Grill 212 in New Prague, MN

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

Editor’s Note: Grill 212 is now closed.

When Chef John Schumacher and his wife Kathleen decided to close Schumacher’s Restaurant and Hotel in 2005, their decision was greeted with a flurry of responses. Both New Prague locals and city residents — who often made the trek down to the central European-focused restaurant — quickly scheduled their last reservations. According to the website, Schumacher’s received a staggering 25,000 phone calls during their last 83 days of business. The people had spoken. They didn’t want to see an end to the 30-year run of the fine-dining institution, beloved by Minnesotans (with its large population of Nordic and German descendants) for its game-focused meat selection, red cabbage, and schnitzels.

Alyssa Vance / Heavy TableYears passed, and after a few failed attempts by the Schumachers to sell the building, the doors remained closed. They began to consider the inability to sell as a sign. “We thought, maybe we’re still supposed to be doing this. It might be meant to be,” says Kathleen. After 2 ½ years of figuring out the financing, Schumacher’s officially reopened in October 2009 — on the very same date John and Kathleen opened the original restaurant and hotel back in 1974. The hotel name remains the same, but the restaurant is now called Grill 212.

Today’s menu is both the same and different than the original. “We wanted to adapt to today’s time and economy,” says Kathleen. “We also wanted to keep the old flavors.” The old Schumacher’s was meant to be a special occasion dining experience with three-hour dinners, an extensive European wine list, and menu items teetering on the pricey side. Grill 212 is a more casual reinvention, less central European-focused and more affordable. The menu showcases a marriage between old and new – one will find a classic cheeseburger next to slow roasted Czech duck (an old favorite), as well appetizers ranging from an oversized shrimp cocktail to pheasant bundles.

From the appetizer side, the Mushrooms Kathleen, mushrooms stuffed with scallops and drizzled with bacon shallot garlic butter, are served with tiny wedges of rye toast — perfect for mopping up any remaining butter that might exist after the mushrooms are long gone. They’re a hearty beginning to a meal, no skimping on scallop size here. The sampler platter would provide a newbie with a nice introduction to the traditional Schumacher flavor profile. It’s a traditional platter of pheasant, Czech, and NP Banger sausages, chicken pate, Russian egg, pickled cucumber, and blue cheese-stuffed peppers. Oh, and it’s also accompanied by rye toast.

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

All entrees include two sides, with options ranging from fried dumplings and gravy, to tater tots, to stuffing with gravy. Sandwiches (among them the familiar Reuben and Rachel) include the choice of one side. As far as entrees go, the slow-roasted Czech duck has skin so crispy it’s almost like you’re snacking on potato chips – but the kind that instantly melt in your mouth. It’s served with a side of cranberry dressing with citrus zest. The roasted goose is braised in onions and topped with cranberry glaze — worth a try even if you’re not prone to ordering game. John certainly knows how to diminish the tough, gamey tastes one might associate with goose, pheasant, or elk, and how highlight their flavors in a gourmet way. If you stick to the European menu offerings, the tastes are almost as if you were a guest at a German grandmother’s house, filling, flavorful, and focused on meat and potatoes. But the option remains to have a meal free from European fare with the help of simple dishes like a Cobb salad, a BLT, or a pint of onion rings.

The wine list is much simpler than it used to be, and less focused on European vintages. It’s one page long and has about a dozen options, from South American to American varietals. The beer selection ranges from well-known national brands to regional craft beers. But if you want a German dunkelsbier, that’s certainly an option too.

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

The restaurant itself looks entirely different. Gone is the distinct old-world charm and gift shop filled with nutcrackers and other Nordic merchandise. There is a casual dining area in the front that looks right onto Main Street, and the more formal ambiance of the previous main dining room has been replaced with simple wooden chairs, sky blue tablecloths (spread on the old State Fair tables), and a chocolate brown ceiling. A long blue table with a massive flower arrangement sits in the middle of the room. The aesthetic of the restaurant, and the hotel, is definitely contemporary, with touches of European charm – such as the painted flowers accompanied by their “auf Deutsch” names that line the staircase leading up to the suites. The rooms are named after months, again, in German tongue.

Reopening has helped to simplify life for John and Kathleen. Even with the four-year closing, the couple always remained busy. Together with his wife, John has released eight cookbooks and a product line of dry mixes called Game Gourmet, run a successful stand at the State Fair (specializing in Reubens, Rachels, pork chops-on-a-stick, and the likes), contributed to several cooking DVDs, and been a consistent culinary figure in the local media. But they’ve made some significant lifestyle changes, selling their spot at the Fair and taking a break from the other extra-curricular activities. Right now the focus is entirely on the restaurant.

A self-described sufferer of attention deficit disorder, John seems relieved to be settling into a simplified and more structured schedule.  He’s back in the kitchen, behind the line every day, and loving it. “We’ve had such a homecoming and warm welcome,” says Kathleen. “It’s funny. We didn’t think anyone would want to hire us at this point. So we had to go and hire ourselves.”

