Cologne’s local cuisine is simple but filling and usually best served alongside a cold glass of the local Kölsch beer. Many traditional dishes may be slightly confusing to visitors due to the poetic or satirical names they have gained over the years – but don’t worry, I’ve explained them all for you below. Here is a list of 8 local Cologne dishes that you definitely need to try on a visit to the city, followed by a list of where to eat in Cologne, including the best beer houses, cafes and restaurants.
What to eat in Cologne:
HIMMEL UN ÄÄD
Himmel un Ääd is a dish dating back to the 18th century in parts of Germany which consists of black pudding, fried onions, mashed potato and apple sauce. The name translates as ‘Heaven and Earth’ after two of the main ingredients, apples which comes from the trees up towards the sky and potatoes coming from the ground.
I’m going to be honest and say that this dish didn’t look or sound the most appetising to me originally, especially as I’m not a big fan of black pudding, however this dish was truly delicious and I would definitely order it again. Do yourself a favour and give it a chance!
Halve Hahn is a simple dish which consists of a rye bread roll with butter, a thick slice of mature Dutch cheese, raw onion and mustard. The dish is said to date back as far as the 15th century in Cologne, however, the name Halve Hahn – which literally means ‘half chicken’ – came around in the 1800s as a parody of the few guests in a beer house who could afford poultry. This dish appears on almost every beer house menu in the city and is a popular afternoon snack to accompany a glass or two of Kölsch.
Another cultural parody similar to Halve Hahn, Kölscher Kaviar (Cologne Caviar) is simply a dish consisting of blood sausage with a rye roll, mustard and onion. The name originated as a satire of high society by the coarser patrons of beer houses.
Schnitzel is a traditional German dish where meats such as pork and veal are pounded out until thin, coated with breadcrumbs then fried. It is often served plain with a squeeze of lemon, or with other sauces such as mushroom gravy.
A dish which is popular in a number of German regions, sauerbraten is beef (traditionally horse meat) soaked in vinegar and cooked in a stew pot. The Cologne/Rhein region variation of the dish is called Rhenish Sauerbraten where the vinegar soaked beef is served with a sweet lingonberry and raisin gravy, potato pancakes and apple sauce.
A country-wide favourite and a must for meat lovers when in Germany. Bratwurst is a fine German pork sausage that is generally fried or grilled, while currywurst is steamed then fried and topped with curry ketchup. Both are popular street food dishes
Rievkoche (or the Swiss term Rösti) is a potato pancake/fritter made out of raw potatoes with a little wheat flour, a pinch of salt and grated onions, fried in oil or fat. They are most common during the Christmas period in Cologne and are sold at street kiosks with applesauce, however, some restaurants serve them throughout the year. Cafe Reichard (see more below) does a delicious version of the dish topped with a creamy mushroom sauce.
Apple Strudel (apfelstrudel) may be a traditional Austrian dish, however, it is also particularly popular throughout Germany, with many restaurants in Cologne serving the dish. The tasty dessert consists of an unleavened dough casing filled with grated apple and brown sugar, lemon, cinnamon and nuts.
Visiting Cologne? Check out my post:
Where to eat in Cologne:
Cologne is absolutely full of great beer houses and restaurants where you can try a whole range of delicious local delicacies. So much so that the choice can be a little overwhelming. To help you out, here my guide to some of the best places to eat in Cologne…
Peters Brauhaus is a traditional German beer house in Cologne which serves plenty of local beer and food. Located close to Kölner Dom, the 100-year-old establishment is known for serving 26 types of Kölsch (Cologne’s local beer), which in-keeping with tradition will keep getting topped up until you cover your empty glass with a beer mat.
As well as its chilled local beers, Peters Brauhaus has an extensive menu of tasty local dishes, including Himmel un Ääd, Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), Halve Hahn and schnitzel.
Address: Mühlengasse 1, 50667 Köln, Germany
A local brewery and beer house which has been brewing and serving its own version of Kölsch on the same premises since 1884. This cosy and down to Earth spot has a traditional German menu which includes many Cologne specialities. There is an entire cheese section, lead by the traditional dish of Halve Hahn, as well as Päffgen specialities such as homemade sausage and beet-roasted pork.
Portions are large and reasonably priced, and the atmosphere is about as traditional as you’ll get in Cologne. There is even a good sized beer garden or a beautiful heated conservatory to enjoy during the colder months. Remember to bring cash as they only accept some German credit cards.
Address: Friesenstraße 64-66, 50670 Köln, Germany
BEI OMA KLEINMANN
Bei Oma Kleinmann is a casual restaurant located on the party street of Zülpicher Straße in West Cologne and is well known for being one of the best restaurants in Cologne for schnitzel.
The local hotspot serves huge pork and veal schnitzels with a whole variety of toppings and sides, from the traditional schnitzel with potatoes and salad to the ‘Bombay’ with pineapple curry sauce and the ‘Olaf Maria’ with anchovy fillets and capers. You can even get stuffed schnitzels with the likes of camembert and cranberry, or vegetarian cheese and celery schnitzels.
Bei Oma Kleinmann is so popular with both locals and tourists that it’s advisable to book a table in advance, however, if you do decide to turn up on the day you’ll usually be able to wait at the bar with a cold glass of Kölsch and a table should become available within around 30 minutes (service is quick!).
Address: Zülpicher Str. 9, 50674 Köln, Germany
Moving away from the more traditional beer houses and restaurants mentioned above, Mad Dogs is a modern fast-food restaurant in the Belgian Quarter of Cologne which undoubtedly serves some of the best hot dogs in the city.
The Made Dog No.1 is the restaurant’s signature hot dog, which comes with a wiener sausage, fried onion, gherkin, ketchup and mayo. There are also several other options including the BBQ dog, the chilli dog, the curry dog and several more unique international dishes such as the oriental express.
Served in American diner style baskets, the hot dogs are made fresh but quickly and come with several different types of fries (try the chilli cheese fries) or salads. Several of the hot dogs can also be made using a veggie sausage (which I was told by my veggie travel buddies was also delicious).
Despite being a fast-food restaurant, Mad Dogs has a cool and chilled out vibe where you can sit in to enjoy your dog along with a cold bottle of Kölsch.
Address: Aachener Str. 14, 50674 Köln, Germany
Cafe Reichard is a large and elegant cafe with a huge outdoor terrace and amazing views across to Cologne Cathedral. The old fashioned cafe dates back to 1855, with the current family controlling it for the last 30 years.
As well as a breakfast buffet and lunchtime salad buffet, the cafe serves a number of cooked German dishes such as Röstis and soups. The savoury dishes are tasty but do come with a slightly inflated price tag, so for those who want to visit this Cologne institution without breaking your budget, don’t be afraid to sit down for a nice warm drink and a slice of cake instead (Kaffee & Kuchen).
Cafe Reichard has its own patisserie with a huge selection of indulgent cakes, truffles, pralines, and chocolates which you can admire in their elegant glass casings before you choose. Be sure to try the apfelstrudel (apple strudel) which is one of the best in Cologne.
While at the cafe, make sure to head downstairs to the toilet. This may sound like a strange thing to say but the bizarre doors are worth the visit alone (I won’t spoil the surprise too much).
Address: Unter Fettenhennen 11, 50667 Köln, Germany