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Günter Hans and the Story of a New Era

Günter Hans and the Story of a New Era

  • This story originally appeared in the March 2024 innovation and technology issue of COMO Magazine.
Beer Flight at Günter Hans
Front entrance of Günter Hans
Panoramic photo of inside Günter Hans
Outdoor seating at Günter Hans
Beer Flight at Günter Hans +9
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Front entrance of Günter Hans

Ein Bisschen Deutsch in Downtown Columbia.

On a Sunday in February 2022, Morgan Wright received a surprising phone call from Lydia Melton, owner of Günter Hans, the beloved European-inspired pub and café at 7 Hitt Street in downtown Columbia.

The surprise was not the actual call, as Morgan had been working for Sysco, a restaurant food and product provider, since 2018 and was the sales representative for Günter Hans; she and Lydia were business acquaintances.

“Every time I went to Günter Hans to take their food order, Lydia was always trying to talk me into working for her,” Wright remembers with a laugh.

After nine successful years of ownership, Melton told Wright that she had decided it was time to sell the restaurant and pivot her attention towards consulting and other start-up ventures. The surprise was that she wanted to sell Günter Hans to Wright and her husband, Regan.

Wright says, “After I hung up the phone, I turned to Regan and said, ‘There’s no way we can make that happen.’ And he replied, ‘Why not?’ At that time neither of us loved our jobs so we decided to at least ask for more info.”

The next steps happened quickly. Melton sent the Wrights a package of assets and financial documents for review. They subsequently called the bank and qualified for a woman-owned business loan and made an offer the following Wednesday, which Melton accepted on Thursday. Wright assumed the position as the second female owner at the age of twenty-five on March 9, 2022, the same age Melton was when she decided to open Günter Hans.

The Wrights were living in Kansas City at the time and had to quickly tie up loose ends and relocate to Columbia, including selling their house and finding a house in Columbia. 

“I lived with Lydia and her husband, Cody, for six weeks while Regan finished up his job. I worked a lot of shifts those first few weeks getting to know the staff and customers,” says Wright.

Ein Vermächtnis Geht Weiter

A Legacy Continues

Wright began her college career at the University of Missouri studying business management. Coming from a restaurant family, she made the inevitable switch to become a third-generation legacy of the hospitality management program, graduating in 2018.

“My dad and grandparents are all in the industry both on the events and catering and restaurant side,” she explains, “so it’s in my blood.”

With a passion for the industry and innate leadership abilities, Wright made the transition to owner nearly seamlessly. Melton continued for the first few weeks showing Wright the ropes including bookkeeping, ordering, scheduling, and how to deal with internal issues. 

“We had a meeting with staff to do introductions and make the announcement and they initially thought I was the new manager. They were surprised at first but then seemed happy as they realized that things weren’t really going to change,” Wright recalls. “I knew that I didn’t like how management was run at previous jobs and that I wanted to start fresh and handle management in the way that I want to be treated. I love my staff and I want them to know they are appreciated. It’s hard to find people who care about your business and show up and stay happy.”

In fact, such strong relationships have been created that a past employee came back to get engaged during Homecoming 2023 and then came to Günter Hans to celebrate.

Auf der Speisekarte 

On the Menu

Melton’s vision for Günter Hans came from a study abroad trip to Germany during her college years. Finding nothing in Columbia quite like what she experienced there, she decided to open a German-style bar.

“Lydia always said that food is an influential part of those kinds of experiences. Günter Hans’ entire menu is made by hand to emulate the artisanship one could experience while touring Europe,” Wright says.

Through the years, Günter Hans has become recognized for its eclectic European beer selection, seasonal cocktail menu, outdoor Biergarten seating, and indoor event space, as well as the artisanal menu featuring bretzels and Liège waffles.

“This restaurant was one of the reasons that I fell in love with Columbia in the first place,” Wright adds. 

The Günter Hans bretzels are made from scratch daily and served with a variety of gourmet dips including mustard, cinnamon butter, Boursin cheese, and jam. For those who can’t decide there is a signature flight dip. The recipe was created by Melton and inspired by the laugenbrezeln she tasted in Germany. A traditional German pastry, laugenbrezeln are soft pretzels characterized by their soft and chewy texture. 

Another menu offering, Liège waffles, originated from the Belgian city of Liège, and are a distinctive variation of the traditional Belgian waffle. The incorporation of pearl sugar into the dough, which caramelizes during baking, creates a sweet and crunchy exterior. Günter Hans’ Liège waffles are served warm with a choice of toppings including fruit preserves, honey, homemade cinnamon butter, Nutella, whipped cream, chocolate, caramel, or syrup. 

The Monte is an upgraded version of a Monte Cristo with ham and cheese topped with jam nestled between two Liège waffles.

The bar boasts a wide variety of craft beers rotating on the fourteen taps from sours to lagers and ales to ciders, including a flight option for the adventurer.

“My bartender Tyler orders the beers and pretty much has free rein (within a price range) to choose from all over the world, which makes it easy for him to recommend beers to expand customers’ palates,” Wright says.

She adds that the ideas for the seasonal cocktail menus also come from the staff “and it is really fun for the customers.” 

The current menu’s most popular include the dirty chai espresso martini with chai syrup, rumchata, cold brew, and vodka. The pomegranate martini is a punchy mix of pomegranate juice, vodka, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and homemade simple syrup.

A one-of-a-kind option for outdoor seating and special events, Günter Hans offers the Biergarten — a brick patio with strung lights and a bar that seats seventy-six and is open year-round (weather dependent).

In 2019 the Barrel Room was completed  — a European-inspired space with a modern American twist for private events with a capacity of 115 guests. The European-inspired catering menu includes a cheese spread and a Bavarian brat spread.

“Working with our events coordinator we can host anything from graduation parties, baby showers, wedding receptions, and fundraisers,” Wright explains. The restaurant also has regular weekly events including trivia on Thursdays, which has drawn quite the regular crowd. Saturdays and Sundays the restaurant offers bottomless mimosas from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In September 2023 Wright and her husband welcomed their first baby girl into the world, causing her to stick to mostly the behind-the-scenes daytime tasks of running a restaurant.

Regan works for a local home-building company and is dubbed “the handyman,” she says jokingly, adding, “He only comes around to get drinks and fix things that are broken.”

With the idea of venturing into a new business that focused on shelf-stable, pandemic-proof products, the couple recently opened a new liquor store, 63 Liquor, this past December.

“Our staff is so great. They are all go-getters and when we opened the liquor store, they were all willing to help. It helped them out, too, as December and January are our slower months here at the restaurant,” Wright says. 

Günter Hans is open from 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, from 2 p.m. to midnight Friday, from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For details on menus, weekly events, and rental options, go to 

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