.Teske’s Germania Makes the Big Time

A handful of restaurants should be legacy businesses

In the Victorian Room at Teske’s Germania, decades-long customers recently gathered to watch the restaurant’s appearance on Check Please! Bay Area. Staff placed two televisions on tables just for the occasion.

Catherine Baumann, who along with her husband Hans bought the restaurant from the original Teske family more than 30 years ago, was telling stories. On the day the Baumanns acquired the business, Teske served lunch, then everyone went over to the attorney’s office and signed the papers, after which the Baumanns served dinner that same night.

Full disclosure: All those involved here are friends of mine. In fact, I can’t even calculate how many student loan dollars I drank away at Teske’s in the late ‘90s. To see a legacy business finally join the list of San Jose restaurants featured on various food programs, to witness such a thing, and to see the next generation of Baumanns, the current owners, inviting everyone over for dinner just to watch, was downright inspiring. I then ordered a buffalo burger with pepperjack cheese and sat there in the Victorian Room with all the others to watch the episode on live television.

An award-winning KQED program, Check, Please! Bay Area launched nearly 20 years ago with a great concept. In each episode, three regular everyday folks—not snotty critics—recommend their favorite restaurants. Then each person anonymously visits the places recommended by the other two. When all is said and done, host Leslie Sbrocco drags all three of them on TV to share their experiences. The show is like hanging out in a restaurant and talking with your friends.

In the case of Teske’s, we can thank Daniel Osers, originally from Berlin and now an IT operations manager at Google. Longing for home, he recommended the restaurant, so the film crew showed up last year during Oktoberfest. The results hit the screen a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, before we got to see Osers explain the old world charm of Teske’s, we had to sit through obnoxious techie hipsters partying at Shuggie’s Trash Pie in the Mission—the polar opposite of Teske’s in every possible way—but I guess that’s a fair trade. To each his own.

Teske’s Germania fits all definitions of a legacy business. When modern-day craft brew dudes were still in diapers, Teske’s was serving obscure bottles of beer like Aktien St. Martin. Which is why, as I devoured my buffalo burger, I got to thinking.

In 2015, San Francisco began a Legacy Business Program for any business older than 30 years that contributes to the identity, culture and history of the city. Businesses in the program can apply for marketing assistance, grants and other support. After the landlords began gobbling up all the grants and not passing them on to the tenants, the San Francisco Chronicle then played a role in the politicians advocating for a restructure of the program. Nevertheless, it’s a fabulous idea.

Following San Francisco’s lead, additional legacy business programs began cropping up in other cities including Denver, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and—drum roll please—Porterville, California. But not San Jose. At least not yet. I think it’s long overdue.

I can’t be the only one who ever thought about this. In San Jose, we can all rattle off legendary local eateries that would qualify for such a program, no matter the criteria: Original Joe’s, House of Genji, Vahl’s, maybe a few in Japantown, Willow Glen and the east side, or even original Vietnamese joints like Dalat Cafe. And that’s just restaurants. Imagine if the Caravan Lounge, operational for over 60 years, was considered a “legacy business.” All of which would improve San Jose’s character and personality, making it a better town, a more interesting place, and therefore a much easier destination for promoters and marketers to sell. Capisce?

Such were my thoughts as I sat there and watched people in a San Francisco TV studio yakking about the gargantuan pork chop and sauerkraut at Teske’s. I never thought I’d see that. 

Again, Teske’s is not the only San Jose restaurant to appear on a TV show, just the latest. The former prune capital of the world is hitting the big time, slowly but surely.


Teske’s Germania

255 N First St, San Jose

Open daily, closed Sunday and Monday

teskes-germania.com

Gary Singh
Gary Singhhttps://www.garysingh.info/
Gary Singh’s byline has appeared over 1500 times, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. An anthology of his Metro columns, Silicon Alleys, was published in 2020.

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