Food in Austria/Germany

Hi, Just wondering....how is the food in Germany and Austria? My husband, and friend's husband, are very picky, and we are going in September. Can you give me an idea of what the food will be like in Innsbruck, Munich, and other small towns in those areas ? I'd love to reassure them that they won't go hungry. What are the specialties we shouldn't miss? They aren't crazy about "sausages." The ladies, on the other hand, love them ! I'd love to hear about great restaurants, particularly a place for lunch in Salzburg and places in Innsbruck, which will be our home base for touring. Thanks so much ! Sue

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Most "picky" American eaters tend to like meat and potates, which is what most of German cusiene is. Then again, my MIL is one of those, and she still didn't like most of the food in Germany. (For picky eaters, it's more about perceived "weirdness" or "foreignness" than how the food actually tastes, I think) Italian is your best bet if they don't like German food. There's a lot of Italians in Germany, and you can find decent Italian food in all price ranges. I would avoid "American" type food in Germany (aside from fast food chains) because even at places that are otherwise decent, the Germans don't seem to know how to make a decent burger. It's very sad.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

"The ladies, on the other hand, love them!" Ahem... Anyway....sausages are treated more as a snack than as a meal in Germany. You don't usually find them as the main focus of, say, dinner. Of course, there are plenty of regional variations, but if I had to sum up German food in two words, I would say "pork and potatoes". The pork might come as a loin ("braten"), as ham, as a smoked knuckle ("Schweinhaxe"), or as Schnitzel with one of many different toppings. Steaks are commonly served too, but usually smaller and more tender than in the US. Potatoes are usually served pan-roasted ("Bratkartoffeln") with bits of bacon and onions, or as fries ("Pommes", pronounced like "pummace"). Dumplings, either made of bread, potato flour or mixed with liver are common as well. You may also see Swabian noodles ("Spätzle") frequently. Meals are usually served with a small salad. I want to scream everytime I here someone say "I don't like Sauerkraut, so I can't eat German food." That's like saying "I don't like ketchup, so I can't eat American food." Sauerkraut is certainly available if you want it, but it's easily avoidable. In Innsbruck, I would expect to see a lot of beef on the menu.

Posted by Russ
Paradise
1759 posts

Germans don't eat German food exclusively. You'll have no trouble at all finding Italian, Thai, Greek and seafood restaurants. No one will starve. Still, traditional dishes are popular. Sauerbraten (normally beef) is wonderful with Rotkohl (red cabbage) and Klöße (dumplings.)

Posted by Thomas
Vienna, Austria
502 posts

Schnitzel is a dish everyone will eat, especially if it is chicken or turkey schnitzel. Essentially "similar" to a giant chicken McNugget. Don't mock... It saved my life when I moved here with 2 toddlers and that was all they would eat! I agree with everything else that's been said. I would only add that sauerkraut over here is not like the generally horrible stuff served in the States. Sauerkraut can be quite good, dare I say it: almost sweet. But the menues are definitely heavy with pork and potatoes. Try the potato pancakes (called "kartoffelpuffer" in Austria) with applesauce. Really good. Also in the summer, fruit filled dumplings are excellent. I love apricot dumplings and plum dumplings. You can also try Kaese Spaetzle which is "a bit" like macaroni and cheese. When we arrived, I was suprised to learn that in Austria fried chicken and spare ribs are considered to be local specialties. Quite good. Soups can also be excellent. Especially if it is something seasonal. And, as was already said, for many Germans and Austrians, their favorite food is Thai or Italian or Chinese or Indian. In any town of a decent size you will have options. Dining out is an endless surpise for me... no matter how well I think I know my way around a German menu, I am still often surprised by what actually arrives (really? that's how you prepare it?).

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

What do these "picky eaters" like to eat? If meat and potatoes, they will be in hog heaven. German food is very tasty. I have just been reading through some Munich menus, looking for a place that serves a particular dish, and my mouth is watering for all that great food.

Posted by Teresa
Seattle
464 posts

Some of the best pizza I've ever had was in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Also, I could quite happily live on the delicious breads and pretzels.

