When Gary and Maggie Scripps-Klenzing thought about purchasing the property at 301 West Main in Fredericksburg, Texas, they knew this would be a labor of love. The physical space was a significant piece of Fredericksburg's history and the Altdorf Biergarten had become part of the culture and identity of the community. A nice breeze catches the edges of one of the many green umbrellas covering the teak furniture laid out in the beautifully landscaped patio, complete with a running stream. The family is having lunch, sipping the now infamous sangrias, and discussing the history of the building and of their family. Maggie's two daughter's Peggy and Liz are part of the operation of both Altdorf Biergarten and Crossroads Saloon & Steakhouse. Behind them is an enormous painted mural of the Texas Hill Country painted by the brothers Lee and Matt Casbeer. "We looked at this huge wall… an empty 'canvas' and then looked at each other and said there is only one thing we can do! So, we called the Casbeer brothers. They did a beautiful mural in our restaurant next door, Crossroads Saloon & Steakhouse." There is a Sunday Haus, a stream, wildlife, large rocks lining the creek, the requisite horny toad, bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and a nice buck looking right at you. The mural has become a popular backdrop for family photos.
(Gary and Maggie are true patrons of the arts. They have recently opened a beautiful art gallery across the street at 330 West Main aptly named Gallery 330. Check it out.)
Margaret (Maggie) Scripps-Klenzing was born and raised in West-Texas and moved to Fredericksburg over 37 years ago. She has always had her hand in the restaurant industry starting at the age of 16 as a busser at a K-Bobs in El Paso. “It was important to me to restore the building. This took a lot of time because we tried to keep as much of the original building as we could, sometimes that meant trying and failing and having to redo certain areas. By the end, I'd say it was more than worth it." The Altdorf Biergarten was recognized by the Historic Review Board Awards in conjunction with the Pioneer Museum’s Founders Memorial Dinner in May of this year for its meticulous attention to detail and extensive restoration. One of the highlights was the discovery of a stone-lined hand dug well, which was uncovered during demolition. It was under a slab of concrete and now is a highlighted feature in the foyer of the restaurant. You will also find a table made from an original 20-foot, cypress beam salvaged during the re-construction of the room in the main dining room. The legs are made from the original turned posts from the front porch, which were beyond repair. The salvage of these parts to make something beautiful gives you a sense of the overall scale of the project.
Maggie also kept a lot of the original menu, while infusing some of her own signature dishes. One of these items is Maggie’s Enchiladas, famous in her family for generations. She is proud to say that they are finally, “just the way I like them”.
She makes her famous recipe after her mother’s dish. “My mom would put a fried egg on top of my dad's”, notes Maggie. “That’s the way my Grandma used to make them,” confirmed Peggy, the eldest daughter of Maggie and the principal manager at Altdorf Biergarten. Her sister Elizabeth (Liz) manages at the restaurant next door, also owned by the family; Crossroads Saloon & Steakhouse. “We each bring a unique strength to our Mom’s restaurants. I love being behind the bar, while Peggy loves talking to people and touching tables”, she says. “Being a part of such a great team, I feel like the people I work with are really more like family.”
It’s easy to see why both restaurants are such a success; everyone is involved, and passionate about what they do. Director of Operations, Kevin Westbrook explains, “This is a very tight knit group of people. We have lots of moving parts, and I enjoy being able to help.” Ask around and you’ll quickly find that Kevin does a lot more than help. Employed for over 6 years with Crossroads, Kevin knew that adding on a restaurant, an art gallery and a few bed and breakfasts would be a challenge, “We have a great team in place to make this a reality.” Every employee you meet is eager and willing to help ensure that guests experiences are memorable.
“It’s takes a lot of planning,” says Gary Klenzing, husband and partner with Maggie in all things business. “We thought long and hard about what kind of contribution we wanted to make and what kind of an impact we wanted to see for our community. Thankfully, we have the right team to see it through.” Gary and Maggie should feel good about the creation of so many jobs for the community, but also about creating an environment across all of their companies where each employee can feel good about being part of something good, that benefits others. Both Gary and Maggie believe in giving back to their community, and have been acknowledged as great philanthropists.
Overall, everyone seems happy with the results. “Worth it: the wait, the wondering, and the changes. Best food in town,” said Rachel Daughtery, a long-time visitor to the Fredericksburg area. “I’ve been coming to Fredericksburg since the late 80’s, and it is so nice to see that people care about maintaining their beautiful buildings. Also, the fact that Altdorf’s is a scratch kitchen doesn’t hurt! I haven’t had tacos this fresh at...well, any restaurant...ever.”
It seems that Altdorf’s is off to an amazing start. “Stay tuned”, say Maggie and Gary, “we have a few more interesting projects on the horizon” Fredericksburg is evolving fast, thankfully, Gary and Maggie have their hearts in both the future and the past. “We love Fredericksburg! It's our community, it's our grandchildren's home, and we hope to ensure that its history and legacy lives on for many, many years.” Maggie beams as she takes a long, deliberate look out over her latest accomplishment. With its cheerful guests and purposeful staff she praises everyone working there with a simple, “We did it, it’s perfect.”
Altdorf Biergarten is first come, first serve - open Wednesday – Sunday 11 AM to 9 PM.