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August 29, 2014
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Pepi’s, longtime Vail restaurant, rolls out lighter menu fare

VAIL — Gastof Gramshammer is rolling out a menu with lighter fare to compliment its classics.

In other words, like most of us, Gastof Gramshammer is trying to lighten up a little as it turns 50.

Pepi’s and Gastof Gramshammer is one of Vail’s last businesses still in the hands of its original owners. It’s an iconic Vail landmark in the heart of American Bavaria.

They’re not resting. They’re upgrading the hotel, the shop and changing the menu, adding lighter international cuisine to go with the traditional Bavarian fare.

“People are more health conscious. It’ll still be Pepi’s with all our Austrian specialties, but with more options,” said Sheika, who co-owns the establishment with her husband, Pepi.

Gastof Gramshammer Executive Chef Helmut Kaschitz got together with sous chef Richie Fraser and they started trying a few things.

“The chef has been great to work with,” Fraser said.

They finally decided not to mess with success, at least not much. What they largely settled on was lighter versions of some of their Austrian classics, featuring lighter, healthier sauces and sides, as well as some seafood entrees.

“We tried them as specials and they were very popular,” Fraser said.

Before Kaschitz came to Pepi’s, he was the executive chef at Kaltenberg Castle, a Bavarian-style restaurant in Lionshead. Fraser is originally from Jamaica and came to Pepi’s from the Half Moon Hotel in Half Moon Bay, Jamaica. He also spent some quality time with The Ritz-Carlton corporation, which sent him to all sorts of places.

Kaschitz met Fraser in Jamaica and started convincing him on the wonders of mountain life. They started working on the menu last spring and, so far, it’s going well.

“We take a little from here, a little from there. It’s a process, and people have liked it so far,” Fraser said.

Fraser has been spearheading the effort and says Kaschitz has given him free rein.

“The dishes are from me working in different places, and I do a lot of reading and research,” Fraser said. “Getting all this together is just pulling together from different experiences and cultures I’ve been part of.”

The European specialties will remain the centerpiece of the menu, Fraser said.

50 and doin’ fine

Vail’s Gastof Gramshammer opened Dec. 15, 1964, amid a flurry of activity in the heart of the fledgling resort.

It’s a prime location and the only Vail business still owned by its original owners.

Pepi and Sheika still have an apartment above the store where they live most of the time.

“We still live above the business because we still love living in Vail,” Sheika said. “Vail is our home. It was our first home together and the only home we’ve ever had.”

They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in February and celebrate their 50th year in business in December, but feel free to drop by and congratulate them early.

The original Gastof Gramshammer had 20 hotel rooms and seven dorm rooms, four beds in each room that cost $5 a bed.

“It was for the ski bums and powder hounds, but it turned out that some of them were 30 and 40 years old,” Sheika said.

Families often took a hotel room and rented some spots in the dorms for their kids.

An Austrian architect designed it in the traditional Bavarian chalet style, and their neighbors helped build it. Almost everyone in town scrambled around for days helping with last minute details. Marge Burdick, who owned The Red Lion — Vail’s original restaurant — with husband Larry, even loaned Sheika some curtains for Gastof Gramshammer’s opening day.

“There were times we had to borrow food from each other, but everyone’s goal was to make Vail a great resort,” Sheika said. “Behind the Gastof Gramshammer was the support and friendship from everyone.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935.


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 29, 2014 01:23PM Published Aug 29, 2014 01:23PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.