Allergy & celiac sufferers
When shopping for foods, the package labeling in Germany is generally reliable. All food products must be properly labeled including additives and preservatives. Be on the look out for "Weizen" wheat, "Mehl" flour or "Malz" malt and "StÃ¤rke" starch. Be extra cautious for foods with "GeschmacksverstÃ¤rker" i.e. flavour enhancers that may have gluten as ingredients.
(http://www.reformhaus.de/...) - a 3.000 strong network of health food stores in germany and austria that has dedicated gluten-free sections stocked with pasta, breads and treats. reformhaus stores are usually found in the lower level of shopping centres i.e. potsdamerarkaden, etc.
(http://www.dm-drogeriemar...) - the cws/shopper's drug mart equivalent in germany has dedicated wheat and gluten free sections
(http://www.alnatura.de/) - natural foods store with a large dedicated gluten-free section
bakeries and butchers
Germans have no tradition of sandwich shops but you will find that bakeries / butchers sell quite good take away food and are serious competition for the fast food chains. Even the smallest bakeries will sell many sorts of bread or rolls, most of them darker for example, using wholemeal or rye flour than the white bread popular around the world and definitely worth a try. Even if they don't already have it prepared, almost all butchers will prepare a sandwich for you if you ask. Some butchers even prepare meals for you. This butcher 'imbiss' is mainly popular in southern Germany, and the quality and freshness of food is usually high.
German food usually sticks to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. Modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France to become lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity which is interesting to discover.
Since most bigger employers have a canteen for their employees, you will find relatively few sandwich shops and takeaways, and eating-out culture in Germany is dominated by the Gasthaus/Gasthof and restaurants. Putting places to eat into 6 categories gives you a hint about the budget/taste. Starting from the lower end, these are:
Probably 50% of all eating places fall into this group. They are mainly family-run businesses that have been owned for generations, comparable to pubs in the UK. You can go there simply for a drink, or to try German food often with a local flavour. Food quality differs significantly from place to place but the staff will usually give you an indication of the standard; regulations require restaurant owners to indicate certain possibly harmful ingredients e.g. glutamates/MSG in footnotes - a menu containing lots of such footnotes usually indicates low quality; if a cheap "Gasthaus" / restaurant is overcrowded with Germans or Asians, this indicates at least sufficient quality unless the crowd is thanks to an organized coach excursion.
At very formal events and in high-end restaurants, a few deviations of German customs from western standards should be noted:
It is considered bad manners to eat with your elbows resting on the table. Keep only your wrists on the table. Note that most Germans will keep up this manner in everyday life since this is one of the most basic rules parents will teach their children. If you go to a restaurant with your German friends, you may want to pay attention to do so, too.
When moving the fork to your mouth, the curved end should point upwards not downwards as in Great Britain
When eating soup or other food from your spoon, hold it with the tip towards your mouth not parallel to your lips as in, again, Great Britain. Spoons used to stir beverages, e.g. coffee, should not be put in the mouth at all.
If you have to leave the table, it is fine to put your napkin which should have rested, folded once along the center, on your lap until then on the table, to the left of your plate, in an elegant little pile -- unless it looks really dirty, in which case you might want to leave it on your chair.
Germany has a wide range of flavors e.g. German, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, Indian, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish and almost all styles of the world are represented.
Turkish cuisine in Germany ranges from simple "Döner" shops to mostly family-run restaurants offering a wide variation of usually very cheap in relation to German price levels Turkish home cooking.
You will rarely find restaurants catering for special needs within Germany e.g. kosher restaurants are common only in cities with a notable Jewish population like Berlin, although most restaurants will prepare special meals or variants for you if they are neither relying on convenience foods only nor too fancy. Most restaurants have at least some vegetarian meals. For muslims it is recommended to stick to Turkish/Arabic restaurants. At some Turkish or Arab food stalls vegetarians might find falafel and baba ganoush to suit their tastes. For not-so-strict Jews the halal Turkish food stalls are also the best option for meat dishes.
