You can spend the whole weekend celebrating Cincinnati's German heritage, starting with the Running of the Wieners on Friday, to the Chicken Dance, to a German brunch not far from Fifth Street.
Here are several delicious bites you need to eat this weekend, at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati and beyond. (And click here to see the full menu at Oktoberfest.)
Up And Down Fifth Street
Heidi's Strudel: This is always a must-try for Oktoberfest. For some reason, we don't have a ton of strudel in Cincinnati, so this festival favorite always goes home with me. I usually pick the apricot-almond, but apple is delicious, too.
Izzy's: Sure, you can get one of Izzy's famous potato pancakes at one of their many Tri-State locations any day of the week, but they taste better if you're walking around on Fifth Street with a beer in your hand. True story. If you require a little more sustenance, try the Brat Reuben, which substitutes a brat for corned beef in Izzy's famous reuben sandwich.
Mecklenburg Gardens: Once a year, I indulge in sauerkraut balls, sauerkraut held together with batter and deep fried. Mecklenburg's are the ones I like most. They're always hot and delicious, and served with a creamy, slightly spicy dipping sauce.
Porkopolis Goetta Haus: Cincinnati loves its goetta, whether it's on the side of an order of eggs at the Anchor in Covington or atop a burger at Lachey's. Goetta Haus offers goetta nachos; what could be better than nachos topped with goetta instead of chicken or beef? This one is good to share with friends.
Servatii: If there is an iconic food at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, it's the cream puff. It's an eclair-like dough, filled with Bavarian cream and topped with chocolate and whipped cream. Made to share, it's rich, creamy and very much Cincinnati. Servatii's cream puffs are the best. There's always a line -- and with good reason.
Washington Platform: I grew up with spaetzle, a German noodle dish, smothered with gravy. It falls more on the authentic side of German cuisine instead of the German-American side. Pick up a plate for a taste of old-school German food.
Hey Hey: Besides the creative name of this festival favorite, Hey Hey has something that is very German and increasingly hard to find: Limburger cheese. It's served with onions on bread. Sure, it's a little on the pungent side, but it's a traditional German offering that you have to try at least once.
5 p.m.-midnight Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Fifth Street, Downtown, between Vine and Sentinel streets
The Überdrome: Moerlein Lager House does it right with its Überdrome, which will be open Friday-Sunday on the adjacent Event Lawn. Giant tents cover a ton of tables for a Munich-style biergarten feel, where you can drink Christian Moerlein and Paulaner beers and eat a lot of homemade German food. They will have a happy hour each day from 4-7 p.m., and you can pay $10 to grab a commemorative Das Boot filled with beer (natürlich). 4 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Free admission.
Brezel pretzels: Sure, you can get a pretzel that's as big as your head at Oktoberfest, but wander down to Over-the-Rhine and find some seriously amazing pretzels at Brezel. Whether you get them plain, sweet or savory, these are a nice snack as you walk to Oktoberfest (or afterward).
German In The Morning
Katharina's Café-Konditorei: Want to grab some breakfast before Oktoberfest? Start with a very traditional German experience in Newport. (Afterward, you can take the Southbank Shuttle to Oktoberfest.) This gorgeous, sun-filled space tucked in the beautiful Mansion Hill neighborhood serves delicious coffee and German breakfast: cold cuts, cheeses and delicious breads, as well as housemade pastries.