Here, Eat This: A Beginner's Guide to German Cuisine

Categories: Here, Eat This

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Photo by Mark H. Anbender
Spaetzle and knödel

Germans love potatoes as much as they love rye bread and cabbage. They're in everything from warm potato salad (Kartoffelsalat) with bacon to knödel: potato dumplings. These dumplings can be incredibly basic -- from round balls of barely more than grated potato, flour, salt and egg -- to fancier dishes that range from savory to sweet. Spaetzle are another common dumpling, but these egg-based dumplings are far smaller and are often, in fact, referred to as simply "egg noodles." Both spaetzle and knödel are common side dishes from meatier main courses.

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Photo by Josef Türk Reit im Winkl Chiemgau
Sauerbraten and knödel.
Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten is one of those typical meat entrees, often referred to as one of German's national dishes. If you ate pot roast growing up, you ate sauerbraten. Although the name literally translates to "sour roasted meat," sauerbraten isn't necessarily sour. It's simply a tough cut of meat -- usually a rump roast -- marinated in anything from wine and vinegar to buttermilk, as long as it's an acidic blend that will help break down the meat before roasting. As with any good roast, the juices are saved and thickened up with flour to make a creamy, meaty gravy that's served on top along with vegetables, sauerkraut/red cabbage and dumplings.

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Photo by Tim Lucas
Currywurst

Germans like their fast food as much as we do, and currywurst is one of their proudest (and perhaps weirdest) examples of traditional German food gone fast: fried sausage covered in curried ketchup with a side of french fries. The dish dates to 1949, when a devastated Germany was attempting to rebuild its bombed-out cities after World War II. Currywurst cropped up as a cheap, filling snack that could be sold on the roadside to lunching construction workers. The Worcester sauce and curry powder came to Germany by way of British soldiers, with the curry itself coming from India, and currywurst became fast fusion street food 60 years before it was cool. If you find any in Houston, LET ME KNOW.

Döner kebab and Türkische pizza

Germany has a relationship with Turkey that's not too dissimilar from our own with Mexico. At the risk of simplifying complex international relations, I'll leave it at that. As a result, Turkish food has cropped up over the last few decades as some of Germany's most popular fast-casual food. The Wall Street Journal recently claimed "there's nothing more German than a big, fat juicy döner kebab," citing the 720 million servings sold each year. With a Turkish population reaching 2.5 million, Germans have embraced other Turkish foods as well, including what it calls Türkische pizza: döner kebab wrapped in lahmacun.

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Photo by Troy Fields
Das boot!
Beer

Germans have been brewing beer since at least 800 B.C. By 200 A.D., beer was already being traded commercially in the region that would eventually become Germany, and before its official repeal in 1987, the famed Reinheitsgebot -- a regulation concerning the production of beer -- was the oldest food-quality regulation in the world. First conceived of in 1487, the Reinheitsgebot maintained standards for all German beer and mandated that the only ingredients allowed in the brewing of beer were water, barley and hops. To this day, German influence is felt in the Texas beers we still drink. Both the Pearl and Spoetzel breweries were created by Germans, while other breweries such as the Franconia Brewing Company in McKinney are run by German brewmasters. If you love beer, thank a German.


Location Info

Venue

Map

Bar Munich

2616 Louisiana St., Houston, TX

Category: Music

Charivari Restaurant

2521 Bagby St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

King's Biergarten

1329 E. Broadway, Pearland, TX

Category: Restaurant

Rudi Lechner's Restaurant and Bar

2503 S. Gessner Road, Houston, TX

Category: Music

My Voice Nation Help
23 comments
karl.decker
karl.decker

I see the owner of Kings, his friends and fans have now written comments.  Look, I wanted it to be good.  I love German food.  I don't own a restaurant.  I don't have any friends that own a restaurant either.  I don't have an interest in any restaurant.  As God is my witness, when I ordered Jaegerschnitzel at King's, I received a Wienerschnitzel with a very thin hunter sauce poured on top with just out of the can, not cooked and not fresh mushrooms sprinkled on top.  On the drive home, I started feeling sick and felt sick for the next 12 hours.  That being said, my german american dad and my german american mom really enjoyed the wurst they had.  My son liked his wienerschnitzel but he always likes wienerschnitzel.  It is hard to screw up wurst if you have a good source of wurst.  I doubt it is homemade there.  Frankly, I can get decent wurst - Karl Ehmer brand at Central Market [much much better than Johnsonville]

claiborne
claiborne

I've denied this rumor many times: that is NOT Alison Cook in the lederhosen with red-checked blouse holding the shanks, nor is it a representation of her power over new restaurants. It is, in fact, a man named Sitter.

Craigley
Craigley

SIS seemed old when it was new.  

timblack2
timblack2 topcommenter

Rudi lechner's has currywurst. I get it all the time.

attyrose31
attyrose31

Given the dearth of German or any other Eastern European restaurants in the Houston area, perhaps a reference to the Polish grocery store on Blalock would have been appropriate where one can find a very large variety of sausages and cold cuts, as well as fresh meats, frozen pirogies, and  a wide array of pickled things and mustards in jars.  There is really no need to drive all the way to Pearland or sit in a bar with a tv blasting soccer games when one can just make a wurstfest at home.  Steaming sausage kraut in a pot just isn't that hard.

