The ABCs of Franconian Food

Franconia is a wonderful place to eat but it’s not for the faint hearted. There is generally lots of meat involved and much like in Medieval times, fatty meat is prized. As with all of Germany, it’s heavy on pork dishes and while vegetarian fare has hit the big cities, don’t expect much in rural pubs.

It’s best to expect hearty fare: roasts with dumplings laden in heavy (and quite tasty) sauces. Sausages and cold cuts feature prominently and are of exceptional quality, even if not the lean versions you may be accustomed to. It’s not unusual for a brewpub to have its own butcher as these are mostly family affairs and in small villages like these, someone in the family is likely to have a farm and some livestock!

As a rule, the prices are very reasonable, so you won’t break the bank trying something. You just might find you like something that doesn’t sound or look great. One thing is for sure: these dishes go perfectly with the beer of the region. In fact, I can’t imagine drinking the beer without enjoying the food and vice versa. They were made for each other.

Below is an alphabetical list of some common dishes you may find along your beery travels.

A

Apfelküchle: This desert isn’t common but I’ve had it a few times, generally at nicer and larger brewpubs. It’s apple rings, battered and fried with cinnamon and vanilla ice cream.

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B

Baggers: This is the Franconian name for Kartoffelpuffer or potato pancakes. They can be served as a side dish or as a meal with Apfelmus (apple sauce).

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Bamberger Zwiebel: Roasted stuffed onion. This is a delicacy from Bamberg and aside from Schlenkerla, I’ve never seen it. They tend to run out of it early so look for it at lunch. It’s an onion stuffed with a beef/pork ground meat mix and topped with a slice of bacon. It’s a nice smaller meal if not super hungry.

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Bauernplatte: Just one of many names for a plate of mixed cold meats. They are great value and generally made up of great quality meats BUT they are very crude types and not likely anything you’ve had before. Think blood pudding and head cheese (aspic). That said, it’s my go-to meal. I love the stuff and my guess is if many people tried it, they would too. You just have to get it past your eyes. I will mention various meats on such plates as they come up in the alphabet.

Blauer Zipfel: This is a true Franconian specialty, made by poaching Bratwurst in vinegar with juniper berries, bay leaf and lots of onions. It’s served with bread and is quite tasty if a bit off-putting visually. It’s one of the lighter meals on menus and is great on a warm day, sitting outside. It counts as one of the “light” dishes of the region.

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Bockwurst: A thick hot dog type sausage made of pork, with a smokier flavor than its American cousin. Heated in hot water, never fried, it’s served with mustard and bread.

Bratkartoffeln: A dying dish in much of Germany, thanks to the popularity of fries, this is a much better alternative. Much like home fries, these are sliced potatoes, pan-fried with onions and often caraway seeds. It’s more time consuming to make than fries but SO much better. If you see them on the menu, get some. You won’t regret it.
Bratwurst: One of the region’s hallmark dishes, it’s similar to what you might get in Chicago. Made of pork and varying in coarseness and size, they are best grilled but can be fried in a pan in smaller brewpubs. Nürnberg has very small spicy ones, similar in size to American breakfast sausages. Generally, they are a bit larger and in Bamberg, it is sometimes served as a ring. When in doubt, get this dish and you’ll be happy. Generally, they are served with sauerkraut and bread.

Brezn: Soft pretzels. If you want a good one, go to Munich. This is one thing Franconians can’t seem to master. You can find decent ones in Nürnberg at the bakery Kolb. Bread is king here.

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Brot: Speaking of which, this is bread. German bread is typically of quite good quality though in recent times, to cut costs, lower quality bread is often used. When you get really good German bread, you’ll know it and remember it when you are eating lesser things back home. Germans often say it’s the thing they miss most when they move away from Germany. Though white bread exists, it tends to be dark and traditionally in the rye family though whole grain breads are also popular.

Brotzeit: More of a food category, literally means bread time but refers to snacks, often eaten as the evening meal but can be anytime.

Blaukraut: Blue or reddish cabbage, seasoned with cloves. It’s mostly served with gamier meats like duck and goose.

