People often ask me for recommendations on good places to eat in our wonderful, Upper Rhine Valley neighbourhood of Alsace, Basel and Baden (aka the ‘Regio’). The answer is always: “it depends…” – on the occasion (Sunday lunch, romantic dinner or girls’ outing?); on your budget (cheapskate or the big splash?); how far you’re prepared to drive etc. etc. See also here, for a quick ‘n dirty comparison of Alsace vs Baden for food, and here for a post on Restaurant Oliv in Basel.
Keep checking it out; this promises to be a work in progress.
L’Auberge Paysanne, Lutter, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 40 71 67
Delicious village inn in the depths of the Sundgau owned and run by the Litzler family. Classic French food (epic Châteaubriand with béarnaise, and a gratin dauphinois to die for/from) plus some more creative stuff, changing with the seasons. Small, flower-decked terrace in summer and a delicious Hostellerie annexe in a reconstituted Sundgau timbered edifice, situated just down the road on the edge of the village with views out over the fields and to the Jura Alsacien.
Le Cheval Blanc, Feldbach, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 25 81 86
Owned and run by the formidable Ispa team, this village inn is always full of happy diners. Classic French cooking, lots of different menus (and wonderful puddings, right), reliably good, copiously and cheerfully served and excellent value for money. Look in on the serenely beautiful 12th century church just across the way while you’re here.
Checked tablecloths, friendly service by Zimmermann family and team, leafy garden, and good, typically Alsatian food (house terrine, left) and others with a few modern touches.
Le Petit Kohlberg, Lucelle, Alsace, Tel.03 89 40 85 30
Feels like a ferme-auberge, out in the middle of the fields between villages of Winkeland Lucelle, with large shaded terrace and cosy wood-panelled dining room. Service is so friendly and efficient – even on a Sunday when it’s always packed out – that you can forgive them the overcooked meat and veg., and move swiftly onto classic Alsace desserts like the meringue glacée (right). The sommelier makes a point of offering lesser known wines (at least for these Alsace hinterlands) – a white blend from Planeta in Sicily or a sprightly Malbec from Catena Zapata in Argentina, both priced at under €30.
tibits, Stänzlergasse 4, Basel, Tel. 061 205 39 99
Can’t beat this veggie paradise in the heart of Basel’s kino-land, for yummy Mideast, Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean salads and warm dishes. Takeaway/takeout service in stylish tibits bags.
La Couronne d’Or, 10 rue Principale, Leymen, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 68 58 04
Ask for a table in the little room to the left as you come in (cosier and less noisy than the big dining room), or on the terrace in summer. Original, sensibly priced food (2-course midweek lunch menu around 12 euros – e.g panaché de poissons with pasta, right), an original choice of veggie dishes – and a wide range of veg to accompany main dishes, cooked to rare perfection. The touch of Swiss frost from the owner has now thawed out and the staff is cheerful and proficient.
Hotel-Restaurant Drei König, Basler Strasse 169, Lörrach, Tel. +49 7621 42 58 333
New hotel, café/deli (ground floor) and restaurant (first floor), whose owner was nominated Best Restaurateur 2012 by Gault Millau Germany, on the market square in Lörrach. The café/deli is perfect for lunch – no bookings, so depending on your timing you may have to wait a bit to find a place at one of the large, bleached wood Stammtisch (communal) tables. No matter: that way you can observe the tempting arrays of top-end (mainly Italian) cold meats served (left) on greaseproof paper, cheeses, salads and sandwiches that whirl past as you make up your mind, plus wines (Hanspeter Ziereisen, Hermann Dörflinger) and beers by the glass.
