When we first moved to Stuttgart, my husband and I stayed at a hotel in the Feuerbach area of Stuttgart so that he could be close to his work. While he was working, Leo (our beagle) and I spent a lot of time wandering around and getting to know the city. It was a great first couple of weeks and really helped me get used to our new home. One of the restaurants that we frequented on many occasions during this time was Wichtel Hausbrauerei. I loved this restaurant for two reasons: no-fuss German food and beautiful outdoor patio in the summer.
Last night we had the chance to return, and we found it to be as popular as ever. When we walked up to the patio around 18:30, we quickly saw that the tables were completely full. Not to be deterred from our nostalgic return, we waited for about five minutes when, to our luck, a couple who had paid finished their beer and left.
Upon sitting down, the first thing we ordered were two hefeweizens (wheat beers) and a bowl of water for Leo. Not every restaurant will be so accommodating for four-legged friends, but Wichtel has always been consistent on this front, which is why we've been so many times. I should also note that they brew their own beer in two varieties: pils and hefeweizen dunkel. Their pils is naturally a little cloudier than most other pils I've seen, but it's good. The hefeweizen dunkel (meaning it's a dark wheat beer) has a richer flavor without being too heavy to enjoy with a meal. I found it interesting that they serve their beers in .3L (small), .5L (large), and 1L (maß size in German). A maß is one of the giant handled beers that you tend to see at Oktoberfest, and I don't always see them so much in restaurants. You can also buy kegs of their beer to go, which I imagine would be great for parties.
So with Leo splayed out on the patio rocks and with our hefeweizens in hand, we proceeded to order. The main draw at Wichtel are the wichtelkuchen, which roughly translates to "imp cake" (imps as in dwarves). I've never seen this offered at any other restaurant in Germany, though the actual wichtelkuchen reminds me of a cross between pizza and the Alsatian flammkuchen. The crust is clearly stone-oven heated and is a bit thicker, like a pizza's crust, but the topping are largely the same as what you'd get on most flammkuchens.
Matt ordered his wichtelkuchen with cream, cheese, bacon, sauerkraut, schupfnudeln (a kind of large Swabian potato noodle), and spicy debrecener sausage. For my wichtelkuchen, I chose cream, spinach, cheese, onion, and bacon. Other toppings you could choose from include mushrooms, salmon, shrimp, tuna, ham or salami, peppers, and corn. Many of the combinations are vegetarian, as well.
Our wichtelkuchen came our piping hot from the oven. The crust was just perfectly golden, and the bread was clearly homemade. I suspect the spinach was from the freezer (fresh spinach doesn't seem very popular in Germany, even in salads), but it was still flavorful and blended nicely with the cream, cheese and bacon. In fact, it was a little like creamed spinach, which I like very much. Unlike what we think of as bacon in America, the chunks on my wichtelkuchen were more like large, smokey chunks of ham. They could have been spread more evenly over my wichtelkuchen, but it was so yummy that it was hardly a problem.
I also got a chance to try Matt's, and the sauerkraut-sausage-schupfnudeln mix was a great combination. It was slightly spicy, salty, and creamy all in one. I should probably note, however, that we may have been fine with just one wichtelkuchen between us. They are about the size of what I would consider a small pizza. I was very full after eating one, and I didn't even eat my crusts, though it was tempting.
Note: You can ask for food to-go, but in general, it doesn't seem to be as culturally common in Germany as in the States. In the States I would often order an appetizer, followed by an entrée that I could never finish, and then take the leftovers home for lunch the next day. Here, however, people seem to order an entrée, finish it (or not) and be done.
Wichtelkuchen isn't all they have on the menu. You can also find some other traditional German dishes like schnitzel (breaded and fried veal cutlet), German-style potato salad, spätzle (Swabian noodles), fleischkäse (a baked meat or sausage loaf), wurstsalat (a cold ham salad), and other small and large green salads. They also have rotating specials for lunch and dinner, as well as a special wichtelkuchen. Their menu is in German, although you can find an English version on their website and so I suspect they offer the menu in English if you ask for it.
Despite our full stomachs, I wanted to try something from the dessert menu since they had three very typically German options. I believe we tried the apple cake when we first moved here, but that was two years ago and I don't remember it now. This time we ordered the Tirolean topfenstrudel with vanilla ice cream. It was a kind of cake made from thin layers of pastry dough with a quark filling (a kind of curd cheese, sort of) and with a few raisins. Matt wasn't terribly impressed, and I thought it was okay. I think it would have been different if it were sweeter, but I suppose it was a typical German dessert in the sense that they aren't really sweet here like in the States. I would, however, like to try another version, preferably from a bakery somewhere, as some other images of topfenstrudel that I've seen make the dough look a little more like filo dough, which I imagine could be good.
Our waitress was prompt in taking our first drink and food order, but when it came to second on beer and dessert, we had to flag her down, which seems typical in Germany. There were tons of other waiters running around serving food or serving other tables, but they seemed hesitant to take our order when we ask two. I'm used to it at this point, so it was fine, but just be prepared to wait a bit if they are busy, as they were on the Thursday night during the dinner rush.
The Wichtel that we went to is located in Feuerbach just next to the OBI home goods store. It's a short, 3-5 minute walk from the Feuerbach u-bahn/s-bahn station. I like this location because they have a nice large patio, and if you come with kids, then they can play on the large water playground (I have no single word for them in English or German). Wichtel also has two other locations, one in Ditzingen and another in Böblingen, though I've never been. If you try one, let me know how it compares.