I have transferred through Frankfurt’s airport more times than I can possibly count, but have only spent the night in the city once or twice. On my most recent trip though to Germany, in partnership with the German Tourism Board, my goal was simple. I wanted to explore Frankfurt and to find its traditional culture beneath the glitz and glam of the large and important international city that it is today. Turns out, it was a lot easier to find than I had originally thought and within a few hours of landing I had discovered some incredibly tasty traditional foods that now rank amongst my most favorite. Here’s what should be on your own Frankfurt foodie to-do list.
To help me better understand traditional Frankfurt cuisine, a local food pro took the time to share with me his favorite hotspots, starting with the traditional restaurant Daheim im Lorsbacher Thal. Located in the sometimes rowdy Sachsenhausen neighborhood, the restaurant was so good I returned the next day on my own for another meal. It was also here where I was first introduced to Frankfurt’s most famous food staple, apple wine. Known locally just as Ebbelwei, they’ve been making this beverage in Frankfurt for centuries, although today there are only a handful left who produce the tart drink. There are a variety of different kinds though, as the enormous apple wine menu (bible) at Lorsbacher Thal proved. We started with the basics though as my guide showed me the proper way to enjoy Ebbelwei. Trying the most traditional version, I was surprised at how light a drink it is, which is probably why it’s also a popular summer beverage. Especially good when paired with food though, I quickly understood why it’s been so popular in Frankfurt for so very long. Apple wine is easy to find when you visit Frankfurt, but be sure to stop by a traditional restaurant like Lorsbacher Thal for the real experience.
I usually shy from anything in this part of the color spectrum, but I knew I couldn’t visit Frankfurt without trying the city’s most popular savory dish. Made from seven different kinds of herbs, this culinary staple of the city first entered the scene in the 19th century and has been popular ever since. Normally served cold over hard-boiled eggs and boiled potatoes, I was shocked as soon as I took my first bite. Not only did I like the green sauce, I loved it and quickly finished my small portion. Tasting a lot like a flavored sour cream, it’s especially good when served with schnitzel, a combination I tried on my second visit to Lorsbacher Thal.
When I first heard about cheese salad I got excited. I mean, who doesn’t like cheese? As I quickly learned though, the Frankfurter version isn’t your normal cheese. Handkäse is a sour milk cheese that is small and fairly pungent. It’s also very much an acquired taste. Normally served as an appetizer with some apple wine, it’s common to find it topped with chopped onions or caraway. To be honest, it wasn’t my favorite but in small portions, it was a good accompaniment to something heartier like sausages.
You can’t visit Frankfurt without trying their famous sausages – there is, after all, a reason why we call hot dogs Frankfurters. There are a wide variety of different kinds particular to Frankfurt, but the most common and popular are long, thin versions that are lightly smoked and very flavorful. Traditionally, they are served with a little bread, mustard and horseradish and make for a great snack or meal. They’re not they only kind endemic to the city though, there’s another version that is hard to find, but still delicious. Made only in a few shops in Frankfurt, the zeppelin sausage was first developed in 1909 by Stephan Weiss from his own love of zeppelins. Made using liver and smoked in a natural casing, it’s not for everyone but I personally enjoyed it.
From bustling markets to artisanal chocolatiers and everything in between, finding delicious and very traditional cuisine in Frankfurt isn’t just easy, it’s a lot of fun. So the next time you visit, steer away from those international mega-brands and the glitzy allure of the central business district and instead look for these classic dishes that define what Frankfurt is really all about.