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Archive for January, 2010

Gaststätte Essighaus

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Plöck 97 69117 Heidelberg

Tired of the expensive restaurants on the Hauptstraße that cater to tourists?  Want good German cuisine that’s easy on the pocket?  Well, Gaststätte Essighaus is the perfect place for a warm, delicious, traditional German meal or a cold, refreshing beer in a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere.

 

The restaurant itself is inviting and welcoming.  Inside, the layout is entirely open and calls out to you to take a seat.  From the entrance, you can see the bar on the side overlooking the 8 tables scattered throughout the place.  Seating is made up of either dark wooden chairs or cushioned booth type seating along the outer rim of the restaurant.  Any seat is good in this open layout.  Each table is neatly covered with a faded red tablecloth.  Décor is lackluster, only consisting of a few colorful, old-fashioned plates and cups sitting on shelves, plants in vases, and several artwork pieces made formed from tiles on the walls.  The bar area is a lot more interesting to stare at with all of the different bottles of wine, liquors, and spirits neatly aligned on top of a wooden cabinet.  At dinnertime, the restaurant is extremely well-lit by chandeliers – it’s puzzling why there are lighted candles at each table.

As far as food is concerned, Essighaus offers several traditional German dishes.  Some typical plates are missing from the menu, though what the chefs do serve up are downright delicious.  The schnitzel here is really good.  Order the 8,50 € breaded pork schnitzel (Schweineschnitzel) and you will be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the meat.  On top of that, the order comes with a bowl of the daily soup (Tagesuppe), in addition to a plate of salad and a side of French Fries.

 

The tomato soup is thick and served hot – a great start on a cold, winter night.  In addition to some pieces of tomato in the soup, there are bits of bacon hiding under the sea of red.  Chopped parsley also adds an extra hint of flavor.  Salad at Essighaus is unique.  Pieces of lettuce, shredded carrots, sauerkraut, and red cabbage, thinly sliced radish and cucumber, and a chunk of tomato are enhanced by a creamy green herb dressing.  The mixture of textures, from the crunchy vegetables to the smooth, creamy dressing and the soft burst of the tomato is wonderful.

 

The main dish – the schnitzel – comes on a plate with a boat full of dark brown pork gravy and some more lettuce and sliced radish on the side.  The potatoes come on a separate plate, hot, crisp, and slightly seasoned, what more can you ask for?  Pork schnitzel, breaded and seasoned extremely well, is as big as the plate of salad.  The meat is pounded quite thin and cooked until tender.  Delicious as is, the schnitzel tastes even better with a squeeze of lemon or a dip in the gravy.  Either way, the dish is extremely tasty and one of the better schnitzel plates in Heidelberg, if not in Germany.

Come hungry, otherwise you might not have room for dessert.  The sweets menu primarily consists of ice cream, but there is also Pfannkuchen mit Marmelade oder Apfelmus (German pancake with either marmalade or apple sauce).  At 4,50 euros, it’s a bit overpriced for what you get – two pancakes and a boat full of cranberry-like sauce (lingonberry marmalade).  The pancakes are delicate and soft in the middle, crisp and crunchy on the edges.  By itself, it tastes rather bland; with the sauce, it tastes sweeter but not life changing.  Sadly, the last few bites became more of a chore to eat than an enjoyable end to the meal.

 

Simply put, Essighaus is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the crowded main street in Heidelberg.  Although the menu is limited to a certain extent, the food listed is done extremely well.

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Summary:

Located on a street parallel to the busy Heidelberg Hauptstraße, Gaststätte Essighaus is a quaint, quiet restaurant serving up authentic German dishes including schnitzel, steaks, and fish dishes, amongst others.   Great, quick service.  Inexpensive  main dishes.

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Tomato Soup – 4/5
  • Salad – 4/5
  • Pork Schnitzel (Schweineschnitzel) – 5/5
  • French Fries – 4.5/5
  • Pfannkuchen mit Marmelade – 3/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

January 29th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

La Vite

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La Vite Heidelberg

Bergheimer Straße 23 69115 Heidelberg

Buona sera !” utters the Italian waitress as I enter the restaurant and am quickly seated at an open table.  “Prego !“ she says as a spoon is set forth in front of me before the meal begins.  “Ciao !” she exclaims, as I leave the front doors.  From the moment you set foot in this restaurant, to the time you leave, you will certainly pick up a few words of Italian.

 

This ristorante has quite an elegant layout.  Each table is outfitted with a clean, white tablecloth, overlapped by decorated red linen.  Comfortable, cushioned booth seating lines the walls all around the restaurant.  The atmosphere is cozy and pleasant – not exactly romantic, but more family oriented.  Although the tables are adorned with roses and red burning candles, the place is too well lit for that quiet, romantic evening.  The dining area can also get quite boisterous with chatter, which drowns out the popular Italian tunes playing from the speakers.  The walls are decorated with a few paintings and, most notably, a couple of beautiful, colorful mosaic designs.  Wine racks are visible near the back of the restaurant and are loaded with various bottles.  Throughout the evening, the occasional pop of a bottle being opened is always a welcome sound.  The service at La Vite is attentive and sincere – Italian hospitality at its finest.

