Gibson City is one of those Norman Rockwell kind of Midwestern towns - wide streets, nice old homes, sleepy, yet a lot of store fronts. The Bayern Stube is located in the downtown area of Gibson City in a non-descript building next to the railroad tracks (see map).
The restaurant was opened in 1991 by Peter and Erika Schnabel, both of whom were born in Germany and came to America in the early 80's to work in hotel management. They had a dream to open a restaurant in the area that was styled after the Bavarian roadside inns they loved to go to as children.
A restaurant in Gibson City went out of business in late 1990 and Peter and Erika decided to snatch up the property, even though it was about 30 miles from Champaign. They decorated the restaurant with a decidedly Bavarian theme that included bier steins, colorful German plates and a bunch of mounted animal heads.
Today, the restaurant is run by Peter and Erika's daughter, Jeanne, and her husband, Guenter. But Peter and Erika still help out from time to time.
The name "Bayern Stube" loosely translates into "Bavarian Den" or "Bavarian Living Room". And when you walk in, you kind of get that homey feel to the place right off the bat. There's a small bar area as you come in and the hostess stand is right next to the main bar.
I went in around 6 p.m. on a weeknight and got right in. My waitress was dressed in a typical colonial German dress. She asked for my drink order and there were signs for Spaten beer all over the place, even on the menus. So I ordered a Spaten Lager - the menu said they had it on tap. She said, "I'm sorry, sir. We don't have Spaten Lager or the Spaten Munich beers any longer."
I thought it was sort of odd that a place that was adorned with Spaten signs throughout wouldn't sell Spaten. So I ordered a Warsteiner instead.
Actually, I got into a minor conversation with the waitress about their beer selection. She was very well versed on the beers they served - it was kind of wild the way she knew the differences between the beers. And she spoke with authority regarding the different beers. I thought, "This is a gal who has spent some time at the bar after the place closed down."
I ordered the Rahmschnitzel for dinner - two medium sized pork chops topped with a white wine and mushroom sauce. For my two sides, I went with the sauerkraut and the red cabbage. I thought, "Hey, I'm sleeping by myself tonight. If I gas the place up, the only one I'm going to gross out is me."
She brought out a basket of very stale and lifeless light and dark rye bread. You only get one basket with about 4 pieces - an extra basket of bread cost $3.50. I wasn't going to be getting a second basket that night. It definitely was the worst bread I've ever tasted at any German restaurant I've been to.
My meal showed up soon thereafter and I have to say the food was OK. Actually, OK, at best. It was rather neutral tasting. It didn't have the taste sensation that I normally associate with good Bavarian restaurants. The pork chops were cooked very well, but the wine and mushroom sauce was nothing special. The sauerkraut was sort of lifeless and the red cabbage tasted a little overcooked.
All in all, it was an OK meal. Not as good as I've had at other German restaurants, but for out in the middle of nowhere in east central Illinois, it wasn't all that bad, either. If I had to rate it on a five star rating scale, I'd have to give the Bayern Stube 2 to 2.5 stars. It's worth a try, but I won't be going out of my way again to eat there.