Our hunt for an American burger in Stuttgart began just a few months after our arrival. Sure, we can make our own, but nothing quite beats the delicious, mile-high burgers that we were used to in Charlottesville.
Our first stop was Block House, an American-style steakhouse with two locations in Stuttgart. While I rather enjoy their affordable steaks and baked potatoes, their burger was a mediocre, pressed (possibly frozen?) patty. The same is true of my favorite after-work happy hour location, Pier 51, which admittedly has a better flavor thanks to the homemade barbecue sauce, though again, the patty is still pressed. Last year we also tried 87 in Bad Cannstatt, which served some tasty combinations, like their "Chutney Burger" with an apple-ginger chutney, pear slices, and cheese. However, once again, the patties are pressed.
So what do I mean by an "American burger"? I'm talking about a burger patty that's fresh and loosely pressed from ground meat so that it's still thick and juicy and so that you can order the temperature you want. This is what I'm used to making at home and what I was used to getting on the East Coast. I've always taken this kind of burger patty to be "normal". And by my logic, if Five Guys can manage it, then so can the rest of the world, right?
And so the next stop on our list was Woody's Restaurant next to the UFA-Palast movie theater where we dined last Saturday night. Woody's advertises itself as an American joint, and they even used American flags and American-themed dishes on the menu, which I eventually found to be overwhelming and somewhat comical. Most of the menu was fried food! I even remember seeing the table next to us order a platter of fried onion rings, french fries, and chicken wings brought out on a table warmer, along with a slice of corn-on-the-cob to go with the fried food pile, of course.
For the first time, I experienced what it was like to eat my country's "food" in a foreign country. Sure I've seen "American sizes" in ice cream and drinks from time to time, but this experience was very new. How can my entire country be limited to burgers, pizza, and fried foods? I think I now understand what it must be like for Germans eating at "German restaurants" or even Chinese eating at "Chinese restaurants" in the States. Still, the restaurant certainly seemed popular judging by the crowd there during our visit. The food must be good then, right?
Back to our meal: We were both intrigued by the "Kentucky Chickenstripes" (as in the stars and stripes?) and couldn't remember the last time we'd had chicken strips, so we decided to start with them as an appetizer. The strips were more like long, thin fingers with a light bread crumb crust, but they were good. The weird part, though, was that they came with carrot sticks, cucumber spears, and an assortment of dips including puréed salsa, herbed sour cream, and some kind of spicy mayonnaise. None of the sauces were really to my liking. Our hopes were higher for the burgers...
...until they arrived and I saw that they were sadly, again, pressed patties. Honestly, I think my "Double Cheese and Bacon Burger" would have been okay if the rest of the toppings were good, but the cheese wasn't melted, the bacon was British-style (fatty, not crispy), and the pickles were the soft mix between bread and butter and the dill that they wish were hamburger pickles in the grocery store. The burger at Pier 51 is definitely better. However, I liked the fries. They were curved and crispy and slightly puffy, making them tasty and different from the usual freezer fries.
Matt rightly noticed that there's something about pressed patties that reminds him of freezer patties. And though we admitted these may not have been frozen, they still had that same pressed texture (I'm sorry that I didn't get a picture of the inside). The preference for pressed patties that we've discovered here really does baffle me because the Germans have Frikadellen, which are basically small burger patties, so you'd think they could translate the concept to larger burgers. Perhaps this is just what Germans prefer, or perhaps it's just a Stuttgart trend. I'm really not sure at this point.
And so as Matt put it, the meal was once again mediocre, or maybe less than that. Feeling somewhat disappointed, we decided to walk off our dissatisfaction and perhaps even earn some dessert on the way home. I remembered seeing an icing cake at Huftengold earlier that day, so we stopped to see if they had any left.
To my amazement, they'd sold out of just about every one of their dozen or so cakes, including the icing cake, or so we were told by the kind waitress (owner?) who kept feeding Leo treats. I felt bad that she was feeding our dog, so rather than leave without the much anticipated icing cake, I decided to order a lovely-looking chocolate cake instead. Not having much luck with chocolate cake in Germany, I was ready to be disappointed again, but this was the best guilty decision I've ever made. The cake was a thin, fudge-like truffle layer with a light shortbread crust. Delicious!
Needless to say, we scarfed down the whole piece to cover up our disappointment over dinner. Chocolate works that way, right? In the meantime, we've revised our eat-out list for the coming months to avoid another mediocre meal, if possible. In addition, our hunt for an American burger will continue, this time with [M]eatery downtown. We've already had amazing (though pricey) steaks there, and so my hopes are high for a decent burger.
Have you been to a good burger place in Stuttgart? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.