 

For starters, you are given a complimentary bread basket accompanied by a small bowl of herb butter.  The mini-bread rolls are soft and taste good with the creamy butter.  Additionally, a plate of bruschetta, topped with chunks of tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh herbs, arrives simultaneously with the bread rolls.  The bruschetta is refreshing and absolutely delicious.  The crisp, warm bread, rubbed with garlic and infused with olive oil, perfectly contrasts the cold, fresh tomatoes and herbs.  A wonderful start to the meal.

 

The fettuccine alle Sarda (Sardinian style fettuccine dish), priced at 10,60 €, is comprised of homemade ribbon noodles with lamb tips, flambéed in red wine, all served in a thick, dark cream sauce.  Diced tomatoes and shallots, as well as Italian parsley and herbs, infuse flavor in the dish.  Furthermore, the plate is accompanied by a container of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  The noodles are cooked al dente and the lamb is prepared finely, not gamey at all.  If you didn’t know any better, you may even think it tastes like beef.  The succulent lamb meat isn’t chewy or tough – it is cooked pretty well.  The flavor of the sauce leans toward the acidic side, but can be easily adjusted with a couple spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese.  Overall, the dish is gratifying and satisfying.

The dessert list is full of traditional Italian desserts, including gelato and panna cotta. But for a comforting end to a great meal, you will want to order the tiramisu for dessert.  Light, airy, and delicate, the tiramisu is superb, though a bit overpriced at 4,80 Euros.

 

Don’t forget the espresso (or the espresso doppio) to round out the Italian dining experience.  Buon appetito !

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Summary:

Restaurant La Vite is an excellent, traditional Italian restaurant a few minutes away from Heidelberg’s Bismarckplatz.  A variety of dishes, ranging from the typical Italian – antipasti, pizza, insalate, and pastas – to meat centered dishes such as pork, chicken, lamb, and fish. Exceptional, warm service.  Moderate prices.  Weekly lunch menu.  Monthly season specialties.

Hours: Monday – Sunday 12 PM – 3 PM, 6 PMMidnight
 

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Bruschetta with Fresh Tomato and Olive Oil – 5/5
  • Fettuccine alla Sarda (Homemade Fettuccine Noodles with Lamb in a Red Wine Cream Sauce) – 4/5
  • Tiramisu – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

January 22nd, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Palast Pizza & Döner Haus

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Bergheimer Straße 35 69115 Heidelberg

In Heidelberg, and in most parts of Germany, people ride their bikes, take the bus, or simply walk.  When you see people walking on the sidewalk, oftentimes they will be carrying shopping bags, holding onto a dog leash, or chowing down on food – French fries, a pretzel, or a döner kebab.  Watching people pass by with their yummy kebab sandwiches is enough to make anybody hungry.  Palast Pizza & Döner Haus, a prototypical fast food establishment in Germany, is a good place to satisfy your luscious cravings for döner.

 

Palast is a few minutes walk from Heidelberg’s central square – also known as Bismarckplatz.  This fast food eatery can be found amongst a variety of stores, barber shops, and markets.  Enter the restaurant and you will be met with a pretty simple layout.  On your left is the service counter.  On the right you will find 3 marble tables, each large enough to accommodate a group of four.  There are blue whicker chairs at each table.  Furthermore, there are two smaller tables in the front and back, each fitted with a couple of barstools.  The décor here could use some work – a few framed pictures of flowers hang on the soft, peach colored walls.  Lighting is decorative and beautiful.  A few plants lining the front of the restaurant breathe life into the room.

The menu is typical of other kebab houses in Germany.  Pizza, pastas (such as spaghetti, macaroni, and lasagna), a handful of different salads, and döner essentially make up the entire menu.

 

One unusual dish, not usually found at other such eateries, is the Döner Überbacken – basically a cross between lasagna and gratin with slices of chicken döner meat.  The preparation is relatively simple: onions, green, yellow, and red bell peppers are sautéed in a pan with tomato sauce until tender.  Next, the meat gets added and heated up.  The entire mixture is scooped into an aluminum foil container, cheese is layered on top, and the whole concoction is baked in the oven until hot and bubbly.  A sprinkle of dried oregano finishes it off and provides a great aroma.  The combination of the sweet, crunchy vegetables, in contrast to the gooey cheese and flavorful döner meat, creates an enjoyable flavor explosion in your mouth.  The meat, which is fairly salty, dominates the dish.  Fortunately, you can ask for a piece of warm, crisp bread to combat the aggressive saltiness and to help soak up the tomato juices.  Overall, the dish is good and flavorful.

