Around the World in Houston: Discover Germany

Oktoberfest | Photo courtesy of King's Biergarten & Restaurant

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

This week, we’ll be exploring the best of Germany. According to the Texas Almanac, the German-Texan culture dates back to the early 1830s, when Frederick Ernst acquired land in Austin County; The largest immigration of Germans came in the 1840s, with thousands migrating to Central Texas and establishing such settlements as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. But the culture isn’t just found in Central Texas, you can find it thriving in Houston, too.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Tomball German Heritage Festival – In the spring, Tomball hosts a German Heritage Festival, complete with weekend-long carnival fun, authentic food and drink, plenty of vendors, and a Deutschland-loving street party.
  • Oktoberfest Houston – Don your finest lederhosen and dirndls for this annual, adults-only beer fest takes on a German twist. Highlights include a lineup of local and imported suds, live music, polka and folk dancers, and the yearly Oktoberfest Olympiad games, featuring a stein race, barrel roll, stein hoisting, and legendary brat toss. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, September 30 at The Water Works.
  • Island Oktoberfest – Every year on the fourth Saturday of October, Galveston’s First Luthern Church puts on an Oktoberfest extravaganza on its grounds. The fun, family-friendly festival features live German music and polka dancing, themed biergartens, arts and crafts, a cake wheel and chicken dance, and traditional German eats like brats and knacks, cabbage, and potato salad.
  • King’s Oktoberfest – Fan-favorite biergarten King’s (which now boasts two locations, King’s Biergarten in Pearland and King’s BierHaus in the Heights) hosts a weekend-long Oktoberfest celebration each year, starting with a ceremonial keg tap and continuing with live music, German biers and brats, and all kinds of shenanigans. While you’re here, check out King’s owner Hans Sitter‘s My Top 5 contribution to learn more about the business-savvy owner’s story and five of his favorite Houston gems.
  • Tomball German Christmas Market – Get into the holiday spirit at this yearly Texas-style Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market), held near the historic Train Depot Plaza in Old Town Tomball. The family-friendly fete highlights over 200 street vendors, traditional music and dancing, antiques, a heritage center, festival eats, and authentic German food and drink—from dark Dunkels bier and warm cups of Glühwein to brats, strudels, and Christmas stollen. This year’s event will take place Friday, December 8 through Sunday, December 10, 2017.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • German American Chamber of Commerce – Founded in 1978, the German American Chamber of Commerce supports bilateral trade between Germany and the U.S. Events include business dialogue seminars, networking conferences, and meet-ups.
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Explore the works of over 2,000 German artists at this massive fine arts museum, which is the oldest art museum in Texas.
  • Texas German Society – Founded 1983 in Harris County, the Texas German Society has as its purpose to preserve and encourage the German heritage, culture, and language of German-Texans. The grassroots non-profit offers programs and projects, from museum exhibits and festivals to dance groups and food fairs.
  • German Club at the University of Houston – The German Club’s goal is to promote the interest of German language and culture within the community, through activities including special field trips, guest speakers, informal gatherings, and German television and movie viewing parties. Enrollment in German courses at UH is not required (nor is the ability to speak German), as anyone with an interest is welcome to join. Follow along on Facebook for updates.

German Food & Drink

Restaurants & Food Trucks

  • Alpine Brauhaus – This family-owned hidden gem brings German eats to the Bay Area. Sip Spaten brews alongside smothered schnitzel and scratch-made German cheesecake.
  • Charivari – Romanian-born chef Johann Schuster spent years in Germany before moving to Houston and opening Charivari, the name meaning “beautiful good mix” in French. Here, you’ll find a blend of European flavors, including German specialties like jaeger schnitzel, tarte flambée Alsacean, Bavarian-style roasted duck, and a lineup of German after-dinner brandies.
  • King’s Biergarten and King’s Bierhaus – Launched by Hans Sitter and his son Philipp, these sibling biergartens and German restaurants bring the fun and the flavor. Hit Pearland’s Biergarten or the Heights’ BierHaus to feast and prost! with assorted brats and wursts, jägerschnitzel and schweinsstelze (pork shank), and liters or “das boots” of German bier.
  • Rudi Lechner’s – Get the best of the wurst at this fan-favorite German-Texan eatery, where it’s all about the sausages, schnitzels, and fun. Wednesdays offer a family night German buffet for $16.95 per person, and the eatery also hosts live music lineups and an annual Oktoberfest celebration.
  • Deutscher Fleischwagen – Find this food truck slinging German-style eats at Under the Radar Brewery, from flame-grilled Bavarian wieners and brats to pretzels and German fried potatoes.
  • The Sauer Kraut Food Truck – This mobile eatery offers German-style bratwurst, schnitzel sandwiches, hamburgers, German pulled pork, currywurst, fries, and special features like spätzle and braised red cabbage. Find it serving it all around town, including Fort Bend County, Richmond and Harris County.

