Singing the praises of German gluten-free chain is easy thanks to Isabella
Stars and Stripes September 14, 2023
One of the biggest crosses I’ve had to bear as a result of celiac disease dietary restrictions is the frustration of knowing that almost all the tempting baked goods I encounter contain gluten and are therefore off-limits.
Moving to Germany, where breads, cakes and pastries are a veritable art form, evoked recollections of the scrumptious treats at Hans and Marianne’s Baeckerei and Kaffee Stube, a favorite childhood haunt in my hometown of Spokane, Wash., in the days before American consumers knew of gluten.
But with the celiac constraints now ever-present, my new surroundings seemed destined to heighten my sense of deprivation. That changed when Isabella Glutenfreie Patisserie entered the picture.
Established in 2014, Isabella is a chain with nine locations in seven cities. I became aware of it in Aachen several months ago, and two recent trips to the Isabella in Frankfurt followed.
The first of the two came on a Saturday. Walking toward the entrance from the Hauptwache parking garage right next door, I recognized the dome of Paulskirche, site of the historic Frankfurt Parliament of 1848, looming over the outdoor tables.
I figured that my arrival shortly after 3 p.m., about three hours before closing time, would allow me to have a nice late lunch. As it turned out, I miscalculated.
Perusing the menu page marked sandwiches and quiches, I noticed the words “only while stocks last.” I went to the display counter and all that was left of those items was a single, solitary vegan sandwich.
It wouldn’t have been my choice otherwise, but it beat the alternative of having nothing for lunch. The sandwich was small to begin with and got smaller when I plucked out the tomatoes, which are a nemesis of mine.
Surprisingly, the hearty bread and remaining vegetables made a substantial dent in my hunger and paired wonderfully with the bottled blackberry tea I ordered to drink.
What really stood out, though, was the rich, flavorful hummus. The restaurant also offers a peanut butter chili spread, which has me intrigued and itching to try next time.
I topped things off with an aptly named Choc Norris smoothie and a brownie, both of which were satisfying. Even so, this wasn’t enough for a proper evaluation. A return visit at an earlier time of day was in order.
Isabella’s breakfast menu provides a better selection, and those items are served until 2 p.m. Since I couldn’t remember my last splurge on the first meal of the day, I bought an early morning train ticket for the following Monday and again headed to Frankfurt on an empty stomach.
After an invigorating 20-minute jaunt from the central train station, I arrived at about 11 a.m. gratified by the sight of a fully stocked display case.
My starters of choice were the pecan granola, the Isabella’s Mind Belly Soul breakfast and an Amazing Acai smoothie.
Mind Belly Soul is the most comprehensive breakfast option at the restaurant. It consists of a plate of scrambled eggs; prosciutto, salami, cheese, fruit and butter served on a board; and a basket containing a brioche plus a bread assortment.
I attacked the pillow-soft scrambled eggs with gusto but took some extra time to savor the meats and cheeses, which I placed on bread slices slathered with another delicious spread.
As for the granola, in hindsight I should have chosen a different one of the four on the menu. The pecan option had too much fruit in the yogurt for my liking and not enough of the other ingredients.
The coconut cranberry granola had also interested me, so that’s what I plan to try next time. It has amaranth pops, walnuts, coconut and cranberries.
With all the sandwich and quiche selections in play this time, I decided to get a jump on lunch as well by ordering a prosciutto-and-Comte-cheese sandwich, rhubarb lemonade and a pistachio macaroon to go.
The beautiful weather made it a no-brainer to have an Isabella picnic on the banks of the Main River. Between the zing of the lemonade and the combined flavors of the bread, meat and pungently aromatic cheese, this was the lunchtime nirvana I’d been craving.
In my mind’s eye, I juxtaposed the riverside scene with a beloved 1973 photograph of my newlywed parents in New Orleans eating muffaletta sandwiches along the shore of the Mississippi. Oh, and the pistachio-flavored sugar rush from the best macaroon I’ve ever tasted was just as sublime.
At first blush, Isabella’s prices may appear steep, and I admit that I would have liked more smoothie for my money. But people who have seen the cost of flour made from wheat substitutes like amaranth, quinoa or almonds know how tough gluten-free baking on a budget tends to be.
That said, Isabella excels in an important niche market, as evidenced by a story from a fellow customer, who told me that the Frankfurt store had recently provided his gluten-free wedding cake.
Furthermore, affordable offerings can almost assuredly be found by anyone in the patisserie’s clientele, an assertion that I plan to test again the next time I’m in Stuttgart, where it has two locations.
Isabella Glutenfreie Patisserie
Address: Neue Krame 29, Frankfurt; Calwer Strasse 48, Stuttgart; Eduard Breuninger Strasse 5, Stuttgart
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Prices: Breakfast, 7.40-15.90 euros; sandwiches and quiches, 4.90-5.90 euros; bio-bowls, 10.90 euros; granolas, 8.90 euros; smoothies, 7.90 euros
Information: 069-74090860 (Frankfurt); 0711-54096995 (Stuttgart-Calwer Strasse); 0711-305 586 86 (Stuttgart-Dorotheen Quartier); Online: isabella-patisserie.de