Let's start at the beginning. This trip to Munich was my very first episode of Euro Trotter. If you haven't seen it yet, I have a travel and food show on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video called Euro Trotter, and Munich was the very first city we decided to explore for the show. I didn't know the first thing about making a travel and food show, but I knew we'd get some quality content in Munich, and of course, some really good German food and beer...enter Ryan, my cameraman and editor....Julie, my production assistant...and Kari, my long-time friend...who all decided to join me in this adventure.
So, with no real plan other than having been to Munich before...I decided to head out on a 24 hour food tour of the Bavarian capital. And my goal, like it is with any city, was to taste it. I think that’s the best way to get a feel for a city, its people and culture. So, if you’re not a huge foodie, Munich may not be for you. And, if you don’t care for enormous “stuff your mouth” size sausage, “put you under the table” beer and loud German beer hall chanting… then Munich is definitely not for you. But if you are game...then, this is Munich, the capital of Bavaria… and it tastes as good as it smells.
When you come to this fairy tale city with its cobblestone streets and gothic architecture, one of your first stops needs to be Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) in Marienplatz (St. Mary's Square), the historic city-centre of Munich. Get there at least 5 minutes before noon and get ready for a show. At noon, the bells will ring and the gigantic coo coo clock dances around and around… it’s quite magical.
When I check out a city’s food scene, I always try to visit an open-air market, that’s where you’ll find the heartbeat of the city. It’s where locals shop, and yes, there are tourists too, just like me. But this is something you have to do. And, Munich’s open-air market is a twist and turn of stands selling everything from foods to textiles, it even has a biergarten… welcome to Viktualienmarkt.
I was like a kid in a candy store, and one of my favorite stands was the cheese stand. I’ve never seen cheese so big in my life. I’m talking about some seriously big cheese.
This has to be one of the best markets I have been to because it was really spread out and had everything from traditional meats, cheese and vegetables to gourmet eateries with all kinds of seafood. Truly, I was in heaven. The problem is that there is no humanly way possible to do this market justice, because you want to eat everything and that leaves you missing out on some pretty cool places. So, pick up something, go sit somewhere and check it off your list.
A very cool thing to do in Europe is drink from a fountain, everyone does it. When you're in Viktualienmarkt, you can drink from the Ida Schumacher fountain like I did. And, if you're wondering who Ida was, she was a well-known Bavarian theatre actress and comedienne. Now, if you want to fit in, bend down and take a sip, or stop by a nearby stand and they'll give you a glass...I did both. And yes, you can drink the water… this is not Mexico.
In the spirit of Hansel and Gretel, I left the market and followed the trail of breadcrumbs right to Schuhbecks, the chocolate, spice, and tea shop you have to visit in Munich. The smell alone when you walk in is worth the visit.
When I entered, I was greeted with some chocolate bark, and this is something you have to try. It was so creamy and delicious with the salty nuts inside...I was blown away, and one piece was not enough!
After a few minutes of wandering around, I was lucky enough to meet both Monika, and Mr. Schuhbeck! He let us film and asked Monika to give me the full tour, which she did. Monika introduced me to countless spices and tea combinations, like the Tonka bean, used as an accent to flavor desserts and other dishes, but which is illegal in the US as too much of it can be lethal...now that's a bean with a kick! (Don't worry, you need to eat at least 20 beans at once for it to be considered in the lethal territory). While I wanted to bring some back, I thought probably not a good idea!
I did though bring some spices home, because let’s face it, you’re not going to get this same kind and quality product back home. I bought a special spice made by my Mr. Schuhbeck himself, a kind-of Chinese Five Spice, but without the garlic, perfect for cookies and baking...think snickerdoodles!
My next stop was lunch, it was time for sausage, and big sausage… I have been dreaming about this moment for months… a big juicy weisswurst loaded with mustard. And, my favorite place in Munich for this sausage-fest is Zum Franziskaner.
Start with an order of pretzels and listen up, you will never have a pretzel this good ever, anywhere… and only here at Zum Franziskaner. The pretzels are worth an entire blog in itself. The minute you put it in your mouth you have an incredible salty crunch, like hard candy shell crunchy, and then the airy fluffy inside… I won’t even ask how they do that.
The soup is a must… and one of the main reasons I came back to Munich was to find out how the heck they make the most amazing Bavarian cream of mushroom soup. It has bread cubes, chives, chanterelle mushrooms, a light broth with a touch of cream and some kind of alcohol, white wine or beer.