NEW: Restaurant Oliv, Bachlettenstr. 1, 4054 Basel, Tel. 061 283 03 03
The place is light, bright and beautiful, with huge windows on both sides of the resto and lots of white and dove grey – but not that cool, clinical, Swiss white/grey, just restful and classy. Cheerful, smiley welcome, no specific lunch menu, though each day brings specials at pretty decent prices. There’s always a soup (green/white parsley/parsnip last week) and a brace of pastas and risottos. And you can order a companionable round or two of mezze (spicy hummous, tzatziki, aubergines, guacamole & Co.) for the whole table as an appetizer (and a bottle of Prosecco to help things along). Yummy stuff like sweetbreads, scallops & Co. and puddings like a seriously naughty crème brulée duo (plain and dark chocolate) topped with a fragile caramel roof at which you have to tap-tap to gain admittance. Nicely eclectic wine list (Switzerland, Baden, Spain, Italy, Argentina etc.) with quite a few offered by the glass, with complicitous (not pushy or showy-offy) wine advice.
STOP PRESS, end-September 2012: BAD NEWS FOR MEXICAN FOOD-LOVERS!
Both Cafe Tacuba and La Piratita, the only two places in Basel to serve real Mexican, have now closed their doors. What a shame…I really, really hope they may both pop up somewhere else again soon. Watch this space…
Cafe Tacuba, Malzgasse 1, 4052 Basel, Tel. 061 271 18 18
Mexican cafe in chic residential/banking neighbourhood of Basel, close to Aeschenplatz, with cheeky welcome from Rudy Carvallo (from Veracruz) and genuine Mexican food by chef Sebastian Rivera (native of Puerto Vallarta). The house guacamole (pure, unadulterated avocs, cilantro, chile and lime with good texture and fine flavour) is served as an amuse-bouche with totopos. Mains include prawns in a chipotle sauce, beef tacos, and plenty of tortilla-based specialities and the flan (right) is sooooooooo worth the calories.Slightly anarchic opening hours (and for the time being, closed weekends) so ring first to make sure it’s open.
A great little shack of a place close to the Kinderspital, the brainchild of Berenice Amstutz, born in Guaymas (up in the troubled north in Sonora – tho’ Berenice says it’s tranquilo up there on the coast), now resident in Basel, and her Swiss-Mexican husband. Their aim was to reproduce a real taqueria like in the DF: wooden tables and benches, plastic plates, paper napkins in a dispenser, hot sauces (red and green) on the tables, beers (loads of choice including Negra Modelo) in the fridge, a single plato del dia and warm tortillas to wrap it all up in. See my review here. And if you really, really love Mexican, go. Soon.
Open Mon-Fri 11.30-14.30 (also occasionally for supper, but check Berenice’s Facebook page first, as well as for the day’s specials).
NO-FRILLS COUNTRY COOKING
Restaurant Studerhof, 9 rue de Bâle, Bettlach, Alsace, Tel. +33 389 40 71 49
Great position with terrific terrace commanding views out over the Jura Alsacien. The Fischer family were founder members of the Confrérie de la Choucroute, and both father Roger and son Jean are huntsmen, so this is the place for a proper choucroute, or a quiche à la choucroute (right) or game in season.
Berghofstüble, An der Romerstrasse, Bad Bellingen, Germany, Tel. +49 7635 1293
A simple spot much loved by Baslers and golfers from the nearby course at Bad Bellingen, with a dining room-cum-conservatory and big terrace for warm summer evenings. Hermann Basler serves what is generally acknowledge to be the best Wiener Schnitzel in the business (left)
ROMANTIC DINNER/SPECIAL OCCASION
Au Boeuf Noir, 2 rue de Folgensbourg, Hésingue, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 69 76 40
Madame Giuggiola is in front-of-house and her husband in the kitchen of this small, chic little resto in the centre of Hésingue. Upmarket French cuisine, attentive service, a little pricey but worth it. Tiny terrace out back for summer dining.
GREAT PIZZA (AND PASTA AND RISOTTO)
Vapiano, Sternengasse 19, 4051 Basel, Tel. 061 272 72 22
No bookings but a great buzz and fab fast food at this Basel branch of a Munich-based chain of Italian self-serve restaurants. Thin-crusted pizza with original toppings, great salads, house-made pastas and risottos all done to order. Interesting selection of wines by the glass (Italy, Spain, Balearics, South Africa among others) with samplings from the bar to aid your choice. Come late (1.30 for lunch, after 9 for dinner) and you’ve a better chance of finding a table.
