Eating out in Germany is not normally a quick meal. As Americans, we expect a meal at places like Chuys’ (my favorite Tex Mex) to take about an hour or a little more depending on the crowd. You’re in, you’re out and you move on to the next thing. Not so in Germany, let alone most of Europe. Eating out can be a 2 hour affair or more and waiters EXPECT you to take a long time. So where do you go when you don’t have all the time in the world to sit there? There are a few local options in Schonaich and many around Stuttgart, but if you go to a sit down dinner restaurant, here are few things to keep in mind.
Quick Meals When Eating Out
In Schonaich, there are just a few places where you can eat out that don’t take a long time. The bakeries like Sehne and Vetter have a few tables where you can enjoy a croissant and some coffee. There are also two butcher places that have a hot buffet with daily specials and a few tables to sit and enjoy. My favorite place in Schonaich that introduced us to doner kebabs is Turkish Kebab. If you look it up on Google maps, it comes up as a snack bar but they have 30 different items on the menu! Their main items are doner kebab and pizza but you can get many variations to those items. The pizza crust is made out of what looks like Middle Eastern naan bread and is soooo good. Doner kebab is seasoned meat that is put on a large skewer that rotates and cooks on an upright grill. They then shave off the meat and make your doner kebab with lettuce, onions, tomatoes and other topping choices. Places like these make it easy to take the kids and appeals to all ages.
Eating Out With Kids
Speaking of kids, most Germans don’t take their kids out to sit down restaurants. This is not normal for them so when you see kids, they are probably not German. Luckily, some restaurants have kids menus or are willing to make the portions smaller. If you are visiting a tourist area, restaurants will tend to cater to them and have things like schnitzel and noodles or the equivalent to mac and cheese (spaetzle and kase).
If you do happen to take your kids out, be prepared that they don’t bring out the kids food before the adult meals. More than likely the food will also not come out all at the same time so eat it when it comes out. We ordered burgers for our kids at a local sit down restaurant in Schonaich and the burgers were HUGE! They were adult-sized burgers and the cheese was melting out of the burger which required you to eat it using a fork and knife. I don’t know about you, but American burgers are not the kind that you eat with a fork and knife, however, because of all the stuff coming out of it, you had to and this made the kids very messy.
Eating Out at Sit Down Restaurants
When you do happen to go to a “Sit Down Restaurant”, you may find the following: menus in German, more tables outside than inside, no air conditioning and flies that swarm you and your food. Now some of these things only happen in the warm months, but be aware. Some places only open at 5pm or 6pm so check the hours before you head out. Other places require reservations. Most restaurants will also post their menu outside their front entrance so you can decide if you want to go or not.
When eating out in Germany, drinks can be a challenge for Americans.
Regular water is NOT free and there are NO FREE REFILLS on any drinks.
Most drinks come in glass bottles and they provide a glass for you to fill yourself. They also don’t normally have ice in your drinks. Hopefully the drinks are cold enough. When you do ask for water, ask for “wasser still” which means water without bubbles. Otherwise, they will give you water with bubbles which is similar to Perrier water. If you like that kind of water (I still don’t) then you are in luck. Other drink options include juices such as apple juice, orange juice or other mixed juices and sodas like Sprite and Coke. If you have kids and you want milk, you probably won’t find it there. Surprisingly, beer will cost less than a bottle of coke or juice. So drink up! By the way, the picture to the left is actually apple juice not beer.
Paying in cash
When it comes time to pay for your meal, in Germany you normally pay the waiter. They have cash to give you change back and while this is easiest, some places will take credit cards. But be aware that most places only take cash and there isn’t an ATM nearby either. A meal at a sit down place can run you about 100 euros depending on the size of your party and the items ordered. As a family of 5, this is a typical amount for us.
What do you do about tips? Tipping in Germany is also not common. If you do give a “tip” you normally round up to nearest 5 euros i.e. if your bill was 102 euros, you hand them 105 euros and that will be just fine. I know, shocking! But that is expected and not much more. Some Germans will get offended if you give them too much.
