Germany, restaurant reviews

An American style lunch in Frankfurt…

We are still enjoyed excellent weather here in south central Germany, so Bill and I decided to take the Mini out for a spin with the top down. We found a restaurant on OpenTable.de called Chicago Meatpackers where we’d never been before… Actually, it’s been ages since our last trip to Frankfurt, anyway. It looked like a fun place with an American vibe, although it also has outlets in Hamburg and Dubai. The menu is heavy on steaks, burgers, and sandwiches, although there are also a few other dishes offered, including several that are vegan.

We found a parking garage right next to the restaurant. It was kind of a new fangled place. We didn’t have to take a ticket when we entered, because the garage took a picture of our license plate. When we were finished with the garage, which charges one euro per hour on Sundays, we entered the license plate into the machine, paid, and the system recognized our plate as we were on our way out.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we found it almost empty. There was just one couple sitting on the terrace. We had our pick of where we wanted to sit, and unlike yesterday, we had no worries about Jaguars going in and out of parking garages. Chicago Meatpackers has a side terrace, where we sat, and another outdoor seating area in front of the restaurant. The interior is really nice, with lots of America bric-a-brac and a functioning train that runs at the ceiling. There’s also a great looking bar, but it’s closed thanks to COVID-19.

The restaurant has a full bar, as well as a lot of non-alcoholic drinks. They also brew two types of their own craft beers– a red and a blond. Bill and I each had one of each– large sized– to go with our sandwiches. Bill had a steak sandwich, which was served with slice ribeye, mushrooms, and cheese, as well as a side of fries. I had a Meatpackers’ Burger, which was your basic cheeseburger. It also came with a choice of sides, which ran the gamut from Caesar salad, truffled mashed potatoes, and several kinds of fries. I liked the burger, because not only did it taste good, but it also wasn’t huge. They do serve other kinds of burgers, too, including Beyond Burgers, and chicken burgers.

Service was basically friendly and very laid back, although there was no need for our server to be stressed. He had a light lunch crowd that only picked up about ninety minutes later, as we were about to leave. We mostly had the place to ourselves, and the food got out very quickly. It was hot and fresh, and of good quality. I was particularly pleased by the quality of the beef. Those with a large appetite may want to spring for an extra patty. The burger wasn’t huge. It was big enough for me, and easy to finish. I’m not stuffed, but I’m quite satisfied.

While we enjoyed our beverages, I noticed some of the signage near us. It seems like more and more signs in Germany are either half done or entirely done in English! I also noticed two Porsches today– both later model. One was red, and the other was bright yellow. Both were kind of obnoxious.

Business was slow enough that I was a little worried that maybe this place has a pause in the afternoon. It doesn’t, though, and we didn’t really need a reservation. Total damage was about fifty euros. I would go back and try one of the other dishes. I almost went for their spare ribs, but they were veal and I try to avoid veal when possible. The grilled salmon looked enticing. I might have had that, if not for the fact that we eat a lot of salmon at home. They also had some interesting looking chicken dishes and appetizers. Like I said, it’s a very “American” style place, even though it appears to be owned and staffed by people from the Middle East.

Today’s outing wasn’t particularly exciting in terms of things we saw or did, but it was nice to visit Frankfurt again. It’s been a long while since we were last there, and it was a nice trip for the Mini Cooper, which really needs to be driven much more often.

I don’t know when we’ll be back in Frankfurt, but I would certainly recommend Chicago Meatpackers. I hope the COVID-19 numbers go down enough so people can enjoy its indoor dining room, which is pretty nice to look at. The electric train alone is worth staring at.

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Germany, restaurant reviews

Five Guys in Wiesbaden!

It’s raining cats and dogs today, and I needed to go to AAFES to pick up a few things. Bill has to go to Stuttgart tomorrow, so we decided to head into Wiesbaden for lunch and a little ‘Murican shopping on post. I kind of didn’t want to go into town because of the steady rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, but Bill was curious to see how our brand new Five Guys location was doing.

If you read last week’s post, you might know that we overheard an employee at Wiesbaden’s latest burger restaurant telling people that they would be opening their store on Thursday, January 30th. Bill and I have been to the one in Frankfurt a couple of times, as well as ones in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland. And, since I am a Virginian and we used to live in Northern Virginia, we have also tried one of the original Five Guys’ restaurants (the chain was founded in Arlington, Virginia in 1986), as well as the Five Guys outlets that have been springing up like kudzu all over the United States. The funny thing is, I distinctly remember reading back in 2002 or so that the Murrell family would never allow anyone to franchise their restaurants. Now, every time I turn around, a new one is opening. They’re probably rolling in money now.

Anyway, we noticed that today, there wasn’t that much of a line. The first time we went to the one in Frankfurt, there was a line out the door. I actually saw tables open, even though it was prime time for lunch. So, just because I do like a good burger and I wanted to visit this location before it turns into a total zoo, we decided to try it. Here are some pictures.

I was pleased to discover that the burgers we had today were just like the ones we’ve had in the States. In fact, even the pickles were right. Last time we ate at Five Guys, I didn’t like the pickles because they were sweet. Today, they used “spicy” ones, which aren’t actually spicy as much as they are sour.

I enjoyed the music playing– lots of decent rock from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, although it was turned up a bit loud. I told Bill that I wouldn’t enjoy working at Five Guys due to the noise, fast paced environment, and the extremely bright lighting. In fact, as much as I do like a good burger, I don’t even really enjoy sitting in their dining rooms because they’re so loud and bright. But I was pretty happy with the hot, juicy burger. The cheese was melted well and they got the order right.

Besides burgers, you can get hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, BLTs (bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches), and veggie sandwiches. They also have “freestyle Coca-Cola” with free refills, Evian water, and milkshakes. I saw a lot of people with shakes today. I might try one myself someday, although I would probably have to go there only for the shake. There’s no way I could have a burger and a milkshake in one sitting. I’d probably throw up from the excess. As it was, we didn’t even finish half of our one order of regular fries!

Some people complain about the prices at Five Guys. Our burgers were priced at 9,50 euros, which is admittedly higher than what you might find at, say, Burger King. But the burgers at Five Guys are all beef, never frozen, and aren’t loaded with way too much mayo. I don’t think we’ll go to Five Guys regularly, especially since I have a feeling it’s going to be super busy as it catches on in Wiesbaden, However, for the occasional burger, I don’t mind if I do… I hear Stuttgart’s location opens on Monday, so there’s no longer any need for anyone to make a road trip from down there to Frankfurt just so they can get their American style burger fix.

This is more my style.

After we ate, we dropped by AAFES, where I wasn’t able to find exactly what I was looking for. I got what I could find, then got in line. While we were standing there, ready to pay, I looked over to the entrance of the store and spotted a young man wearing a t-shirt that read “Fucking Slayer” as he held on to a handle of a baby carriage. Then, as the cashier was ringing us up, she talked to the customers ahead of us, who were waiting on a price check. The man said the cashier was good at multi-tasking, and the cashier said, “Yes, I am surprisingly good at multi-tasking. When it’s slow, I drop shit.” I guess nowadays, people don’t even try to stifle what are traditionally known as “swear words”.

At least I didn’t see any curlers today…

I am certainly not a prude when it comes to off-color language. I just thought it was kind of funny that she said “shit” out loud without batting an eye. That, and the guy’s profane t-shirt, reminded me of a time when a person could be kicked off an installation for wearing something like that in public. When I was a kid, certain clothes weren’t allowed to be worn… like, if a woman wore curlers or spandex in a shopping area on post, she might be asked to leave.