Palast, meaning ‘palace’ in German, tries its best to serve food fit for monarchs, even going so far as to provide delivery service for their royal customers.  However, there isn’t anything special about the flavor of the dishes here, compared with similar ones at other kebab eateries.  In other words, the food here isn’t going to blow your mind away but Palast is a good place to pick up a quick Döner.

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Summary:

A typical German fast food eatery located near Heidelberg’s Bismarckplatz, Palast Pizza & Döner Haus features an extensive selection of pizzas, pastas, salads, Döner dishes, and standard schnitzel fare.  Drinks are inexpensive.  Delivery Service Available.  Reasonable prices.

Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:00 AM – 11:30 PM
               Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays 12:00 PM – 11:30 PM

Overall – 3.5 stars

  • Döner Überbacken (sautéed onions and peppers in a tomato sauce, layered with Döner meat, topped with white cheese and baked in an oven) – 4/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

January 21st, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Palmbräu Gasse

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Hauptstraße 185 69117 Heidelberg

The Heidelberg Hauptstraße is lined with a slew of American and German fast food joints, a limited selection of ethnic eateries, bakeries, and a few coffee and candy shops every few blocks.  Of course, being in Germany, there are also quite a few German restaurants up and down the main street – Palmbräu Gasse being one of them.

 

The view of this place from the Hauptstraße is that of a family restaurant.  The exterior sort of resembles a home, awaiting your arrival.  Take a peek inside the windows and you will see wooden benches with comfy red cushions and candle lit tables exuding warmth and hospitality.  Enter the double doors and you will essentially find the restaurant divided into two.  The joyful, well-lit, family friendly dining area in the front of the restaurant is abruptly met with a darker area towards the back, where the bar is located.  Basically, patrons have the choice of enjoying a drink at their enticing bar or settle down for a meal in a relaxed, spacious atmosphere at the front the restaurant.

Palmbräu Gasse accommodates tourists visiting Heidelberg.  Menus at each table are well designed and written in both German and English.  The first page features Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, Spanish, and Italian flags, each with a message that informs guests of the opportunity to request a menu in the respective language.  Talk about great service!

Aside from a few items (such as the fondue from Sunday to Thursday!) the food at Palmbräu is pretty standard.  The menu includes your typical salads, soups, and breads, vegetarian courses, German specialties such as Swabish dishes, schnitzel, and Flammkuchen, steaks, and chicken dishes.  More fascinating and appealing are the daily specials featured on the sign boards outside, in front of the restaurant doors.  Everyday, Palmbräu offers a unique German dish at a very low price, thus often attracting repeat and curious customers to this restaurant time and time again.

 

Today, the daily dish was Holzfällersteak mit Rostzwiebeln und Bratkartoffeln – pork steak served with fried onion strips and sliced, fried potatoes – for only 7,90 €.  Holzfäller translates to ‘lumberjack’ in English, and oh! this meal is fit for one!  The pork steak comes from the shoulder of the pig and it’s cooked quite well.  The meat is tender and juicy, and is served in its own juices.  This cut of meat does have its disadvantages though, as the gelatinous and fattening parts, which glisten in the light, can be repulsive to some diners.  However, overall, the pork is quite tasty and flavorful.  It has a nice, browned crust on the top and bottom layers of the meat.  This contrast in textures carries on with the crisp, fried onion strips.  The onions are perfectly fried hot, the sweetness of the onions supplying a joyful burst of flavor with every bite.  Some of them are not battered well and thus simply melt in your mouth.  The potatoes are buttery and well salted.  Like the onions, they are not uniformly cooked and prepared.  Hence, some spuds are crisp and burnt (which is a good thing!), while others are delicate and soft.  Highlighting the dish are the little bits of bacon scattered around the potatoes.  These tasty morsels are quite unexpected, but complement the root vegetables extremely well.

Palmbräu Gasse is an excellent restaurant and bar in the middle of Heidelberg.  Whether you are there to enjoy a hearty meal or simply grab a beer with buddies, this place is a convenient spot for both!

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Summary:

Situated in the heart of Heidelberg’s Old Town, Palmbräu Gasse is a classic German restaurant and bar offering an exciting array of traditional, wholesome German dishes.  Daily specials at a reduced price.  Wide selection of cocktails, beers, and wines.  Prices moderate.  Generous Portions.  Very accommodating service.  Good Restaurant for Tourists.

Hours: Daily: 11:30 AM – 1:00 AM
              Fridays & Saturdays until 3:00 AM

 

Overall – 4 stars

  • Holzfällersteak mit Rostzwiebeln und Bratkartoffeln (Pork Shoulder Steak with Fried Onions and Fried Potatoes) – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.palmbraeu-gasse.de

Written by geschmack

January 14th, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Bodega Don Jamón

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Bierhelderweg 4 69126 Heidelberg

Grilled pork tenderloin medallions wrapped in cured Spanish ham.  Cod loins crusted with fried garlic.  Catalan crème brûlée with a caramelized top layer.  The best way to describe the dining experience at Bodega Don Jamón?  An exciting gastronomic adventure through the soul of Spanish cuisine.

