“Radish Night” at Teutonia Männerchor has been a tradition for over 20 years. The event is a way to pay homage to Munchener Bier radishes, which were introduced to the club in the mid-1990s.
Story and photos by Alexander Oh
The basement bar of Teutonia Männerchor, the Northside’s German club, quickly begins to fill up with people. Imported German beer flows from the taps and a sense of anticipation permeates the room as everyone awaits the climactic moment of the night: the crowning of the next Radish King or Queen.
On June 29, Teutonia Männerchor hosted Radish Night, one of its most unique events, to celebrate the Bavarian tradition of munching on salted, spiral-cut Munchener Bier radishes with rye bread and butter (and beer, obviously). A contest over which club member has grown the best radish is held to determine the next Radish King or Queen. A panel of judges consisting of three members of the club selects the winner.
The title of Radish King or Queen is a highly coveted one amongst members of Teutonia
Männerchor and the winner receives a custom crown, cape, trophy, and eternal bragging rights until the next Radish Night.
“It’s a big tradition historically in Germany and it’s been a big tradition around here for about 20-plus years,” says Tom Franz, a third-generation member of the club and the first-ever Radish King. “We’ve done this year in and year out and it draws repeat customers and people just love it.”
Sponsored by the Franz family, Radish Night holds a special importance to Tom, whose father, William Franz, introduced Munchener Bier radishes to the club in the mid-1990s. For William’s 69th birthday, his daughter, Susan Gold, made him a crown and cape jokingly referring to him as the “Radish King.” After his death, members from the club suggested holding a “Radish Night” and Tom assumed his role as the first Radish King.
“We tend to be more German than the Germans sometimes,” says Tom with a hearty laugh.
Established in 1854, Teutonia Männerchor has its roots in the German immigrants who came to Pittsburgh during the early 19th century. Now, the club continues to preserve and promote German traditions by serving German cuisine and beer, singing songs, and hosting events like Radish Night.
“We have members that are from Turkey, Nepal, the Middle East,” says Rich Hahn, the vice president of Teutonia Männerchor. “As long as you just want to come down and enjoy yourself, enjoy a lot of German food, a lot of German beer, and a lot of German culture, it’ll be all good.”
The Franz family also holds a radish grower night where they hand out seeds and instruct members on how to best grow their competition radishes. According to Tom, the Munchener Bier radish prefers loamy soil and plenty of water, though growing them in the spring can be difficult.
“Don’t believe any other grower when they tell you their secrets because they want to send you the other direction,” says Tom with a half-serious expression.
The title of Radish King was bestowed upon Phil Mueller whose radish was nearly the size of an NFL-regulation football. The club had its first Radish Queen last year after allowing female members to enter the competition in 2016.