The Vegetarian Option: Hallo Berlin
Although you may not immediately think "vegetarian" when you think of German food, lots of vegetables are used as side dishes. True, sometimes the potato salad contains bacon, but at Hallo Berlin in Hell's Kitchen, they make sure that the vegetable sides are actually vegetarian.
To get a good sampling of those vegetables, Hallo Berlin has thoughtfully provided the Vegetable Bowl ($10). Among the best things on the plate are: the German fries, crispy potatoes covered in spicy ketchup; creamy potato salad; bright, acidic red cabbage; and spaetzle. Unlike the small, teardrop-shaped spaetzle I've had before, at Hallo Berlin they serve long, almost linguine-like noodles, soft on the inside but crisp (from a sauté in butter) on the outside. The plate offers a wide variety of flavors, textures, and temperatures, and is a great way to get the full spectrum of German vegetarian food.
There are a few other vegetarian sides worth ordering to bulk up your meal, such as the potato pancakes ($6.50). Served with the complimentary flavors of applesauce and sour cream, the pancakes are greasy in all the right ways, with crispy edges and soft interiors that earnestly taste of potatoes. They're perfect for sharing.
The jumbo pretzel ($5) is also quite good, though maybe not worth the price. Warm and slightly chewy, it embodies all that a pretzel should be. My only quibble: the mustard served along with it is too sweet for my taste; I prefer spicier mustard with my pretzels.
Hallo Berlin is situated on busy 10th Avenue, but if you can snag a seat in the back yard you'll feel miles away from all of the hustle and bustle. Drink a large beer, order up some great vegetarian food, and relax. I've never been to Germany, but I can only hope that it's a lot like that.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.