Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Taste of Travel: Bratwurst Roslein

Though Nuremberg is famous for its small sausages (of which I ate many), there are times when you need to sit down and have something more substantial. The city has its share of restaurants, but eating at the Bratwurst Roslein, near the main square in the old town, gives you the chance to eat in a typical German fashion.

From the outside, it didn't look like much. Stepping through the door, however, I stopped and looked at row upon row of long tables heavily laden with beer, meat and potatoes. Unlike most European restaurants I've been to, the place was huge and packed with people.

A hostess led us to a table with four empty seats. We sat down as the local occupants scooted over to make way for us. The man to my right fortunately spoke English, and being in town on business, he wanted someone to talk to. Unlike the United States, where dining is typically a very private experience and speaking to anyone else eating in the restaurant is a rare occasion, the typical Hofbrau Haus-type atmosphere of many German restaurants encourages diners to sit next to complete strangers and get to know each other.

Not wanting another sausage, I asked the man next to me, Joachim, what he was having. He recommended sliced pork with potato dumplings, and it sounded good, so I ordered it. Ordering can sometimes be a problem if the menus aren't in English, but the Bratwurst Roslein has tourist menus with English and French translations as well as the German ones.

My food arrived with the half liter of hefeweizen I'd ordered. Tucher is the local brew, and it's as good as any. Being a German restaurant, the beer list included something for everyone, with lighter beers (in color, not calories. If you want an American-style light beer, you won't find it), ambers, wheat beers and others as dark as coffee.

I cut into the tender pork, which swam in a juicy sauce, and took a bite. It was very tender, and fell apart in my mouth. Joachim looked at me expectantly, hoping I liked his recommendation. I nodded approval, and he insisted I try some of the sauerkraut he had on the side.

The sauerkraut was a dark red color, and had a vinegary flavor that complemented the meat extremely well. I resisted the urge to eat all of his sauerkraut, as the meat was delicious by itself, but the next time I have the chance, I'll order the sauerkraut with it.

The potato dumpling wasn't what I'd expected. It looked good, but it was somewhat rubbery in texture, and even though it tasted fine, I left a little more than half of it on the plate. There were other potato options I could have had, and would try next time.

All in all, I had a great time at the Bratwurst Roslein. It was good to sit down at one of the communal tables and talk with the locals. A group of guys farther down the table laughed a bit when I took a picture of the food, and when I looked up, one of them smiled, spread his hands as if mimicking a label, and said, "German food." We talked with them a bit, and they were happy that we knew Nuremberg, technically in Bavaria, is really in Franconia (which ceased to exist after Napoleon had a hand in making it all Bavaria in 1806). The Nurembergers still consider themselves Franconian, and we all raised our glasses as they joked at Bavaria's expense - to the chagrin of their friend, who lives in Munich (the heart of Bavaria).

Getting the chance to talk with the locals and share a meal gives insight into a country that you don't get from visiting museums and reading brochures. Fortunately, most younger Germans and many older ones speak English, as it is the business language and taught in schools. Even if they don't, they're typically friendly and will sometimes chat with you for the entire meal, even though you don't know more than five words of each other's languages.

If you go to Nuremberg and want something of a traditional dining experience with excellent food, the Bratwurst Roslein is a great place. The prices aren't too steep (My meal was about 12 euro), and your tablemates can help make it a memorable experience. The restaurant is located by the town hall, on Rathausplatz 6, and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

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