So what kind of food are we talking about? A lot of it is the usual German beer hall/beer garden type of food – pretzels, sausages, sauerkraut – but in the eyes of most Germans I know, these traditional foods are simplybetter in the Festzelt. For instance, I was having a conversation the other day with a guy about where to get the best Schweinshax’n. I had some very developed ideas on which restaurants and breweries in the area served superior pig knuckle. His response? “No no no. There is only one place where you can get the best Schweinshax’n – in the Festzelt at the Wiesn, eaten with a Maß. Or two.” He might be right. There is just something about the atmosphere at the Wiesn… and I’ll stop you right now before people start asking me which tent is "the Festzelt”, trying to get the specifics on the absolute 100% best food secret at Oktoberfest: "The Festzelt” refers to any or all of the tents. We don’t really differentiate on the food. Well, at least not generally - of course the Fischer Vroni is where you get good fish, and the Spaten Ochsenbraterei is where you get good ox (they have a huge ox rotisserie and it's a big thing every year when they announce how many whole oxen they roasted to serve the hungry masses over the 16-day Fest: usually over 100).
In the Festzelt, the most popular meal is a 1/2 roast chicken. For good reason. This is roast chicken at its best – piping hot, with crispy skin and tender, juicy meat. Plus, there’s just something right about ripping into a chicken carcass with one hand and gulping beer from a giant Krug (beer stein) with the other. I think the founders of Oktoberfest would nod in pride, seeing their traditions continue in pretty much the same vein as when they began 200 years earlier.
Most visits to the Wiesn don’t extend to the culinary delights beyond the large tents. And that’s fine. But should you wish to wander the Oktoberfest grounds and do something other than eat chicken, drink beer, sing, and Prost, you have the opportunity to then explore the rest of the world of Oktoberfest food. Let’s start with all the stands scattered throughout the grounds selling sweet snacks. Typical Oktoberfest snacks include: candied nuts, chocolate-covered fruit, those heart-shaped ginger cookies with messages like “ich liebe dich” (but hint: most people don’t actually eat them – they’re designed more for looks than taste), piping-hot Auszog'ne (kind of like sugar donuts), Dampfnudel (big, fluffy steamed buns with vanilla sauce), crepes, and much much more...
There are also several establishments specializing in a particular type of food scattered throughout the Wiesn. For instance Able's Kalbs-Kuchl serves a fantastic wiener schnitzel. The Hendl- und Entenbraterei Heimer is another place to get excellent roast chicken, or duck. The big Munich bakeries/butchers can also be found with stands scattered through out the grounds - Vinzenzmurr and Rischart, for example. And last but not least, Munich's famous gourmet department store, Käfer, has an entire tent, with a much more extensive menu than the other tents. It's a known hangout of chefs and celebrities, and they definitely cater to the more upscale crowd, subbing duck and goose for the more common chicken, and offering things like Côte de Boeuf from free range cattle raised especially for Käfer, or for dessert, a box of decadent chocolates designed and made only for Oktoberfest.