In my mom’s day, women weren’t even allowed to wear pants or shorts in the commissary or the officer’s club. Nowadays, when I go to AAFES, it’s like a live rendition of the People of Walmart. There’s nothing like a visit to AAFES to remind one of his or her ‘Murican roots. Ah well… I don’t really care too much about that issue. I just thought it was funny and interesting. As much as I curse, I would probably blush if I accidentally swore in front of customers. But I guess it’s not a big deal nowadays.

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Germany, restaurant reviews

Lunch at Vapiano in Wiesbaden…

The first time we visited Wiesbaden, back in October of this year, we stayed at the Town Hotel Wiesbaden, which is located in the heart of the city.  While we were there, I noticed an Italian chain restaurant called Vapiano.  Last time I visited Stuttgart, I noticed that Stuttgart has a Vapiano outlet, too.

I was weirdly attracted to the Wiesbaden Vapiano when we were downtown for our first visit.  I’m not sure why.  I usually prefer individual restaurants to chains.  Saturday afternoon, we were hungry and not wanting to search for a particularly special place.  We stopped by Vapiano in Wiesbaden and had a rather different restaurant experience.

The view from the parking garage at the theater in Wiesbaden…  They had the ice skating rink set up for the Christmas market…

The first thing that happened when we walked through the door is that a smiling woman behind a desk– the cashier– handed us each a plastic card.  Having never been to Vapiano before, I didn’t know what the hell was going on.  Then I saw that people were ordering at a counter.  You get into the line that corresponds with what you’re eating.  If you want pizza or lasagna, you get in one line.  If you want pasta, you get into a different line.  Salads are in still another line.

Bill decided he wanted pasta with spicy tomato sauce.  I wanted lasagna.  Since we didn’t know how things worked, I stood next to him while a line cook prepared his dish for him.  You can actually watch the guys boil the pasta and put sauce on it for you.  They scan your item on the plastic card.  If you want a soft drink, they’ll get that for you, too.

Bill an I wanted wine, so after we ordered my lasagna in a different line, he went to the bar and got us a couple of glasses of Montepulciano.  This is also where you get your desserts.

Bill’s pasta was ready before my lasagna was, so he was about halfway through his lunch when the beeper went off for my lasagna.  In retrospect, we should have ordered the lasagna first… not that I think we’ll be regulars at Vapiano.  It was a little too busy and noisy for my liking, although I noticed the workers were good about picking up plates and keeping things reasonably clean.  If I were about twenty-five years younger, I probably would have liked it a lot more.  The food was good and reasonably priced, but I’d rather eat at a place where there’s table service and less noise.  Vapiano is very kid friendly, so it has that going for it.

As we were leaving, we stopped by the cashier, handed her our cards, and paid.  This is also where you can leave a tip, if you like.  I’m pretty sure Bill paid with a credit card and I did notice they were equipped for that.

Below are some photos…

Vapiano has outlets all over the world, including in the United States.  This was our first visit.

 

Go up to the counter with the plastic card they give you.  Get in the appropriate line.  Order what you want and have the cook scan it.  They’ll cook your food and you’ll take it to your table.  You pay at the cashier as you leave.

Go to the bar for your adult beverages and desserts.

Bill’s ravioli with meat sauce.  It wasn’t bad, though it was done a lot sooner than my lasagna was.  Bill liked that the portion size wasn’t huge and the sauce was spicy.

 

My lasagna.  This was very cheesy and it took some time to actually get to the pasta.  My first few bites were all melted cheese, not that I minded.  It wasn’t a huge serving, which was a good thing.  I have had better lasagna, but this wasn’t too bad.  I just felt sorry for whomever has to wash the lasagna dishes.  A lot of the cheese was stuck to the pan.

Bill had cheesecake for dessert.  It wasn’t very sweet or creamy, but it kind of hit the spot after the pasta.

I went with their version of “Death by Chocolate”.  I used to work at a restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia had a far different and vastly superior “Death by Chocolate”.  Vapiano’s version is basically a rather dry, plain, chocolate cake.  I wouldn’t get it again.

On the way back to the car, I took some pictures of Wiesbaden’s holiday finery…

I am kind of tempted to ice skate, but it’s been about 40 years since my last trip around the rink.  I’m not sure why I never noticed the ice rinks in prior years.

We stopped by our local Rewe for provisions.  I was surprised to see a whole lot of condoms on sale…  As a former public health worker, I’m glad to see them selling condoms.  I just think it’s funny that they do it so openly.  I don’t remember seeing a display like this at an American grocery store.  Not that I mind, of course…

For when you’re feeling festive…

I think we’re going to like living in Wiesbaden.

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Germany

A couple of mundane chores and dinner at Besitos Tapas y Mas in Stuttgart…

Yesterday, Bill and I had to take care of a couple of personal chores.  First, I had to get my regular dependent I.D. replaced– the one I would use back in the States.  I had it made in 2014 at Fort Sam Houston, just before Bill retired from the Army.  Four years have passed, and it expired on my birthday.  I never use it over here, so I had forgotten to get it redone when it expired in June.  We finally got around to renewing it at Patch Barracks.

I’ve had a bunch of I.D.s made over the total of six years we’ve lived in the Stuttgart area, more than I’ve ever had done anywhere, but this was the first time I’ve had one done at Patch.  Since the I.D. office is in the same building Bill worked in during our first Germany stint, it was kind of nostalgic to go there.

On the way out of the I.D. office, Bill called my attention to the “amnesty box” on the wall by the police station.  I had never seen one before, so he was explaining what it was used for.  That’s where people drop off any bullets they’ve taken off the shooting range.  Apparently, taking bullets off post is verboten.  That led to us talking about whether or not it’s dangerous to drop bullets.  Bill assures me it’s not.

As we were leaving, a military police officer was ticketing someone who didn’t park in a proper spot.  I suppose it’s not surprising, given how scarce parking can be at Patch.  It was an even bigger problem when we were here the first time.  I won’t miss the scarce parking in these parts, although it could be just as bad where we’re going.

Next, we went to Stuttgart, where we had about 90 minutes to kill before I paid yet another visit to my fabulous dentist, Dr. Blair.  We stopped by the Biergarten at the Paulaner am alten Postplatz and had a beer before the appointment.  It’s getting pretty cold here now and there was a stiff breeze.  I was glad I wore a sweater.  Meanwhile, my friends in the South are complaining about the heat.

An afternoon weizen downtown…  The waitress laughed when I slurred the word “weizen” and said “weithen” instead.

 

We broke the news to Dr. Blair that we’re going to have to move.  I think we will keep seeing him, because he truly is the best dentist I have ever had.  He did an outstanding job on my implant.  I can’t even tell it’s not my real tooth.  Recently, he’s been monitoring a patch of red on my gums, well beneath the gumline.  It’s just a faint red line at this point, but he’s been watching it since June.  I don’t think I’ve ever had such a conscientious doctor of any kind.  Dr. Blair says he has a lot of patients in Wiesbaden, since it’s less than two hours away by train.  Besides, there’s always a chance we’ll come back to Stuttgart at some point.

After the appointment, we walked around downtown, where they’re setting up for the historical Cannstatter Fest.  This year, besides the regular Volksfest that goes on in Bad Cannstatt, there will also be an old fashioned/historic one at the Schlossplatz in Stuttgart.  Food booths were already going up yesterday, along with old fashioned rides.