Grocery Stores & Bakeries/Sweet Shops

  • Aldi – This German budget supermarket chain operates 32 stores in the Houston area, with plans for more.
  • Golden Grain – This Russian food emporium carries a host of delicacies from across Europe, including black bread, European-style pastries, and German salamis and sausages.
  • Lidl – Low-cost German grocer has announced plans to open up stores in the Houston area, with proposed locations in Pearland, Conroe, and League City.
  • Phoenicia Specialty Foods – Hit this international market to find German wines and Gerolsteiner mineral water, fruit tarts, rustic rye and sourdough bread, and King Ludwig German beer cheese.
  • Roland’s Swiss Pastry & Bakery – Though it says Swiss in the name, you can find a variety of traditional European treats at this bakery, from strudels and wurst brat deli platters to tarts and black forest cake.

Bars & Nightlife

  • Bar Munich – Named after the capital city of Bavaria, a region of the world where beer drinking is a culture, this Midtown hotspot rocks bar games and European soccer watching, Deutschland biers (including Hofbräu and Spaten, which are served in liter and das boot form), and Bavarian-style brats, and a yearly Oktoberfest celebration.
  • Stuttgarden Tavern – This old school beer garden brings a taste of Germany to Galveston, Kemah, and Texas City, with plenty of brews on tap and German eats like jaegerwurst, sauerkraut balls, and pork schnitzel, to boot.

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • German Center Houston – This virtual center aims to keep unite the community and locals informed about German events throughout the Houston area.
  • German Institute for the Southwest – Bringing all things German to the U.S. Southwest, this local institution aims to promote and advance the German culture in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The organization is certified by the Goethe-Institut, the official German cultural organization, and teaches German as a second language to youths and adults in the Houston and Woodlands areas.
  • German International School of Houston – This international school offers a dual language immersion program that empowers children by giving them access to a German/English early education.
  • Houston-Leipzig Sister City Association – Leipzig, Germany was established as a sister city of Houston in 1992. Today, business people, doctors, students, and other citizens practice an active and fruitful exchange between the two cities, living up to the spirit of international friendship created by the sister cities program. For Houston updates, follow along on Facebook or with the online calendar.
  • Houston Liederkranz – This local music and culture club has been cultivating song in the German language since 1924. Today, the group puts on social and recreational activities showcasing German language, music, art, and culture, from open halls and movie matinees to choir shows and homebrew meetings.
  • Houston Saengerbund – Founded in 1883, the Houston Saengerbund is the oldest musical association in the city. Made up of a Maennerchor (men’s choir), Damenchor (women’s choir), and Gemischterchor (mixed choir), the society welcomes all who enjoy singing and celebrating German culture.
  • Rathkamp German Folk Dancers – Founded in 1959, this folk dancing group strives to preserve the folk dances, customs, and culture of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and to cultivate a public appreciation of these by performing in authentic costume accompanied by traditional music.
  • Expat meet-ups is a great source for creating and searching for expat meetups in your community. German speaker meet-ups are also available.

Other Notables

  • Das Ist Lustig – With a name that translates to “That’s Fun,” this Houston-based German band brings the fun to traditional German and Alpine music with a fresh energetic attitude. Catch them around town at Rudi Lechner’s and various Oktoberfest celebrations, Tomball German Fest or the famed Wurstfest in New Braunfels.
  • Auf Geht’s – This music group rocks out the music of the Alps, with German, Austrian, Swiss and Texan yodeling, alphorn, and musical saw. Find them at Rudi Lechner’s and other festivals around town.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .