*This dining experience took place in November 2013.
The Germany pavilion in Epcot makes you feel like you are in Munich for Oktoberfest. There’s a lot of charm to this spot in the World Showcase and Biergarten, the pavilion’s table service location, really embodies this essence. The restaurant is set to resemble a German Oktoberfest celebration, complete with an Oompah Band and communal dining. I had heard lots of great reviews for vegetarian dining from the Disney Hipsters, Adam and Andrew, and also lots of gluten free diners. Believe it or not, I had never been to Biergarten, so I decided to stop by for lunch as a part of the Candelight Processional Dinner Package (more on that in another post).
Biergarten is set far back in the pavilion. It’s located next to Sommerfest which is the quick service location that serves bratwurst, currywurst and macaroni & cheese among its offerings. I occasionally pop by this location because I really enjoy the bratwurst on a gluten free/dairy free bun (which varies) and sauerkraut (you can read a review about this restaurant HERE). When we went to check in to this location, I saw the prices for meals—for an all-you-care-to-eat location, I thought it was pretty reasonable! Way cheaper when you compare some of the other buffet or family style locations. Plus, if you are a Tables in Wonderland card holder, you get 20% off or 10% off for Annual Passholders.
The restaurant check-in was super busy, and we tried to check in 30 minutes early but were told to come back 15 minutes before our ADR. Wow, that was actually a first for us. So, we wandered around the World Showcase for a bit, and then came back to check-in. The cast members give you the spiel about siting with other diners (which we knew ahead of time) and also climbing stairs. As we saw when we got in the restaurant, it would be slightly more difficult if you had mobile challenges, as there were levels of seating. Once our pager went off, we were taken into the restaurant with a group of 5 plus our group of 3.
I’m not going to lie, seating is a little weird, especially if you have an odd numbered party. We sat towards the railing at our table and our table-mates sat closer to the walk-way. Once seated our server clarified who was in each party and then took drink orders. She also told me she would get the chef for me. The rest of the table went to get in line – which was a good idea because it was crazy busy in there. Evidently the Candelight Processional dinner package meant the 1 p.m. time frame was nutso!
The chef came over and offered to walk me around the buffet. He basically went over the options which were safe and which to stay away from. Pretty much all of the non-breaded meats were safe (i.e. bratwursts, sausage, cold cuts, pates, etc.) Most of the veggies were safe too with the exception of the cold potato salad, macaroni gratin, and some other items. All but one sauce for the carving station were gluten free & dairy free (aka sweet mustard). Soups were definitely out–dairy and gluten filled cream based soups! Dessert basically off-limits except the fruit compote which came in individual ramekins. Then the chef pretty much was going to walk away; but I wanted to ask if they had bread or buns (which I knew they had) and dessert options. He said he could get be a bun and maybe some cookies. I’ve heard really wonderful things about the chefs here from others, but this chef was pretty disinterested. I’m sure he was totally slammed in the back, but I felt like he was just trying to get through with me as quickly as possible.
Heading back to the buffet, I saw several areas that felt like big cross contamination risks to me, especially because it was so busy. I actually waited and asked for fresh plates and serving spoons as they came out because they were replenishing things really quickly. For instance, I scored fresh roasted chicken (which was in between fish in a sauce, meatballs, and schnitzel – a gluten free nightmare!) and also fresh sausages and even fresh German potato salad (my favorite thing of the day). So, it definitely pays to ask. I stayed away from the salad area as much as possible.
While walking back from the buffet stations, the Oompah band started. Did I mention how amazing these guys were? Totally charming and totally awesome. Not only was it great to have some live entertainment, but they also got the audience involved too. Plus, they sang Christmas songs. Talk about getting in the holiday spirit!
|Really bad photo of the Oompah band!|
As far as the food goes, it was actually fairly good. First off, I adored the plates and bowls. How cute are they? Loved the designs, and they very light plastic plates, so you wouldn’t feel too horrible if you dropped one. As you can see from my plate, I had a menagerie of food items plopped into one. This was because I honestly didn’t want to make a second huge trip (although I did go back for more bratwurst and German potato salad).
Here are some of the things I got: Bean salad (which was green beans and other white beans with some type of vinegar sauce), pickles (FYI these were amazing! They were like a spicy bread & butter pickle that they make in-house), German potato salad (can you say lots of bacon?!), roasted root vegetables (parsnips, carrots), sauteed green beans and red onions (I’m still not sure what was in this but wow, it was good), roasted chicken, carved pork tenderloin, Bratwurst, some other type of wurst (which I hated and promptly gave to my family), sauerkraut, applesauce, mustard (not sweet), and curry ketchup (I adore curry ketchup!!). I did got back for seconds on several things, so I was definitely very full by the end of the meal!
I will say that it’s a good thing that I eat meat because I’m not sure a gluten free vegan or vegetarian would have many options. There are good options for vegetarians but add in another special diet and it seemed much harder.
|I love the tea in the “beer” steins!|
The roll that was brought to me was Ener-G and it was not at all heated well. I’m fairly convinced they shoved it in a microwave and it turned hard instantly. Still, smother anything with some curry ketchup and it’s good! (which is obviously what I did!).
For dessert, I sampled the fruit compote (sorry I forgot to take photos), which were really yummy. Sweet but tart at the same time, I found the mixed berries (including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries) to be really nice after a heavy meal. I also got Enjoy Life cookies and a Boom Boom Bar (which I love) for the road. That Boom Boom Bar was the perfect snack on my drive home from Disney!
Overall, I liked Biergarten for the ambiance and the decor. Our table mates were not at all chatty and really weren’t interested in interacting with our party, so it made for a weird vibe. It would be awesome if you had your whole family there or a big group of friends (which I plan to do). Food-wise, I would say it was OK. I liked a lot of the dishes but I also didn’t love all of them. The roasted chicken was dry and bland and some of the sausages were just plain gross but I did find things I liked. I also wish the chef on this visit would have made more of an effort to help ensure cross-contamination risks by perhaps bringing me more items from the back–though I was able to work around that myself. Of course, the Oompah Band alone makes me want to go back again! We caught not one but two shows that afternoon!
For this visit, I would give it a 7 for ambiance, charm, and fairly decent offerings.
Have you been to Biergarten? What was your experience?