Bar Sleuth: Café Carré is like a bar you've seen on TV
May 11, 2006
IDAR-OBERSTEIN, Germany — Café Carré may be billed as an American bar/Irish pub/kniepe ... whatever that is. But walking into Café Carré is really like walking into a sitcom.
“Did I leave something here last night?” Pfc. David Jones asks co-owner Martin Lenzen on a recent Saturday evening.
“A lot of money, thank God!” Lenzen quips. Baa-dam!
And yes, comparisons to That Show About the Bar are inevitable.
This is a place where people come for good company, said Lenzen’s partner, Stefanie Mugica, a long-time American expatriate who seems to have watched little, if any, television over the few decades. “Like that bar on TV,” Mugica says, snapping her fingers. “You know. ‘Where everybody knows your name.’”
On a busy main Idar-Oberstein thoroughfare, Café Carré is so small, intimate and casual that you’d better be ready to be part of the show. This is not a place for the anti-social or the introverted or anyone looking for anonymity.
It’s more like a clubhouse for the Americans. The owners are so nice, “it’s like hanging out at their home and chillin’,” said Heide Cygan, a Café Carré fan along with her husband, Capt. Michael Cygan.
“This is the best German bar, right here!” Jones said.
Bar. Pub. Kniepe ... whatever that is. Just don’t call it a club.
“We’re not a club,” Lenzen said. “We don’t play hip-hop and heavy metal. You come here to hear jazz, country, rhythm and blues, and blues.”
And for good bar food, Jones adds: “I walk down every night for dinner.”
Heide Cygan said she and her friends come for the live music, the mix of Germans and Americans, the huge variety of beers and dinner entrees for under 10 euros.
Whatever Café Carré is in 2006, it’s far different than when he opened it 21 years ago as a “cool, German music café,” Lenzen said. “It had gray walls and a pink ceiling.”
In 2003, he painted the walls black and converted to an Irish pub. “During the last seven or eight years, it’s been 90 percent Americans,” Lenzen said. “We’d like to get back to about 50-50 German and Americans, but the Germans don’t want too many Americans, and the Americans don’t want too many Germans.”
The only person who’s not welcome here is action hero Bruce Willis, an Army brat who was born in Idar-Oberstein, and who occasionally shows up in town. “He went to a bar in (nearby) Tiefenstein and two weeks later, it closed,” Lenzen said.
“Ffff!” he says with an anguished shiver. “We don’t need that guy in here!”
As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.
Drink prices: Reasonable. Local German pils such as Kirner and Bitburger are 2 euros for a .3 liter glass, 3.20 euros for a .5 liter. Cocktails are about the same price as at most pubs, starting at 4.10 euros and going up to 6 euros for single-malt Scotches.
Entertainment: One billiard table, a couple of small TVs, Martin’s huge collection of stuff on the walls, and all the people you just met.
Clientele: Mostly Americans from 1st Armored Division bases in Idar-Oberstein and Baumholder
Dress: Way casual
Location: Hauptstrasse 26, Idar-Oberstein. For directions, call: 0-6781-433-54.
Hours: 5:30 p.m. till “late,” 2 a.m. most nights. The grill is open from 6 p.m. until midnight. Closed on Mondays.
Best-bet nights: Tuesdays and Thursdays