Wednesday, October 24, 2012

American-ish Restaurants in Heidelberg

Over the last few months, a string of ostensibly American-style food places have opened in Heidelberg. With the kind of trepidation that anyone trying their own country's food in a foreign land might have, we tried a couple of them. Here are our thoughts.  

Joe Molese
On the Steingasse (the little street between the Heiliggeistkirche & the Alte Brücke)

If you go to the site there's this nice little story about how "Joe Molese" is a New Jersey boy who landed in Germany and is bringing us a great deli now. I don't know if this is based on reality or just a nice story. The owner does have an Italian name, but it's not Joe Molese. The reviews online are good.

Walking past one evening, we noticed there was a sign saying they had bagels. A good bagel is hard - okay, pretty much impossible - to find around here. Noting the deli leanings the place says it has, we thought they might actually be decent and came back the next Saturday morning for bagels with cream cheese (called "Philadelphia" here). They came with an incredibly thin layer of unfortunately non-fluffy cream cheese. The consistency was that of a regular old white brötchen, very dry and with the outside chipping off. I'm not Jewish or from New York so I'm not a bagel expert, but I've definitely eaten a fair number of bagels I thought were excellent in my lifetime, and this was very much not one of them. Maybe it was just a bad day?  Has anyone else who is from the US had a good bagel there?

We went back to give them another chance, though. The online reviews of their burgers sounded really good, and a truly great burger is also hard to find 'round these parts. (Burgers that are just "fine" abound, so it's not really dire, but still.) The bun disintegrated when I picked it up, before I'd even taken a bite. Sigh. Thankfully that was the same day I found out we'd be going to The Bird in Berlin which sort of made up for it. 

Poppin' Pancakes
Pancakes w/ maple syrup
In Das Carré across from Rewe, where the crappy bookstore used to be

This one just opened a week or two ago.  I don't know what its deal is - it looks like a chain or something but I can't find any others online, so maybe it's not.  I didn't know American-style pancakes were a thing here or anywhere right now, so thought it sounded interesting.  After stopping at Rewe one day I picked up their brochure, which seems to indicate it's German-owned.  For example, they offer milkshakes in the following flavors: woodruff (Waldmeister), caramel, banana, and vanilla.  No chocolate or strawberry - two of the big three shake flavors!!  They sell pancakes, burgers, and hot dogs, not a combination I would really expect. They also have oddities like a Hawaii dog (with pineapple and "cocktailsauce" on it) and put a lot of weird stuff on pancakes like ham and cheese or chocolate sauce and brickle bits.  Of course, they might be doing that now in the US, too, but I wouldn't know.  (Anyone?)
Mexican dog

We stopped for lunch on Saturday and tried both the hot dogs and the pancakes.  The people working there were still all bright, fresh, and chipper, which was so pleasant that I feel bad that I'm about to say the food wasn't awesome.  I had the Mexican dog, which said it comes with chili and tortillas.  That sounded interesting!  Turns out by tortillas they meant (stale) tortilla chips!  At least they were plain and not flavored, but overall the hot dog experience was blah.  The hot dogs are boiled or steamed and not grilled, which I would have preferred.  My husband liked his chili dog, though.   We split a small order of pancakes with maple syrup and butter.  (In the photo you see cream too, which they included by accident, but it doesn't have to come with that.)  They were the right size and shape and came with the right amount of syrup. Unfortunately, though, they were kind of gummy and had too much flavoring added.  This might be a result of direct substitution of German baking powder/flavorings in a recipe written for American ingredients, or it might just be the way someone likes it, but we both prefer the ones we make it home.

It was worth a shot, anyway!  Maybe we'll try their burgers sometime later since they are so conveniently located.

Princess Cupcakes
On the outside of the Das Carré on the parking lot side

Now that the US cupcake trend has been beaten to a pulp and is pretty much over, it has finally arrived in Heidelberg!  This place opened over the summer.  Alas, I keep forgetting it's there and haven't tried it yet.  I was nervous they'd have gross frosting because you never find German cakes with buttercream on them - but someone on Toytown confirmed it's buttercream on the cupcakes, so I should get over there and try one.  Reviews on Toytown were mediocre. 


It's not new, but the old American restaurant standby in Heidelberg is Mandy's Diner.  I have actually never been there.  Shortly after we moved here we heard bad reviews of it and just never bothered to go.  Every time we're in that area - which isn't often - we end up getting Thai food at Sunisa's instead (because it's delicious).

Have you been to any of these places?  What did you think?


  1. I ate a burger at Mandy's Diner about a year ago while waiting for my bike to get fixed. It was so forgettable I can't remember anything about it, other than the impression that it was not anything I needed to repeat. I do remember enjoying the flowers.

  2. There's a taco and donut place in Anaheim, and a donut and deli shop on my way to work, so...why not hot dogs and pancakes?

    I will say that the grilled vs steamed debate over hot dogs continues to rage around here too. Perhaps Heidelberg just came down on the wrong side.

  3. How disappointing about your tortilla chip dog. It's like Lucy and the football — Germany tricks us American eaters all the time with things like "tortillas" and "salsa," and we keep falling for it, too.

    But truthfully, I'm not sure I'll ever enjoy another hot dog after the one I had at Portillo's in Chicago with Yelli.

  4. @Julie - Guess I'll keep not bothering to go there!

    @Dru - So: grilled or steamed? :) My grandma used to love burned hot dogs, so it's no surprise I'm on the grilled side.

    @Cliff: I'm going to have to try that place next time I'm in Chicago! Which I hope is soon, because I love it...

  5. Mandy's does have decent chocolate shakes, but otherwise not much to recommend it. I prefer the chicken place next door. I've been to that deli in the Altstadt and had a good sandwich, although I can't remember which one it was. Have you been to the BBQ place by the Bismarkplatz. I'm tempted to go but I have a feeling it will be terrible.

  6. @MT: Which one is the BBQ place? I'm not sure I even know about it! I've thought about trying something else at Joe Molese, so I'm glad to hear you liked what you had!

  7. This reminds me, though obviously not as extreme, of the "Midwestern restaurant" in Ballard that serves "Minnesota style pizza" -- which of course Minnesotans are like WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT -- and that shameful thing they dare to call tator tot casserole. WHO PUTS ROASTED RED PEPPERS IN TATOR TOT CASSEROLE. No one legit, that's who.

  8. Roasted red peppers? That's some highfalutin tater tot casserole right there. Gross.

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  10. Thank you for your wonderful blog. (I just discovered it)
    My wife and I are contemplating of moving to Heidelberg. Reading your blog doesn't make it feel so foreign. :)

    Do you know if there are any places in or around Heidelberg selling american craft beer like Sam Adams?

  11. Welcome inaerika! :)
    You can't buy US craft beers's hard to even find Belgian beers. There might be some available at the commissaries at the US bases, but I don't know for sure!


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