Going Out to a Restaurant in Germany

Eating out is quite popular in Germany, and you will find that there is no big difference between going out to a restaurant in Germany and the U.S. In many German restaurants, you don't have to wait to be seated — although the waiter or waitress usually takes you to your table in more upscale places. Doggie bags are not common practice, but an increasing number of restaurants (except the very fancy ones) let you take home leftovers.

Arriving and being seated

After you arrive at a restaurant, you want to take your seat, Platz nehmen (plâts neh-mn), and get your Speisekarte (shpy-ze-kâr-tê) (menu). A waiter, der Kellner (dehr kêl-nêr), directs you to your table.

Deciphering the menu

Now comes the fun part — deciding what you want to eat. Of course, what's on the menu depends entirely on what kind of eatery you're in.

If you go to a French, Spanish, or Chinese restaurant, the menu may be in the language of the respective country with a German translation below the original name of the dish. In some restaurants, you might even find an English translation.

The following sections tell you about foods you may find in German restaurants throughout the country. These sections don't tell you about local cuisine, which substantially differs from region to region; in fact, many areas have local specialties.

Breakfast

The following items may be offered zum Frühstuck (tsûm fruuh-shtuuck) (for breakfast):

  • das Brot (dâs broht) (bread)
  • das Brötchen (dâs bruoht-Hên) (roll)
  • der Toast (dehr tohst) (toast)
  • der Aufschnitt (dehr owf-shnît) (cold meats and cheese)
  • die Butter (dee -têr) (butter)
  • die Cerealien (dee tseh-rê-ah-lî-en) (cereal)
  • das Müsli (dâs muus-lee) (muesli)
  • die Milch (dee mîlH) (milk)
  • der Saft (dehr zâft) (juice)
  • die Wurst (dee vûrst) (sausage)
  • das Ei (dâs ay) (egg)
  • das Spiegelei (dâs shpee-gêl-ay) (fried egg)
  • die Rühreier (dee ruuhr-ay-êr) (scrambled eggs)

In Germany, Brötchen are very popular for breakfast; however, you may also get all kinds of bread or croissants. It is still very common to eat cold cuts for breakfast, and if you order an egg without specifying that you want it scrambled or sunny side up, you will get it soft-boiled in an egg cup.

Appetizers

For Vorspeisen (fohr-shpy-zen) (appetizers), you might see the following:

  • Gemischter Salat (ge-mîsh-ter zâ-laht) (mixed salad)
  • Grüner Salat (gruu-ner zâ-laht) (green salad)
  • Melone mit Schinken (mê-loh-ne mît shing-ken) (melon with ham)
  • Meeresfrüchtesalat mit Toastecken (meh-res-fruuH-te-zâ-laht mît tohst-êkn) (seafood salad with toast halves)

Soups

You might see the following Suppen (-pen) (soups) on the menu:

  • Tomatensuppe (tô-mah-tn-zû-pe) (tomato soup)
  • Bohnensuppe (boh-nen-zû-pe) (bean soup)
  • Ochsenschwanzsuppe (ok-sên-shvânts-zûp-pe) (oxtail soup)
  • Französische Zwiebelsuppe (frân-tsuo-zî-she tsvee-bêl-zû-pe) (French onion soup)

Main dishes

Hauptspeisen (howpt-shpy-zen) (main dishes) are as diverse as they are in any culture; here are some you might find on a German menu:

  • Kalbsleber mit Kartoffelpüree (kâlps-leh-ber mît kâr-tofl-puu-reh) (veal liver with mashed potatoes)
  • Frischer Spargel mit Kalbsschnitzel oder Räucherschinken / Kochschinken (frî-sher shpâr-gel mît kâlbs-shnî-tsel oh-der roy-Her-shîng-ken / kôH-shîng-ken) (fresh asparagus with veal cutlet or smoked ham / ham)
  • Rindersteak mit Pommes Frites und gemischtem Gemüse (rîn-der-steak mît pôm frît ûnt ge-mîsh-tem ge-muu-ze) (beef steak with french fries and mixed vegetables)
  • Lammkotelett nach Art des Hauses (lâm-kôt-lêt nahH ahrt dês how-zes) (homestyle lamb chop)
  • Hühnerfrikassee mit Butterreis (huu-ner-frî-kâ-seh mît -ter-rys) (chicken fricassee with butter rice)
  • Lachs an Safransoße mit Spinat und Salzkartoffeln (laks ân zâf-rahn-zoh-se mît shpî-naht ûnt zâlts-kâr-tofln) (salmon in safran sauce with salt potatoes)
  • Fisch des Tages (fîsh dês tah-ges) (fish of the day)

Side dishes

You can sometimes order Beilagen (by-lah-gen) (side dishes) separately from your main course:

  • Butterbohnen (bû-ter-boh-nen) (butter beans)
  • Gurkensalat (gûr-ken-zâ-laht) (cucumber salad)
  • Bratkartoffeln (braht-kâr-tôfln) (fried potatoes)

