Tel: 49 89 298 481
A notch upscale from a ratskeller yet still as authentic as they come, this busy, oak-paneled traditional restaurant sits in the back courtyard of the enormous Frauenkirche. It's not utterly free of tourists, especially at the outdoor tables that look onto the church's brick back wall, but plenty of locals keep the vibe on an even keel. The food is quintessentially Bavarian: asparagus (in season), schnitzel (veal cutlets), Schweinbraten (pork roast), Tafelspitz (marinated, boiled veal with horseradish), and lots and lots of wurst. Solitary diners or couples are likely to be seated with strangers at the open tables. Cold meat dishes tend toward the tart and vinegary, including Sülze, a local specialty of pink meat in gelatin (a guaranteed shocker for vegetarians). Warm dishes arrive in gut-busting portions, with big dumplings alongside. But the real story is the beer, brewed right here: Ask for a Weissbier (wheat beer) or a Dunkles Weissbier (literally, "dark light beer")—creamy, lemony, and fresh beer heaven.
Tel: 49 89 260 844 4
Sitting a half-block from the Viktualienmarkt, the city's upscale open food market, Zedelmayer attracts a cross-section of locals for its renowned ultra-Bavarian cuisine. The bustling place has little pretense and not much in the way of decor, but its weisswurst (mild veal sausage) is among the best in Munich—just make sure to eat it with a chewy pretzel (baskets of them are on every table) and wash it down with a wheat beer. And all of this must be done before noon, if you want to pass muster with the other patrons. The menu features the usual schnitzel and rich egg-noodle spätzle, as well as Briesmilzwurst, the house specialty, tender fried black-and-white patties made of calf's brain and spleen. It's delicious, but don't say you weren't warned.
Tel: 49 89 452 288 0
Tall white arches supported by Doric columns, vast windows, globe lights, banquettes, and black wood chairs provide the classic setting for one of the hottest places in town. And when this place says "Grill" it really means grill: Center stage is a cluster of open fires, one group for broiling, the other, gas flames for preparing pasta. The extreme open kitchen conceit would be irritating if it added tens of euros to the check, but this place is very reasonable, which no doubt explains its mass appeal. Food is simple—steaks and marinated chicken breast with rosemary potatoes; big salads of roasted vegetables; a half dozen pastas with fresh basil, tomato, and olives, or seafood, or Bolognese; and several daily specials. There's a big cocktail list too, or you can wait for dessert and order lemon sorbet with a pour of vodka and Prosecco.
Tel: 49 89 551 360
An old-school paradise of silver plates, heavy flatware and ladies who lunch. Located on the second floor of the hotel that gives it its name, with a spectacular view of busy Karlsplatz, the Königshof hosts a loyal clientele that tends more to Hermès scarves than jeans. But beyond the formal days-of-yore ambience, chef Martin Fauster's food is quite serious and the service both impeccable and warm. There's a three-course seasonally inspired "business lunch" for $57, a bargain that unfortunately cuts out most of the interesting choices available à la carte. Such delicacies include "lobster variations" (a tempura-style fried claw with a purée of green peas, and lobster tail with fresh spring peas and morel mushrooms) and a strong, gamy breast of Bresse pigeon done rare and accompanied by goose liver, as well as a generous selection of fish and meat dishes. The wine list is a true encyclopedia of German, French and Italian classics, testimony to the family-owned restaurant's wine cellar, which survived World War II even as the building above it was destroyed. It's possible to get in and out for a surprisingly reasonable price if you stick to wine by the glass (the German muskateller is especially recommended). But restaurants like this are rare these days, so it's perhaps better to settle in and enjoy the ride.
Closed for lunch and dinner on Sundays and Mondays, except to guests of the hotel.
