Weidmann's, Meridian

Thursday, February 10, 2005

We enjoyed a hosted supper Saturday night with many, many friends at Weidmann's in Meridian (MS). Weidmann's has been a landmark in Meridian since 1870, and has operated continuously since then, except when it closed for renovations a couple of years ago.

How it used to be:
It used to be open from early in the morning to pretty late each day, and the servers, who most had probably been there decades, were real professionals. There must have been at least 100 options on the menu, and everything we ever had was excellent, excellent. It was the type of food you would fix at home if you time the time or inclination. There was a long lunch counter, a dining room in the back with hundreds of signed photographs of national and local celebrities - from governors and astronauts to flag twirlers and cowgirls - and a room to the left as you walked in that had a very rustic feel, and I believe it was called the 1890 room (or 18-something room). Since butter was in short supply during WWII, Wiedmann's substituted and put peanut butter in crocks on the tables. The little crocks could even be purchased at the cash register (we have one).

Not a whole lot in updates had ever, I think, gone on at Weidmann's. Nothing was ever new. If it wasn't broke, there was no need in fixing it. Weidmann's was never broke.

How it is now:
This isn't going to be as positive as I like my writing to turn out, but.....
Weidmann's reopened in 2003 with 58 investors. I'm sure these were well-meaning people, but what they did to the Weidmann's institution is......wrong. Sure, if they were out to open a fine-dining establishment, well, you can do that in any town, in any either stand-alone building or even a strip mall. But to rip up a living tradition and put in its place a business that would have the pretentiousness to declare on the front door that it is "dark Sundays" rather than "closed", well, next time go.do.that.somewhere.else.

The new Weidmann's is white-tablecloth. Dim lights. Brick walls. One-long-sheet-of-paper menus. Wine lists. Hushed voices.

The food is good. Quite good.

It is just as good, and the new atmosphere is just as good, as any other mid-sized town that has a restaurant you just wouldn't feel right going into with bluejeans on.

Nothing remains of the old Weidmann's.

Well, sort of. It seems that the *new* Weidmann's wasn't doing so well financially, and back in October or November of last year that a new party came in and saved the restaurant from what may have meant closing for good. Here's an excerpt of an article about the transaction in the EMBJ:

But the operational end was not the only concern. The restaurant has failed
to court those who were loyal to the "old" Weidmann’s and those who continue to
perceive the restaurant as high-priced and "too formal."

"When it opened I believe it was slightly above the market not only in some of the food items, but in some of the price points," Wile said. "I think it was also played up that it was ‘fine dining,’ which to some people means you have to wear a coat and tie. That’s just not the case, at lunch or dinner. "Then I think the change alienated a lot of people who were loyal to Weidmann’s and had been all their lives. I think we may have underestimated the effects of that. While it retained
the name, it didn’t look, feel or taste like the Weidmann’s they knew."

Though the "old" Weidmann’s is now gone, Wile said some changes being made will bring back some memories of those days. The peanut butter jars have returned to the tables — although without the peanut butter due to health department restrictions — and old photographs are being matted, framed and hung throughout the lobby and upstairs in the lounge.

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