Sunday, March 4, 2012

Twenty Things About Eating Out in Germany

1.  As you walk in, the waiter or waitress will bring you the menu, and immediately ask as they drop it off....what might you want to drink?  So, you might want to have something in your mind as you sit down.  And no, it's not impolite to just stall the waiter until you've reviewed the menu.  If there is anything of a spicy nature on your plate, you can probably expect to order a second drink.  In this case, I'd recommend a soda or water.  Don't get yourself talked into two or three beers, if you are driving.

2.  Prices are all figured already, if there are taxes, so if you add the drink and meal together, you pretty much have the true cost of the meal.  The tip?  Well....ten percent is about the average.  If this was a table with six to eight might go up to fifteen percent. If service was lousy, don't tip.

3.  Using credit cards.  The best advice I can use cash.  If this is a big fancy place, they probably can handle credit cards.  The small restaurants in villages....usually don't have the ability to handle credit cards.

4.  Forget about buffet deals.  Some places might offer a breakfast buffet, but don't get high expectations.  A breakfast buffet will consist of thin slices of ham or salami, some hard boiled eggs, various pieces of bread, with jelly or honey.  Germans don't offer hearty breakfast deals....just accept that.

5.  The simple lunch?  Generally, if you were going to eat light at lunch...I'd suggest a salad of some type and maybe a soup (goulash for example).  Most restaurants offer a cold plate for lunch....usually less than five Euro.  If you don't mind a greasy bratwurst....that'd usually work well for a quick lunch.

6.  Ethnic meals?  Mexican restaurants in Germany exist....but I would strongly caution you from having high expectations.  Usually, it's Pakistani guys cooking the Mexican food, with some unusual spices that might not be Mexican.  Thai or Asian?'d typically find some Chinese folks running the operation and a decent meal.  If it's an Italian place.....they will likely have an Italian cook, and present a pretty good meal.

7.  Hamburgers?  If you find a German restaurant that offers burgers....don't have high expectations.  It just won't taste the same as you might have had in the US.  I'd stick with German traditional dishes, when in Germany.

8.  Serving food cold.  I've rarely come across this in my twenty-odd years, but it happens.  My advice is to sample it, wave for the waitress, and refuse the meal.  Typically, this happens when you are in a fair-sized group and the waitress was waiting to have everything cooked before bringing it out to the customers.

9.  The sad truth is that you might find a small eight-table restaurant in the middle of nowhere, which serves the best food you've ever eaten.  You discover some sixty-year old grandmother who cooks in the back and uses fresh herbs and home-made sauces.  You might walk into a big mid-town restaurant in Frankfurt, with a fancy menu, and find the food marginal.  You just can't tell with things like this.  Ask friends, neighbors, and associates to recommend places.

10.  Germans do offer desert at the end of meals....but it's traditionally ice cream treats.  You could be talking about another couple of bucks (it won't be cheap).  If you add in the calories for the ice've probably had enough calories for two entire meals.  As the waiter clears the table from your big meal....they will always pull out the ice cream menu, and dazzle you with big colorful pictures of fancy plates of ice cream, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries.  It'll be hard to turn it down.

11.  Ordered a meal involving ketchup?  Most places bring out a large packet and lay it on the table....not a bottle.  And they will charge you for the packet.

12.  That machine on the wall of the pub that makes the noise?  A German-style slot machine.  Don't get any funny ideas about it paying off if you play.  It's a magnet in small bars for guys walking around with extra pocket money, who are working on their third beer.

13.  The dog sitting by the lady at the table next to you?  Well.....yeah....dogs are traditionally allowed in German restaurants.  I realize it might bother you and Tippy might have fleas, but it's a German thing.  Big-name restaurants don't like dogs sitting at the tables.  But it's absolutely acceptable at all small operations in the country.

14.  Don't expect a heated bathroom in a small German restaurant.  Most have heat, but you can always walk into a small place....need a restroom, and then find yourself in a pretty chilly environment.

15.  If you take three friends into a small's expected that all four of you eat something.  If one of them just says they want a bottle of water (no food), the restaurant could ask the person to leave.  If this is a pub, no worries....drinking of any type (even a Coke) will be totally acceptable.

16.  Your soda choice.  There are some places that you might walk in, and find that there are no name-brand sodas on the menu.  They offer up a no-name Coke-like drink.....which likely doesn't taste like Coke, but it looks like it.  My advice....find an alternate drink, or just ask for bottled water.  Afri-Cola?'s a Coke-like pretender, which might spark your interest.  You might find one establishment out of twenty that serves the drink....which most would be a pub-like operation.

17.  Eating outside.  It's a big deal to have a restaurant in your village, which offers tables and chairs out in a garden, with tree cover.  It's relaxing and very desirable.  A word of caution, out of every ten outdoor events you might least one will feature bees or wasps.

18.  The shot at the end of the meal.  A number of restaurants now offer up a shot of some liquor at the end of a meal.  German tradition is that this will help you digest the meal.  There might be an argument about this health aspect, and it certainly won't be found at a majority of the places you eat.   The alcohol content of your shot?  In most cases, I'd strongly doubt that it crosses the 'strong-drink' line.  We are talking about a low-alcohol shot.

19.  Pizza in Germany is done differently than in American establishments.  It's a thin crust 'pie'.  Most of the pizza sizes are the type that easily fit for one person, so don't be thinking of an extra-large.  As for the spicy nature of might want to be careful about what type of pepperoni  or salami you select.  If you don't like hot spicy pizza....make sure you discuss things with the waitress when you order.

20.  Finally, out on the front door area of the German restaurant is a menu within a glass case.  It's there for a reason.  It will have the entire menu, with the prices.  The sad truth is that you might find a terrific place for food.....which charges a terrific price as well.  Most Germans don't expect to pay more than ten Euro for the majority of meals they eat.  Just edging the price up to twelve Euro for some dish, will upset a few folks, and they won't walk into the establishment.  It may sound funny, but Germans are always out to save a few bucks....even if they don't want to admit it.

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