Last week, I literally pigged out. I was in Munich for four days and ate pork products at least three times a day. Despite articles like this one touting Munich’s cutting-edge food scene, I was quite happy to stick with eating the traditional Bavarian specialties that are offered everywhere in town, which meant a lot of beer, dumplings (knodel) and pig.
To start my day, I’d seek out weisswurst (white sausage), which, according to my colleagues in Munich, must be eaten only in the morning. Weisswurst also has the distinction of being the only boiled sausage in the world that I love. The veal-and-pork filling has a smooth, slightly spongy texture that brings to mind nursery food — very comforting, especially when it’s snowy and cold outside. The accompanying suesser senf (sweet mustard) is so good that I’ve used it on non-weisswurst-related sandwiches. Several Munichers told me you’re supposed to suck the filling out of the sausage casing, but I opted for the pansy option of cutting open the skin and pulling out the sausage filling with a fork. (I didn’t feel as lame about my technique after I saw other German speakers doing the same).
The photo above shows the organic version I especially enjoyed at Munchner Schmarkert, a small caff in the Vitkualienmarkt.
This being December and therefore Christmas Market season in Germany, I’d find gluhwein stalls everywhere in Munich. I found it was a tough call deciding whether to nurse my gluhwein so I could warm my hands around the mug or scarf it down to warm up from the inside. In any event, I loved the way friends would gather around the gluhwein stalls even on a cold, weekday evening.
The places to order Bavarian classics all seemed to be affiliated with a brewery. Andechser am Dom came highly recommended on Chowhound and a friend who is a former Municher (who called it “hands down the best brewery”). I was initially suspicious because the place is located just off Marienplatz (the Times Square/Piccadilly Circus of Munich, but a million times more charming), but there are exceptions to every rule: Andechser am Dom was packed with more German speakers than non-. And as at several other “traditional” restaurants I tried in Munich, I ended up seated at a communal table with total strangers. It was entertaining.
The food at Andechser wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t spectacular. The resto’s selling points were the beer and the atmosphere, which was convivial. Andechser was the first place in Munich where I tried some of the local specialties and learned that all those pretzels in the breadbasket get added to your bill at the end of your meal: your waitress asks you how many you ate, and you’re on your honor to ‘fess up.
The above photo of spanferkel was taken at a Paulaner restaurant, zum Spockmeier, which was also close to Marienplatz. zum Spockmeier was the worst of the three traditional beer-driven places I visited, and ironically, it was the one my Munich colleague picked out (which really goes to show you that locals don’t always know best).
In case you wondered, the best version of spanferkel I tried was at Spatenhaus an der Oper, where the suckling pig crackling could be shattered with a fork and the meat was tender and moist. zum Spockmeier’s gluey potato dumplings (kartoffenknodel) were also vastly inferior to those of Spatenhaus. Service at Spatenhaus was also more attentive (though the maitre d’ at Spatenhaus seems to have an attitude problem).
At zum Spockmeier, I tried some of Jon’s roasted pig knuckle (schweinshaxe), and I have a feeling my lukewarm reaction has more to do with Spockmeier’s mediocre execution than with the dish itself. Where I’d expected gooey, silky joint meat, I instead tasted meat that was dried out. Good thing the pan-dripping sauce saved the day.
For dessert at zum Spockmeier, I couldn’t resist the kaiserschmarrn, which was by far the best dish we had there. Relative to the cost of the main courses at zum Spockmeier (most of which cost about 15 euros), the kaiserschmarrn was a pricey 11.50 euros. But it tasted hot and freshly made, so well worth the money. The eggy airiness reminded me of brioche, but denser, like a cake.
And last but not least in this roundup of pork-based eating: I ate a lot of rostbratwurstl while in Munich. In every Christmas market (and on every beerhall menu), I’d find these small, juicy sausages. The colder the day, the more appealing these little guys. Costing about 3 euros for three rostbratwurstl, they made for a filling, cheap snack.
Admittedly, I had one dinner in Munich that wasn’t all pork and dumplings: the Wein Cantina in a posh corner of the Haidhausen neighborhood served a sophisticated four-course tasting menu for less than 40 euros. The place is primarily a wine shop, but there are a few dining tables, and the Cantina’s food is tasty, creative and a nice break from large, rib-sticking portions of traditional Bavarian dishes.
And that’s it on my dining in Munich. I’m now back in the U.S. for Christmas so wherever you’re reading this post, have a Merry Christmas.
Andechser am Dom, Weinstrasse, 7, 80333 Munich, Germany; +49 (0)89 29 84 81; closest metro stop: Marienplatz
Spatenhaus an der Oper, Residenzstrasse, 12, 80333 Munchen; +49 (0)89 290 70 60; closest metro stop: Marienplatz or Odeonsplatz
Wein Cantina, Elsasser Strasse, 23, 81667 Munich; +49 (0)89 44 41 99 99; closest metro stop: Ostbahnhof
zum Spockmeier, Rosentrstrasse, 9, 80331 Munich, +49 (0)89 260 55 09; closest metro stop: Marienplatz