Dessert

German restaurants commonly offer many fine dishes zum Nachtisch (ztuhm naH-tîsh) (for dessert), including the following:

  • Frischer Obstsalat (frî-sher ohbst-zâ-laht) (fresh fruit salad)
  • Apfelstrudel (âpfl-shtroo-del) (apple strudel)
  • Gemischtes Eis mit Sahne (ge-mîsh-tes ays mît zah-ne) (mixed ice cream with whipped cream)
  • Rote Grütze mit Vanillesoße (roh-te gruu-tse mît vâ-nîle-zoh-se) (red berry compote with vanilla sauce)

Drinks

When it comes to ordering Wasser (vâ-ser) (water), you have the choice between the carbonated or non-carbonated one, which is ein Wasser mit Kohlensäure (ayn -ser mît koh-len-zoy-re) (carbonated water) or ein Wasser ohne Kohlensäure (ayn -ser oh-ne koh-len-zoy-re) (non-carbonated water). If you ask the waiter or waitress for ein Mineralwasser (mînê-rahl-vâ-sêr) (mineral water), you usually get carbonated water.

Wine is usually offered by the bottle — die Flasche (dee flâ-she) — or by the glass — das Glas (dâs glahs). Sometimes, you can also get a carafe of wine, which is die Karaffe (dee kah--fe).

In the following list, you find a couple of common drinks, Getränke (geh-traing-ke), that you might see on a menu:

  • Bier (beer) (beer)
  • das Export (dâs export) / das Kölsch (dâs kuolsh) (less bitter, lager beer)
  • das Bier vom Fass (dâs beer fôm fâs) (draft beer)
  • das Pils / Pilsener (dâs pîls / pîlze-ner) (bitter, lager beer)
  • das Altbier (dâs âlt-beer) (dark beer, similar to British ale)
  • Wein (vyn) (wine)
  • der Weißwein (dehr vyss-vyn) (white wine)
  • der Rotwein (dehr roht-vyn) (red wine)
  • der Tafelwein (dehr tah-fl-vyn) (table wine, lowest quality)
  • der Kaffee (dehr -fê) (coffee)
  • der Tee (dehr teh) (tea)

Placing your order

As in English, you use a variety of common expressions to order your food. Luckily, they aren't too complicated, and you can use them both for ordering anything from food to drinks and for buying food at a store:

  • Ich hätte gern . . . (îH ha-te gêrn) (I would like to have . . .)
  • Für mich bitte . . . (fuor mîH -te) (For me . . . please)
  • Ich möchte gern . . . (îH muoH-te gêrn) (I would like to have . . .)

When ordering, you may decide to be adventurous and ask the waiter

Können Sie etwas empfehlen? (kuon-nen zee êt-vâss êm-pfeh-len) (Can you recommend something?)

Be prepared for him or her to respond at a rapid-fire pace, naming dishes you may have never heard of before. To avoid any confusion with the waiter's response, try holding out your menu for the waiter to point at while responding.

Ordering something special

You may need the following phrases to order something a little out-of-the-ordinary:

  • Haben Sie vegetarische Gerichte? (hah-bn zee veh-ge-tah-rî-she ge-rîH-te) (Do you have vegetarian dishes?)
  • Ich kann nichts essen, was . . . enthält (îH kânn nîHts êsn, vâs . . . ênt-hailt) (I can't eat anything that contains . . .)
  • Haben Sie Gerichte für Diabetiker? (hah-bn zee ge-rîH-te fuor deeâ-beh-tî-ker) (Do you have dishes for diabetics?)
  • Haben Sie Kinderportionen? (hah-bn zee kîn-der-pôr-tseeo-nen) (Do you have children's portions?)

Replying to "How did you like the food?"

After a meal, it's traditional for the waiter or waitress to ask if you liked the food:

Hat es Ihnen geschmeckt? (hât ês ee-nen ge-shmêkt) (Did you like the food?)

Hopefully, you enjoyed your meal and feel compelled to answer that question with one of the following:

  • danke, gut (dâng-ke, goot) (thanks, good)
  • sehr gut (zehr goot) (very good)
  • ausgezeichnet (ows-ge-tsyH-net) (excellent)

Getting the check

At the end of your meal, your waiter may ask you the following as a way to bring your meal to a close and to find out if you are ready for the check:

Sonst noch etwas? (zônst nôH êt-vâs) (Anything else?)

Unless you'd like to order something else, it's time to pay die Rechnung (dee rêH-nûngk) (the bill). You can ask for the bill in the following ways:

  • Ich möchte bezahlen. (îH muoH-te be-tsah-len) (I would like to pay.)
  • Die Rechnung, bitte. (dee rêH-nûngk, -te) (The check, please.)

You can pay together — Alles zusammen, bitte. (â-les tsû-zâmn, -te) (Everything together, please.) — or separately — Wir möchten getrennt zahlen. (veer muoH-ten ge-trênt tsah-len) (We would like to pay separately.).

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