The Heidelberg Haus Café & Bakery has showcasedculture in Indianapolis since Jurgen Jungbauer first opened it in 1968.
Jungbauer immigrated to the United States from Karlsruhe, Germany, with just $30 in his pocket and a talent for baking. He started training to become a pastry chef at age 14 in Germany. By 1960, he secured his first job working as a dishwasher on a cruise ship and was soon promoted to pastry chef. In 1963, a restaurant owner discovered him and invited him to work for his restaurant in New York. Jungbauer then traveled around the country working in various upscale restaurants and hotels and became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
The U.S. Army drafted Jungbauer in 1966 and assigned him to Indianapolis to serve as a financial clerk at. His limited English made this assignment difficult, so he convinced army officials at the base to move him to the kitchens where he could make use of his baking skills. He first gained recognition for baking a cake for the opening celebration of a new Indianapolis USO building. By the end of his military service, Jungbauer had baked cakes for various government officials and dignitaries all over the United States and had won many culinary contests, making him an Indianapolis-area celebrity.
Once his tour of duty was complete, Jungbauer decided to stay in Indianapolis and set up his own business. In 1968, he bought Paul’s Drive-in Bakery at 7625 Pendleton Pike and renamed it the Heidelberg Haus Café & Bakery. His goal was to connect German and American cultures by providing authentic German food and goods.
The menu has changed very little since Heidelberg Haus opened and still includes a selection of German sausages, potato salad, and rye bread as well as a bakery case stocked with various pastries, cookies, and cakes. Springerle cookies, a traditional German Christmas treat made at Heidelberg Haus with century-old, hand-carved molds, are a particular favorite of customers. Jungbauer has adorned the interior of the café, from floor to ceiling, with a remarkable display of antique baking equipment, beer steins, German gifts and groceries, and roughly 600 gnomes hiding in every nook and cranny. “In Germany, we call it ‘kitsch,” Jungbauer said of his decor. “It means mish-mash, but that’s how I like it. You can see a stein next to a figurine next to the groceries. The ceiling is the last place we’ve found to put things”.
Recognized as a local treasure, the City of Indianapolis proclaimed June 30, 2018, as Heidelberg Haus Day, highlighting Jungbauer’s service to the U.S., his dedication to the art of baking, and his role as a member of the community. In November 2021, Jungbauer received the Federal Republic of Germany German American Friendship Award for fostering the relationship between his native country and the U.S. It is one of the highest decorations bestowed by Germany on a non-citizen.
Despite the café’s local and international recognition, Heidelberg Haus remains a small, family-run business.