For three days every July, the Bohnenviertel (meaning "bean quarter") in Stuttgart comes alive with music, food, and late-night shopping during the Bohnenviertelfest. It's a bit like a giant block party, and I love the celebratory atmosphere. The best thing about the Bohnenviertelfest is that many of the restaurants set up stalls and offer bites from their menu, so you can easily try several different kinds of food form the neighborhood's restaurants.
The Bohnenviertel is one of the oldest areas in Stuttgart and covers about ten small blocks. It gets its name from the staple food of the area's population, which grew beans as a way to supplement their diet. The gardens have since been replaced by houses, but you can still stroll through the cobblestone streets of the Bohnenviertel and admire the quarter's old-time charm. We live right next to the area, and it's filled with secondhand bookstores, antique shops, private art galleries, jewelry stores, craft stores, and lots of cafés and restaurants.
This year, I ended up going to the Bohnenviertelfest twice: once with my husband and our dog and a second time with a group of several of our friends (and without the dog, as the festival tends to get quite crowded as the night carries on). We hadn't intended to go back twice, but the food was so good the first time and there was so much more that we wanted to try, that we went back for seconds.
I've ended up covering the food by restaurant below, since that's how the festival is set up. Most restaurants have tents set out in front of their usual establishment and serve up smaller portions or a tastings of what's on their menu. You can stroll around and enjoy your food, or sit at benches and tables if they're offered. Several stages are set up with bands, and there are shows scheduled for the festival to give you some entertainment. Vineyards and breweries also set up their own stalls serving wine, beer, and cocktails. Most of the area's stores stay open a bit later, too.
Here's what we tried:
On the first night, we made a beeline for Injeera. There are several African restaurants in our neighborhood that I really like, and this one I prefer for their lovely meat and vegetable stews served on fluffy injera, a kind of spongy flatbread. The point is that you tear off a piece of injera, grab your food using the bread, and eat the whole bite - no silverware needed! We tried the meat tasting plate, which included chicken, beef, and lamb, as well as vegetables and lentils. The lamb was by far my favorite, served in a rich, spicy sauce that complemented the juicy, tender meat.
The next thing we tried was dinnede from a special stall set up for the festival along the street that wasn't attached to any restaurant. The smell as we walked past the oven was just too much to pass up. Dinnede is another Swabian speciality similar to the Wichtelkuchen or Flammkuchen. We got one with cheese and tomatoes. It was piping hot from the oven, with the perfect crunchy dough on the outside and squishy inside texture that I wish every pizza could have. The cheese was so melty that it came off in strings when I took a bite.
Another place I headed to was Takeshii's. It's my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the city (review to come) that just happens to serve amazing cocktails. In fact, I went there on both nights to enjoy the Saigon Love (vodka, apricot brandy, lime, mango, and grenadine) and the Thai Basil Smash (gin, Thai basil, brown sugar, lime, and lemon). They have a gorgeous bar, but definitely stay for the food. On the second night we snacked on their mini fried spring rolls, but they have so much more to offer on the menu.
On the first night I also decided to try the pulled pork barbecue at Der Zauberlehrling. This restaurant is attached to a "design hotel" on Rosenstraße. I've never eaten there before, but I might go back after the pulled pork barbecue. While I don't think it can ever compare to home, this decidedly upscale version had a thicker Kansas City-style sauce with coleslaw on a ciabatta bun. I rather liked the sauce and the meat was just as tender as pulled pork should be (though it could have been a bit hotter when served), though Matt didn't care for it all that much. Good, but not wow.
To end the first night, we stopped at Hüftengold for ice cream on the way home. I've been wanting to try this café for a while and just haven't gotten to it yet. They have homemade ice cream in flavors like chocolate, mango, and walnut-fig. Matt decided to get two scoops of the caramel-stracciatella and it was out of this world: creamy, caramel flavor with flecks of bittersweet chocolate that melted in my mouth. I wanted to go back again on the second night, but their ice cream bar was sadly not open. However, they did have a cocktail bar and an Asian wok station where I picked up a delicious raspberry mojito (or three, since Matt confused his numbers while ordering - no problem!) and a shrimp curry with coconut-ginger sauce and vegetables. The sauce could have been a bit spicier, but I suppose they have to go mild when serving food to a crowd. The fresh cilantro, however, was an excellent touch.
On the second night we also decided to check out Adulis, another African restaurant on Esslinger Straße. We tried some really delicious sambasu, which were thin rice-paper pastries filled with meat and spices and then fried. They were served with a spicy chili sauce and were delicious. Matt also got a tasting plate with injera topped with red lentils in a spicy tomato sauce and beef in another spicy tomato-based sauce. We found both to be delicious and will definitely go back for dinner sometime.
To wrap up our second evening and Bohnenviertelfest experience, we made one final stop for crêpes at a stand near Takeshii's which was very popular. I chose a crêpe sprinkled with raw sugar and Grand Marnier. Simple, but tasty.
Unfortunately the Bohnenviertelfest is over for this year, but you can still check out any of the restaurants that I've linked to above. I know I'll definitely be going back to several in the future to write up some longer reviews with more pictures. The Bohnenviertel is located in the Mitte (downtown) just off the Charlottenplatz or Olgaeck u-bahn stops or across the street from the Rathaus. You can also easily walk there from the main station (about 15 minutes). Click here to see a map of the area sponsored by the Bohnenviertel's website.