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23 May 2016 - Maike Bialek

The taste of Bremen

Food served in the Bremer Ratskeller
© Maike Bialek

OK, I’ll admit it – the first time you read about typical Bremen dishes and see names such as kohl und pinkel, labskaus and knipp, you’re unlikely to get very excited. But maybe names such as hochzeitssuppe, or ‘wedding soup’, kaffeebrot or backfisch will tempt you to give them a try.

I believe they’re well worth sampling, and not just because I was born in Bremen and have been eating these dishes for many years.

That is why I’ve finally got around to writing this post that answers the question, ‘Where in Bremen can you tuck into typical local food?’

It’s not easy to pick out any favourites, because we have quite a few really good restaurants here in Bremen. So I started off by writing down some criteria that the restaurants on my list should fulfil: a large selection of typical Bremen dishes, a nice location (either of historical interest, in the centre, or in a particularly nice spot, for example on the Weser river) and a welcoming atmosphere. I’ve not included seafood restaurants (I’ll write a separate post on those), and as the focus is on main dishes there are no cafés or bars listed here (coffee, beer and wine are certainly part of Bremen life, but you can read about that in our other blog posts).

All that remains to be said is guten appetit!

Bremer Ratskeller

Collage: vaulted hall in the Ratskeller, food served, Maike Bialek in the Ratskeller
© Maike Bialek

People have been enjoying fine wine in Bremen’s Ratskeller since 1409. It’s the largest repository of German wines, with 650 exquisite varieties. This huge vaulted hall with its columns and ornate wine barrels has welcomed plenty of famous characters, including Sigmund Freud and Heinrich Heine.

  • Extract from the menu: Bremen-style potato soup with crispy bacon, traditional labskaus, knipp, granny’s Sunday roast, Bremen-style pan-fried fish, red berry compote with vanilla sauce
  • Address: Am Markt, 28195 Bremen
  • I can highly recommend the black rye bread mousse with kaffeebrot, which is bread coated in butter and cinnamon sugar and then baked, for dessert if it happens to be on the menu (pictured on the main photo of this post). And a glass of fine wine with your meal, of course.

Bratwurstglöck’l Stockhinger vs. Martin Kiefert

Collage: sausages served and building
© Maike Bialek

The argument over who sells the best bratwurst in Bremen is ultimately a question of taste, and I don’t think it can really be settled. These two rivals are situated right next to each other by the Rathaus. Do you prefer Stockhinger’s grilled bratwurst in a roll or Kiefert’s bratwurst with home-made potato salad? I’d rather not choose one or the other … just enjoy both.

  • Address: Liebfrauenkirchhof, 28195 Bremen
  • If you fancy something other than bratwurst, you should try one of Kiefert’s wonderfully squidgy egg rolls. I absolutely adored these as a kid!

Becks in ‘n Snoor

Collage: Restaurant building, menu and sign of Becks in the Schnoor quarter
© Maike Bialek

This long-established restaurant is situated right in the heart of the Schnoor quarter and serves typical Bremen dishes and other traditional German food in a historical setting.

  • Extract from the menu: hochzeitssuppe (broth with egg and meatballs), green shrimp soup, Bremen-style soused herrings, plaice, home-made brawn, kohl und pinkel (seasonal), red berry compote
  • Address: Schnoor 34/36, 28195 Bremen
  • A stroll through the historical Schnoor quarter is a great way to take in some local history before or after a meal.

Grauer Esel

Collage: restaurant from outside and inside, appetizer plate "Grauer Esel"
© Maike Bialek

The Utkiek area in Bremen-Vegesack is the maritime centre of the Hanseatic city. The historical building that is home to Grauer Esel sits right by the old museum harbour (Germany’s first artificial harbour). Built in 1777 as a cow shed, the storm tide-threatened structure was converted into a tavern at the end of the 19th century, and is the oldest collection of buildings in the Vegesack quarter.

  • Extract from the menu: cream of potato soup with North Sea shrimps, Grauer Esel fish and seafood platter, labskaus, pan-fried knipp, hot plums cooked to an old family recipe
  • Address: Am Vegesacker Hafen 10, 28757 Bremen
  • I can recommend a stroll along the maritime mile to work up an appetite. You can also take a detour to see the tall ship Deutschland, the museum harbour and the old harbour warehouses.

Schüttinger Gasthausbrauerei

Collage: Schüttinger Gasthausbrauerei menu, restaurant from inside, quote
© Maike Bialek

In 1990, Schüttinger Hausbrauerei resurrected Bremen’s brewpub tradition, making it the oldest brewpub in Bremen. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming – there’s always room for one more on its long benches. And if you don’t know the person sitting next to you, you soon will.

  • Extract from the menu: Elbe-Weser platter of typical Bremen dishes such as knipp and labskaus, North German-style baked fish, sweet and sour fried herring, Schüttinger schnapps, Werder Schluck liqueur
  • Address: Hinter dem Schütting 12-13, 28195 Bremen
  • As Schüttinger brew their own beer I can highly recommend a glass of bottom-fermented Schüttinger beer with your meal. How about a ten-litre cask at the table so you can serve yourself? …

Gasthof zum Kaiser Friedrich

Collage: Gasthof zum Kaiser Friedrich: Outside view and menu
© Maike Bialek

Gasthof zum Kaiser Friedrich is one Bremen’s oldest restaurants and can be found in the Schnoor quarter. The heritage-listed building was built in around 1630 in the baroque style. It’s very cosy and welcoming and has an additional 40 seats outside in the summer.

  • Extract from the menu: open sandwich with hackepeter (pork tartare), farmer’s breakfast, potato soup with shrimps, red berry compote, a large selection of open sandwiches with ham, soused herring, shrimps or knipp
  • Address: Lange Wieren 13, 28195 Bremen
  • Why make it complicated when the simple things taste so good? They do an excellent range of open sandwiches – you just have to try the one with home-made meat in aspic!

Well? Feeling hungry now? Then you’d better book a table. As I’ve hardly scratched the surface with this list of great restaurants, I’ll follow this up with further posts, for example on fish dishes and the best places to drink coffee in Bremen. I look forward to reading your own restaurant recommendations in the comments section.

Oh, and one final tip: if you’re looking for a little snack on the go, then have a look in the Schnoor Bäckerei bakery. I could tell you all about kaffeebrot, klaben fruit cake and kluntjes rock candy, but I’ll leave that for another day …

Bremer Klaben in the shop window of the bakery in Schnoor
© Maike Bialek

If you want to find out more about typical Bremen food, why not have a look in our blog’s food & drink category. Here are a few links:

Favourite Bremen food – so what exactly are stinte and pluckte finken?

Many more recommended restaurants in Bremen here.

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