C

Coburger: Coburg’s noted for their Bratwurst and it’s not unusual for a town to name their sausage after itself!

D

Dosenfleisch: “Dosen” is can and “fleisch” is meat (literally flesh) so this is quite simply meat in a can. It sounds like Spam and maybe not overly appetizing but when it comes to preserved meat, the Germans know what they are doing. This is a typical offering in very small brewpubs due to its shelf-life.

E

Eier: Eggs, not limited to this region but you’ll see many dishes featuring them. (Spiegeleier are fried eggs and Rühreier are scrambled eggs but for breakfast, you’ll likely only get gekochtes Ei or a boiled egg)

Eisbein: Boiled pork knuckle is not so typical in this region but you will see it and wanted to warn you about it. It looks gross but actually is really good. I’ve only had it once because of its appearance but quite enjoyed it. Not for the faint hearted!

Ente: Duck, always roasted and served with dumplings. If you like duck, get it. If you’ve never had duck and always wanted to try it, get it. If think you don’t like duck, get it. Get it, get it.


Duck breast & a quarter duck

F

Fisch: You might not think fish would be all that great in Germany but they actually do it very well. Aside from Munich’s Steckerlfisch (fish on a stick!), I’d more or less steered clear of the stuff, especially the most popular broiled one in a creamy dill sauce. It just sounded lame to me but one Good Friday I found myself in a brewpub with no meat on the menu so I figured it was time I gave it a go. I did and it was great. It was cod in a dill sauce with new boiled potatoes. It was delicate, lovely and now I seek it out. Well, at least on Good Fridays.

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Flammkuchen: The pizza of Germany, it’s from the Alsace but is popular around the country and increasingly in Franconia. It’s good value.

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G

Gans: Goose, always roasted and served with dumplings. See Ente.

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Gemüse: Generic name for vegetables, don’t expect to see a lot of them.

Gerupfter: A lovely cheese spread of cheese curds, Camembert and butter garnished with paprika and onions. Similar but a bit spicier than its southern Bavarian cousin, Obatz’n. Generally, served with bread whereas in Bavaria, it comes with Brezn.

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Glasfleisch: Similar to Dosenfleisch but it’s meat preserved in a small glass jar rather than a tin can. You’ll see it in supermarkets but the best ones are homemade. If you see one that is, give it a try. It’s really tasty.

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Göttinger: A large thick sausage served cold and very typical on small brewpub menus.

Griebenschmalz: A spread made of pork and duck fat. You don’t see this so often but if you want a small snack that goes well with beer and won’t break the bank, give it a try.

Gulasch: A Hungarian dish very much adopted by Germany. It’s perhaps their most popular soup and is often featured as a dish. It’s an easy to eat meat option for those who don’t want to deal with dissecting sometimes fatty cuts of meat.

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H

Hase:Hare, generally Hasenkeule or leg of hare. You don’t see it often so if so inclined, give it a go. I did and quite liked it.
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Hausgemacht: Homemade. You’ll see this with regard to sausages and sliced meats and if so, go for it.

Hähnchen: Chicken. Called Hendl in southern Bavaria, you see it more down south and it’s typically cooked on a rotisserie grill. It’s marvelous but again, not something you often find in Franconia. When you do, it’s deep-fried and though that doesn’t sound so great, it actually is. Is it better than the rotisserie? No, but it’s quite good and after eating pork for a week, you should think about it if you are lucky enough to see it on the menu. I’ve had it a few times and it was always excellent.

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Himbeeren:Raspberries. Not going into fruits so much as you won’t find them on too many menus but raspberries are featured as a sauce for vanilla ice cream and as a rule are quite good.

Hirsch: Venison from a larger deer with antlers, generally served in a stew-like fashion and though more expensive than most dishes, probably a lot cheaper than back home.

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J

Jägerschnitzel: This is a bit different than “back home,” as it’s always made from pork and not breaded. The mushroom sauce is the same so overall, it’s a similar flavor.

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A typical German Jägerschnitzel with Bratkartoffeln

K

Kalterbraten: Cold roast pork. If it’s a store bought one, it’s good but if you get a good homemade one, it’s incredible.

