There’s more to German food than bratwurst and sauerkraut.

Germany has a long history and a rich tradition of food stretching back longer than the U.S. has even existed, so it makes sense that the country has more to offer than two things. Getting those items, however, can be a challenge in Maine, where restaurants serving German food are few.

Richard’s Restaurant in Brunswick has been a mainstay of German cuisine for 30 years, serving everything from Jagerschnitzel (pounded pork tenderloin in a mushroom-herb sauce) to Weinbergschnecken (snails with garlic herb butter over puff pastry). They strive to showcase the breadth of German cuisine, showing that it’s not all heavy, dense meals.

“You can get light and dainty in German, too,” said Wil Gnauck, who manages the restaurant and serves as the head chef.

The restaurant was started by his father, Richard Gnauck, who was born in Mannheim, Germany. Richard got his start cooking in Germany as a young man. He honed his skill in hotels and restaurants in various cities, such as Berlin and Stuttgart.

Eventually, he saw an opportunity for a job in the U.S. under a fellow German chef, who sponsored him and got him the necessary credentials to emigrate here.

“He was a significant figure in my life to sponsor me and bring me over here,” he said. He later met his wife, Doris, who hails from Brunswick.

Before Richard opened the restaurant, he worked at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, when the building was a restaurant, making mostly French cuisine with only occasional German offerings. In 1988, he decided to start his own establishment, first in Harpswell, then in Brunswick, where the restaurant still runs to this day.

In more recent years, Wil has taken over managing the business for his father. While Richard is still a presence at the restaurant, Wil manages the day-to-day.

Richard Gnauck has given responsibility of the restaurant to Wil Gnauck, his son, but still maintains a presence. Staff photo by Chris Chase

The secret to the longevity of the restaurant, said Wil, is their constant attention to detail and offering food you just can’t get anywhere else.

“The menu offers a variety of entrées not available elsewhere in our service area, complimented by beer and wine from Germany, a fresh salad bar, and homemade rolls and desserts,” said Wil. “We strive to prepare good food at reasonable prices with fresh products, using traditional recipes from Germany and New England.”

Freshly made sausage is one of the many specialties that set Richard’s apart. Staff photo by Chris Chase

The restaurant also features regular daily specials. Some will be more familiar, like Prime Rib with an au jus. Others, like the Rindsrouladen (thin sliced beef rolled with onions, bacon, mustard, and pickles all braised in a brown sauce) hark back to more traditional German dishes.

Their staff is loyal, too. Tina Lichtenberg has worked with Richard for longer than the restaurant has existed, coming over from the Stowe House.

“I left for a year and a half,” she said, but eventually came back to Richards. “It’s family, both the staff and our customers.”

German food, of course, can’t be enjoyed in quite the same way without German beer. Richard’s always has a supply of imported German beer, which pairs well with the dishes offered. Beers like Spaten Munchen’s Lager and Optimator, Warsteiner Dunkel, Franziskaner Hefe Weizen, and more are available alongside a rotating tap of seasonal beers.

German food can’t be enjoyed to the same degree without German beer. Staff photo by Chris Chase

While the theme and the food definitely has a German slant, that’s not the only thing offered. They have plenty of American favorites, too, including familiar chicken and fish dishes.

“I’ve been told we have the best steak in town,” said Lichtenberg.

For Richard, the struggle is always making people realize that German food has a huge variety of flavors, and that trying something unfamiliar might result in finding a new favorite dish.
“People just don’t know German food. They know Italian, and they know Chinese, but they often don’t understand German,” he said.

Richards is located at 115 Maine St. Hours are split between lunch and dinner, with lunch running 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Dinner runs 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant will be close Feb. 25 and reopen on March 12.

For more information, visit richardsgermanamericancuisine.com.