by Terry Engel, contributing writer
This time, let's look at my favorite restaurant in Epcot, the Biergarten restaurant in Epcot's Germany Pavilion.
"Biergarten" is a German word for "beer garden," which in Germany is usually an outdoor venue where they serve beer and food, usually as part of a pub or beer hall. Although Epcot's version is not outdoors, the Biergarten restaurant is designed to look as if it is—themed as being in the heart of a Bavarian village, this sprawling festival haus uses long communal table seating, on several tiers so that everyone can enjoy a great view of the stage. Here Oktoberfest is celebrated every day of the year!
Biergarten is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. for lunch and dinner, and serves an unlimited buffet of classic German and Bavarian food. This is a restaurant where you can often walk up without an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) and still be seated. Keep in mind that the long communal tables seat eight people, so servers seat smaller groups with others.
Inside Biergarten, you can take in the festive evening atmosphere even if it's high noon outside. The large indoor spaces give a true sense of being in an outdoor garden just after twilight while nestled among the buildings of a quaint German village. There is even a moon rising over one end of the great space.
A traditional German band performs throughout the day. The multi-talented musicians play various different instruments such as the glockenspiel, bells, and even alphorns during each set (an "alp horn" is what you see in the old Ricola cough drop commercials). There is even a dance floor in front of the stage where your whole family can take part in a polka or the "Chicken Dance." As is the Epcot World Showcase tradition of pavilions hiring people from their home countries, the servers are, of course, all from Germany. And let's not forget the beer. You order these in large one-liter steins, and you can choose from a light pilsner or a weizen (wheat) beer to a dark bock beer. Germany is also home to many different wine regions, and those are also featured here. Schnapps and shots are also available.
The buffet spread is quite extensive and features a wide variety of German meats and sausages such as bratwurst, schnitzel, chicken, and salmon, as well as sides like spaetzle, sauerkraut, red cabbage, and potato dumplings. Beef rouladen, sauerbraten, and potato dumplings are usually available only as dinner items
Here you can get traditional warm German potato salad as well as many other cold salad items. The bread selection consists of dinner rolls, a rich pumpernickel, and pretzel bread. The daily soup is usually a cream soup of potato or cauliflower, and a carving station in the center of the buffet area features roast pork and German meatloaf, along with various mustards, sauces, and chutneys.
Be sure and save room for dessert. My personal favorites are the light and fluffy Bavarian cheesecake and the traditional apple strudel with vanilla sauce. An added treat is to spoon a little of the vanilla sauce over the mixed berry compote.
As of early 2012, lunch runs $24.99 for adults and $13.99 for children, while dinner is $35.99 for adults and $18.99 for children. All non-alcoholic beverages are included with the meal. All the usual credit cards are accepted along with the Disney Dining Plan and Tables in Wonderland.