Grill 212

Rating: ★★½☆ (Good)

212 W Main St
New Prague, MN 56071
952.758.2133
OWNER / CHEF:
John and Kathleen Schumacher / John Schumacher
HOURS:

Open Daily at 5pm
BAR:
Full
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED:
Yes / Yes for Weekends
ENTREE RANGE:
$9-22

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

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12 Comments

  1. Teresa M 01/22/2010 Reply

    Thanks for the review! It’s wonderful to see John and Kathleen back at the helm. Chef John is an amazing person, with genuine spunk and a taste sense that is spectacular. I can’t wait to make the trip down to New Prague to try the new incarnation. Best of luck to them; they deserve it.

  2. Hank and Barb Huebner 02/06/2010 Reply

    We are so glad to hear you are back in business…we spent so many of our anniversary’s st your hotel. We hope you have the best of luck…some day we would love to come and see both of you.
    Best of Luck to you
    and all of our Love
    Hank and Barb Huebner

  3. Rebecca Buchanan 03/31/2010 Reply

    Glad to hear of your reopening of the hotel and restaurant! Hope you and Kathleen are well.

    Rebecca

  4. Just went there for dinner last week! I had the shrimp, roasted carrots, and “something green”. It was delicious as usual. My son and daughter like having their grilled chesse sandwiches and cheeseburgers! We will definitely be back there soon.

  5. Every time I go to Grill 212 I have a dilema on my hands… What should I order… My two favorites so far are the Hotel Burger and the Elk Sandwich. I also recommend staying in one of the hotel suits. The rooms are beautiful and the beds are amazing. The only thing that was frustrating was the fact that we had to go home the next day. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have experienced Schumacher’s before they closed, but I am very happy we discovered them when they re-opened.

  6. heard so many great things about this place, and i have to say that after eating there i am completely confused by the recommendations. the service was in line with a perkin’s or denny’s (low class, mediocre and completely indifferent), the food (other than price) was similar to a lower class restaurant as well. my steak was way overdone and cold – the mushrooms kathleen? stone cold! (really, is the scallop supposed to be icy? – and could we turn on some lights? i could barely read the menu. i can’t even begin to say how disappointed i was – i will not go back!

  7. Donna,

    We, the staff and I, are truly sorry we let you down. Unfortunately in business sometimes the stars seem to line up incorrectly at the same time. As hard as we try, we know it happens. Please accept my invitation to return as our guest to experience the Schumachers you have heard about.

    Respectfully,

    Chef John Schumacher

  8. jim matson 11/25/2010 Reply

    We were so looking forward to returning to Schumacher’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I should have realized what we were in for when I ordered a Canadian Whiskey Manhatten at the bar during our short wait – and was served something that had a thimble of whiskey with some kind of funny, frizzy orange drink (perhaps the bartender’s version of a Old Fashioned). Then we were seated and ordered…more than an hour later I was able to get the waitress’s attention, asked about the hour + wait. She shrugged and said “some kind of problem in the kitchen”…completely uncaring and indifferent. Big disappointment. The food was wonderful.

  9. Dear Mr. Jim,

    I just was given a heads up on your troubles at our restaurant on Thanksgiving – you are correct, it took far too long for your dinners. Here is the true story. I remember your table well, as you were with several other tables caught in one of those strange things that happen. As Thanksgiving is an extraordinarily busy day, I put an extra portable steam table on our serving line and mistakenly plugged it in to the circuit with our printer. All went well for the first couple of hours, then the steam table overloaded the circuit and our GFI switch popped. Unbeknownst to me, it also shut off our printer and there’s where our problem was created. I also thought, it being mid-afternoon, not getting tickets for 10-15 minutes didn’t seem strange as often the dining room turns at that time of the day. All of a sudden, to my horror, waitresses started calling to pick up their food that hadn’t been printed. I am truly sorry for your food delay. That’s what happened. Just goes to show no matter how long you’re in the business you sometimes don’t get it right.

    Chef John Schumacher

  10. jerry ferris 12/20/2012 Reply

    How can I reach John and/or Kathleen and/or J.C.??? One source said they are now in Stratford, Conn,

  11. John delozier 10/16/2013 Reply

    I’m trying to get on touch with chef John schumacher. I need a recipe for a game dish I saw in a video. The dish was “rum runners roast” I made it several times with rave reviews by my friends, but lost the recipe! Any assistance in trying to get in touch with him would be greatly appreciated. The vid was produced by mark and terry drury. My email is “mooser60@yahoo.com” thanks, John.

  12. LeeAnn Boemer 09/15/2014 Reply

    Do you have the space and capablilty to do a groom’s dinner in September of 2015? Is there a separate area for privacy and intamcy of the event?

    would ther be a minimum amount we would have to spend?

    Could we comr and take a tour of the facility and ask questions?

    Thanks much!

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