I got a few pictures of the progress being made and enjoyed music being played by a couple of talented street buskers.  One guy was singing a pretty good rendition of “You Raise Me Up”, which is a song that many people love.  Personally, I’ve heard it a few too many times on shows like America’s Got Talent, but I was impressed by his efforts, even if he was singing to pre-recorded music.  Another guy was strumming a lute while using his foot to play a tambourine.  I got Bill to contribute a couple of euros, since I think it’s impressive to see people play two instruments at once.

Looks like this is going to be fun.  It opens this weekend.

Then, we decided to have dinner at Besitos Tapas y Mas, a Spanish chain restaurant not far from Calwer Strasse.  I had noticed it while we were sitting at the Biergarten across the street.  Besitos has locations in eight German cities, mostly scattered in the southern part of the country.  I had not heard of it before last night, but we decided we wanted to go somewhere different.

Besitos is a large restaurant, with plenty of outside and indoor seating.  It’s very casual, although they do take reservations.

We arrived at the restaurant just as it was opening at 5:00pm.  A large group of students entered right before us and took a big table near the bar.  We found a table near the wall and took a look at the menu, which mostly consists of hot and cold tapas, cocktails, and a few main courses.  Although I wouldn’t have minded a cocktail, I decided it might be better to stick with beer.  Some of the cocktails at Besitos are quite expensive and I wanted something quenching.  We ordered five different tapas to split: hummus (which came with bread), chicken with coconut curry sauce, ham croquettes, patatas bravas (roasted potatoes with salsa brava), and garlic toast.  Our waiter was a heavily inked and pierced guy, who seemed laid back but efficient.  He handled his job fine.

A look at the interior before it started filling up with people.

Garlic toast.  Not the most exciting tapa out there, but satisfying enough.

The whole spread.  The hummus was a little disappointing because it was a bit grainy and lacked flavor.  The sauce on the potatoes was much like the sauce that came with the chicken.  However, though nothing was particularly special, neither was anything offensive.

My favorite of the tapas was the ham croquettes.  They were crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle, just like me.  I also liked the chicken and wished we’d ordered two of those.  One small piece wasn’t quite enough.  The potatoes were plentiful and tasted good.  I liked the way they were roasted.

When it came time to leave, I went down to the ladies room.  That’s kind of where our otherwise pleasant experience went a bit south.  I don’t know why, but the restroom smelled a lot like diarrhea.  It’s possible that the restroom always smells bad.  Perhaps there is a sewer gas problem.  However, during our visit, the stench was overwhelming and I couldn’t stand to be in there longer than a couple of minutes.  It reeked of a full on blowout diaper or something.  Nasty!

Bill said he saw our waiter down there with a can of air freshener, so maybe someone had an accident and he was responding to a complaint.  It was pretty rank and, unfortunately, that didn’t leave me with a great impression.  I also noticed that the restaurant was a little grimy, like maybe it could have used a good cleaning in some places.  The menus were obviously well loved and had what appeared to be dried beverage stains on them.  However, it’s clearly a popular spot with the young crowd and lots of people were eating there as we were leaving.

We ultimately left on a good note, because our waiter had thought we were Germans and only asked us if we were American when he noticed U.S. dollars in Bill’s wallet.  When he realized we weren’t natives, he switched to perfect English that sounded American.  Then he complimented Bill on his German skills and thanked him for what was probably a more American style tip.  Overall, I thought the food at Besitos was okay, but the disgusting smell in the restroom was a huge turn off.  No one wants to smell diarrhea, especially after eating.  It makes one wonder what caused the fecal explosion.  But then, as we all know, shit happens…

On the way back to our car, I noticed a couple of wine bars on Calwer Strasse that I hadn’t noticed on previous visits.

This one was a tiny hole in the wall, but it looked inviting.

Maybe we’ll have a chance to try both places before it’s time to head north.

  
Anyway, we’ll definitely be back in Stuttgart one more time for a cleaning before we move to Wiesbaden.  I’ll miss being close to this town, which I’ve finally gotten to know.  The first time we lived in Germany, we never went to Stuttgart except for a couple of times.  Thanks to my dental dramas, we’ve come to enjoy visiting on occasion, despite the hellish traffic that surrounds it.  Guess it’s time to become familiar with the ICE train.

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advice, Germany, restaurant reviews

Good beef! Seven places to get good steaks in and around Stuttgart!

Now that we’ve finally been to a Block House location, it’s time to write about my favorite steak joints in and around Stuttgart.  I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.  Bill and I are fans of good beef, even though we’d probably be better off avoiding it!  Unfortunately, good beef is not something Germany is well known for having in abundance.  When we lived here the first time, from 07-09, we pretty much gave up on beef.  This time, we’ve sought out good steaks, mainly because our town happens to have a really good, and very reasonably priced, steakhouse.

Here’s my list of favorites, so far.  This post will also include a quick and dirty rundown of my overall impressions.  I know there are probably more places to get good steak in Stuttgart and its environs, but in the interest of keeping the length of this post reasonable, I’m starting with this list of seven.

Abacco Steakhouse

Abacco Steakhouse is an interesting restaurant located in downtown Stuttgart.  The concept basically involves having customers cook their own steaks.  They bring out the steak cooked to rare on a hot stone.  Then you continue to cook it to your desired level of doneness.  We had a good experience at this restaurant, although I’m not too hot on the idea of having to cook for myself when I’ve gone out to eat.  They do bring out several sauces to go with the steak, which I like.  Service was also good and the concept is unique.

Steak at Abacco Steakhouse.  

 

Ampulle

A very cool gin bar that specializes in steak.  We enjoyed a nice meal there in July of this year.  My only complaint about Ampulle is that people smoke cigars in their bar area and it can get rather smokey for non smokers.  Also, keep in mind that first courses at Ampulle are very ample!  If you want more than one course, I recommend pacing yourself.  I also recommend taking the train and walking to the restaurant because parking could be a challenge.

Ampulle is a great place for those who like beef and gin.

Maredo

Very reasonably priced chain restaurant with two locations in Stuttgart.  Has a little something for everyone, as well as surprisingly good steaks.  Besides having something for everyone, this restaurant runs all day.  It’s a good bet for when you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money.

Bill and I were able to enjoy a nice lunch at Maredo for about 44 euros.

Block House

Another chain restaurant with two locations in Stuttgart.  The Block House specializes in beef and, unlike Maredo, seems to focus only on meat dishes.  It was a bit more expensive than Maredo, but the food quality and service were very good.  I think it would appeal a lot to Americans, too.  It kind of has that American vibe to it!  There’s a wide variety of cuts to choose from and you get salad and sides included.  Fair warning to mushroom haters like me.  The salad that comes with the steaks has them included.  Next time, I’m telling them “Ohne Pilze!”

Steak at Block House.

[M]eatery

[M]eatery is another popular steak place in downtown Stuttgart.  It’s a little more upscale than the restaurants I’ve listed so far, although it, too, is a chain location.  You can drop a lot of cash at [M]eatery and, frankly, I was a little puzzled by the service we got there.  The food quality is good, though, and I hear their burgers are fantastic.  Be prepared to pay for everything pretty much a la carte, although I see that I did really enjoy the sides (that we paid extra for).

[M]eatery’s rib eye.

Christophorus

I debated whether or not to make Christophorus number one on this list.  I think this restaurant at the Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen probably offers the best steak in the area.  However, I put it in second place because reservations are a must and you will spend a whole lot of money there.  If you have a need to impress someone or want to celebrate, Christophorus is a very good bet for outstanding beef.  All meat at Christophorus is USDA prime– that is, from the United States.  The service is impeccable, too.  But bring lots of cash and be prepared to book well ahead.  We spent well over 200 euros for our dinner for two.  Fortunately, the steak was well worth it.  Other options are available for those who don’t want steak.

