. Her future goals include hiring more staff while taking care of current employees, expanding business hours, opening a second location in Athens, and making certain operations at the current location continue running smoothly. “My goal is to bring the authentic tastes of German cuisine to as many guests as possible and give them a great dining experience every time,” Miller says.
Hildegard’s German Cuisine
2357 Whitesburg Drive
Huntsville, AL 35801
Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday;
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday (all hours subject to change)