COLUMN: Carillon Flashback – July 5, 1999 – Edgar’s famous veal cutlet survives restaurant closing
Steinbach diners wanting to sink their teeth into one more plate of Edgar Kehler’s delicately breaded veal cutlets (with his special sweet and sour sauce and a side order of French fries and gravy) will have to trust their luck to being invited to a wedding he is catering or head for the supermarket freezer.
After 40 years of serving up full course dinners from the same location, Edgar and his wife Helen have closed their Steinbach restaurant to the public.
The couple has no intention of retiring just yet and they will not be selling the restaurant right away. In case he changes his mind, Edgar chuckles.
In the meantime, the building next to the Husky station will serve as a base for the Kehlers’ catering business and preparation of packaged veal cutlets for sale in the freezer section of two local grocery stores.
For the past five or six years, the Kehlers have been breading fresh veal cutlets and freezing them in packages of six in the evenings after closing time. The cutlets come ready to pop into the frying pan and are accompanied by a package of sauce, which is set for heating in the microwave.
The frozen entrée has not caught on in a big way in Winnipeg stores, but in Steinbach it has been selling like hot cakes. Edgar’s name may not be that well known farther away, but around Steinbach everyone knows about Edgar’s veal cutlet, always accompanied by French fries with gravy.
Edgar feels the past 40 years in the restaurant business have literally flown by and any thoughts he had of getting out of the business along the way were forgotten almost the minute the idea popped into his head.
When he opened in 1959, the restaurant was little more than a takeout stand, specializing in burgers and hot dogs. A few people could be accommodated at booths and a counter, Edgar recalls. The bulk of his summer business was at the concessions he ran at local events like air shows or the giant dealer-sponsored car auctions that used to be held downtown.
Those auctions were something else, Edgar says, rolling his eyes and looking skyward. Thousands of people came into town and the “Sloppy Joes” disappeared as quickly as he could haul them over from the restaurant, a couple of blocks away.
But Edgar’s best memories are the people he has met over the decades he has been serving full course meals to a growing group of regulars.
There are people who come from Winnipeg regularly to try his Sommerborscht, and Edgar’s Veal Cutlet is as big a hit at the tables in his restaurant as it is at weddings the couple caters.
Over the years, Edgar’s tables have been graced by everyone from the Queen’s guards in 1967 to judges and police officers, and on occasion, prisoners in town for weekly court sessions. More than once, part of the breakfast or lunch crowd needed to manipulate their knives and forks with the handicap of wearing handcuffs, Edgar recalls with a laugh.
Edgar’s Diner was also a place to talk politics, and the local crowd always included someone like Ed R. Penner, who came in every day, including the brief period he was a partner in a less-than-successful downtown café.
Farmers in the area found the restaurant comfortable and relaxing, with the added advantage of it almost being a second office for Reimer Farm Supplies. Gary, Reg, and Ron Reimer would take turns dropping in throughout the day, and usually one of them could be found there.
Sometimes, upon leaving, one of them would run into someone in the parking lot, who wanted to talk to them, and they would turn around and come back in for another cup of coffee.
For Helen and Edgar, it has been a short 40 years and they say regulars at the restaurant have become more like friends dropping in for coffee and a visit, than paying customers.
The Kehlers’ has always been a family restaurant in every sense, with their sons helping out, while attending school and beginning careers of their own.
Many of their regular customers don’t really believe the Kehlers are serious about closing the restaurant for good and expect it will be back open before too long.
“That’s just wishful thinking,” Edgar says.