Sunday afternoon at the Hauptwache Cafe in Frankfurt…

This past weekend was a bit of a bust in terms of German adventures. Our dog, Noyzi, recently decided that he wants to stay upstairs with me, rather than hanging out downstairs. He’s co-opted a pile of bedding that was previously used by Zane and Arran. Arran still uses it from time to time. On Friday night, while enjoying my evening buzz, I decided to buy Noyzi a bed for upstairs, reasoning that he’d use his downstairs bed when he’s downstairs. I bought him a smaller one for upstairs, noting that the downstairs bed is huge and there’s less room for it in my office than down in the living room. It was supposed to show up yesterday, so we waited around for it. But then, at around 2:30pm, I got the dreaded message from DHL that the shipment was delayed. By that time, we’d already had lunch, and it was during the usual “pause” time anyway… so we just hung out at home.

Last night, Bill asked if I’d like to go out to lunch today. I said sure, so Bill chose a Latin American place called Buena Vista. He set the reservation for 1:30pm on OpenTable. This afternoon, off we went to lunch. On the way there, I noticed Frankfurt’s TV Tower. We parked at an expensive parking garage attached to a huge shopping mall, very close to Jumeirah Hotel, where we stayed November 16, 2019 to celebrate our anniversary.

The Europaturm… Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to visit it, just like the one in Cologne.

When we arrived at Buena Vista, we were informed that lunch wouldn’t start until 2:00pm, even though we had reservations for 1:30pm. I also remembered that we ate at that particular restaurant in November 2019, when we stopped there for a snack on our anniversary. We had spent the night in Frankfurt to celebrate, then headed to Wroclaw, Poland for a week of business for Bill and a week of messing around for me. Since we didn’t feel like screwing around for a half hour and I wanted to go somewhere different, we decided to cancel our reservation. That’s how we ended up eating lunch at the Cafe Hauptwache.

The Hauptwache (Main Guardroom) Cafe has a long history in Frankfurt; it dates from 1904. Bill and I had been attracted to it on previous visits, but always seemed to get waylaid by the nearby Five Guys. Today, we were determined to give it a try. When we first walked into the Biergarten area– an excellent place for people watching, by the way– the sun was trying to come out. We sat down at a table under an umbrella. But within a few minutes of ordering drinks, it started to rain. We managed to duck under the porch, where there was a four top well away from the precipitation. It’s good that we moved, since the sky soon opened.

Our waitress was pretty perfunctory. She moved with no urgency, and seemed kind of half-assed about the work. She wore a face mask, but it hung under her nose. Her colleague didn’t bother with one at all. And thanks to the rain, all the smokers were huddled under the porch with us. One lady smoked the whole time, even when she had food.

One other thing I didn’t care for at this place was the fact that they have a Klofrau. That’s a woman who sits at a table by the bathroom and collects change. I’m sure she’s there for people off the street who just need to pee, but I find the practice of charging patrons in a restaurant to go to the toilet very chintzy. I also had to get an unsolicited tutorial from her on how to get the touchless faucet, soap dispenser, and towel dispenser to work. She might have done better to instruct me on the self-cleaning toilets. I’ve encountered them numerous times, but I never quite trust them to flush as they should. I’m not sure why a place that has touchless and automated everything needs a restroom attendant. It just seems cheap and tacky to me. On the other hand, I do have a ton of change that needs to be spent.

The toilet I encountered today was just like this one. Why did this restroom need a Klofrau, other than to demand change?

As for the food, it was quite good. I was very impressed with the burger. So many times, we have had burgers at German restaurants and they’ve been sub par. Cafe Hauptwache did satisfy with the cheeseburger. It came with cheddar, lettuce, mustard, tomatoes, onions, mayo, and I think ketchup. The fries were also very good. I couldn’t finish them, though.

This place has options for vegans and a children’s menu. It also has a full bar and apparently offers breakfast all day.

We considered having dessert, but the waitress was so inattentive that we decided to have another round instead. I had a Hefeweizen and Bill had coffee. I did see people having dessert, though, and it looked inviting. They have waffles with sugar and cinnamon or Nutella (blecch), ice cream, or the cake of the day. Today, it appeared to be cheesecake. I wouldn’t have minded trying that. Or, maybe it the weather was better, we would have looked for a Konditorei.