Posted by Martin
Germany
208 posts

>"Some of the best pizza I've ever had was in Germany, Austria and Switzerland." Also try the Gelato. 2/3 of the Gelatiere come from Val di Zoldo and Val di Cadore in Italy. Since the late 19th century they come to Germany in spring to sell their ice cream, and at the end of the season they go back to Italy to spend the winter there.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

As long as they like breaded pork chops and french fries, they'll be okay. The Wienerschnitzel and Schweinschnitzel is almost like Texas' chicken fried steak. And the pomme frites are great. They also serve some great pork roast and other items. I'm not a sauerkraut fan in the U.S., but it's actually good in Germany. I too shy away from some of the sausages, but some are also great. And all the popular U.S. franchise restaurants are easily found in Innsbruck, Salzburg and Innsbruck. I just hope the guys are into beer. They'll think they've died and gone to heaven in both Munich and Salzburg. Even the local breweries in small towns like Innsbruck serve better beer than most any thing we have in The States.
One of my favorite restaurants is the Innrain Cafe in Innsbruck, where we usually eat half our meals when in town. It's in the middle of the street across from the University. I've been eating there and drinking in their beer garden since 1970.

Posted by George
Philadelphia
653 posts

I was waiting for someone to mention beer. Don't pass it up. Some German wine is also very good and also reasonable by American standards.

Posted by D.D.
England
375 posts

I lived in Germany for years and I always enjoyed the salads in the summertime. They don't seem to cook a lot of vegetables, but they really have nice fresh salads.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2695 posts

Hi, A good point on the beer, esp Berlin beer. If you're interested in Berliner Brauereien, two come to mind right away....Schultheiss and Berliner Kindle. Go to Potsdam and it has its own brew too.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Hunger seemed to rapidly temper our children and their preferred (picky) diets with no fatalities.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
672 posts

Two things the guys should start getting used to are the preference for freshly-prepared-to-order food, even a modest lunch, and the idea that a meal is something to linger on and enjoy, not get through and get on with the day. Aside from the cultural lesson, those are actually very positive things. But if they want everything just like home, they'll be restive and angry. These two countries have been around a lot longer than the U.S. Not only do they manufacture better quality goods, they cook and eat better food. (Oops, The Netherlands is the exception that proves this rule, maybe ... )

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

What exactly do picky grown men like to eat? I find questions like this impossible .. as pointed out they can eat Chinese or Thai if they want, so what is it exactly that these grown men want to eat?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Susan, I've found the food in Austria and Germany to be excellent. As the others have mentioned, you'll find a wide variety of foods there besides the traditional German favourites. It would help to have some idea of what type(s) of food the "picky" diners tend to prefer? One of my favourite restaurants in Munich is Opatija. They have a good selektion on the menu, including Pizza, Pasta and grilled items. I make it a point to stop there at least once every time I'm in Munich. I find that one of the most interesting things about travel, is experiencing some of the local foods. Hopefully the "picky" eaters will decide to be a bit adventurous. If not and they prefer to dine as they do at home, you'll be able to find a McDonald's in the places you're visiting. Happy travels!

Posted by Thomas
Vienna, Austria
502 posts

Don't forget kebabs, which have become as intrinsic to German cuisine as Curries are to British cuisine. For €3, a kebab from a street vendor is a tastey complete meal.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

I would warn against Chinese food in Germany, or at least set your expectations very low. I've given up trying Chinese food in Germany, because I've found that adjusted to German taste preferences, it is almost uniformally bland. There's probably exceptions in some of the larger cities... but for the picky eaters, just use Schnitzel as your back-up.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

For schnitzel, the rule is that if it says "Wiener Schnitzel" it is veal. If it says "Wiener Schnitzel style" or "ala Wiener Schnitzel", it is probably pork unless they list it as being chicken. Off the top of my head, I only know 1 or 2 places in Frankfurt that even offer chicken or turkey schnitzel. It isn't that common up north here, though perhaps it is down south in the Munich area. If you see schnitzel natur, that means it doesn't have breading on it. Schnitzels are made by pounding a pork or veal cutlet flat, flour it, dip it in a egg wash, then in seasoned bread crumbs. Ideally, it would be fried quickly in butter, but often it is just done in a butter flavored shortening or just tossed in a fryer. You can get schnitzel with all kinds of sauces, like mushroooms in a brown gravy called Jaeger schnitzel, green peppercorns in a light gravy, a tomato & spicier pepper sauce called Ziguener schnitzel, or just cheese. Goulasch is common, sauerbraten less so. Roasted chicken, fish dishes, pork medalions or veal strips in various sauces, mushroom dishes, vegetable au gratins, salads, lentil soups, pea soups, potato soups, as well as a wide variety of sausages, both pork and beef, or cuts of pork like a schweine haxe, pork chops or slow cooked pork roast.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