Bodega Don Jamón is a favorite of local Heidelbergers – students and citizens alike.  Its out-of-the-way location makes it fairly unattractive for tourists.  This isn’t a bad thing because Bodega Don Jamón maintains a strong, healthy following.  Each and every night, rain or shine, snow or sunny, the place is practically packed, both inside and out.  This makes calling for reservations an absolute must, unless you don’t mind waiting for hours on end.

There are two separate menus here – a petite booklet in English and an impressive, giant sized manuscript written in German.  The German book is superbly decorated and beautifully written, though it may be somewhat difficult to decipher the explanations written in cursive.  The English version is currently missing the drinks list and the descriptions can be misleading – the Berenjenas Embuchadas is described as “marinated baby eggplants,” when in actually they are pickled (as the German book correctly explains).  Unless you already have a good culinary background in Spanish cuisine, or are willing to try just about anything, it’s probably a good idea to come here with someone who speaks German or Spanish.

The atmosphere is romantic, the environment welcoming, and the service impeccable.  The décor flawlessly captures the essence of Spain – colorful murals of dancers and countrymen bedeck the surrounding walls of the dining area (even on the ceiling!), framed paintings hang from the walls opposite the murals, empty jugs and vases line wooden shelves above the tables, and dry-cured Spanish ham (Jamón Serrano) can be seen dangling from the ceiling behind the bar.  Tables and chairs are made of standard wood.  Each table is adorned with a candle and a beautiful bouquet of flowers to set the mood for the evening.

 

On this night, all diners were given an amuse-bouche, complements of the chef.  A fried crab and fish ball sitting on a spoon of aioli (garlic sauce) comes on a small dish, along with a bowl of bread.  The fish and crab is elegant and the aioli suitably enhances the flavor.  The bread is fresh and warm, the crust crisp.  It was a perfect start to the meal.

 

Tapas come in small plates and can be easily shared amongst a few people.  The Berenjenas Embuchadas – pickled baby eggplants – are sour, juicy, and unique.  An order comes with 5 baby eggplants on a small plate, garnished with a leaf of lettuce and a slice of orange.  The eggplants have an unexpectedly strong flavor that can best even the adventurous of eaters.

Next comes the bowl of salad – a refreshing mixture of greens, Belgian endive, sliced tomatoes, diced carrots, sliced cucumbers, hard boiled egg, tiny croutons, and green and black olives, all tossed in a light vinaigrette.  Watch out, though, because the olives are unpitted!  Sadly, the vinaigrette is lacking a bit in flavor , leaving the vegetables merely soaked in a rather disappointing dressing.

 

Fortunately, the meal gets better from here.  Bodega offers a large selection of fish, seafood, steaks, and other types of meats.  Order the Bacalao a la Llauna, a Catalonian specialty, for a delightful meal.  At 16,50 €, this entrée comes with 2 fried dried cod fillets, seasoned with paprika and topped with garlic, a mixture of steamed vegetables, and a portion of fried potatoes.  The fish is crisp, flaky, and delicate.  However, on this occasion, one of the fillets was too salty, nearly rendering it inedible.  A squeeze of lemon helped cut the saltiness down a notch, but this aggressiveness was hard to overlook.  The other fillet, ideally seasoned, tastes great in conjunction with the garlic.

 

Desserts go well with the rest of the menu.  Rich, creamy custard encapsulated under a thin, crunchy caramelized layer of sugar makes the Crema Catalana (Catalan crème brûlée).  Served with a sprig of mint and a cookie, the dessert is absolutely dreamy.

Bodega Don Jamón is widely praised by many people, and with good reason.  The food is fresh and the service is superb.  Ultimately, Bodega Don Jamón is a hidden gem tucked away in a mysterious, quiet part of town.  But this precious stone, it appears, has long been discovered!  Bodega is bodacious!

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Summary:

Located in the southern part of Heidelberg, Bodega Don Jamón offers guests a wide selection of authentic Spanish cuisine in a quaint, rustic, and romantic setting.  Fairly extensive list of wines.  Prices are moderate.  Reservations are a must.  Parking can be difficult.  English, German, and Spanish spoken.

Hours: Daily (except Sundays) opening at 6 PM 
            Closed Sundays
            Reservations accepted starting at 4:30 PM

 

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Berenjenas Embuchadas (Pickled Baby Eggplant) – 3/5
  • Bacalao a la Llauna (Dried Cod fillets with braised garlic & pepper, served with a mixed Salad and Roasted Potatoes) – 4/5
    • Salad – 4/5
    • Roasted Potatoes – 4/5
  • Crema Catalana (Catalan crème brûlée) – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.bodega-heidelberg.de

Written by geschmack

January 13th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Benjamins American Diner

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Gorxheimer Straße 9 68309 Mannheim

Breakfast – the most important meal of the day.  Whether you are in the United States or in Germany, in South America or in Asia, eating breakfast increases your metabolism and supplies you with much needed energy to help you function throughout the rest of the day.  Because lunch is the main meal of the day in Germany, you will be hard pressed finding that big, hearty breakfast typical in the States.  That is, unless you make the long journey out to a small diner in Mannheim.  Be sure to go to Benjamins American Diner for breakfast on a Sunday and you will be amazed at the huge assortment of classic morning items awaiting your plate.