We called for the bill. It came to about 47 euros. Bill gave the server 50, and we were on our way home to two very excited dogs. Maybe tomorrow, Noyzi’s new bed will arrive.

Anyway… I would eat at Cafe Hauptwache again. We aren’t unhappy that we stopped there, especially due to its historic look and excellent location for people watching. The inside isn’t very big or impressive, though, so it’s probably best to go there when the sun is shining. I did love the music they were playing– 70s and 80s hits. I could hear it when the rain wasn’t pouring. I’m glad we ate there, instead of at the Buena Vista restaurant.

On Wednesday, we’re off on our next trip– a mixture of business and pleasure– four nights in the Black Forest town of Baiersbronn, where there are several Michelin starred restaurants, and a trip to Stuttgart to finally see the dentist. I did book us at what appears to be a very nice resort, so that should be fun. We also have a couple of reservations, although we couldn’t score any at the very fancy places. They’re either fully booked or on vacation. It IS August, after all. Hopefully, next week, the blog will get a nice boost.


Our first foray to Frankfurt, lunch at Conrad’s, and Five Guys to go…

From 2002 until 2007, I lived in Northern Virginia, birthplace of Five Guys, the burger franchise that’s been taking the rest of the United States and parts of the world by storm.  When I tried my first Five Guys burger, they were strictly a Northern Virginia/Washington, DC enterprise, having been founded there in 1986 by Jerry and Janie Murrell and their then four sons (a fifth was later born and is involved in the business, too).  I remember being flabbergasted by how good and how messy they were.  We became fans.

The things we’ll go through for good burgers…

I was born and raised in Virginia, and lived in Northern Virginia for two years after my dad retired from the Air Force.  My parents lived in NoVA long before Five Guys existed, so I never got to try it when it was still brand new.  In 2002, I married my husband, Bill, and the following year, we moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  We had several Five Guys locations near us.  I remember quite clearly at that time, the Murrells swore they would never franchise.  They wanted to maintain strict control of their product, which was always selling like gangbusters in their no frills locations scattered around the D.C. area.

In 2007, we moved to Germany the first time, and while we were gone, somehow the decision not to franchise was overturned.  By the time we came back in 2009, there were locations all over the place.  Back in 2016, Germany got its very first Five Guys location in the heart of Frankfurt.

I remember being excited to hear about the new Five Guys in Germany, especially since they announced plans to expand throughout the country.  As many of my fellow Americans may have discovered, despite giving the hamburger its name, Germans can’t seem to get them quite right.  I have noticed that some places are doing better, though.  I mean, having moved back to Germany in 2014, I notice that more places are offering better burgers made with real beef.  Still, I have been missing American style cheeseburgers.  Yes, we can make them at home, but there’s something special about a really juicy, messy burger that’s been squashed into a foil wrapper.

Until the end of last month, we were living near Stuttgart.  A road trip to Frankfurt from Stuttgart certainly isn’t out of the question.  On a good day, the drive is about three hours on the Autobahn.  Nevertheless, we never managed to get to the Five Guys when we were living in the Stuttgart area.  We did go to one in Glasgow, Scotland, and it was a little disappointing.  The burger tasted fine, but the cheese wasn’t melted.  That was a huge turnoff.  I can’t abide unmelted cheese on a burger!

Anyway, now that we live in Wiesbaden, we’re within striking distance of Frankfurt and its many restaurants and varied cuisines.  Today, since I’ve been cooped up in the house entirely too much this month, we decided to go to Frankfurt and hunt down some Five Guys burgers.

Originally, we planned to take my car, a 2009 Mini Cooper that we bought in Stuttgart as we were leaving the first time.  In nine years, I’ve managed to rack up a pitiful 35,000 miles on the odometer, so we try to drive it as much as we can on the weekends and trips that don’t involve bringing our dogs.  Unfortunately, the engine refused to turn over.  In nine years, we’ve also never changed the battery.  Guess fixing that’s on the agenda this week.

We took the other car, our 2006 Toyota RAV 4, which we hope to soon retire.  This was our very first trip within Frankfurt itself.  Prior to today, we’d been to the train station and the airport.  That’s it.

