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Favorite Regional Specialties & Where to Taste Them

My DH and I are planning a trip that starts in Cologne on November 23 & ends in Munich on Dec 9. We'd like to hear about your favorite regional specialities and where we can find the best versions.

For example, in Dec 2019 we fell in LOVE with grünkohl (a yummy winter "comfort food" combo of cooked kale, smoked mettwurst & small boiled potatoes that's famous in Northern Germany & North Rhine Westphalia) ... thanks to our German friends who introduced us to it at the Christmas markets in Münster & Essen.

We tasted a lot of delicious items on that trip including flaummkuchen (which I've since learned is a specialty of Alsace) and Käsespätzle - (actually a Swabian specialty), but the grünkohl was our favorite ... probably because we had it in the region where it's famous.

Another example: I just read about Schwäbische Maultaschen ... little dumplings filled meat (the kind used to make bratwursts), bread crumbs, onions and spinach that are a specialty of Swabia. Apparently, they were served during Lent as a way to sneak meat, and the Swabian nickname Herrgottsbescheißerle means “small God-cheaters.” 😂 Apparently they're served four ways:
• Maultaschen in der Brühe (served in broth and eaten as a soup)
• Geschmälzte Maultaschen (fried in butter and topped with caramelized onions)
• Geröstete Maultaschen mit Ei (sliced Maultaschen are fried in an egg/herb mixture)
• Maultaschen Schweizer Art (Swiss style, which is whole Maultaschen baked with ham and Swiss cheese on top).

You can be sure I'll look for these if / when we visit Nördlingen, Augsburg or perhaps even nearby Stuttgart.

So I'm curious, what's your favorite regional speciality and where should I taste it?
Perhaps there's a restaurant famous for making it? Clue me in, please.

Posted by
6620 posts

I dont know what region its from but zwiebelkuchen (onion pie) is something to behold. Best place to taste? Probably oma's kitchen.

Posted by
8102 posts

Gosh, for some reason Frankfurt has a lot of specialties.

Frankfurt Grüne Soße (EU protected and has its own festival. Frankfurt Green Sauce must have the same 7 herbs and a certain % of them must be grown here to sell it as Frankfurt Green Sauce)
Handkäse mit Musik (eat it today and tomorrow you get your music)
Bethmannchen (Marzipan pastries with 3 almonds, named after a famous Frankfurt banker)
Frankfurter Kranz (White cake baked in the form of a crown, covered with golden nougat, white dollops of cream to represent diamonds and cherries to represent rubies. Icing must be buttercream)
Ebbelwoi (Frankfurt Applewine)
Frankfurter Würstchen (smoked pork sausage. EU protected - must be made in the Frankfurt region or you can not call them Frankfurters)
Rippchen mit Kraut (thick, cured pork chops served with sauerkraut)
Frankfurter Brenten (similar marzipan dough to Bethmannchen, but formed in stamped squares)
Ahle Würst (long, air-dried sausages)
Haddakuche (a form of pepper cookie/cake, with hash marks similar to those on applewine glasses. They are quite hard)
Sachsenhausen Schneegestöber - (cheese spread made of Camembert, Cream Cheese, Butter, Onions & Paprika)

Posted by
1117 posts

I dont know what region its from but zwiebelkuchen (onion pie) is
something to behold. Best place to taste?

The best place and time to taste that is in those regions and in fall when they have Federweißer to go with the Zwiebelkuchen!

Bethmännchen: We have friends from Frankfurt who bring us home-made ones every time they visit. We love our friends, but unfortunately they're not great cooks. Those things would break windows if we'd throw them. :D

Posted by
848 posts

Schweinshaxen is well known in Bayern, but I prefer Schaeufele, an individual cut of pork shoulder on the bone. This is more of a Franken speciality. Usually served with Kloss, a Knoedel in Fanken with a Broekela, a cruton in the middle and original half cooked and half raw potato. Sauerkraut on the side. The sauerkraut is not really saure at all, usuallty washed and cooked with broth and some caraway seed. The Schwarte pork fat on the Schaeufele is scored and roasted to a crunchy crisp. Really good and you eat it all but the bone. Hard to find fatty pork with the skin on in the USA. Usually a good Bier sauce goes with. Always sauce with Braten.

Posted by
8102 posts

I almost forgot Rüdesheimer Coffee. How silly of me.