Benjamins American Diner is the prototypical American diner.  Outside, the grey exterior and rectangular windows establish the impression of a classic dining car.  The interior includes a long service counter that dominates the dining room, in addition to small booths along the windows that are ideal for groups of four.  The curved ceiling only furthers the illusion.  Stainless steel panels dominate the kitchen area.  The wooden walls aren’t festooned with memorabilia or photographs, but are kept clean and bare.

Surprisingly, the entire dining experience is characteristically American.  Upon entering, there is a sign greeting guests to “Wait to be Seated.”  This is rather unusual in Germany because a diner can oftentimes stroll right in and seat themselves.  The menu is quite large and is brimming with vivid snapshots of the food.  Entrées are written in both German and English and the waiters and waitresses are fully capable of speaking both languages.  Amazingly, the wait staff is also trained to provide exceptional customer service.  During this visit, my friendly waitress came by at least twice and politely asked if everything was okay.  In past dining experiences elsewhere, this has been utterly lacking.

 

 

Overall, the food is incredible.  The Sunday breakfast buffet, at 9,90 €, is an absolute bargain considering the massive assortment of meats and starches available.  As expected, the all-you-can-eat buffet is self serve, meaning that guests help themselves to as much food as they want.  The hot items – scrambled eggs with chives, sausage links (Bratwurst), large strips of bacon, hash browns, fried potatoes (Bratkartoffeln), bacon wrapped shrimp, and pancakes – are placed in buffet warming trays with candles underneath to keep them warm.  There are also large, elegant platters adorned with pieces of smoked salmon on baguettes, cuts of ham and prosciutto, slices of mozzarella and tomatoes, wedges of Brie cheese, American sandwiches with slices of cheddar cheese, boiled egg, cucumber, and lettuce in a dish with potato wedges, and a plate of French toast.   There is a bowl of tuna mixed with sliced oranges next to the sandwiches.  Baskets full of sliced breads are placed next to a toaster – you can actually toast them yourself!  Of course, there is also some butter, jam, and small individual packets of Nutella and honey.  Looking for vitamins?  There are mini boxes of breakfast cereal with a pitcher of milk and small bowls.

Save room for dessert because chocolate muffins drizzled with chocolate and slices of cheesecake await the conclusion of your meal.  On top of it all, each buffet order comes with a cup of coffee and your choice of orange juice or champagne.  Talk about luxurious!

  

Pancakes come in two types – regular butter and blueberry.  The blueberry pancakes are simply delightful – fluffy and light.  Add a small amount of maple syrup to perfectly enhance the sweetness of the flapjacks.  Astoundingly, the scrambled eggs are cooked perfectly – the chefs at Benjamins Diner understand the art of egg cookery!  Unlike other restaurants, where the eggs are oftentimes tough and rubbery, the scrambled eggs here are soft, light, buttery, and fluffy.  The addition of chopped chives adds that nice hint of onion flavor.  Sausage links (aka Bratwurst) are pretty standard.  Bacon strips are not crisp but still delectable.  As long as it’s not burnt, how can you go wrong?  The hash browns remind me of Rösti – they are delicate and have a butter taste inside.  Bacon wrapped shrimp for breakfast seems out of place.  The shrimp were a little tough and overcooked.  French toast tastes a bit off and isn’t crisp on the outside, just soft all around.  Unfortunately, the cheesecake doesn’t look as good as it looks.  It is a bit sour for my tastes, too shy on the sugar.  Ultimately, the breakfast is enjoyable.  The one item truly missing here are the waffles.

 

Aside from that, the only downside about Benjamins American Diner is the location of the restaurant.  From the Mannheim Hauptbahnhof, it takes approximately twenty minutes via streetcar to get there.  The diner is situated near a U.S. military community in Käfertal.  However, the journey is undoubtedly worthwhile as you can build your appetite on your way there.  Simply put, the buffets at Benjamins can’t be beat!

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Summary:

Hands down the best diner in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan region, Benjamins American Diner dishes up authentic quintessential American cuisine including traditional American breakfast items, burgers, sandwiches, BBQ ribs, steaks, and chicken wings in a classic, retro style diner.  Prices are reasonable.  Excellent American style service.  All-You-Can-Eat: Mondays – Ribs, Wednesday – Wings, Sunday – Breakfast.  Reservations recommended.

Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:00 AM – 11 PM
              Saturday: 9:00 AMMidnight
              Sunday: 9:00 AM – 11 PM
 

Overall – 5 stars

  • Sunday Breakfast Buffet – 5/5
    • Pancakes (Butter & Blueberry) – 5/5
    • Scrambled Eggs with Chives– 5/5
    • Sausage Links (Bratwurst) – 4/5
    • Bacon – 5/5
    • Bacon Wrapped Shrimp – 4/5
    • Fried Potatoes (Bratkartoffeln) – 4/5
    • Hash browns – 4.5/5
    • French Toast – 3.5/5
    • Cheesecake – 3/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.benjamins-diner.de

Written by geschmack

January 10th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Restaurant Baan Thai

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Max-Joseph-Straße 1 69126 Heidelberg

On a cold, winter night, as the temperature hovers around 0° C, I find myself walking down a street in unfamiliar territory, searching frantically for that one restaurant I heard about on the Internet.  With snow flakes tickling my face and impairing my vision, I barely make out a modest white building marked by two Thai flags on each side of the door.  This must be the place.  As I step inside, passing through the front entrance, it’s as if I traveled more than 5000 miles and entered a fancy eatery in Thailand.

 

The owners at Restaurant Baan Thai have done an excellent job creating an authentic Thai experience.  The ambiance is authentic Thai, offering bamboo seating with comfortable cushions, placemats at every place setting, traditional sculptures and tapestry, and photographs of Thai monarchy enclosed in extravagant frames.  At dinner, the setting is romantic – each table is equipped with its own lit candle and a vase sprouting with Thai orchids.  Customary Thai music plays melodiously throughout the establishment.

 

Meticulous attention to detail is also given to the food.  Pla Sam Rod – rosefish filets fried and flavored with 3 flavors (spicy, sweet, and sour) – comes with a gorgeous, hand carved white turnip rose on top of carrots scrupulously cut to resemble leaves.  This entrée is served in an elegant serving dish shaped like a fish.  Simply put, the presentation is amazing.

The dish almost tastes as good as it looks.  The fish is moist and delectable; however the three flavors are not always present in each bite.  It takes quite a bit of the chili, garlic, and other ingredients, in conjunction with the fish, to fully enjoy the true taste of the dish.  An order comes with 2 filets on top of broccoli florets, steamed cabbage, halved mushrooms, julienne red peppers, and sliced carrots.  Additionally, there are diced green peppers topping the fish.  The vegetables do a better job soaking up the sauce than the fish.  Portions are on the smaller side but can be shared amongst a couple people.  At 11,90 €, it is one of the more expensive dishes, but tasty overall.  A large portion of rice is included with each order.

 

Restaurant Baan Thai is a hidden gem, tucked far away from the high traffic tourist areas in Heidelberg.  The ambiance is authentic, the presentation is perfect, the food is fantastic, and the service is super.  Although the menu is fairly limited to popular dishes, the chefs work hard to get the flavors right.

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Summary:

Restaurant Baan Thai, located in the Rohrbach area in southern Heidelberg, is a traditional Thai casual dining restaurant serving up typical Thai cuisine.  Warm and helpful service.  Weekday lunch buffet.  Main courses: 7 € to 15 €.

Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM, 5:30 PM – 11 PM
              Saturday, Sunday: 5:30 PM – 11 PM
              Monday Closed
 

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Pla Sam Rod (Fried Rosefish Filets, Three Flavors) – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.baanthai-heidelberg.de

Written by geschmack

January 8th, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Chili’s Café & Restaurant

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Chilis Cafe Restaurant

Plöck 93A 69117 Heidelberg

Chili’s – a popular American casual dining restaurant.  Largely associated with tasty baby back ribs, Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant has made a name for itself dishing up quintessential American Tex-Mex food.  Chili’s Café & Restaurant, having no relation to the American owned chain, mimics this approach.  The Café & Restaurant serves quintessential German fast food – döner kebab, pizza, currywurst, and French fries – and even their own twist on Tex-Mex, including Mexburgers and burritos (including one with döner!).  Even the restaurant’s sign has a chili pepper forming the ‘C’ in Chili!

 

Inside this café & restaurant, located off the main street in Heidelberg, you will immediately recognize the café part, with the restaurant aspect blended in.  The look is rather contemporary – brown cushioned sofa chairs, light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and clean wooden tables – similar to what you might find in a modern-day coffee shop.  There are also chic bar stools clustered at the counters.  The décor is an odd mixture: a couple of Mexican sombreros hang on the walls and there is a framed picture of an American flag near the television set.  The menu board is quite extensive with over 70 items to choose from.  Alcoholic beverages are available, as well as coffee and assorted café beverages.