A fine landmark.  Just after we passed it, Bill tried to turn right into traffic going the opposite direction.  Fortunately, they were stopped at a light and he managed to correct his error before we got creamed.  Then we found a parking garage, where we were in good company with lots of others seeking parking today.  
The air was heavy with the aroma of curry wurst and the sounds of people rushing around, shopping at high end retail stores.  The weather was kind of grim and depressing, which didn’t really make me want to explore.  Frankfurt is the land of big business, banks, and people with lots of money.  I haven’t seen much of it, but it doesn’t appear to be a particularly picturesque town.
It definitely has a different feel than Stuttgart has.  I was reminded a little of Washington, D.C.

We spotted the big church located right next to the Five Guys, but still had to wander around a bit before we finally saw the magic sign.  It was about 1:30pm…
But it was packed, and there was nowhere to sit.  Actually, this was a lot less busy than it was a couple of hours later, when we decided to come back.

The Five Guys was full of people at 1:30pm.  I started inwardly berating myself for wanting to stand in line for burgers I’ve had a bunch of times.  I told Bill we should go look for another place to have lunch.  Bill had to pee like a racehorse, so he was eager to find a place quickly.
We walked out of the big Walkplatz where Five Guys in Frankfurt is.  This looked interesting, but we needed to find a place for Bill…
This mural was right next to an enticing place called Conrad’s Restaurant.

I wasn’t really wanting German food, but Bill was eager to relieve himself.  A friendly waiter beckoned us, so we went in.  The inside of Conrad’s is very small and rather poorly laid out.  There are several very large booths and the tables are close together.  There’s not much of an aisle for people to walk through, either.  At one point, Bill and another man had to get out of their seats to allow a woman and her stroller to pass.  
Conrad seems to specialize in Schnitzels, though they offer other stuff like steaks, sausages, and breakfast.  The restaurant has a full bar, video gambling, and flatscreen TVs tuned to sports.  There’s also really shitty pop music on blast.  Seriously, the music really got on my nerves.  
Bill looks at the menu…
He decided on a Paprika Schnitzel, which was a pork schnitzel with a pepper, tomato, and onion sauce.  It was served with fries, but you could also substitute country style or mashed potatoes.  You could also have veal or turkey schnitzel for a small upcharge.
I went with the Mozzarella Schnitzel.  It was a pork schnitzel with fresh tomatoes covered with mozzarella cheese and baked.  I don’t actually like schnitzels that much.  They’re usually too much for me to eat.  Today’s was no exception, although it tasted fine.  I only finished half of this one and its accompanying fries.  However, I did appreciate that Conrad’s offered several different kinds of schnitzel, which puts them ahead of any other place where I’ve seen them offered.

Conrad’s doesn’t exactly get the best reviews on Google or Trip Advisor.  I wouldn’t be as harsh as some other reviewers have been.  The schnitzels were hot, fresh, and served with a smile.  The fries weren’t that great, but they weren’t terrible.  I thought of Conrad’s as a perfectly average restaurant until it came time to use the restroom.  There, stationed on a little stool in the tiny area near the toilets was a woman with a plate.  She was collecting change from people wanting to use the bathroom.
At first, I thought maybe this was just for people coming in off the street.  I’ve seen some places put out plates for people who really need to use the bathroom but don’t want to eat.  That might have been the case at Conrad’s, too.  But I didn’t see a sign or anything indicating that the Klofrau was only charging people who weren’t eating or drinking.  I find being asked to pay a Klofrau very tacky in a restaurant.  I mind it only slightly less at truck stops.  On the other hand, I’m sure the Klofrau discourages people from taking advantage of the restaurant’s prime location.
Anyway… I don’t think we’ll go back to Conrad’s… but it wasn’t a disastrous meal.  The food wasn’t terrible or overpriced.  It was just profoundly mediocre.  You can make reservations on OpenTable, too.
The outside of Conrad’s.

While we were eating our schnitzels, it occurred to me that Five Guys will probably always be packed.  And I didn’t really want to come back to Frankfurt to do this again… at least not while the weather is so cold, damp, and depressing.  Maybe we’ll brave it again when the sun stays out longer than six or seven hours a day.  So, although we ate schnitzels and I wasn’t even able to finish mine, we decided to pick up a couple of burgers to go.

