When you of think of the words “food” and “Munich” in the same sentence, several world-famous Bavarian specialties probably come to mind: sausages, beer, bread, strudel, pork knuckle. Bavarian specialties are highly popular dishes, and people eat out at traditional “Wirtshaus” restaurants and get their Schnitzel and Dampfnudeln fill in beer gardens. However, Munich is one of the most diverse cities in all of Germany, and its culinary scene reflects that. The popularity and availability of cuisines from countries such as Turkey, Italy, Croatia, Japan and Argentina goes to show how native-born Münchner Kindls, tourists, and immigrants all enjoy eating foods from both their home country and from other lands. Restaurants, bars and guesthouses range from cozy and dive-y to extremely upscale, Michelin-starred establishments. Visitors have their pick from a vast range of cuisines; try lingering over a newspaper and piece of excellent pastry in a Konditorei, or sampling an IPA at one of the city’s multiple new microbreweries. Munich is a beautiful city with many parks and a gorgeous river to meander by, so don’t forget to eat some of your meals al fresco, weather permitting!
How to eat like a local in Munich
Switzerland might be more famous on the chocolate front, but Germany ranks high as a country that takes its chocolate seriously. On average, Germans eat over 10 kilograms of chocolate a year (per person!), and who can blame them when the selection is so scrumptious? From supermarket counter classics like Ritter Sport and Kinder chocolate eggs to more sophisticated gourmet truffles and chocolate spreads, Munich has something for every chocoholic.
Where to get it: Cafe Josefina
What could be more traditional than a beer and pretzel at a Munich beer garden? Many traditional legends pinpoint the origin of the famed baked good right here in southern Germany, and it’s the perfect complement to a yeasty local brew (the three main styles of beer in Munich are a Helles lager, Dunkelbier dark beer, and a Weizenbier wheat beer). Munich features six major breweries (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Spaten and Paulaner) and numerous microbreweries. Pretzels are easily found in all the cities’ bakeries and a Bavarian pretzel is an unbeatable experience of salty, doughy glory.
Where to get it: Biergarten Viktualienmarkt
Taking its name from the Kaiser Franz Joseph I (who apparently was quite the fan of this dessert), Kaiserschmarrn is essentially a shredded pancake sprinkled with powdered sugar and traditionally served with fruit preserves, usually applesauce. One of the Kaiserschmarrn tales features the Kaiser going hunting in a resort area. The dish they would have normally served, the “Holzfallerschmarrn,” was not ritzy enough for the emperor, so they added milk, raisins and eggs to make it more refined as befits royalty. To sum it all up: it's fluffy and divine.
Where to get it: Fiedler & Fuchs
Döner kebabs were allegedly invented in Germany by Turkish immigrants and have taken the street food world by storm in the last several decades. Their popularity endures in Germany, and a true Munich local can usually be found enjoying this filling dish on a regular basis—whether a quick stop for lunch or in the early morning hours after a night out with friends. So, what is a döner, anyways? It’s a combination of spit-roasted meat with various vegetables (typically onions, a salad mix and tomatoes) covered in a yogurt-based sauce with an optional spicy sauce, all wrapped in pita bread.
Where to get it: Kebab Haus
The combination of roast duck, dumplings and cabbage is a beloved classic in many central European countries for good reason—it features savory and sweet flavors, it’s filling and comforting, and you’ve got a protein, carb and vegetable all provided in a delicious combination often eaten during wintertime. The Bavarian version usually utilizes a potato Knödel or Kloß (dumpling) or sometimes a Semmelknödel (wheat dumpling) and the accompanying cabbage is generally cooked with apples and onion, with an occasional addition of lard and red wine.
Where to get it: Wirtshaus in der Au
Munich has a large Indian and Pakistani population, but they aren’t the only ones eating southeast Asian food; many of Munich’s denizens have a passion for food from this part of the world. Dal paneer is a well-liked dish containing lentils cooked in ghee, tomato and fresh pieces of cheese. Its spiciness level can be adjusted to taste, and it goes along splendidly with one of Munich’s many beer options—or a refreshing mango lassi yogurt drink.
Where to get it: Indisches Fastfood
Weisswurst, or literally “white sausage,” is about as classically Bavarian as you can get, and Munich residents are quite fond of this local delicacy. Weisswurst is a veal and pork sausage with a white appearance—hence the name—served along with a sweet mustard and, typically, a pretzel and/or a glass of wheat beer. (There is even an available Weisswurst sausage that Jews and Muslims can eat, made just from veal.) People are often divided on the best way to eat a Weisswurst; is it better to suck the meat out or to cut the meat out? You can decide for yourself—just don’t make the faux pas of slicing it like a normal sausage. Another local tip: Make sure to have your Weisswurst before noon! This is because in the days before refrigeration, the sausages were freshly prepared and would go bad if left around in the afternoon. To this day, it’s considered proper in Munich to have Weisswurst only before the noonday bell tolls.
Where to get it: Gaststatte Grossmarkt
In recent years, Munich and its surrounding areas have experienced an increase in refugees and immigrants from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Afghanistan. Many Bavarians remain relatively unfamiliar with the fantastic cuisines of these countries, but as Munich is a highly international city with a (rising) number of foodies who are interested in trying a broader range of dishes, the number of international restaurants has proliferated in the city. Afghani food is relatively uncommon, but the restaurants featuring this cuisine have become highly regarded. Narendji palau is made by baking meat (usually lamb) along with saffron rice delicately flavored with orange peel, pistachios and almonds, and is a favorite across the city.
Where to get it: Bamyan Narges
A trip to Munich would be sadly bereft without a proper German afternoon ritual that should, frankly, be practiced worldwide: Kaffee und Kuchen; i.e. coffee and cake. The English might have their afternoon tea and scones, but Munich locals love a strong cup of joe accompanied by the perfect piece of confectionery, and it must be said that Munich is a stronghold of fabulous cakes. Zwetschgendatschi is a Bavarian specialty that unfortunately is seasonal (summer), as it features a type of ripe regional plum baked on a yeast dough crust and sprinkled with streusel, otherwise known as a sweet crumble topping. It’s traditionally served with fresh whipped cream.
Where to get it: Cafe im Hinterhof
During the immediate post-war years, Munich experience an influx of guest workers from Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece, and many of these workers ended up staying. One of the results was that Munich locals developed a passion for their cuisines, and to this day, Greek tavernas are a staple of Munich city life. Greek food is well known for its deft handling of seafood, and calamari, octopus and shrimp are frequently found on taverna menus. The flavors are often kept simple, fresh and tasty, utilizing olive oil, vinegar, and herbs. A celebratory shot of ouzo caps off a meal... or maybe it’s just the start of round two!
Where to get it: Opson