In most restaurants in Germany you can choose your own table. You can make reservations recommended for larger groups and haute cuisine on Saturday nights and these are marked by reservation cards "Reserviert". In expensive restaurants in larger cities you will be expected to make reservations and will be seated by the staff who will not allow you to choose your table.
Restaurants in commercial areas often offer weekday lunch specials. These are cheap starting at €5, sometimes including a beverage options and a good way to sample local food. Specials tend to rotate on a daily or weekly basis, especially when fresh ingredients like fish are involved.
Many restaurants offers all-you-can-eat-buffets where you pay around 10 euros and can eat as much as you want. Drinks are not included in this price.
Most restaurants have one or two vegetarian dishes, but there aren't many places which are particularly aimed at vegetarian or vegan customers, except a few places in big cities like Berlin. If the menu does not contain vegetarian dishes, do not hesitate to ask.Vegetarian restaurant guides can be found at (http://www.vegan.de/guide...) german or (http://www.fleischlos-gen...) VEBU restaurant list, the restaurants are not necessarily vegetarian in general. Be aware when ordering to ask whether the dish is suitable for vegetarians, as chicken stock and bacon cubes are a commonly "undeclared" ingredient on German menus.
However, there are usually organic food shops "Bioladen", "Naturkostladen" or "Reformhaus" in every city, providing vegetarian bread, spreads, cheese, ice cream, vegan milk substitutes, tofu and seitan. The diversity and quality of the products is great and you will find shop assistants that can answer special nutritional questions in great depth.
Veganism and vegetarianism is on the rise in Germany so that many supermarkets such as Edeka and Rewe have a small selection of vegan products as well in their "Feinkost"-section such as seitan-sausages, tofu or soy milk at a reasonable price.
Rinderroulade mit Rotkraut und KnÃ¶deln: this dish is quite unique to Germany. Very thin sliced beef rolled around a piece of bacon and pickled cucumber until it looks like a mini barrel 5cm diameter flavoured with tiny pieces of onion, German mustard, ground black pepper and salt. The meat is quick-fried and is then left to cook slowly for an hour, meanwhile red cabbage and potato dumplings are prepared and then the meat is removed from the frying pan and gravy is prepared in the frying pan. KnÃ¶del, Rotkraut and Rouladen are served together with the gravy in one dish.
Schnitzel mit Pommes frites: there are probably as many different variations of Schnitzel as there are restaurants in Germany. They have in common a thin slice of pork often covered in egg and bread crumbs that is fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries that's the Pommes frites part. Variations of this are usually served with different types of gravy: such as Zigeunerschnitzel, Zwiebelschnitzel, HolzfÃ¤ller Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel as the name suggests, an Austrian dish â the genuine article must be veal instead of pork, which is why most restaurants offer a Schnitzel Wiener Art, or Viennese-style schnitzel which is allowed to be pork. In the south you can often get SpÃ¤tzle pasta that Swabia is famous for instead of fries with it. SpÃ¤tzle are egg noodles typical of south Germany â most restaurants make them fresh. Due to the easiness of its preparation ordering it might be perceived as an insult to any business with a decent reputation with the exception of Wiener Schnitzel perhaps, admittedly it is almost unavoidable to spot it on the menu of any sleazy German drinking hole and there are many..., if nothing else therefore it might even be the most common dish in German restaurants yes, at least German government officials do call their taverns as well as the common fast food stalls restaurants!.
RehrÃ¼cken mit SpÃ¤tzle: Germany has maintained huge forests such as the famous Black Forest, Bayrischer Wald and Odenwald. In and around these areas you can enjoy the best game in Germany. RehrÃ¼cken means venison tenderloin and it is often served with freshly made noodles such as SpÃ¤tzle and a very nice gravy based on a dry red wine.
Wurst âsausageâ: there is no country in the world with a greater variety of sausages than Germany and it would take a while to mention them all. âBratwurstâ is fried, other varieties such as the Bavarian âWeiÃwurstâ are boiled. Here is the shortlist version: âRoteâ beef sausage, âFrankfurter Wurstâ boiled pork sausage made in the Frankfurt style, âPfÃ¤lzer Bratwurstâ sausage made in Palatine style , âNÃ¼rnberger Bratwurstâ Nuremberg sausage â the smallest of all of them, but a serious contender for the best tasting German sausage, âgrobe Bratwurstâ, LandjÃ¤ger, ThÃ¼ringer Bratwurst, Currywurst, WeiÃwurst ... this could go on till tomorrow. If you spot a sausage on a menu this is often a good and sometimes the only choice. Often served with mashed potato, fries or potato salad. The most popular type of sausage probably is the Currywurst Bratwurst cut into slices and served with ketchup and curry and can be bought almost everywhere.
