Meridian Star

Local News

May 30, 2010

Weidmann’s to reopen under new management

MERIDIAN —     After a surprise closing last month, Weidmann's restaurant is getting ready to open its doors once again — and the new operator is looking for public input on what needs to change and what should stay the same.

    Weidmann's investor Bruce Martin said Charles Frazier, currently general manager of Meridian's Crescent City Grill, is expected to sign the lease on the Weidmann's building Tuesday.

    Frazier said he plans to make Weidmann's accessible to more Meridianites by reducing prices, and to restore some of its sentimental value by bringing back some menu items from the original Weidmann's.

    First opened by Felix Weidmann in 1870, the restaurant was run by the same family all the way through the 1990's.

    Under the Weidmann family, Weidmann's became one of the most well-known restaurants in Mississippi, beloved for its history, food, and quirky atmosphere. Among other things, the restaurant was known for its black bottom pie, peanut butter crocks on each table, and hundreds of pictures of famous patrons hanging on the walls.

    Though Meridian's love of Weidmann's seems unending, the building itself fell victim to the ravages of time. By the early 2000s, Martin said the building was in a state of disrepair, and it underwent a massive renovation, losing much of its character but gaining functionality.  

    Chef Willie McGehee was hired to operate the "new" Weidmann's, and he did so for the rest of the decade until mysteriously closing the restaurant in April.

    With McGehee gone, Weidmann's needed a new operator, and Frazier was happy to take on the job.

    Martin said the group of investors who bought and renovated Weidmann's did so to keep the legacy of the historic restaurant alive.

    "You could go anywhere in the U.S. and tell somebody you were from Meridian, and they would ask you about Weidmann's," Martin said. "We thought that was a valuable part of our city's heritage, and that we could not allow it to fade away."

    Frazier said his goal is to blend Weidmann's history with the modern practicality of the renovated building.

    "We won't be the same restaurant," he said. "We can't be the same restaurant, but I think we have to bring back some of it. You can't turn your back on 140 years of history."

    To bring back that legacy, Frazier is planning to offer some of the menu items from the "old" Weidmann's, along with new dishes.

    He's also brainstorming ways to bring back some of the old atmosphere. He said he hopes to recover some of the pictures that once hung on the wall, but that many of the quirky aspects of the "old" Weidmann's will be impossible to resurrect. The peanut butter crocks on the tables, for example, are against today's health codes.

    Frazier also wants to make Weidmann's accessible to more Meridianites by lowering prices, which were relatively high under McGehee.

    "In a sense, the restaurant belongs to the citizens of Meridian," said Frazier," and it needs to be accessible to them... We're ready to welcome Meridian back to their Weidmann's."

    When it reopens, Weidmann's will serve lunch and Sunday brunch along with dinner. Frazier said that, thanks to many requests, vegetable plates will be on the lunch menu.

    The Monkey Bar, located on the second floor of the building, will also reopen. Frazier said he hopes to have the restaurant and bar reopened by August.

    The new executive chef of Weidmann's will be John Tourtellotte, who has been at Crescent City for the past six years. Prior to that, he owned and managed restaurants in Birmingham, Ala.

    "He brings a lot to the table as far as experience," Frazier said.

    Frazier himself has been at Crescent City since 2005, moving to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina damaged the restaurant he managed in the New Orleans French Quarter.

    Martin said he expects Frazier to be successful at Weidmann's, and that that success could rub off on downtown as a whole.

    "If Charles is successful, other people are going to see they can be successful," Martin said. "Meridian is a wonderful place of opportunity. We in Meridian are so close we don't see it, but others from outside do."

    Martin said community spirit is part of what keeps Meridian — and Weidmann's — going.

     "Our mayor, Cheri Barry, from the very get go of this process of working with Charles has (been involved)," said Martin, "We are finding a very business friendly environment in downtown where everybody is working together."   

    In that spirit of community, Frazier is reaching out to the public in his plans for Weidmann's, asking for e-mails with suggestions for improvements to the restaurant.

    "I'd...like to hear from the public as far as what they would like to see there," he said. "I'd also like to hear their memories of (Weidmann's)."

    Suggestions can be e-mailed to weidmanns1870@yahoo.com.

   

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