Vinocentral in Darmstadt is a popular place to grab coffee or meet up after work

A glass of primitivo from the Puglia region of Italy at the Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. In the background is the city's main train station.


By MICHAEL ABRAMS | Stars and Stripes | Published: November 12, 2020

It was the last day of business before the November lockdown was to begin. On a balmy afternoon, Vinocentral was as crowded as it could be with social distancing rules in effect.

The place is a popular wine bar/shop/delicatessen in the shadow of the main train station in Darmstadt, Germany.

Vinocentral started out 25 years ago as a coffee bar that offered espressos and cappuccinos made from a wide selection of beans and roasts. Its proximity to the station and nearby office buildings made it a well-visited spot for a morning or midday shot of java.

When a bar, wine shop and a deli that offered antipasti, ham, salami, cheese and even truffles when in season were added, the place became an after-work hot spot.

Then the pandemic hit and brought on some changes. Seating is outdoor only, and you order your glass of wine at a takeout window. The store and the deli are for shoppers only, although you do order most of your food inside as well.

Appropriately for a wine bar, the drinks selection was ample and varied. There were reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines from Italy, France, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

We chose a rose Cotes de Provence and a white grauburgunder from southern Germany. The rose was dry and tangy, while the grauburgunder — pinot grigio in Italy or pinot gris in France — was light and refreshing.

We found a bench with enough social distancing, sat back and people-watched as we enjoyed our drinks.

We ordered a mixed antipasti plate to accompany our next glasses of wine. We selected olives, fennel, grilled and marinated eggplant, an artichoke heart and goat cheese topped with balsamic cream and cranberries from the deli’s glass display case.

It was all very tasty and went well with what we were sipping — a white Lugana and a red primitivo, from Italy’s Lombardy and Puglia regions respectively.

We decided to get a bite to eat before heading home. To our dismay, all the paninis and focaccia were sold out.

To make up for it, the next week we headed back to Vinocentral and got the Sicilia focaccia with olive tapenade, grilled and marinated vegetables and Provolone cheese on a bed of arugula, and their panini classico with pastrami, jalapenos, barbecue sauce, honey-mustard cream cheese, fresh tomatoes and arugula, to go.

Everything was delicious. The ingredients in both sandwiches complemented each other well, making them a real treat for the taste buds.

We decided we’d have to do this all over again someday. Preferably sitting outside at Vinocentral. Without a coronavirus lockdown.

Twitter: @stripes_photog

Location: Platz der Deutschen Einheit 21, 64293 Darmstadt. Across from the main train station. (Hauptbahnhof)

Hours: 8 a.m to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; closed on Sundays and German holidays.

Dress: Casual

English menu: No, but most people working there speak English.

Prices: Not cheap, but most things are worth the price. Wines are from 6.50 euros to 10.90 euros for a 0.2-liter serving. An espresso costs 2 euros, a cappuccino 3.50 euros. Panini are 3.50 euros for a half or 6 euros for a whole roll. Focaccia starts at 5.50 euro. Antipasti prices vary.

Information: Website is in German at vinocentral.de, but the Facebook page can be read in English.

A cappuccino at Vinocentral in Darmstadt, Germany. The wine bar/delicatessen across from the city's main train station got its start 25 years ago as coffee bar, where you could enjoy an espresso or cappuccino, then select from a variety of roasts to drink at home.