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Live dining report: 2014 Oktoberfest Northwest in Puyallup

There was beer, dancing, lederhosen and plenty of fried pork at Oktoberfest Northwest in Puyallup.

The three-day festival at the Washington State Fairgrounds turns the Puyallup ShowPlex into the biggest German food court this area’s ever seen.

I checked in tonight on five of the 10 restaurants serving. Some dishes yielded great value; others less so. Take a look at what I ate. Scroll down for more details on what’s happening this weekend at Oktoberfest Northwest.

Pork schnitzel plate, $10

Where: Gutes Essen Haus, along the back wall of the Showplex

Payment: CASH ONLY

If you get one thing at Oktoberfest Northwest, make it the crunchy jacketed pork schnitzel. The texture tasted light, tender - no gristle in this pork cutlet (my biggest peeve is a schnitzel that’s a chewy mess). The crunchy breading clung to the cutlet, which was smothered in a thin textured beef-mushroom gravy. Flanking the cutlet was a pile of warm German potato salad notched up with bacon and mustard; and a side of sweet-and-sour cabbage that was more crunchy than I thought it should be. A serve-yourself mustard bar next to the booth is a must visit.

Pyzy plate with sweet sour cabbage, $8

Where: Bruno’s European Restaurant booth

Besides Hess Bakery and the German Pastry Shop, Bruno’s European Restaurant in Parkland is the only other German eatery in Pierce County. Bruno’s is a full-service restaurant with a long list of German and Eastern European specialties. The kitchen’s finesse with dumplings was on full display at Oktoberfest Northwest with its plate of pyzy, pork-filled dumplings with a feathery texture and just the right amount of sticky resistance for a dumpling. A thickened beef gravy clung to the dumplings. Straddling the dumplings was red cabbage. A delicious sweet-and-sour vinaigrette tweaked the warm salad.

Cabbage rolls $10

Where: Bruno’s European Restaurant booth

Two cabbage rolls stuffed with a rice-and-ground-pork mixture, blanketed with a zippy tomato sauce. I love that the filling was steamy hot, yet the cabbage still had snap. While this was as tasty as it always is at Bruno’s, the price felt high for the portion size. Stick with the pyzy plate for value.

Currywurst, $7

Where: Bruno’s European Restaurant booth

Is this German? Is this Indian? It’s both! This unlikely blend of cuisines really works, with the earthy tone of the Indian curry a stellar companion for the juicy pork wurst, which snapped when I bit into it. The sweet-spicy sauce drizzled on top was the vehicle for the curry flavor. A version without the curry sauce was available, too. This one was finished with chopped onions. A great companion sandwich for any beer.

Goulash $7

Where: Europa Cafe booth

The beef goulash soup tasted under flavored until we stirred up the beefy chunks from the bottom of the container. Give this soup a good whirl before eating. The paprika-teased broth wanted more beefiness, but I could see how this soup would be outstanding after a few more hours of cooking.

Beef piroshky, $7.50

Where: Kaleenka Piroshky booth, near the beer ticket area

Payment: CASH ONLY

In a competition between the beef piroshky and the bierocks, a baked beef-stuffed bun from the Europa Cafe booth, I’ve got to say that the beef-and-cheddar piroshky won that smackdown. But this roll had an unfair advantage. Frying turned the texture crunchy, the color golden. The flavor also was sharper than the bierock. If you’re going to buy a stuffed meat bun at Oktoberfest Northwest, make it the piroshky. The bierocks, because it is baked, is a healthier choice (if you’re keeping track).

Apple Kringle $5

Where: Kringles Bakery booth, near the beer tickets

Some will dislike the skins-on apple of this German kringle, the namesake of the Redmond-based bakery serving at Oktoberfest Northwest. The glossy topped pastry was laced with cinnamon and the apples still had a bit of body. I liked it, others at my table considered the apple skins unappealing. The Kringles booth had several other desserts.

TIPS FOR NAVIGATING THIS WEEKEND’S OKTOBERFEST:

Beer: It’s slightly complicated, but it saves line time at the beer kiosks. Buy a beer ticket for $6 (cash or credit) at the ticket purchase booths. Then, exchange your ticket for a glass of beer of your choice at one of the beer kiosks.

Beer menu: Trumer Pils, Warsteiner Dunkel, Warsteiner Oktoberfest, Hacker-Pschorr Weiss, Hofbrau Oktoberfest and a local beer, Snoqualmie Harvest Moon. For wine drinkers, find wines from Washington Hills.

Food payment: Credit cards accepted at food booths, except Gutes Essen Haus and Kaleenka Piroshky.

Running: Register for Sunday’s festival 5k at steindash5k.com. The 5 kilometer race begins at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, just ahead of the wiener dog races. Be sure to visit Sunday to see the wiener dog costume contest.

Kid activities: Hammerschlagen, face painting, scavenger hunt in the root beer garden, free airbrush tattoos and free pumpkins on Sunday. Kids are welcome until 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and can attend all day Sunday, which is half price day with $5 admission for adults.

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