After spending time in Germany, Seymour resident Solomon Rust came to the conclusion there wasn’t enough tangible evidence of German culture in his hometown.
Seymour High School had dropped its German classes years ago.
Even Seymour’s annual Oktoberfest lacked an authentic German experience, Rust said.
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After his brother, Alex Rust, passed away in 2013, Solomon began looking at his family history, which went back many generations to Germany.
“With my mom being Polish, her brothers, my uncles are German, as well,” he said.
That year also marked his first trip to Germany, which would become a pilgrimage he would make every odd year. The timing of the trip just so happened to work out for Rust to experience the German Oktoberfest in Munich.
“I got to see what they had,” he said.
He also took part in Strassenfest, a German festival, in Jasper, Indiana.
After attending those events and coming back to Seymour, he wanted to do more to share his German experiences and heritage with friends and the community.
So he came up with an idea and got his wife, Randall, on board.
One of the best ways to spark interest in and appreciation of a different country is through its cuisine.
So why not open a German restaurant?
And so the concept of Schwätzer’s began.
He knew Seymour was a good location for the business.
“If you go an hour away from Seymour, you can find zero German restaurants, but if you go two hours away, you can find a German restaurant in any direction,” he said.
But the building that once housed the Chatterbox bar at 113 Indianapolis Ave. in downtown Seymour was not Solomon’s first choice for the restaurant.
“The old Chatterbox building was actually my last choice at first,” he said. “It was a low buy-in price but very high remodel price.”
The building was downtown, however, which would put the restaurant right in the middle of the Seymour Oktoberfest, giving it the opportunity to be a part of the annual event.
The building also gave the restaurant its name. Schwätzer is German for chatterbox.
Solomon purchased the Chatterbox building in February 2019 but then had to spend the next couple of months in India for his full-time job with Cummins.
“So I kind of had a slow start working on demolition,” he said.
Once he got back from India, he got into the heavy planning, including the layout and design of how the interior would look.
He knew he wanted to have elements from the restaurants he visited during Oktoberfest in Munich.
“I wanted it to be authentic German but with an Indiana flare,” he said. “I also wanted it to be very cozy.”
With less than 1,000 square feet in the dining area, they had to be efficient with the space they had.
He began construction in 2020 but was stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which would force Schwätzer’s to close not long after opening because of a staff member testing positive for the virus.
The Rusts also welcomed their first child, daughter Sailor, in July and officially opened Schwätzer’s the first weekend in October.
“Yeah, so it has been a pretty crazy year,” Solomon said.
Another challenge they faced was the fact they had no idea how to run a restaurant. But the couple weren’t going to let their lack of experience in the food service industry get in the way.
“My only experience was delivering pizza at Papa John’s and at a calzone shop called The Love Shack at Purdue,” Solomon said.
Although he continues to work full time at Cummins, his assignment to the India/China group puts his hours from 4 a.m to noon, giving him time to help at the restaurant, too.
Randall serves as the manager of Schwätzer’s.
Although she has a degree in business, her background is in education.
“It’s a complete new experience for me,” she said. “I have never managed anyone, and I’ve never been in the restaurant industry at all, so I’m learning as I go.”
Seymour native Chelsi Tangman serves as the chef of Schwätzer’s. A graduate of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University, she previously served as a cook, chef and head of pastry at Farm Restaurant in Bloomington. She also helped develop the menu at Vat and Barrel in downtown Seymour.
Tangman specializes in creating allergy and dietary restriction friendly dishes without sacrificing flavor or proper techniques due to her own experiences with celiac disease. Much of Schwätzer’s food and drink menu is gluten-free.
Schwätzer’s regular lunch menu consists of sandwiches, such as schnitzel, brisket on rye and baguette wurst and soups.
Weekly specials also are available.
“We’re trying to do about three different things each week, a dessert, a soup and an appetizer or main dish,” Solomon said. “So every week when you come in, there will be something different.”
Regular dinner options include an assortment of appetizers, such as pierogi, pretzel bites and German potato pancakes. Main dishes include a wurst platter, sauerbraten brisket, jagerschnitzel and more.
Side items such as pommes frites, sauerkraut, roasted Brussels sprouts, warm German potato salad and kasespatzle are available, and don’t forget to pick up an apple strudel or a black forest brownie.
A kids menu is available, too.
Schwätzer’s also offers a wide assortment of German beer in bottles and on tap as well as wines and digestifs, such as Jägermeister, schnapps and honey liqueur.
Restaurants in Germany focus on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, and Schwätzer’s is planning to do the same.
“German food is all around us. It’s just hard to notice sometimes,” Solomon said. “Take tenderloins. That’s a schnitzel served on a bun.”
What has kept the restaurant going is the support of the community, Solomon said.
“It has been great,” he said. “Despite having limited seating, they are keeping us going to the point of where I thought we would be with full seating.”
To make it more convenient for customers who want carryout and curbside service, the restaurant is launching an online ordering service.
“That should definitely help us out at lunch,” Solomon said.
But inside dining is available, too, and tables are spread out to keep people distanced from others, he said.
“We were still able to make that work,” he said. “In the future, we will be able to seat 50 people, but right now, we are at 38.”
Schwätzer’s is open for lunch from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays and for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. They are not open on Sundays.
Customers will notice right away the large round chandeliers, which are reminiscent of those that hang in the tents during Oktoberfest in Munich. Streamers in the traditional Bavarian colors of white and blue can be seen along with the Bavarian flag on the wall.
Those decorations will change somewhat for the holidays, Solomon said.
“We’re going to add greenery and ornaments to the chandeliers and have candle arches in the windows,” he said.
Another way the Rusts are getting people involved in German traditions is through Schwätzer’s stein club, which allows families to have their own stein and to vote on which beer is on tap.
“It gets families together to talk, get to know each other better and maybe learn a little of their family history,” Solomon said.
He hopes to invite stein club members to Germany when he goes again in 2021 if COVID restrictions are less than they are now.
And he is looking to start a German language learning program through the restaurant to bring people together.
That has been the driving force behind starting Schwätzer’s, he said.
“The whole thing for me is how do I bring the community together, how do we pull together in different ways that really gets us to talk and understand each other and realize that a lot of the differences that people get so caught up on aren’t as big as they might think they are,” he said. “We probably have a lot more in common than they realize, especially for everyone here in Seymour.”
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Schwätzer’s German Restaurant
Owners: Solomon and Randall Rust
Address: 113 Indianapolis Ave. in downtown Seymour
Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; closed on Sundays