This was what it was looking like at about 3:00pm.  The second photo was taken about twenty minutes later.  People were actually standing outside the automated doors.  Good thing they don’t take a pause and are open every day.

Bill went in to get a couple of burgers, sans our usual fries.  I waited outside and played Evil Apples. About thirty minutes later, he came out with our burgers.  He said the music at Five Guys was a lot better than it was at Conrad’s.  They were playing awesome classic rock by Rush, the Outfield, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  They also have free peanuts, just like the Five Guys restaurants in the States.
You can fill your bike tires with air while you eat burgers.

We made our way back to the car.  I took note of the energy in Frankfurt.
Teens were dancing in the square.
I notice there are even more signs in English in Frankfurt than there are in Stuttgart.  It’s a very international city.  Even our trash bins have directions in English on them.
And big ass buildings, too!  I’m sure Frankfurt has a charming area somewhere.  We’ll find it eventually.  As we passed through this intersection, we found ourselves on the gambling and sex street, very close to the train station.
They look like the American style Five Guys burgers.
Right down to being smashed into foil.

I did taste my burger before wrapping it up for later, when my schnitzel has been digested and I have more room to enjoy it.  I’m happy to report that it tastes almost just like it does in the States.  It’s juicy, and the beef is very flavorful.  The only difference I noticed are the pickles, which are a little bit sweeter than what we get in the U.S.  But then, Germans seem to like their pickles sweeter.  It would have been nice to eat it while it was piping hot, but I think it’ll be fine in awhile.  It wouldn’t be the first time we saved a Five Guys burger for later.

I’d go back, although not anytime soon.  I definitely don’t need a Five Guys location near me, but it’s nice to have one.  Do you need to drive here from another German city like Stuttgart?  I’d say it depends on how much you like Five Guys burgers.  Stuttgart has a few places that are getting pretty good at making decent burgers.  Your mileage may vary, of course.

Next stop…  Hooters?  Maybe not.


Nothing is for free in Europe… except maybe the ambiance!

Americans are often shocked when they come to Germany or other European countries and discover that if you want to park your car, you have to pay.  If you want to pee, you have to pay.  If you want to have water with your dinner, you have to pay… and you don’t get free refills, either.

I pretty much got used to all these things last time we lived here.  I mean, before we came here last time, we lived in northern Virginia, where there are lots of parking garages and pay parking lots.  I was used to paying to park most places.  Every once in awhile, you’ll find a place where parking is free– say the mall or at a restaurant.  But if you want to park and tend to business or walk around, you’re gonna pay.  Sometimes you won’t pay much at all, though.  And it’s likely your car will be in a secure garage, rather than an open lot.

And given that a restaurant owner is in the business of selling food and drinks, why should they give out free water so people can be cheap?  They have to pay for the water, after all.  Granted, I can see why some people are shocked because it can be cheaper to buy beer here than water, but hell, you’re in Germany!  Enjoy!  You can make up for paying for water by realizing that you aren’t expected to tip as much or at all here.  I like fizzy water over tap, so I don’t care that tap water isn’t free.  I’d be paying for it anyway if I were in the States.

Paying to use the bathroom can sometimes be a pain in the butt if you have to go and don’t have any change.  But it’s easy to get change and as long as the toilets are clean and have plenty of toilet paper, I don’t mind paying.  In fact, I’d rather do that than slink into McDonald’s or a gas station just to use the bathroom.  Sometimes I do wonder, though, how one gets into the Klofrau profession and if it pays well.  It must get tiresome listening to people go to the bathroom all day and the hours really stink, too.

It just makes sense to realize that when you come to Europe, you’re not going to get freebies.  You don’t have to like it, but you probably won’t change it.  So get with the program and save up for that big water splurge when you go out to dinner.

I will admit this post was inspired by complaints from a new arrival… I’m sure that by the time she and her family leave, she’ll be used to paying for all the things Americans take for granted.  A lot of people seem to think that’s a good reason to praise America.  Not me.  I’d rather have cool old buildings, excellent food, four seasons, and different cultures any day over Wal-Mart, the Tea Party, free parking, free peeing in public restrooms, and free tap water.

Yeah… not missing this so much right now…