We had been busy trimming a hedge and pulling some Christmas decorations out of their boxes and missed the normal lunch hour at Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery’s new location. We decided to make it an early dinner, arriving about an hour before the 6 p.m. closing time.
“That seems odd,” my wife, Judy, said. “Unless you are picking up a cake, who is going to be there between 5 and 6 on a Saturday?”
We soon learned who would be there during the last hour — young couples, older couples, families, singles, you name it. A steady stream of customers came through the doors, most ordering coffee and a pastry or dessert. A few, like us, were there for a full meal.
“We never have had a lunch menu before,” said Allison Dickens, who owns the restaurant with husband, Chris, and is a daughter of retired founder Ludger Schulz. “The response has been great. The lunch hour has been really busy during the week.”
Ludger’s offers a deli-style menu with six sandwiches, three wraps, three salads and daily soup specials, all costing less than $10. A wide variety of pastries and desserts, including Ludger’s signature Bavarian cream cheesecake, also are available behind a glass display case.
We ordered the Reuben sandwich ($8.95) with a bowl of the chef’s choice soup, crab corn bisque ($5.50), and a combo half sandwich and salad ($8).
The Reuben included a thick layer of thinly sliced corned beef with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and a Thousand Island-style dressing on toasted marbled rye bread. It was a tasty traditional Reuben. The crab corn bisque didn’t have a lot of corn, which, I think, mattered little one way or the other. It had a mellow crab flavor and a touch of spiciness, and it tasted good on a cold evening.
The half sandwich we chose was the “mature” grilled cheese, with a combination of aged cheddar, smoked Gouda and pepper jack cheeses on toasted sourdough. It wasn’t mentioned on the menu, but a couple of pieces of applewood smoked bacon were in the mix as well. It was hot and cheesy and would have made a natural partner to the soup. The salad was fine, a standard combo of mixed spring greens, tomato, carrots and shredded cheddar cheese.
Among other menu choices were roasted chicken salad sandwich or wrap, Black Forest ham or turkey sandwich or wrap, roasted turkey and bacon sandwich, chef’s salad and pasta salad. Daily soup specials include broccoli cheese, Monday; chicken enchilada, Tuesday; roasted red pepper and Gouda bisque, Wednesday; loaded baked potato, Thursday; lobster bisque, Friday, and chef’s choice, Saturday.
For dessert, we shared a slice of Ludger’s incomparable Bavarian vanilla cream cheesecake ($3.75) with a mousse/cheesecake-like center surrounded by layers of moist white cake. I also couldn’t resist a rich, dark chocolate cupcake ($1.50).
Among other items spotted in the glass display case were many flavors of cupcakes, quiche, muffins, cookies, turnovers, cake balls, breakfast sandwiches and carrot cake.
Ludger’s has a full line of Topeca Coffee drinks, and customers may help themselves to a pitcher of complimentary, strawberry-infused water at the counter.
Customers place their orders at the counter, pick up a flag, and the food is delivered to the tables. Though there is not full table service, the employees were friendly and helpful. The staff includes some talented veterans, such as Laura Dobbs (Amici’s Italian Eatery, Fireside Grill, etc.) and Cindy Keough (with husband, Joe, former co-owners of the drive-thru Wranglers B-B-Q).
“We never had a drive-thru before,” Dickens said. “We just got it opened, and Cindy is going to be a big help with that.”
Nothing about the interior of Ludger’s would suggest it is a former Braums building located just east of Sheridan Road on 91st Street. The room is bright and shiny with lots of wood trim and wood accents, including a large tree branch light fixture that sits over an eight-seat table. The room also includes a mix of high-top tables, four-top regular tables, window counter seats and red-cushioned banquettes.
A gift area includes coffee cups, decorative plates, party supplies and, for now, Christmas tree decorations.
A big part of Ludger’s business always has been special-occasion cakes, and the production facility for the cakes and some other items have been in a building separate from the bakery. The new location is large enough to put the entire business under one roof.
“For the past four years, I have worked by myself at the production facility,” Chris Dickens said. “We had a decorator come in twice a week, but otherwise, it was just me. Now, I’m working with 18 ladies every day. It doesn’t get boring.”
Allison Dickens said longtime customers still are likely to find Ludger Schulz around the premises at certain times of the day.
“He has a routine he goes through every day visiting here and other places,” Dickens said. “He was repairing some concrete in the parking lot just this morning. He still has input in all parts of the business.”