Eating and drinking like a local

Photo by Larisa Blinova/

USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

The traditional German manner of eating is to have a big, hearty warm meal at midday and have some bread, cheese and sausages or cold cuts in the evening. However, as times have changed, so have habits. Restaurants offer a wide variety of options ranging from a simple bread plate to a full, multicourse meal.

Hearty German cuisine usually focuses on a main dish of meat. In fact, each person in Germany ate an average of a kilogram of meat per week as of 2019, according to the “Fleischatlas,” or “Meat Atlas” report. While the availability of vegetarian dishes and products is extensive (and growing), the “wurst” is still king, especially bratwurst. Add some curry powder and ketchup, and you’ve got the popular currywurst.

Bratwurst is certainly a common staple of German cuisine, but there’s a lot more variety in German food than this simple image conveys. It is true that certain universal elements of German food unite this nation of 16 proud states, each boasting their own unique cuisine. From roasts to schnitzel, to breads, cheeses and wine, the idea that German food is basic or simple is simply not accurate.

To add to the solid heartiness of a good meat dish, potatoes are usually served in some form with every large meal. Germans serve potatoes in every manner imaginable, from mashed potatoes to potato salad, to potato pancakes and more.

Bread is often served with meals. A wide variety of bread products make up a large portion of the traditional German diet.

German regions pride themselves on certain foods or dishes. A signature Swabian dish is maultaschen, a layered pasta dish similar to ravioli. It is larger than ravioli and without tomato sauce, and packed with minced or smoked meat, spinach, onions, herbs and spices. Zwiebelrostbraten, a beef roast with sautéed onions, is another popular Swabian dish.

Schnitzel, served throughout Germany and beyond, is usually served with french fries or potato salad. Roasted meats and fish vary from region to region, making traveling throughout Germany a culinary delight. Käsespätzle, a Swabian noodle and cheese dish, is not to be confused with macaroni and cheese. Rotisserie chicken is very popular, as are Turkish-inspired dishes like kebaps.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are gaining popularity in Germany, and options will be easily found on most restaurant menus. Tofu, meat substitutes, and condiments/cheeses free of animal products are abundant in supermarkets, often in a dedicated section. This is also true for gluten-free products. Almond, soy, and other types of nondairy milks are widely available, though they will not be labeled as milk due to legal requirements; oat milk, for example, will be referred to as “hafer [oat] drink.”

Cake is a tradition, whether apple cake, tree cake, bee sting or Christmas stollen. The variety is huge.

Germany also enjoys a wide range of foods from, or influenced by, other countries. Italian, Asian and eastern European restaurants are common, and other international fare such as Turkish and Indian foods can be found as well.

Menus should be either laid out on tables or presented to the guest before the order is placed, or be clearly legible. The prices indicated must include service charge, taxes and other surcharges. Separate surcharges, e.g. for music, or for the place setting, are not permitted.

Germany has long been associated worldwide with beer, and for good reason. Swabian breweries produce several great beers. In general, German beer is typically a little stronger than American beer, ranging from around five percent to as high as 16 percent alcohol by volume.

Germany is also a country that enjoys (and produces) wine. Not only international wines are served, but also wines from the south and middle of Germany. One specialty is the Riesling, which is produced from the white grape variety of the same name and enjoys a high reputation on the international market. Wine has been developed to a high art form in Germany, and different regions produce a variety of wines, many of which can be enjoyed right at the vineyard. From red Dornfelder to white Moselle, a German wine can be found to please most any palate. Stuttgart takes pride in its wines. Some of
Stuttgart’s vineyards are located near Robinson Barracks, and it is the only large city in the country to have its own municipal winery.

Schnapps is a drink with an alcohol content of more than 15 percent, produced usually from fruit, grain or roots. The most famous German export is “Jägermeister”, a herbal liqueur with 35 percent alcohol content.

It is important to remember to enjoy alcohol responsibly in Germany. Drinking and driving laws are very strict here, and many of the alcoholic beverages offered can be much stronger than what many Americans are used to. There are very few laws limiting public consumption of alcohol, and since it is readily available, self-control and responsible consumption is the key.

Guten Appetit!