Beyond The Bierhaus: German Food Is Better (And More Diverse) Than You Think

Expand your food horizons in Germany with diverse restaurants and street food (but don’t skip the traditional offerings)!

Most Americans believe that German cuisine is, as the Germans themselves put it, strictly herzhaft and deftig — “hearty” and “solid.” And they’re right. Many of the German mainstays — say, schnitzel, bratwurst and beer — are delicious but gut-busting dishes, excellent for the taste buds but not the waistline.

That’s not all there is to it. In fact there’s a quiet revolution going on in German kitchens and restaurants, and visitors are reaping the benefits. Let’s be honest: If you’re going to Germany, you’re going to have sauerkraut. But you’ll also get some seriously imaginative fusions of German cuisine and international fare, great options for street food, and lighter versions of the classics. Here are a few ideas on what to look for the next time you visit Germany.

Show Your Street Smarts

The street food revolution has reached Germany. Berlin, not surprisingly, boasts a number of street food markets where you can get international delicacies. One of the best known is Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle Neun, where the stalls offer street food from Italy, Thailand, Mexico, Britain, Nigeria and even Germany. Germany’s large Turkish population is reflected in Berlin’s Türkenmarkt, where you can get astonishingly tasty baked goods, free cheeses and that mainstay of late-night refueling, the döner kebab.

Germany, of course, is more than just Berlin, so keep your eyes peeled for the impressive street food festivals in other big cities, like Munich and Hamburg (websites in German).

Dining With The Stars

People usually think of France and Italy as the home of fine dining, but when it comes to Michelin stars, Germany more than holds its own. The current Michelin guide has granted stars to some 300 German restaurants.

The great thing about checking out starred restaurants is that you can find them quite literally all over the country, from Aachen to Bad Zwischenahn. The cuisine is wonderfully diverse, like Hamburg’s two-star seafood restaurant Seven Seas, or Düsseldorf’s fusion of Asian and Central European flavors, Agata’s, which earned one star. The small town of Baiersbronn in the Black Forest alone boasts 8 starred restaurants!

Fast Food Doesn’t Mean Bad Food

For better or worse, American-style fast food like pizza and cheeseburgers is abundantly available in Germany. But in local terms, probably the best-known fast-food-slash-street-food is the aforementioned döner kebab. Ask the natives which place is their favorite — you’ll likely get more suggestions than you’ll ever have time to visit.

Germany has its own fast-food chains, and if you’re hungry and short on time they can actually be a great option. Wienerwald specializes in roast chicken, but you can also get traditional fare like schnitzel, and there are lighter options like salads. The reliable self-service international chain Vapiano has restaurants all over Germany where you can get salads and pasta.

Deutschland’s Delicatessen Delicacies

If you’re in Berlin and craving Jewish treats, try Mogg. It’s an authentic kosher-style (note: not kosher) Jewish deli located on the stark Modernist grounds of a former girls school. The menu has authentic dishes like pastrami, Reuben sandwiches and matzo ball soup. There is also a popular food cart that you can find at street food events in and around Berlin. Fine Bagels, located in the Shakespeare and Sons bookstore, has brought New York-style bagels to the German capital.

You’ll find the most choices for Jewish food in Berlin, but in other cities there are plenty of options. Frankfurt’s Die Kurve specializes in Israeli- and Middle Eastern-style grilled kebabs. For other Jewish options in Germany — especially if you keep kosher — it’s a good idea to find the local Jewish community center. For example, there’s Sohar’s in Frankfurt, and Einstein is a quality kosher choice when you’re in Munich.

But Wait, There’s More

There are a surprising number of good-quality, inexpensive, international restaurants in Germany, like Indian, Vietnamese and Thai. And perhaps you didn’t know that Germany is leading Europe in vegan food products. Finally, while this may be difficult to imagine, if you ever need a break from German beer, don’t forget that Germany has a world-class wine industry, with offerings from peachy Rieslings to smoky Spätburgunders (aka pinot noir). When you’re hankering for the fruit of the vine, you’ll have 13 wine regions to choose from and an abundance of options in all towns and cities.

We’d never suggest that you’d skip the schnitzel or bypass the bratwurst. And it would be a crime against nature to leave Germany without having a slice or three of the famous Black Forest Cake. There’s a reason these delicacies have been around for centuries, and the reason is that they’re awesome. We just want you to know that Germany has more — a lot more — to offer.

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