The New Restaurant on Zeeb Road
Our beautiful Metzger’s Restaurant at Christmas. This was taken at our 85th Anniversary party evening.
In 2000, John and his sister Heidi began to plan Metzger’s return to the Ann Arbor restaurant scene. With urging from former customers, friends, and others, John wanted to re-open the restaurant.
Heidi had little formal involvement with the restaurant at the time but took a leave of absence from her work at the Environmental Institute of Michigan and helped John reopen. Heidi assisted in developing the plans, processes and managing the project, but it was John’s vision, good business sense, and passion for keeping the tradition of Metzger’s German restaurant alive, that made the re-opening a success. Upon opening, John and Heidi had a new partner, Joe Neely. Many employees returned and helped Metzger’s start up and thrive again. Joe is no longer a partner as of 2004, but he remains a true friend. The Ann Arbor community rallied around the reopening, sending scores of encouraging e – mails and letters praising the family’s decision to open.
The new restaurant opened in June 2001 with great success. Past and new customers gathered and enjoyed the food and tranditional ambiance. Much of the saved decorations adorned the new restaurant and customers who bought items at the auction in 1999 returned them – what a delight! Then in September 2001, Metzger’s business was affected by the 911 attacks, as were many local and businesses in the country. People were just not going out to dinner as much – they were very reserved and cautious. Then on top of that, that Fall, the Zeeb Road overpass was closed for a total re-build. Another setback, but Metzger’s survived due to its loyal customers.
Walter and Ruth Metzger still came in frequently to dine and were so proud of John, Heidi, and the staff with the new restaurant. Walter’s favorite foods were of course the German dishes, but he also enjoyed the fresh seafood, steaks, and the chicken entrées. Ruth Metzger passed away in 2010. After her passing, Walter frequented the restaurant more, sharing stories, making new friends, and continuing the tradition of a true family business. Walter passed away in 2014 but restaurant lives on in the next generations and the exceptional staff.
The Fourth Generation and Ready for the Fifth Generation
When the founders of what was to be a multi-generational business passed away, they left behind more than their restaurant. They left behind a growing family of devoted children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and a legacy of German warmth and hospitality. Wilhelm Metzger passed away in 1960. Marie Metzger died peacefully in her sleep, two days after her 77th birthday, in 1970. Ruth and Walter frequented the restaurant often after their retirement enjoying the success of the new location. Ruth passed away in 2010 and then Walter Metzger passed away in 2014.
The Metzger family has grown larger, and most are still in the local area. Fred (Laurie), Susan (Ed), John and Heidi’s (Jim’s) children all worked at the restaurant while growing up. And now the fifth generation, although very young, are being introduced to the restaurant. John’s grandchildren Elias and Daniel help while in town and Jorge and Nico can be seen stocking candy and following John around and handing out menus.
Heidi, who had a hand in the back-office since the new location opened, recently “retired” from her job at Maxar and is back working at the restaurant, as needed. Heidi and her husband Jim, have one son, Mitchell.
Ryan Dunkelberger (fourth generation), Susan and Ed’s son is now the head chef and kitchen manager and will lead the next generation of Metzger’s. Ryan attended Washtenaw Community College for Culinary Arts. Ryan’s hard work ethic, his food quality and presentation expectations of the staff and his creative daily specials have really set the bar high for outstanding entrees. Ryan creates and makes homemade sausages, occasionally smokes meat for specials, and creates the best tasting traditional German food for miles around! Ryan and his wife Kari have one child, Vera, who is already showing interest in food and cooking!
Although the exterior of Metzger’s German Restaurant has changed, the interior maintains the atmosphere of old Germany. Cuckoo clocks and massive beer steins surround patrons. Traditional German carvings and antiques line ornate shelves on the walls. Most of the items were acquired by members of the Metzger’s family, while others were gifts from loyal customers. In addition to German city crests that adorn the perimeter, the walls are full of timeworn photographs of the people and history of the restaurant.
The success Metzger’s can be contributed not only to John and Ryan’s hard work but the tremendous help from extended family and staff. Two employees, Betsey and Charlie have been with Metzger’s for over 40 years. Betsey is currently the operations manager and Charlie is a cook/manager. Amy has been with Metzger’s for over 25 years and is a dining room manager. Stephanie, a manager and host, follows in the footsteps of her parents, Doug (former partner) and Sue. Longtime staff and their children and now even their grandchildren work at Metzger’s making Metzger’s a true family atmosphere.
John, Heidi, Ryan and the Metzger family are very proud to have had the business in Ann Arbor. They thank the community and loyal regulars for the support given over all these years. There were hard times upon the restaurant and family again with the COVID-19 pandemic, but loyal customers and friends rallied to make the curbside and take-out (and groceries) business going enough to keep the doors open. THANK YOU!
For four generations and nearly 95 years, the Metzger family has kept the tradition alive, serving German food as well as American fare to Ann Arbor customers. When you dine at Metzger’s you are participating in a piece of Ann Arbor history.
Gut Trinken Und Essen ‘Tu Nicht Vergessen. Prost!
2013 Staff at Metzger’s. Getting ready for the 85th Anniversary celebration. 85% off dinner!