For anyone who wants to discover the real Frankfurt, a visit to a typical cider tavern (Apfelweinlokal) is an absolute must. Here you can enjoy not only regional specialties such as “green sauce” (Grüne Sosse) and ribs with sauerkraut, but also the unconventional hospitality typical of Frankfurt, which can be a bit rough and ready. You’ll also need to obey the golden rule of the purist Frankfurt cider tavern: Never order a cider mixed with lemonade!
Eventually almost every newcomer to Frankfurt comes to grips with at least some of the local dialect. You greet the waiter with “Gude” not “Guten Tag”, you order a “Schobbe” of cider, you discuss Eintracht Frankfurt’s last game with total strangers and you try to persuade a group of Japanese tourists to try “Handkäse mit Musik” (literally “hand cheese with music” – check it out on Wikipedia!). And if there’s one place where you can become an authentic Frankfurter (that’s a native of Frankfurt, not the sausage), it’s in a traditional cider tavern, which will also serve a selection of regional specialties.
Frankfurt green sauce (Grüne Soße) is an absolute must and is allowed to contain only the following traditionally specified seven regional herbs: borage, chervil, cress, parsley, salad burnet, wild sorrel and chives. No dill and no foreign imports! The city is so proud of this specialty that it devotes an annual festival to it. What’s more, the “Association for the Protection of Frankfurt Green Sauce” is fighting hard to obtain an EU protected designation of origin in the same way as Parma ham. Green sauce is generally eaten with potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. However, meat-lovers can order it with boiled beef (Tafelspitz), roast beef or the popular “Frankfurter schnitzel”.
When it comes to sausages, Frankfurt has far more to offer than just the world-famous frankfurter. If you go the traditional Apfelwein Wagner tavern in Sachsenhausen, they have a “Frankfurter Platte” that offers a taste of local specialties, including pork knuckle, pork shoulder, salted ribs, spare ribs, grilled pork belly and sausages. You can’t go far wrong – unless you dare to order a beer to wash it all down. Beer is strictly off limits in this family-run establishment with its own cider press – and there’s none in the neighbouring “Zum gemalten Haus” either. Just a few steps further on in the traditional hostelries of old Sachsenhausen (e.g. Dauth-Schneider, Fichtekränzi and Atschel) cider is served by the “bembel” – an earthenware cider jug. And if you want a cider shandy, you’ll have to settle for mineral water in your traditional lozenge-cut “Geripptes” glass. Mixing with lemonade is a complete no-no in this cider Bermuda triangle.
There are also, of course, plenty of traditional hostelries on the other side of the River Main. The people tend to be a bit more laid back north of the river in Frankfurt. Even so in Schuch’s Restaurant, for example, no-one would dream of adulterating the taste of their home-pressed apple beverages. In this family restaurant in the Alt Praunheim district of Frankfurt the apple is king. In addition to the house’s own cider specialties there are also various types of organic juice, sophisticated aperitifs, apple sherry and outstanding apple-based culinary delights. The apple sausage and home-pickled braised beef with apple compote are not to be missed. Host Jürgen Schuch recommends ordering the cider selection (Apfelwein-Probe) with 5 home-made specialties to try.
They have also been pressing their own apples for 200 years in the “Zum Rad”. This traditional hostelry with an attractive summer garden in the district of Seckbach offers Frankfurt cuisine at its best and is an institution that attracts many Frankfurt residents to venture out of the city centre. In addition to various typical classic dishes, particular specialties of the house are the half chicken and the “Ebbelchesbraten” – roast pork in cider sauce with home-made dumplings. It’s a real treat for many of the regulars when host Robert Gasser puts Rinderrouladen (beef roulade) on the day’s menu. It definitely tastes as good as mum’s.
“Food like your mother cooks” is a good way of describing our final tip – the Alte Post in Bergen-Enkheim, the easternmost district of Frankfurt. Taking on the role of “mother” here is a woman who is loved far beyond the boundaries of Frankfurt – Dragica Laschitsch. Even before you enter the small, pretty half-timbered building in the old town of Bergen, you can hear her resounding laughter. For over 40 years, Dragi has been the spirit of this establishment in which time seems to have stood still. Here you’ll find “good, honest home cooking”, as she says, and seasonal delicacies from neighbouring farms and producers. Lovers of schnitzel will be in heaven here, and the medium-rare rump steak with sensationally crisp and spicy roast potatoes is one of the restaurant’s classic dishes. The Alte Post is a meeting place for regulars and guests from the city, for young and old, for Bergen residents and tourists. And after their first visit they all know that at Dragi’s there are two things that are on the house – Mispelchen (Calvados with Mirabelle) and the loudest laugh in Frankfurt.