When travelling abroad, finding a decent place to have some good food and a couple of beers can be one of the most frustrating things. Especially when you're not into the haute cuisine hype but rather down-to-earth, you run a great risk of getting disappointed and ripped off by tourist traps. Just in case your travel plans lead you to Germany, or even to Passau, to be more precise, this entry will show you a great place to hang out.
One of the most prominent buildings of Passau, besides the Dome, is the town hall tower, situated on the right bank of the river Danube, only a short distance from the Dreiflüsseeck ('Three-River Corner'). Find that tower, place yourself at its base and look straight towards the Danube. Then make a 90° turn to the left and you'll look into the Höllgasse (which translates as 'Hell Alley' - no kidding!). Just some 100 yards away from you you'll find the 'Wirtshaus Zum Grünen Baum' (The Green Tree Tavern, 'The Tree') for short.
The Green Tree Tavern is rather small, with seats for some 80 people, divided into two rooms. The furniture is old-fashioned in its best sense, which means that you'll not find any of those modern gimmicks, no darts, no slot machines, no fancy neon signs. The chandelier in the first room is a real eye-catcher: it has been soldered together from spoons, knives and forks.
You will not find too many different things on The Tree's menu. The cuisine is rather basic, but of excellent quality. Above all you will have the chance to try traditional Bavarian food, such as cooked beef with a stew of root vegetables and horseradish cream, different kinds of venison (depending on what the innkeeper can get his hand on), the inevitable pork with kraut and dumpling (excellent) or (highly recommended for those cold days) a big bowl of meat strudel soup.
The Tree features a rather rich variety of vegetarian dishes, which is rather unusual for a traditional Wirtshaus. Try those Kässpatzen (a kind of noodles with melted cheese and roasted onions), and you might be tempted not to eat meat any longer. The staff are usually happy to fulfil your special demands, and if you have to keep to a special diet, just tell them. If they have the ingredients at hand, they'll cook exactly what you like to have, at a very reasonable price.
You can expect to get good and even excellent beer anywhere in Bavaria, and that is definitely true for The Tree. They have the standard assortment of lager1, ale, stout, Pilsner or Weizenbier, plus some specialities:
- Zwicklbier (or Zwickl) is basically a lager, but it is not filtered. That makes the beer rather cloudy but keeps all the healthy and tasty stuff suspended in the drink. You night be reminded of a 'wholemeal' beer.
- Strasskirchener Gutsbräu is a brown beer that comes from a little brewery just some miles outside of Passau. The brewer uses ingredients from organic cultivation only, no chemicals whatsoever. As with all Bavarian beers, the 'Reinheitsgebot (purity law) is strictly obeyed. This is one of the oldest food regulations, dating back to 1516: Anything that calls itself 'beer' must be made from nothing else but water, hops and barley. Wheat was allowed later as a replacement for barley, and the fact that yeast plays an important part in the brewing process was discovered centuries later.
The chandelier is not the only eye-catcher. If the innkeeper enters the room, he really fills the place. 6'6" tall, some 300 pounds and with scrubby hair and beard, he would have been an excellent cast to play Hagrid, the gamekeeper from the Harry Potter novels (with no make-up required).
The atmosphere is really familiar. The staff are always willing to make your stay nice and pleasant. If you go there for the second time, they will remember you, and after the third time you'll be treated like an old friend. And this is not just the 'professional care' that you might know from other restaurants. They don't just care for you as a customer, but as a person and friend.
Music plays an important part in gastronomy, and you will hardly find any place without some kind of background music. Sometimes that music is really annoying, sometimes it's just dull. In The Tree, you'll hear a excellent choice of many different kinds of music. One day you might hear classical music, like Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's 'Symphony in A Major, Op. 90' (the 'Italian Symphony'), the next day they'll play some genuine folk music and on the third day you'll hear Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue'. You might be surprised how well classical music and traditional (ie 'classical') food go together.
Yes, they definitely are. Most of the staff speak at least some rudimentary English, and English menus are also available. Just try it, you will not be disappointed.