Celebrate German food and beers all year round at The German Cafe in Wilmington.

I was channel surfing last evening when one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies came on. It was National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and the scene had Chevy Chase in lederhosen doing the Schuhplattler Dance on stage at a festival.

Naturally, he caused a major incident that resulted in a band of enraged Germans with pitchforks and hoes chasing him through the streets. It’s hilarious, and it reminds me of the joy of Oktoberfest every time.

With October here, lots of restaurants, breweries and beer bars (that aren’t “German”) are getting into that Oktoberfest mode. The Germans, of course, have been celebrating Prince Ludwig’s and Princess Therese’s nuptials since they started brewing the beer that is associated with Oktoberfest back in March.

German Cafe Beer Wilmington NC

That beer style is called, appropriately, a Marzen and properly executed, it’s a lager, which means it is “laid down” to reach peak perfection during Oktoberfest. And that, for many Germans, begins in August. And sometimes in July.

Here in the States, some major brewers start putting their Oktoberfest/Pumpkin/ Festbiers out in the middle of summer as well. But most consumers don’t jump on the Oktoberfest party bus until late September.

Not so at a quaint restaurant in Wilmington called the German Cafe, where you can celebrate all things German all year-round. Located on the ground level at the back end of The Cotton Exchange, this labyrinthine little place exudes old Germany and Bavaria, with food and beverage offerings that will transport you — at least mentally — to Deutschland.

Wilmington NC German Cafe

The food offerings are authentic, from a delicious warm German potato salad to Wurst Platters and Weinerschnitzel to perfectly done strudels with a variety of fruit fillings. And frauleins in dirndls will start your meal by serving a wide variety of German beers to slake your thirst.

When it comes to Oktoberfest beers, the Germans offer many, but for my money, Spaten Oktoberfest is the gold standard.

That does not mean it is my favorite, however. That title is reserved for an Oktoberfest brewed in New Jersey, of all places. But it’s brewed by a German brewer who is steeped in the old-school traditions of brewing such as the Reinheitsgebot — the German Beer Purity Law set down in 1516, which declares beer is made of four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast.

His name is Dave Hoffman, and while I’ve never had a beer of his that I didn’t like, his Oktoberfest is special indeed. I don’t miss many things about New Jersey, but Herr Hoffman’s Oktoberfest is definitely one of them.

Pub Scout German Cafe Wilmington NC

And knowing him for many years, I can safely say he’d love the German Cafe, and so would his now-departed father, Kurt, aka Mr. Bavaria.

Just as Ishmael would make his way down to the harbor “whenever it was a drizzly November in his soul,” so I make my way to a place that serves good Marzens and authentic German food whenever it is a joyous Oktoberfest in mine.

If that sounds good to you, wend your way to the German Cafe in Wilmington or to any of the local breweries that are making authentic Marzen beers — and there are many! Look for me and Herr Hoffman with Masskrugstemmen Steins in one hand and a bratwurst sandwich in the other.

Ein prosit!

Want to go?
The German Café
316 Nutt Street, The Cotton Exchange, Wilmington
(910) 763-5523