Don't let the stereotype fool you; German dining consists of far more than just sausages and beer. The culinary delights available are as rich and varied as the culture and history of Germany's people. However, the local fare that you might enjoy will depend on which part of the country you"re in.
If you"re along the coast by the North or Baltic Sea then seafood will abound. German restaurants here will have thick fish chowders, savory smoked salmon, and crayfish pastries. In the southern areas, near the Black Forest, wild game is a popular treat with venison, boar, and quail making frequent appearances.
Meat dishes are always a favorite, and one of the popular German foods, the Schnitzel (cutlet), is served in many places; it's usually breaded but always delicious. It's typically composed of veal, but you can find versions that use pork instead. Variations on Schnitzel are plenty, and one can find it being served with all manner of additions--from gravy and mushrooms to spicy vegetables. Slices of beef, like a steak, are less common than in the United States. Instead, German dining tends to be more likely to mix the meat into a stew and create a dish like Gulasch (goulash) or they'll mix it with vegetables. However, the most common way of spreading the meat out is through sausage. It's one of the most popular German foods to be sure, but the sheer variety of Würste is amazing. Some of the ones favored by the Americans--Bratwurst, Bockwurst, and Rindswurst--can be found at the many outdoor festivals. The Bratwurst is primarily made of pork and is commonly roasted or grilled. Bockwurst is much like a hot dog, but is longer. Rindwurst, or Knackwurst, is typically composed of ground beef and is shorter and wider than the others. Don't look for silverware; most eat Würste with their hands and dip it in mustard. Often times a roll will be served alongside.
You wouldn't want to miss out on some of Germany's cheese either. They can often be found in the same areas as the vineyards and are often served in tandem.
It's hard to go wrong when it comes to desert. You can find all manner of pastries not to mention the well known and popular German foods: Bavarian Crème Pie and Black Forest Cake.
Restaurants in Germany vary from those found in the United States. Unless you see a host or hostess, you are free to seat yourself. Indeed, if there are no free tables, you can even ask those with an extra seat if you can join them; they"ll usually say yes. It might seem a little strange at first, but if you"re particularly uncomfortable, don't worry, it's not required that you make conversation.
Water must be requested and unless you specify that you want tap water, you'll likely end up with a much more expensive mineral water. Tap water is, in fact, one of the only things you'll find that are free when it comes to German dining. The bread or rolls that Americans might consider complimentary costs money in Germany and you"ll be expected to pay for what you take.
There are no particular rules when it comes to tipping in restaurants in Germany. Gratuity is already included on each bill, but it is customary to round up to the nearest Euro and allow the waiter to keep the change. An additional tip of 5 percent is an acknowledgement of satisfaction and 10% is a sign of excellent service.
When it comes to payment, you're best served by bringing cash. While some restaurants in Germany accept credit cards, some still don't and it"s always best to hedge on the safe side.