Whether you love simple food or have taste buds of a more adventurous persuasion, eating out in Hamburg is an absolute joy: this city is full of places in which to feast. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a mini Hamburg food guide, just to whet your appetite!
The vibrant variety of the cuisine here matches the city itself in its medley of culture, colour and character, and we could write about it for hours. For now though, here’s a selection of what we consider to be some of the best places to eat in Hamburg, which we’ve tried and tested in the name of ‘quality control’, not just sheer gluttony (or so we keep telling ourselves).
Sternchanze: where our mini Hamburg food guide begins
When looking for great food in our adopted city, Sternschanze is a great place to start. A truly cosmopolitan quarter, Sternschanze (or simply ‘Schanze’ for short) is St Pauli’s slightly quieter neighbour, full of streets lined with places to indulge in fabulous feasts to suit all tastes and pockets. To start with, although there are masses of places to try every conceivable variety of Asian cuisine in Hamburg (believe me when I say we’ve tried more than a few) one of our favourites is easily Mikabalami on Bartelsstraße.
As so many good things often are, Mikabalami was somewhat of an accidental find. We were roaming around the city on a hot Sunday afternoon in search of miso soup to cure a hangover, and were thrilled with what we found. The food is freshly prepared, well priced and absolutely delicious – perfect for a quick, tasty and budget-friendly meal. A bowl of steaming hot miso soup costs between 2 and 3 euros, and there’s nothing like slurping your way through a bowl half-filled with salted seaweed to make you feel virtuous when you’ve enjoyed yourself a little too much the night before.
For something a little different (and far more carb-focused), we recommend a little bistro called La Famille. There are two branches in Hamburg, one in Sternschanze and other in St Georg. Whilst the one in Schanze has a more extensive menu (not to say the one in St Georg is lacking, because it really isn’t), it is a touch more expensive, but only by roughly 20 to 30 cents per item.
La Famille serves croques, crêpes and salad – that’s your lot, food wise. However, within those parameters it’s possible to find any combination of ingredients you desire. No, really; they offer croques filled with peach and turkey, if that’s your thing. If you’re feeling a little unwell at the sound of that, don’t worry; the savoury crêpes are a particular treat – try the tuna and cheese sprinkled with oregano, or slightly spicy salami with slices of ripe tomato. Utterly divine.
At this stage though, I must sound a note of caution. I’m not normally one to criticise in this department (Lord knows I’ve worked in enough service jobs) but don’t expect great service here. Staff turnover is incredibly high and with a few exceptions they are usually incredibly rude. If you can ignore that (and the godawful hip hop blaring out from behind the counter) it’s well worth a visit as the food is universally excellent, and keenly priced too.
Schanze is also home to one of the first places we went to eat in Hamburg; Diwan. They don’t seem to specialise in specific cuisines here, more an odd selection of slightly random dishes, but what we have sampled here has always been superb. The value here is absolutely staggering; we normally opt for a portion of bread, Schafskase and olives and for around 6 euros, you get masses and masses of all three. The cheese is creamy and slightly salty, the olives succulent and ripe and the bread (usually a Fladenbrot) is freshly toasted and crisp with a light, soft centre.
Fish, falafel and sausages – from Karoviertel to the Reeperbahn
For lovers of seafood, Hamburg has many, many treats in store for you. The famous Fischmarkt aside, we recommend Karofisch on Neuer Kamp near Feldstraße station. There are very few things in this wondrous world of ours that quite compare to fresh, perfectly cooked seafood, however it’s also annoyingly hard to find, often ludicrously expensive and very, very easy to get wrong. Karofisch however get it so, SO right. Between the two of us and a couple of friends we shared a platter of mixed seafood including scallops, prawns, squid and haddock and the flavours were perfect. Juicy, fresh and cooked with just the respect that great fish deserves, this place is usually rammed and it’s very easy to understand why. If you decide to visit, be prepared for a wait – but it’ll be worth it.
