German food is not as nuanced or subtle as the French or Italian diet can be. Food tends to reflect simple peasant roots – so expect big hearty portions of meat, typically with some sort of cabbage and a dumpling, made of either potato or pretzl dough. Green vegetables as sides tend to be the exception, rather than the rule.
In recent years, as demand for vegetarian dishes has grown, eateries have responded to demand – but in general, it is still a menu dominated by meat.
Making sense of a menu
A menu is a “Spiesekarte“. Restaurants in towns with a high percentage of foreign visitors will probably have an English menu if you ask for one – but be prepared to figure out a German one: you are, after all, abroad. The majority of folk involved in hospitality will have some English, although it is a common courtesy to greet them in German before asking for an English menu.
Vorspiesen are starters
Hauptgericht are main courses
Nachspeisen are desserts
The “Tageskarte” will feature the daily specials or recommendations, while the –
“Wochenkarte” is the weekly specials menu. This menu is often broken down by individual day and specific dishes will often only be available on that given day.
The first thing you will be asked is what you would like to drink. Although Germany produces some great wine, it is definitely a beer country. If you ask for a beer, you will be given the standard local brew, rather than an exotic seasonal beer.
If non-alcoholic is your thing, tea comes in a variety of flavours. (mint, mixed fruit, cherry and chamomile are generally available. If you order a black tea you might get a slice of lemon instead of milk – do not be afraid to ask) Regular coffee is served black with packets of whitener or cream on the side. Soft drinks will mostly be familiar but “Limonade” is not lemonade but Sprite. “Orange Limonade” will be something like Fanta. A unique offering is called “Spezi” or “Cola Mix“. It is cola and Fanta mixed 50/50. It sounds a bit weird and looks like the urine sample from someone who is very ill but is pretty tasty. I kid myself that it is healthy because it has orange in it.
In addition, Germany has some fantastic street food, much of it of Turkish origin