Fantastic steak at Christophorus.  Excellent service, too.

Tommi’s Bistro (now closed, but the owner has opened a new place in Nagold called Bahnhof 1872)

So far, my favorite steak joint in the Stuttgart area is Tommi’s Bistro.  It’s located in my town of Unterjettingen, which makes it inconvenient for a lot of people.  I still like it because the food is very good and extremely reasonably priced.  An added bonus to Tommi’s Bistro, besides the fact that we can walk to it, is that they offer a lot of live music events.  On the second Thursday of every month, they host a live jam featuring a band from Calw and anyone who wants to join them.  I have been known to jam with them myself a few times.  We went to Tommi’s last night for the jam.  I didn’t join them on stage, but we did have a couple of great steaks and enjoyed some fabulous music.  And… for all of that fun, we got out of Tommi’s for a mere 50 euros (including a generous tip, which really excited our waitress)!

The one drawback to Tommi’s is that the restaurant is pretty much only open on the weekends now and sometimes closes for private events.  If you do plan a visit to Jettingen to try Tommi’s Bistro, be sure to consult the official Web site to make sure it’s open.  As of right now, the restaurant is closed Monday through Wednesday, but that sometimes changes.  It’s also only open for dinner– lunch is not served there.  Some Saturday nights, they host concerts that cost extra.  If you choose to come out for one of the shows, I recommend making a reservation.

My rib eye last night.  Looks like Tommi has changed up his style a bit.  Side dishes cost extra, but they are also reasonably priced.  Service is good and they give you a house shot of sherry, too.

Bill had a rump steak.  You can get either Irish or Argentinian beef.  One mark against Tommi’s is that they don’t offer a whole lot of choices that don’t involve beef.  Also, there are no burgers at Tommi’s.  But if you like a good steak at a reasonable price, it’s a good bet.  They also have a children’s menu.

A photo of the jammers…

And a sample of last night’s music.  Good stuff!  This, by the way, is a free event, though tipping is encouraged.  Reservations are also a good idea if you’re coming to one of the musical events.

 

So there you have it.  These are my picks so far for great steaks in and around Stuttgart.  May your next steak dinner in or around Stuttgart be stellar!

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advice, Germany, restaurant reviews, Stuttgart, wine

Wine bar! And our very first visit to the Block House…

Yesterday, Bill and I visited the dentist in downtown Stuttgart for our biannual cleanings.  As is our habit, after we visited the dentist, we hung around downtown for dinner.  I was unusually stressed yesterday, but the truth is, for months I’d been wanting to try a certain wine bar near the Markthalle.  Die Weinhandlung Kreis is a small wine shop, but you can also go there to taste wines and enjoy snacks.  We’d passed by the place so many times and I wanted to go in to see what it was about, but every time I paused by the door, Bill convinced me to move onward.  Yesterday, I was determined to finally try the place.  And frankly, after my dental cleaning and the huge Stau that preceded it, I was in need of a soothing red for my jangled nerves!

Die Weinhandlung Kreis near the Schillerplatz in downtown Stuttgart is a very small place, but they have wines and local spirits.  Yesterday, I noticed they were selling Chartreuse and Monkey 47 Gin, which is a gin made here in Baden Württemberg.  We discovered Monkey 47 Gin when we visited Hamburg in January 2015 and since then, we’ve enjoyed it ourselves.  My German sucks, but I can see from Die Weinhandlung Kreis’s Web site that this little wine bar is just one address affiliated with Die Weinhandlung Kreis.  They have a main shop in Stuttgart South, as well as an online store.  They even have a vineyard.  I can tell that Bill and I are going to have to get to know this business better.

Anyway, the lady who was running the shop yesterday wasn’t super friendly, but she was quick to get Bill and me a couple of large glasses of vino.  I tried a lovely Gigondas that was very nice in the late afternoon.  Bill had a Spanish red that had almost a menthol tinge to it.  It was very interesting.  They were playing cool jazzy music on vinyl in the cozy tasting room.  Had we not had plans to visit the Block House afterward, we might have tried a snack to go with the wine.  They had quite a few reds and whites available, as well as at least one sparkling wine.  We will definitely be back.

Ahh… red wine in the afternoon.  You can get a small or large glass.  I went with a large.

Bill sporting his new sporty goatee as he enjoys a red.  On the wall, you can see a list of what was available yesterday.  

Tiny bar.  Sorry this picture is a bit blurry.  I was trying not to be conspicuous.  Behind the turntable is a blurry list of snacks.  We ended up buying a bottle each of the reds we tried.  It’s worth mentioning that this wine bar takes credit cards– even the ones from America! 

 

I felt a bit more relaxed after the wine and my stomach told me it was time for dinner.  I had been wanting to try the Block House chain restaurant in Stuttgart for some time.  Now that I have, I can write a review.  Later, I will write a post detailing all of our local steakhouse experiences.

I saw this on the way to the Block House and thought it was nifty.  It was in front of a shoe store.  

I also noticed this coffee shop right next to the Block House location on Eberhardstraße.  They sell cups of coffee, but they also sell beans.  We may have to pay them a visit, so maybe I won’t need to spend 40 euros in duty taxes plus $40 in shipping for Peet’s again!

The first thing to know about the Block House is that there it’s a chain restaurant.  There are 47 Block House restaurants, 38 of which are in Germany.  Two of those 38 locations are in Stuttgart.  In that way, Block House is not unlike Maredo, another German steakhouse chain that has two locations in Stuttgart.  Curiously, the two Stuttgart area Maredo locations are practically within sight of each other.

The next thing to know about the Block House is that it runs all day.  There is no pause between lunch and dinner.  This is a very fine thing.  We were able to visit the restaurant yesterday before it got super busy.  Indeed, it was somewhat chill when we arrived at 5:00pm and was pretty full by the time we left a couple of hours later.

Bill anticipates a good hunk of meat.  He said the restaurant reminds him of an American place.  I agreed.  In fact, they were even playing early 80s pop music, which I kind of dug.

 

Block House is a very casual place.  We were invited to sit where we wanted.  When we sat down and the waiter realized we weren’t German, he asked if we needed menus in English.  Of course we said no!  Bill likes to show off his mad skills… which unfortunately, I am still trying to develop.

We started with a very nice bottle of Malbec, along with San Pellegrino.  I ordered the Hereford Rib Eye, while Bill went with a Filet.  Both dishes came with salads and Block House bread, as well as a potato or pommes.

 

As we were sitting there soaking up the atmosphere, Bill got a strange look on his face.  I asked him what was the matter, and then it became obvious.  The waiter put my salad in front of me and it was loaded with huge sliced mushrooms.  I took in a quick gasp of surprise and horror because I have a phobia of mushrooms.  Fortunately, Bill was kind enough to take them out of my salad.

 

Next time, I’ll know to tell them to hold the fungus!

The steaks were very good.  I was able to ask them to hold the sour cream and got butter instead.  I could have also had garlic butter.  My rib eye was about 250 grams and cooked to a perfect medium temperature.  The bread appeared to be a bun sliced, buttered, topped with garlic salt, and toasted.  It was pretty good, if not a bit generic.

Bill’s filet and sour cream covered potato.

 

We decided to have dessert.  It turned out to be a treat.  Those of you who love lava cakes will be happy to know you can get one at Block House.  I have an aversion to lava cakes, so I went with the New York Cheesecake, which came with a lovely warm blueberry sauce.

