Dining in Dusseldorf
Dutch food sucks.
Sorry, Holland. Beautiful country. Nice people. But the local food scene is basically one Long John Silvers after another, only with unpronouncable names.
Your food choices in Holland are pretty much limited to the following choices: Fish, fish, and more fish — and it’s all fucking fried. Just about everything you order comes with fried potatoes topped with a giant dollap of mayonaise. Yuck. After staying here a week and losing a full belt loop in an unplanned fast, I’m ready to flee the country just to get a good meal. And today that’s exactly what I did, racing towards the German border in a reverse blitzkrieg with the first authentic German restaurant as my primary target. Hey, you know the food is lousy when you’re burning rubber towards Germany to get a decent meal.
So, we Michelened our way across the Dutch-German border and came upon a town called “Monchengladbach.” It’s in the Nordrhein-Westfalen region, across the border from Venlo. That should help with directions, right?
TripAdvisor noted that Monchenbladbach was a “charming old German town,” with a big church in the city center, and several nice attractions — including some great places to eat with good reviews. Sounded like the perfect place to relax and spend a Saturday afternoon. Plus, eat a great meal.
We pulled into central Monchenbladbach and the place looks like fucking Beruit. There’s litter blowing all over the streets. Arab immigrants. Chinese shops. Graffiti everywhere. Hey, where’s the German restaurants? Where’s the sauerbraten? Where can I get a good schnitzel? How about a crisp sparkling spatlase? Where’s the black forest cake? Where’s the guy playing the accordion? Instead, all that’s there is a swamped Burger King, some porno stores, a bunch of used car dealerships, and half of India. A horrible place.
Just to make sure that I’m not totally lost, I Wiki’ed “Monchenbladbach” where I learned the most famous son from this historic town was none other than Joseph Goebbels, the notorious Nazi propaganda minister. Funny, the tourism bureau here doesn’t mention that.
Time to implement “Plan B” — if we had such a plan. We’re off instead to Dusseldorf which is sort of like saying I’m driving to Cleveland for dinner. Not exactly Germany’s garden spot. But a practical destination nonetheless, an hour’s drive away. And with a million or so people, one would assume – plenty of good German restaurants. Right? Verstehen Sie mich?
I’d been to Dusseldorf twice before. Last time was about 15 years ago, when Marieta and I wolfed down the best pastries in our lives in — of all places — the Dusseldorf train station (Hauptbahnhof). I’m not shitting you, I orgasmed on the second creme puff. Make your own joke. I remember those delicacies like it was yesterday. So, after the Monchenbladbach disaster we’re racing on the Autobahn across the mighty Rhein and pull into the Dusseldorf city center. It’s 5 pm on Saturday. It appears there”s a festival going on. Oh joy! Lucky us!
Well, the place is a fucking madhouse. People everywhere. No parking. Like being in downtown Chicago during rush hour. Charming.
Worse, everyone’s walking out in the streets like cars don’t matter. Like cars have no rights at all. I’m trying to find a place to park which is sort of like locating a spot for a Great Dane to take a dump. Finally, I manage to find an open parking garage, one of those multi-level hellholes with all kinds of ramps. We’re driving a Volvo station wagon, but given the tiny clearances of the ramps and the camped size of the parking places, this might as well be a Tiger tank maneuvering the streets of Stalingrad. Germans lined up are honking and screaming words that I never studied in college, and by the time we locate a parking space on the bottom level, I’m already regretting my third visit to Dusseldorf.
Things are about to go from bad to worse.
Klaus – verzeihen Sie mir nicht suchen Sie nach oben und kommen nach Hamburg! Ich hätte auf dich hören sollen!
Before continuing, I must make an official pronouncement absolving me from being the Ugly American. When it comes to Germany, I’m allowed to be a jerk. After all, my mother’s maiden name was Schmitz. So, I’m half German and half Italian. Since I also happened to marry a Romanian, that makes my family 0-3 in World War II. Have mercy.
After widgeting the Volvo into the bunker – we walk two blocks and find a restaurant which supposedly has “the best traditional German food” in Dusseldorf, this according to the reviews. I forget the name exactly. It was a bunch old fashioned letters written out in script, which I’ll get to in a moment. It certainly looked like the real thing.
The first warning sign that this place wasn’t all we’re expecting was the huge crowd gathered outside — and no one (and I mean NO ONE) was eating. There were perhaps 200-300 Germans (no exaggeration) all guzzling dark beer, chanting, watching a football game on the television. Very obnoxious if you ask me. And they were blocking the front door on my way to the restaurant.
A shitload of other restaurants lined the strasse, but they were mostly ethnic places — Italian, Lebanese, Korean, whatever. Sorry, we didn’t drive to Germany to eat fucking eggrolls. Where’s the sauerbraten? Where’s the schnitzel? Where’s the sparkling spatlase? Where’s the black forest cake? Why are there so many fucking tourists!
The inside of the place looks like one of those rustic chalet-style place you see only in the movies. Big beams. Dark glass. Everyone is drinking — beer only. Even the kids. And everyone drinks the same exact brand, which is of some dark amber color. Hardly anyone is eating. For some reason, alarm bells haven’t gone off yet.
We sit and we sit. We wait and we wait. Finally, a waiter comes up and we speak enough broken German to place our order. Bestellen means order, that much I remember. Frankly, all this mess would have been solved if the stupid-ass waiter would just learn to speak English.
Apparently, he’s enjoying the both of us hanging by a string and blowing in the wind with our rusty language skills. I know he speaks English, but he’s just pricking it. He takes the “tough love” approach, allowing us to butcher the national language enough to have other tables glancing over at us annoying and start snickering. Sore of like the Griswalds in the European Vacation movie.
We manage to mangle enough words to order two beers, one schnitzel, a knackwurst plate, sauerkraut, potato salad — you know, just like the typical Germans eat.
Of course, I do not drink alcohol with food. I never drink alcohol with food. So, I insist the waiter bring me my mineral water (mineralwasser). When I eat, I must have my mineral water! No exceptions! Not in America! Not in Germany!
The waiter — who still insists he doesn’t speak English — gets totally flustered. We already ordered two beers, he thinks to himself. So, why do we want mineral waters, too?
Just fucking verbringen it, okay and don’t ask any more fragen. No wonder they lost two world wars.
The food arrives shortly thereafter. One thing’s for sure, at least Germans are effecient. Of course, the waiter didn’t tell us the dinner combo platters already come with sauerkraut and potato salad — and we ordered extra. We”re going to have sauerkraut and German potato salad coming out of our asses for the next two days.
Food is about what you’d expect at the Hofbrauhaus, or any other kitsch German restaurant in the United States. Basic recipee goes like this — overpriced hot dog links, some spicy mustard on the side, potato salad with a hint of vinegar and a couple of raw onions, blue sauerkraut, and some hard as a rock pumpernickel bread — for 16 euros ($23 x 2). Oh, plus four beers and two mineral wassers (another $12). We crossed a border and drove two fucking hours for this?
Now, it’s become night I’ve been in Germany half a day and so far, I haven”t seen anyone here dressed in lederhosen or heard any German music.
So, getting back to the 64,000 mark question — what was the name of that German restaurant, I wondered. Later back in Eindhoven, I looked it up. I absolutely had to find out what I missed and the proper name. How could this be the “best traditional German restaurant in Dusseldorf,” I wondered.
I found it. The name should have tipped me off, big time.
Im Fuchschen. That’s it.
Go ahead. Use your imagination. Im Fuchschen.
At least one thing’s for sure. The place was as advertised. I certainly was fuchschen.