After living in Germany for more than two years, I grew fond of the country’s meaty cuisine. Yes, practically every dish is either beige or brown. But when it’s cold out and the sun hasn’t emerged for months, there’s nothing cozier than a plate of hearty German food.
Eating a bowl of cheesy kasespatzle and washing it down with a warm mug of mulled wine was a yearly highlight at Christmastime. And don’t get me started on doner kebabs. The saucy sandwiches stuffed with juicy cuts of rotisserie-cooked meat and veggies were a blessing, a thing of miracles, after a heavy night of drinking. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to replicate either of these experiences back home in California, but I have gotten close thanks to the wealth of German restaurants this state has to offer.
The German Culinary Scene in California
California’s sunny beaches and coastal redwoods are thousands of miles from Germany’s world-famous brauereis and brezels. And yet, you can find plenty of old-world beer halls, pretzels, and killer German cuisine across the state. You just have to know where to look.
Top-Rated German Restaurants in Los Angeles
While LA is hardly the heart of Teutonic culture in the U.S. — that would be Milwaukee, Wisconsin — the Southern California megacity boasts an impressive lineup of German restaurants and beer gardens.
1. Wirtshaus: A Long-Running Favorite
Address:345 N. La Brea Ave.
Hours: Monday–Wednesday: 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Thursday: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday–Sunday: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
If the weather is fine — and this is LA, so the weather is always fine — then you won’t want to leave Wirsthaus’ outdoor patio. To begin with, the beer garden has a massive menu packed with authentic German classics that would satisfy oma and opa. Predictable selections include seven different types of schnitzel, ten different types of wurst, and kasespatzle that comes served in a warm skillet. But Wirsthaus also impresses with less-common German fare, such as weisswurst, a pearly white sausage made from veal and pork, and an exotic wurstplatte that features wild boar and kasekrainer. Of course, Wirtshaus couldn’t call itself a beer garden if it didn’t serve steins and steins of German beer, of which there are more than 35 varieties. Crowds here are especially lively on the first Saturday of every month when the restaurant has live music for Bavarian Night.
2. Wurstküche: Not Your Average German Beer Garden
- Address: 800 E. 3rd St.
Hours: Sunday–Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 11:30 to 1 a.m.
Despite the umlaut in its name, Wurstküche is only vaguely German. Sure, they almost exclusively serve sausages. But you won’t find rattlesnake, rabbit, and jalapeno wursts across the pond. At Wurstküche in LA’s Arts District, however, you can wash down these exotic meats with a variety of German and Belgian draught beers and trendy-sounding cocktails. And to be fair, Wurstküche offers two more traditional German sausages for culinary purists: a pork bratwurst and a veal and pork sausage. In any case, the food is good enough that Angelenos line up around the block for this unusual and exotic homage to sausages.
3. Berlins: Turkish-German Fast Food
Address: 8474 W. 3rd St.
Hours: Monday–Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
My favorite food in Germany, the doner kebab, isn't even German — at least not fully. This cheap treat — a colossal fast food sandwich or wrap packed with rotisserie meat, veggies, and sauce — traces its modern origins back to Turkish immigrants in West Berlin. And while shawarma, gyros, and even al pastor are close approximations, they can’t compare to a true German-style kebab. Luckily, LA has a spot that offers (almost) everything that a doner shop in Berlin would. For a classic sandwich or wrap, order a beef and lamb doner with tzatziki sauce, a favorite in Germany.
4. Rasselbock: A Mar Vista Beer Garden
Address: 3817 Grand View Blvd.
Hours: Monday–Wednesday: 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Thursday: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sunday: 12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Here is yet another German beer garden that serves schnitzel, sausage, and currywurst. But Angelenos should be thankful for this Mar Vista joint, if only because Los Angeles is the perfect city for drinking beer outdoors at oversized picnic tables. Rasselbock will also appeal to nerds with its weekly Wednesday trivia night.
5. The Red Lion Tavern: A Taste of Germany in LA
- Address: 2366 Glendale Blvd.
- Hours: Monday–Friday: 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday–Sunday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
- Phone: 323-662-5337
- Website: redliontavern.net
Located in LA’s trendy Silverlake neighborhood, The Red Lion Tavern might have a few scenesters mixed into its otherwise eclectic crowd. But people don’t just come to Red Lion for the cool clientele. This rooftop beer garden also boasts a large and (more importantly) tasty menu replete with German fare. Beyond the brats and brezels, fan favorites include rollmops (pickled herring served alongside fried potatoes) and made-to-order potato pancakes. Beer is plentiful, too, with the tavern offering 11 German beers on tap, plus a larger selection in bottles.
German Delicacies Beyond LA
Although it may seem like LA has a monopoly on the state’s German cuisine, you can find tender schnitzel, crispy potato pancakes, and cold kolsch across California. There’s plenty of variety in the type of restaurants you’ll find, too. Diners looking for cheap, unpretentious grub can look to one of two famous Orange County delis, while foodies with cash can head to the Bay Area for a refined take on the classic schnitzel.