 

Order the 3,70 € Lahmacun with salad and sauce and you will get a crispy flatbread wrapped around red cabbage, chopped green lettuce, onions, and some white yogurt based sauce (Tzatziki).  The round, thin flatbread is topped with a red tomato sauce.  From the outside, the Lahmacun essentially looks like a pizza, wrapped like a burrito, with salad as your toppings.  Even without any meat inside, the flavor is satisfactory.  The crunchy vegetables go well with the crispy flatbread.

 

A more appetizing and filling option is the 4,50 € Yufka Special.  Yufka is a thin, round, Turkish flatbread made of wheat flour.  It has soft and delicate consistency.  Yufka is similar in appearance to flour tortillas.  And they are used the same way in preparing the Yufka Special – the flatbread is wrapped like a burrito around slices of döner, chopped red cabbage, green lettuce, raw white onions, and sticks of feta cheese, with white yogurt sauce poured over it all.  Altogether, the wrap is gargantuan in size (roughly half a pound!).  The döner at Chili’s has a distinctive taste compared to other kebab shops – it has a slight kick to it, perhaps from some chili spices.  This makes the Yufka even more special.  Every bite is packed with flavor, with a fairly balanced portion of döner meat and vegetables (although the onions are a tad too much).  Moreover, the texture is extraordinary with the soft doughy flatbread, the crunchy cabbage and onions, creamy feta that melts in your mouth, and the salty, spiced meat.

With good food and a fairly recognizable name, Chili’s Café & Restaurant suffers from poor location.  Had it found a spot along the main street in the Altstadt, Chili’s would be more than a popular place for students looking for a quick, low-cost, and delicious meal – it could become as big as Chili’s Grill & Bar.  Or close to it.

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Summary:

Chili’s Café & Restaurant is a fast food establishment located in the Heidelberg Altstadt serving up a sizable selection of typical quick service dishes, including pizza, döner kebabs, salads, and falafels, as well as some unique variants, such as burritos and Mexburgers.  Free Wireless LAN Access.  Delivery Service after 7 PM.

Hours: Monday – Thursday: 10 AM – 11 PM
            Friday: 10 AMMidnight
            Saturday: 11 AMMidnight
            Sunday: 11 AM – 11 PM

Overall – 3 stars

  • Lahmacun – 2.5/5
  • Yufka Spezial (Yufka Special with Feta Cheese) – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.chilis-hd.de

Written by geschmack

January 7th, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Dunkin’ Donuts

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Dunkin Donuts Düsseldorf

Konrad Adenauer Platz 14 40210 Düsseldorf (im Hauptbahnhof)

The holiday season has come and gone, with many people overfilling on sweets during the time spent with family and friends.  Cakes, cookies, and candies – typical holiday treats.  This isn’t just limited to the United States: in Germany, for example, traditional German spiced cakes and cookies (Spekulatius), fruitcakes (Stollen), and various confections and chocolates turn up only during the winter holidays.  But why stick to tradition?  A year-round deep-fried delight that fulfills the duty of sweet treats should be equally associated with holiday cheer.  The sugary, colorful glaze on top and the scent of a freshly fried donut is oftentimes enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face (especially Homer Simpson!).

Although the location is towards the back of the main train station in Düsseldorf (near platforms 16/17), the bright orange and pink lights of the Dunkin’ Donuts stand will easily catch your attention from a distance.  A simple glance at the vivid, artistic doughy creations is enough to attract interest and curiosity.  Moreover, some the names associated with these fried fritters – Blue Sky, Lemon Spirit, and Apple Lifting – are quite creative.

 

The Blue Sky donut has a bright calming blue hue on top of the lightly glazed doughnut.  Enough to make you sing Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”?  Fat chance.   The frosting makes you think it tastes like blueberries, or something fresh and sunny, but it’s just eye candy – sweet frosting with added color.  For winter, Dunkin’ Donuts sells a red glazed donut called Balthasar.  The frosting tastes sort of like cherries – definitely tastier and a sweeter than the Blue Sky donut.  A single donut costs 1,30 €.

 

Like most donut stores, Dunkin’ Donuts sells doughnut holes – small doughnuts in the shape of spheres.  Rather than the generic name “doughnut holes”, they are given the cute name “Munchkins” at Dunkin’ Donuts.  At this location, they have a variety of Munchkins to choose from – glazed, chocolate glazed, sugared with a chocolate and peanut butter filling, powdered with Bavarian crème inside, among others.  The glazed Munchkin is like a normal glazed doughnut, not too sweet as you might expect.  The sugared one, with the chocolate and peanut butter mixture, is a bit gooey – reminds me of a dog eating peanut butter.  Personal favorites are the powdered ones and the glazed chocolate – both are delicious.  The custard glaze within the powdered Munchkin is a tad sweet, but complements the dough extremely well.  Each one has a good amount of filling.  The glazed chocolate is sort of like a mini chocolate muffin – with the glaze, it has the sweetness of a brownie.  A truly yummy dessert.  And, at 1,99 € for a bag of six Munchkins, it’s not too bad for a quick snack.

