Fall is the time for Oktoberfest, and when you're not in Munich, you make do with the zillion other imitation events that are out there. One of these, which is pretty authentic German though not specifically Bavaria's German, is Plattduetsche Park's Ompahfest in Franklin Square, NY.
This shouldn’t surprise you though, because Plattduetsche, or Low German, is the language that was spoken in Northern Germany, and if you’ve ever been you’ll notice how different Northern and Southern Germany are.
It always takes place the first Sunday of Oktoberfest, the day after the annual Stuben Day parade in NYC. Miss German-America, along with her retinue, is roaming the grounds and there are bands playing traditional German music. My wife's family is all German and have been going to Plattduetsche for decades, and I've gone with them to the Ompahfest for years, excepting the year I missed when I was in Munich. It's a good time and an enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
That's not to say it's a good beer event, because it's not. There's only one specific Oktoberfest beer available, and that's the mass-produced Anheuser-Busch owned Spaten Oktoberfest (3.22 BAR, 116 Style+) which is alright but about as un-inspired as you can get. We got a pitcher of it to start on principle, but quickly moved on. Next up we chose Krombacher Hell (-0.07 BAR, 108 Style+), which is basically a German Pilsner; as “Helles” means light-colored. This beer isn’t anything special, but it’s a good beer and it’s one of Germany’s biggest breweries. It’s a good choice for a pitcher you’re sharing with a lot of people. They also had the dark (0.75, 112) and the weizen(0.3, 108) but we didn’t get to those.
Plattduetsche redid their beer garden a couple of years ago, and it’s really nice. The grounds aren’t crazy-huge, but they’re certainly pretty big. The center is the main beer hall, which is separate from the main building and catering hall, and features two bars, a couple dozen televisions playing all the NFL games---I didn’t see the Mets, I thought about asking someone to put them on but thought better of it---and open walls to the outside areas so you could seamlessly flow from the bar area back out to the gardens. There are vendors all over selling knick-knacks and German-themed souvenirs, as well as food.
The food hits all the right marks. Despite moving from fresh-poured potato pancakes, and the ridiculous line that entailed, to prepared ones they remain delicious and a staple of the event in my family’s eyes. The smoked fish, specifically eel in this case, is always a perennial conversation point. Understandably it’s a love it or hate it dish that has quite the aroma. Predicably, giant pretzels, brat and other wursts, and roasted nuts are all over. The dessert case may be the highlight, with the simple but delicious butter cake, or butterkuchen, headlining.
Our enjoyment of beer is very much influenced by the atmosphere and company we consume it in. So while the beer at this festival isn’t top of the line, the park factor definitely gives it a boost to value. While this is nothing like the real Oktoberfest, it’s substantially more than other places. The typical Oktoberfest event I’ve experienced in the New York area generally consists of tapping a couple of beers, and adding pretzels and bratwurst to the menu. Granted, that’s still very enjoyable, because all those things are awesome, but Plattduetsche Park takes it to another level.