Just off the exit ramp headed down Highway 431 South and beside two hotels sits a new German restaurant where the Waffle King once was. Castle Hof offers American and German comfort foods, but owners Heika and Bryan Horning really want customers to try something new with the German offerings.
They have schnitzel, döner, currywurst, and much more. For those who want American cuisine, they still offer sandwiches, salads, steak, and breakfast. Dessert is also displayed in a case. Heika makes sure all the ingredients and sauces are from Germany.
“We want to make sure it’s authentic,” Heika said.
Heika is from Germany and came to the U.S. 14 years ago with her husband Bryan. Bryan was stationed in Germany when they met. The two owned the German grocery store on 13th Street in Phenix City for two years before branching out into the restaurant world.
“A lot of people were asking us for real meals, but we only had finger foods,” Heika said. “It wasn’t suitable for a full service restaurant. Now we’re giving customers what they wanted. We wanted a place to have Oktoberfest, and a place where we can all get to know other foods and culture.”
Switching from a grocery store to a restaurant has been a challenge, but a fun one for the couple. Bryan noted that in the store, everything was neat and in place. It was easy to see when it was time to reorder a particular item. The restaurant world is a little different.
“Here it can change in a second. We might thing we have enough schnitzel, but then every one will want it that day. Even people who never order it will want it,” Bryan said. “It’s hard to gauge how things will go. Some days I have a million schnitzel and not one orders it that day. That’s the most challenging. We have a great staff and that helps a lot.”
The two agree that the best part has been getting to know customers and seeing customers enjoy the food. Heika wants to know if you want a certain food that may not be on the menu. Perhaps she can make it for you. She and Bryan both prep food. She cooks. They also have two other cooks in the kitchen who love making German meals. Johnny Simmons was stationed in Germany for a while.
“I don’t see cooking German food as a challenge,” he said. “It’s food and it’s fun.”
Kaylem French is a graduate of Russell County High where he went through the culinary program. His favorite thing to cook is schnitzel.
“It’s pretty quick and easy, and it tastes good. You can’t go wrong,” he said.
Heika does note that Germany is as diverse as the U.S., so there are some dishes that may be regional. There is also a difference, she said, in a German-native creating a German meal and someone who thinks they can cook German.
For now, the couple is trying to make it through the pandemic and offer good food at the same time.
“Be supportive during these hard times. If we survive corona time, this will be a good restaurant to have in the area,” Heika said.