Dine on working-class comfort food and modern fare at eatery with an industrial past
Stars and Stripes March 30, 2023
Germany is known for its charming half-timbered houses and quaint medieval town squares. Less picturesque but no less important are the country’s industrial areas, which created Europe’s wealthiest economy.
In Kaiserslautern, home to tens of thousands of American service members and their families, the now-closed Pfaff factory was once one of the largest economic drivers in the city, producing sewing and welding machines for over 150 years.
Founded in 1862, Pfaff employed nearly 10,000 people worldwide at its height. In 2008, the company filed for bankruptcy after years of financial trouble.
Tucked away in a somewhat dreary quarter of Kaiserslautern next to the former Pfaff factory is Zur Pfaffschenke, or Pfaff Tavern, which once served as a community pub for factory workers.
Despite its humble beginnings, Pfaffschenke for almost two decades has served as a beloved side street eatery that does not rely on marketing or social media, but on its local reputation and those in the know.
Such recommendations are what brought it to the attention of my wife and me. Entering through a small door, we immediately noticed the floor covered with vintage, utilitarian brown tiles, reminding us of the restaurant’s blue-collar past.
With two large windows and a small bar, the no-frills interior maintains its original look. The restaurant only has about 10 tables.
Reservations are absolutely recommended, as all tables were booked on the Tuesday night we visited.
The restaurant’s motto, “Schlemmen fuer die ganze Familie,” or “Indulging for the Whole Family” is not an empty promise. Despite its modest setting, the menu at Zur Pfaffschenke surprises with an extensive range of dishes, from familiar German favorites like schnitzel, spaetzle noodles and steaks to international dishes, including panzerotti and risotto.
In spite of its traditional flair, the restaurant also features a separate menu of modern vegan and vegetarian dishes that caught our eye. And while the restaurant has a decidedly local clientele, the menu is translated into English.
Many dishes can be prepared gluten-free, according to our friendly waitress.
Coming in from a chilly evening, we opted to warm up with the garlic soup, a clear vegetable broth fortified with a floating poached egg. We also chose the mushroom appetizer, which came with a creamy tartar sauce and a side salad.
My wife then enjoyed a traditional pork roll stuffed with lamb cheese and peppers, and sides of country potatoes with buttery steamed vegetables.
The tangy banana peppers and fluffy cheese provided a nice pick-me-up to an otherwise heavy meal. And although the pork was a bit dry, the flavorful sauce combined with the al dente veggies rounded out the meal nicely.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the vegan rendition of the traditional schnitzel. Although I don’t usually like meat replacement products, this soy-based version had a subtle, savory taste and pleasant breadlike texture that soaked up the flavors of the creamy mushroom sauce.
Both our portions were large and we barely made it to dessert. Nonetheless, we indulged in some chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream on a bed of fresh strawberries, plums and nectarines. It was both refreshing and delightful.
Although Pfaffschenke may not be the most glamorous restaurant in town or a fancy date night spot, its staying power indicates that it remains a beloved local institution.
Address: Albert Schweitzer Strasse 54, Kaiserslautern, Germany
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Prices: Entrees range from 8.80 euros for a medium pizza to 23.80 euros for rump steak with mushrooms. The restaurant also features a changing menu with weekly specials and seasonal items.
Information: http://zurpfaffschenke.cafelists.com and on Facebook; 0631-310-3090.