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Most of the beer served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, is brewed by either of two local breweries. Only the wheat beer is from Bavaria. Apple wine is also a popular drink here, but there is a wide range of nonalcoholic beverages as well.

Most of the beer served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, is brewed by either of two local breweries. Only the wheat beer is from Bavaria. Apple wine is also a popular drink here, but there is a wide range of nonalcoholic beverages as well. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

The Mathildenhoehe in Darmstadt, Germany, with its art nouveau buildings and a chapel built by the last Russian czar, is the main attraction in this charming city just south of Frankfurt.

The Mathildenhoehe, featuring the Wedding Tower, an exhibition hall and the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, is the main tourist attraction in Darmstadt, Germany. Nearby is the Biergarten, a popular watering hole for locals and tourists alike.

The Mathildenhoehe, featuring the Wedding Tower, an exhibition hall and the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, is the main tourist attraction in Darmstadt, Germany. Nearby is the Biergarten, a popular watering hole for locals and tourists alike. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

But tucked away under leafy chestnut trees is another place that draws crowds, the Biergarten, an outdoor watering hole popular with residents and tourists alike.

For the uninitiated, a beer garden is like an outdoor tavern, usually self-service, and often furnished with long wooden tables and benches. The best-known example is probably the one in Munich’s English Garden.

While very popular in Bavaria, they can be found all over Germany. The Biergarten in Darmstadt opened in 1974 and since then has been a favorite meeting place for those trying to escape the summer sun’s rays.

With a recent pre-summer heat wave hitting Germany, my wife and I made our way to a shady spot on the premises.

Here, in traditional German beer garden style, you order at the counter, pay and take your drinks with you. If you order food, a pager lets you know when it is ready for pickup.

Most of the beer served at the Biergarten is brewed by two local breweries, Darmstaedter and Grohe. Only the wheat beer is from Bavaria.

Not a fan of the wheat beer, I ordered two Grohes, wurst salad with fries and handkaese with mussigg.

Wurst salad is made with sliced cold cuts and pickles in a vinegar dressing and topped with red onions. Handkaese is a relatively low-fat sour milk cheese that gets its name from how it was originally formed, by hand.

Handkaese with mussigg, foreground, and wurst salad with fries as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. Handkaese is a relatively low-fat sour milk cheese that gets its name from how it was originally formed, with the hands. Wurst salad is made with sliced cold cuts and pickles in a vinegar dressing and is topped with red onions.

Handkaese with mussigg, foreground, and wurst salad with fries as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. Handkaese is a relatively low-fat sour milk cheese that gets its name from how it was originally formed, with the hands. Wurst salad is made with sliced cold cuts and pickles in a vinegar dressing and is topped with red onions. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Wurst salad, or sausage salad, served with fries at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. It’s made with sliced cold cuts and pickles in a vinegar dressing and is topped with red onions.

Wurst salad, or sausage salad, served with fries at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. It’s made with sliced cold cuts and pickles in a vinegar dressing and is topped with red onions. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Handkaese with mussigg, as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. Handkaese is a relatively low-fat sour milk cheese that gets its name from how it was originally formed, with the hands. Mussigg, local slang for music, is a dressing served over the cheese.

Handkaese with mussigg, as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. Handkaese is a relatively low-fat sour milk cheese that gets its name from how it was originally formed, with the hands. Mussigg, local slang for music, is a dressing served over the cheese. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Mussigg, local slang for music, is a dressing of oil, vinegar and chopped onion that is served over the cheese.

Both were tasty, the meat dish nice and light in the heat. The onion-heavy dressing might make the handkaese an acquired taste, but it’s worth trying.

Not quite ready to leave the Biergarten’s cool shade, we each had a glass of apple wine to while away the heat. A specialty of southern Hesse, the German state in which Darmstadt is situated, the wine can be ordered straight or spritzed with water or lemonade.

A week later, the heat still had not dissipated, so after a hot day in the office, the Biergarten again beckoned.

I tried a grilled pork neck steak with homemade potato salad, and my wife chose the homemade kochkaese with mussigg.

A pork neck steak with homemade potato salad as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. Both were delicious, but the potato salad, made with a dill vinaigrette dressing, was one of the best my wife and I have tasted at a restaurant.

A pork neck steak with homemade potato salad as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany. Both were delicious, but the potato salad, made with a dill vinaigrette dressing, was one of the best my wife and I have tasted at a restaurant. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Homemade kochkaese with mussigg, as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt , Germany. The first word in the name translates as “cooked cheese.” Served cold, the dish is made by cooking quark and butter with baking soda. Mussigg, slang for “music,” is a dressing made of oil, vinegar and chopped onion that is served over the cheese.

Homemade kochkaese with mussigg, as served at the Biergarten in Darmstadt , Germany. The first word in the name translates as “cooked cheese.” Served cold, the dish is made by cooking quark and butter with baking soda. Mussigg, slang for “music,” is a dressing made of oil, vinegar and chopped onion that is served over the cheese. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Kochkaese translates to “cooked cheese.” The dish is made by cooking quark and butter with baking soda, then served cold. It was very good, but if you order it, let it warm up a little before spreading it on the delicious dark bread that comes with it.

The pork steak was tasty, but the potato salad was absolutely delicious. Made with a dill vinaigrette dressing, it was one of the best we have ever tasted while out to eat.

Grohe was again the beverage of choice. Despite the name beer garden, though, assorted soft drinks can be ordered there as well.

In terms of food, the Darmstadt Biergarten offers a variety of sausages and schnitzels, a salad, fries and potato wedges. Unfortunately, there is nothing vegan on the menu, unless you have one of the potato offerings plain.

But it always offers a shady place to enjoy a beer and escape the city heat.

The Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, is a nice place to rest after seeing the city’s popular Mathildenhoehe, or just to sip a beer in the fresh air and watch the world go by.

The Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, is a nice place to rest after seeing the city’s popular Mathildenhoehe, or just to sip a beer in the fresh air and watch the world go by. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

In traditional beer garden style, customers at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, order at the counter. They take their drinks with them and pick up their food after a pager signals that the order is ready.

In traditional beer garden style, customers at the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, order at the counter. They take their drinks with them and pick up their food after a pager signals that the order is ready. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

From late March to mid-October, if the weather is good, the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, is a great place to be.

From late March to mid-October, if the weather is good, the Biergarten in Darmstadt, Germany, is a great place to be. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Biergarten

Location: Dieburgerstrasse 97, Darmstadt, Germany. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Wiesbaden and 90 minutes by car from Kaiserslautern. Parking is very expensive in the area. The cheapest garage is under the Rewe supermarket on Dieburgerstrasse. If arriving by train at the city’s main train station, take the F bus to the Mathildenhoehe stop.

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 3-11 p.m., noon-10 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. Closed Mondays. Open from late March to mid-October when the weather is good. Check beforehand on cold, cloudy days.

Prices: From 4.50 euros for a bratwurst to 16 euros for a schnitzel in mushroom sauce with fries and side salad. Beer is 4.50 euros for a half-liter mug; soft drinks start at 2.50 euros.

Information: Online: biergarten-darmstadt.com; phone: 06151-43855

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Mike is a photographer in Kaiserslautern, Germany. He has covered stories for Stripes throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. Born in Peoria, Ill., he graduated from DODEA’s now-defunct Frankfurt American High School.
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