Hoist your steins and massively oversized pretzels because Oktoberfest is upon us! It’s that glorious time of year when you can juggle endless plates of crispy schnitzel and platters of bratwurst with sauerkraut, and no one will bat an eye.
It should come as no surprise that the vast DC area culinary spectrum has quite a few amazing restaurants and beer gardens, all offering classic and modern twists on popular German dishes. Cheesy kaese spaetzle with roasted onions, a piping hot bowl of eintopf (classic German stew) and crispy fried German potato pancakes…is your mouth watering yet?
Not to worry, we have gathered a list of the top places to find your favorite German dishes and get your Oktoberfest celebration off to the perfect start!
Thin, boneless cuts of meat are breaded and fried up to crispy perfection.
Head over to Cafe Berlin near Union Station and order the Jäeger schnitzel – thinly pounded pork bread cooked to crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and topped with a bacon and mushroom gravy. At Cafe Mozart downtown, first walk through the German deli to get to the back restaurant (though you’ll be sure to stop there for purchases on the way out!) and order up from an array of schnitzel choices. My personal favorite is the chicken Jäeger schnitzel – thin and crispy chicken sautéed with tomato, mushroom, onion and red wine. Over at Old Europe on Wisconsin Avenue, order the schnitzel Old Europe. The original house recipe was created by the Lichtenstein family, who opened the restaurant in 1948. For a different take on the classic schnitzel, try brunch at the newly opened Bistro Bohem on U Street and order the house favorite chicken schnitzel waffle with maple syrup.
Bistro Bohem: 600 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.bistrobohem.com
Cafe Berlin: 322 Massachusetts Ave. NE, DC; www.cafeberlin-dc.com
Cafe Mozart: 1331 H St. NW, DC; www.cafemozartdc.com
Old Europe: 2434 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC: www.old-europe.com
A crowd-pleaser for sure, traditional German pretzels, known as Laugenbrezel, can be found in bakeries and street stands all over Germany.
Sehkraft Brewing in Arlington has a Baltimore-based German baker who can count the Clarendon area restaurant as his number one client for pretzels. Order the pound-and-a-half jumbo pretzel for you and a friend, which comes with three heavenly dipping sauces – garlic-spiked grain mustard, bacon horseradish cream and brewery cheese dip (my favorite, you’ll be asking for seconds). And if you need to feed a crowd, order up their seven-pound pretzel, which is not featured on the menu but is available and massive. Popular Hill East spot The Pretzel Bakery takes a creative spin on the pretzel, offering a variety of options, including sweet and savory pretzels. Small-batch, hand-rolled and fresh-out-of-the-oven daily, try the Pretzel Bomb – a Nutella-filled sweet pretzel roll topped with house-made glaze and salt. Or for a savory pick, try everything pretzels with the house-made pub cheese dip. I have never gone to Sauf Haus Bier Hall & Garden on 18th Street and not ordered the medium two-pound pretzel with friends. Take a seat up on the rooftop beer garden and pair with a German brew.
The Pretzel Bakery: 257 15th St. SE, DC; www.thepretzelbakery.com
Sauf Haus Bier Hall & Garden: 1216 18th St. NW, DC; www.saufhausdc.com
Sehkraft Brewing : 925 N. Garfield St. Suite A, Arlington, VA; www.sehkraftbrewing.com
Germany has over 1,000 varieties of this satisfying dish, typically served up with a staple side dish of sauerkraut.
Over at Penn Quarter’s The Partisan, which showcases the offerings of the neighboring Red Apron butcher shop, they have a 32-item house-made charcuterie menu that changes on the regular and includes a modern take on the German favorite bierwurst. The restaurant’s “Beerwurst” is named aptly for the fact that beer is included in the sausage, not something typically found in the German delicacy. Order up the Red Apron sausage platter, which includes a selection of sausages and tasty accompaniments, served with toasted tigelles. At German-themed Arlington sports bar Courthaus Social, order their “Best of the Wurst,” which includes a choice of three locally-made sausages (bratwurst, cheese brat, knackwurst, spiced country style or spicy chicken) served with two heavenly pretzel rolls, mustard and cabbage. Popular H Street spot Biergarten Haus has third-generation German butchers on staff who craft their own sausages, served up with house-made potato pancakes and sauerkraut. For a bit of a twist, head to BBQ and beer garden Garden District on 14th Street for their mouthwatering German bratwurst and kraut sandwich.
Biergarten Haus : 1355 H St. NW, DC: www.biergartenhaus.com
Courthaus Social: 2300 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.courthaussocial.com
Garden District : 1801 14th St. NW, DC; www.gardendistrictdc.com
The Partisan: 709 D St. NW, DC; www.thepartisandc.com