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Karpfen: Carp. This is truly a specialty of some regions in Franconia and though I was skeptical, if you eat it in these places in months with an R, it’s great. You can get a whole one or for those less adventurous, it comes filleted and deep-fried in a beer batter. Somehow, it never seems greasy and manages to be somewhat light.

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Kartoffeln: Not a meal but potatoes are so prominent on menus, it’s good to know what they are.

Kartoffelpuffer: See Baggers above, potato pancakes.

Kartoffelpuree: Mashed potatoes.

Kasseler: A smoked pork chop, with or without a bone. It’s one of my favorites but you don’t see it in restaurants as much as, for me, it should be. My mother-in-law makes a great one. Maybe it’s more of at home meal.
If you see it on a menu and you like smoked things, enjoy.

Käse: Cheese. You will find a mixed cheese plate in nearly all brewpubs. They tend to be mild affairs but if you don’t like meat or are just tired of it, it’s one of the few options you’ll have. This was a particularly good one.

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Käsespätzle: The macaroni and cheese of Germany, it’s not truly Franconian but you see in at larger brewpubs.

Kesselfleisch: This is one of the dishes served on Schlachtschussel days. These slaughter days are village rituals still celebrated when the farm animals are freshly killed and cut up. The parts not used for much else are thrown in a large cauldron and boiled. I’ve never had Kesselfleisch but have seen it a few times. I’m still not ready to order one of these but if I was with someone who ordered it, I’ve give some of the bits a go.

Klöße. Dumplings. They are called Knödel in Bavaria, where they can be made of potato or bread (Semmelknödel). In Franconia, they are always from potato if not otherwise noted. They are served with nearly all roast meals and make perfect sponges for the rich sauces you’ll not want to waste. For the kiddies, you can order Kloß mit Soß (dumplings with sauce) and then give them a bit of your meat since you’ll likely have plenty!

Knoblauch: Garlic. Unless you hate the stuff, you won’t find anything Germans make as overly garlicky but figured I should warn you.

Knöchla: This is the Franconian name for Eisbein. It’s the pork knuckle but boiled rather than roasted. It’s not a pretty sight but if you can get past the way it looks, it’s actually quite good despite the texture. Try to get a look at someone else’s before taking this leap.

Krautsalat: A cold cabbage salad with caraway seeds. It’s more typical in Bavaria, but if you see in anywhere, get it. I love this stuff. It really helps you digest the heavy pork dishes, too.

Krenfleisch: Also known as Tafelspitz in southern Bavaria, this is a bit like pot roast. It’s sliced beef, well-done but generally quite tender. It’s served in a creamy horseradish sauce. Kren is the Franconian name for Meerrettich (horseradish).

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Kroketten: Potato croquette. Mostly found on cheaper menus, surely frozen but not bad and a sometimes welcomed deviation from the dumplings you’ll encounter.

L

Leber: Liver. You see it on menus occasionally but you’ll mostly encounter Leberwurst, a staple on any mixed meat plate.

Leberkäse: Not liver cheese as the name would seem to imply but more of a meatloaf that tastes a bit like a hot dog. It’s more typical of Bavaria but it’s certainly not unusual in larger brewpubs though not particularly Franconian.

Leberknödelsuppe: Liver dumpling soup. It’s very typical of Bavaria but I’ve seen it a lot in Franconia, too.
M
Metbrot: Ground meat (pork or mixed pork and beef), spiced, spread on buttered dark bread and topped with raw onions and paprika. So simple, so good. Raw pork in pork in Germany is not unusual and exceptional. 
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Mit Musik: A preparation method for cold cuts, with raw onions and vinegar. Generally done with some type of sliced sausages. The name is an allusion to the resultant noise after ingesting the concoction, especially with beer.

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Sülze mit Musik, Bratkartoffeln in the background

P

Pfifferlinge: Chanterelle mushrooms. These are seasonal and served in a creamy sauce often with dumplings.

