Hot dogs, hamburgers, pretzels, spicy mustard, cold lager beer. They seem to be the most American of foods—the most New York of foods, even. But if you really think about it, many of these iconic foods can be traced back to German immigrants who brought the flavors of their home to another shore.
So to celebrate the influence of German cuisine on our culture, we present the best German beer halls, restaurants, and sausage stands in New York City.
ZUM SCHNEIDER You can truly transport yourself to Bavaria at this lively German bierhaus in the middle of Alphabet City. In the summer, groups of drinkers crowd the corner of East 7th Street at outdoor tables. In the winter, it's time to drink glühwein and then soak it up with gutbombs like the tender schweinebraten (pork roast simmered in a dark beer gravy) or cheesy käsespätzle with onions and bacon. If you can't decide what to indulge in, just check the specials of the day, which range from pork shank (haxn) to the unique rolled stuffed beef (rouladen).
Zum Schneider is located at 107 Avenue C at East 7th Street in the East Village, (212) 598-1098; zumschneider.com
LEDERHOSEN You don't have to wear the traditional German garment to dine here, but you do have to have a beer in your hand. The clandestine beer hall provides a transportive atmosphere, making the haunt feel like an outdoor beer garden in the Alps rather than a windowless restaurant in the West Village. The bright, festive vibe allows for much merriment and the food quality and prices keep the party going. I can't think of another beer hall where you can order a sausage with a side of sauerkraut and pretzels for $5. The entrees aren't too shabby either; a great sauerbrauten is worth the calories and if they have the smoked pork chop known as Kassler on special, you must order it.
Lederhosen is located at 39 Grove Street between Bleecker and Bedford Street in the West Village, (212) 206-7691; lederhosennyc.com
PAULANER NYC No doubt we have some great local craft breweries creating some inventive IPAs and sours, but there's only one place brewing the authentic traditional German beers of yore. Paulaner—yes, the Paulaner that was established by monks in Munich centuries ago—has a full on brewpub on Bowery in the heart of the historic Kleindeutschland. You can watch as refreshing lagers and hefeweizens are brewed in front of you to pair with hearty Bavarian classics like crispy pork knuckle and fried camembert cheese. It's the freshest German beer you can drink without purchasing a ticket on Lufthansa.
Paulaner NYC is located at 265 Bowery between East Houston and Stanton Street in the Lower East Side, (212) 780-0300; paulanernyc.com
BERLIN CURRYWURST Okay, it may not be the streets of Berlin, but the bustling Chelsea Market sure gets an international crowd. This is where a new location of German owned, LA-based Berlin Currywurst debuted in 2015. Their specialty is the iconic German street food currywurst. Plump spiced sausages are served doused in a spicy (you can control the heat level) and sweet ketchup along with a hunk of bread to soak up the remaining sauce. They also offer German breakfast meatloaf (leberkäse), German beer (the breakfast of champions), and top notch fries (German not French).
Berlin Currywurst is located at 75 Ninth Avenue between 15th and 14th Street inside Chelsea Market in Chelsea, (212) 652-2121; berlincurrywurst.com
SCHALLER & WEBER Many Germans once made their home in the neighborhood of Yorkville. Today, this part of the Upper East Side is more populated by a dwindling number of Irish bars being pushed out by fancy cupcake shops and cocktail bars. But Schaller & Weber, which has been producing and selling German products like cheeses and sausages since 1937, is as bustling as ever. Most of their products are produced off-site in Astoria and shipped nationwide, but the locals still shop here for an impressive selection of bacons and hams, liverwurst, and cold cuts. A few years ago, they expanded with Schaller's Stube, an adjacent sausage bar serving affordable German beer and sausages.
Schaller & Weber is located at 1654 Second Avenue between 86th and 85th Street on the Upper East Side, (212) 879-3047; schallerweber.com
HEIDELBURG Next to Schaller & Weber sits the last legitimate German restaurant in Yorkville. Heidelburg purchases some of their sausages and ingredients from their neighbor and they offer authentic old school charm that can't be beat. While you contemplate what size lager to order, choose from a number of hefty appetizers, like the tangy and tender beef tongue salad or pickled herring topped with cream. For mains, the house specialty is the Schweinehaxe (a gargantuan crispy pork shank with sauerkraut and potatoes), but don't overlook the array of schnitzels, including the Berlin-based schnitzel a la Holstein garnished with a fried egg, anchovies, and capers.
Heidelberg is located at 1648 Second Avenue between 85th and 86th Street on the Upper East Side, (212) 628-2332; heidelberg-nyc.com
LORELEY BEER GARDEN Most of the German establishments in the city are based on Bavarian beer cuisine, so there's very little variety when it comes to regionality in New York. It'd be great to see a Saxon or Baden restaurant, for instance. Loreley, a beer garden that sits quietly in the historic Kleindeutschland, does things slightly different. One of the owners hails from Cologne, so expect to see small glasses of kölsch in addition to 1-liter steins. Alongside American dive bar staples like nachos and predictable Bavarian grub like soft pretzels, you can find more Rhineland specialties down the menu. The regional gulasch is tangy and sweeter than other versions, the potato salad is more mayo than vinegar, and the potato pancakes (street food in Cologne) are just as crispy and filling as expected. It all goes down easy in the largest outdoor beer garden in Manhattan.
