The far eastern border of France is home to Alsace, a region that combines two cultures — French and German — into one of its own. During my travels there, I kept hearing shopkeepers switch between French and the local dialect, Alsatian — which is linguistically close to Swiss German — snapping from one to the other without batting an umlaut.
Indeed, this Germanic influence had spread throughout the local culture, from the long-necked bottles of Riesling and Gewürztraminer to the soft salt-studded pretzels hanging from hooks in the bakery, the yeasty sweets like Kougelhopf, the thin-crusted flammeküeches, aka tartes flambées (pizzas garnished with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon), and the cozy local taverns known as winstubs. And, of course, there’s the region’s signature dish, choucroute garnie, a mound of sauerkraut heaped with generous cuts of cured pork and sausage, a carnivore’s delight.
Where to eat choucroute garnie (and, more importantly, tarte flambée) in Alsace?
Alsace is a big region. My suggestions focus on Strasbourg and environs, as well as the town of Krautergersheim, aka the Capital of Choucroute.
Strasbourg and environs:
Au Pont du Corbeau (21 Quai Nicolas, Strasbourg; 03 88 35 60 68) is a winstub so adorably cozy and dim that dining here feels like going back in time. Unlike many restaurants, which serve factory-prepared sauerkraut, the choucroute here is house-simmered, cooked for hours with wine and subtle spices, served with modest cuts of smoked pork belly and a peppery sausage. Lovely and traditional.
Porcus (6 Place du Temple Neuf, Strasbourg, tel: 03 88 23 19 38) is a combination charcuterie and bright and modern lunch spot. Though their choucroute is factory-cooked, the real stars of the show are the sausages, prepared on-site — especially the award-winning knack, or hot dog, fresh and snappy.
L’Epicerie (6 rue du Vieux-Seigle, Strasbourg, tel: 03 88 32 52 41) is the perfect place to stop if you’ve had your fill of choucroute. The menu offers a variety of inventive tartines, topped with all sorts of different cheeses and/or charcuterie. I loved the tarte flambée tartine, spread with crème fraîche, onions, and lardons. There’s also a nice selection of local wines by the glass.
Le Marronier (18 Route de Saverne, Stutzheim, tel: 03 88 69 84 30) is an old farmhouse converted into a jolly, sprawling restaurant, located in a village/suburb about 25 minutes from the heart of old Strasbourg. Locals come here in big groups to share generous mounds choucroute garnie, as well as endless streams of delicious, thin-crusted flammeküechens. Kid friendly.
L’Aigle (22 rue Principale, Pfulgriesheim, tel: 03 88 20 17 80) is where I ate my very favorite tarte flambée (out of many, many tartes flambées). The pie, baked in a wood-burning oven, was a contrast of snappy, slightly singed crust against tangy cream, and luxuriant salty-sweet smoked bacon. You’ll need a car (or lots of taxi fare) to get here from Strasbourg, but the sprawling, family-friendly tavern is worth a visit.
Le Freiberg (46 rue du Général Gouraud, Obernai, tel: 03 88 95 53 77) is a sweet, wood-beamed winstub in the adorable village of Obernai where the wooden chairs have hearts cut out of the back, and wine is served in green-stemmed glasses. I enjoyed the (admittedly, somewhat odd) tarte flambée with choucroute — a pizza spread with crème fraîche, onions, bacon, and sauerkraut.
Charcuterie Muller (130 rue du Général de Gaulle, Rosheim, tel: 03 88 50 22 55) is mecca for choucroute home cooks, with its lavish selection of housemade sausages and smoked meats (and, even, seasoned ground liver for making poached dumplings). The staff is exceptionally patient and informative.
Marc Kreydenweiss (12 rue Deharbe, Andlau, tel: 03 88 08 95 83) offered me a lovely, impromptu wine-tasting session, after I got horribly lost and confused one winery for another. I loved their whites, beautiful and flowery with a brisk mineral finish, poured from elegant, long-necked bottles.
I ate many choucroutes garnies in Alsace, but none compared to the meal I enjoyed with the Truchtersheim cooking club, a group of six, lovely women. They welcomed me with broad smiles and delicious, home-cooked food — Granny’s choucroute is always the best, of course — and regaled me with tales of growing up in Alsace. Here are a few photos from an unforgettable evening:
We began with home-baked kougelhopf, a slightly sweet yeast cake.
In the kitchen, behind-the-scenes choucroute preparation (cooked on a wood-burning stove!).
À table! La choucroute and my heaping plate.
One of many desserts.
The Truchtersheim cooking club.
Hungry for more? Today’s post is a companion to my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, a food memoir that Library Journal says “is sure to delight lovers of France, food, or travel.”
And more from the series, Where to Eat in France.