With Al Paso, Verena and Gregor Kern have fulfilled their dream of having their own little shop. Their take-away at Spitalgasse 12 serves fresh sandwiches, soups and salads. The cuisine is meant to be local and seasonal. You won't find avocado or pineapple here.
A hearty tuna melt, a Peruvian butifarra or perhaps a classic Swiss fondue sandwich? Anyone who comes into Al Paso in Niederdorf and takes a hungry glance at the menu really won’t know what to expect, as the kitchen in the sandwich shop isn’t just seasonal, it also thrives on the various influences of its owners, Verena and Gregor Kern: ‘My husband Gregor loves to let off steam creatively in the kitchen, and I am half Peruvian,’ explains Verena.
She and Gregor have run the delightful takeaway at Spitalgasse 12 since autumn 2019, and now boast a number of loyal and regular customers. ‘We have guests who drop by every week and get something from us. We’ve got to know many of them now: ah, they don’t like that, they’re allergic to nuts, and another one who likes it extra strong.’ This familiar interaction with the customers at Al Paso is what the couple enjoys so much. It’s the main reason why trained nurse Verena decided to embark on a life in the restaurant trade.
‘We wanted something really small that we’d be able to manage between the two of us.’
Verena and her husband had already run a restaurant together several years ago. Gregor was in the kitchen, while Verena took care of service. But because their son sometimes missed out on spending time with them, they sold the restaurant. ‘At that point, we spent some time doing catering at the weekend. It was fun, but we still wanted our own little shop,’ says Verena. Now, however, their son is grown up. ‘So we said: come on, let’s have another go with a takeaway for seasonal and regional sandwiches. We wanted something really small that we’d be able to manage between the two of us.’
With Al Paso, they’ve fulfilled this dream, and from Monday to Friday, there are always tasty treats here at lunchtime. ‘We’re known for our pastrami sandwich, of course. But as well as the various sandwiches, we also have a different soup every day and fresh, seasonal salads,’ comments Verena. Head chef Gregor takes on the creation of their own recipes and has been cooking for over 30 years. ‘I only like to take over for the Peruvian dishes,’ explains Verena, grinning. So she makes Peruvian butifarra – traditional sandwiches with ham, onions and coriander – over and over again. ‘In winter, I also often make a shortcrust pastry tart with dulce de leche, which is a cream made out of milk, sugar and vanilla.’
Verena and Gregor have come to love the area. ‘We have an excellent relationship with our neighbours,’ she explains. Everyone supports each other and tries to make the best of the situation, and that’s been especially evident during the pandemic. ‘Our customers have also given us a lot of strength and motivated us to carry on.’ These customers include employees from the surrounding offices and shops, as well as students and staff from the library, which is just nearby.
‘It was important to us that the food tastes good, that it’s affordable and that it’s healthy.’
All of them flock to Al Paso to enjoy their lunch. ‘It was important to us that the food tastes good, that it’s affordable and that it’s healthy,’ Verena says of the couple’s concept. Locality and seasonality are also a huge priority at Al Paso for that reason. ‘There’s no point looking for avocado or pineapple here. Gregor cooks with whatever is in season here at this time of year.’
Verena and Gregor’s plan went so well that many visitors think it’s more of a restaurant than a takeaway. ‘They sit outside in the sunshine for hours at a time and chat with us. That’s great fun,’ says Verena. Being half South American, honest and personal interaction with customers is extremely important. ‘I need daily contact with people.’
Guests come by al paso – so ‘in passing’ – to pick up their favourite dishes, chat with the owners then enjoy whatever the season has produced and what Verena and Gregor have prepared in their little shop.