La Trinca, Sachsenhausen
Markets, including Schillermarkt
Walking through central Frankfurt on a busy working day, you’d be forgiven for assuming that in the evening its corporate crowds might descend from their towers to sample the city’s considerable culinary delights.
But while continental Europe’s financial hub is a bankers’ playground during daylight hours, it all but empties after dark. Older executives escape the city in convoys of blacked-out Mercedes to their houses in the surrounding Taunus hills, while the less well-heeled retreat to inner-city residential neighbourhoods, each with their own unique dining and drinking scenes.
All of which makes the thought of eating alone in the centre of town somewhat daunting, especially to those who, like me, dread the idea of meeting the pitying gaze of others as they spot the lone diner looking up from the glare of an iPhone screen in a restaurant full of chatty couples.
Hopper-esque solo diners are less conspicuous in eateries attached to, or near hotels, such as the Miller & Carter steakhouse in the vicinity of the Sofitel by the Opera, or the TNT — Thurn ’N Taxis Palais, which offers a lively take on German haute cuisine at the foot of the Jumeirah by the Zeil shopping street.
But while such locations offer a chance to shrink into the shadows, they are not immune from the malady that mars the dining experience in Germany — slow, surly or non-existent service.
Dining out in Frankfurt: rules for the new normal
Masks must be worn when you are not at your table, and you must fill out a form with your contact details on arrival. At time of publication, a curfew of 11pm is in effect for bars and restaurants.
This phenomenon, while easier to endure when eating in company, exacerbates the awkwardness of dining alone, forcing you to gesticulate wildly at waiting staff from a dimly lit corner of the room. It is especially problematic for those under time constraints.
My choices, therefore, were picked based on three criteria: the friendliness of the owners and/or staff, the accommodation of solitary customers, and the speediness of the service. Oh, and the food’s not too bad either.
1. La Trinca
Schweizer Strasse 14, 60596 Frankfurt am Main
Good for: whiling away the hours
Not so good for: taking along a newspaper or book
I first stumbled on this superb tapas bar by accident, and have since discovered, to my astonishment, that it is not particularly well known among Frankfurters. Away from the main financial quarter, La Trinca is just over the river Main from the theatre district, in the relatively tranquil Sachsenhausen area. It attracts a lively mix of art lovers from the nearby Städel gallery and discerning locals.
You have the choice of sitting at the bar, where the vivacious staff will soon have you sampling their excellent array of Spanish wines. I recommend a Catalan coupage called Tramp.
Tapas includes Crema de berenjena con almendras, a sort of creamy aubergine dish, and salsa-drenched chicken thighs, both of which I cannot resist on any visit. An Iberian take on falafel is also worth sampling.
End the evening with a trademark brandy and, should you still be mobile, walk off your dinner with a stroll down the south bank of the river, which is mere feet away.
Goetheplatz 2, 60311 Frankfurt am Main
Good for: friendly Asian fare
Not so good for: culinary snobs
Yes, it’s a chain, and not a particularly small one at that. But Frankfurt’s answer to British Asian fusion brand Wagamama is one of the most satisfying places to spend a cold evening within the city limits, and is devoid of the suit-and-brogues brigade that frequent other establishments around the Goetheplatz.
This branch, nestled in the shadow of the Norman Foster-designed Commerzbank tower, offers the friendliest service I have ever encountered in Germany, and the high seats around the central kitchen bay are the perfect refuge for solo diners.
Steaming bowls of ramen, prepared in front of you, are a steal at around €10, but my favourite dish is the salmon red coconut curry. MoschMosch has also become a haven for vegans, offering the Beyond Meat Niku Nashi, a patty made with pea protein.
You can modify your dishes to your heart and stomach’s content, and a full breakdown of allergens will help you steer clear of peanuts and the like.
Oh, and visitors to Frankfurt need not worry about language constraints — most of the staff speak perfect English, and English-language menus are furnished at the mere hint of an accent.
Liebigstrasse 18, 60323 Frankfurt am Main
Good for: escaping the city centre crowds at lunchtime
Not so good for: those craving variety
This sushi bar is one of the best-kept secrets of Frankfurt’s Westend, but I was reluctant to bring it to wider attention, lest it lose some of its homely charm. Think the warmth of the bar in the sitcom Cheers, but in the form of a family-run, six-seater joint squeezed between a post office and a block of flats, with repeat customers on first-name terms with the owners.
If you’re after expensive, experimental sushi, you are best off down the road at Moriki. Sushi2Go does what its name suggests — a wonderfully simple menu of made-to-order maki and nigiri, prepared in minutes and served with more flair (all diners receive a complimentary amuse bouche) than you have any right to expect of such a small operation.
In the summer, an extra two standing tables outside double the restaurant’s capacity, but long queues are rare, even in winter. Pro tip: end your meal with a coffee at the nearby Petersen fine foods shop, which also offers an excellent selection of luxury chocolate.
Baseler Platz 10, 60329 Frankfurt am Main
Good for: a working lunch
Not so good for: dinner — it closes at 5:30pm
The rapidly gentrifying area around Frankfurt’s central station boasts some of the best spots for a quick bite, including the Hawaiian-themed Trinitii, mentioned in our guide to staying healthy in the city.
But for those seeking refuge from the rough-and-tumble district, NeroUno is a coffee-scented haven. Nestled in the inner courtyard of a couple of office blocks, it is ostensibly an espresso bar, and serves one of the best flat whites in Frankfurt. It attracts a mix of coffee connoisseurs and staff from the local IG Metall union headquarters.
Its true attraction, however, is the hearty “lunch station”, which offers a rotating menu of vegetarian and meaty staples, as well as lurgy-fighting soups. The ravioli, often available on Fridays, is of a quality that would put many a local Italian establishment to shame.
No one will bat an eyelid if you read or work, and if it isn’t too cold, the tables in the yard are secluded enough for business calls too.
Good for: sampling local specialities
Not so good for: keeping suits spotless
FYI: cash is king — very few vendors take cards
The true Frankfurt solution to solo dining is the plethora of food markets that pop up in adherence to a strict calendar. The notable exception is the Kleinmarkthalle, the beating heart of the city’s culinary scene, which is open six days a week and offers everything from dried wurst to the best lamb köfte for miles (from Natural Floor).
But my own preference is for the Schillermarkt, which appears outside the stock exchange most Fridays. Seek out the legendary Gisela Paul’s white van, which offers the best version of grüne Sosse, Frankfurt’s traditional herb-laden green sauce, served over boiled eggs and potatoes. Wash it all down with a glass of Riesling from Weingut Rollanderhof, but make sure you get your last orders in before they head off, at around 6:30pm.
Where do you head to in Frankfurt for a solo meal? Let us know in the comments
For more pieces like this visit ft.com/globetrotter, read our guide to Frankfurt or follow us on Instagram at @FTGlobetrotter