Greenville’s culinary scene has gained widespread acclaim over more than a decade, and much of the attention has been on downtown eateries. Many locals, however, are familiar with the outstanding Latino fusion cuisine at Gina Petti and Roberto Cortez’s Asada Restaurant on Wade Hampton Boulevard. The karaage chicken taco, churrasco steak, and guava and cheese empanadas are my personal favorites, but I’m continuing to work my way through their menu with each visit. The authentic flavors in dishes here are some that you can’t experience anywhere else in town. Asada continues a long tradition of great ethnic food in the building that Haus Edelweiss started in 1986.
Margie Emich and Irmgard Looser started their first Haus Edelweiss location at 44 E. Stone Ave. in 1979, selling Bavarian gifts and running a small deli with meats, salads and other items. After Irmgard sold her interest to Margie, Haus Edelweiss moved into its Wade Hampton location in 1986. Seating expanded to twenty-two seats, large photos of the Austrian Alps covered the walls and warm wood paneling contributed to a mountain lodge feel. True to its roots, the restaurant also featured a deli and small grocery. A much larger selection of German foods appeared where customers could buy cold cuts or build a custom sandwich from a variety of forty-five meats. Instead of two kinds of liverwurst, they now had eight. The sausage selection grew to nine different types, while tasty favorites like cheeses, smoked meats, goulash, Reuben sandwiches, salmon and herring made it difficult for guests to keep from ordering one of everything. Perhaps the most talked-about and craved item on the menu was Margie’s homemade potato salad. Homemade dessert selections rotated daily and could include puff pastries, Frankfurter Kranz, apple cheesecake, apple streusel, apple strudel, Black Forest cherry torte and crumb cake. Early on, Emich thought that the distinct German flavors might be a difficult sell to southerners used to meat-and-threes, grits, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken and collards. However, the concept continued to be widely embraced not only by expat Europeans but also by native Greenvillians.
Margie was the primary cook but was always available to greet both new guests and regular customers. The hospitality she provided and the relationships she formed with patrons helped keep the restaurant busy and thriving. In 1994, BMW’s only North American automobile production facility opened in the Upstate and many new German residents loved to have an authentic taste of Bavaria at Haus Edelweiss.
Margie decided to retire in 2004 and sold the Wade Hampton location to Beck Brissey, who ran it for four years before selling it to Fred and Carol Boerin. Haus Edelweiss reopened in 2011 to the celebration of many. According to Carol, Margie was still in town and agreed to spend more than a year training Carol how to make her authentic dishes. The Boerins bought all her recipes and took the menu back to nearly its original form. Carol and other female workers donned the German dirndls while Fred sported lederhosen. Tragically, Fred passed away of cancer less than a year after opening. Despite her devastation, Carol continued to serve her supportive and grateful customers for several more years. Her daughter, Sara, was a huge help and also learned how to cook many of the dishes. The kitchen manager, Catherine Kilpatrick, was another special help and friend to Carol and her mission to serve the community with consistency and dedication.
After four great years of carrying the torch, Carol reluctantly retired from the restaurant business, opening the door for Asada to settle into a brick and mortar restaurant in 2015 after starting out in the Asada food truck (affectionately called, “Lola”), then working for more than a year in the Village of West Greenville’s Mac Arnold’s Plate Full of Blues. I’m thankful that this Wade Hampton location continues to provide our city with a great ethnic culinary experience
John M. Nolan is owner of Greenville History Tours (greenvillehistorytours.com) and author of “A Guide to Historic Greenville, SC” and “Lost Restaurants of Greenville, SC.”