Koenigsberger Klopse: Literally "meatballs from Koenigsberg", this is a typical dish in and around Berlin. The meatballs are made out of minced pork and anchovies and are cooked and served in a white sauce with capers and rice or potatoes.
MatjesbrÃ¶tchen: Soussed herring or "roll mops" in a bread roll, typical street snack.
Here you will get the obvious drink. In traditional beergardens in Bavaria it is possible to bring your own food if you buy drinks. Most places will cater simple meals. A very good place for beer and bavarian food is the Biergarten of "Kloster Andechs" close to the Ammersee round 40km south of Munich.
'Schnellimbiss' means 'quick snack', and is what you will see on the sign of German stalls and small shops that sell primarily sausage Wurst and fries Pommes Frites. Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is fried and usually a boiled pork sausage. A very German variant is Currywurst: sausage chopped up and covered in spiced ketchup, dusted with curry powder. Beer and often even spirits are available in most Schnellimbisse.
'DÃ¶ner Kebab' is a Turkish dish of veal, chicken or sometimes lamb stuffed into bread, similar to Greek Gyros and Arab Schawarma. Even though considered Turkish, it's actually a speciality which originated in Germany. According to legend, it was invented by Turkish immigrants in West Berlin during the 1970s. In fact, the 'DÃ¶ner' is Germany's most loved fast food. The sales numbers of 'DÃ¶ner' exceed those of McDonald's and Burger King products by far.
Nevertheless, fast food giants like McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut can be found in most towns. Nordsee is a German seafood chain, which offers 'Rollmops' pickled herrings and many other fish and seafood snacks. However, many independent seafood snack-bars most common along the German coasts offer slightly better and slightly cheaper seafood.
White âSpargelâ asparagus floods the restaurants from April to June all over Germany, especially in and around Baden-Baden and the small town of Schwetzingen "The Asparagus Capital", near Heidelberg, in an area north and north-east of Hannover "Lower Saxony's Asparagus Route", as well as in the area southwest of Berlin, especially in the town of Beelitz and along the Lower Rhine "Walbecker Spargel". Many vegetables can be found all year round and are often imported from far away. Whereas asparagus can be found for only 2 months and is best enjoyed fresh after harvest, it stays nice for a couple of hours or until next day. The asparagus is treated very carefully and it is harvested before it is ever exposed to daylight, therefore it remains white. When exposed to daylight it changes its colour to green and might taste bitter. Therefore, white asparagus is considered to be better by most Germans.
The standard asparagus meal is the asparagus stalks, hollandaise sauce, boiled potatoes, and some form of meat. The most common meat is ham, preferably smoked; however you will also find it teamed with schnitzel fried breaded pork, turkey, beef, or whatever is available in the kitchen.
White asparagus soup is one of the hundreds of different recipes that can be found with white asparagus. Often it is made with cream and contains some of the thinner asparagus pieces.
Another example of a seasonal specialty is "GrÃ¼nkohl" kale. You can find that mainly in Lower Saxony, particularly the southern and south-western parts such as the "Emsland" or around the "Wiehengebirge" and the "Teutoburger Wald", but also everywhere else there and in the eastern parts of North-Rhine-Westphalia. It is usually served with a boiled rough sort of sausage called "Pinkel" and roasted potatoes. If you are travelling in Lower-Saxony in fall, you should get it in every "Gasthaus".
Lebkuchen are some of Germany's many nice Christmas biscuits and gingerbread. The best known are produced in and around Nuremberg.
Stollen is a kind of cake eaten during the Advent season and yuletide. Original Stollen is produced only in Dresden, Saxony, however you can buy Stollen everywhere in Germany although Dresdner Stollen is reputed to be the best (and - due to the lower salaries in Eastern Germany - comparatively cheap).
