The only thing better than a giant German beer hall is another equally giant German beer hall.
That’s what attendees will find at this weekend’s Oktoberfest Northwest, which opens Friday (Oct. 5) and continues through Sunday at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup.
The footprint of the festival grew sharply this year with the addition of a covered beer hall with an additional 13,000 square feet that comes with a second entertainment stage, more gaming areas and more beer stands.
Called the Bavarian Hall by festival organizers, it will be connected to the main Munich Festhalle by a covered walkway.
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Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the annual Oktoberfest Northwest, featuring German beer, German drinking games, dachshund races and one of the region’s largest selections of German pop-up restaurants serving scratch-made German and European food.
Pouring: Trumer Pils, Warsteiner Oktoberfest, Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Hacker-Pschorr Weiss, Paulaner Oktoberfest, Warsteiner Dunkel and semi-sweet cider from Seattle Cider Company.
Cost: Beer ticket are $7 each.
Fancy glasses: Commemorative steins range from $10 to $25.
Itty Bitty Schnitty: The Itty Bitty Schnitty food truck is the only new restaurant this year and it’s a good one. It serves outstanding schnitzel.
The truck roams from Tacoma to Seattle but also has a deli in Browns Point at the Lighthouse Market. Owner Amber Cowart calls her food German with Austrian touches and it’s built with a modern, fun food truck spin. And there’s one more twist.
“We’re a little closer to Hungary, so we use paprika and other spices in the schnitzel,” she said.
Cowart will serve an abbreviated menu to keep up with demand. Her Itty Bitty Schnitty plate gives a broad sampling of her style of food. The dish comes with four mini pork schnitzels in a crisp breading speckled with lemon zest, served with sides of her housemade sauerkraut (she ferments it at her Browns Point deli), as well as her spiced red cabbage salad and warm German potato salad with a bacon-mustard vinaigrette ($14).
She described her new Poutine ‘n Schnitt as her most popular truck item ($11).
“We make a creamy mushroom jaeger gravy from scratch. It has a beef base and it’s poured over a cone full of fries, and we top it off with some fried cheese curds, chives, bacon and then we serve it with schnitzel on the side,” she said.
She also makes another version with a housemade jalapeno cheese beer sauce, homemade curry ketchup and fried jalapeno chips.
Be sure to try her pretzel bun sliders with schnitzel (or fried eggplant for vegetarians) served with her spectacular house bread-and-butter pickles and fries ($10).
Another new item is “pig wings,” which are pork hocks that have been slow-cooked ($12).
“We give them a flash fry and glaze them in a honey apple vinaigrette. That comes on top of a kale salad with poppyseed dressing, Craisins and fresh apple,” Cowart said.
Bruno’s European Restaurant: My favorite destination in the region for rouladen, schntizel and sauerbraten will return with its menu of German-Polish favorites. It’s also among the best-valued restaurants at the festival.
New this year will be frikadelle. The Bruno’s version is a baseball shaped meatloaf slathered in the restaurant’s creamy, mushroom gravy. At the festival, it’ll be served with mashed potatoes and braised cabbage ($12).
Among the best values at the event will be the combo plate with German wurst, a cabbage roll, mashed potatoes and cabbage ($12). Do not miss the restaurant’s famous potato latkes with sour cream and applesauce ($10) or its outstanding pickle soup, served with a roll ($6).
Also on the menu will be cabbage rolls ($12), bratwurst ($8) and currywurst ($8). Save room for the restaurant’s apple strudel and bienenstich.
Gutes Essen Haus: This restaurant booth will return with the same menu as previous years. The menu includes a pork schnitzel plate or bratwurst plate ($12), schnitzel sandwich or bratwurst on a bun with fries ($10) and the restaurant’s famous homemade apple fritters with caramel sauce ($5).
“We’ll serve the pork schnitzel plate with our warm German potato salad and our sweet-and-sour cabbage,” said owner Ken Moriarty. “We’ll also pour our hot mushroom gravy over the schnitzel.”
He expects to go through 1,200 hand-pounded schnitzel this weekend.
“The pounding is driving me crazy,” joked Moriarty. “We have eight chefs working on it right now.”
They’ll also serve frites with the option of a coating of gravy ($5).
“It’s a very traditional gravy,” he said. “We make it by sauteeing mushrooms in butter and flour, add the beef base and the beef stock to it and thicken it up. What makes it so good is the fresh mushrooms that are in there.”
European Deli: This booth will serve a lightened-up menu with three new salads and a vegetarian friendly crepe. They’ll also serve their traditional beef stroganoff, soups, more crepes and Reuben sandwiches.
Also try: Bratwurst and curly fries from Zielger’s, piroshki from Kaleenka Piroshky (get the beef-and-cheddar), giant pretzels and sweet treats, including macarons from Tacoma’s La Waffletz and Macaron Station.
Manuela Horn: The Queen of Oktoberfest will headline events each day.
Live music: Two stages with live German, polka and European music all weekend.
Dog races: Dachshund races start at noon Sunday.
German games: Hammerschlagen, Holey Boards, Corn Hole Toss and more.
For kids: A root beer garden, kids crafting area, free pumpkin decorating, free face decorating, kinderfest show on Sunday.
GET HOME SAFE
Rideshare/taxis: Discounts offered at the Think Twice booth, which helps attendees get home without driving drunk. Cars left in the Blue Lot overnight will not be towed, so err on the safe side and catch a ride home.
Oktoberfest Northwest 2018
Where: Washington State Fair Events Center, 110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup.
When: noon to midnight Friday (Oct. 5); 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: $15 Friday and Saturday; $7.50 Sunday. Free parking in the Blue Lot.
Tip: Free admission 12-3 p.m. Friday.
Children: 12 and younger free all weekend. Kids welcome until 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and all day Sunday.
Info: 425-295-3262 or oktoberfestnw.com