Sauerkraut isn't unheard of but it's not a common dish like many think. Sometimes I wonder about the term "sausages" from tourists too. Germans have many different kinds of food I'd probably generally label sausages - some is considered a quick snack and some is considered fine dining. Kartofel is potato. If I order German potato salad, Kartofelsalad, I'm expecting something with a strong vinegar taste. It's good, but maybe a surprise to someone expecting American style potato salad. Hopefully, they'll like Kabobs - very common. Another easy choice is to stop in any grocery store. All of them have a "deli" counter in the back where you can get fresh sliced meats and cheeses. Nearby there will be a place to buy individual rolls for sandwiches. 100 grams of a meat and a cheese are more than enough for two people to stuff themselves.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Tom is right. The only decent Chinese I've found in Germany is in Berlin. In general, asian food tends to be disappointing here. Most asian restaurants are "Thai-Chinese-Vietnamese-Japanese" meaning they do none of the cuisines well. Sushi is expensive and substandard. Ditto for Mexican food. Their "salsas" are sweet, it's disgusting, and don't even get me started on their idea of "nachos". Americans have better access to good Asian and Mexican food in general. That's why I recommend Italian if you don't like German or Austrian food, it's one of the few cuisines that doesn't get screwed up. Except pizza, I don't like the pizza here at all. (For that matter, Berlin beer is probably the least good beer in Germany if you ask me. The only good thing about it is the price). Austrian wines are fantastic and underrated. German white wines can be very good in general, particularly those from the Rhine and Mosel regions.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
711 posts

Let's just say...my husband is a picky eater (no salads, practically no veggies...loves Italian food - pizza/pasta)...and he hasn't gone hungry yet when visiting Europe. Italian food seemed easy to find in Munich and Salzburg (even if it was just a pizza slice at the train station - it kept him happy). And we went into restaurants with 'pictures' of the food on the menu - most often posted at the doorway or out front, and had some great chicken and potato meals...

Posted by SUSAN
DALTON, MA, USA
64 posts

Thanks to all for all your great responses. Both guys love italian, pizza, asian, along with meat and potatoes. Pork/chicken will be fine, but I'd also love them to try the regional cuisines....hopefully they will. I can't wait to try the chicken schnitzel....and I always thought it was made with veal. Learned something new. The ladies love sauerkraut and sausages, and that's what we are picturing...especially when we are in the beer halls/gardens. I'm not a beer drinker, but I do intend to try ! Thanks again ! Sue

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2695 posts

Susan, The Schnitzel in Germany is good, in Austria it's even better. Given a choice I prefer the way it is prepared in Austria, regardless in which city, Linz, Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, etc. There is even a fast food Austrian Schnitzel chain located all over in Vienna and the rest of Austria as well comparable to a KFC in Schnitzel. On the Chinese/Asian food I will agree that in general it is tailored to German tastes, which they call "eingedeutscht." I don't find that a problem but it's up to you. It doesn't look like you're going to Berlin, where in Charlottenburg a certain well frequented Chinese restaurant includes both an eingedeutschte section and a more authentic Chinese section in the menu. Bottom line, the food is good in Germany, be it Chinese or Schnitzel.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

PS- Schnitzel in Germany is usually pork...

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

Too bad... in September I think you will miss the wonderful white asparagus:)
But, you can probably get a bowl of my very favorite goulash suppe...along with a great German bread and maybe a salad or dessert makes a nice lunch...although I love it so much I usually have it for dinner too. Also have had some of the best spatzel there. I dislike sauerkraut and of all my times in Germany really hardly every remember seeing it, let alone smelling it like you do at those awful Germany restaurants in the US. I love sausage but am a little afraid of it in Germany, so I often steer clear of it. I have had chicken schnitzel and frites many times.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

The veal schnitzel is the best. It might seem kind of sad, but you really should try it once, in Austria. It's so much better than the pork. The breading/frying technique for proper "Wienerschntizel" (remember, "Wein" is "Vienna" in German!) is much better there. Not that schnitzel isn't tasty in Germany. Sounds like your husband and your friend's husband will do fine. You CAN find sausage - aka wurst - on the menu, particularly in Southern Germany. Nuremberger bratwurst, anyone? Yeah, it's more of a snack/lunch/festival food, but many restaurants, particularly in tourist areas, will have wurst of some kind on the menu in Southern Germany at least. There's a place that specializes in Nuremberger rostbratwurst in Munich right next to the Andescher Am Dom restaurant - on the side of the Marienkirche. I don't remember the name now, but it's good. The next restaurant over is considerably less good. One is always packed, the other isn't. Let that be your guide. Spatzele - egg noodles - is Swabian and not native to Bavaria, but they still serve it, and it's a good side or baked with cheese (kaesespatzle) as a main. Don't understand why a few commenters are acting as if German food is inherently fresher than in the U.S. - one of the reasons many German restaurants serve food fast is that it's processed frozen food reheated, or pre-made in some form. The produce is no more magical than you would find at a good farmers market in the U.S. German food is fun for visitors, but most places in the U.S. have more variety and high quality ingredients in stores or at good restaurants are not hard to find. Do try the sauerkraut, though, it's way better than the canned stuff many people grew up with in the U.S.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