Around St. Martin's day and christmas, roasted geese "Martinsgans" / "Weihnachtsgans" are quite common in German restaurants, accompanied by "Rotkraut" red cabbage and "KnÃ¶deln" potato dumplings, preferably served as set menu, with the liver, accompanied by some kind of salad, as starter, goose soup, and a dessert.
Germans are very fond of their bread, which they make in many variations. This is the food that Germans tend to miss most when away from home. Most people like their bread relatively dark and dense and scorn the soft loaves sold in other countries. Bakeries will rarely provide less than twenty different sorts of bread and it's worth trying a few of them. In fact, many Germans buy their lunch or small snacks in bakeries instead of takeaways or the like. Prices for a loaf of bread will range from 0.50 â¬ to 4 â¬, depending on the size real specialties might cost more.
Starting from the north of Germany going south you will find a tremendous variety of food and each region sticks to it origins.The coastal regions are fond of seafood and famous dishes include âFinkenwerder Scholleâ, going south to the region of Cologne you will find Sauerbraten a roast marinated in vinegar, if made really traditionally it's from horse meat.
Labskaus although strictly speaking not a German invention is a dish from the north and the opinions about this dish are divided, some love it, others hate it. It is a mash of potato, beetroot juice and cured meat decorated with rollmops and/or young herring and/or a fried egg and/or sour cucumber and/or beetroot slices on top. The north is also famous for its lamb dishes, the best type of lamb probably being "Rudenlamm" lamb from Ruden, a small island in the Baltic Sea; only a few restaurants in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania serve this, the second best type being "Salzwiesenlamm" salt meadow lamb. The Lueneburger Heide Lueneburg Heath is famous not only for its heath but also for its Heidschnucken, a special breed of sheep. Be aware that a lot of restaurants import their lamb from New Zealand though because it is cheaper. Crabs and mussels are also quite common along the German coasts, especially in North Frisia.
A specialty of Hamburg is "Aalsuppe" which - despite the name in this case "Aal" means "everything", not "eel" - originally contained almost everything - except eel today many restaurants include eel within this soup, because the name led tourists into confusion. At the coast there's a variety of fish dishes. Beware: if a restaurant offers "Edelfischplatte" or any dish of similar name, the fish may be not fresh and even this is quite ironical of poor quality. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that, for eating fish, you visit specialised or quality restaurants only. A fast-food style restaurant chain serving standardized quality fish and other seafood at low prices all over Germany is "Nordsee", though you will rarely find authentic specialties there.
PfÃ¤lzer Saumagen: known for a long time in Palatinate, but difficult to find outside of this area. The dish became well known to the general public in Germany as then-Chancellor Helmut Kohlâs favorite dish, especially when this was enjoyed by him and the Russian president Mikhail Gorbatchev on a State visit in Germany in Deidesheim. Pictures of the feast are shown in the restaurant â Deidesheimer Hofâ in Deidesheim. Literally this is pig stomach filled with a mash of potato and meat, cooked for 2-3 hours and then cut in thick slices often served with sauerkraut.
Swabia is famous for SpÃ¤tzle a kind of noodle, "Maultaschen" noodles stuffed with spinach and mince meat, but lots of variations, even veggie ones, exist.
In Bavaria this may be Schweinshaxe mit KnÃ¶deln pork's leg with knÃ¶del, a form of potato dumplings, "LeberkÃ¤s/FleischkÃ¤se mit Kartoffelsalat" kind of meat pie and potato salad, "NÃ¼rnberger Bratwurst" probably smallest sausage in Germany, WeiÃwurst white sausages and "Obatzda" a spicy mix of several milk products.
The south is also famous for its nice tarts such as the "SchwarzwÃ¤lder Kirschtorte" tart with lots of cream and spirit made from cherries.
A delicacy in Saxony is Eierschecke, a cake made of eggs and cream similar to cheese cake.
A specialty of the East is "Soljanka" originating from Ukraine, but probably the most common dish in the GDR, a sour soup containing vegetables and usually some kind of meat or sausages.