I’ll Have the Wiener Art

In Germany, a menu is called a Speisekarte. “Menu” is short for Tagesmenu, which lists the daily specials.


If you ever go to a German restaurant, you may find yourself completely mystified by the process of Germany dining. Assuming you’re able to translate the menu enough to order a meal (what is wiener art, anyway?) you might find yourself stymied by a number of other oddities.

The strange snuffling sound coming from under the table next to you? Yes, that’s a dog. Dogs are allowed in even some of the nicest restaurants. Fido is likely to be served a refreshing bowl of water before you get your Hefeweisen.

As for your food, if you find yourself plate-less while your companions are filling their bellies, you haven’t been forgotten. In Germany, food is brought out when it’s ready, not all at the same time.

And when the meal is finished, you may have to perform a table dance to get your bill. If you wait for the server to deliver it, you’ll go cross-eyed trying to stare him or her down. They’re not inattentive…in Europe, when you sit down to a meal, the table is yours…a server would never rush you off by bringing the bill.

When you do pay, make sure your wallet is full of cash. The server will stand at the table and wait. They’ll pull out a little wallet and dole out your change right then (they’re whizzes at doing math in their heads). Many places in Germany don’t take credit cards. Don’t be fooled by the symbols in the window…Germans have cards with a special “EC” chip in them. If you don’t have cash, you might find yourself washing a sinkful of beer steins.

A few more tips:

  • You may be delighted when your server brings you a basket of rolls or pretzels, but if you accept them, you may be charged for each one. The same goes for packets of ketchup.
  • If you stand at the door of a restaurant waiting to be seated, you may be there all night. In Germany, restaurants are usually seat-yourself.
  • Don’t be surprised if one day you are dining at a busy restaurant and complete strangers sit down with you. Germans don’t let empty seats go wasted.
  • A fifteen percent gratuity is already included in the bill, so you don’t need to leave a big tip. A euro or two is always appreciated, of course, but don’t leave it on the table. Hand it directly to the server.
  • If you ask for water, you will receive bottled water…and a bill. Go ahead and try to finagle a glass of tap water, but don’t be surprised if you’re met with a blank stare. Germans think it’s uncouth!

So there you have it…the mysteries of German dining solved. I’m afraid you’re on your own with reading the menu, but I’ll tell you this…Wiener Art means Viennese Style.

(Which isn’t nearly as interesting as what I had in mind!)


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