Posted by
195 posts

In Hamburg and northern Germany, seafood is the name of the game. While pork and potatoes are still staples, we are a maritime culture different from the rest of Germany, and our food reflects that. Späzle and Schnitzel are not things I ate growing up. As such, the list is a bit longer. Here are some biggies for Hamburg and the surrounding areas:

Krabben (north sea shrimp) can be eaten on a Brötchen, in a Büsumer Salat, or in a soup. Often paired with remoulade, eggs, or onions / dill. Options are myriad, so no particular recommendation.

Matjes--pickled herring--is eaten on a Brötchen, on black bread, or simply with onions and pickles. The absolute best place to get this is in the little town of Glückstadt, which has a huge festival just for its Matjes.
**Variations on herring, such as the Rollmops, are also common. But still, go to Glückstadt and enjoy the festival while you are there.

Fischbrötchen is just what it sounds like--a fish sandwich. The aforementioned Krabben and Matjes both count as Fischbrötchen, so you can kill two birds with one stone. Typical street food. Options vary.

Finkenwerder Scholle--sole with bacon bits, often potatoes, either fried or baked with Krabben. Best found in Finkenwerder, a part of Hamburg

Pannfisch--fried fish, served with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) and mustard sauce. Any type of fish goes, so options vary wildly.

Labskaus is not for everyone. It's a sort of salted meat and potato mash. Options for serving vary wildly.

Aalsuppe--contrary to the direct translation of the name, which implies that it is eel soup, "aal" comes from the regional dialect for "everything" and is a soup or stew of vegetables, a pork joint, and Backobst (dried fruit). Recipes vary wildly, and in a nod to confused visitors, these days often include eel.

Like Pannfisch and Labskaus, Aalsuppe was originally designed to use up the rest of what you have but has become a speciality in and of itself.

Birnen, Bohnen, und Speck--pears, green beans, and fatty pork belly. Served in late summer.

Weißwurst--I know, I know--people think it's Bavarian, but ours is older and contains fish (naturally!). There is a lot written about this one, with everyone and their brother claiming to be the original maker/seller/whatever. But hey, try some while you are here and compare with the Bavarian.

And for dessert, you have:

Rote Grütze--also found in Denmark, it's a sort of fruit purree that can be served hot or cold and generally with milk or vanilla cream. You can buy it store-bought or make it yourself, too!

Franzbrötchen--a cinnamon roll pastry in a neat swirly pattern that is unique to Hamburg. Found at every bakery.

The Oberhafen-Kantine in Hamburg is a great place for several of these dishes, though of course individual recipes vary wildly.

Posted by
1117 posts

I'll throw in the East Frisian tea ceremony. So you thought only the Japanese have a tea ceremony? Well, come to the Northwest of Germany and see for yourself. This is not a museum or tourist kind of thing but a tradition that is alive and kickin' and is practiced a couple of times a day in every East Frisian household. Totally incompatible with a "paper cup of coffee to go" kind of culture. :-)

Krabben (north sea shrimp) [...] Often paired with remoulade, eggs,
or onions / dill. Options are myriad, so no particular recommendation.

Well, I'll give one. Have them pure, without anything like mayonnaise etc. that kills off their delicate flavor. Best to buy them fresh right from the fishing boat. You'll need a local (or the fisherman) to teach you how to peel them though. :D

Labskaus is not for everyone. It's a sort of salted meat and potato

The way I know it includes red beets in the mash. And there's usually a fried egg on top and a Rollmops on the side. It's an old sailors' dish, one of those meals that probably originated from throwing everything together that was left in the kitchen, or galley, rather.

Franzbrötchen--a cinnamon roll pastry in a neat swirly pattern that is
unique to Hamburg. Found at every bakery.

That is interesting, I didn't know that this is a Hamburg specialty. It has become quite common all over Northern Germany in recent years. I would have described it as a sort of flattened-out croissant with lots of cinnamon.

Posted by
117 posts

Thank you to everyone who's contributed so far!

Stan: I totally understand ... on our second visit to NRW, our friends graciously invited us to their Oma's house so she could teach us how to make rindsrouladen. Afterwards, we all sat down to one of the most delicious meals we've ever had. It was such a memorable experience.

Ms. Jo: Wow! That mouth-watering list is making me re-think our itinerary or at the very least, visit Frankfort as a day trip from Heidleberg (while my DH is at work). I understand you do walking tours of Frankfort, correct?

