Gruber's Restauraunt

Operated by brothers Maxwell and Roman Gruber between 1947 and 1959, Gruber's Restaurant was one of the most popular establishment for fine dining in Northeast Ohio and acted as a social center for the affluent residential community of Shaker Heights. The jacket-and-tie establishment encapsulated the conservatism and refinement of 1950s' high society, and was renowned as a gathering place for the region's social elite.

Located in what would become the Southwest quadrant of the upscale Van Aken Shopping Center, staples of the elegant and pricey restaurant included birthday cakes adorned with sparklers, and meats served on flaming swords. The swanky establishment attracted a mix of Shaker and Cleveland residents, including businessmen, celebrities, athletes, lawyers, and writers.

At the time of the Gruber brothers' retirement from their stint as restaurateurs in 1959, the reservation list included over 25,000 names and the establishment was bringing in over one million dollars in business annually. Following the sale of the restaurant to the Fred Harvey Company, the social hot-spot quickly declined in popularity. Gruber's closed its doors in 1964.

Images

Gruber's Entrance

Gruber's Entrance

Gruber's Restaurant was initially opened by prominent lawyers Maxwell and Roman for their retired father, Maximilian Gruber. Maximilian had owned and operated a series of German restaurant of the same name in multiple downtown Cleveland locations, the last being in the Arcade. The restaurateur died within a week of the establishment's opening, and his sons took on the responsibilities of its operation. Image courtesy of Shaker Heights Public Library Photograph Collection. View File Details Page

Gruber's Interior

Gruber's Interior

Key to the success of Gruber's Restaurant was the brothers' efforts to provide patrons with high quality service and an elegant environment. Having consulted with the owners of the famous "21" restaurant in New York, Maxwell and Roman assembled an experienced staff from the Mounds Club - a glamorous night club and gambling den that had recently been shut down. Fresh cut flowers were arranged daily on each of the 200 tables, dress codes were enforced, interior decor was changed annually, and employees were paid high wages. An unsuccessful attempt was even made to discourage beer drinking, which was not associated with high society, by charging one dollar for a bottle (most entrees cost between $1.75 and $2.00). Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Max and Roman Gruber

Max and Roman Gruber

The philosophy that guided the development of Maxwell and Roman Gruber's business was that every customer should be made to feel significant and valued. Each night, one of the brothers would greet patrons by name. Executives holding business meetings were often comped in order to help provide them an air of importance with their guests. The billing was based on trust. Credit cards and cash were discouraged. Instead, all bills were mailed to customers. At the time of the restaurant's sale, less than $20,000 remained in outstanding bills. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Hank Greenberg at Gruber's

Hank Greenberg at Gruber's

Gruber's Restaurant attracted a variety of local and national celebrities. Pictured above is Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Hank Greenberg in Gruber's kitchen. Greenberg was the first Jewish sports superstar, as well as a partial owner and general manager of the Cleveland Indians. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Gruber's Sauerkraut Balls

Gruber's Sauerkraut Balls

The best-known menu item at Gruber's Restaurant was the sauerkraut balls. Such dishes earned the restaurant honors and citations from McCall's and Holiday Magazine. Images courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Bob Feller and Max Gruber

Bob Feller and Max Gruber

Cleveland Indian pitcher Bob Feller was one of many distinguished regulars at Gruber's. Affectionately labeled by Cleveland Press columnist Winsor French as the "Jolly Set," the restaurant attracted a cross-section of Cleveland's high society and local celebrities. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Heart Fund Benefit

Heart Fund Benefit

Both Max and Roman Gruber were known for their work with charities related to heart and cancer research. Pictured above is a burlesque-themed Valentine's Day benefit held at Gruber's for the Cleveland Area Heart Society. Images courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Salvador Dali at Gruber's

Salvador Dali at Gruber's

Gruber's "Jolly Set" included philanthropist, industrialist, and art patron Leonard Hanna Jr. Hanna bequested over $33 million, as well as an art collection that contained multiple works from Salvador Dali, to the Cleveland Museum of Art at his death in 1957. image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay at Gruber's

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay at Gruber's

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay (left) regularly visited Gruber's when in Cleveland. Hargitay settled in Cleveland after fleeing Hungary during World War II, where he worked as a carpenter until becoming Mr. Universe in 1955. Famous starlet Jayne Mansfield was married to Hargitay from 1958 to 1963. Image courtesy of Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Richard Raponi, “Gruber's Restauraunt,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 28, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/411.

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