Our History - Ox Yoke Inn, Amana Colonies Best Restaurant

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Our History

Dinners cost 65 cents and were made from timeless Old World German and American recipes passed down from mother to daughter.  All the foods had sources right in the Amana Colonies; fresh vegetables from local gardens, meat from the Amana smokehouses and chickens from neighboring farms.  As a young girl co-founder, Lina Leichsenring worked long hours in an Amana Colonies community kitchen, where the families would come for their daily meals.

They were seated at long tables where they would enjoy hearty meals, freshly prepared with heaping bowls of salads, vegetables, potatoes, gravy and hearth oven baked breads.  This is “Family Style,” a tradition of service carried on at the Ox Yoke Inn®.

Co-founder William Leichsenring was born in 1908 in the room that today is known as the Amana Dining Room.  The main building was built in 1856 with the Woodshed added in 1870.  The basement crawl space known today as the Bierstube was hand dug by William Leichsenring and friends in 1963.  The lobby, Lily Lake Room and lower level Meeting Hall were added in 1976.

Wanting to give the restaurant an Old World ambience, the Leichsenrings and Ernest Curtin, a long time friend of William’s decorated the Inn with oil lamps, old tools and an assortment of antiques.  So began William’s antique collection that is on display in the restaurant today.  William also gives credit to Curtin for coming up with the name Ox Yoke Inn®.  One evening while we were working on the restaurant, I said, “We’re getting ready to open up and we haven’t got a name yet.”  Ernest said, “I’ve been working on that.”  “Have you got an old ox yoke?”  William said, “Ja, sure.” Ernest said, “If we can find an ox yoke we’ll hang it out front and call it the Ox Yoke Inn®.”  William said, “I thought that’s a hell of a name for a restaurant, but it worked out.”  With a wooden ox yoke hanging from a post out front, the Inn opened its doors serving steak, Amana ham, Amana pork sausage and chicken dinners for 65 cents.

Today the restaurant is managed and operated by Bill Leichsenring, his family, General Manager Ron Goltz and 70 staff members.

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