Pilze: More common mushrooms.
Pute: Turkey. You probably won’t see this aside from being in a Schnitzel.
Q

Quark: Translated as curd cheese, to any real German, there is no equivalent anywhere. My wife wanted to move back to Germany just for this (and health insurance, of course). If you are meated out, this may be one of your alternatives. It typically comes with some onions or herbs and is spread on bread. It’s also used in cakes, mostly where I like it.

R

Rauchbraten: Roasted smoked pork. I’ve only had I once but it was amazing. I still dream about it and if I’m ever back at Brauerei Prechtel in Uehlfeld, I’ll be looking for it.

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Reh: Venison from a smaller deer without antlers. This is less gamey than Hirsch, typically comes as Rehbraten or roast deer but still served stew style in a thick sauce.

Rind: Beef. Beef is not nearly as popular or common as pork.

Rinderroulade: Flank steak, pounded and spiced with mustard, salt and pepper and stuffed with raw onion, pickles and bacon before rolling it up and fastened with string or pins. These are simmered in a lovely sauce. One of my favorites and much better in Franconia than Bavaria. Hands down.

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Roter Pressack: Blood sausage or black pudding. Served sliced and typical of all mixed meat plates. Forget the word blood.The Swedes eat this stuff for breakfast, don’t be a wimp.

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roter Pressack is in the lower left hand center position

S

Salzkartoffeln: Boiled salted potatoes. Sounds so simple but for some reason, they are so good here. They don’t even need butter and that’s saying a lot. Typically served with Kasseler and Rinderroulade.

Sauerbraten: Another one of the most popular beef meals and though a true staple in Bavaria, it’s fairly common in larger brewpubs in Franconia. This is probably the closest thing to pot roast in Germany. It has a slightly sourish flavor due to the meat being marinated in vinegar. The sauce is rich. Oddly enough, this is made in rolls like Rinderroulade in America and called Sauerbraten. At any rate, in Germany, it’s slices and usually quite tender. This is one meal always served with Blaukraut and Klöße.

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Sauerkraut: Pickled cabbage. If you don’t know what this is, you’re in for an interesting dining experience. It is ubiquitous and with Bratwurst, mandatory.

Schäuferla: THE signature dish of Franconia. You can’t really say you’ve been to Franconia until you’ve eaten an entire Schäuferla. Ok, at least tried to eat an entire one. They can be quite large but if I’m hungry, I never fail to polish one off. It’s a pork shoulder and though they vary, the best fall off the bone but still have a crispy layer of fat on top. “Schauferl” is a shovel in German. La is a suffix attached to words in the Franconian dialect to insinuate smallness. Well, the meal is anything but small but if you manage to finish one, you will be left with just this bone, which is comparatively small and small for a shovel, for sure. In smaller brewpubs, it’s only available on Sundays and holidays. If it’s on the menu, get it. You won’t regret it.

Schinken (gekochter): Ham. Unfortunately, it’s not a staple on the mixed meat plates but it’s great if you get a chance to try it and it’s a homemade one.

Schinken (roher): Smoked ham. Almost always available at the brewpubs and is generally part of mixed meat plates.

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roher Schinken at the bottom is quite lean

Schnitzel: Technically doesn’t have to be breaded and unless otherwise stated, it’s from pork. That said nearly all Schnitzels are breaded unless they are in a sauce. This must be the national dish of Germany and you will see it everywhere. They vary in quality but when you get a homemade one, they can be great.

Schlachtschussel/Schlachtplatte: This dish is generally only available on slaughter days, still very much celebrated in small villages. It’s a lot of work and meat is cut up, sausages made and what’s not used is put in a big pot and boiled. The resultant meal is the reward for not only those involved in the process but also the village, who really look forward to this anything but delicate “delicacy.” I had read about it but hadn’t seen it up close until recently in the Zoigl area of the Oberfalz. It included blood sausages and liverwurst along with some other choice bits. It actually looked like something I could eat and I will likely order it next time I’m there. I’ll let you know what I think after I do!

Schwein: Pork. Good to know as that’s what you’ll be eating a lot of. If you don’t like or eat pork, better to know.

