Taverns, beer and traditional delicacies

Bavarian cuisine in Munich

Fancy trying some Bavarian cuisine? Then Munich is the place to be! Bavaria's capital city is even home to the world’s most famous public house.

If you’re in the mood for Bavarian food whilst in Munich, then try to seek out a "Wirtshaus" (a traditional tavern or inn). They tend to serve up plenty of typical "Schmankerl", which is the Bavarian word for delicacy. However, a trip to a Wirtshaus does not mean you have to order something to eat to avoid getting disapproving looks from the waiter. Locals often meet up in a Wirtshaus for a swift half after work or a quick game of cards.

But let’s get down to the crux of the matter: Bavarian cuisine: Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), Weisswurst sausages and, of course, dumplings, dumplings and more dumplings. To top it off you need a litre of beer and a good serving of Bavarian hospitality. Regardless of whether you’re from Kassel or Kuala Lumpur, Potsdam or Portland, this is what most people who didn’t grow up in the Free State of Bavaria think of when they imagine Bavarian cuisine.

And when the crackling is crisp, the meat tender and the sauce perfectly seasoned, then Schweinebraten is a real treat that will stick with you long after your trip to Munich has ended.

And we have to admit, you’re not far off. Schweinebraten, often served with dark beer sauce, potato dumplings and cabbage salad is a stalwart on the menus in practically every Munich Wirtshaus. And when the crackling is crisp, the meat tender and the sauce perfectly seasoned, then Schweinebraten is a real treat that will stick with you long after your trip to Munich has ended. And it may well stick to your waistline, too, as Wirtshaus cuisine doesn’t tend to scrimp on calories.

When it comes to perceptions of Bavarian hospitality, the cliché hits the nail on the head, too: Dark wooden tables, corner seats, old vaults and rustic tablecloths create a cosy atmosphere in the city’s taverns. No need to be shy! In a typical Munich Wirtshaus, you’ll often find yourself sharing a table with strangers. Despite their huge rooms, things can get a little tight at a Wirtshaus. If you aren’t seated by a waiter, feel free to ask parties if you can take any free spaces.

Beer of course plays an important role, or even the most important role for many people. This is evident from the fact that many taverns are owned by a major Bavarian brewery or are at least affiliated to one through a lease agreement. As a result, you can normally tell which brand of beer is served from the name of the Wirtshaus.

For example, the Augustiner brewery is represented by Augustiner am Dom, Augustiner am Platzl and Augustiner Klosterwirt in the old town. The brewery’s main location Zum Augustiner at Neuhauserstrasse 27 in the pedestrian zone was home to the brewery itself until 1885. Nowadays, visitors to the establishment can experience an authentic city tavern in the carefully maintained art nouveau building. At Alte Hackerhaus on Sendlinger Strasse and Der Pschorr on Viktualienmarkt, you’ll enjoy Hacker-Pschorr beer straight from the tap. By the way, The Pschorr is particularly proud to serve meat from the Murnau-Werdenfels cattle breed – one of the most original and oldest breeds in Bavaria.

These taverns often have their own beer gardens, where you can sit outside in the shade of a chestnut tree when the weather is good.

Next up, we have Paulaner, another world-famous Munich brewery and the operator of Paulaner im Tal in the city centre. Paulaner beer is brewed even locally in the Paulaner am Nockherberg, where everything revolves around the art of brewing and two imposing copper kettles can be found in the completely renovated restaurant. The Spaten brewery gave its name to Spatenhaus an der Oper on Max-Joseph-Platz, where opera enthusiasts can enjoy a quick snack either before or after the performance.

And then of course we have the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, the world’s most famous Wirtshaus. For many years, the building in the city centre housed the Hofbräu brewery itself. The brewery has been based at its current location since the year 1607 and is now the epitome of Munich beer culture for visitors and Munich residents alike.

The heart of the traditional three-storey establishment is the Schwemme, the large beer hall on the ground floor. Where brewing equipment once stood over 100 years ago, around 1,000 people can now drink beer and enjoy Bavarian dishes. While the Hofbräuhaus is one of the top ten attractions for many visitors to Bavaria’s capital city, it wouldn’t be right to see this Wirtshaus exclusively as a hotspot for tourists. Quite the opposite: Half of the daily visitors are regulars, who still appreciate Bavarian traditions to this day.

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These taverns often have their own beer gardens, where you can sit outside in the shade of a chestnut tree when the weather is good. For example, you’ll find beer gardens at Löwenbräukeller on Stiglmaierplatz, Augustiner-Keller on Arnulfstrasse, not far from the main station, or Hofbräukeller on Wiener Platz in the Haidhausen district. In Munich, there’s a tradition that allows guests to bring their own food to beer gardens, in other words, you bring along anything you fancy eating with your beer. You collect your drinks yourself from the large self-service bars. If you haven’t got anything with you, you can opt for a beer garden speciality, such as Obatzda (a cheese dish with Camembert and onions), pretzel, grilled chicken or meatloaf with potato salad.