Loreley Beer Garden is located at 7 Rivington Street between Chrystie Street and Bowery in the Lower East Side, (212) 253-7077; loreleynyc.com
ZUM STAMMTISCH This rollicking Bavarian beer hall featues a dim wooden interior and local diners who crave a bit of the old German culture that was once prevalent in this part of Queens. Meat is the order of the day and that is obvious in the massive trays of steak tartare (garnished with raw onions and pickles), the sausage platters, and an over-the-top jägerschnitzel topped with a rich, complex mushroom sauce darkened with veal stock. For dessert, the apple strudel and black forest cake are both exemplary. Once in Glendale, you owe it to yourself to take some German products home from the neighboring Stammtisch Pork & Import Store.
Zum Stammtisch is located at 69-46 Myrtle Avenue at 70th Street in Glendale, Queens, (718) 386-3014; zumstammtisch.com
GOTTSCHEER HALL Gottscheer Hall is more of a bar, community center and event space than it is a restaurant. But the space has an almost century-old connection to the Gottschee community that immigrated from a forgotten region of Germany post World War I to the neighborhood of Ridgewood in Queens, where some of the community remains. What was once Gottsche in Germany is now part of present day Slovenia, but the food served here comes from its German roots. This hall has served the community since 1924 and it's still welcoming the original locals, as well as newcomers, to try some traditional beer, krainerwurst (smoked garlic sausages), and the sweet crepes known as palatschinken.
Gottscheer Hall is located at 657 Fairview Avenue between Linden Street and Gates Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, (718) 366-3030; gottscheerhall.com
HALLO BERLIN Back in 1990, the late Rolf Babiel started a pushcart on the streets of Midtown that harkened back to a time when wurst and pretzels were more common than schwarma and falafel. Both the cart and the subsequent storefront thrive thanks to his brother and widow, who continue to serve up "the best of the wurst." The cart pushes what's called German "soul food" with a selection of sausages named after cars like the Mercedes (bratwurst) and Porsche (currywurst) and combos named for dictators. At the restaurant, you'll find a larger menu of Bavarian specialties, but the wursts still reign supreme.
Hallo Berlin is located at 626 Tenth Avenue between West 45th and West 44th Street in Hell's Kitchen and the cart parks most weekday afternoons at the northwest corner of 54th Street and Fifth Avenue in Midtown West, (212) 977-1944; halloberlinrestaurant.com
NÜRNBERGER BIERHAUS Who'd have guessed that some of the best German food in the city is situated on Staten Island? Opened in 2005, Nürnberger feels like a rustic old German residence with a pretty extensive menu. Every meal should start with soup and we recommend the warming Zigeuner (or gypsy-style) goulash with tender beef and spicy paprika. You could continue with an array of hearty schnitzels, pork dishes, or a better-than-expected burger. But we think the pro move is to pick a kartoffelpfannchen (or little potato pan), which is a giant sizzling plate of artery-clogging fried potatoes, bacon, and onions topped with your choice of meat (do the thin, caraway-kissed Nürnberg bratwurst). For a change of scenery, head next door to the sprawling bierhalle for a Spaten. And if you have one too many wursts, Richmond University Medical Center is just a stagger away.
Nürnberger Bierhaus is located at 817 Castleton Avenue between Pelton Avenue and Davis Avenue in West Brighton, Staten Island, (718) 816-7461, nurnbergerbierhalle.com
KILLMEYER'S OLD BAVARIA INN You don't find the bacon and onion flatbread flammkuchen on most German menus in the city. The Alsatian dish is more common at higher end French restaurants than Bavarian beer halls. The Alsace region is now part of France, but back when the building that houses Killmeyer's opened, it was part of the German empire. The version is probably better elsewhere, but the food is not really the reason to come to this old Bavarian tavern and beer garden. The old-school ambiance and German beer selection is a German oasis in the middle of a commercial, more industrial area of Staten Island. Beer is the thing here, with a rotating, seasonal menu of German draughts and bottles, like Weihenstephaner Dunkelweiss and Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock. While here, you could do worse than the tender sweet sauerbrauten and the crisp, fat potato pancakes.
Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn is located at 4254 Arthur Kill Road at the corner of Sharrotts Road in Charleston, Staten Island, (718) 984-1202; killmeyers.com
Brian Hoffman searches for iconic New York dishes and makes comedy food videos on his site Eat This NY. He also writes for Midtown Lunch and gives food and drink walking tours around NY.