This was pretty damn delicious!  I am a sucker for cheesecake, even if I don’t eat cold, stinky cheese!

Bill had the Eis und Heiß, vanilla ice cream with a warm berry sauce.  He enjoyed it very much.

 

The bill came to about 82 euros before the tip.  While it wasn’t the best steak I’ve had in Stuttgart, I will say that we did enjoy our visit to Block House and would go again.  And now that I’ve finally tried the Block House, perhaps it’s time to write a comparison of all the steaks we’ve had here so far.  Stay tuned!

The outside of one of Stuttgart’s two Block House locations.

 

This is the end of my restaurant review.  Stop reading if you have delicate sensibilities about sex.

On the way back to the car, we passed Dr. Mueller’s Sex Shop.  I have never actually been inside the place, but this particular chain store has the distinction of being one of my most vivid memories of my first visit to Germany in 1997.  I came here on the way home from Yerevan, Armenia and two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The Frankfurt Airport, at that time, had a couple of Dr. Mueller’s locations within it.  I remember being shocked as I passed it.  So, in honor of that memory, I decided to snap a few photos of the location in downtown Stuttgart.  Maybe someday, we’ll venture inside.

Looks pretty tasteful to me.

 

Tune in next time for whatever crap I discover next.

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Germany, restaurant reviews

Our first taste of Chilli’s in Vaihingen…

Last month, we got the news that Neuer Ochsen, formerly located next to the Schwaben Galerie, had closed and a new “Tex-Mex” chain restaurant had opened in its place.  Chilli’s, not to be confused with the American chain restaurant, Chili’s, is now occupying what used to be a pretty decent Swabian restaurant.  I have fond memories of visiting Neuer Ochsen when we lived here the first time and spent six weeks living at the Vaihinger Hof.  Bill and I visited a few more times since we moved back to Germany in 2014.  For that reason, I guess I was a little sad that Neuer Ochsen is no more, especially since German style Mexican food is often disappointing.

Bill and I didn’t have anything better to do today and my car needed a spin.  We’d heard that Chilli’s wasn’t too bad as German style Mexican food goes.  I was curious.  Off we went to the new Chilli’s and I braced myself for yet another interesting interpretation of Mexican food.  We arrived at just after one o’clock.  A few people were sitting outside in the biergarten, and there were two tables seated inside.  Since Bill and I are pretty fair skinned folks who had not put on sunscreen, we decided to eat inside.  In retrospect, it might have been better to sit outside, since the restaurant was a little stuffy today.  Nevertheless, we were warmly greeted and invited to sit wherever we wanted.  Chilli’s kindly offers menus in German and English.  All staff members we encountered were fluent in English and very friendly.

Bill looks like a mystery man in this photo.

The English version of the menu.  I didn’t get a good look at the German version, but it might pay to look at both.  It seemed like the English version may have been abridged.  I did get a good laugh at a few language SNAFUs, though.

I ordered a classic margarita.  It was priced at 6,50, but during Happy Hour (from 5-7pm), all cocktails are 4,90.  I was surprised by how good this margarita was.  I had no complaints.  It wasn’t too boozy and only half of the glass was salted, giving drinkers the choice as to weather or not they wanted salt.  Bill had a plain old German beer.  A trainee made my margarita and asked if it was okay.  I was glad to tell him he’d done a good job.

 

As for food, I ordered what was billed as an enchilada, but was actually more like a burrito.  It was a soft flour tortilla stuffed with fillings.  Since there were two enchiladas, I got one with beef and the other with shrimp.  The tortillas were topped with cheese and came with salsa and sour cream, as well as a small salad.  I noticed guacamole on the sides menu, but was surprised it didn’t come with any of the dishes.

Bill ordered a pork dish.  His entree was strips of pork in garlic with tomato sauce with rice and a salad.  He says the dish seemed more Italian than Mexican, though he was fairly pleased with it.  It wasn’t very spicy, though.

Bill’s pork dish.  He liked it, but it didn’t remind him of Mexico.  He was pleased with the portion size, though.  It was just about right.

My “enchiladas”, which were really more like burritos.  The insides of the tortillas had nothing but beef and shrimp in them.  The salsa tasted mostly of chopped tomatoes and lacked the flavors I’d expect with salsa.  I didn’t taste any cilantro or peppers.  However, despite not being authentic or familiar, I wasn’t displeased with this dish.

I had a mojito for dessert.  It was 7,50 and pretty good, though I think the bar staff might need a tutorial on muddling.  I think the mint and lime could have stood a bit more.  On the positive side, the drink was plenty potent.

The new sign.  Notice the ox on the glass.

 

I liked the way Chilli’s redecorated the restaurant.  The inside of what used to be a somewhat drab place is now vibrant with bright colors and flatscreen TVs that show places where Spanish is spoken. They were playing festive Mexican music, too.

The total bill for today’s lunch, which came with a few gummi bears, was 44,40.  I noticed a lot of the dishes being offered were reasonably priced.  The burritos, for instance, were going for less than 8 euros.

Some of the items on Chilli’s menu are definitely not Mexican.  They offer things like chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, and salmon filets with baked potatoes.  Some of their interpretations of Mexican food seem a little lost in translation.  Also, bear in mind that I am from Virginia and of Scottish, English, and German stock, so I am definitely not an expert on Mexican cuisine.  Bill grew up in Texas and has had his share of Mexican food.  He says Chilli’s doesn’t suck.  I am inclined to agree.

Chilli’s is not like an American Mexican restaurant, but I think it’s somewhat better than the other Mexican places I’ve tried so far in the area.  It’s better than La Cocina Mexicana, if only because there’s no risk of the owner chasing you out of the dining room if you bring a stroller in.  It’s much better than El Chico in Tuebingen, too, because no one batted an eye when I ordered mixed drinks at lunchtime.

In any case, I wouldn’t mind visiting Chilli’s again.  It’s not too bad, even if I still miss San Antonio for Mexican food.

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Germany, restaurant reviews, Stuttgart

Mid-day meal at Maredo in Stuttgart…

This morning, Bill and I decided we’d visit Robinson Barracks to look for a new chair for me.  The one I’ve been using for the past three years ago has a problem with the hydraulic.  I pump it up, sit down, and sink.  I’ve come to realize that this happens because I abuse the hell out of my office chairs, sitting in them for hours at a time every day.  After two or three years, I need to replace them.

Anyway, though we figured there wouldn’t be a great selection at RB, we also knew we could pick up a few items at the commissary there and then maybe have some lunch.  It had been a long time since our last visit and I wanted to see what else was there.  So off we went, and I did manage to find a chair that will probably do for now.

About halfway through our quick trip to the commissary, I started feeling hungry.  By the time we were done shopping, it was almost 2:00pm.  I commented that we should have had lunch before we went shopping as Bill drove us toward downtown Stuttgart.  I know there are places to eat around RB, but we so seldom go there that we aren’t familiar with the best places yet.  Besides that, we always end up there just as the lunch hours are winding down.  We needed to find a place that would serve lunch in the mid afternoon.

We parked downtown, initially thinking we’d go to the Paulaner Bar, where I knew I could get some killer chicken.  We turned away when we saw how packed it was, especially since it was also full of smokers.  Then we wandered around a few other places, eventually ending up at the Christmas market.  I might have been interested in walking through there, but my blood sugar was dropping and I was starting to get a bit hangry.  My brain turns to shit when that happens.  Instead of enjoying the festive sights and sounds, I was getting really crabby and indecisive.

