Sauerkraut. Minimal techno. Men willing to wear black socks with shorts. While common in Munich and Berlin, such wonders are hard to come by in Washington, D.C. Out here, a guy’s gotta wander all over town just to get a pack of Marzipan Rittersport. And robotic, self-cleaning, public toilets? Forget about it. But there are vestiges of German culture lurking about the District, if one cares to look.
German Gourmet: It doesn’t look like much; in fact, from the outside, German Gourmet kind of resembles a particularly inglorious NoVa truckstop, but just beyond the threshold you’ll find a veritable alphorn of plenty. All of the necessities for Bavarian-style snacking are accounted for: bratwurst, cheeses, various types of sauerkraut, and harder-to-find treats like spicy paprika spread. Of course, there’s also beer, everything from Bitburger to Spaten. The cold-cut counter will also prepare hot and cold sandwiches for takeout, many of which combine cabbage and pork products in ways that will surely speed you down the Autobahn toward cardiovascular ruin. Whatever, pig out: After all, it takes a lot of energy to get out to Bailey’s. As Goethe said, “The right man is the one who seizes the moment.” I’m pretty certain he was talking about the sandwich that comes with two types of bacon.
Goethe-Institut Washington: The Germans basically invented the cinema, and they’re also, in all likelihood, responsible for every pretentious film that you ever watched in college. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant? Indeed. Aguirre, the Wrath of God? That one too. But it you want to go deeper still—into Alexander Kluge, Syberberg, or the archives of DEFA, the GDR’s film production company, you’ll want to pay a visit to Goethe-Institut. Located in Chinatown, the Goethe-Institut offers consistently well-curated programs of German film, ranging from the popular, to the obscure, to newer pictures that haven’t yet made it stateside. It’s not really a popcorn place—you can’t bring food or drink into the screening room—but if you’re going to sit through all 15 hours of Berlin Alexanderplatz, maybe you want to rethink that soda anyway.
The Saloon: There’s a lot of beer in Germany, probably enough to wash the Loveparade down into the Spree and off to oblivion. But Köstritzer—a black beer, or Shwarzbier, produced in Thuringia—ranks among the most hearty, fulfilling, and easy to sip. And the Saloon, near Ben’s Chili Bowl, is one of the few local bars that offers Köstritzer on tap. Take a seat—you have to, or they’ll throw you out, bar policy—and order up this mild yet coffee-flavored beer, which runs about $7 a glass. With a belly full of Leberkäse, and three hours of archival GDR film behind you, it’s the perfect companion for surreptitiously cruising Craigslist on your iPhone, pricing Trabis.