Extra gravy on the schnitzel? Check.
Double kraut on that brat? Well, double-check that.
And beer? Triple check.
I’ve just completed an eating tour of Oktoberfest Northwest, a three-day ode to all things German food, beer and culture at the Washington State Fair Events Center in Puyallup. The event continues Saturday and Sunday with live music, dancing, a cooking stage and more.
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I headed immediately to the food booths and found six mini pop-up German (ish) restaurants, each specializing in different dishes (read: very little crossover in menus, an asset for a festival of this type and size).
Along the back wall of the Events Center, find four of the larger restaurants: Bruno’s European Restaurant; Gutes Essen Haus, Zieglers Bratwurst Haus and European Deli. Toward the beer ticket booth, find Kaleenka Piroshky and Wunder Brat.
Also offered at smaller kiosks were treats and small nibbles: Brevin’s Solid Gold Fudge ($6 a bar); Straus Bavarian Nuts ($6 a bag); Shishkaberry’s with a menu of chocolate-dipped fruit on a stick ($4.25-$6.50); and Pretzel Haus serving single pretzels ($5, cash only).
Here are the six dishes you shouldn’t miss at the event, in the order you should eat them:
Where: Bruno’s booth.
Bruno’s outdid itself with its schweinebraten, which is slow-roasted pork. Three meaty pieces of silky textured pork came doused in Bruno’s signature beef gravy. On the side were dumplings (kartoffelkoesse), velvety potato orbs splashed with a ladle of gravy. Flanking the dish was vividly purple sour-sweet cabbage salad, served cold (best at the festival).
Also serving: Latkes (also known by their German moniker, kartoffelpuffer) and cabbage roll plates, $10; strudel ($5); bratwurst and currywurst ($7). Bruno’s is cash only.
SCHNITZEL PLATE, $10
Where: Gutes Essen Haus.
I get the schnitzel plate every year because it’s reliably good. Gutes Essen Haus serves its pork schnitzel pounded flat and jacketed in a crunchy, well-seasoned breading. This year’s schnitzel was just a touch thicker than last year’s (not that I’m complaining). It was topped with mushroom-beef gravy and tweaked with vinegar, a side of snappy purple cabbage salad and bacon-laced warm German potato salad.
Also serving: Schnitzel sandwich ($8); fries ($5); apple fritters ($5). Gutes Essen Haus is cash only.
Where: Wunder Brat booth.
What happens when bacon meets bratwurst? It’s baconwurst. Embedded in the sausage was thick, meaty pieces of bacon, giving the wurst an extra dose of porky flavor. I ordered mine on a warm pretzel bun, but a French roll also was available. The Wunder Brat booth gets an extra nod for its selection of three mustards, pickles and spicy pepperoncini rings. Kraut is offered by request only.
Also serving: Four kinds of brats ($8). Cash or cards taken here.
SPICY BRATWURST, $9
Where: Zieglers booth.
Zieglers micro specializes in only sausages and curly fries, which is why the line moves so fast here. The spicy bratwurst held a hefty hit of spice, but it had the added bonus of squirting brat juice everywhere when I bit into it (an early alert system that the brat is exactly what it should be — a big, porky mess). Brats are served on a stadium roll with kraut and grilled onions, if requested (you should). Add on a side of German potato salad for $3.50 and you’ll be rewarded with a warm red potato salad with a puckery vinegar dressing and hunks of bacon.
Also serving: Four kinds of sausages ($6-$9.50), and curly fries ($8). Credit taken here, but it comes with a $1 service charge.
BEEF AND CHEESE PIROSHKY, $9
Where: Kaleenka Piroshky booth.
Crack open a fried piroshky and you’ll unleash a cheesy river of steamy beef and cheddar. The flaky exterior gave way delicately to that meaty interior with a flavor that always reminds me of a Russian cheeseburger.
Also serving: Four kinds of piroshky ($6-$9). Credit taken here, but it comes with a 3 percent service charge.
BEEF STROGANOFF, $8.50
Where: European Deli.
This was my least favorite of the six dishes tried because the pot of gravy didn’t get a good enough shake of seasoning. The beef strips were nice, but the gravy was dull and thin. I can find very little to fault with spaetzle, though, which are German noodles with an eggy flavor that the stroganoff was served over.
Also serving: Crepes ($4.50-$8.50); Reuben sandwiches ($7.50). Credit or cash taken here.
HANDY OKTOBERFEST NORTHWEST SURVIVAL GUIDE
BRING CASH: Three of six of the restaurants require cash.
PRICE INCREASE: While Gutes Essen Haus and Bruno’s held steady on menu prices, I saw a 20 percent increase at Zieglers and Kaleenka. For instance: Last year’s $7.50 menu items were $9 this year.
BEER STEADY: Beer prices held steady at $6 a cup. Buy a ticket at the pay station, then exchange one or two tickets for your desired size of beer.
BEER LIST: Trumer Pils, Warsteiner Oktoberfest, Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Hacker Pschorr Weisse, and Warsteiner Dunkel.
Where: Washington State Fair Events Center, 110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup
When: noon-midnight Friday (Oct. 9); 11 a.m. -midnight Saturday and 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $12 Friday and Saturday; $5 Sunday. Free admission noon-3 p.m. Friday. Free parking.
Children: Under 12 free all weekend; children welcome until 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and all day Sunday.
Kid activities: Pumpkin decorating; scavenger hunt in the root beer garden, and games.
Main stage entertainment: Oregon Polka Beats; Enzian Schuhplattler Dancers; Doppelbock; Z Musikmakers and The Beer Barrels.
Cooking stage: Cooking demos hosted all weekend by Matt Schweitzer of Tacoma’s Marrow. Read the schedule here.