I wouldn’t have minded walking around some more, if I hadn’t been ready to drop.  The crowds were alternately confusing and annoying me.

Finally, Bill spotted a Maredo restaurant.  Interestingly enough, I had mentioned the one located next to our parking garage, but Bill mistakenly thought they were closed.  They weren’t.  He just hadn’t stopped to read the big sign hanging in the door, which said they were closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Another location, maybe two or three blocks away and visible from the one at our parking garage, was clearly open and ready for our business.  To be honest, steak wasn’t really what was on my mind for lunch today, but I really needed to eat.  There were plenty of tables open and and the price is right.

Just after we sat down, we heard a big thud.  An elderly lady traveling with what looked like a younger married couple tripped and fell down by the door.  Bill got up to make sure she was okay.  After a few minutes, she was fine and their party left without incident.  For a minute there, I was afraid someone was going to have to call for an ambulance.

In any case, Maredo is a Düsseldorf based steakhouse that has been in business since 1973.  Though the name sounds vaguely Spanish, it’s actually comprised of the names of the three founders, Manfred Holl, Karl-Heinz Reinheimer, and Udo Schlote.  It operates 57 restaurants in Germany and three in Austria.

Bill and I ate at a Maredo once at the Cologne airport back in May 2012.  Back then, I thought steaks in Germany were universally yucky.  That was before I made the fortuitous discovery of Tommi’s Bistro.  Anyway, during that first visit, I stuck with a wienerschnitzel.  It tasted fine, but I wasn’t all that impressed by the chain.  Maredo specializes in steaks, but there’s a nice variety of dishes on the menu.  They have everything from fajitas to baked potatoes.

Today, by the time we were seated, I was in serious need of protein.  Maredo was offering a rib-eye special.  I ordered that and Bill had spareribs.  In the meantime, we sipped weizenbiers and ate fresh bread that came with some kind of creamy spread with garlic and chives.  Though white, creamy stuff often gives me the heebie jeebies, I’m starting to be braver since I’ve been in Germany.  After Bill assured me there was no funky or strong cheese in the spread, I tried it and liked it.

Loud music played over the sound system as I fortified myself.  Bill smiled when he saw the color come back to my cheeks and a smile slowly form on my lips.  I usually recover quickly from being hangry.

Our friendly waiter brought us our meals.  Bill’s very juicy spareribs did not come with anything but a side of barbecue sauce and a tomato tapenade.  My 300 gram rib eye, on the other hand, came with green beans and potato wedges with a sour cream dip.  I normally don’t like sour cream, but I did like the dip that came with my wedges, especially since it was in a ramekin and I could control how much I used.  In my opinion, when it comes to condiments, less is more.  I shared my beans with Bill and we each tasted each other’s dish.  The ribs were surprisingly good– very juicy, flavorful, and with plenty of meat on them.  My steak was cooked perfectly to a medium temperature.  It was tender, juicy, and well seasoned.  It was very good. The green beans were nicely seasoned, but a little mushy.

Bill’s juicy spareribs.

My surprisingly good steak…  I won’t need to eat again before morning.  I loved the potatoes and the side of dip, too… though I could definitely call this meal another “present for my ass”.  Those who follow me on Facebook know that that’s what I call any fattening food that soothes the savage beast.  I could have paired this steak with a nice wine, had I wanted to.

Although they had some nice looking desserts, I wasn’t even able to finish everything on my plate.  I came somewhat close, though.  What can I say?  I was hungry!  Service was competent and friendly.  We got out of there with a bill for 44 euros and a reminder that you really can get a nice meal at a chain restaurant.  I left Maredo feeling much better than I did when we arrived.  Next time I’m hungry and a Maredo is handy, I won’t hesitate to drop in.

There is another Maredo within sight of this one in downtown Stuttgart.  Though I’ve seen places with 7-Elevens and Starbucks on alternate corners, this is the first time I’ve seen that phenomenon in Germany.  

Friday of this week, Bill and I are going to come back to Stuttgart and try Christophorus, which we have been told is the best steak restaurant in the area.  I look forward to seeing how it stacks up in our book.  Stay tuned!

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Germany, restaurant reviews

A visit to the HendlHouse in Böblingen…

Before today’s trip to Panzer, a nice walk in the woods…  the weather was perfect!  Not hot at all.

My favorite part of the trail.

Zane’s favorite part of the walk is a field we have to walk through.  It never fails to get him in a playful mood.  Today was no exception.

A little film I made from footage from our walk.

 

Right after I took this film, we were confronted by about nine people on horseback.  Fortunately, I saw and heard them before the dogs did.  We went into the woods and waited for them to pass.  I should have filmed them cantering past.  The dogs, of course, went absolutely nuts and didn’t settle down until we got home.  That was probably twenty minutes later.  I think the family walking their dogs ahead of us were happy when we turned in a different direction.

Bill and I were hoping to have some fun today in Nagold at the Keltenfest.  I had been planning to go, owing to my Celtic heritage.  Unfortunately, we needed to go to Panzer for some Frontline for our dogs.  Then we got hungry.  I didn’t want to visit our usual Sunday haunts because I wanted to try something different.  We decided to visit the HendlHouse in Böblingen, even though we knew parking could be a challenge.  There’s some kind of fest going on there today.

As luck had it, there was a spot open in HendlHouse’s tiny parking lot.  We pulled in, thanking heavens we brought my little Mini, which fit nicely in the small spot.

The outside of the HendlHouse, a “fast food” joint specializing in chicken. (ETA: This restaurant is now called HendlBurg)

 

As soon as we walked into the HendlHouse, I had a flashback to the fall of 2007, when Bill and I had just moved to Germany the first time.  We ate in this restaurant.  Only then, it was a Wienerwald.  Like HendlHouse, Wienerwald is a chain restaurant specializing in chicken.  Bill and I really enjoyed the meal we had there in 2007, but when we ate at one in Vienna back in April, we were less impressed.  Böblingen still has a Wienerwald, but it looks like it’s moved to a bigger building.

We sat down at a small table and a very kind German lady waited on us.  I ordered a helles beer, while Bill had a pils.  And, of course, we both had chicken.  HendlHouse is billed as “fast food”, but I’d say it’s more like a casual dining place.  They have a salad bar, a kid’s menu, and besides chicken, there is ostrich, duck, and schnitzel offered.  You can even get a burger there, though I can’t imagine ordering a burger over chicken at the HendlHouse.  They do chicken right…  as KFC used to claim.

I had barbecue chicken.  This was surprisingly good.  The sauce was a bit sweet and tasted a little of orange, but it was also tangy and spicy.  The chicken was juicy and flavorful.  I finished about half of this.  The rest is lunch tomorrow.

Bill loved the garlic chicken.  I was tempted by this dish, but decided Bill should get it because he loves garlic, which tends to repeat on me.  

Our bill was 24,90 euros.  Bill spoke German to our waitress.  I tried to speak a little German, too.  It came out Armenian.  I really need to practice.  As we were about to leave, I noticed a guy double parked in the tiny parking lot.  He was quick to grab our spot just as we left the restaurant.  I liked the devil’s horns, tail, and pitchfork he had around the VW logo on his van.

We were thinking of going to Wurmlinger Chapel with the dogs today, but I realized it closes at 4:00pm.  I’m sure we could walk up there anyway, but why go up there if the chapel is closed?  So maybe next weekend.  I’d still like to go have some fun today, but I think we may be in for the night.

