The Hofbrauhaus Files

As we begin the month of October, of course my mind is wandering to the beautiful and dynamic city of Munich. Munich itself is indeed wonderful but something there that we were looking forward to fell a bit flat. I know a lot of people just LOVE the famous Hofbrauhaus, but having dinner there was not one of our finest moments. For us it was all about the beer, pretzels, and atmosphere, and definitely not about dinner!

The first “authentic beer hall” that we were directed to was in Austria, about two days before arriving in Munich. I have no idea how “authentic” it actually was, because I am not Austrian or German or European or even a beer drinker. What I can tell you is that we really enjoyed our meal. It started in a big hallway lined with a dozen different food stands. We ordered from three different ones to get a really unique meal combination that included pasta salad, steak fries, dumplings, and a few meat products. We ordered using a German word here and there, an English word here and there, some gesturing and pointing and a lot of smiling. Then we went into the main dining room, which was a huge, high ceilinged hall with dark wooden walls adorned with colorful flags and long wooden tables, complemented by a variety of mismatched chairs and benches. Outside there was another dining area, more long tables set on the grass and gravel with strings of twinkling lights crisscrossing overhead.

The food was delicious, the beer was cold, the atmosphere was buzzing, and the evening was great. We were excited to go to the famed Hofbrauhaus once we got to Munich because we were expecting more of the same, but that isn’t exactly what we got.

My first view of the Hofbrauhaus was interrupted by a neon lit Hard Rock Café sign. Authenticity at its finest.

The Hofbrauhaus with its neighbor, the Hard Rock Café.

We went in to find the place swarming. It was tight and cramped with heavy air and suffocating noise. People were standing on benches, sitting at tables, eating, singing, drinking… there was a band playing right in the center, and their music was lively and fun. Apparently many of the tables in this main room closest to the music are reserved for groups of regulars many times during the week. We pushed through this madness to the Festival Hall which was located upstairs. This room is set up more like a dinner theater, with rows of long tables and a big stage up in front featuring a band. This room seemed bigger, likely because of its high ceiling, but it seemed like there may have been a private party going on, so we turned around.

The second floor Festival Hall.

The second floor Festival Hall.

The only space we could find to sit down was at a table directly across from the kitchen. We were disappointed that we were sitting so far from the music, but we were hungry so we stayed put and grabbed some menus. We also grabbed a huge pretzel from one of the pretzel girls wandering around, who for some reason sell pretzels completely independent from the rest of the menu. The pretzel was beyond delicious, but no one had even come over to take our drink order yet. We were confused as we had been expecting self-service like the beer hall in Austria, but we were told to sit down and wait for a server who took 30 minutes to appear.

It was another 30 minutes or so when we finally got our food. The spaetzle was blander than bland, salt couldn’t even save it. The potato dumpling had a weird sugary aftertaste and the meat was overcooked. And then it was another 30 minutes from the time we finished eating to the time we saw our waitress again so that we could ask for our bill and leave.

One of the many reserved tables of regulars, who sang very enthusiastically.

One of the many reserved tables of regulars, who sang very enthusiastically.

So, all the hype was not about the food, and not about the service. The atmosphere with the music seemed like fun, perhaps we were just unlucky with the table we got. If you want to enjoy an evening at the Hofbrauhaus, I suggest coming in for a pretzel and some beer. Squeeze in at a table near the band and oom-pah along with the music. Ask for your bill at least twenty minutes before you actually want to leave, and I would not recommend ordering dinner.

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