I had low expecations for the dining scene in Leipzig – the former GDR’s image may have informed this impression, as did the fact that in Prague, we ate a whole lot of dense potato dumplings that I think are still weighing me down. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of eats today (see the previous Leipzig Day 1 post for a description of what else we did besides eat).
For lunch, we’d asked Hubert to take us to his favorite “traditional German food” restaurant, and that’s how we ended up at Zill’s Tunnel Restaurant. The restaurant sits on Barfussgasschen, which is a cobblestone alley lined with restaurants. I don’t think I would have picked it out on our own because of concern that it was on such a touristy-seeming street, so once again, I was glad we had Hubert with us. I guess the reality is that even though in any other geography, the Barfussgasschen would scream tourist trip, maybe there aren’t enough tourists around to make it so. And this means you take it for what it is – a street that happens to have a lot of restaurants on it.
Although I wouldn’t eat it every day, I have only good things to say about my eisbein sauerkraut, which are slices of braised beef with red cabbage sauerkraut, topped with gravy and served with airy potato-and-butter dumplings called klosse. Hubert explained that my dish, especially the klosse, are a Saxon specialty, and I definitely wouldn’t complain if I crossed paths again one day with a klosse.
Jon had a little less luck with his sauerbraten mit klosse. Like me, Jon is now a fan of the klosse, but the sauerbraten could have used more seasoning to make it interesting. Sauerbraten is a “pork knuckle,” which is a giant, fatty leg of pork. It was cooked so that it was still tender and juicy, but when you’re eating a hunk of meat that serious, I think you need a little something something to lift up or hide the heaviness.
Ur Krostitzer, the local pilsner I ordered, was so hoppsy (is that a word?) and flavorful that I downed two during lunch, and Jon was equally happy with his dark lager, Schwarze Perle.
Our tab for three came to less than 50 euros. Check it out when next you’re in Leipzig.
Because eating ten thousand calories’ worth of meat and potatoes wasn’t enough, we also stopped by a large, bustling Movenpick café near the Old Town Hall for desserts and coffee. I’m so creative, I ordered black forest cake (schwartzwald kirsch torte) and tea. No complaints about the goodies, though I must humbly apologize to my fellow Americans for furthering the stereotype of Americans as dumb and bumbling. After all, I was the loser in the bathroom who couldn’t figure out how the soap dispenser worked. I pumped and pumped and wondered where the soap was. Too late, I realized I’d managed to pump soap all over my arm.
As if this bit of genius weren’t graceful enough, the bathroom attendant had to witness that and my embarrassment at not having any spare change to leave with her (as is the custom here).
For dinner, we walked back to the Barfussgasschen to try out,Varadero, a Cuban restaurant (think Communist-era connection). We were disappointed there were no plantains on the menu, but the beer was again good (Wernesgrun pilsner) and overall the food was hot, fresh and cheap. I loved all the black-and-white photos on the wall of Che and Fidel, and when you throw in the lightbox photo of a beach and assorted palm trees, I’d say the décor was comfortingly not German.
Jon’s garlic shrimp appetizer was a standout (surprisingly not overcooked), our main courses were fine, and our one disappointment was with the black beans and rice. The beans were undercooked (still hard) and the dish was very dry despite the liberal use of bacon fat. How hard is it to cook black beans and rice?