Eating Out in Malls or Department Stores
You may find this hard to believe, but some of the best food can be found at a mall, department store or even (gasp!) a rest stop area! I was shocked to find some tiny restaurants in a German mall where they serve their food on REAL plates and take their time to make your meal. If you sit down at one of their tables, a WAITER comes to you to take your order.
When was the last time a waiter came to you in the mall? Never in the US! Of course, you can always go up to the counter to order, but that is normally done if you want your meal to go.
My sister-in-law declared her hometown pizza in Indiana was the best. After trying this pizza at Mercaden Mall, she loved the crust, sauce and cheese and had to “eat her words” that nothing could beat her hometown pizza. Not all mall restaurants are the same and some serve fast food like Subway or McDonald’s but you need to give German mall food a chance. They serve Italian, Thai, Indian, fresh sandwiches, soups, desserts and you can even find the butcher in the mall to pick up some sausage or other meat.
MALL DINING TIP: You can’t sit at any table in the mall. They are reserved for a specific restaurant and the owners will shoo you away if you aren’t eating their food at their tables.
The pictures below are taken at the Mercaden Mall. Notice the leather bound club chairs on the top floor? These are not your typical booths.
In department stores like Hofmeister, they have a cafeteria on the top floor and serve food cafeteria-style there too. However, these are not your typical mass-produced meals. They have nice tables, plenty of room and so homey that you can hang out with friends for a bit. My husband and I were even considering going out on a date night and eating there one night!
Lastly, rest stop areas in Germany also have some amazing homemade food. I was surprised to find a chef waiting to make something like a hot sandwich, schnitzel or pizza along with a fresh salad! Crazy, I know! We stopped by a rest area after coming home from Strasbourg, France. We weren’t hungry for a full meal but we needed something. We stopped by rest areas before and noticed the food looked really good. So we took a chance and ended up getting schnitzel for the adults and pizza for the kids. A win-win for everyone! You have to try a few things that may not be the norm in the US, but is certainly the norm in Germany.
REST STOP TIP: If you are an ADAC member (which is equivalent to AAA in the US), certain rest stop restaurants will actually give you a discount on your food there.
Favorite places in and near Schonaich
I already mentioned Turkish Kebab in Schonaich. There is a Mexican restaurant called Zapata’s, but unfortunately, Germans don’t know how to make good Mexican food. They try but it’s just not the same. I miss my Tex Mex fill of Chuy’s. Zapata’s doesn’t even have tacos! Their fajitas are good but you might as well just make tacos at home. My opinion, but feel free to check it out.
Schonbuch Brauhaus in Boblingen is a great place when you want traditional German food. We love their schnitzel and they serve it with spaetzle and brown gravy. They also have a great playground for the kids to play at while you wait for your food. They brew their own beer and I’m told it is fantastic. I am not a beer drinker so I go with whatever my husband says. He loves their Radler.
Ritter Sport Cafe in Waldenbuch is only a 10 minute drive and while you may know it as a chocolate store, they also have a cafe! Check their hours before you go but they are open for breakfast and lunch and they don’t take reservations. You may find that if there are only 2 of you in the party, you can sit with other people at the same table. This is common in most places where you share the table so don’t be shy. But Ritter Sport Cafe has a terrific eggs and ham with rustic bread breakfast plate and so many other choices. Their hot cocoa is made with none other than their Ritter Sport chocolate and you get to choose the flavor! They also have fresh baked goods that go great with a coffee too.
Cafe Schilling in Boblingen is another breakfast place about 15 minutes from Schonaich. It serves American style breakfasts and their french toast is fantastic.
Wirtshaus Drive in Vaihingen is a great place for dinner. Most places don’t open for dinner until 5pm, so check the hours before you head out. They have a great outdoor seating area and have a kids menu too. We went in early September when it was still warm outside so we enjoyed eating out on the patio. They have lots of choices and some servers even speak English. Be aware, in Germany, they don’t spray for mosquitoes, flies or bees so you may get some when enjoying your meal.
I hope this has given you some insight into eating out in Germany and expectations. I bet you didn’t count on finding some great food at places like the mall or even rest stops. Take a chance and try something new. You never know, you may find a place you love! Bon Appetit!