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rants, restaurant reviews

My review of Outback Steakhouse…

No, I didn’t like it…  and in fact, I haven’t been back in the four years since I posted this review.  I am rehashing it because it was an entertaining review that sparked funny comments.  Wish I could import the comments here, but maybe someone will come along and contribute new ones.

Outback Steakhouse… why an Australian themed restaurant makes me passionately miss Europe #1200

Jan 19, 2010 (Updated Feb 2, 2010)
Review by   

Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating:Very Good

  • Food and Presentation: 
  • Ambiance and Decor: 
  • Quality of Service: 

Pros:Good food. Serving size was fine.

Cons:Obvious rushing through the meal coupled with constant upselling.

The Bottom Line:Although the food was good, the service was mediocre.  Way too much pressure to eat and run.

My husband Bill and I just had a very disappointing meal at Outback Steakhouse. We are on the road this week, so I expect to be writing a slew of restaurant reviews. There happens to be an Outback Steakhouse in the depressing sea of parking lots and strip malls behind our hotel in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Bill and I decided to swing by tonight for dinner.

This was not our first trip to Outback. Bill and I visited a location in northern Virginia a couple of times and found the place crowded, but basically okay. The food was always good, anyway. And the food tonight was basically good, too. So why was I missing Germany all the more after we were finished? Because our experience at Outback Steakhouse was yet another reminder of just how plastique and rushed the experience of dining out in America can be, especially at chain restaurants.

On your mark…

We arrived for dinner at about 6:15pm. The Outback was jumping, with most tables occupied by ordinary folks out for a steak or a bloomin’ onion. The dining room was brightly lit and I could hear music over the din of the crowd. A hostess led Bill and me to a booth near the kitchen. We had barely been seated a minute when our server approached us and asked us what we wanted to drink. She chirped about the drink specials, let us know that happy hour was going on, and suggested her favorite drink– a Mai Tai– though she added that it would be charged at full price. I was in the mood for a beer and so was Bill. I got a Yuengling on draft, while Bill opted for a Foster’s Lager on draft.

Get set…

Our waitress was back in a flash with our drinks. She was pitching appetizers, but having dined at Outback before, we knew we’d never be able to eat an appetizer and an entree. I decided on a ribeye steak while Bill opted for a 9 ounce sirloin. Our meals came with two sides. I had a baked potato and a Caesar salad while Bill had garlic mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Our waitress brought us one of Outback’s trademark little pumpernickel loaves with whipped butter. Before I’d finished the first tiny slice of bread, a food runner was dropping off my Caesar salad, which had the distinct appearance of having been pre-made and chilled.

Go!

After I’d had a bite or two of my salad, our waitress came back and asked how the salad tasted. While still chewing on a leaf, I said it was fine.  We hadn’t finished half of the loaf of bread when the server dropped off another one for us, which we didn’t have the chance to touch. I managed to finish most of the salad just in the nick of time, for another food runner was back with our meals. Once again, our waitress asked how the food was when I was mid bite. A couple of bites later, the manager stopped by for an obligatory visit, asking us how everything was and letting us know we could call on her if we needed her. Thanks, boss.

Now… Outback meals, like so many other meals at American casual dining restaurants, are quite large. It takes time to eat them and not get indigestion. But apparently, nobody informed our waitress of that fact, since we were halfway through our dinner when she asked us about dessert! Bill and I knew we’d never be able to eat dessert, but even if I had been inclined to partake of a sweet ending, the waitress’s insistence on rushing us certainly killed the urge. She seemed to be in a big hurry to get rid of us, though she somehow managed to smile the whole time. She even smiled as she cleared Bill’s plate while I was still chewing and had about a third of my steak left. If that wasn’t a clue for me to hurry the hell up, I don’t know what was.

Lasting impression…

Our tab came to just under $45.  Our waitress had decorated it with a smiley face and a cutesy “Thank You” with the total circled. As she set the check down on the table, she mentioned a survey that Outback Steakhouse had going on. All we had to do was go online and fill out the survey and we’d get a free bloomin’ onion on our next visit. Now, although I’ve tried and enjoyed bloomin’ onions before, I’ve come to realize that they’re basically nothing but balls of fat, so I never order them. But I did want to fill out that survey, because I definitely had something to say.

The survey

Less than an hour after Bill and I had sat down to dinner, I was back in my hotel room booting up the computer.  I took Outback’s survey and suddenly saw the root of all the turnin’ and burnin’ that was going on at that restaurant tonight. The survey had questions like whether or not the server had suggested an alcoholic drink to go with our meals (what if we were teetotalers?), whether or not the manager had stopped by (what if we’d rather talk to each other than have a forced convo with the manager?), and if our server had suggested dessert (oh yeah, she definitely did… at an inopportune time). I left a detailed comment, acknowledging that I had once been a waitress myself and understood the concept of turning tables. I know that restaurants make a lot of money on alcohol. I understand that somehow corporate America thinks it’s important for the manager to stop by every table for an obligatory and forced greeting. But when I go out to dinner, I’d like to be able to taste my food and enjoy my meal without having to satisfy the corporate powers that be. Having another ten or fifteen minutes to enjoy my meal would have made a big difference in my overall experience. Moreover, I didn’t understand the need to rush. The restaurant wasn’t even full.

Why casual American chain restaurants make me miss Europe

One of the wonderful things about European dining is that servers get paid a living wage. So there’s no need to turn n’ burn and no pressure to GTFO as soon as the last bite is swallowed. Some folks might be sitting there reading this review, thinking we asked for it by going to a chain restaurant like Outback. Chain restaurants do exist in Europe, but servers there seem to understand that dining out is a luxury and people are paying for the pleasure of being able to have a nice meal without being rushed. And turning and burning goes on in nice American restaurants too. I know this because I worked in a fine dining establishment and was encouraged to get people in and out ASAP.

Another thing that turns me off of American chain restaurants– hell perhaps even a lot of Americans in general– is that there’s a lot of fake niceness. People asking how your meal is… people asking if they can do anything for you… all the while smiling and talking in a sing songy voice with an undercurrent of passive aggression. And it smacks of insincerity.  At least in Europe, most folks are honest about how they really feel, even if they sometimes come off as uncaring or even blatantly rude.  I would rather deal with someone who’s real about their feelings than someone who tries to snow me with BS.

Come on, corporate businesspeople, I know most of the servers/salespeople/managers don’t give a flying fig about how I’m really doing. They want to get me in and out; sell me a product and get me to part with my money; and hope I don’t return anything. Most of the time, I try to oblige them because I try to be a nice person and, having worked in retail and food service myself, I understand where they’re coming from. But tonight’s experience really pushed the limits of my tolerance.

It’s not just Outback

I had lunch at the Olive Garden today, yet another popular American chain restaurant. Actually, even though it was lunch time and I was dining alone, I had a much nicer experience there, though there was still a lot of fakeness. The food was good; I was visited by the manager but I wasn’t nearly as rushed and nobody tried to ply me with liquor. But it still smacked of corporate American malarkey…

Please forgive the rant from an American…

I guess my two years in Germany really spoiled me. Four months back in the States has me plotting to go back to Europe, if only for the excellent food and wine and the ability to actually taste my food before I shovel it down my gullet, even if I’m not in a fine dining establishment. No wonder there are so many heavy people in the US (myself included). We don’t even get the chance to digest anything before we’re being hustled out the door. Thankfully, I brought antacids with me for when the heartburn invariably kicks in.

