â Vegetarian Restaurant / Address: EberhardstraĂe 1 / 70173 Stuttgart â
If you're a veggie, Germany isn't your dream destination. Germany is roast pork and sausage country. Once we had a visitor from Italy who begged to be fed only sausages. I succeeded in giving him different kinds prepared in different ways for several days.
Restaurant menus do have a section 'meals for vegetarians', but it's usually small. After some days of travelling around you'll know what's on offer. It's mostly some egg dish, noodles and salads. Truth be told, however, things are getting better. But a 100% vegetarian restaurant is still an exception. I know only one, the IDEN (pronounced eeden) in Stuttgart. Should you ever visit the home of Mercedes, Porsche and Bosch and feel like eating good veggie food, go there. I can recommend it. It's right in the centre, two minutes on foot from the market square and the city hall, two minutes from Breuninger, the biggest and best department store of Stuttgart.
Exiting the S-Bahn (underground) station Rathaus, you find yourself at the entrance. Nine tables with four chairs each and two for two are outside between the windows of the restaurant - the overhanging first floor of the building serves as a kind of roof - and a wall belonging to the exit of the S-Bahn. Some people use it to put their trays on when eating. In contrast to other eateries the furniture is never taken in and no matter what the weather is like, there's always someone sitting outside and eating. Winter temperatures? Bah! A committed veggie is tough (don't include yours truly here).
Stepping through the entrance which opens automatically when you approach (you need your hands to carry your tray and wouldn't be able to use a handle) you find yourself standing in front of a staircase with two flights leading up to the first floor where the loos are as well as a board screwed to a wall for putting babies on and changing nappies. Precisely at eye level there's a wooden beam onto which a sign is pinned telling the customers to switch off their mobile phones. An A+ for that! To the left of the foot of the staircase is an opening in the wall with a constantly moving belt. When you've finished eating, you put your tray on it. Kitchen helps take it off to clean it. A room opens to the left where altogether 35 people can sit (I counted the chairs). The tables range from small ones with two chairs to large ones with six chairs. Who needs six chairs? Well, this is an informal restaurant where you sit together with strangers. You see a free chair, go there and ask if you may sit down and if the answer is yes, do so. The Germans in this part of the country aren't very communicative with strangers, but it can happen that you get into a conversation.
To the right of the staircase you find the food you've come for. There's a big oval construction in the middle of the room with two tiers on which the bowls containing the food stand. You snatch a tray and a plate, move along the shelf leading round it and take as much as you want from whatever appeals to your gustative nerves. This is what I love about the restaurant: I can choose from a rich offer and can take exactly the amount I like. It's only cold food there: about 40 bowls of raw and boiled vegetables with which you can prepare a salad yourself and ready-made salads as well as boiled eggs and all kinds of condiments. At the end of your 'round' you find the desserts: a choice of six tasty puddings and fruit salads.
You then move away from the oval construction and go to the drinks and warm food section running along the outer end of the room. Seven freshly pressed juices, mineral water, wine, beer and lemonade are waiting for the customers. I'm conservative, I only ever drink sea buckthorn juice. It tastes good and is extremely healthy. In fact, I only drink it there and nowhere else. It's a treat I always look forward to.
You can also find rolls and slices of bread there and then move on to the warm dishes. A barrel like pot contains the soup of the day. I can't comment on it. I never eat soup. In my opinion it only fills the stomach but isn't substantial. It doesn't leave room for the real things. Every day three different dishes are prepared together with three different sauces. You can combine them the way you want. In order to reach the highest level of freshness all the food in the restaurant is only prepared in small quantities. When they've been nearly consumed, new food is made. Because of this you always see people moving through the restaurant, emptying and filling pots and bowls. They're friendly. When I had broken my arm and had to wear a plaster cast, I could fill my plate with my right hand but not carry my tray. A young woman helped me do this. At the end of the shelf there are different kinds of pancakes and veggie burgers and several kinds of boiled vegetables. They only change according to the season but not daily. The IDEN restaurant doesn't just offer non-meat dishes. The products they use have all been grown according to strict ecological rules. No industrially produced flour or sugar are used. No preservatives or taste enhancers. The eggs come from free run hens, desserts are sweetened with honey or sweet fruit juices.
The tray is full, now off to one of the three tills. The prices for the drinks are fixed, the food is weighed. You put your plate(s) onto scales and see how much you have to pay. I like this concept very much indeed. I always have to pay between 10 and 12 Euros for a warm dish, some salad and a dessert. Considering that my sea buckthorn juice costs 2.50 Euros I find this a good price.
Behind the tills is a large room with mostly tables for six. I haven't counted how many people can sit here. I guess twice as many as in the smaller room. There's also a coffee, tea, chocolate and cake station. The cakes look delicious, but I'm usually too full after a meal and can't eat any. Pity.
You've already realised that this isn't your usual restaurant with waiters and traditional etiquette. Entries on the net show that not everybody likes the concept. Nobody complains about the food but quite a lot of people complain about the atmosphere. I must admit the restaurant does have the shabby charm of the dining-room of a not too new youth hostel. But then, why not? I don't know any other restaurant which does. That means it's a defining criterion. The fact that around noon it's always packed full shows that many people think like me. What kind of people are these? Certainly not only veggies but people from nearly all walks of life. The ones I haven't seen there are city slickers of whom there must be many in the vicinity because of the many businesses and the city hall nearby. But who misses them? I don't. They're welcome to take their money to elegant restaurants where the service may be tops but the food not even half as good or where they have to pay for food on the plate they don't want to eat.
I always use the loos but only when I decided to review the IDEN restaurant, did I realise that I had never considered the question how disabled people managed. I asked a woman from the staff how disabled people got up to the loos. She said, "They don't." Hmmm. Not good. I'm not disabled, so I don't suffer in this respect. I must say, however, that I don't like the loos very much even as an able person because they're tiny and the walls are flimsy. All the many obese people one sees nowadays wouldn't get into one of the cubicles or if they did, wouldn't get out again. I, not fat, fill it completely if I've got my rucksack and a shopping bag with me. The room in front of the wash basin is comfortable only for women slim as a 'hunger hook'. The walls of the cubicles are made of flake board and not even painted. Here the cheap charm goes too far in my opinion. Half a star off for this.
The day after tomorrow I'll be in Stuttgart again for a lecture and a seminar at uni. Will I eat at the IDEN restaurant? Of course, I will. And I'll drink sea buckthorn juice.
Self-Service Restaurant IDEN
Mo to Fr: 11 am - 6 pm
Sa: 11 am to 5 pm
closed on Sundays and holidays