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LADENBURG, Germany — Vegetarians dining out in Germany tend to find their menu options about as delightful as a tour of the local sewage treatment plant.

Such gastronomic eccentricities are either ignored or outright disrespected by German kitchens, whose attempts to satisfy vegetarian palates are as sincere as the local police force’s enforcement of stop signs.

Even the potato, now regarded as German as the cuckoo clock, was considered poisonous here until the 1740s, when Frederick II threatened German peasants to eat them or have their noses cut off. Before that, the national vegetable was bratwurst.

So it was bit astonishing to find great vegetarian cuisine at Die Zwiwwel in Ladenburg, a restaurant that treats goose fat as if it were butter’s overweight brother; greasy and soft, yet no less likely to end up smeared on bread than raspberry jam.

It is not a vegetarian joint by any stretch of the imagination, but for once salad, that old vegetarian standby, is relegated to its proper place as an opening act for what the rest of us call “real food.”

Crepes stuffed with ricotta and spinach, and pretzel dumplings drenched in creamy mushroom sauce are wedged in among menu selections featuring the formerly animate, a list that, vegetarian dishes aside, reads like the attractions at some necrotic petting zoo.

My dinner date, who gave up meat after a frightening run-in with a pig knuckle in Strasbourg a year ago, declared Zwiwwel’s crepes “quite possibly the best vegetarian dish I’ve had in Germany.”

Nevertheless, the staff of the 100-year-old restaurant is of a mind that a little dead animal never hurt anybody.

Before the entree, the waitress presented us with a basket of bread and a small dish of something resembling butter blended with sauteed onions, but was actually the aforementioned goose fat.

Then came an unexpected freebie. The waitress gave each of us a walnut-sized sphere casually dressed in a jacket of hazelnut shavings and a shallow pool of pulverized strawberry. Because chocolate had been drizzled on the plates, we assumed they were sweets.

But no. Two days later, my date insists the unmistakable taste of cow liver still lingers on her tongue. The fork had barely reached her lips when she realized her mistake. Because it was free and she didn’t want to appear ungrateful, she made me eat hers.

Not that I minded. I sampled the goose fat. I swallowed the liver. And then I ate a duck.

See previous After Hours reviews here.

Die Zwiwwel

Ladenburg, Germany

Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Food: French and German cuisine.

Prices: From 11.50 euros to 26 euros for entrees.

Drink prices: Wines about 3 euros a glass; beer about the same; also a wide selection of liquor.

Clientele: A mix of Germans, international businesspeople, and occasional Americans.

Dress: Casual, but neat.

Location: Kirchenstrasse 24, Ladenburg.


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