PROST !!! Beer, Food, and Fun!
With nothing else on my agenda for last weekend, my friends impulsively suggested we go down to the 18th Annual Put-in-Bay Oktoberfest to hang out, eat food and drink beer, and I impulsively agreed. But I'm not so impulsive that I didn't check with the Putinbay.com calendar of events first to get the lowdown. This helped me find out about the $4 entrance fee ($6 for both Sat and Sun) and the disallowing of glass beer steins (have to buy your cups there). I also checked out the Chamber of Commerce website, but their details on Oktoberfest were limited to useless generic info listing time, date, their own phone number, bla bla bla... there's no mention about ticket prices, the type of beers, pricing on beer/food, parking, entrance fee, nada.
Based on previous years, we were prepared for a long line at the entrance but were pleasantly surprised. Arriving around 1pm, we were relieved to find virtually no line to get in, despite that it's already packed inside. There's the aforementioned $6 entrance fee (we opted to go for the 2-day pass). As an aside, the parking is free and efficiently coordinated all around the park but make sure you don't enjoy the refreshments too much if you are driving. Inside, there's a large beer stand up by the stage selling 2 different types of beer, The Maxx Band is already playing their own brand of polka, an elderly couple is all dressed up in German clothes and is dancing up on stage, and all around the perimeter of the two tents are stands for food, with a killer selection. We try the German beer first ($19/pitcher) and the beer is actually tasty so we wet our whistle and get in the mood to start buying food.
One of the more positive notes is that the lines for the beer, food, and restrooms all move deceptively fast, so I'm not really finding as much to complain about as I was afraid I might by being jumbled up in this mass of humanity. People just sit down there and eat all day long it seems. We watched the same people sit and eat the whole time we were there (which means WE ate a lot too I guess). In fact, they're eating more than they're drinking base don teh food lines vs the beer line, to tell you the truth. Obviously they have beer and Heineman's overly sweet island wine, but it's not like a beer fest as I have been to down in Columbus. It's really like a family event, almost like a little town small community fair. I am liking it. But I'm still wondering what I'm getting here that I couldn't get in say, a gastropub... a bigger crowd maybe. Oh, and the chicken dance. Did I mention the chicken dance? I can still hear it in my head, they played it so many times!
Unable to find a single spot to squeeze in any of the benches inside the giant mega-tent, we're exiled to the outside, along with all of the other late arrivals and smokers. This group appears to be a bit more unruly than the one inside, but since that's my type of congregation anyway, we find a spot and settle in. No worries, it is a beautiful day and we are getting a nice little buzz going and starting in on the food. The selection is vast and it is as much an olfactory experience as a visual and tastebud one. The tangy smell of the potato salad, the bubbling of the paprikash, the sizzle of the pierogies as they are cooked in real butter. Life is good. I can not remember everything I ate, but a short list would include Oktoberfest Bratwurst, Mike's Schnitzel, BBQ Pulled Pork, Paprika Chicken Paprikash, Apple Dumpling, Fried Cabbage and Noodles, Pierogies (twice!), Sauerkraut Balls, Warsteiner Beer (more then twice!), German Chocolate Cake, Homemade Pickle, Gourmet Apple, Hot Soft Pretzel (with mustard of course), Key Lime Pie, Potato Kielbasa Soup, and a Homemade Fruit Tart.
Fast forward two or three hours... I've eaten too much, so now I can't drink enough to get drunk. Boy that was dumb! I'm buzzed, but I find myself observing the festivities around me with objectivity for a change. There's people making giant pyramids out of plastic cups, others knocking them down with balled up napkins, there's a guy behind me dacning the chicken dance to no music, a woman wearing a German smock and high heels zigzags through the crowd with a beer in each hand, and I am wondering if tomorrow can get any better. Anyway, a few cursory glances and I can tell everyone is having a blast. Now I'm feeling a little left out, and go back inside for another beer, where I find things much more raucous than before. Everyone is on their feet, dancing and singing with the Maxx Band and their Oom Pah Pah music, with lots of cuteys joining them on stage. Oktoberfest...
Rating: Nine out of ten stars
Favorite Item: Schnitzel from the Crews Nest
Notes: if you don't try everything at least once, you left too early!
This website is meant to showcase the Put-in-Bay, Ohio food scene. Monthly reviews of Putinbay restaurants occur during the season. When there is a festival involving food or wine in town, then that is covered as well. Put-in-Bay Bars get occasional notice for the quality of their drinks and entertainment. Each review is as unbiased as the palate of the reviewer (unless brussel sprouts are involved, that is a dealbreaker!).
The mystery reviewer is an island resident who has been boating and working on the island for over 15 years and can remember back to the days when there was a Taco Bell on the island and the downtown bars closed at 11pm. Times change, but everyone still needs to eat!