To sum up…

I thought the food at Outback was fine, but the service and attitude of the staff needs some work. When I go out to eat, I don’t like to be herded in and out of the restaurant like cattle. I’m a person, dammit, spending precious disposable income on what amounts to a luxury.  Of course, having taken Outback’s online survey, I can see that just like sh!t, bad attitudes roll downhill and, unfortunately, ultimately rub off on the customer.

For more information: http://www.outback.com

Recommend this product? No

Kid Friendliness: Yes
Vegetarian Friendly: No
Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations Steak
Best Suited For: Large Group

Here are the comments from that review.

Here are the comments from Epinions.  One comes from an Italian native who got a kick out of my rant.

Re: Re: Re: from an OB waitress
by tennis_player
Jenny,

“Good on you” for becoming truly sophisticated enough to enjoy the ways of Europe and fine dining in a leisurely manner!

I, too, waited tables as well as tended bar, janitored, hosted, cashiered and even cooked for about 15 years in my early life so I can well appreciate this whole thing about not being rushed from the customer’s side and the table turns from the management side – but there is no question that the European way is so much better.

There, everybody wins! And waiting tables is a noble profession!

Jim Feb 2, 2010
10:35 pm PST
Re: THAT was an excellent lunch!
by vicfar
Yes Bill, European life can begin to redeem even the worst sociopaths…look at me, I am on my way to redemption after only three years in Belgium. And it’s not the Campari with soda on the side. I think it’s the Westmalle beer and the divine chocolate…..Hell, I even stopped harassing the waitresses!

Vic
Feb 2, 2010
10:53 am PST
THAT was an excellent lunch!
by cuculuain
And, Jung be praised, it was blessed Synchronicity to see those fresh-faced, albeit ignorant, “Sons of Helamin” walking amongst us heathens! That was a fine bottle of wine from the Languedoc…a region well known to all us self-respecting Gnostics!

I did, of course, skip the “liver, fava beans and big Amarone!”. Not much of a sociopath I’m afraid… Feb 2, 2010
10:06 am PST
Re: Re: from an OB waitress (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
Vic,

We did visit France a few times… and… believe it or not, Bill liked it even more than I did. The sociopathic American soldier is a Francophile! Imagine that! I think it was the wine that did him in, coupled with foods that he loves and I don’t so much.

I think you would have gotten a kick out of watching him at a Parisian restaurant we found for lunch one day. I started with a glass of champagne and a smoked salmon appetizer. He ordered a bottle of lovely red wine from southern France to go with his chicken and mushroom dish. And while we were eating a couple of harried Mormon missionaries walked past our tableside window. Bill had to laugh because he was once a Mormon, though he was never a missionary… and he knew those poor young lads in France would never be able to enjoy a meal like the one we were having that day.

I think when we finished, I had a chocolate dessert, while he had some outstanding coffee and a plate of French cheeses…

Yeah, I’d say we sort of became European snobs! Feb 2, 2010
5:20 am PST
Re: from an OB waitress (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
Yep, that’s what I figured! I used to wait tables too, so I do understand the concept of getting people in and out. And now that I know for sure that’s Outback’s philosophy, I’ll be sure not to go there if I want to enjoy dinner. If I need to eat fast, then I might consider it… the way I’d consider any fast food restaurant. Or I’ll order takeout. Feb 2, 2010
5:13 am PST
Re: from an OB waitress
by vicfar
If I can intrude…honey, you are doing great. Most Americans are quite happy to fill their oversized belly in 45 minutes and get the hell out. They lead busy lives. Jenny has become a decadent European snob: after all those months in Germany (can you imagine if she’d been to France??), she is beginning to sound just like me 🙂

Vic Feb 2, 2010
3:21 am PST
from an OB waitress
by cmhsr
Hello! I am a waitress at an Outback Steakhouse and from the looks of it, your server was everything the company trained her to be! Haha. We are told to ALWAYS suggest an alcoholic beverage, recommend upsells (horseradish crumb topping? Like to add stuffed shrimp?), and to ask about dessert halfway through the meal.

Yes, halfway. I too thought that was ridiculous when they emphasized that during training. In fact, I still don’t ask about dessert until I see my tables are finished eating or close to it. I have learned through experience that, though it may slow my rotations, I get better tips if I allow people to eat at their own pace. And it also makes my job that much less frantic. But I digress.

About your waitress hovering, we are told to always check back immediately after each course goes out. The time frame is 2 bites to 2 minutes. So she definitely was on top of that! In fact, you’d be amazed at how precisely the dining experience at Outback is laid out. We have target times from everything from greeting customers to turning tables, and trust me, we are pressured from managers to always speed it up. Right now the average goal is 45 minutes. Feb 1, 2010
10:16 am PST
Re: Re: Re: This was a riot…. (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
;D is a smilie. My name is Jenny. 😉 Jan 25, 2010
7:19 am PST
Re: Re: This was a riot….
by vicfar
D(?),

if you had waited on me, you would have taken the Campari back to the bar with a smile, and then told the bartender about an as*hole European who’s going to get a Campari in his face if he does not cut it out!

My mission in the US was to teach American bartenders how to serve a Campari, and I must say I have failed after 25 years of efforts.

My mission in Belgium is to teach people how to be nice (and even smile). This isn’t any easier….

Cheers V. Jan 25, 2010
3:34 am PST
Re: I agree! (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
On the flip side, Bill and I have run into some European servers in America who were awesome… and very interesting. Not surprisingly, they worked in fine dining establishments. Jan 21, 2010
2:53 pm PST
I agree!
by tennis_player
You said it right and hit most of the right buttons!

One issue that I really appreciate about dining in Europe is – THE CUSTOMER/DINER IS THE ONE THAT DETERMINES WHEN THE MEAL IF FINISHED – NOT THE WAIT STAFF OR MANAGEMENT.

I hate the feeling of being rushed in order to get their table turns!

I have a slightly different take on the European wait staff. He is right about being able to joke around with American wait staff but I think the difference is the more casual aura in the U.S., where it is more formal in Europe so the kidding and having fun may be frowned upoon as being unprofessional.

I found that if we dined at an off hour and could engage the wait staff in fairly lengthy dialogue, they, too, could be quite interesting and less formal. We learned a lot about the local culture this way as they are quite proud and pleased to share information about their town, their family and local traditions.

Jim Jan 20, 2010
11:34 pm PST
Re: This was a riot…. (Delete your comment)
by knotheadusc
Vic, somehow I knew I’d hear from you on this issue. Don’t get me wrong. There are some wonderful restaurants in America, complete with excellent food AND free parking. But these damn chain corporate restaurants where everything is done on an assembly line are for the birds.

LOL… If I had waited on you in the USA, I may not have told you to stuff it in words, but you would have surely seen it in the expression on my face. I’m not very good at faking it in ANY situation… one of the many things my husband loves about me.

;D Jan 20, 2010
12:21 pm PST
This was a riot….
by vicfar
you do sound like a snobbish Schicke Deutsche Frau. Indeed, you sound like my German girlfriend when we eat in the US, except she does not possess your colorful vocabulary (not even in German)!

I agree with you, but see, with American waitresses you can have fun: you can correct the spelling on the menu, correct their pronunciation of the (foreign) dishes, which they always butcher, or send back your Campari three times because it’s not correctly prepared. They are good sports, and mostly afraid to argue with you, whereas Europeans tell you to stuff it. I know I am bad, and these people are only doing their job the way their stupid boss tells them to, but that’s me. At least I am having fun…

Indeed the experience where I miss the US the least is…DINING!

Where I miss the US the most is: PARKING!

I wish you plenty of happy parking experiences in Atlanta….:-)

Cheers

Vic

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