Hot Potato Salad from Eibner’s in New Ulm

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Eibner’s in downtown New Ulm, Minnesota, was founded by Willibald Eibner in 1883. Willibald immigrated from Bavaria in 1880 and stayed in New York before moving west. He moved to New Ulm before getting a job managing the Commercial Hotel in St. Peter. He eventually moved back to New Ulm, hoping to open a hotel or restaurant of his own. When the space previously occupied by the Adolph Seiter Delicatessen in the Frank Erd building at 108 North Minnesota Street opened up, he jumped at the chance to establish a successful business there. 

The first few years were rough, but business slowly picked up, and Willibald was able to purchase the Erd Building for $1000 in 1890. By then, he was a newlywed, having married Mary Rosskopf in 1887. Mary was known for being the best dressmaker in town and often played the lead role in “home talent plays” at the Turner Theater. The couple and their children lived on the second floor of the Erd building for many years. 

Willibald ran the restaurant and candy shop’s business, and Mary prepared the meals, often using old family recipes. Eibner’s soon established itself as one of the finest restaurants in Southern Minnesota. 

Although Willibald’s parents had both died by the time he was nine years old, family was all around them in New Ulm. A cousin, Frank Willibald Eibner, operated the Wadeena Bakery at 209 North Minnesota Street until the 1940s. Just down the road, cousin John Dengler began operating a bakery in 1926. John’s grandfather had been the uncle who took in young Willibald after his parents died. 

Baked goods were in the blood of the Eibner relatives, but Willibald didn’t create the baked goodies for Eibner’s. Mary began baking bread and rolls to be used in recipes at the restaurant and sold to customers. She baked everything in her home kitchen until demand for her creations made the bakery’s expansion necessary.

The business had become so successful that by 1899, the restaurant needed to be expanded. Willibald put an addition at the rear of the building. This allowed them to have sections for making their beloved ice cream, a large bakery, candy-making facilities, and a dining room.

When the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad extended the line through New Ulm in the 1890s, all the workers flocked to Eibner’s for their home cooking and bakery. The dining room was filled daily, and a tent was erected in the back of the building to accommodate all the customers.

In their spare time, Willibald and Mary had 10 children. Their oldest son, Alois, often worked at the restaurant with his parents. When he was old enough, the couple planned on turning the business over to Alois to pursue other civic opportunities. Willibald was heavily involved with the catholic church, was a city council member for several years, and was a member of several civic organizations. He was named a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

The large family eventually moved out of the second-floor apartments and turned them into two new dining rooms: the Pioneer Dining Room, which was for small, private dinners, and the Willimare Dining Room, perfect for large dinners and events. 

A fire downtown on January 13, 1936, nearly claimed Eibner’s, but they were thankfully able to save the building. Willibald took the opportunity to modernize the building and update some equipment. A new Moderne style front was added in 1938 using Artstone (the same product used on the Moderne style New Ulm Library).

Eibner’s continued to be a gathering place for local teenagers, visitors to New Ulm, and residents. The restaurant, ice cream, candy, and bakery businesses thrived thanks to a loyal following. Willibald died in 1944, and Mary followed in 1947. Alois ran the business until 1975 when Eibner’s closed. 

A restaurant operated under the same name for a few more years but with a new owner. It wasn’t successful. Haus Messerschmit replaced Eibner’s in 1978. That restaurant, too, closed. 

Hot Potato Salad

Served at Eibner’s in New Ulm, Minnesota.
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 grated onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 strips bacon, fried and cut into cubes
  • 2-3 potatoes cooked, peeled, and sliced
  • chopped parsley to taste

Instructions

  • Heat water, vinegar, sugar, salt, onion, and butter to boiling point.
  • Thicken mixture with cornstarch. Add bacon to sauce.
  • Pour hot sauce over warm potatoes that have been cooked with their jackets on, peeled and sliced. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
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