Many Catonsville residents enjoy visiting Duesenberg's American Cafe and Grill for the Mellor Avenue restaurant's classic breakfasts or build-your-own burger bar at lunch.
But for four nights each week, the restaurant known for its American cuisine transforms its menu to serve only traditional German dinner.
"In the evening, it's mine," said Christine Seiler, the 55-year-old German chef who manages the weeknight German dinners.
The menu features classic German entrees such as goulash, sour beef, wiener schnitzel and bratwurst.
Seiler said she keeps her menu relatively small since she is only open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. but everything on it is traditional German food.
"Everything is made from scratch," she said. "I don't open a package, a can, nothing."
"I taught myself to cook low fat and healthy, not that greasy," she said.
Seiler, fondly known to her employees and customers as "Christa," has 30 years of experience working as a chef in a hotel in Germany and later with a catering business in Baltimore after she moved to the United States in 2008.
Several years after her arrival in America, she decided to leave the catering business.
"I had to make a decision in 2011 with my husband (Dihmar). Do we go back to Germany? Do I have to find something (on my own)?" she said.
"I love to cook. I wanted to have my own restaurant, my own life," she said.
Seiler said the German dinner nights started with her cakes and pastries.
"I sold my cakes to Gary (Teegardin)," Seiler said of the owner of Duesenberg's. "I was thinking, he closes at 3 (p.m.), can I serve German dinner?"
And so, just under two years ago, she sat down with Teegardin and worked out the details.
"I settled everything up in four weeks," said Seiler, a Catonsville resident. "I have my own employees, my own silverware. Under one roof, you have two restaurants."
"The owner, he's the best guy ever," Seiler said. "We work so perfectly together."
She hosted the first German dinner on Sept. 26, 2011, and business has been good ever since.
Noreen Hamner is among the endeavor's loyal regulars.
"If I'm only going to choose one meal (to eat out), I'm going to choose this," Hamner said. "The salads and the goulash are my favorites."
Hamner, a former Catonsville resident who now lives in Linthicum Heights, said her husband heard whispers of a new German restaurant one day at the Catonsville YMCA, shortly after Seiler began her business.
Now, she frequents the German dinners, drawn by Seiler's unique approach.
"This is all homemade, made with love and care, it's special food," she said. "You go to a franchise and it's all pre-portioned food."
Last week, she was joined by three of her girlfriends, two of whom had never been before, for Thursday evening meal.
Sallie Taylor, an Eldersburg resident, was back for her second visit to the German night at Duesenberg's.
"I haven't been particularly fond of German food, but I like it here," Taylor said. "It's so good, it's so fresh."
Hamner's friends Ellen Sauerbrey of Sweet Air and Dee Hodges of Cub Hill were also with her last week, trying German dinner for the first time.
"She's a good salesman for the restaurant," Sauerbrey said of Hamner. "Of course she knows I'm German."
She tried the salmon casserole and found it to be "very good and very different. I've never had anything quite like that."
Sauerbrey, a former member of the House of Delegates who ran for governor against Democrat Parris Glendening in 1994 and 1998, now lives in northern Baltimore County.
During the course of her meal, she discovered she had an interesting connection with Seiler. Seiler grew up in a German village just down the road from where Sauerbrey's mother-in-law grew up.
"The owner is from, like she said, five minutes away from where my mother-in-law is from," she said. "I have to bring my husband back."
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