Cologne may not be the most well-known culinary destination in Germany, but it is not because of a lack of good options. Whether you’re in search of traditional German fare, street food, or upscale dining options, Cologne has a surprising variety of great eateries. As a local foodie based in Cologne, I’m sharing all of my secrets in this blog post! From hidden gems to local favorites, I will take you on a culinary journey through one of Germany’s most underrated cities.
When we first moved to Cologne from Chicago in summer 2019, I knew one of the biggest adjustments would be with the restaurant scene. Chicago is world-renowned for incredible cuisine, but I had heard next to nothing about the restaurants in Cologne. Thankfully, this is mostly a marketing issue. After living here for a few years, I have discovered lots of delightful restaurants perfect for even the most discerning foodies.
Good restaurants and eateries are scattered throughout the city, and many of the best restaurant options are clustered in the Belgian Quarter and Südstadt neighborhoods. No matter which neighborhood you’re exploring, you’re likely to find something delicious to eat. I have found some tasty spots ranging from Asian food to Turkish cuisine to homestyle burgers. Don’t forget to wash down all the delicious food with Cologne’s favorite local beer — Kölsch.
A Local Foodie’s Guide to the Best Restaurants in Cologne
Breakfast & Brunch
Part coffee shop, part bakery, part airy cafe, Die Mehlwerkstatt is a great place to grab a quick bite with friends before wandering around Ehrenfeld, one of Cologne’s coolest neighborhoods. The bright white minimalist interior is chic and feels perfectly European modern. A scroll through their well-curated Instagram feed will have you swooning over their freshly baked loaves and ‘grammable backdrop. The baked goods are exceptional, ranging from savory buns and croissants, to sweet rolls and pastry treats. You can also order sandwiches to go. Don’t miss out on their third wave coffee, roasted in partnership with a Cologne roastery.
Have you ever wondered what a Michelin star brunch is like? Well look no further than Neobiota! This stylish restaurant on a quiet street near Neumarkt serves up globally influenced German fare prepared to perfection. The menu offers a quirky mix of breakfast fare, which perfectly blends with contemporary surroundings. It is a great twofold concept seamlessly blending modern and appealingly uncomplicated. The brunch menu offers three different courses with ala-carte options, as well as housemade bread.
Lunch + Street Food
If you love doner kebab, Mangal is a must! This local chain pumps out my favorite doner in Cologne and it all starts with their freshly baked pitas. Their pillowy dough is always hot and freshly toasted, serving as the perfect vessel for their perfectly flavored spit-roasted kebab. They offer chicken or lamb topped with optional cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, salad and cheese. Their sauces are also super good, including spicy chili sauce, thousand island cream and tsazitiki — I usually order all three of them on my kebab! This cash-only walk up window doesn’t have seating, so grab the kebab and walk over to Chlodgwigplatz park a block away.
Kebapland– Venloer Str. 385
Perhaps the best kebab in Cologne, Kebapland is a beloved street food stand in the hip Ehrenfeld neighborhood. Kebapland’s recognition is so notorious that they donät even have a website! What is so special about this place is the wood fired grill. All of the meat is, giving everything a rich and full smoked taste. You’ll have the option to choose between a few different meats (like chicken, lamb, or sausage), which are then cooked on long skewers over a wood fire. You can opt for dine in at one of the 5 small tables inside, or you can get kebab to go. There is almost always a line here, but it moves quickly.
For a great atmosphere regardless of the time of day, Wilma Wunder is an ideal choice. The stylishly designed interior is huge, but the best part of the restaurant is the massive patio overlooking Friesenplatz. The menu has upscale German favorites as well as a large selection of vegan and vegetarian options. The large menu always has a seasonal section that rotates throughout the year.
Pizza & Burgers
Sometimes called the best burger in Cologne, Südstadt’s Die Fette Kuh almost always has people in it — and usually a wait to boost. The menu features a number of different burgers, all made with juicy 200-gram beef patties. The name translates to ‘fat cow’ after all! The burger is typically served pink in the middle with all sorts of different toppings, like caramelized onions, mushrooms, melted cheese or even chili. The flavors are killer, the meat is really high quality, and you’ll leave stuffed. Just a reminder that Germans, like weirdos, eat their burgers with a fork and knife so you’ll likely get a few stares when you eat these dripping burgers with your hands.
