OKTOBERFEST SPECIAL 2012!!!
Pilsner Haus & Biergarten
Welcome to the third installment of eateryROW's Oktoberfest special. For the past two years, I've been trying my best to find time and space in my belly for a few gallons of beer and a few pounds of schnitzel to celebrate this seasonal drinkathon. This year I've been to five new places on both sides of the Hudson and East Rivers. Some were good. Very good! Some less good. At the bottom of the post, you'll find a MAP of the all of the places I've included in my travels that you should find your way into this fall. Go there, eat, drink, be merry. It includes locations found in the 2010 Special and the 2011 Special.
555 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Situated in what was obviously a renovated shipping depot, there's little to Greenwood Park that screams traditional beer garden. Really, it's a large bar with a lot of outdoor seating. Filled with gravel, poured concrete, and within a wall of recycled cargo palates, this particular beer garden is the least inviting beer garden that I've ever been to. It's not a loud party space like Studio Square, it's not cute like Loreley, it's not traditional like Bohemian Hall, and it's not relaxing like Berry Park. It's boring.
Maybe I was put off by the beer served to me in plastic cups, as though they were used to the customers getting tanked and breaking the glass ones. Maybe it was the menu of bar food standards like onion rings. Maybe it was the crowd that was half kids who looked like they were still in high school and half guys who looked like they watched Jersey Shore for a living. Maybe it was that the beer list was disappointing. Maybe it was a lot of things. In the end, Bro and I came, had a pint, left, and made no plans to return.
712 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Hofbrau Bierhaus is the New York location of the Hofbrau Brewery restaurant group based out of Munich. The story goes that they opened the original in the late 1500s in Munich. When the post-WW2 era created a global demand for German beer they expanded, and there are now Hofbrauhauses all over the world. Truth be told, that they're a chain doesn't feel surprising once you take a step inside. Like most chains, the waitresses all wear uniforms, though this time the uniforms are D-cup-creating beer-garden-girl outfits. Alongside the Bavarian folk music playing loudly, there are a dozen television screens lining the ceiling (all tuned to ESPN). Being in midtown, the crowd was mostly tourists or bridge and tunnel businessmen drinking their lunch.
Hofbrau's menu was, at least, very honestly German. Plenty of sausages and schnitzel sandwiches and no one was offering up Sriracha instead of mustard. I tried their bauernwurst and Elbie ordered a standard bratwurst. Along with just-okay sides of saurkraut and potato salad, neither was especially mind-blowing, but it was heavy and you get a lot and we left with a to-go bag. Maybe some of the other food is better. The beers, all Hofbrau brand, were beer. Mine was something dark, hers was a light wheat beer. They were fine, if a bit thin. We left for home feeling let down. What should have been the most interesting and authentic beer hall in the city was the most boring, tourist-trappy one of all of them
200 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010
If Hofbrau Bierhaus is a tourist trap, Birreria is a tourist magnet. Situated 14 stories above the street in Flatiron, Birreria is Eataly's rooftop, outdoor beer (and wine) destination. Half of the crowd here were Europeans, winding down after a day of sightseeing. Although large and outside, La Birreria is the farthest from a traditional beer garden of any of the places in the list this year, and it closely resembles a wine bar. For one, there's table service. Then, there's wine. And cheese plates. Elbie and I ordered beers, but we also ordered the cheese plate. Seven cheeses for $17, with bread and honey. Very posh.
If you're a beer snob, La Birreria might be your thing. A few microbrews, some foreign stuff, but specifically three cask ales, served just slightly cooler than a late September's room temperature, naturally carbonated, hand pumped from an unpressurized keg.
1422 Grand Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030
One of the better beer gardens in the metro area is in Hoboken. I know that all of the NYers reading this have just cringed. But it's sadly true. Sure, there are some Jersey-trash types there in minidresses and seven inch stilettos or with turned up collars talking about the Devils, but look past them if you can. Although the music may flip between the Shins and smokey French jazz, Pilsener Haus is among the more "traditional" beer halls you could wander into. It's large, with a really good German menu and sells beer by the two-liter boot. I arrived a half hour after they had opened and the outside seating area had been filled to capacity. So get there as early as possible, if you can.
If you ever find yourself in Hoboken wanting beer, or you just want a real good bierhalle, Pilsener Haus should certainly be on your list. A word about location: while Pilsener Haus is pretty close to the NY Waterway ferry stop on Hoboken's 14th Street, it's a solid half hour walk to the PATH train on the other side of town. I walked from Pilsener to the train and, after two liters of beer, was dead sober by the time I swiped my MetroCard to head home. Yes, PATH takes the MetroCard.
107 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009
Less a beer hall than a German restaurant, Zum Schneider is where you should be for Oktoberfest. The staff is German, the customers are German, the food is German, the beer is German. It defines Oktoberfest. I sat here one lazy early evening reading a good book, eating a great red wine soaked steak and just having a pleasant relaxed time. The space is small relative to many of the other locations I've been to for my Oktoberfest travels and it fills up fast. Zum Schneider opens at five and there are people waiting to get in as soon as they do.
Being far from the touristy areas of midtown, Madison Square, or Meatpacking, the folks at Zum Schneider are just local people chatting away with their friends. It's not fratty like some or pretentious like others. It's just a chill place to eat and get beer outside under an umbrella. Zum Schneider's one bad part, since the staff was great and the food was delicious, is that it's cash only. There's a ATM across the street at a bodega that they will direct you to, but then you have to pay a few bucks in ATM fees.
View Oktoberfest Special!!! in a larger map
[ Copyright eateryROW 2012 ]