All this talk of good food has brought out my inner Oma. Last night for dinner I made Schnitzel to go with our asparagus--- a delicious Spargelzeit combo.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2695 posts

Susan, If you want Schnitzel made from veal, the words "vom Kalb" are shown. The chicken Schnitzel is very good, a different texture from turkey (Putenschnitzel) veal or pork (vom Schwein). I agree with the comments above on the good quality of sauerkraut. A good traditional regional dish in the Berlin area is "Eisbein Berliner Art (with sauerkraut). If you're in Munich and want a combination of sausages and sauerkraut, go to a French reataurant. It may have "choucroute," a very tasty dish.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
248 posts

Having toured several different areas of Germany (Nordrehein-Westfalen, Mecklenburg and Sachsen) I have to say that German food is as diverse as cosmopolitan American food. Part of foreign travel is food adventures. It is a shame that "picky" eaters will miss out on the foreign travel experience. I should point out that Rick Steve's French-German-Italian phrase book's section on food & menus was not a lot of help in northern Germany where menu names didn't seem to match Rick's menu names. This was a bit of a problem in the more rural parts of Mecklenburg and the mountains of Sachsen where English menus and speakers are not common. That situation just make for a greater adventure. And for your "picky" eaters, when the food is served, just remind them about all those starving Americans who would be happy to have such a meal.

Posted by Martin
Shoreline, WA
213 posts

I am forever amused by American tourists' worries and comments about German cuisine. If you remember that many family recipes wandered with the immigrants to the American continent - and only then became 'localized' due to the absence of certain ingredients and a frame of reference - then you won't get too 'picky'. You will find a whole new world of fresh salads, sides, and main dishes that resemble nothing like what you may have ingested in some place at home. In Austria, the Hungarian kitchen (Gulasch) and the Bohemian cuisine (Knedliky) rule alongside the traditional German cooking. Dumplings of a huge variety are offered as sides or main dishes all over Germany and Austria. The soup selection is much greater than what you may experience at home. And don't get me started about bakeries and fine pastries! There is still some serious catching-up to do in American restaurants.
As for sausages - try at least some of these, whether at an Imbiß for a snack or at a proper restaurant with all the trimmings.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

...They have a good selektion on the menu Ha! Good one, Ken. Very clever. (This forum software treats the above italicized word when spelled with a 'c' as though it were a command and deletes it whenever it's used. Ken thought of a clever workaround. Well done!)

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

That is how it is spelled in Germany and Austria though, so it fits.

Posted by Susan
Columbus, USA
68 posts

My all time fav German side dish are spätzle. Pretty much ate them for every meal we were there. There are like a egg noodle, thicker though. With a nice gravy or bread crumbs....mmmmmm.

Posted by Jan
Bremen, IN, USA
35 posts

We enjoy trying local foods when traveling, just for the adventure of it, and we have come up with a few surprises along the way that still have us laughing years later. It's all about the attitude of adventure. I will tell you, though, that if your gentlemen don't like bologna, they should not order German meatloaf. On one trip with our daughter's boyfriend, his mouth watered at the thought of meatloaf. As we waited for our meal, he told us that he eats just about anything, but cannot stomach bologna. When the waitress placed two one-inch slabs of bread-shaped bologna in front of him, there was a collective silence at the table. Then we burst out laughing and I traded him my pork knuckle for his "meatloaf" and all was right with the world. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

Jan, that sounds like "fleichkäse", or "leberkäse" (depending on where you were) which is often advertised as "meat loaf" on German menus. Oddly enough, this doesn't have cheese nor liver in it, even though the name makes it sound like it does. It actually does not taste anything like bologna. Too bad the young man didn't try a taste, to see for himself.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

If you can mentally ignore that the textures are completely different, I think Leberkäse actually tastes quite like bacon, or at least, European bacon (usually saltier than in the US). Jan, too bad he didn't try it. It's quite delicious, if in a completely unhealthy for you kind of way.