For a long time, Friedl sang duets with Josef, a ski instructor who played a 12-string guitar. Inscrutable and gruff, Josef seldom smiled but made eye contact with every pretty woman who came through the door. Ruddy, round-faced Friedl is more outgoing. I used to note what this pair drank during an evening and, though it was a prodigious amount from 7pm to sometimes well after midnight, Friedl rarely left the stage for the men's room. And Josef never did – at least while I was keeping score. Josef stopped being there about 12 years ago.
Since, in the way of simple German restaurants, strangers are seated together at the Fraundorfer, one meets people there. A memorable connection happened on our first visit. We were placed with a group of German war widows who, when we sat down, arranged themselves so that the only English-speaker among them, Mathilde, was next to Liz and me. At the end of the evening she invited us to her home in the north, near Hanover. A week later we were sipping wine in the sitting room of Mathilde's well-kept two-story house. On the wall were pictures of four men, all in German military uniform. One or two wore swastika armbands. They were her husband and three brothers, all killed in World War II. That night and the next we slept in a spare bedroom. Each morning Mathilde fed us a gigantic breakfast in her garden and played Beethoven's Pastorale on the stereo. One night, we were invited to the family home of her sister, Erna, for an outdoor barbecue. It was a warm summer evening, with daylight until nearly 11pm. The grilled lamb and pork, the beer, the wine, the schnapps, and the toastings, went deep into the German night.
Mathilde and Erna later came to visit us. It was their first and only trip to the U.S. They stayed three weeks. A few years after that, Erna's daughter lived with us for several months as an au pair and also worked in our business.
Besides memories, music and beer, the Fraundorfer serves good—if not American Heart Association-approved—food. The menu is long, the prices low, the portions generous, and we have seldom been disappointed with any dish. Roast pork with dumplings is about $10, half a roast duck about $15, calves liver Berliner-Art (strips dipped in flour and fried in butter) is $17, and a small mixed salad costs around $3. Half a liter of beer goes for about $3.30.