HTownChowDown
HTownChowDown

Maybe it's just me, but German food is something I never crave. On a recent sojourn in Fredericksburg we couldn't avoid German cuisine, and it was exceedingly mediocre. I guess there's a reason that there aren't German restaurants on every corner.

tinyhands
tinyhands

I saw curry wurst on a menu in the NewBraunfels-F'sburg-Boerne area recently. Don't recall which, but the menu was online, so if I could find it you should be able to too.

CharlesDfoodie101
CharlesDfoodie101

Went to King's after your posted about the Service.

Literally, the BEST German or Austrian food I've ever had in the states!!

I was stationed in Germany for 10+yrs and visited Austria frequently.

The owners were so nice, and the staff was superb.

I had the jaegerschnitzel and my wife had the Gypsy stew. Both were INCREDIBLE.

I plan on coming back for their Monday special for the Pork shanks (it's half off).

Ah, and yes, I had a Krombacher pils! Oh, the memories...

Thank you Katherine for introducing me to King's! 

willwalsh1
willwalsh1

Just a note about Uchi: During our last visit Pam Cantu came and swiftly took our foie nigiri away because we spent too much time discussing everything else we were eating. She noticed that the temp of the foie would not be appropriate any longer and insistently went and got a fresh one that was then chaperoned into our mouths to ensure optimum foie-ness. She was right. Servers who notice these things from across the room without you even being aware of is just one aspect of the new service bar to live up to in Houston.

RebeccaS
RebeccaS

I grew up in a very German part of Texas and my grandmother and grandfather, while born here, their parents. weren't. The German influence in food that I saw growing up was hand churned butter, lots of sausage and pork and potatoes, usually with butter and dill along with chicken broth noodles. It was very common to see potatoes and noodles in the same meal at my grandmothers house and it might have included 2 types of potatoes. Lots of starch. :) I don't know if pickles come from Germany but we always had homemade pickles of many varieties along with "chow chow" and oh, just lots and lots of home canned things. 


karl.decker
karl.decker

Word to the wise if you go to King's Biergarten in Pearland, do NOT order the Jägerschnitzel. It is absolutely horrible.  I grew up eating German food.  I eat German food whenever I get the chance.  What they served to me when I ordered Jägerschnitzel was Wienerschnitzel with the worst hunter sauce I have ever tasted poured on it.  To make matters worse, the mushrooms looked and tasted like they were fresh out of a can.  I kid you not, I was sick to my stomach for the next 24 hours.  It is a shame that this "restaurant" was even mentioned in this article.

oldenburg
oldenburg

I was born in the largely German burg of Cincinnati, OH and had a great appreciation for Goetta when I was growing up and then returning for visits. Has anyone found Goetta in Texas?

It seems like a food that's peculiar to Cincy 

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Sehr gut mein freund.. Though kraut es scheusslich.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@attyrose31 

"Steaming sausage kraut in a pot just isn't that hard."

I think you're underestimating what German food is.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@karl.decker I have never tried the Jägerschnitzel at King's Biergarten, although I thought the Wiener schnitzel was fabulous. I'm really sorry to hear about your bad experience there.

attyrose31
attyrose31

@Bruce_Are @attyrose31  No, not at all.  I understand what it is, what it can be, and how little of it is available in the Houston area.   Of the different basic food stuffs that are mentioned in the article, two have as the main ingredient sausages, one describes and briefly explains sauerkraut and red cabbage, and  another discusses cold cuts.   My point was that a trip to the Polish market on Blalock has those ingredients and none of those things require much effort to create at least half of the menus at the restaurants that are discussed, particularly if you also consider that the market also has the ingredients needed to make the other dishes referenced in the article.  That all being said, the truth is that German/Polish/Russian food just is not terribly complicated to make and if one wanted to have a beer and sausage type meal, it can easily be done at home with items purchased at the market.  There is also a Polish restaurant in the same area as the market that offers an extensive Eastern European menu. Neither the market or the restaurant appear to well known beyond the Eastern European emigre community so perhaps you should consider my original posting as more of a public service for both the market and the public to learn about places that are not widely  known.  One of the things that distinguishes Houston from so many other cities is the cultural diversity of the population that is best represented by the wide range of ethnic/nationality based groceries and restaurants.

attyrose31
attyrose31

@Ogden @HTownChowDown  

 

You know, I think HTownChowDown's views about German food is the prevailing view of most people who live in the greater Houston region if one considers that availability of German food to the apparently large number of residents of German background.  One would think that if there was a great interest in Eastern European food in Houston there would be far more of it available.  I do not share HTownChowDown's views but I do accept that they are widely held.  

karl.decker
karl.decker

@kshilcutt @karl.decker  The sad thing is that I wanted it to be good.  Additional German restaurants to me is a very good thing.  There was zero embellishment in what I wrote.

Ogden
Ogden

@attyrose31 @Bruce_Are  Polonia restaurant and market have been covered here by Robb Walsh and others...it's not like you're breaking big news, but you're right about them carrying good sausages and stuff from Chicago.

BobbyFreshpants
BobbyFreshpants

@karl.decker @kshilcutt I ate the Jagerschnitzel close to when they first opened and thought it was great, a very nice sauce in just the right proportion. Maybe not the best I've had but was definitely authentic.

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