September 16

Say “Prost!” in South Lake Union

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest in the neighborhood

There’s little question about what helped a 300-year-old folk festival in Munich spread all over the world: it is, after all, a celebration of great food and beer—perfectly timed during the lingering warmth of summer fading to fall. A better question is where to find the oversized ales and grilled meats that are necessary to properly toast in the traditional style. Lucky for drinkers in Seattle, South Lake Union has grown into a veritable hub of bars that take their cues from Bavaria’s own Hofbräuhaus.

For the full-on Bavarian immersion experience, Feierabend will roll out the willkommen mat. The big wooden tables are reminiscent of those under the massive outdoor tents set up for the festival in Germany—and Oktoberfest banners decorate the walls year-round. The taps are stocked almost exclusively with imported beers—including the seasonal versions made just for the festival. Order your beer in a variety of sizes, including one of the enormous steins (perfect for hoisting in celebration) and the famous boot: a giant group beer that must be continuously passed around. The food goes beyond the classic currywurst and French fries, offering schnitzel, spaetzle, and even stuffed portobello mushrooms for any vegetarians caught up in the meaty event.

The massive beer hall and long communal tables of Brave Horse Tavern are set up for celebration, but here there is a Northwest tinge to the German accent. Throw in a side of cowboy theme, and you start to get the sense of the place. Yet, the cavernous space is filled with people lifting pints in celebration, so there is plenty of room for a little thematic dissonance. Yes, the Bavarian pretzels share the menu with Yakima asparagus soup and BBQ chicken, but the restaurant is helmed by master restaurateur Tom Douglas, so almost everything coming from the kitchen—be it Northwest beer-steamed Manila clams or Bavarian-style house-cured ham and cheese sandwich—is destined to taste great. And there’s triple coconut cream pie for dessert.

If you’re looking to celebrate on a budget, pull up a seat at the The Wurst Place, where the décor is spare but the sausages are extravagant. The high ceilings encase reclaimed wood, giving the whole place a lived-in feeling, while the collection of gnome-themed items around the room keep it quirky. The long tap list always includes two options on nitro, local favorites, and German imports, and rotates regularly enough that it’s kept on a chalkboard for easy changing. (If you are looking to research ahead of time, you can often find a photo of that day’s options posted on the bar’s Facebook page.) The food menu stays under a wallet-friendly $10 for any of the options—a series of sausages ranging from basic beer bratwurst to spicy bison. All of the sausages come with diner’s choice of toppings: sauerkraut, caramelized onions, sweet or hot peppers, and because it’s Seattle, cream cheese. Vegetarian options, along with fries and tots with dipping sauces, round out the menu.

Story and Photo By Naomi Tomky

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employees in South Lake Union