Which cuisine features most strongly in your city?
As opposed to Munich, where one can find great international diversity (from Australia over Ethiopia and Korea to Vietnam), in Stuttgart there is a relative shortage of such culinary options. But the quality and the quantity of regional offerings more than makes up for the situation! You can eat wonderful traditional dishes from the most simple to the most elaborate executions. Talking of elaborate, did you know that the city of Stuttgart holds 15 Michelin stars (not to mention a total of 61 stars in the German region it is the capital of, Baden-Württemberg)? And this for only 600,000 potential diners! Berlin manages only 10 stars for five times more inhabitants. Although I don’t want to over-value the importance of Michelin stars, this sure has significance.
What's Swabian cuisine like in a nutshell?
Swabian cuisine is Germany’s poor man’s food at its best. Nowhere else are there so many dishes based on flour, odd cuts of meat or meat only as a small side. What most readily comes to mind are of course Maultäschle (see pic), also lovingly called “Herrgott Bescheißerle” (God screwers!) because these ravioli-like pastry pockets keep the meat filling away from God’s eyes on Fridays, when a devout Catholic is supposed to be fasting. Also very famous are Spätzle, fresh handmade soft and short pasta, usually fried in butter after an initial boil in water and mixed with a lot of melting soft cheese and fried onions. Countless variations of these two basics are guaranteed to fill you up on a small budget!
What local food is not to be missed?
One traditional dish that might cost the uninitiated quite an effort to taste is also one that I highly recommend: Kutteln, the very yummy tripe and stomach dish with a Lemberger Sauce, the typical red wine of the region also known as Blaufränkisch in other parts of the world. Of course you shouldn’t try this dish just in the first best place you see it on the menu but choose a trusted restaurant. One I can’t recommend highly enough is “Zur Linde” (reservation recommended) where you can enjoy not only the said Kutteln but also the famous Rostbraten (see pic) and the Ochsenschwanz. The former is a rumpsteak (the only traditional regional dish where meat has the prominent role) served with lard-fried onions, the slowfood Noah’s Arc protected regional Filder Sauerkraut and some Spätzle. Ochsenschwanz is oxtail, mostly served as a stew, with a sauce which is plate-licking good.
Which are your favourite gourmet addresses?
Go to Herbertz to drink the best coffee in town, ogle the coolest kitsch decoration, meat the artists that live in the area and check out what off-off-Broadway (figuratively) play or concert is not to be missed. They have great sandwiches (called Vesper) in countless variations as well and if that is not enough and you are very nice, the twins Kim and Kevin might even let you create your own concoction. Tell them I sent you! After breakfast check out the Heusteig- and Bohnenviertel, the surrounding neighbourhoods with an amazing array of second hand and antique shops. Another breakfast place off the beaten track is optimal. This little café has dedicated itself to organic food. Try the farmer’s omelet, a regular on the breakfast menu, or any of the three daily specials for lunch. The coolest soundtrack in town!
Lunch on the go:
If you are shopping downtown in the pedestrian area when your stomach starts growling, there are two streets full of eateries: Calwerstrasse and Schulstrasse. Here you will find anything from the best Currywurst (roast sausage with a, yes, you guessed right, curry sauce) with French fries (Udo Snack – they are actually famous for their burgers, which I don’t like that much) to decent Italian food (da maurizio) up to the best Thai-Lao food in town (and I am very picky when it comes to Asian food): Sushi & Wok might look just like one of its ten or so junk-food neighbours from the outside, but don't be fooled: this is the only place in Stuttgart for fresh, cooked-to-order, authentic Thai and Lao food, with all the herbs and spices for which these cuisines are so renowned, although you might ask them to go easy on the chilli for some dishes if you can’t stomach the real thing. Skip the sushi - it's just for decoration. The extensive menu describes everything very accurately, check out the lunch specials.
For sushi, try Fai Sushi just a couple of hundred meters away, it is not top-notch but offers pretty decent running sushi. If you started your day at Herbertz and got caught in the little shops in the area, you have to go to epicerie fine for lunch. In this little gem of a French delicatessen you can have one of the best bargain (French) lunches in town. The only downside is that you'll have to eat standing up (which is a very common thing here due to the very restrictive German gastro laws, demanding for example at least four toilets if you have a sit-down eatery), here you can have a three-course meal including water, a glass of matching wine and coffee for 18 Euros. You may opt for less courses, but really shouldn’t!
Dinner: Our favourite restaurant in Stuttgart has turned out to be Zur Linde, where you get local traditional dishes in great quality (the chef, Jörg Mink, refuses to use convenience products and even machines where they are not really necessary – he and his crew make over 1,000 Maultäschle a day by hand!) paired with great local wines. Here you can not only get to know Swabian cuisine, you can also get acquainted with German wines. As claimed in my post about the restaurant after our first visit, we have by now managed to eat our way through their classic menu, always mixing with some seasonal dishes. There has been only one disappointing dish so far and I believe it was a plating error (calf’s cheeks with an inappropriate white sauce). At very reasonable (and definitely affordable) prices for the quality, you will spend a perfect evening attended by very nice personnel.
If you yearn for fish but are concerned about the quality this far away from the sea, go to Salve (Neue Weinsteige 8, phone 0711/6937930, reservation recommended). This pretty new (they opened just in September 2006) Italian ristorante specializes in fish (which the owner buys himself at the wholesale market 4 times a week) and serves it any way you can imagine: whole, filets with elaborate sauces, or as a pasta sauce. The cooks are from Calabria.
