From bratwurst on toy trains to cake photo shoots, necessity leads to innovation at some Kaiserslautern-area restaurants
Restaurants have been particularly hard hit by German government restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Eateries’ business models often involve having as many people as possible sitting at tables in a restricted space, enjoying a meal with friends or business partners. But that hasn’t happened since late March, when the government told them they had to stop serving dine-in meals.
Some restaurants have filed for bankruptcy protection, some have shut up shop and asked customers to buy gift cards to use post-virus and yet others have switched to an entirely takeout and delivery operation, but say customer numbers are down. An exceptional few, meanwhile, are thinking outside the takeout box for ways of getting food to customers.
How to make wurst better? Deliver it by toy train Mario Ludwig was drawing a blank when he first started thinking of how he could get wurst and other meals to customers at Der Fleischerimbiss in Kirchheimbolanden while maintaining social distancing rules. None of his ideas were affordable or viable. “And then I went into my son’s room and saw his train, and I thought, ‘We could start with something like that,’ ” Ludwig said.
On the day in late April that I made the 15-minute drive from Kaiserslautern to Der Fleischerimbiss, there were two large-gauge model trains on raised platforms in the snack bar. Customers wearing face masks and standing well back from one another used a microphone to order, placed their money on the flatcar behind the train on the left, and watched as it chugged roughly 10 feet up a track toward a plexiglass barrier — another layer of virus protection. There, a staff member took the payment and sent change back by train to the customer, while another prepared the order.
One man had a frikadelle, Germany’s version of the hamburger. A woman had several plastic containers filled with schnitzel, which she said she was going to heat up for Grandpa that evening. I ordered a bratwurst for 3 euros, which arrived within minutes on the train on the right, which had a tray affixed to its flatcar.
Ludwig makes the sausages himself and my bratwurst was juicy, with casing that almost melted in the mouth. Service was ultra-quick, too, even factoring in the train trip.
But would I have gone to a snack bar 15 miles away if there were no model trains? No. Would I go back now that I know how good homemade bratwurst can be? Yes, especially if the trains are still there.
They might not be for long, though. Customer numbers are down by about half because of the virus, Ludwig said, and unless the restrictions on restaurants are relaxed soon and more people come in to the snack bar, he’s thinking about closing down until the pandemic is over. Even if he does stay open, the trains are only likely to be a fixture while social distancing is in force. After that, Ludwig’s 3-year-old will probably want his toys back.
Cakes are the stars at photo shoots at Kaiserslautern cafe Before the coronavirus, Cafe Susann in Kaiserslautern’s pedestrian zone was often full of people lingering over lattes and tasting tortes. But customer numbers dropped sharply even before the government ordered restaurants to serve only takeout food, so the cafe’s owner, Maike Susann Gemba, decided to shut the business down completely for a week to brainstorm ways to survive the pandemic.
“Everyone is in a very difficult financial situation,” Gemba said. “But instead of protesting against politics and the virus, we need to try new things and show that we can be creative and find different ways to get food to our customers.”
A web designer helped create an online shop where customers — including many members of the Kaiserslautern military community — can place orders for pickup or peruse a gallery of the cafe’s cakes.
“Every morning, we do a cake photo shoot and post the pictures,” Gemba said. “This is a forward-looking project. After corona, you’ll still be able to order cakes from the website and see these pictures.”
As of late April, there were more than a dozen pictures of cakes including classic German eggnog cake — sadly, out of stock when I ordered — to carrot cake, Weinstrassetorte, classic cheesecake and more.
The cheesecake I ordered was excellent. The cappuccino I got to go with it was small, especially if you’re used to Starbucks sizes, but surprisingly good, given that I generally don’t like the way Germans roast their coffee.
A line of people, all wearing face masks and standing a safe distance from each other, waited outside to pick up orders they’d placed online the day before. Pickup is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. the day after you order. You can also just show up at the cafe on Osterstrasse and see what’s available, or grab a coffee, which doesn’t require pre-ordering.
Isolation is better with ice cream, and this place delivers Palazzo Sandro in downtown Kaiserslautern has a service that’s perfect for these coronavirus times, when many might be hankering for ice cream while hunkering down: they deliver ice cream.
You have to live just under 4 miles of the ice cream maker’s shop on Marktstrasse to use the service, which they’ve offered for years. There’s no charge for delivery, but the minimum order is 12 euros, which would get you three kids’ sundaes or two frozen yogurts or ice creams with booze. Options include milkshakes, scoops, and ice cream and fro-yo without alcohol.
Palazzo Sandro guarantees that what’s delivered to your home or office will be “exactly like the ice cream you’d get in the shop,” Kaiserslautern manager Vilimira Velkova said. Orders are placed on the ichwilleis.de (“I want ice cream”) website — worth a visit to gawk at the frozen creations — or by phone. There’s also an ichwilleis app, but I was unable to access it.
The estimated time of arrival of the small motorcycle with a cooler equipped with a very large ice pack will be posted on the website when you order. For me, it said 40 minutes, so I just walked the five minutes to the shop and picked up my order — a frozen yogurt with amaretto liqueur and cookies.
Outside, signs showed in increments of 1.5 meters — Germany’s mandated social distance — how much longer I had to wait before tucking into my treat. It was the only time that social distancing reminders have made me smile, and knowing there was ice cream at the end of the line made obeying the key coronavirus restriction more bearable.
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Der FleischerimbissAddress: Am Woogmorgen 5, 67292 Kirchheimbolanden, Tel: +49 (0)173 5601700
Directions: Take the A63 toward Frankfurt from Kaiserslautern and get off at exit 11. Left at the bottom of the exit ramp, left at the first roundabout, right at the next one, and you’ll see a car wash place on the left. The snack bar is right there.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday is schnitzel day.
Menu: Not much for vegetarians. Owner Mario Ludwig is a butcher and makes all of his wurst himself. Most wursts are 3 euros, and fries are 2.30 euros. Nonalcoholic beverages including coffee are available.
Cafe SusannAddress: Osterstrasse 7, 67655 Kaiserslautern. Tel. +49 (0)631 84286771
Directions: Just off Eisenbahnstrasse but in Kaiserslautern’s pedestrian zone.
Menu: Orders can be placed online at cafesusann.de/en/shop from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m for pickup the next day between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday. Lunches can also be ordered a day ahead and picked up the following day. You can also show up at the cafe and get whatever they happen to have. Lunch changes daily and costs around 8.50 euros. Cakes and cookies start at 2 euros. Coffee and non-coffee drinks are also available.
Palazzo SandroAddress: Marktstrasse 37, 67655 Kaiserslautern. Tel: +49 (0)631 75000942
In the heart of Kaiserslautern’s pedestrian zone.
Hours: The shop is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday and holidays from noon to 10 p.m. — longer if the weather’s nice.
Orders for delivery can be placed daily from 12:45 p.m. until 9:45 p.m. daily at ichwilleis.de or via telephone. Delivery charges vary.
All three establishments offer catering services.