1. Mattern Sausage & Deli: A Taste of Tradition
Address: 4327 E. Chapman Ave., Orange
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Don’t be fooled by its nondescript white brick facade. Whether you want to stock up on hard-to-find beer, Haribo gummies, or a few links of coveted German sausage, Mattern in Orange is the place to go. Behind the deli counter, you’ll discover a dizzying display of old-world sausages, cheeses, and cold cuts, much of which you can order on one of Mattern’s famous sandwiches. Though it’s not authentically German, the pastrami reuben with sauerkraut is a fan favorite.
2. Himmel Haus: A Taste of Germany in Tahoe
Address: 3819 Saddle Rd., South Lake Tahoe
Hours: Monday–Thursday: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
In California, the closest you can get to dining in Germany’s picturesque Bavarian Alps is by booking a table at Himmel Haus. The aptly named eatery (himmel means sky in German) is located 6,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada mountains. While dining in the clouds — and just a few miles from Lake Tahoe’s sandy beaches — you can dig into Bavarian favorites such as schweinshaxe (pork shank) and sauerbraten (marinated beef shoulder). Of course, the experience wouldn’t be complete without German beer, of which Himmel Haus has plenty.
3. Kaiserhof Restaurant: Voted Best German Restaurant in San Diego
Address: 2253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., San Diego
Hours: Tuesday–Thursday: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday–Sunday: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Kaiserhof has been named the No. 1 German restaurant in San Diego for 36 years in a row, though we’re not sure how impressive that is. (It’s the only proper German restaurant in the city.) Regardless, Kaiserhof still deserves praise for its large menu, which features four different types of schnitzel, three varieties of sausage, and authentic southern German fare such as maultaschen (meat-filled dumplings). The interior is also suitably Deutsch — or at least, a stereotypical, gaudy version of what Americans think of Germany. Elkhorn chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, walls are adorned by faux timber framing, and tables are bedecked by blue and white tablecloths.
4. German Guys: Top-Rated German Cuisine
Address: 10438 Waterloo Rd., Stockton
Hours: Wednesday–Thursday: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday–Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Following Ady and Kate Cogiel’s arrival from Germany, the couple established one of the highest-rated German restaurants in the country, earning them a feature in the Sacramento Bee and hundreds of positive reviews online. If the establishment’s menu is any indication, its specialty is schnitzel, with German Guys offering a dozen different variations on the Austrian dish.
5. Naschmarkt Restaurant: European Fine Dining in the Bay
Address: 384 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell
Hours: Tuesday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday–Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
If you’re looking for elegant German-style cuisine in California, you’ve got one choice: Naschmarkt. Well, technically you have two choices, as this Austrian restaurant has locations in Campbell and Palo Alto. But both are fantastic. At either location, diners can expect elevated (aka expensive) European food, with the menu featuring dishes from watermelon gazpacho and asparagus bucatini to chicken paprikash and smoked bratwurst. The service is also excellent, customers say, with one local reviewer writing that the wait staff is knowledgeable and warm.
7. Alps Village: German Fare in the Middle of the Desert
Address: 77734 Country Club, Suite F, Palm Desert
Hours: Monday–Thursday: 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; temporarily closed for July and August 2023
The Palm Desert is an unlikely place for a German restaurant called “Alps Village.” And yet, there it is — one of California’s top-rated German eateries smack dab in the middle of the Coachella Valley. Besides its location, Alps Village is unique because chef Milka — a Yugoslavian who fled to Germany during Serbo-Croatian wars in the 1990s — blends German and Slavic cuisines. That means you can start with a Dalmatian octopus salad before moving on to a gravy-slathered schnitzel.
8. Continental Deli: An Orange County Hidden Gem
Address: 1510 W. Imperial Hwy #C, La Habra
Hours: Daily: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Continental Deli won’t win any awards for ambiance, but this Orange County haunt has plenty of fans thanks to its affordable assortment of German comfort food and meats. You can take your currywurst and famous continental potato salad to enjoy at home, or crack open a cold Bitburger and dig in on the spot in the deli’s small dining room.
9. Der Biergarten: A Beer Head’s Delight
Address: 2332 K St., Sacramento
Hours: Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.; Friday–Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.
This outdoor beer garden’s main draw is the nearly 30 beers it has on tap, from domestic craft favorites like East Brothers Belgian Tripel to German classics like Rothaus Tannen Zapfle Pils. But seeing as you’ll need some grub to soak up all that beer, Der Biergarten also serves German staples like schnitzel, spatzle, and currywurst. Ambitious beer heads should order a liter stein of their favorite suds alongside an imported German pretzel — the perfect summer treat.
The Bottom Line
While none of these spots are going to come close to dining in some dimly lit 16th-century German beer hall in Munich, you can get pretty close to the real thing. The beer, the meats, the hearty old-world entrees — California has them all. And look, we’ve got some advantages over the Germans, too. Come January, they’ll be holed up inside longing for the sun while Angelenos can continue to put back beers and bask in that sweet, sweet California sunshine.