 

Grab a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate with your doughnuts and you are set for breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or dessert.  Or a quick snack in between meals.  You can never go wrong with donuts, especially Dunkin’ Donuts!

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Summary:

An American donut chain with various locations in Germany, Dunkin’ Donuts offers delectable donuts and hot and cold drinks that will certainly satisfy your sweet tooth!  A must stop for travelers and residents alike yearning for something American.

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Munchkins – 4.5/5
  • Blue Sky Donut – 4/5
  • Balthasar Donut – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.dunkin-donuts.de

Written by geschmack

January 3rd, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Rhodos-Grill

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Rhodos-Grill

Hasselsstraße 99 40599 Düsseldorf

When you combine elements of a local family owned business with a fast food restaurant, you almost certainly have a friendly staff willing to go the extra mile to satisfy each and every need.  The prices are generally favorable and the food is by and large fresh and top-quality.  Sometimes, being a frequent customer has its rewards as they may even receive extra portions as a nice gesture.  This concept is not confined to eateries in the United States, but also found overseas – as is the case at Rhodos-Grill.

 

Enter this fast food locale and you will immediately become aware of the large service counter.  There is a huge glass display case containing stored cold items that are ready to be cooked.  Nearly half of the items on the menu are visible through this display – fries, schnitzel, rice, sauces and dips, and various types of salads.  Don’t plan on coming here with large groups as there are only 5 tables here with enough seating for 4 at each spot.

The food here is a mixed bag.  Gyros are extremely good.  Portion sizes are huge and worth the 5,10 euro price tag.  The meat is well seasoned and full of flavor.  There is a good amount of fat attached to the meat, which can provide a tasty addition depending on how you look at it (of course, this can be upsetting for many people).  An order also comes with banana peppers that complement the gyros well.  The only downside is the addition of raw onions, instead of grilled.  As a result, you will be left with onion breath long after finishing the meal.

The rice dish, flavored with tomatoes, chunks of softened carrots, and huge chunks of chicken meat, is an absolute mess.  On this visit, the starch was completely mushy and the entire dish wasn’t heated up enough to qualify as a warm dish.  Moreover, the dish suffered from quite a good amount of plain chicken fat in the dish that made it even more repulsive.  I’m fairly certain that rice isn’t supposed to be watery and gooey like that.  There were large chunks of chicken breast and small cuts of dark chicken meat that made it a meal in itself.  Nevertheless, despite costing only 3 € for a large portion, it was a total disaster.

 

The 2,10 € order of currywurst is lackluster, not too spectacular.  The curry sauce itself is a little bit sweet for the sausages.  Maybe there wasn’t a lot of curry added or they expected the sausage’s saltiness to counteract it.  Nonetheless, the flavor is pretty predictable.

 

Another popular fast food dish in Germany, aside from currywurst, is Frikadelle – minced meat combined with various spices and ingredients, formed into balls or shaped into patties, and then pan-fried.  Think hamburger, but a lot tastier and thicker.  Order them hot and you get a nice crust on the top and bottom – a nice contrast to the meat inside.  Simply put, the frikadellen here are a pleasure to eat.  And at 1,60 € per, it is certainly a good deal.

One of the better items to order at Rhodos-Grill is the rotisserie chicken.  Whole chickens can be seen from outside the window spinning on the rotisserie.  The chicken is absolutely amazing – each piece of meat is moist and juicy.  Cut right into the bird and you not only see the clear juices running off the bone, but also the steam rising up from the piping hot chicken.  The skin is full of flavor and isn’t overly salty.  At 6 euros for an entire chicken, it may be a tad pricy.  But finding good roasted chicken is hard to come by in these parts of town, so it is definitely worth it.

 

On an earlier visit, the fries were cooked fresh and served hot and crispy.  The second stop, though, was a completely different result.  The potatoes were soggy and lacking that crunchy texture.  The third visit was in between.  With so many entrées being served with fries, it’s extremely important to maintain a good French fry consistency.

Rhodos-Grill is a favorite of the locals – and with good reason.  Filling, tasty, and moderately priced – what more can you ask for from a local joint?  If you happen to be in the Hassels area of Düsseldorf, this fast food Greek establishment is worth paying a visit.

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Summary:

A local fast food restaurant in an urban part of Düsseldorf, Rhodos-Grill serves up an assortment of typical quick service foods including pizza, baguettes, sausages, roasted chicken, burgers, gyros, and French Fries.  Friendly atmosphere.  Extremely inexpensive.  Delivery service available.

(Note: Food was ordered to-go and served at home – hence, the plates are not from the restaurant)

Overall – 4 stars

  • Gyros mit Zwiebeln (with Onions) – 4/5
  • Rice with Chicken – 2/5
  • Currywurst – 3.5/5
  • Frikadelle – 4.5/5
  • Rotisserie Chicken – 5/5
  • French Fries – 4/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

January 2nd, 2010 at 11:54 pm