The Bird is like a shot of US culture straight to my main vein. It is so clear that this place is run or owned by someone who has spent a lot of time in the US, because it has many things that are quintessentially not European — free water, rolls of paper towels on the table, and abundant tableside sauces. Plus, their burgers are awesome. Layered with cheese and fried onions and other grease-dripping toppings, this is a burger that will stop your heart but damn will it taste good on the way down!
For wood-fired pizza in Cologne, look no further than 485 Grad. This straightforward pizza joint in Sudstadt tops their pizzas with a range of classic and modern toppings, in creative combinations. I often read the menu and want to try so many of the pizzas! They also offer plenty of veg and vegan friendly pies. The pizzas are quickly fired in the open kitchen’s wood fired oven and served bubbling. The patio is small, but plenty of interior seating. They also offer pizza for pick up.
Run, don’t walk, to Bei Oma Kleinmann in Cologne’s hip Latin Quarter. This incredibly popular schnitzel purveyor has hosted famed patrons like Anthony Bourdain with their homey food. You’ll want to make a reservation a few days (or even weeks) ahead of time, or else you’ll be waiting for likely an hour or more for a table. If you make a reservation later in the night, the vibe changes from dinner restaurant to quirky nightlife with
What I love about this place, aside from the awesome flavors, is how customizable their schnitzels are. You can choose the portion size, the type of schnitzel (veal, pork, cheese or veggie) as well as the type of sauce. The sauces arrive in a gravy boat so you can try a couple different kinds. I love the veggie/vegan schnitzel, especially when paired with their Hungarian paprika sauce. I also had the best hollandaise of my life there! rainbow lights and disco ball.
This microbrewery and restaurant in Cologne’s Südstadt neighborhood is one of my favorite places to go when I am sick of drinking Kölsch. It is one of the few spots that has alternatives like their Pils and Hell. The restaurant has a buzzy atmosphere of young people and locals, and it can be really busy here even on weeknights. Their motto is to “have fun eating” which you certainly will while enjoying their regionally and seasonally inspired cuisine. The menu is small, but every dish will entice you. Plus, they have nightly specials and I absolutely love their Käsespätzle on Wednesdays.
Throughout the old city, or Altstadt in German, there is an assortment of German restaurants and Kölsch breweries. Some are better than others, especially when it comes to the food. Peters Brauhaus is my favorite spot, because they have good Kölsch and even better food! You’ll experience the quintessential brauhaus vibes with a stained glass dome, wood paneling and grumpy servers. The menu is full of classic German staples and you can also sample local Cologne specialties like Halve Hahn (cheese plate with raw onions), Himmel un Äd (black pudding) and Haxen (fried pork knuckle).
This is one of my favorite neighborhood spots and definitely a hidden gem in Cologne. Haus Müller is a charming restaurant specializing in contemporary German cuisine. You’re not going to find pork schnitzel or fried pork knuckle here. Instead, imagine dishes like pan-seared free range chicken from the Eifel or white asparagus with a hollandaise sauce. The small menu changes often, but it always features locally-sourced, high-quality, seasonal ingredients. If the weather is nice, request a table on the massive patio in the front which sits on a small park under a massive tree. It has the best ambiance!
If you happen to be shopping at one of the Belgian Quarter’s cute boutiques, Bai Lu Noodles is an easy and delicious place to grab a bowl of delicious Chinese soup or Thai noodles. The restaurant is pretty tight quarters but their patio on a quiet street is a nice option on a sunny day. The menu is all enticing, but I am a sucker for their broth soups. The flavor is so rich! Their staff is always really friendly and helpful if you feel unsure about the menu.
Located in a stylish space near Rudolfplatz, this 100% vegan Asian restaurant is legit. It is one of my go-to spots if I’m not in the mood to cook. It is just straight up good Asian food. If it wasn’t plastered all over the menu, you might not even realize the food is all vegan here. Offering a variety of east and north Asian cuisine, I was really impressed by the assortment of dishes at Udum. From pho to sushi to fried treats and curries, you can’t go wrong with this plant-based menu – you’re guaranteed to find something delicious!
