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Wilkommen to the Rathskellar

Photo by Adam Goings
During the last 15 years, the Hazel River Inn has established itself as one of the Piedmont's premier food establishments.

Twelve years ago, owner and chef Peter Stogbuchner and his wife Karen created The Pub, located in the restaurant's cellar which fostered a loyal fan base feasting on tasty sandwiches and a good selection of beers plus occasional bands.

Two years ago, the Stogbuchner's opened The Chef's Table housed in their bed and breakfast location on Eggbornsville Road. Focused on an intimate dining experience, the menu is one of the chef's choosing. Seating is limited.

Now comes The Rathskeller featuring German Comfort Cuisine which will replace The Pub.

It's a rainy morning in Culpeper but no dampened spirits are inside the Hazel River Inn restaurant. It's still early and a cup of coffee at the bar partnered with stimulating conversation is the perfect start.

At 62, Chef Peter Stogbuchner is ever effervescent and energetic as he talks about his latest venture, the opening of The Rathskeller.

“It's a perfect fit for me,” says Stogbuchner whose mother was from Munich and his father from Saltzburg. “It's my cup of tea.”

For Stogbuchner, cooking German food is more than a return to his roots, it's offering the community what he's calling 'German Comfort Cuisine' and he's optimistic that it will fill a void in Culpeper's food offerings.

“We've got French, Italian, Oriental, New American, Mexican...but no German only restaurant,” said Stogbuchner who notes that a good selection of German beers and wines will be offered as well as after-dinner brandies and schnapps. Partnering with Old House Vineyards, The Rathskeller will feature one of their white wines on the menu.

Stogbuchner laughs.

“The Germans don't make good red wine, it has to be a white.”

As for décor, Stogbuchner is thinking pre-World War II Germany, with a sort of 1920s-1930s retro theme. For now, he's keeping the cellar's stone floors but cozy red booths brighten the area as well as posters of Marlene Dietrich and Mercedes Benz autos.

A collection of beer steins is planned to grace the mantle and for authenticity, part of history cannot be left out.

During the Civil War, the cellar was used as a jail housing Union and Confederate soldiers in Culpeper. You'll see some of the old bars and chains...and if you're at all into ghosts...you may see some of those as well.

Several paranormal groups have visited the Hazel River Inn noting the presence of spirits...none of them too nasty. For Stogbuchner, he is not a believer but he doesn't discount the reports of his wife and several of the staff of strange sights and sounds.

The Rathskeller is a leap of faith in some ways for the Stogbuchners. It will require creativity in the kitchen to prepare for two compelling menus. Customers will continue to enjoy the menu at The Hazel River Inn or can venture downstairs to The Rathskeller for a taste of German cuisine.

While the menu selections for The Rathskeller are varied and enticing, save room for dessert.

“I'm thinking, of course, apple strudel and cherry crepes...and you have to have a chocolate offering..so German Chocolate Cake and/or a chocolate torte,” says a beaming Stogbuchner, “and probably a traditional Austrian dessert...a Linzer torte.”

Linzer tortes feature a nutty dough filled with preserves finished with a lattice top.

As far as The Chef's Table, it will also continue but on a more limited basis.

“We'll probably keep that to reservations of 6-8 and for special occasions,” said Stogbuchner who is often at one place while his wife Karen is at the other. That's the nature of the restaurant business but Stogbuchner couldn't be happier.

Stogbuchner sees The Rathskeller as an earthy, comfortable and friendly place to gather for a good German meal.

“I don't want it to be too formal...it's casual...just come and enjoy.”

The Rathskeller is open now.


Some menu samples from the Rathskeller

Nurnberger Bratwurst
Pan fried Nurnburg brats with sauerkraut, mustard and fresh grated horse radish

Rathskellers Vorspeisen Turm
A sampler tower of German delicacies...house smoked salmon, duck, bratwurst, and shrimp...enough to share

Hausegeraucherte Kasseler Mit Apfel Sauerkraut
House smoked, boneless pork rack, slowed cooked with apple sauerkraut and fresh grated horse radish

Frankfurter Sauerbraten
Slow cooked, marinated sirloin of beef, cooked with red wine, raisins and root vegetables and served with traditional red cabbage

Info Box
The Rathskeller
(located in the cellar of the Hazel River Inn Restaurant)
195 East Davis Street

Restaurant Hours

Monday 11:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Tuesday - Closed
Wednesday - Closed
Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Friday 11:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Saturday 12:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Sunday 12:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m.
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