Permit me to make a bold statement here; Erzincan on Neuer Kamp (and a couple of doors down from Karofisch) is the absolute best place for döner in Hamburg. Erzincan is unlikely to feature in most Hamburg food guides (it is a kebab shop, after all) but we love it. It’s inexpensive, the meat is lean and succulent and the sauces are superb (especially the tahini).
Something else we love is that the staff take the time to lightly toast their bread and wraps after filling them, giving you a piping hot and structurally sound kebab (ideal, even you haven’t had one too many beers beforehand!) We can never decide between a forearm-length tortilla wrap stuffed with chicken and sesame sauce or a flatbread full of deep-fried, fluffy falafel drizzled with tzatziki…and at the time of writing, we haven’t even tried their courgette fritters. Our recommendation? Just go here.
Next, to St Pauli, and more specifically, Lucullus on the Reeperbahn. It’s hardly a secret that sausages are a big part of German culture; they permeate large cross sections of society. Supermarkets have entire sections devoted to them. They are wide in variety and temptingly inexpensive. Give in to temptation, then, at Lucullus; whether it’s a sizzling Bratwurst or a smoky Krakauer that takes your fancy, they offer some of the absolute finest in the city. Try their Currywurst too; sliced sausage smothered curry ketchup and dusted with curry powder on top, served with golden fries or a white bread roll. Simple, flavour-packed snacking at it’s absolute best.
Wherever Amy & I are in the world, we’re always up for great pizza (we’ve had some wonderful ones in places you wouldn’t necessary expect, too!) Luckily for us, Hamburg is littered with places for pizza, but the more touristy Italian restaurants often let us down. For an informal but impossibly satisfying meal though, Pauli Pizza is one of the best. Here in this DIY style establishment you choose a size, then simply add your toppings. These are grouped into price brackets; some will be an extra fifty cents (like peppers), some a euro (pepperoni, gorgonzola), and so on, and are added to the price of the base. The ingredients are fresh and the dough is handmade onsite; the key to great pizza.
Places to eat in St Georg: breakfast, lunch and dinner
A short walk away from the Hauptbahnhof, St Georg caters for every meal, as long as you’re careful to avoid the tourist traps. Whilst not home to the top places to eat in Hamburg, St Georg is immensely fun and full of variation.
Cafe Uhrlaub on Lange Reihe offers friendly service and exquisite, velvety coffee at reasonable prices. The menu is of Tolstoyan proportions; absolutely vast, covering all bases from a light breakfast (try the Muffelfrühstuck for something quintessentially German) to croques and (enormous) croissants all the way to complete evening meals. You could literally sit here watching the world go by for an entire day. If you do, have the lasagne for dinner; it’s served sizzling hot with the cheese still bubbling and is more than enough for two, and that’s before you consume the garlic bread it comes with.
For vast portions of skinny, lightly spiced fries, juicy burgers, baked potatoes or traditional German fare, Frau Möller is your place. Although often extremely busy with service that sometimes leave a lot to be desired, this place is popular with locals and tourists alike for good reason. Think frothy beers, huge plates of Labskaus (pickled herring, beetroot, poached eggs and pan-fried potatoes) and a buzzing atmosphere.
Another favourite of ours is Max & Consorten, tucked away at the far corner of Spadenteich. Max is a cross between a pub and a restaurant, and deals in great, unpretentious (but delicious) food and inexpensive drinks. It’s a bit of a hub for the area’s many local creatives and barflies and we’ve met many a friendly local here.
It can get a touch busy at the weekends whatever the weather, but even if you have a wait for a table it’s well worth it. Oh, and try the Schnitzel, it’s breathtaking. We suggest the thick, tangy blue cheese sauce and onion-y, bacon-y Bratkartoffeln as accompaniments. We will confidently say that Max does some of the best German food in Hamburg, and would recommend it to anyone.
There are so, so many more places to eat in Hamburg where you can satisfy a rumbling (or just plain greedy) stomach, and we’ll be writing about new and delicious finds as we come across them. In the meantime, we wish you ‘bon appétit‘ as you eat your way around our favourite city in the world.
All images © Two Wild Wanderers