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More German than ever at this central Minnesota restaurant

The journey for chef Martin Schmidlin to arrive in America with his family was difficult but worthwhile.

Schmidlin family at Oma's Bakery.
The Schmidlin family little by little has immigrated from Germany to Minnesota and shares their German cuisine at Oma's Restaurant and Bakery in Wadena. Parents, Annette and Martin Sr., are joined by two of their children, Martin Schmidlin and Yvonne Strom.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
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WADENA, Minn. — There's something unusual about Oma's Restaurant and Bakery that is absolutely refreshing.

In our fast-paced corner of the world where schedules are packed and relationships are more digital than ever, this restaurant and bakery asks visitors to slow down. Enjoy the good things in life. Eat, drink and be merry.

A fine example recently was a group of hungry travelers from St. Cloud, who stopped for a meal at Oma's after having heard of the traditional German food they prepare and serve there.

They dined, conversed, drank coffee from cups that rarely ran low, ate dessert, enjoyed the quiet calm environment and truly enjoyed themselves for over three hours.

“I think that’s what we want,” the newest member of Oma’s team, Martin Jr. Schmidlin said.

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Martin Schmidlin cooking at Oma's.
Martin Schmidlin prepares pork for a signature German meal, schnitzel. If you order this cut of meat you'll know it's being made fresh when you hear Schmidlin striking it with a meat tenderizer in the kitchen.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

The customers eventually left happy, "and full," according to Yvonne Strom, head baker and reason this family of Germans made the move to America. Never was there any attempt to move the customers on their way and that's the goal at Oma's — get people in the doors and let them stay and enjoy the food and family restaurant in a “no rush” atmosphere.
Oma’s has progressed over the years from Annette Schmidlin (Oma) and her daughter Yvonne Strom first selling baked goods at farmers markets to opening a bakery and restaurant. It’s now an established cornerstone of the community with an expanded building and food offerings.
The most recent progress made here was the move of Martin Jr. Schmidlin and his family to Minnesota from Germany. Martin is the son of Annette and Martin Sr., and the brother of Yvonne.

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Oma's Bread is serving up their delectable treats in a new location around the corner from their previous location between Verizon Wireless and Central Minnesota Credit Union. They opened in their new location at the old Family Dollar Building on June 9, 2021. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

Getting him to America seemed impossible at times. It started four years ago during a previous administration which squeezed down on immigration into the country.
“I think it was bad timing,” Martin Jr. said. Not only were politics playing a role, but then the coronavirus stopped anyone from going anywhere for a time.
At times Martin and his family were packed up and ready, just waiting for the call saying “it’s time.” The longer that took the more they thought maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
“It was like God doesn’t want me to move,” Martin thought. “It was really depressing.”
Endless piles of paperwork and conversations over the years and the Schmidlins were finally able to come over legally and prepared to go to work with the family. They arrived in early winter 2021.
Martin Jr. told his wife even before they married that he’d like to move to America to move closer to his family. Family is just too important to consider staying in Germany.
“You need your family to handle some things,” Martin Jr. said. “You just need family.”
His family includes his wife, Miriam, and three kids (two boys 8 and 3 and daughter age 5). Miriam helps in the restaurant and the kids are doing well in school. The family had visited Minnesota several times, but only in the winter as that was the only time he could make time to visit. They look forward to experiencing a Minnesota summer – as do the rest of us.
Cooking professionally has been a part of the Schmidlin family for many years. It’s a field that Martin Jr. said he is content with as everyday is different.
“It never gets boring, because in case I get bored, I just buy other ingredients,” he said.

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A chocolate heavenly cake ready to be devoured at Oma's Bread in Wadena.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Switching up the menu makes it fun for him and those visiting the restaurant. Customers can expect traditional German cooking in a relaxing atmosphere.
“Don’t just have a 20 minute meal,” Strom said. “Take your time, sit down, bring your loved ones.”
In this kitchen you may have to wait 20 minutes for your meal, but that’s because it’s being handcrafted by one chef.
“I take my time that is needed for each plate and that’s what everyone should know,” Martin Jr. said.

Schnitzle spatzle.jpg
Fresh traditional spätzle with schnitzel, and steaming gravy cause you to slow down and saor each bite at Oma's Restaurant and Bakery in Wadena.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

You can visualize that if you order the pork schnitzel. When he’s started your meal, you’ll hear him pounding your pork into the thin, tender morsel you deserve. Listen closely and you may even hear it sizzle as it hits the pan. It’s fresh off the fire when it lands in front of you. It’s worth the wait.
“Just sit and relax and enjoy,” Martin explains of their expectations for those visiting.
The relaxing part is possibly made easiest by Martin Sr. and the staff that wait tables. They are highly attentive to each table making sure your needs are met. They are not about turning tables.
With Annette continuing to cook earlier in the day, people can still expect to enjoy what she has helped create and Martin Jr. brings his expertise to the evening meals. Strom keeps the displays full of fresh breads, cakes and confections. Her brother is thoroughly impressed with the business his family has created and welcomed him into. Now he just hopes to keep moving it ahead.

“It’s really impressive what she’s (Oma) made, and I just don’t want to mess it up,” he said with a laugh.

From what customers are saying far and wide, things are moving ever in the right direction at Oma’s.

Oma's Sign.jpg
Oma's Restaurant and Bakery in Wadena has been serving in their current location since June 2020.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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