Camaraderie and community transcend language and geography.
Gluten-free friendly: Yes
The Umami of a Place
If a restaurant is to become the go-to place for locals and a destination for out-of-towners, great food and drinks are assumed.
Instead, it’s the special sauce — the umami of the indescribable combination of ingredients beyond taste — that make a place unforgettable, as its warmth and welcome weave into your heart and beckon you to return.
Beda’s Biergarten in San Luis Obispo is that place.
Can you Taste the Gemütlichkeit?
Focusing on food from the Rhineland region of Germany, Beda’s Biergarten showcases family recipes. Many items are gluten free or can be modified to be so (just ask), and several options are vegetarian. Drinks center around great German biers, while hand-selected Central Coast wines and locally made Bristol’s hard cider round out the drink menu.
From a range of top-quality sausages (all gluten free) to gulasch, frikadellen (German meatballs), spätzle (fresh-made noodles), and sauerkraut, to a bowl of the delightful Beda’s Stew (also gluten free) on a rainy day and a slice of Black Forest Cake (gluten-free as well), the food brings the comfort of a German pub to the Central Coast.
While the menu is tasty all around, it’s the copious quantities of gemütlichkeit sprinkled on everything that brings friends, both old and newly made, back to Beda’s Biergarten again and again.
Yes, Virginia1. There is a Beda. And a Helga.
A long time ago (in 1982, to be exact), Beda and Helga Schmidthues flew to San Francisco on their honeymoon to visit Beda’s sister, who had moved to Carmel. On that trip, they decided one day they wanted to live in California.
Two years later, Beda and Helga moved to San Francisco with nine-month-old daughter Julia in tow. A day trip in 1986 took them south to San Luis Obispo. There, a SLO sunset and the charm of an evening walk up Higuera during the Farmer’s Market helped them fall in love with the place. A year after that, in 1987, they relocated to San Luis Obispo — their new American home.
And a long time before all that happened, Beda and Helga first met in a German brewery, Schumacher, in Düsseldorf at a special one-night-a-year event called Latzenbier. They have been together ever since. At Schumacher and their other regular neighborhood hangout called Käte’s, friends met friends and new friends became old friends while sharing tables and conversation over German food and beverages.
After they moved to the U.S., Beda continued his businesses representing German artists and book publishing. They loved their new country, but they came to realize they missed one thing from their native country. It wasn’t the food (they made their own German food from their family’s cherished recipes) or the bier (they could buy some German beers from the liquor store).
It was the gemütlichkeit – the camaraderie and the friendly, welcoming feeling of Käte’s that they missed.
A New German Import
The recession after 2008 took a toll on Beda’s art rep business and it was time to do something new. No stranger to hard work, Beda and Helga tossed around several ideas. The one they kept returning to was the idea of importing gemütlichkeit to SLO. They wanted to create a place that felt like the pubs in Germany: filled with genuine camaraderie, friendliness, and welcoming to all.
“It takes a lot of work, time, and commitment to create a business and build a career,” Beda shared. “You might as well create something you love.”
With that as their focus, and with the support of friends who shared their dream, Beda and Helga in 2014 bought a former coffee shop near the corner of Broad and Orcutt Road on the south side of SLO. In 2015, Beda’s Biergarten opened its doors and welcomed its first new friends.
A Lighter, Brighter Side of Germany
The space at Beda’s Biergarten reflects the Rhineland style of architecture—airy, light, and more European feeling than the heavy, dark style that many associate with Bavarian Germany.
The food, which Helga oversees, also reflects the region in which she and Beda were born and raised. “Like any country, German food is regionally influenced,” said Beda. Think about the differences in Northern Italian versus Sicilian food, or Sichuan versus Cantonese Chinese cuisines.
Visiting Beda’s is a German culinary adventure. “We provide variations on a theme,” explained Beda. “Our goulash may be different from the one you are familiar with, or our sauerkraut may not be the one you think is ‘authentic.’ For example, Germany and many neighboring countries have gulasch, which means stew. Hungarian, Polish, and German gulasch are all different, and our rendition reflects the Rhineland region, as does our sauerkraut.”
Beda and Helga stay true to their regional family recipes, and it often happens that customers with German heritage will bring in their older relatives to enjoy the food and gemütlichkeit. As they’re leaving, they often whisper to Beda, “Don’t tell anyone, but your gulasch is better than Grandma’s.”
Where Gemütlichkeit Begins
This is the first restaurant Beda and Helga have owned, but you’d never know that from the friendly and efficient interactions of the entire team. It’s evident that gemütlichkeit starts behind the counter.
“We still have three of our original staff,” said Beda, “which is almost unheard of in this business.”
Andrew, front-of-house manager extraordinaire, knows his customers and their favorites by name. Adam, evening bar manager, and Brian, morning bar manager, are also part of the original crew.
“Teamwork is vital to our business. If someone, whether a staff member or a customer, has a suggestion, we’ll make a change if it makes sense.”
Beda and Helga support the local community through special events, such as “Tap Takeover” nights for different groups, and rotating daily themes. Here are a few to consider.
• Happy Hour: Tuesday and Wednesday 2pm – 6pm. Friday and Saturday 8PM to close. Sunday all day.
• Tuesday: Industry Night (tell your server)
• Wednesday: kids under 12 eat free all day
• Thirstday: 2nd drink 50% off on Thursdays
• Saturday: Klonig Boot night, with a selected beers on special and a tutorial on how to drink from the glass boot
• Funday: Happy hour prices all day Sunday
• A gluten-free event is in the planning stages for this spring. Stay tuned for more on that.
Lastly, while there’s a TV in Beda’s Biergarten, it’s not a sport bar. However, if there’s a soccer game or a special event, it will be on and fans will be cheering for their favorite team.
No matter what day you come in, you can be sure that you’re in a politics, religion, and contentious subjects free zone.
If there’s one rule at Beda’s Biergarten, it’s this: enjoy yourself.
“Leave your worries at the door,” said Beda. “Come in, relax, and unwind. If you want to take your worries home later, they’ll be waiting for you outside, but you may find they have disappeared.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, Beda shared one more thing.
“This is the most demanding job I’ve ever had. And I love it. My biggest joy is that people smile, laugh, and have conversations while they’re here, and when they get up to leave, they are happy and thank me for a wonderful time. That makes everything worth it.”
Beda’s Biergarten is a mirror of Beda and Helga: offering camaraderie, genuine friendship, and connections. “It’s what we are, what we were raised with, and what we believe in sharing with the world.”
Thank you Beda and Helga. We raise a glass of hard cider to that.
1 “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is a phrase from an editorial in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun and has since become part of popular Christmas folklore in the United States. It is the most reprinted editorial in any English-language newspaper. (courtesy Wikipedia)
3230 Broad St #130
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
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