50 Years & Counting
Heidelberg Haus Owner Talks History of Indy’s Popular German Cafe & Bakery
Photographer: Michael Durr
For half a century, Indy residents have experienced true German culture thanks to the Heidelberg Haus. From kitschy décor to a mouth-watering menu, the German café and bakery has no shortage of character, which is reflective of its charismatic owner Juergen Jungbauer.
“We are what’s called a destination bakery,” Jungbauer says. “People come from hundreds of miles. They even fly in. It’s just a unique place.”
Located at 7625 Pendleton Pike, Heidelberg Haus is several operations in one. In addition to being a tasty bakery, it offers a humble food menu, complete with items like a German-style bratwurst and a homemade potato salad. While at Heidelberg Haus, customers can also peruse an array of German gifts or shop for authentic German groceries.
Born in Germany, Jungbauer learned how to make pastries between the ages of 14 and 17. As one thing led to the next, he eventually wound up in the U.S., where he would be drafted by the Army and stationed at Fort Harrison in Indianapolis. While in the Army, he was granted the opportunity to show off his pastry-making skills.
“The Army said they wanted nationwide publicity for me, so they wrote me up in Army Times, Navy Times and Air Force Times,” Jungbauer says. “They made me a poster child. They shipped me anywhere I needed to go. If they needed a pastry in Washington for the White House, I would fly there.”
Already with roots in the Indy area because of his time at Fort Harrison, Jungbauer decided to start his own German café on Pendleton Pike in 1968.
“I started in ’68 and was all by myself,” Jungbauer says. “I had no family here until I married in ’72, and then I started my own family.” Since its start, Heidelberg Haus has expanded three times, while making other minor updates here and there. However, Jungbauer admits little has changed over the course of 50 years.
“We have one or two items on the menu [that are different],” Jungbauer says. “I’ve always said I don’t want to be a German restaurant. I want to be a German café, where we have a little something to eat. That’s basically served me well all of these years.”
Inside the Heidelberg Haus, Jungbauer has also assembled a bakery museum, where visitors will find clippings of the press he’s received over the years. “I’ve collected things since I was 14,” he says. “There was a bakery in Miamisburg, Ohio. I took all the bricks and everything apart and rebuilt it over there.”
Although he could probably add more seating in Heidelberg Haus if he decided to remove the museum, Jungbauer chooses to let it be, giving his business even more character.
“Everybody says, ‘Take that down and make more seats,’” he says. “I don’t want to make more seats. We only have about 27 seats. For a restaurant, that’s not enough to sustain yourself. But that’s the way we like it.”
In this same spirit, Jungbauer keeps things kitsch in the Heidelberg Haus interior.
“It’s gaudy,” he says of his business’ décor. “Nothing is supposed to be organized here. Nothing is supposed to sit in a row. In Germany, the German magazines call me the most unique German store in America.”
As one might expect, word of the Heidelberg Haus has spread from coast to coast over the years.
“A couple weeks ago, they had a mayors conference downtown,” Jungbauer says. “A guy called up, and he said, ‘Do you know you cost me $60? My wife said to not come home without bringing her something from the Heidelberg.’ He was a mayor from somewhere in Vermont.”
But whether they’re coming from near or far, Jungbauer appreciates the support from his dedicated clientele all the same.
“It’s our 50th anniversary — that is a long time for a bakery,” he says. “It’s just fun. We love the customers.”
Heidelberg Haus is located at 7625 Pendleton Pike, or you can give them a call at 317-547-1230 and visit them online at heidelberghaus.com.