For more than 200 years, Oktoberfest has been celebrated with frothy beers, savory German fare and musical merriment. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel far to join in on the fun.
Lager, juicy bratwurst and chewy pretzels—it may be hard to believe that we celebrate Oktoberfest for any reason other than its delicious German food, but the festival’s roots actually date back to 1810, in celebration of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese Sachsen-Hildburghausen’s marriage in Bavaria. We caught up with two of the area’s most notable German restaurants to learn more about how they celebrate Oktoberfest with delicious cuisine.
The Winzer Stube, which means “winemaker’s room,” is a cozy spot with wood-paneled walls and an atmosphere that resembles restaurants from owner Marie Schmidt’s hometown in Weiskirchen, Germany. For 15 years, they have offered classics like bratwurst mit sauerkraut und lartoffelsalat (bratwurst with sauerkraut and potato salad) and fan favorites like schweinehaxe (braised pork hocks).
“People tell us they can come once a year and the food is the same,” says Schmidt. “That’s the most important thing in a restaurant business. It’s sought after by Germans.”
But the food isn’t all they come for at the Winzer Stube. From September to November, the dining area transforms with blue-and-white checkered Bavarian tablecloths, and streamers and flags. “It’s a festivity to celebrate the Oktoberfest beers,” Schmidt says.
Looking to have a truly authentic Oktoberfest dining experience? Schmidt recommends trying the locally made sausage sampler, warm pretzels, liver dumplings with sauerkraut or pork hocks—and pair it with a German favorite, a Radler mass (a mixture of beer and lemonade).
In Stillwater, nestled within a pine forest on a fairly secluded property, sits a German restaurant that has been a local mainstay since the 1960s: Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter Restaurant. Ever since Karl and Elizabeth Schoene opened its doors nearly 50 years ago, the restaurant has fed and entertained visitors from across the country. But it wasn’t always the lively spot it is today.
“[Karl and Elizabeth] emigrated from Germany, and it was their dream to have a restaurant,” says owner Kim Schoene. “They purchased the land, and a year or two later, they made the original Gasthaus. They actually lived in half of it, and cooked for people in the other half.”
It wasn’t until the house next door went up for sale that they moved out and expanded the restaurant. In 1985, they added more space for a third dining area, but still kept all of the charm of the chalet-style Bavarian restaurant, complete with bench seating.
“We run it as a family business, and we treat people like family,” Schoene says. “The experience of being out here, it’s secluded but beautiful. It’s really like Bavaria. We’ve stayed true and blue to Karl’s original plan, and people do appreciate that.”
During Oktoberfest, Gasthaus diners can delight in an abundance of brats, giant pretzels, pork hocks, smoked chops, and German beer.
“We have a huge tent in the middle of a pine forest, so the festival kind of spills over into the forest,” Schoene says. “You can play hammerschlagen and listen to polka music. It’s an experience like no other in a beautiful space and people come from all over to enjoy it.”