Budget places include Sushi & Wok where you can return for a more extensive menu at dinner time; Weinstube Fröhlich (reservation recommended) for organic local food with an international touch or Weinhaus Stetter for a real glimpse of a typical wine locale in Stuttgart, where you can drink wines by the glass and have a little bite to go with it.
One of the more upscale places to recommend is Gui, (reservation a must) which is a secret candidate for a first Michelin star (the chef, Bastian Pfeifer, is only 24 years old) where you can have a five-course seasonal menu with accompanying wines, an aperitif, water and coffee for under 100 Euros. They also offer a “theatre menu” for before or after the show (there are a lot of theatres in the vicinity), 3 courses with wine etc. for 75 Euros. At Delice, (booking essential) already owning a Michelin star and featuring Germany's newly-crowned top sommelier Evangelos Pattas, you are bound to eat a fusion of Austrian and Swabian dishes on a higher level.
Kern’s Pastetchen (reservation recommended) has also Austrian cuisine and great wines. For a unique experience, visit one of Europe’s only two Airport restaurants to sport a Michelin star, Top Air (booking essential). The very famous Wielandshöhe (reservation a must) with Chef Vincent Klink disappointed us deeply; we don’t think it was a one-off but a real mistake in the whole concept behind it. For more information, read my detailed post about it and decide for yourself.
Though all of these starred restaurants aren't necessarily cheap, the real break-the-bank experience is to be had in the Speisemeisterei (reservation a must) Stuttgart’s only two-star establishment, which really deserves it. Classic French cuisine, paired with great service and wines, it is a great culinary experience, if a little bit stiff.
If you want to have fun and like to drink wine, there is one phenomenon in Stuttgart that you shouldn’t miss (no, it is not the wine village in September, which is definitely over-rated): Besenwirtschaften, the seasonal wine rooms that are a specialty of Stuttgart and the region. What started around the year 800 AD as the right of winegrowers to serve food on their premises continues to this day. You get to taste the wines in the winegrowers’ living room or some rebuilt side rooms while eating home-cooked dishes. Local law permits the winegrowers to run a wine room for not longer than four months a year and in not more than two phases. A broom (“Besen”) is placed in front of the door to signal that they are open for visitors. Singing is almost essential (be it the guests – elderly gentlemen and ladies who might just have been drinking wine since 11 in the morning – or be it live bands) and you will surely be able to experience the locals first hand. Don’t miss it if you see one, or better, check if any are open during your stay on the online guide to Besa, as they are lovingly called.
Where to shop for food?
You could start at epicerie fine - they have the best French cheese and pate selection as well as very good French and German (and some other European) wines. Buy also some of the little pastries which the owner brings from Alsace every week, or some Valhrona truffles, and you have a perfect picnic-dinner ready.
You can also find great French and German wines downtown, in the wine shop of Bernd Kreis, one of the best sommeliers of Europe. He and his assistants are very knowledgeable without being snobbish and will help you choose just the right wine. This is especially helpful if you don’t know your stuff in the German wine scene, which is getting better and more acknowledged every year. He also organizes various wine tastings and seminars, but only in German.
Leaving Bernd Kreis’ wine paradise, you find yourself right in front of the famous Markthallen, the market hall. Over a hundred years old, this market is not for your average Joe Bloggs anymore. You can find almost any ingredient you might be looking for, but at extortionate prices. I visit the Markthallen only as a last resort if I can’t find an essential ingredient anywhere else, but if you are just visiting in Stuttgart you have to see and experience the abundance and the turbulence at least once. I prefer to buy my vegetables (seasonal and regional) on the open-air market held three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays) on the central Marktplatz or on Fridays on Wilhelmsplatz, which is closer to our home. The market stands are manned with the farmers themselves, offering the freshest they have, which is often also organic. You can also find poultry and eggs at these markets.
For Asian specialties you should try the little Asian shop in Blumenstrasse and for Turkish or Middle Eastern ingredients (as well as organic, if not local, vegetables) make the little trip to the Turkish supermarket Hüdaverdi. Their lamb is also the best alternative to the very expensive but admittedly very good Münsinger Lamm from the Alb region that you can buy in the Markthallen.
For Italian delicacies be prepared to pay a fortune at di Gennaro's downtown. Even if you don’t buy anything else, do try their pane di Altamura, the delicious bread my husband eats copious amounts of.
For kitchen gadgets you have to check out Tritschler, where you can buy a Spätzle-Schaber to try your hand at Spätzle-making. The original way to do it is with a board and a scraper, but you can cheat with any of the various presses, strainers and planers…
Oh, Johanna, there is so much more to see, eat and drink in Stuttgart, I could write forever (I haven’t even mentioned the onion tarte, the lentils with Sauerkraut and Saiten, Gaisburger Marsch, the Swabian wedding soup, the Breze!) but I am afraid you have more to do these days. Just come over and experience it yourself, I will be glad to show you around and hear what you say about my favorites! And if you are not Johanna, you can still drop me a line at food dot vagabond at web dot de if you are coming to Stuttgart and have questions or need specific information that you can’t find on my blog food vagabond where I write regularly (but not only) about my Swabian culinary adventures!
The information and photography were kindly provided by and published with permission of Hande of food vagabond.