You can tell a lot about a city from its food, and Augsburg's cuisine is a wonderful fusion of Bavarian and Swabian, with a surprising variety of seafood offerings. Of course, fresh game is also a local favorite, but each of the city's fine restaurants has its own interpretation of "Augsburg dining."
The most delightful of these interpretations is that of Restaurant Die Ecke. If you were to shake me awake in the middle of the night and demand a definition of gemütlichkeit I'd describe this restaurant. From outside it's not much to look at, but inside the work of local artist's graces the walls and the ambiance is so cozy and warm we were immediately won over. Low-ceilinged and wood furnished, the decor is soft, glowing and welcoming. Fresh flowers are scattered throughout and in summer there is seating in the back garden. Service is exquisite.
Reservations are essential and it's common for customers to arrive at 7-ish and stay til 11-ish. We spent a recent evening there determined to sample as many as we could of the restaurants outstanding dishes. Encouraged in our quest by Die Ecke's manager, Joseph Mack, we warmed up with two kinds of warm, yeasty, freshly baked bread and glasses of Tuscan wine from an extensive list.
What followed was so sensational and so remarkable, and we ate so much that...well, lets just say I've got a tailoring bill for Herr Mack.
We began with a simple beef consommé with veal strudel a ravioli-like phenomenon while discussing the house speciality, game. "We have our own land, so most of the game we serve is specifically hunted for us by family or friends," said Herr Mack.
His personal interpretation of Augsburg cuisine includes such appetizers as tuna carpaccio; exquisite, thinly-sliced raw tuna served with wasabi (fiery Japanese horseradish); and Chinese cabbage over a bed of glass noodles. A more traditional German offering is home-cured salmon with miniature potato puffs and creme frache.
Main courses are fresh game when available, such as rare roasted venison fillet with fresh juniper berries, Brussels sprouts and Spätzle; or what I couldn't get enough of, poached heavenly beef fillet, tender enough to cut with a spoon, with mixed crushed peppercorns in a simple red wine sauce, served with polenta, sugar glazed winter vegetables including snow peas, sliced beetroot, a ratatouille and perfectly steamed broccoli.
For dessert, I secretly lusted after the chocolate ravioli with mascarpone and marzipan filling, but Herr Mack insisted I try the house speciality, Apfelkuchle; deep-fried, thinly-sliced golden apples dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with walnut ice cream and freshly whipped cream. As I staggered out, barely able to carry my notebook, I made a foggy mental note to have my trousers let out, and to recommend Die Ecke as an Editors Choice.
You'll spend about $40 to $80 per person, without beverages.
- Contact: Die Ecke, Elias-Holl-Place 2, 86150 Augsburg, tel: +49/0821/510 600, fax:+49/0821/ 311/992, Web: www.restaurantdieecke.de
Next to the city market, in a 60s building that should be arrested for architectural crimes, is Feinkost Kahn, a restaurant which fills several culinary bills. On the ground floor is the bistro, where light snacks and salads can be had in a hurry. A lunch here will cost no more than $15 and allows one to graze the finest olives, cheeses, and fresh seafood such as poached salmon, fish roulades and other light, tasty and healthy snacks.
One floor above is the Café, which we ignored to get to the restaurant yet another floor up. Though the atmosphere is a turn-off, the service is all it should be and the food is fabulous. The professorial-looking proprietor, Herr Kahn, runs around the place with boundless energy, fussing over customers.
The menu, while featuring traditional Bavarian and Swabian specialities, offers a number of light, fresh Mediterranean dishes.
The daily menu began with a sensational carpaccio of Bavarian beef, so tender I could have used a paper fork. It had a marvelous peppery crunch and came with extra-virgin olive oil, flakes of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a scoop of salmon caviar. This was followed by a divine tomato-carrot-cream soup topped with fresh dill and then a fresh fish roulade in a light cream sauce served on a bed of broad egg noodles. The main course was riesling-steamed, corn-fed chicken breast with fennel-flavored fresh vegetables and a dollop of a rich onion mousse.
- Contact: Feinkost Kahn Anna route 16 86150 Augsburg, tel: 0821/31 20 31, Fax:0821/51 62 16, closed Sundays and holidays
Restaurant Augsburger Hof
Entering the Augsburger Hof, whose interior somehow manages to look like an Alpine cottage in the middle of the city, I took a deep sniff and instantly thought: Home. "We specialize in Grandma's recipes cooked to perfection," claims Chef Fassl and he seems to have got it right the place seems always packed.
Take the "romantic menu." It includes guinea fowl roulade with fresh truffle and mango, a fresh seafood stew with tomato and fresh basil, and pan-fried venison medallions with fresh mushrooms. An unusual dessert is red wine ice cream served with fresh figs.
No less appealing is the daily menu, which when we visited, featured a terrine of pike perch on cucumber, savory duck consommé with a liver Strudel, and venison dumplings in a luscious cream sauce followed by semolina cream with cherry ragout.
A la carte highlights include Schwbische Festtagesuppe, a savory broth with sliced Maultaschen dumplings and several veal dishes ranging from poached veal slices with apple horseradish sauce, boiled potatoes and spinach to, so they tell me, braised calf cheek in Madeira sauce.
Augsburg's market, is one of southern Germany's finest, with all the gourmet offerings of a big-city market but without the bustle, pushiness and cost. It's a wonderful place to local-watch and a perfect inexpensive, delicious lunch stop. Try the Viktualien Halle for a picnic fit for royalty. Here are at least half a dozen cheese stands, several Greek and Mediterranean vegetable and speciality stands, and a stunning array of salads, pickled vegetables, smoked fish and a variety of cold meats. Against the back wall you'll find Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and Greek specialities, plus a wine bar.
This cozy bistro offers plain old Swabian specialities cooked well and for not a lot of money. It's more comfortable in winter than in summer and service is iffy and sometimes a little snappy. But the food, while not excellent, is truly authentic, family-style Swabian with little pretense, and you're likely to be the only tourists in the place. If you're up for a simple meat dish with a nice glass of wine, Fuggereistube is worth considering. There's always a vegetarian main course offered and the special when I last went was a Swabian mixed plate: Maultaschen (Swabian ravioli), Schupfnudeln, krautkrapfen, Kasespätzle, Fleischkchle, Rostbraten and Schwammerl, all $25 for two. It's right next to the north gate of the Fuggerei.
- Contact: Fuggereistube, Jakobstrasse 26, 86152 Augsburg, tel. +49 0821/30870, fax: +49 0821/159023, closed Monday