Schweinsbraten: Roast pork. It’s better in Bavaria but you can find some fine ones in Franconia, too. One thing that’s nice is it generally comes with Wirsing.

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Schweinshaxe: Roast pork knuckle. One of the most typical dishes of Bavaria, it’s popular in Franconia, as well. Unlike Eisbein, the skin is crispy and is easier to eat. I like it but it’s not Schäuferla.

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Semmel:  A Kaiser roll. Germans specialize in rolls and there are many types but this is still the most popular and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to eat one if you are staying overnight in a brewpub as the bread basket at breakfast will be full of them.

Spanferkel: Suckling pig, more typical of Bavaria but you sometimes get lucky and see it in Franconia. Roasted and served with Klöße and Krautsalat, it’s a lovely meal.

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Spargel: Asparagus, generally white (Weiß) but green is readily available if less common in brewpubs. This is one vegetable that the country gets behind. In fact, they have “Spargelzeit,” literally asparagus time, as it’s seasonal (spring). Often served as a meal in itself with Hollandaise sauce, it is also used as a side dish with Schnitzel, salmon and ham. I like it better with melted butter and though I don’t eat it out much, we make it at home a fair amount when it’s available. Visiting friends always rave over it so if in Franconia during Spargelzeit, give it a shot.

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Spätzle: Egg noodles. This originates in the Swabian area of Germany near Stuttgart. They are quite good when homemade and so popular all over Germany that even pre-made ones are okay. It’s not super popular in Franconia, but it comes with a lot of game dishes.

Spiegelei: Fried egg.

Sülze: Jellied meat or aspic. This is one that took me awhile to try but I love it now. Just remember, it’s jelly, not fat. The meat is actually some of the leanest you’ll find. It’s never dry due to it preservation technique. Often served “mit musik,” or with raw onions and vinegar. It’s Old World and in these timeless old pubs, washed down with a beer, it fits perfectly to the atmosphere.

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Sülze mit Musik und Bratkartoffeln

W

Weisswurst: White sausages made of ground veal, seasoned with parsley. It’s heated in boiled water and originated in Munich but has made it’s way sparingly to Franconia. Primarily a late breakfast meal, it’s served with sweet mustard and traditionally with a soft pretzel.

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Rauchweizen with Weißwurst at Schlenkerla

Weisser Pressack: The lighter colored cousin of Roter Pressack.

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Wiener Schnitzel: Breaded veal. This is what we think of as Schnitzel but in Germany, regular Schnitzel is made of pork. The one from Vienna is the Wiener Schnitzel. Beware of “Wiener Art” as this just refers to it being breaded as technically, a Schnitzel does not have to be breaded even if in today’s world, they almost always are unless in a sauce. It’s always quite a bit more money then a regular Schnitzel.

Wild: Refers to all game meals.

Wildschwein: Wild boar, generally roasted like pork.

Wirsing: Savoy cabbage, boiled and mashed to different degrees. It seems in the south, it’s more coarse while in Franconia, it’s more pureed and creamy with surely lots of butter in the mix. My favorite side besides Klöße.

Wurst: The term for the considerable overall group of sausages and cold cuts that Germany is justly renowned for. A trip to the butcher shop here is a true eye opener. It’s highly regulated and of very high quality. There’s fat involved but that is, after all, part of the animals slaughtered. What it doesn’t have is fillers.

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Z

Zwetchgenbames: One of the region’s true specialties, this thinly sliced beef is smoked over plum wood. It’s a very lean meat, not smoky and not overly salty. This is one of the safest cold meals to get for a newcomer and I still get it when I see it as it’s not on as many menus as it once was.

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Zwiebeleskäs: Curd cheese mixed with onions (Zwiebel) and herbs. One of the few non-meat meals and relatively light. That said, if not hungry and looking for a snack, you could split one order between two people.

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The thing about Franconian food is it goes so well with Franconian beer.

3 thoughts on “The ABCs of Franconian Food

    1. Glad you enjoyed. Think you’ll have to pay us a visit to find some of these but in a world of increasingly being able to get everything, everywhere, that’s kind of nice. Thanks for dropping by.

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