Juli’s November: Winter gastro tips for the Ruhr region

For everyone from the Ruhr region and everywhere else, November is a pain in the rear, right? EVERY other month has something you can identify as a good thing, but in my opinion November only ever seems to be dull, grey, wet, cold, and so on. Yes, Christmas is around the corner, but that’s where December gets the credit. That doesn’t count. What else can you do apart from make the best of these 4 weeks as far as possible? How to do it? You simply have to warm up from the inside. And that’s done best of all with delicious winter food that tastes as if mum had cooked it.

So I have pottered around the Ruhr region for suitable places offering soul food and here are a few delicious “you’ve got to go here” tips along with the extra recommendation of “the food tastes home-made there”. My winter gastro-tour went from east to west across the Ruhr region to DortmundEssen Bochum and Duisburg. So, may I?

Mother and daughter Döring serve regional cuisine right in the middle of the hip student quarter which thoroughly lives up to the name of their restaurant: "Lokales im Kreuzviertel". I’m delighted that I found this wonderful place as part of researching into places that sold great winter food, as it truly satisfied all my “requirements”. In addition to the regular menu there is also - in line with the motto “only for a short time!” - a seasonal menu which is simply superb.

The most attractive and creative pumpkin dishes as well as flambés appear at the end of October. Kale, savoy cabbage, and goose take its place in November. The typical menu is also impressive and many of the dishes can also be prepared as vegan variants if desired. Now I’d like to tell you all about the fantastic pancakes. Whole apple rings can be found on the apple pancakes, for example. That's great! At “Lokales im Kreuzviertel” I had the most delectable dessert of my life and this is why I intend to make your mouths really water.

Mother Döring came up with the awesome idea of offering “Cup Crumble”. For me there’s no way around it, and this should also apply to you. A cup of chocolate & apricot crumble and you are in epicurean heaven. I swear! The crumble is served with a scoop of ice cream and is wonderfully warm and gooey on the inside. This guilty pleasure is worth every calorie and really gets rid of any cold in your bones. Afterwards you can wander home through the grey weather with a smile on your lips in a happier state of mind.

Also delicious and home-made in Dortmund:
Frau Weber kocht
(...and buys in fresh produce every day. For this reason she only knows what will be on the menu after she’s been shopping.)
Kartoffel Pott (...doesn’t just taste like mum cooked it, but like grandma used to make. Mashed potatoes in various styles as healthy fast food to go. A great idea!)

A small restaurant has appeared near the Bermudadreieck and in my opinion it deserves a great deal of attention. They’re talking about "Café Safran". This place is so small that there’s room for only one table. Just going past and going in on the off-chance that a space is free is not a good idea. A reservation is therefore recommended. When sitting in this café for the first time your inner clock instantly slows right down. The small room and the delightful host create a quiet, cosy atmosphere and you feel at home in someone’s own dining room.

The Persian menu shows that great things come in small packages, and there are also changing specials. Everything is prepared in an open kitchen only a few metres away from the table, then served as huge portions with delicious bread, dips, and various spices in little shells. The legendary pomegranate and walnut sauce is something I will probably enthuse over in my next life. Consider that an extremely warm recommendation. After eating you can still enjoy a warming cup of tea with fresh mint before heading off into the outside world yet again...together with that wonderful feeling of having recharged somewhat at a great location.

Also delicious and home-made in Bochum:
Neuland (...fine cuisine without fancy nonsense with a fixed and also a weekly changing menu in a creative “town room” which “only” looks like a tavern from a long time ago from the outside.)
Suppen-Schulz (...changing soups and stews are prepared in an open kitchen here every day with the motto “bio - fair- fast”, and they are great to eat when having one to-go outside in cold weather. They also come in biologically degradable packaging.)

At this point I have no intention of recommending a stylish super-bistro, but "Viertelliebe” instead as they say the way to someone's heart is through their stomach, and not a certain style. The chef at Viertelliebe is called Conny, and her hospitality and willingness to help mean she is justifiably seen as the mother of Essen’s Südviertel. The rest of her team are also extremely hospitable. I always like telling this story: I was out and about in Essen one Monday night and was hungry. Extremely hungry. However the streets were deserted so even the snack stands were closed.

There was still a light on in Viertelliebe so we went there...with empty stomachs. Conny’s husband was at the counter and told us that whilst the kitchen had already closed, he could still whip up a quick lasagne if we fancied it. How nice is THAT then?! I would have been grateful for a slice of bread and butter...they do that as well...just like with mothers. This wonderful “just like mum” feeling also applies to the ever-changing soups, casseroles, bakes, and cakes. You can warm up twice over here: with home-made food and a hefty dose of cosy hospitality. Viertelliebe also hosts very appealing concerts and events (e.g. poetry slams) in the evenings. Conclusion: A creative place to eat where you can really feel at home. (And the portions of cake are huge!)

Also delicious and home-made in Essen:
Café Livres (...with a short menu, excellent salads, a splendid selection of cakes, and seasonal dishes changed every day. If you sit at the window you can observe a painted jungle façade on the house opposite...right in the heart of the urban jungle this acts as a nice detail between the main road and the tram traffic.
Landgasthaus Brandenburg (...THE place for schnitzel...and it is some way out in the country in Burgaltendorf.)

In "Krümelküche", a vegan paradise with maximum feel-good factor, Dennis and Sarah have given Duisburg something special. Their delightful place has a self-made look, is always jam-packed with visitors and I have rarely seen a more mixed clientèle. In other words: From grandmas to hipsters...everyone’s more than welcome. A small standard menu offers burgers and sandwiches, whilst highlights change every week including delicious pea soup, and the tarts and cakes are absolutely amazing...such as the lavender and poppy seed cake!

Whilst Dennis looks after the shop, Sarah gets cooking in the kitchen and regularly conjures up one creative delight after another. Music is played by an old record player, food is presented on attractive vintage crockery with flowers and a gold edge, you can play parlour games or Super Nintendo...in a converted cathode ray tube television from the 1960s. Approximately one-third of the site houses a ceiling-high set of shelves displaying craft work for sale as well as many vegan groceries for buying on the spot. Great on cold days: Soon it will be possible to mess around in front of a fire that’s in the middle of the premises and makes things even cosier. During my last visit I asked several guests what they particularly liked about Krümelküche. The answer was the same on all accounts: The homely atmosphere and the wonderful cakes. In other words...an unusual location where creative design ideas from the owner compete in the nicest possible sense of the word with the delightful atmosphere and lovingly prepared food. Vegan hearts certainly won’t be the only ones warmed up here!

Also delicious and home-made in Duisburg:
Mimi e rosa (...Italian food served in a charming little area which does not look or taste like a typical Italian pizza place, but stands out with a weekly menu full of fine ingredients and splendid creations.)
Café Glück (...the name says it all! This small café features freshly prepared food with an ever-changing menu together with cosy, colourful furniture, attractive clutter (for sale) and a hairstylist (!) on top.)

Wherever you may go during November’s grey weather...I hope you still have fun in the meantime!