Tel: 49 89 549 130 0
The building is the real story here: Originally a Jewish-owned department store, the space now inhabited by Lenbach was severely damaged on Kristallnacht in 1938. The property was bought in 1987 by Jürgen Schneider, the scandal-ridden former Donald Trump of Germany, who promptly went bankrupt. In 1995 it was taken over by Deutsche Bank, and in 1997 Sir Terence Conran was hired to create a premier celebrity-driven restaurant. Lenbach is a huge series of spaces, including the Renaissance Hall with coffered ceiling and wood floors. All spaces feature towering, arched ceilings supported by white columns, a black-and-white-tiled floor and cheesecake art with a twist. Though now in its tenth year, the restaurant has remained a see-and-be-seen spot, especially for visiting American celebrities. Prices are modest for fancy Munich dining: Come in spring and early summer and try the asparagus, served with Dover sole and a smattering of red beets in a very light vinaigrette. The braised suckling pig cheeks with marinated plums and a tower of bread dumplings is a German delicacy—a perfect modern interpretation of an old classic. Sushi is also on the menu, presumably to cater to Hollywood types and aspirational locals.
Tel: 49 89 219 989 0
Go on, you know you want to. Do the tourist thing. Just once. And here's the place: The neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus conceals a super-trad Bavarian Bier Keller–restaurant complete with beamed, vaulted, frescoed ceilings; lanterns; and Fräuleins in costume. Full disclosure: There's an English menu, with photos. But the food is much better than you may fear, and you can get all those cravings for bratwurst and knackwurst, sauerbraten (beef pot roast) and Jägerlendchen (pork loin with mushroom sauce) out of your system. It's unusually child-friendly too, with crayons and books.
Tel: 49 89 388 876 0
Sitting on a wealthy residential street at the edge of the Englischer Garten, this café's name literally means "Riding School." The view from the back of the restaurant is of a closed indoor track, and the back right corner looks out onto the Garden's equestrian facilities, often full of horses jumping or milling about with their riders. The menu is standard international café fare, ranging from bruschetta and carrot-ginger soup to pizzas and salade niçoise. The location and crowd, however, provide a taste of old-school preppy Munich without the in-your-face glitz that characterizes so much of the rest of the city.
Tel: 49 089 230 002 19
A stone wall, warm wooden tables, tan leather banquettes, and an ocean-blue ceiling are the setting at this hot spot from brothers Vasilis and Angelo Konstantinidis, hitherto known for their Latino tapas bars. This place is for serious foodies and fish fans, with menus dictated by what's fresh that day and preparations riffing on cuisines that evolved near water, from the Med to Thailand. The crowd is 30-ish and well-heeled—what we used to call yuppie—and the service efficient and warm. Portions are on the small side, while the wine markups tend to be large, but that's a reasonable price to pay for a satisfying evening of Munich chic-set-watching.
Tel: 49 89 361 959 0
Not only one of Munich and Bavaria's best restaurants but also one of the best in all of Germany, this place takes the Buddhist notion of spiritual-sensual fusion and translates it into the food arena. Refreshingly unstuffy for a two-Michelin-star place (it has yet to regain the third it held under chef Heinz Winkler), the look is more hip Lower East Side lounge-club than coat-and-tie stiff, more Burmese temple than temple of haute cuisine. There's even a garden to further relax diners, and a new Tantris-lite lounge above the bar, serving finger food and drinks. Austrian-born chef Hans Haas produces surprising flavors in the modern Spanish-infused style: beef cheeks served with leek purée and mixed, salted vegetables; braised salmon in brown butter; and ravioli filled with crayfish, pesto, or pea purée.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Tel: 49 89 189 221 96
Here's an example of Munich metamorphosis: A vegan restaurant opened in June 2005 in the city's second-oldest building. The structure dates from 1264—not that you'd know it once inside this stark white room with its smooth walls and curious mod-garden decor (wicker pendant lamps over shiny green benches and highly stylized versions of those hideous molded-plastic garden chairs). But it's all so happening, with a performance space–literary salon and club downstairs, and hipster chicks serving pure food from a menu that changes daily (miso soup with shiitakes; tofu-vegetable stew with jasmine rice and tamarind-peanut sauce). Presumably they performed a shamanic vegan cleansing ritual on the space—during its several centuries it's housed a butcher, a falconry and a storehouse for wild game.