Anna: you crack me up! ;D

mchpp: Schäufele sounds great, thank you! I did a bit more searching and found this:

HowlinMad: Thank you for that fabulous list! I'm half German and my dad (whose family was from NRW) absolutely loved pickled herring. As a child I wasn't keen to try it, but now I'll be sure to give it a taste. Also, on a previous visit to NRW, I had "bohnen mid speck" served like a thick stew. It was delicious. Thanks again for taking the time to share.

Posted by
12879 posts


If you are spending any time on this trip in Westfalen, eg, visiting the friends, then I would heartily recommend two beers in that area,

Herforder Pils from the little town of Herford. My first trip in 1971 saw me in Herford transferring trains then from Hannover to Osnabrück. Given the choice I prefer Herforder Pils over DAB

The second beer is Einbecker. (Helles and Dunkles)

Posted by
1117 posts

rindsrouladen. Afterwards, we all sat down to one of the most
delicious meals we've ever had.

Traditional German cuisine isn't usually a very sophisticated one, like French cuisine, but I would consider Rindsrouladen to be one of the classy traditional dishes.

If you are spending any time on this trip in Westfalen

Oh, now that you mention Westfalen: Try some Pumpernickel. You'll be surprised that it has absolutely nothing to do with what they sell you as Pumpernickel in the United States. :-)

Bread of course is one of our greatest specialties, with its many different types, and there are a lot of traditional regional ones. Try a fresh "Gersterbrot" for instance (Northern Germany), or have a Krintstuut (Sweet Raisin Bread) with your East Frisian tea ceremony, or try "Seelen" ("souls") in Swabia. And if you want to eat your bread the traditional way, make it an open sandwich!

Maybe not a regional specialty, but German's definitely have a passion
for fresh asparagus.

Good point! And most definitely a regional specialty, though there are a number of regions that grow it, so look for locally grown asparagus, not Chinese import. It's grown wherever the soil is sandy, and you will get fresh asparagus only in spring until St. John's Day (June 24).

Babylon Berlin's lead character, Gereon Rath, ordered rollmops for
breakfast in one scene.

In case they didn't show what the character did the night before, the Rollmops will tell you: He was drunk. Rollmops is considered a "Katerfrühstück", a hangover breakfast.

Is that just a Northern Germany specialty?

Yes, anything with herring is usually a Northern German specialty. You can find similar dishes in the Netherlands, but no herring in Lake Constance. :-)

Posted by
12879 posts

On the topic of Spargelsaison , the famous place for that in Brandenburg is a place near Potsdam, the little town of Beelitz, ie, the Beelitzer Spargel. When you're in Berlin and see that offered on the menu (Spargelspezialitäten ) during this season, they are from Beelitz.

Posted by
117 posts

Thanks Fred, I'll definitely make a point to look for those beers when we're in Westfalen.

Going234: thanks so much for that helpful wikipedia page!

Anna: my DH and I now make rindsrouladen and whenever we serve it to non-German friends, they're always super impressed. The hardest part was understanding the correct cut of meat, but thankfully our friend could translate what her Oma was saying. Regarding German bread: thanks to my dad, I grew up with an appreciation for proper German bread; his grandmother was considered the best bread baker in their village (Westphalia, Michigan). Luckily, there's a German bakery where we live in California that makes excellent Pumpernickel; otherwise I'd have to move. ;-) Thanks for the other info as well; all very helpful and interesting!

Posted by
12879 posts

@ Carolyn...You're welcome.

In the early 1980s in the SF Bay Area there was a large store/outlet called " Liquor Barn" (much bigger than Bev Mo) that carried all sorts of "Booze," wine and beers from all over the world. Included in its extensive inventory of German beers was for a time "Herforder Plis" along with DAB and numerous other Dortmunder Biere.

Posted by
1117 posts

Luckily, there's a German bakery where we live in California that
makes excellent Pumpernickel

Really? Wow. I must admit that every time we've tried to get good bread from any "German" bakery in the United States, we were hugely disappointed.

Not that I blame them for adapting to American taste buds... they have to make a living... :-)

Posted by
4684 posts

My favourite regional speciality is solyanka from Eastern German - it's the only major piece of DDR cuisine that was nice enough to survive to this day. Not to be confused with the Russian solyanka, which is a kind of casserole. This is definitely a soup, made with tomatoes, bell peppers, sausage, ham, and pickled gherkins. There's a pretty good English-language recipe here. "Jagdwurst" is a non-spicy salami with chunks of meat in it - pick anything on that style.