And, speaking of beer, be sure to get a Weissbier… that’s a wheat beer, and it’s pretty light and very delicious… and that’s saying a lot, because I am not a beer drinker …at all. Here’s the cool thing, when you get back home, at least here in the states, I was able to find Franziskaner beer at several liquor stores, so the good news is, you don’t have to go all the way to Munich to enjoy the beer!
Now, the sausage… get the Wurstelplatte, it’s made up of all kinds of amazing Bavarian sausages that you should try, but it doesn’t come with the weisswurst, so order that separately. The weisswurst is boiled, served in a sauce pot, and it’s a super moist veal sausage with spices. It’s very plain, so don’t expect a huge pop of flavor, it’s just smooth and savory. The accompanying mustard is sweet, it’s a thing in Munich, just not my thing, I prefer a tart mustard, but hey… when in Munich.
Now, interesting story about weisswurst. On the plane ride over, I met my friend Michael, who lives in Augsburg… just outside of Munich. According to Michael, legend has it that in the olden days when there was no refrigeration, you had to eat the sausage, which was made fresh every day, before the bells rang at noon at New Town Hall. After twelve o’clock, you would know that the weisswurst was no longer fresh. Weisswurst is very much seen as a breakfast sausage in Munich, and one that to this day is still eaten before noon.
A trip to Munich could not be complete without visiting the most famous biergarten in the world… Hofbrauhaus. I’m on the hunt for some really good beer and schweinshaxe, a roast crispy pork knuckle… and this is place to get it. Hofbrauhaus is the biggest, largest, original Hofbrauhaus in the world. Come for lunch or dinner, it will be packed all hours of the day. You have to just find a place to sit and then flag down one of the servers.
Now, we were sitting next to some locals that got up from the table and left, and one of them left their pork knuckle completely untouched. So yes, I took it. Now, I guess I should have thought that they had gone outside for a smoke break, but as luck would have it, they did leave and left their entire meal behind. And, I was not about to let it go to waste.
It was heaven. The skin was so crispy crunchy, and the meat was fork tender. Also, when you order the schweinshaxe, it will most likely come with a knödel, that’s a boiled dumpling… and it’s awful. Don’t waste the calories, but do take a bite to say you’ve tried it.
After all this eating and "beer" drinking, it's time for a real cocktail...and that is one of the things I love to do when I check out a city. I like doing cocktails at swanky hotels and it’s even better if they have a rooftop bar! Welcome to Hotel Bayerischer Hof. Now, if money is not an issue, this is the place to stay. And if it is, just come on in for the drink and view and act like you own the place!
The hotel has a very ornate and almost Gatsby-style bar and lounge, they also have a rooftop bar and lounge, but it was too cold to be outside, so we had drinks in the lobby.
And, what a lobby. The ceiling is a beautiful blue stain glass dome. This was the perfect place to sit back, relax and have a drink.
I ordered one of my favorite cocktails, the White Lady, and this by the way also happened to be Alfred Hitchcock's favorite cocktail. It is traditionally made with gin, but I get mine with vodka. There’s also cointreau and fresh lemon juice, and the special ingredient… shaken egg white. The egg white gives it a really nice froth on the top.
For my last stop, and because I'm always looking for a late-night bite, I made my way to Zum Augustiner, for schnitzel, beer and some good old fashion German beer hall chanting!
The atmosphere inside the beer hall is, in a word...loud! There are people everywhere, jammed next to each other in a picnic table style setting, fists are pounding on the tables, beers steins are raised, and the echos of German folk songs are bellowing through the hall. Now, the schnitzel and beer is great, but you come for the raucous.
We sat next to a group of Germans visiting Munich, and we naturally inquired as to what all the excitement was about. And while they came to cheer on their soccer team for the big weekend match, I was told that this big "BrewHaHah" atmosphere is "all about being together". People of all races, religions and backgrounds coming together to celebrate. Now, we did eventually get to the food, and our friends even showed me how to eat it what I had ordered, with or without the skin...oh that's right, in addition to the schnitzel I ordered another pork knuckle...that makes two for the day...and it was delicious!
Munich is a city that surprises. And, it was one jammed pack day of eating, drinking and exploring. What I learned about Munich is that it has soul. It is a way of life, beyond the beer halls and sausages, Munich invites you to taste what it has to offer, and that is, a city that is welcoming to everyone...one that says, "sit down and stay awhile".
You can watch my video on Munich here: