Here are some of the restaurants I like to eat in around our borders, listed by country: first Alsace (where I live), then Basel (where I shop, go to the cinema, play tennis and have many friends) and Baden/Germany (where we increasingly go to both shop and eat). It’s a very personal selection, hopefully eclectic and with something for every budget and every occasion. This is a work in progress, so check in regularly for new additions.
Close to the [Swiss] border:
L’Auberge Paysanne, Lutter,
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,Tel. 03 89 25 81 86
Owned and run by the formidable Ispa family, this village inn is always full of happy diners. Classic French cooking is now being taken up a notch by the son who is increasingly in charge in the kitchen, 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. STOP PRESS: The Cheval Blanc received a Bib Gourmand in the 2014 Michelin Guide, awarded for yummy food at friendly prices…go SOON, before the secret is out!
A L’Ange, 3 rue Principale, Leymen, Tel. 03 89 68 51 79
Checked tablecloths, lots of exposed beams, friendly service and typically Alsatian food such as the house terrine, left, plus good game in the autumn and a range of other dishes with a few modern touches.
Le Petit Kohlberg, Lucelle, Tel. 03 89 40 85 30
Feels like a ferme-auberge, out in the middle of the fields between villages of Winkel and Lucelle, right on the Swiss-Alsace border. Large shaded terrace for summer and cosy wood-panelled dining room for winter. Service is friendly and efficient – even on a Sunday when it’s always packed out. 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.
La Couronne d’Or, 10 rue Principale, Leymen, 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, left), a good selection of main-course 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 thawed out and the staff is cheerful and [fairly] proficient.
Restaurant Studerhof, 9 rue de Bâle, Bettlach, Tel. 03 89 40 71 49
The Fischer family are 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. Great position with terrific terrace commanding epic views out over the Jura Alsacien.
Au Boeuf Noir, 2 rue de Folgensbourg, Hésingue, Tel. 03 89 69 76 40
Madame Giuggiola is front-of-house and her husband in the kitchen of this chic little resto in Hésingue, which celebrated 40 years of faithful service in 2013 (here‘s my account of our own anniversary celebrated there). Upmarket French cuisine, attentive service, good-value lunch menu on weekdays and a bit pricier for dinner. Go soon: they will retire in 2014.
Pizzeria Puglia, 7 rue de Leymen, Hagenthal-le-Bas, Tel. 03 89 68 11 00
A little corner of Apulia in the depths of the Sundgau in this spanking new pizzeria-resto run by a band of Pugliese brothers. Good pizzas from wood-fired oven, toothsome home-made pasta, excellent risotto (who says the folks south of Rome can’t do risotto?) and quaffable Italian wines by the glass or bottle. If you order the lasagne (pictured right) come hungry – it’s humungous but very delish. Always packed, so book.
A L’Aigle, 55 rue de Delle, Folgensbourg, 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 billed as 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.
La Closerie, 6 rue Henry de Crousaz, Illzach (near Mulhouse), 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 great tapas bar called La Bistronomie for the evening (just awarded a Bib Gourmand for their stylish food at competitive prices). They’re 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.
In or close to the vineyards:
Auberge de l’Ill, 2 rue de Collonges-au-Mont d’Or, Illhauesern, Tel. 03 89 71 89 00
[+ see here for a post on 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 was 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.
D’Brendelstub, 48 rue Général de Gaulle, Riquewihr, Tel. 03 89 86 54 54
Jean-Luc Brendel’s resolutely funky neo-bistro housed in a 14th-century timbered building offers food that’s a cut way above Riquewihr’s usual greying choucroute and tired tarte à l’oignon – it’s just about opposite Hugel on the tourist-thronged main street. Take refuge from the milling hordes for grilled meat and shellfish from the rotisserie and wood-fired oven plus selected open wines from the blackboard.
Asian Tapas Bar, 9 rue des Juifs, Riquewihr, Tel. 03 89 47 96 47
Unlikely but true: an authentic Japanese restaurant in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards, just the thing when you tire of snails, choucroute and foie gras. The chef (from Japan via Los Angeles) does topnotch sushi (including California-style), maki, dumplings and other delicious bite-sized morsels, served at small low tables in the downstairs part of the Trotthus – watch out, she just keeps on quietly making them till you beg for mercy.
La Taverne Alsacienne, 99 rue de la République, Ingersheim, 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 outstanding value for money.
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.
Restaurant-Cafe-Brasserie Au Potin, 11 rue du Général Vandenberg, Barr, Tel. 03 88 08 88 84
Hervé Duhamel (right) mixes classic brasserie dishes and bright new creations at his Parisian-style Alsatian bistro up at the northern end of the vineyards in Barr, 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…
In the Vosges:
Ferme-Auberge du Rain des Chênes, 215 Basses-Huttes, Orbey, 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 room is 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.
Tanja Grandits, Restaurant Stucki, Bruderholzallee 42, Tel. 061 361 82 22
Chef Tanja Grandits took over here at this Basel institution high up on the Bruderholz five years ago. The restaurant recently received its second Michelin star and she was voted Chef of the Year 2014 by the Gault Millau guide. It’s a pricey option, of course, but the food is extremely original, beautifully presented and served with a light and unexpectedly humorous touch. The restaurant is decorated in a grey/white/aubergine colour scheme and the space is well broken up into several rooms plus a huge terrace out back for summer. Test the water with the business lunch menu (CHF 68 or 86) and if you like the place enough (cool, elegant yet nicely informal) and the style of cuisine (haute with Asian flavours), save up and go back for dinner.
tibits, Stänzlergasse 4, 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 at very reasonable prices. Takeaway/takeout service in stylish tibits bags.
Vapiano, Sternengasse 19, 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) andyou’ve a better chance of finding a table.
Restaurant Oliv, Bachlettenstr. 1, 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 – not that cool, clinical, Swiss white/grey, just restful and classy. Cheerful, smiley welcome and a daily business lunch menu (CHF36 for 2 courses last time I looked). Apart from that there’s always a soup 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. (above) 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.
La Piratita, Restaurant Luzernerring, Hegenheimerstr. 216
Tel. 061 322 10 24
Remember that great little shack/pop-up place near the University Hospital, painted in glorious technicolour? Boss-woman and cook Berenice Amstutz from Sonora in northern Mexico has now moved out here and is doing a good job. This is the real McCoy, none of your crispy cardboard taco shells or chilli con carne, just the kind of Mexican dishes you’d find in a neighbourhood taqueria in Mexico’s Calzada de Tlalpan. For lunch there’s a daily special and a few tacos/burritos. Evenings there’s a longer menu and Friday night is buffet night, complete with mariachi music by a guy in the regulation black and silver kit, equipped with one of those hats you see people wearing as they emerge, sunburnt and giddy, from the plane from Cancun. The tortillas (from El Sol), soft, fine and supple, are worth a detour alone – take one out of the basket, fill it up on the hand with whatever is your chosen meat- or fish-in-sauce (Bhere does a mean mole), roll it up and eat it in your fingers, sauce dripping out the bottom. There’s a good range of Mexican beers (Negra Modelo entre otras) and tequilas forever, plus killer margaritas.
Neue Alte Markthalle, Steinentorberg 20
Situated inside the big domed hall close to the station, this was once Basel’s wholesale veg. market, then (briefly) a doomed shopping centre, and now a sort of Singaporean food court à la baloise. In the centre are stands selling Indian, Thai, Italian, Lebanese and Persian and vegan food – they’re adding new ones all the time, so go and check it out. You stand in line for whatever has caught your eye (or nose), then take your plate and settle down at one of the tables spread out around the outer edges of the market. At the moment they’re only open at lunch, but there are plans afoot to open evenings too. It’s packed at the lunch break (lots of offices nearby) so go early — 11.30 or any time after 1, though you do run the risk that your fave Thai curry, tagliatelle with truffles, biryani, korma or pilaff is ausverkauft/sold out.
Restaurant Nordbahnhof, Mülhauserstr. 123.
Owned by a Swiss-Thai family and staffed by family members, this is a typical Quartierbeiz or local pub/friendly neighbourhood resto in the St Johanns Quartier. Forget the décor (very brown and rather dark), concentrate rather on the food which is pretty authentic Thai, though toned down a bit (as are most ethnic foods when they stray beyond their own borders) to suit Swiss tastes. It’s also very fairly priced: their lunch menu — soup and a choice of two mains (usually either a curry with meat or tofu and a veg-rich stir-fry with meat or tofu), with coffee or tea thrown in — will set you back CHF18. Chicken in red curry/coconut milk sauce with Jasmine rice was a bit on the mild side, but the chicken was moist, the rice perfectly fluffy and the overall result pleasing. Another popular choice was stir-fried beef with loads of crunchy-cooked veg., noodles and bean shoots. Nice smiley service by one of the brothers (the other’s in the kitchen). There’s also a big terrace for when summer comes around again (it will, it will).
Jay’s Indian Restaurant, St. Johanns-Vorstadt 21
Tel. +41 61 261 50 22
Owner Jay Kumar hails originally from Bangalore and describes his cooking as “international Indian”, fusing elements from both South India and Europe. His new hangout (they recently moved two doors down on St Johanns Vorstadt to the Ackermannshof) is resolutely modern and self-consciously trendy with pared-down décor, bright orange/coral/yellow colours, taste-packed food and a good buzz of happy punters. At lunch it’s all about simplicity and speed, with meat, fish and veggie options from CHF19-30. Evenings are more leisurely with a bit more choice. Jay believes that wines from the more aromatic spectrum work well with Indian food and offers interesting options to prove his point (a white Rioja from Spain, a red Garnatxa/Syrah blend from Priorat), including some by the glass.
Villa Feer, Beim Haagensteg 1, Lörrach-Brombach, Tel. 07621 579 10 77
Kathrin Bucher is a local lass from Lörrach who went off to learn how to cook and to see the world – among other places she’s worked in Scotland where she admits she left a little piece of her heart. She returned recently and opened up her own restaurant in a beautiful old mansion on the edge of town. Classy cooking using the best local ingredients, outstanding fish, Iberico pork, local beef, all presented with flair. The wine list has some of Baden’s best, from the Markgräflerland up to the Ortenau via the Kaiserstuhl.
Hotel-Restaurant Drei König, Basler Strasse 169, Lörrach, Tel. +49 7621 42 58 333
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 – it’s always busy, so best to book if you’re more than just 1 or 2. Otherwise, just find a place at one of the large, bleached wood Stammtisch (communal) tables and observe the tempting arrays of top-end (mainly Italian) cold meats served 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.
Berghofstüble, An der Romerstrasse, Bad Bellingen, 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 acknowledged to be the best Wiener Schnitzel in the business (left)
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.