Pizzeria Puglia, 7 rue de Leymen, Hagenthal-le-Bas, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 68 11 00
A little corner of Apulia in the depths of the Sundgau in this stylish, spanking new, family-run pizzeria-resto. Good pizzas from wood-fired oven, toothsome home-made pasta, excellent risotto (who says the folks south of Rome can’t make risotto?) and quaffable Italian wines by the glass or bottle. Always packed, so book.
GOOD WINE LISTS
La Closerie, 6 rue Henry de Crousaz, Illzach (near Mulhouse), Alsace, Tel. 03 89 61 88 00
Two formulas at this restaurant in a gracious old maison de maître in a rather surprising location in Mulhouse’s southern, supermarket wastelands of Illzach (it’s close to Carrefour): a smart resto that serves lunch at midday (the plat du jour is a steal) and a tapas bar called La Bistronomie for the evening. They are also wine merchants – get yourself on their mailing list for info on bi-annual tastings, when producers from all over Europe come to present their wines.
Restaurant de la Gare, 2 rue de Soppe, Guewenheim, Tel. 03 89 82 51 29
Disarmingly simple place in small village west of Mulhouse (just off N83 before it crosses the Mulhouse-Belfort motorway) known for its astonishing wine list, with local dishes cranked up a notch (foie gras, Baeckeoffe with foie and snails, choucroute with pike-perch). In the bistro at the front you can get a main dish and a glass of wine for a modest outlay; the smart(er) restaurant has full a la carte menu and the renowned wine list.
Hotel (member of Small Luxury Hotels of the world), Michelin-starred restaurant and noted winery owned and run by the Keller family, in the heart of the Kaiserstuhl, Baden’s premium wine-growing region. Stellar food (classic French haute-ish cuisine), biblical wine list, smiling waitresses in ruched blouses and cinched waists. Small terrace for summer. The Rebstock, across the street, also owned by the Kellers, serves simple, typically Badisch food (asparagus, ravioli, free-range chicken…) and wines by the glass. Shaded interior courtyard for sunny days.
A JUICY STEAK FROM THE GRILL
A L’Aigle, 55 rue de Delle, Folgensbourg, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 68 61 11
Family-owned and -run inn on Folgensbourg’s main street with large dining room and terrace. Forget the carpes frites (rather mystifyingly billedas the house speciality), go instead for one of their huge, succulent entrecote, faux-filet or fillet steaks (sourced from Viande Cash in Hésingue) served with chunky frites sizzling straight from the fryer.
[A GOOD WALK WITH] LUNCH AT A FERME-AUBERGE (VOSGES)
Ferme-Auberge du Rain des Chênes, 215 Basses-Huttes, Orbey, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 71 30 42
Drive up here (via Kaysersberg and into the Vosges), park the car and take off for a long hike before returning here for the Chaize family’s copious and delicious lunch menu. The family raises all the meat and grow many of the veggies served in the Auberge. The chalet-style dining roomis a delight in winter with snow lying deep and crisp and even outside. In summer instal yourself at one of the big wooden tables and benches on the terrace and enjoy spectacular views out onto the fields and down to the Rhine plain.
Head for Munster and Breitenbach and keep your eyes peeled for the green boards listing Fermes Auberges in the neighbourhood (there are many in this valley), including Christlesgut. Expect a warm welcome from the young (and multilingual) patronne, a cosy dining room and a terrace which boasts spectacular views out onto the valley below. Typical Ferme-auberge fare, including tourte, smoked ham and the legendary and unpronounceable Roigabrageldi potatoes, melted Munster cheese slithering over baked potatoes, Baeckeoffe and choucrotue to order, with a big proportion of raw materials produced on the farm.
MODERN, BISTRO-STYLE COOKING (woefully rare in these parts)
Marmit & Ko, 4 place de la Paix, Landser, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 81 33 30
Hervé Paulus got his first Michelin star at L’Ancienne Forge in Hagenthal, and later at his own place (L’Hostellerie Paulus) in this small village south of Mulhouse. Then he decided to stop chasing stars, renamed the restaurant, revamped the dining room in cool, country-style and shortened and simplified the menu. His touch is as assured as ever, but in a different register, more relaxed. Nice little terrace/garden at the back for summer lunches/nights.
