Würzburg restaurants feature hearty and down-to-earth Franconian specialities like blaue Zipfel, sausages simmered in sweet-and-sour broth; Knudeli, blood sausages served with bacon and sauerkraut; Gerupfter, camembert cheese blended with onions and spices and served on dark bread; Schnickerli, a sweet-and-sour fricassee of calf stomach-lining; and Meefischli, a deep-fried, finger-sized fish eaten whole. From May to June, most restaurants serve a seasonal delicacy white asparagus in as many incarnations as possible.
Of course, all dishes must be accompanied by a fine Franconian wine, available in every restaurant and wine bar. Or, for those who prefer to focus on the wine alone, wine bars abound. The scenic, riverside Haus des Frankenweins (House of Franconian Wines) is one of the few establishments that offers wine tasting. Operated by the Franconian Viticulture Federation, it pours as many as 100 different regional wines. A favorite for locals is Riemenschneider Weinstuben, hidden away in a narrow alley in the Altstadt. Der Schelmenkeller (The Rogues' Cellar) is a typical Würzburg pub and one that makes a point of making visitors feel welcome. English is spoken - in fact, Thursdays at 6, some of the regulars sit down to take English classes. It's a cozy, somewhat rustic setting, with as much appreciation of beer as of regional wines.
Contact: Haus des Frankenweins, Kranenkai 1, 97070 Würzburg, tel. +49 0931 390110; Riemenschneider Weinstuben, Franziskanergasse 1a, 97070 Würzburg, tel. +49 0931 571487; Der Schelmenkeller, Pleicherschulgasse 6, 97070 Würzburg, tel. +49 0931 50700
Zum Stachel is one of the oldest restaurants in Germany, dating back at least to 1413. The nondescript façade of the entrance doesn't hint at the medieval character inside: leaded windows, dark wood furniture, plank flooring and stucco archways. Vine-draped walls surround an exquisite garden courtyard.
Equally exquisite is the food. Seafood is a speciality, and the grilled fish plate with a variety of fresh fish is especially tasty. Meat dishes abound, like the grilled sampler plate with fresh vegetables and mushrooms. Bolder diners may try Schnickerli (see above) in a white wine sauce. The courtyard is the perfect setting for wine with a cheese platter or for a typical Franconian dessert, pancakes filled with poached plums and cream. The most expensive entrées top out at less than €20, with many like the Schnickerli in the €7-10 range. During asparagus season, Zum Stachel prepares a seemingly endless variety of dishes: asparagus with carpaccio and arugula, with hollandaise sauce, in a ragout with dumplings, with parsley potatoes, and so on.
A delightful, historic setting with extremely reasonable prices.
Contact: Zum Stachel, Gressengasse 1, 97070 Würzburg, tel. +49 0931 52770, fax +49 0931 52777.
Rating: Quality 17/20, Value 18/20
The Julius-Spital Weinstube is a pleasant, traditional and relaxed setting in a 1699 Baroque building. Like Bürgerspital, Julius-Spital is a charitable institution endowed by the wine industry. (The menu declares, "With every bottle, the buyer does a good deed.") Service is attentive and cordial.
A typical four-course dinner might start with a fresh salad garnished with turnips and dill, followed by Franconian Mostsuppe, a creamy soup made with wine that's just started to ferment and flecked with cinnamon crisps. Then a pork cutlet, pounded thin and tender, lightly breaded and pan fried, followed by a stunning dessert, Weinapfel: an apple poached in wine, filled with cheese, baked briefly and topped with berries. Not bad at all for €28 ($28), excluding wine.
Contact: Julius-Spital Weinstube, Juliuspromenade 19, 97070 Würzburg, tel. +49 0931 54080.
Rating: Quality 15/20, Value 17/20
Although the food at the Bürgerspital primarily Franconian specialities is excellent, it's the choice of quality wines and a strong sense of history that make the visit.
The Bürgerspital was established in 1319 as a home for sick and elderly and now covers a huge campus of buildings in the Altstadt. Much of its endowment comes from the nearly 200 acres of vineyards it owns throughout Franconia (including on the Steinberg) and 750,000 liters of wine stored in oak barrels in its massive cellars (themselves worth a visit). Dining is in the wine cellar, with its centuries-old vaulted ceilings.
Plan to spend €18-25 per person for food and reasonable prices for fine wines. Its late hours are also noteworthy: open daily until midnight.
Contact: Bürgerspital, Theaterstr. 19, 97070 Würzburg, tel. +49 0931 352880, fax +49 0931 352888
Rating: Quality: 15/20, Value: 14/20
The Ratskeller is charming and historic. The various rooms carry different Rococo and Baroque themes, and all have high, arched ceilings, frescoes and statues. There's also a delightful inner courtyard with fountain a great place to relax with wine and cheese or to escape the summer heat with a cool beer and a snack. Baked Camembert with berries is super, as are the trout with wild rice and the grilled pork with roasted onions. Although the meal bill could run as high as €25, a hearty snack might cost €8 or less.
Contact: Ratskeller, Beim Grafeneckart, 97070 Würzburg, tel. +49 0931 13021, fax +49 0931 13022.Rating: Quality: 14/20, Value: 15/20