Earlier today, I ate my way around the Greek festival in Tacoma. For a late-lunch snack, I asked a few friends to roll me down to the Northwest Oktoberfest, held this weekend in Puyallup at the fairgrounds. I found homey German eats at four pop-up cafes, one of which was operated by Bruno and Krystyna Tomaszewska of Bruno’s European Cafe in Parkland. Click “read more” to see how the German food stacked up against the Greek eats I wrote about earlier today. Also: Did you go? Comment to tell readers what you ate at Oktoberfest or the Greek festival in Tacoma.
The Oktoberfest is located in the Americraft Showplex at the Puyallup fairgrounds. The festival works like this:
For beer: Prepare yourself for a mild irritation. You have to stand in two lines for beer. First, buy a ticket at the ticket booth marked for beer ticket purchase (they’re to the left and right of the stage, they take cash or credit). Then, take your ticket to the bar at the back of the Showplex and swap your ticket for a plastic cup of beer or wine. A beer will cost you $6. Click the menu here to see the styles of beer.
Food: It’s a la carte at four take-out windows along the right side of the Showplex as you enter from the Blue Gate. You’ll also find Kaleenka Piroshky, a pretzel vendor and a crepe booth over near the stage. Warning: You need to bring cash for the food. The four cafes I visited didn’t take cards. There are Columbia Bank cash machines just outside the Showplex.
Here’s what I sampled at the four take-out windows near the entrance of the Showplex:
BRUNO’S EUROPEAN CAFE BOOTH:
Schweinebraten (Bavarian style roast pork): ($10) The roasted pork was tender, but the gravy was thin and tasted flat. Potato salad on the side tasted as it always does at Bruno’s cafe – fluffy potatoes that tasted as if they had been pushed through a ricer and then flavored with a heavy hit of vinegar, with just a hint of sweet. The potato salad is served cold. Sauerkraut finished the plate, and the kraut had an understated kick of pucker. This is not your typical sauerkraut with the kicky bite of funk.
BAVARIAN BRATWURST SCHNITZEL HAUS:
Pork wienerschnitzel: ($12) A thin cutlet pounded thin, coated and fried in a savory jacket, then covered with sauteed onions and peppers. The cutlet sure was tasty, but the jacket was a little on the soggy side, probably from the mountain of sauteed onions that provided a river of onion juice down into the fried pork. Purple cabbage on the side held too little pucker. Doughy spatzle noodles didn’t taste seasoned, but were helped along by a coating of mildly spicy goulash stew. Beef stroganoff can be substituted for the goulash over the noodles.
GUTES ESSEN HAUS:
Pork schnitzel sandwich: ($8) Two fried schnitzel cutlets were crispy thin, but salt was the dominating flavor, not pork. Tucked into a kaiser roll, the sandwich tasted too dry and the ratio of bread to filling skewed on the wrong side of too bready. A smear of mustard helped the dry sandwich along with some moisture, but it would have been far better with extra sweet-and-sour slaw, which was quite good and flavored with a piquant vinaigrette spiked with whole mustard seeds.
Spicy Bratwurst: ($7.50) A decent bargain, this was a spicy-salty bratwurst, with just a slight kick of heat, tucked into a hoagie roll and covered with buttery sauteed onions and kraut that had p-l-e-n-t-y of sour punch. I’d say this is good festival eating, if only because I could two-fist with the brat in one hand and the beer in the other. I like to be efficient with my eating and beer drinking, ya know. I was trying to eat fast so I could make it to the stage to catch the last part of the yodeling act.
Where to sit: Long rows of tables right in front of the stage, and cafe tables scattered throughout the showplex.
Kids stuff: Kids are welcome until early evening (I think the signs for tonight said 7 p.m.). I saw a pumpkin painting table and a bag toss.
Entertainment: Singing on the stage throughout the weekend, and funny wiener dog races (check the website listed below for details). I also saw a fun group of loud people in the outdoor beer garden singing in German. Pretty sure they weren’t paid entertainment, but they were entertaining to watch.
Final thoughts on the food: Better bargains can be found at the Greek festival, and execution of the food at the Greek festival was consistent and flawless, as it is every year. The Oktoberfest cafes really piled the food on the plate, but execution needs a little work and prices may be high for some diners. For the best deals, stick with the brats and sandwiches.
Seventh Annual Oktoberfest Northwest
Where: Puyallup Fairgrounds
When: Oct. 7-9. 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Admission: Admission is $10 Friday-Saturday and $5 Sunday. Children younger than 12 get in free all weekend.
What: Oktoberfest Northwest is a weekend-long celebration of German food, beer and kitschy entertainment that includes wiener dog races.