German cuisine is often defined by Bavarian classics: huge pork shanks, piles of bratwurst, cheesy soups, and slow-roasted beef with dumplings and gravy. If you’ve ever savored American comfort food, you’re sure to agree that there’s nothing wrong with any of that — pork, sausage, cheese, and potatoes are pretty popular here, too. But assuming that those dishes are the only “German” food is akin to assuming Tex-Mex is the only “American” food. Not that there’s anything wrong with Tex-Mex.
Point being, Germany has a deep food culture that goes beyond Oktoberfest tents and Alpine slopes. Germany has two coasts, vast agriculture, and varying cultures from north to south and east to west that inform a wide variety of dishes. Add in a deeply rooted immigrant population, and you have one of the most diverse food cultures in the world.
If you find yourself in Germany and are ready to expand your palate, these are the seven dishes you have to seek out. We’ve also added a rad spot where you can actually try each dish with plenty of atmosphere to help make your iconic food experience a one-of-a-kind feast.
Schnitzel is a pan-German dish with roots in Vienna. Well, let’s take a step back. Breaded meat cutlets exist from Milan to Prague to Berlin. However, “Weiner Schnitzel” (Vienna Schnitzel) refers to a breaded veal cutlet specifically. In most cases, a German “schnitzel” or Italian “milanesa” or Czech “Řízek” is made from pork.
Wherever you eat it, a schnitzel is a delight. The thin, savory meat, the crunch of the fried breading, and a nice fresh horseradish on the side all make for a filling-yet-magically-light treat.
Where to eat this dish? Literally any beer garden in Germany. Schnitzel is the throughline of great beer garden food.