Great German cuisine in Central Florida

by: Scott Joseph Updated:

Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford is a big restaurant that has expanded over the years, and on weekends it can take on the atmosphere of a biergarten in Munich during Oktoberfest.

On a recent trip to Hamburg and Berlin, I found myself thinking about the places in Central Florida to find good German food. Oddly, it’s not as easy as you’d think to find good German food in Germany.

Oh, it’s there, it’s just not as prevalent as you’d think. Ask a German for a restaurant recommendation and you’re as likely to get one for a Moroccan or Italian restaurant as a German one. And if you push the point further, you may get sent to a place that specializes in curry wurst, which is a small sausage, cut up into bite-size pieces, sprinkled with curried seasonings and served with ketchup. Not exactly fine dining. In fact, curry wurst stands are exactly that -- stands.

But that’s not to say I didn’t find some wonderful German food. I had a terrific dinner at Dicke Wirtin in Berlin, and I loved the food stalls, including the German specialty, at the amazing KaDeWe department store.

We don’t have anything like KaDeWe in Central Florida, but we do have some good opportunities for authentic German and Eastern European cuisine.

The best in the area -- and one that has been recognized as one of the best in the country -- is Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford. It’s a big restaurant that has expanded over the years, and on weekends it can take on the atmosphere of a biergarten in Munich during Oktoberfest.

» IMAGE GALLERY: Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe

Speaking of biergartens, Biergarten at Epcot’s German pavilion tries to keep the Oktoberfestivities going year round and does a pretty good job with it. You can nosh on brats and sauerkraut while tapping your toes to the oom-pah-pah band.

Chef Henry’s in Longwood is more of an Eastern European restaurant with bits of german accents.

And you’ll find authentic German cuisine in Cocoa Beach, of all places, at Heidelberg, which has been serving the area for several decades. Don’t look for the polka bands, however. Instead, you’ll find some great jazz music at Heidi’s Jazz Club next door.

» IMAGE GALLERY: Heidelberg Restaurant

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