One of the first few times I meandered past a newly opened Hans im Glueck burger joint last winter in downtown Kaiserslautern, an inviting warm light poured out through the large front windows.
I envied the crowd gathered around cozy tables in a dining room forested with skinny, white birch trunks.
Such a scene is far less appealing since the coronavirus pandemic began, but thankfully the weather is nice and Hans im Glueck has a large outdoor seating area, so I finally gave it a try.
After making a reservation online and arriving, a masked hostess guided me through the wooded indoors and into a clearing out back, populated with picnic tables and chattering diners clinking beer glasses.
With locations all around Germany, including in Stuttgart and Nuremberg, the burger chain is named after a “lucky” fairy tale soldier who trades down, in stages, from a back-breaking large gold nugget to nothing. Happily unburdened of all his possessions, he runs home.
The restaurant’s menu is fairly simple, with at least a handful of options in any category and various “little extra happiness” upgrades for sandwiches, fries or other dishes.
I went with what I consider the height of burger perfection, a bacon cheeseburger, as part of a combo that includes a choice of side salad, coleslaw or fries and a drink. After 5 p.m. that means a cocktail, but the cheaper lunchtime combo includes soft drinks or a small beer, plus a hot drink.
I ordered a mojito, which arrived quickly, followed almost immediately by my sandwich and golden fries.
My chosen burger, served on sourdough, featured a good layer of crisp bacon. Its worst feature was the dusting of flour atop the bun, a flourish I find annoying, but despite that and a little crumbling near the center, the bread did its job of keeping my fingers dry.
In recent months of homemade burgers, I’ve been paring to the essentials of meat, cheese and condiments, but at Hans im Glueck they are not so minimalist. They top all theirs with sweet red onions, tomato, lettuce and special sauce, plus various other fixings, but they don’t overdo it.
Optional add-ons include fried egg, extra cheese, bacon, chili peppers or a pepper crust. Fries can be ordered as side portions or in one-pound quantities and topped, for a fee, with things like camembert and avocado sauces.
I skimped on the upgrades and ordered my fries plain, with mayo on the side. Wide and thin, almost like steak fries, they arrived perfectly crispy outside and tender inside.
My adult beverage, garnished with a mint leaf sprinkled with powdered sugar (I rubbed it on my gums to check), was syrupy on first sip but pleasing overall.
To expand my sampling, for your benefit, dear reader, I also placed a takeout order for a specialty beef burger and one of the vegan options, with a side of sweet potato fries.
My waitress had a habit of asking “is that all?” with an emphasis that suggested she was mildly surprised my order wasn’t even larger. If she’d have suggested it, though, I might’ve ordered the pancake with lingonberries for dessert.
My takeaway order was ready in about 10 minutes. I paid and, happily heaving the paper burger sack, scurried home.
The “Naturbursche” burger, described as a “hearty plant-based patty, caramelized onions & mushrooms,” was still warm when I bit into it. It was no substitute for beef in my book, but had a surprisingly enjoyable nutty flavor and meaty texture.
My, ahem, third burger was the “Elsasser,” a juicy beef patty on multigrain bun (no flour dust!), topped with melty, creamy camembert cheese and sweet lingonberries.
I was torn, wanting to finish both sandwiches after a few bites of each, but I was nearly stuffed. Still, I managed to scarf down all but a couple bites of the Elsasser and every last one of the slightly mushy sweet potato fries.
All told, I traded about 36 euros for enough food to feed three happy wanderers. A bit pricey, but Hans, the fool, was never so lucky.
I’ll probably return soon for fries and dessert. And that’s probably not all.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @chadgarland
Location: Fruchthallstrasse 7-9, Kaiserslautern
Kitchen hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 12 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Prices: From 7-9 euros for burgers and sandwiches, plus 6-9 euros to make it a combo; up to 12 euros for salads
Information: Phone: +49 (0)631 627 99007, Online: hansimglueck.com/location/kaiserslautern-fruchthalle