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Manske Rolls: a San Marcos delicacy

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A sweet roll recipe from a WWII German prisoner of war survivor has made San Marcos legend.

The characteristically large dessert, similar to a cinnamon roll, was created and named after Roland Manske shortly after he and his wife Ruth opened Manske’s Grill in 1949.

Ruben Becerra, Gil’s Broiler owner, said after much experimentation with ingredients at customers’ requests for a tasty dessert, Roland Manske created his “world famous” roll.

The roll itself may be famous, but the people who have eaten them may be too.

Gil’s Broiler representatives and other San Marcos residents claim the restaurant served Manske Rolls to former U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Texas State’s most famous alumnus must have had an insatiable sweet tooth because the legend continues with Johnson purchasing shipments of Manske Rolls to the White House.

“I didn’t send them, somebody else may have,” Gil Rainosek, former owner and namesake of Gil’s Broiler.

Even though Johnson graduated from Texas State, formerly Southwest Texas State Teachers’ College, in 1930 and the Manske Roll was first served in San Marcos in the 1940s, there is still a possibility he enjoyed the dessert during his numerous political and social engagements in the city.

However, no physical documentation of Johnson’s purchases could be found.

“I was told [LBJ] had [Manske] Rolls shipped to the White House,” Ruben Becerra, Gil’s Broiler owner, said. “I guess by visiting the place, or in some other capacity, he got rolls and liked it and had them shipped.”

Becerra said the legend is not too farfetched because the sweet rolls are shipped worldwide and have been served to country music artist and Texas State alumnus George Strait. Rainosek said he met Strait when he would eat at the restaurant as a Texas State, formerly Southwest Texas State, student.

However, Rainsek said he never saw Johnson eat at the restaurant. He said he only met the former U.S. president during a citywide book promotion.

Even after more than a decade of selling Gil’s Broiler, Rainosek said he continues to hear rumors about Johnson and the Manske Roll.

San Marcos resident Tom Roach said Johnson’s love affair with the Manske Roll did not end once he left the city. Roach said Johnson did purchase the sweet rolls to have shipped to the White House. He said Johnson preferred his Manske Rolls with mustard, instead of more traditional toppings.

In 1966, Rainosek purchased Manske’s Grill, and also acquired the Manske Roll recipe. The recipe is a hot commodity. Food publications, such as Gourmet Magazine have sought the sweet roll’s ingredients, to no avail.

However, for those planning a trip to Albuquerque, the Frontier Restaurant may be serving a familiar treat.

Larry Rainosek, Gil Rainosek’s brother, used the skills he learned while working at Manske’s Grill to open the restaurant with his wife Dorothy in 1971.

Gil Rainosek said the restaurant’s Frontier Roll bears a very similar resemblance to the Manske Roll. He said he taught Larry Rainosek how to make the rolls, much like Manske taught him.

Gil Rainosek has since retired, but continues to visit Gil’s Broiler and eat Manske Rolls.

Twelve years ago, Becerra said he purchased the city’s self-proclaimed oldest restaurant without ever having eaten there.

“It’s a real treat,” he said of owning the restaurant.

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