Thinking about what food you’re going to eat in Cologne, Germany? You’re in luck, there are some pretty delicious dishes to try out!
One can eat pretty well in most traditional-style Kölsch restaurants, and as a visitor, you should try some of the local food in Cologne, which is quite rustic, but tasty, hearty fare.
The brewery taps (Früh, Sion, Pfaffen, Malzmühle etc. in the old town south of the Dom) are worth taking note of to that respect, although they tend to be expensive for what you get (but still worth the experience).
See also: Off The Beaten Track Tip: Belgian Quarter Cologne
Restaurants in Cologne
When looking for restaurants in Cologne, places out of the way such as Schreckenskammer and Max Stark (north of the train station, the former being within crawling distance of the Station Backpackers Hostel), Päffgen (Friesenstrasse) and both of Cologne’s independent brewpubs (Hellers Brauhaus on Roonstrasse and Braustelle in Ehrenfeld) offer cheaper and better food than the old town tourist traps. Besides, most of these places have tons of atmosphere, which doesn’t hurt!
You may also experience the deadly dry wit of the Köbes (traditional name of the blue-clad waiters) in most of those places. If it happens to you, don’t get upset, just enter the game, send the Köbes packing with a dig and a smile and you’ll be all right. You’ll mostly find typical Rheinland dishes in those traditional Kneipen.
Traditional food in Cologne that you have to try
Here are a few local foods in Cologne to try out:
- Halver Hahn: a nice big slab of dutch gouda with a rye roll (Röggelchen)
- Himmel und Äd mit Flönz: fried black pudding with mashed potatoes (“earth”), apple sauce (“heaven”) and fried onions.
- Soorbrode /Sauerbraten: a joint marinated in vinegar with raisins, usually served with red cabbage and a kloss (potato dumpling). The joint may be beef or horsemeat, so you may want to ask first…
- Dicke Bunne mit Speck: boiled white beans with hefty boiled bacon slices on top.
& my favorites…
- Schweinshaxe aka Hämchen: pig’s leg, usually a bit of a monster (ranges from 600 to 1400 grms, including the bone)
- Rievekoochen / Reibekuchen: flat fried potato cakes usually on offer once a week, and served with a variety of sweet or savoury toppings, which may include apple sauce, Rübenkraut (the beet-sourced equivalent to black treacle) or smoked salmon with horseradish cream.
Cologne is famous for its Kölsch (beer)
When in Cologne, you have to try the beer!
Typical Cologne beer is called “Kölsch” and served in bars around town in small glasses, called “Stangen”, of 0.2l. That way the beer is always fresh and cold.
Don’t worry, waiters will quickly bring you a new one once your old one is (almost) finished. In more traditional bars and especially the breweries, the waiter (called “Köbes” in local language) will even hand you a fresh Kölsch without being asked, so it is easy to lose track of how much you drank. He will put a pencil line on your coaster for each beer that you drink, this will be the basis for your bill, so do not lose it!
To stop the beer from coming, put the coaster on top of your empty glass. You may also experience the deadly dry wit of the Köbes (traditional name of the blue-clad waiters) in most of those places.
If you buy bottled Kölsch, take either “Reissdorf”, “Früh”, “Gaffel” or “Mühlen”, which are rated highest by Cologne citizens (there are about 30 more brands). There are so many bars and pubs to choose from that you could spend most of the night going from one bar to the next.
Where to get beer in Cologne
For traditional breweries, head to the Altstadt around the Dom, where the “Früh Kölsch” brewery is the most authentic place, famous both with visitors and locals.
A few of the restaurants that we mentioned above are also great for beer.
You will find a younger crowd at “Hellers Brauhaus” on Roonstraße, near metro station Zülpicher Platz or “Brauhaus Pütz” on Engelbertstraße close to Rudolfplatz.
Furthermore the “Päffgen“, on the all-bar street Friesenstraße close to the Friesenplatz, and the “Mühlen” near Heumarkt are traditional brewery pubs but less touristy than the “Früh“.
Also recommended is Sion, which is a lesser known brand, but hailed to be very good, although some beer enthusiasts have found it lacking character from 2007 onwards.
Most Altstadt pubs are somewhat scorned as “tourist traps” by locals, however: prices here are usually higher on Zülpicher Straße. The breweries also serve you great meals from the typical local cuisine, and they are famous for its large portions.
DO NOT order another beer than Kölsch in a brewery (especially not Alt beer from Düsseldorf)! It’s very unfriendly and it might happen that you get kicked out in a brewery! Ok, if you don’t speak German, I guess you might be lucky…but if you are German…you will be kicked out! It’s because of the rivalry between both cities.
Also, if you order a glass of milk, it might take more than 30 minutes till you get it. Your friends will have a few glasses of Kölsch in that time already.
There are a lot of modern bars and lounges all around town. More mainstream ones are on Zülpicher Straße. For something more independent and funky on this street, try Umbruch (funky) or Stiefel (punky). The Low Budget on Aachener Straße next to Moltkestraße metro is a nice, unassuming, punky bar which features a fine selection of drinks and often hosts concerts, poetry or cabaret sessions.
A lot of stylish places are in the so-called Belgian quarter between Aachener Straße and the Ring, e.g. famous M20 or the Hallmackenreuther.