It’s a family affair at Kalmes Restaurant in St. Donatus, Iowa.
That’s where Jodi Hingtgen represents five generations of the Kalmes family.
“My son helps with the catering,” she said. “My daughter likes to help bus dishes.”
She’s cooking lunch for dozens of guests.
“It’s very friendly, and it’s family oriented,” she said.
Just hours later, they’ll serve more than 300 meals.
“I got a piece of fish with fries,” said customer Jane Weber.
“I come down to have their cheeseburger a lot,” said customer Mike McCoy.
“Prime Rib is excellent,” added Jean Sieverding.
That’s enough meals to nearly triple the population of St. Donatus. It’s a little bit of Luxembourg they called home for more than 150 years in this Jackson County community.
Most days, you’ll find Jodi’s dad, Windy Kalmes, helping customers.
Helen Kalmes is his wife of 56 years.
“We’ve worked together every day,” Windy said. “And we still talk to each other.”
Helen is busy making soup while Windy points out a photo of him as a tot. He’s posing inside the business started by his great-grandfather.
“Right there, I sit,” Windy said.
Still going strong at 80, Windy is hailed as a Champion by the Iowa Restaurant Association.
“I just enjoy people, visiting with them and talking to them,” he said.
That old world charm is everywhere you look. Family tradition that’s building on history and continuing into the future.
“Makes you feel wanted and at home,” said Weber. “They just want to go out of their way to do something for you.”
Customers come from far and wide to sample the favorites. It’s really a place where everybody is family.
“It’s really nice,” said Sieverding, one of Windy’s nieces. “Small town — that’s what it’s all about.”
From a busy kitchen to a bustling restaurant, lunch rush adds up to good food and conversation. A recipe for success that resonates with regulars and visitors alike.
“Reminds you of old times,” said McCoy.
“Good down home cooking at a reasonable price,” Sieverding said. “It’s very good.”
It’s hard enough to find a mom and pop place these days. It’s even more remarkable to find one that employs nearly the whole family. That’s part of its charm.
“A lot of dedication,” Hingtgen concluded. “Always trying to keep our customers satisfied and happy.”
Plate after plate, a family tradition that’s still going strong at Kalmes Restaurant.
The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and it’s open 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours are 7 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.