Before moving to Germany, and even before starting to learn German, I discovered German food, and I would rate it the most underrated cuisine in the world. Even Germans don’t rate it highly, putting Italian food at the top of their list, statistically speaking. And look, maybe it’s not for everyone, maybe it’s not for the vegetarian crowd, as I have heard from others; but if you like food more generally, like me, then you need to try it out.
Fortunately, there are more and more German (or at least German-themed) restaurants popping up around the world. There are several in Melbourne, Australia, for example, offering different levels of authenticity. Just like in Germany itself, the chief model for the idea of ‘the German Restaurant’ seems to be the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. Although in Germany there are many similar places in Altstädten everywhere which have a similar kind of atmosphere and menu, and even a similar level of historical pedigree.
German Food – Let’s talk about meat
In Düsseldorf for example there is Uerige. Calling it ‘a pub’ is to understate it badly. They still tap beer barrels the old way, and it’s quite an event to watch about four or five men do this with hammer and hamstrings. Of course, they brew their own brand of dark beer, and if you are not used to it, it might require an adjustment. Order Pils if you’re not prepared.
All the traditional German food groups are available, of course. Every kind of sausage and Sauerkraut and Rotkohl, schnitzels and potatoes done different ways, but also, my personal favourite, the pork knuckle, which is a large chunk of the lower leg region. I cannot recommend this highly enough for the meat-eater who has yet to try it. The atmosphere is very convivial, and the waiters/barmen are happy to indulge a German learner with flair; they are all business-like but cheeky, in that old-school barber shop manner.
What about Asparagus?
But meat is not always the only food celebrated. As Spring has rolled around, the asparagus season is now upon us: Spargelzeit (Asparagus Time). Virus restrictions have had an impact on the crop this year due to the lack of experienced pickers being available.
But Germans take their food seriously, so nothing was going to stop it happening. While in most areas of the western world, it’s the green asparagus that is eaten, the Germans are more excited by the white variety. And it’s one of those love or hate type of tastes.
Time to talk about Wine
As far as wine goes, I find it hard to go past the Rieslings here, but Burgundy is also worth a taste. Just as I discovered with coffee, wine language is a whole new species in most countries. However, be careful of the word ‘Trocken’ in the title of a wine, as this refers to how the grapes have been dried on the vine, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the wine itself will be dry in terms of taste.
More German food , let’s not forget about the Bread!
And if you are after some of the greatest range of breads the world has to offer, the german Bäckerei is fantastic. You could fall in love with the country just for the breads alone. And while the Backerei does have a basic range of sweets on offer too (the mandarin slice being my go-to) don’t confuse it with the more up-market Konditorei, which offers nothing in the way of bread or savouries, and is orientated only toward sweets, some of the most extravagant-looking and delicious cakes you could imagine.
Obviously, a German restaurant is a great place to practice German, whether in Germany or not. Of course, when not in Germany, not all the staff of a German restaurant necessarily speak German; so, when booking, I have always politely requested a German speaking waiter or waitress with whom to practice.
Written by Jeremy Davis