Thanks to the culinary expertise of my Italian wife, I generally prefer eating at home to dining out. Occasionally, however, I do get a yen for some fine sauerbraten or wiener schnitzel. When I do, I seek out the comfort and congeniality of one of my old-time haunts,
With the razing of Throggs Neck Country Club in 1989, this old tavern and restaurant is our last link with the Morris Estate. It was once the coachhouse of the Morris mansion which we later came to know as German Stadium or the Throggs Neck Country Club. The mansion was built circa 1850 and the coachhouse was, no doubt, constructed shortly thereafter.
Charlie's Inn was the dream come true of master chef Karl Fromwalt. He was born in a small Austrian village and left home in the 1890's to travel to Vienna where he was apprenticed to do all the menial jobs required of a young man learning a trade. He learned the basics of Continental cuisine and, as was the custom in his trade, traveled to England to learn English and advance his skills. He soon attained the position of second cook and it was then that his life took a fairy tale turn. He was selected to cook for royalty and it was there that he earned his certificate.
His new credentials and certificate was equivalent to a passport to another world. He took a position as a ship's cook on a passenger-freight line operating between the United Kingdom and Amazon ports in Brazil. By this time, the British and Anglicized his name to Charlie, a cognomen he would forever retain.
Leaving the sea, Charlie worked in Paris adding another dimension to his culinary skills. America, the land of opportunity, however, was calling and he soon left the comforts of Paris and emigrated to New York. He purchased the old coachhouse on Harding Avenue and converted it first to a small grocery store and then to a restaurant. Charlie's Ideal Vienna Restaurant and Beer Garden, patterned after the old time beer halls of Austria, opened on August 10, 1935 and prospered from the start. The Fromwalt's were soon known far and wide for their pleasant resort where Charlie proudly presided over the kitchen.
When Charlie did sell his popular tavern, it was to another Charlie, Charlie Vetter and his partner Ernst Boehmer. They retained the old-world atmosphere. Charlie Fromwalt, however, was still an ever-present fixture and it was while preparing one of his
Charlie's Inn at the bar.
specialities for a special gathering at
Charlie's Inn that he passed away.
Max and Rose Gundloch later became the proprietors and the business eventually passed to John Gallagher who still operates the tavern in the spirit of the Fromwalt's.
I can still close my eyes and hear the music of Frank Miick and the other musicians performing at the Oktoberfest in the outdoor beer garden, an old-world experience still available right here in the Bronx.
Today Irish and Country music can also be heard but the sauerbraten is still the best and the atmosphere is still warm and friendly.
History and nostalgia buffs will enjoy the many old photographs in the tap room. They're sure to bring back many happy memories of the good old days.