Oktoberfest rolls around each fall, and you don’t have to be in Munich to celebrate. But in 2020, things might be a bit different. With most big gatherings (like packed beer halls) canceled, where can you actually celebrate Oktoberfest in Detroit?
There are some authentic German restaurants in Detroit that are perfect for celebrating – whether you have German heritage or just want to join in the festivities. And if you want to step it up a notch, there are even some Oktoberfest events happening this year (with social distancing guidelines put in place, of course).
So grab your stein and your lederhosen, and get ready to celebrate Oktoberfest – the Detroit way.
German Restaurants in Detroit
1. Jacoby’s German Biergarten
Jacoby’s German Biergarten not only holds the title as one of Detroit’s oldest saloons (circa 1904), but is also widely regarded as Michigan’s #1 German restaurant. Try Jacoby’s famous sausage and cheese platter, a traditional Kartoffelpuffer, or sauerkraut made from a 100+ year old recipe. Or, you might prefer to indulge in a lengthy menu of authentic German beers.
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2. Atwater Brewery
Back in 1997, Atwater Brewery was founded to return German style lager production to Detroit. It’s now a popular brewery that has expanded to other locations in Michigan, too. This is definitely Detroit’s go-to spot for traditional German lagers, which you can enjoy on their rooftop Biergarten along with a menu of German-American fusion pub food.
3. The Dakota Inn Rathskeller
The Dakota Inn Rathskeller is the second oldest German restaurant in Detroit. It’s served up authentic German fare for 87 years, and has been mostly family run by the Kurz family – originally from Wiekersheim, Germany before immigrating to Detroit in the early 1900s. From mid-September through October, the restaurant celebrates Oktoberfest every day. Come here for German drinking songs, live piano performances, and classic Bavarian dishes (and beers).
4. Cork and Gabel
Cork and Gabel, located in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, offers a unique combination of German, Irish, and Italian cuisine, in celebration of Detroit’s working immigrant history. The food itself is top notch, prepared with mostly locally grown Michigan ingredients. Enjoy German beers and fusion foods out on their new patio, or head indoors to the restaurant styled after a German beer hall.
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5. Bierkeller Tavern
Bierkeller Tavern is located in Taylor, Michigan, in Downriver. It’s a great place to stop for German food and drinks on the outskirts of Detroit – whether you choose to come for Spaetzle Mondays, or indulge in a Kielbasa or breakfast sausage weekend brunch. And as far as German beers go? The restaurant’s mission statement speaks for itself: “Raise your glasses and toast to an exBIERience.”
Oktoberfest Events in Detroit in 2020
1. MASKtoberfest at Batch Brewing Co.
Batch Brewing Co., a craft brewing company in Corktown, turns a little bit German each September. Join them for a socially distanced spin on their usual Oktoberfest celebrations. MASKtoberfest is held September 18th-20th featuring German food (including a Sunday brunch), and plenty of German beers (like Hefeweisen, Festbier, and Pocket Calculator Doppelbock). The outdoor event is by reservation, and BYOS (bring your own stein).
2. Annual Downtown Detroit Parktoberfest
Downtown Detroit’s Parktoberfest marks the beginning of fall every year! The celebration returns to Campus Martius Park with enough room to socially distance, free activities, live entertainment, seasonal Oktoberfest beers and traditional German foods. Hang out in the open air biergarten tent and sample beers and hard seltzers. Expect to see brands such as Samuel Adams, Blake’s Hard Cider Co., New Holland Brewing, Atwater Brewery and traditional beers from Munich, Germany. And be sure to order some bratwurst and sauerkraut!
Masks are required and there will be limited capacity at the event.
3. Dakota Inn Rathskeller Singalongs
Thursdays-Saturdays throughout September and October
For the first time in decades, Dakota Inn Rathskeller has had to scale back their usually raucous Oktoberfest festivities. Keeping social distancing in mind, there will be no live bands this year. However, you can still drop by each Thursday (6:30 p.m.), Friday (7 p.m.), or Saturday (7 p.m.) throughout September or October for a live piano performance and German drinking song singalong.
4. Bierkeller Tavern Stein Holding Contest and Hammerschlagen Contest
September 23 & 30
Bierkeller Taven has a few events throughout September in celebration of Oktoberfest. On September 23rd, there’s a traditional Hammerschlagen contest (hammering a nail flush into a table with one swing). On September 30th is the stein holding contest (who can hold their stein for the longest without spilling beer). Sign up sheets for both contests are at Bierkeller Tavern.
5. 2020 Oktoberfest Virtual 5k
Want to work for your beer? Register for a virtual Oktoberfest 5k on October 1st. Entrants receive an Oktoberfest stein shaped finisher medal that doubles as a bottle opener, as well as a race bib. (And afterwards, why not head to one of Detroit’s German restaurants to celebrate?).