This contemporary Vietnamese restaurant is such a gem. Tucked into a quiet square in the heart of Neumarkt-Viertel, Chum Chay’s menu is entirely vegetarian. But trust me, you will not miss the meat at all. Dishes are prepared with traditional flavors and ingredients but in contemporary ways. Fresh salads and summer rolls are a perfect way to start, but their fried items are great too. I am obsessed with their curries, especially the yellow curry! The staff at Chum Chuy are friendly and attentive, and the restaurant’s stylish and contemporary design makes it the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends.
The first time I went to this Peruvian restaurant, I’m pretty sure we ordered nearly every single dish on the menu. The menu features hot and cold Peruvian dishes, such as ceviche and lomo saltado, with a surprising number of vegan and vegetarian friendly selections. In fact, the mushroom ceviche was one of my favorites! The flavors here are clean and bright with a craftful hand for spice. Do not, I repeat do NOT, miss the Pisco Sour. This one is nearly perfect, exactly how I remember from my time living in Chile and Peru. These pisco sours are so good, you’ll accidentally drink four.
Walking in through the perfectly manicured flowers and living archways into Belgisher Hoff makes you feel as though you are walking into your own private garden party in the heart of Cologne’s most bustling neighborhood. It is a simple yet beautiful layout for a restaurant. The food offers a pretty classic Belgian brasserie menu, as well as German flammkuchen. The wine list is excellent, especially for French wines.
Featuring stylish ambiance and delicious food, I love Acht for a date night. It is just classy enough without breaking the bank. The cavernous modern industrial interior is beautiful and made to feel cozy with the wine racks and pallet shelving. The menu features creative pan-European cuisine, highlighting seasonal ingredients and advanced techniques. You can order a set 3 or 4 course menu (at an affordable price tag) or you can opt for an ala-carte option. A wide selection of curated wine is one of Acht’s specialities, so I would recommend asking the server for recommendations on the perfect bottle to pair with your meal.
Just around the street from our house, Sardinia was the first restaurant we tried after moving to Cologne. And we haven’t been to another Italian restaurant since then because it is so DAMN good. Freshly made pastas are perfectly sauced in seasonal and classic flavors, like ricotta ravioli or beef bolognese. My favorite dish at Sardinia is BY FAR the shaved truffle tagliatelle. When you order it in the restaurant, the server wheels out a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano and toss the creamy sauce and pasta in the wheel together as the cheese melts into the sauce. It’s like a dinner and show!
Offering top-rated cuisine in a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, WALLCZKA is a restaurant that comes up often on “Best of Cologne” lists. With a focus on using locally-sourced ingredients, the menu features a mixture of traditional and contemporary pan-European cuisine. You’re asked to eat family style with small plates, so it feels almost like a German version of tapas. From hearty meat dishes and fresh seafood to copious vegetarian and vegan options, there’s something to satisfy every palette. To top it all off, the restaurant’s friendly and attentive staff ensures that you’ll have an enjoyable dining experience.
Absolutely a hidden gem, Pottkind is the best restaurant in the Südstadt neighborhood and might even be one of the best in all of Cologne. This strikes me as a restaurant that could have a Michelin star in the future. From their creativity and flavors to service and plating, everything here is beautifully done. There is no menu (they call it the carte blanche experience), and you’ll have a set dining experience full of surprises and delights. The food skews contemporary European with German and French influences. Keep your camera handy because each dish is a show stopper!
For a very fancy (and pricey) date night Ox + Klee, the two Michelin restaurant along the Rhine river, is a perfect choice. This was one of my favorite meals in 2019 because I loved the way chefs Daniel Gottschlich & Erik Schmitz play with flavor. Ox + Klee offers a menu that is focused on taste, as in every dish is a flavor like sour, bitter, umami. You are exposed to the flavors initially in the clever amuse bouches, followed by killer dish after killer dish. The experience is perfectly timed and the stylish place makes a great backdrop for a romantic night out.