Operated by brothers Maxwell and Roman Gruber from 1947 to 1961, Gruber’s Restaurant was one of the east side’s most popular dining establishments, as well as an ad-hoc social center for the affluent community of Shaker Heights. The pricey jacket-and-tie eatery encapsulated the conservatism and refinement of 1950s high society and was renowned as a gathering place for celebrities and Cleveland’s elite.
Yet Shaker Heights was hardly the restaurant’s first location. German immigrant Max Gruber Sr. (Maxwell and Roman’s father, 1878-1947) opened Gruber’s in 1907 at Columbus Rd. and Willey Ave. and moved shortly thereafter to West 25th St. and Clark Ave. In 1912 Gruber’s relocated again, this time to the Columbia Building at 102 Prospect Ave. The restaurant closed during Prohibition but reopened in 1932 in the Arcade. That stint lasted 15 years until Gruber’s final move: On April 14, 1947, Max, Jr., and Roman reopened on Van Aken (then Moreland) Blvd. in what would become the Van Aken Shopping Center in 1953.
Although Gruber’s had long been popular, it flourished in Shaker Heights. For 12 years, the brothers catered to what became known as the Jolly Set: a “cafe society” group of highbrows, sports figures and journalists committed to comradery, revelry and the periodic organization of philanthropic events. Gruber’s also was celebrated for culinary offerings ranging from sparkler-laden birthday cakes to frogs' legs, sauerkraut balls and meat served on flaming swords.
By the time the brothers' sold out to the Fred Harvey Company in 1961, the Gruber’s reservation list totaled some 25,000 names and the establishment was generating more than one million dollars annually. But following the sale the social hot-spot quickly declined in popularity and closed in 1964.