Under the big old chestnut trees

For many years, the Drosselbart in Frankfurt-Eschersheim was a great place to eat, drink and socialize on warm summer evenings. They had a large garden, so you could usually still find a table even if the weather was fine and everybody was out. Together with family and friends, I think I have eaten at the Drosselbart more often than at all other Frankfurt restaurants combined.

Outdoor seating at the Drosselbart

The menu was written in chalk on a large blackboard (visible in the background in this photo), and varied from day to day, but they had all the usual things like steaks, salads, Schnitzel and Pommes (pronounced with two syllables in German, as opposed to one in French). In earlier years they also had inexpensive lamb chops, but these disappeared from the menu at some point after a change of management.

A traditional apple-wine jug on display at the Drosselbart

In addition to beer (including alcohol-free) and various other drinks, they also served the regional specialty, Äppelwoi or apple-wine, either in glasses or in the traditional jugs of various sizes, for the whole table.

The Drosselbart was located right next to the Eschersheim train station, now a stop on the suburban line S6 between Frankfurt and Friedberg. There had been a restaurant at this address since 1904, which was before Eschersheim even became a part of the city of Frankfurt.

An evening in the garden

A big plus point for us when our children were small, and later when our grandchildren were small, was that the Drosselbart had a big sand pit at one end of the garden with sand toys for the children to play with while we were waiting for our meals to arrive.

Since the garden was large and the kitchen was small, there were often long waits for the food. In the last years they even put up a sign next to the blackboard with the approximate waiting time, usually fifteen to twenty minutes, but up to forty-five on warm summer nights. We never minded this, since we wanted to make an evening of it anyway, and apparently most people felt the same.

A warm summer evening in the Drosselbart

The word Drossel in German means thrush (the bird, that is), and Bart means beard. Drosselbart is the name of a king in one of the Grimms’ fairy tales, in fact he is called ‘King Thrushbeard’ in English translation. (The story is a bit complicated, so I won’t try to summarize it here, except to say that the haughty young princess learns her lesson, changes her ways and lives happily ever after.)

At first, we mainly went to the Drosselbart in the warm half of the year, but in 2005 they finally got around to renovating and expanding their indoor restaurant, and after that we started going there all year round.

Drosselbart 2020

The owner of the building and garden, an elderly widow, died in 2016. Two years later, the property was put up for sale and was bought by a developer who wanted to build a new and much larger apartment building covering the entire site.

One of the neighbors collected three thousand signatures (including ours) on a petition to save the restaurant and the century-old chestnut trees. City officials negotiated with the developer and reached a compromise: the developer agreed to include a restaurant in the ground floor of the new building, along with a smaller beer garden and new trees. In return, he was given permission to build a five-story building instead of only three.

Judging from the architect’s sketches, the new restaurant and garden will be small, sleek, suave, modern, mondain and expensive — the opposite of the old Drosselbart. And of course it will take decades before the new trees start to look anything like the old ones.

The Drosselbart restaurant closed at the end of October, 2019. So at least it wasn’t a victim of the coronavirus pandemic, if that’s any consolation.

My photos in this post are from 2004 and 2020. I wrote the text in 2020.

See more posts on Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

15 thoughts on “Under the big old chestnut trees”

  1. Such a shame to see the Drosselbart close down, it looks like it was such a happy place for so many people. We’ve been to a similar beer garden with friends in Trier and had a wonderful evening so I can imagine the good times you all had here!

    1. The Drosselbart was our local for decades, so we really miss it. My daughter said on the phone last night that she misses especially those big chestnut trees, even more than the restaurant itself.

      1. The chestnut trees around here (we have many in our parks) all have a disease that makes the leaves turn brown and die prematurely, but they still manage to look wonderful in the spring and summer so I hope the council doesn’t get any ideas about cutting them down

  2. It’s always a shame when places like this close. Certainly does not serve the people living there. Down the street from us they just closed the Collosseum, a movie theater from 1924. In May they went broke but even before Corona, investors asked the city of Berlin to build offices there. What really happened, we will never know but it really was a wonderful place.

    1. Indeed. I’m generally in favor of building more housing, which is badly needed in Frankfurt, but in this case I really wish they had spared the trees and the garden.

  3. So sad to see places like this disappear Don. Especially one with memories like this for you. We don’t have many chestnut trees here in Australia but I recall we had two large ones at my childhood home and I loved them. they too have since been chopped down, sadly.

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