D’Brendelstub, 48 rue Général de Gaulle, Riquewihr, Tel. 03 89 86 54 54
Jean-Luc Brendel’s resolutely funky neo-bistro is housed in a 14th-century timbered building conveniently placed just about opposite Hugel on Riquewihr’s tourist-thronged main street. Take refuge from the milling hordes for grilled meat and shellfish from the rotisserie and wood-fired oven plus good selection of open wines from the blackboard. A cut way above Riquewihr’s usual greying choucroute and tired tarte à l’oignon.
Restaurant-Cafe-Brasserie Au Potin, 11 rue du Général Vandenberg, Barr, Alsace, Tel. 03 88 08 88 84
Hervé Duhamel (right) mixes classic brasserie dishes and bright new creations at his Parisian-style Alsatian bistro, with an intriguing offer of open wines from winegrowing friends and neighbours (André Ostertag, Lucas Rieffel, Patrick Meyer et al). Just wish this great place was a bit nearer to us…
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY
La Taverne Alsacienne, 99 rue de la République, Ingersheim, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 27 08 41
Favourite haunt of local winegrowers, members of the lively Alsace wine forum oenoalsace.com and the Style family, this delightful tavern is owned and run by the formidable famille Guggenbuhl. It’s always heaving, lunch or dinner, weekdays or weekends so booking is a must. Small, cosy winstub area at the front, posh(er) dining room at the back, excellent, carefully prepared and served food throughout. The Retour du Marché lunch menu is terrific VFM.
Auberge du Froehn, 5 route d’Ostheim, Zellenberg, Tel. 03 89 47 81 57
Sympathetic auberge in the beautiful hilltop village of Zellenberg in the heart of the Haut-Rhin vineyards – handy for a tasting chez Becker, who are just down the street (the auberge was a recommendation from the irrepressible Martine Becker). Super-value menus and wines by the glass. Combine lunch here with the Sentier Viticole des Grands Crus vineyard trail (that links the villages of Zellenberg, Beblenheim, Mittelwihr, Riquewihr and Hunawihr) for a day to remember.
La Palette, 9 rue Herzog, Wettolsheim, Tel. 03 89 80 79 14
I love the eclectic combination of ancient and modern in this lively village restaurant (same village as the redoubtable/unmissable Domaine Albert Mann) – Fleischschnacka (Grand’Mère dish of ground meat rolled up, snail-style – Schnacka - in pasta dough, right) or choucroute garnie on the ancient side; ballotine of fish wrapped in Chinese cabbage with harenga and shiso, low-temperature lamb from SW France with tea sauce on the modern front. Luridly coloured dining room, lovely wait staff, warmth and smiles all round.
A l’Agneau, 16 Grand Rue, Katzenthal,Tel. +33 389 80 90 25
This homey little Hotel-Restaurant, owned and run by genial Thierry Hohler and his wife Sydonie, is admirably situated within spitting distance of Jean-Marc Bernhard, Meyer-Fonné and Klee Frères. Upmarket dining room with modern Alsatian cuisine (good fish, veal, Simmentaler beef) and Winstub for classic regional fare. Epic self-serve breakfast in wood-panelled dining room, complete with checked tablecloths and wooden dresser with decorated pottery.
GO FOR BUST
Auberge de l’Ill, 2 rue de Collonges-au-Mont d’Or, Illhauesern, Alsace, Tel. 03 89 71 89 00
[+ new post here on a the joys of lunch at the Auberge]
They wear their 40+ years of stardom lightly at this fabled inn beside the river Ill. There was a period when the place felt a little jaded but now it’s right back on top of its game. The dining room, overlooking the gardens and the river, has been cleverly re-designed by Patrick Jouin, and the large space skilfully divided up to give a greater feeling of intimacy. The price of the lunch menu (a touch under 100 euros) represents some of the best value for money that you’ll find at this level anywhere in France. Consult Serge Dubs, former Meilleur Sommelier du Monde, for wise counsel on the encyclopaedic wine list.