On any trip to Munich, you’re sure to be tempted to sample a Weisswurst (a special veal sausage) sooner or later. You’ll find this dish on the menu at most Bavarian taverns. This iconic local dish is traditionally eaten with sweet mustard, a pretzel and a wheat beer. But watch out! Self-appointed Weisswurst experts will gladly point out that a Weisswurst should not be around to hear the clock strike twelve. In other words these sausages should be eaten solely as a late breakfast.

While many locals still uphold this tradition and only ever eat Weisswurst in the morning, it hasn’t been a mandatory requirement for a long time. The tradition stems from the period when it was more difficult to keep food cool. For hygiene reasons, sausages made from veal had to be eaten relatively quickly after being made. When it comes to the precise method and the spices used, every butcher in Munich has their own recipe – many of which are carefully guarded. The Hofbräuhaus even makes its own Weisswurst in its in-house butchers: Production starts every morning at 4 a.m.

Similar to the 12 o-clock rule, Munich residents tend to make an equal amount of fuss when it comes to the right way to eat the dish: Do you take hold of the Weisswurst in your hand and “zuzelt”, in other words suck the meat out of the skin (quite an off-putting sight in this day and age) or  do you go for the more demure approach with a knife and fork? This is where opinion is divided. There’s no right or wrong answer. The only important thing is that the sausages are still piping hot when they get to the table, which is why they are often served floating in a terrine of hot water.

Do you take hold of the Weisswurst in your hand and “zuzelt”, in other words suck the meat out of the skin (quite an off-putting sight in this day and age) or do you go for the more demure approach with a knife and fork? This is where opinion is divided.

Naturally, Munich’s taverns have lot more to offer than just Weisswurst and Schweinebraten when it comes to culinary delights. Schneider Bräuhaus on Tal, for instance, features dishes of a more unique nature on its menu. The kitchen has a flair for tradition, setting itself the goal of making sure that traditional “Kronfleisch” cuisine is not forgotten in Munich. Kronfleisch is a skirt steak cut from beef, veal and pork. In Bavaria, it is classed as a form of offal and is served with chives and horseradish. Schneider Bräuhaus’s selection of Kronfleisch dishes also includes liver, kidneys, chitterlings and lung (lights).

Schneider Bräuhaus is also something of a haven for fans of wheat beer, a fact which can be traced back to the building’s history: Many visitors and locals may remember the Wirtshaus by its earlier name “Weißes Bräuhaus” (White Brewery). However, the rustic pub was recently officially renamed after the Weißbierbrauerei Schneider (Schneider wheat beer brewery), which has been serving beer there since 1872.

After the Munich Hofbräuhaus originally stopped producing wheat beer due to falling demand and a lack of space, Hofbräuhaus’s master brewer at the time, Georg Schneider, opened a wheat beer only brewery on the neighbouring Maderbräustrasse, naming it the Weiße Brauhaus. The experienced master brewer firmly believed the old top-fermented method had a future – and it turns out he was right: Schneider Bräuhaus currently serves no fewer than nine wheat beer specialities – from alcohol-free to a festival beer.

Donisl, located directly on Marienplatz square, is another Wirtshaus bringing an almost-forgotten Munich speciality back to life. The menu here features meals from Munich’s Siede-style cuisine, which is celebrating a comeback here in Donisl. Siedefleisch dishes are made using boiled cuts of beef from the Chiemgau region of Upper Bavaria. They are usually served in pots on the table, enabling guests to help themselves. It’s almost like being at home. It seems only right that Donisl is looking after traditional cooking methods; after all, this tavern first opened its doors in the centre of Munich over 300 years ago. Originally known as the “Bierwirtschaft am Markt” (The Tavern at the Market), it was given the name Donisl in 1760 in honour of the lessee at the time, Dionysius Haertl.

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Vegetarians are not the focus of the traditional Bavarian cuisine offered in taverns nowadays. However, this does not necessarily mean that you won’t find delicious meat-free dishes on the menus of Munich’s traditional eateries. Classic dishes that you will often find listed under the “Vegetarian” options include “Semmelknödel mit Rahmschwammerl" (dumplings with creamy mushrooms) and "Kässpatzn” (cheese noodles), which are a true delight if prepared properly.

Lots of chefs also have plenty of tasty meat-free salad dishes up their sleeves. If you have a sweet tooth, then you don’t need to worry anyway: Typical Alpine desserts including Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake), apple cake, Germknödel (a yeast-based sweet dumpling) and Dampfnudel (another type of sweet dumpling) are seen as full meals in Munich – certainly when served in larger portions.

 

 

Text: Eveline Heinrich-Kaindl; Photos: Frank Stolle