Originally published on USA Today 10 Best
Hamburg, Germany’s dynamic culinary scene has been evolving rapidly in recent years, attracting the attention of food-loving locals and tourists alike. Across the city (and in a variety of neighborhoods), restaurants, cafes, distilleries and other innovative gastronomic destinations are popping up in an array of places around town.
As a seaport city, Hamburg has been traditionally known for its seafood, but today, it’s considered a hot spot for culinary diversity. Hamburg’s cuisine has been transformed into a fusion of North German tradition and modern international styles.
In the center of Hamburg, chef Sebastian Glävke heads up the 100-seat Böckmann’s restaurant, located in the newly-opened Courtyard Marriott Hamburg City hotel. The concept of Böckmann’s restaurant was inspired by indoor food halls and fish markets. The sophisticated space features an open kitchen and hip, modern ambiance, while the menu showcases regularly-changing dishes made with fresh regional ingredients.
Böckmann’s restaurant — Photo courtesy of Courtyard Marriott Hamburg City
Chef Glävke explained, “Hamburg has many things to offer, from little restaurants in alternative areas to Michelin-starred restaurants. We have a great mix of cultures here, which you can see in different ways and cooking styles in the restaurants. You can find the traditional French-inspired cuisine, but also young chefs who are willing to cook old Northern German dishes by giving them a special and modern twist.”
At Böckmann’s restaurant, chef Glävke and his team recently introduced a “tartar bar,” the first in the city. It features a number of diverse options, such as beef tartar with baba ganoush (a blended puree of fire-roasted eggplants with Tahini sauce), fresh lemon juice and coriander. It’s served with homemade Naan bread.
But the menu isn’t limited to meat. They also offer tartar with salmon or vegetables, and guests are invited to create their own combinations as well.
Tartar Bar — Photo courtesy of Courtyard Marriott Hamburg City
He pointed out, “Guests love the salmon tartar with a miso and nut butter marinade. This tartar is inspired by the Asian cuisine and it comes along with krupuk (shrimp crisps).”
Glävke added that the tartar concept was a truly a team effort. “The idea of the tartar bar came from Petra Bierwirth, the hotel’s business owner, and our area manager Bernd Mensing. They introduced me to the idea and I was absolutely fascinated by the opportunities we could create with a concept like this. Tartar is well-known, but is also a dish often forgotten about. In most restaurants, tartar is served the traditional way, but we’re striving to change it into a modern and fresher dish.”
Tartar board — Photo courtesy of Courtyard Marriott Hamburg City
Taste tours in Hamburg
To ensure that local and visiting food enthusiasts get the chance to have a big taste of Hamburg, a food-focused tour company, called Taste Tours has recently launched in the city to introduce both locals and tourists to the diverse food scene. For each tour, the company carefully chooses several restaurants and food businesses across several neighborhoods, depending on the availability and capacity, etc.
Paul Beutin is the Taste Tours location manager for Hamburg and Berlin. He says, “Thanks to the expertise of Foodguide, Europe’s largest social gastronomy network (and one of the three founding companies of Taste Tours), the restaurants have been selected with great accuracy. The restaurants are selected by Taste Tours because they have proven themselves as culinary hot spots.”
He continued, “On the one hand, we hope that the local participants will get to know (and love) new restaurants in their city. On the other hand, the Taste Tours gives our international guests the opportunity to visit several curated restaurants on one evening without any effort. In addition, all tour guests can get exciting insights into the very different gastronomic concepts, take a look behind the scenes and learn new food facts.”
On a recent excursion, Taste Tours brought guests to these three noteworthy, yet under-the-radar spots in Hamburg. These unique businesses are examples of the city’s diverse food offerings that are changing the culinary face of the city:
Drilling in Hamburg — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
In Hamburg’s Bahrenfeld neighborhood, Drilling is considered a “triple-threat,” a café, bar and micro distillery. (In fact, the word “drilling” means triplet in German). Located in a former marzipan factory, this unique gastronomic concept opened in 2018 and has become extremely popular with locals who adore the fresh brewed coffees and teas served in the morning (along with fresh pastries).
This chic, comfortable industrial space features soaring ceilings, plenty of tables and other seating at the stunning bar where mixologists serve up craft cocktails featuring their house-made spirits (as well as other premium offerings). If you’re lucky, guests can also take a peek at the distillery in the back room that features beautiful copper stills – and see how the small-bath spirits (gin and a variety of brandies) are made on the premises.
Throughout the month, Drilling often hosts live music and other events.
Beutin loves bringing his Taste Tours guests to Drilling because it’s a unique, beautiful space and a fascinating experience overall. He said, “There is no comparable project in Europe that houses so much gastronomic craftsmanship within its walls.”
Dametto in Hamburg, Germany — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
Situated in the Eppendorf neighborhood, the cozy storefront Dametto is all about a homemade Italian classic: fresh pasta. Owned and operated by Monica Dametto, a transplanted Italian who has been living in Hamburg for over 15 years, this pasta workshop is all about interactive fun in the kitchen.
Dametto says, “I started this business just for fun – because of my cooking and pasta obsession. Making pasta always gives you a nice feeling.”
Dametto offers a variety of small-group cooking classes, where guests can learn how to make pasta from scratch, either by hand or by operating the professional, high-powered appliances. Participants can take turns at cooking the specialties as well, as the shop features a compact, yet incredibly versatile kitchen.
The dishes may include traditional linguine – or a modern spin on pastas, such as turmeric spaghetti, cocoa tagliatelle or gnocchetti featuring Italian durum wheat and fresh eggs from the region. Dametto also features intimate group events (such as singles nights and private parties).
And if you’re just passing by, you can watch the action outside the large window – or go inside to purchase some gourmet products as well.
Underdocks — Photo courtesy of Marla Cimini
In the St. Pauli area, Underdocks is an off-the-beaten-path restaurant that features “gourmet” fast food in a gritty atmosphere, serving up traditional and modern seafood dishes in a casual, welcoming setting. With a menu full of freshly prepared, reinterpreted classics, this restaurant offers a wide variety of generously-portioned options, including ceviche, fried codfish, lobster rolls, crayfish rolls, pulled salmon tacos, salads and vegetarian specialties as well.
With a design that pays homage to the city’s seaport, local docks and fisheries, Underdocks features high ceilings, wooden tables and floors, as well as metal and steel accents, including a shipping container in dining area that adds an authentic accent.
Featuring a full bar, with local beer, the restaurant is open all day and guests can easily order a quick bite – or something more substantial and dine at a more leisurely pace.