Authentic German Cuisine Served in Newport Neighborhood
Within the past decade a family moved to Newport from Frankfurt - no, not Frankfort - but the German city, with the idea of starting a cafe.
Elena Williams was first to move to Newport and when she had her son, her mother, father, and sister followed her across the Atlantic. Before the parents' arrival, however, Elena missed the neighborhood cafes of her home country and had notions of starting her own.
“I moved here about 11 years ago and at one point I really missed the coffee house, coffee and cakes, I just really missed it,” she said about her early years in Newport. “It was hard for me to find here and one day I was talking on the phone with my mom and I was telling her that I missed it and she said that one of these days we will have a cafe. Then, two or three years ago, she said 'Should we do the cafe?' and I said 'Sure, why not?' So that is how it came along.”
Fast forward to December of 2013 when Elena bought a property at Overton and Sixth Streets and began renovating what would soon become Katharina's Cafe.
“We did all the renovations. The main floor of the cafe was there. We painted everything new, we added a new bar. We put a new countertop in. We extended the kitchen. We just gave it a little facelift,” she said.
The renovations were done by Williams and her family and took about four months to complete. When they were finished, it was time to see how well Newport would embrace a traditional German cafe.
“We did it piece by piece and we opened in March (of 2014). There is a lot of sweat and blood in here, that's for sure.”
Once open, Katharina's was only staffed with family which limited their business hours to breakfast and lunch five days a week and dinners on the weekends. Only recently has Williams been able to add three additional employees. Because of the additions, dinners on Thursday nights have become an option.
“We're just starting to hire people and we have a good enough core to consider adding Thursday for dinners, but not the whole week,” she said, needing a day off from time to time.
Elena and her family have been impressed with Newport and its people. She said that her business has already attracted a strong group of regulars that have become some of her favorite faces.
“Newport is great, we love it. We are residents here anyway,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like a big neighborhood. It's fun having friends come by, they're very supportive. In fact I just heard a story from some people that are very happy that we are here.”
The menu items at Katharina's is traditional German cuisine with German cakes and pastries and locally roasted coffee, but it does not necessarily reflect Frankfurt culture.
“We have a full traditional German breakfast menu with meats, butter, and cheeses, and breads and we have some sandwiches like the chicken salad that we make in house, we have soups that we offer for lunch. We have some traditional German dishes, and we also have some good pasta dishes,” said Elena. “We aren't always the traditional German place. We are from the northwest in Germany but we do the southern part of it with a heavy Mediterranean influence, so we have a Greek salad on the menu, arugula and spinach salad, and we're going to introduce some flat-breads for dinner time, which are not traditional German but they're just kind of fun in the summer time.”
She said that the cafe has attracted many Germans who live locally, along with other Europeans who live close enough to visit on a regular basis.
“Everybody knows there is a big German community around here, but I had no idea; it's giant. It's amazing and fun,” she said. “Also we have people coming from Dayton, Ohio, Lexington, Louisville, they're all over. I have someone from the south that drives two and a half hours to come here and say hi and have dinner. It's a day-trip and then they go back home. We get a couple of Polish people and a lot of Russians. A lot of British people, too. Their breakfast is very similar to ours as well.”
Breakfast usually consists of a roll of whole wheat rye bread that they bake in-house and then lots of lunch cuts of meats and cheeses with potato salad and egg salad. They also feature a smoked salmon breakfast with scrambled eggs.
No matter what nationality the customers are, though, Elena and her family grow attached to their regulars to the point where they have become her favorite part of running the cafe.
“Once the doors open, and customers come in and you see your regulars and interact with them, that is easily my favorite part of owning the cafe. It doesn't matter that you have run a couple of miles back and forth on the job and it's been a long day, it is still so much fun.”
Katharina's stays open year-round, but when the weather begins to warm, Elena sees some of her regulars that had been absent from the snowier months.
“We start missing them when they don't come. You get so used to them. The wintry days were pretty rough because some of the people just stayed home. They aren't just from the neighborhood, they come from out of town and with the roads being so bad, they just stayed. A handful came into today and I asked them where they had been and that I had missed them and they say, 'Well you know, the weather,' but even though it's only been a week, you get attached to them and it feels like a while.”
Story & photos by Bryan Burke, associate editor