Second Breakfast in Europe

Munich’s beer gardens are popular places to eat “second breakfast” in nice weather.

By Sharon Hudgins
Photos by the author

Sausages and beer for breakfast? Sure, especially if you’re chowing down on the second meal of the day before lunch.

If breakfast is good for you, a second one is even better. Between 10 and 11 in the morning, Germans head to their favorite restaurant or cafe for a zweites Frühstück (second breakfast), while Austrians sit down at a Gabelfrühstück (fork breakfast). The British pause for tea at “elevenses,” the Spanish pop into the nearest bar for coffee and a mid-morning snack, las onces (the elevens), and the French stop for a similar pick-me-up at home, at work and at school.

The custom of double dining originated centuries ago in rural areas where farmhands ate a light, early breakfast before going out to take care of the animals and work in the fields, then ate again in the late morning after all that hard physical labor. The practice was later adopted by urban dwellers, as a way to stave off hunger pangs until the mid-afternoon main meal in Mediterranean countries, and to stay warm in northern Europe, where most housing didn’t have central heating and lunch wasn’t served before one o’clock. Second breakfast served a social function, too, as an informal occasion to meet friends at a cafe for conversations over coffee, tea or beer.

Today, both on the farm and in the city, many south Germans and Austrians still start the day with a light meal of hot coffee, bread or small rolls spread with butter and jam, perhaps accompanied by a boiled egg or a few slices of ham and cheese. Their second breakfast might be more or less substantial: ham, sausage, fish or cheese stuffed into rolls; a bowl of goulash soup or a small plate of goulash stew with bread on the side; cakes or pastries for those with a sweet tooth; and more cups of hot coffee or a even a glass of beer.

 Weisswurst Breakfast sausage
Munich’s famous Weisswurst sausages are served in a tureen of hot water.

In southern Germany the Bavarians have their own special kind of second breakfast particularly associated with Munich, the capital city. In mid- to late-morning, Müncheners head to their favorite traditional Bavarian restaurant for a meal of Weisswurst (white sausage) and Weizenbier (wheat beer, also known as Weissbier), consumed in the cozy comfort of an old-fashioned, wood-paneled inn. If they’re in a hurry, they’ll just stop off at the nearest little Stehcafe for a standup snack of white sausages and beer.

Invented in 1857 by Sepp Moser, a Munich butcher and innkeeper, Weisswurst is a fresh, mild-tasting sausage made of finely chopped veal, pork fat and onion, combined with a bit of fresh green parsley and other seasonings that remain the secret of each butcher: salt, white pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, mace, ginger, sugar and lemon peel. The mixture is stuffed into pigs’ intestines, tied into plump sausages about five inches long, and simmered for a few minutes in hot water. The cooked sausages are served immersed in hot water, too, in a ceramic or stainless-steel tureen. Locals always order them by the Stück (piece), not the pair, even if they want only two. Why? It’s just a Munich tradition.

Munich’s Weisses Braeuhaus is a favorite spot for locals to gather for a “second breakfast” of Weisswurst and Weissbier.

Once you’ve speared a Weisswurst with your fork and transferred it to your plate, the trick is to free the soft white sausage meat from the tough-textured pigs’ casings, which are not meant to be eaten. Some Müncheners will tell you to slice off one end of the sausage and suck out half the filling, then cut off the other end and aspirate the rest. Others insist that the sausage should be cut in half, crosswise, and the stuffing sucked out from the middle. But better manners suggest slicing the Weisswurst lengthwise and peeling off the skin with your fork or just scraping the meat away from it.

Munich’s Weisswurst is always accompanied by a dab of sweet, mild, grainy brown mustard; soft, yeasty pretzels about 6 inches wide, with coarse salt baked on the crust; and a half liter of wheat beer served in a classic tall Weizenbier glass, narrow at the bottom and bulbous at the top.

Weisswurst with pretzel
Munich’s Weisswurst sausage is always accompanied by sweet brown mustard, soft pretzels, and a glass of Weissbier (wheat beer).

No later than noon, their second breakfast completed, Müncheners will have moved on to other pursuits before lunch. Anyone ordering Weisswurst after twelve is obviously an outsider—and many restaurant menus state that Weisswurst is not served after 12:00 p.m. The custom derives from the era before widespread refrigeration, when fresh raw sausages had to be cooked and eaten soon, before they spoiled. A Munich Weisswurst made in the morning is never supposed to hear the clock strike noon.

Weisses Bräuhaus, Tal 7. Open daily 7 a.m. – 2 a.m.,

Zum Spöckmeier, Rosenstrasse 9. Open daily from 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.

Gastätte Grossmarkthalle, Kochelseestrasse 13. Open Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. – 1 p.m., www.gaststä

Franziskaner Fuchsnstubn, Perusastrasse 5. Open daily, 9 a.m. – midnight

Stammhaus Zum Augustiner, Neuhauserstrasse 27. Open daily 10 a.m. – midnight,

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