Dreamland Palace German Restaurant

A real German experience without leaving the Country!

Logo23Some restaurants offer you a great meal, some offer you an authentic dining experience, and some offer you service and personality that can’t be beat. Very few, though, are successful at wrapping those three elements into one venue, and that’s the claim-to-fame (or in native vernacular, Anspruch auf Ruhm) of Foster Pond, Illinois’ Alte Dreamland Palace German Restaurant.

As the logo pictured above spells out, Dreamland Palace also serves American Food, and there’s a menu variety Table settingavailable that can easily satisfy a wide range of dining interests. But no matter what your taste buds are calling for, know that all of the items featured on their extensive menu are the creation of Proprietor Joan Lang, a 26-year veteran of the restaurant business and someone who’s been commanding meal preparation since the age of 10.  Joan and her husband Mike are the owners and operators of this well-known hospitality venue since 1990, and pride themselves on the authenticity of their German dishes. For example, where else can you savor traditional selections like Sauerbraten, or Beef Rouladen, or the true classic Hasenpfeffer? And then there’s Dreamland Palace’s Wurst Platter, also known as “the best of the wurst!” It’s a fact that the old world style of German cooking remains alive in Joan’s kitchen.

Dreamland Palace wasn’t originally a restaurant. It was built in 1875 by German immigrants as a combination general store and drinking establishment, with a separate building constructed as a dance hall in the 1920s and connected to the main building. The facility’s handmade bar was a landmark in the area, with its work-of-art, pegged construction featuring pecan, oak, and cherry wood. The general store was partitioned from the bar initially, but eventually the partition was removed when the store went out of business. The front of the building then became a large, open bar and social gathering place. The facility was an institution in the area for decades, eventually catching the eye of the Langs in 1990 when they were looking to relocate from St. Louis to the Foster Pond area.

“After deciding to buy the building and turn it into a restaurant,” Joan reports, “we realized that we’d have difficulty attracting clientele because of the rural location. We were surrounded by cornfields, and there was essentially only local traffic, but we were determined to make it work.” And here’s where the Langs’ creativity came into play…Joan crafted a five-second television ad that delivered a succinct, attention-getting message: “Don’t just go out to dinner, take a short trip to Germany!” The effect was astonishing, and their business exploded. Now, in addition to a handful of local patrons, about 95% of Dreamland’s business comes from Missouri, and specifically the South County area of St. Louis.

Now halfway through their third decade as proprietors of Dreamland Palace German Restaurant, Joan and Mike areExterior well-seasoned business owners. They came from somewhat unrelated professions—Joan was a professional dog groomer (with 450 clients, so it wasn’t a casual enterprise) and also operated a professional look-alike agency complete with 69 celebrity and politician doubles. Mike was a wedding photographer, so you can see that they were accustomed to the world of customer service, and the skills they learned there have served them well. As Joan points out, “I’ve seen so many businesses come and go in the area, but after 26 years we’re still here, so we must be doing something right.”

It was Mike’s exposure to wedding parties that gave them an idea a few years ago to expand beyond traditional food and beverage to include a niche market—the operation of a banquet hall for small weddings. “The large facilities aren’t interested in the 100- to 125-person groups,” Joan notes, “and our banquet hall is ideal for that size. So we now handle small weddings, wedding anniversaries, vow renewals, and the like, and we provide a setting that is comfortable and easy for our clients to manage.” Their banquet room is perfect for these types of occasions, and it’s resulted in a tremendous addition to their client base. Their property also features a small wedding chapel, so they’re set to be a full-service operation!

Banquet roomRunning a full-scale restaurant operation like Dreamland Palace is not an easy task, but the many “Favorite Restaurant” competition awards that line their walls are evidence that Joan and Mike have mastered it. And their side dish of potato pancakes has been lauded by critics as “The best on both sides of the Mississippi River!”

Joan notes that the biggest challenge they face is to maintain consistent operations with a lean staff—they employ two full-time and two part-time people in the kitchen and four regular full-time servers on the restaurant floor. The real test is to manage the staffing fluctuations when temporary help is needed for banquets, weddings, and private parties. “But we manage,” Joan reports.

Joan’s other challenge is to keep the creativity bar high on her menu offerings, and judging by the thousands of Facebook likes and the comments like “I just love this restaurant,” “If you want a genuine old country experience, this is the place,” and “Please don’t change anything…we love everything,” it seems she’s doing just that.

And if you’d like to read more of the history associated with Alte Dreamland Palace German Restaurant, check out their website’s “About Us” page…you’ll find a complete recap of the original building construction in 1875 and its journey into this century. It’s a good read!

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