If you're ever in San Francisco (or are lucky enough to live within its vicinity like yours truly!), then you must visit Suppenkuche in Hayes Valley. Especially when it's Oktoberfest. It's likely one of few places in the United States where you can have a near-authentic German Wirtshaus experience.
First thing you might notice when you step into Suppenkuche is its semi-dive-y feel, but as soon as you're greeted by servers donning lederhosens and dirndls and take a look at its classic, cafeteria-esque decor, you'll notice that it's very cozy and homely. And if you happen to be greeted by the owner, who's actually from Germany, you're in for a double treat because he's got this awesome German accent and looks fabulous in his German get-up.
This past month, my very good friend Kris invited me to celebrate Oktoberfest with her on the very first day of the festivities, and there was no better place to celebrate it in the city than at Suppenkuche. They had a special beer menu of five Oktoberfest beers on tap, as well as a special food menu.
Bier Like all good German bars, Suppenkuche offers boots and liter glasses. For reference, a liter glass is larger than the size of Kris' head. And I must point out, she's like 4'10 and 85 pounds, yet managed to enjoy two+ of those, but I'm a wimp and only enjoyed one liter, despite being significantly taller and heavier than her. As the rest of our group trickled in over the next five hours, I managed to take sips of all five of the Oktoberfest beers and they were all fantastic.
Lebensmittel To go with the fantastic German beer, there was fantastic German food. Check out the pretzel below that was also larger than the size of my head. See that chunk in the front center? That's big enough to make a large bahn mi sandwich. The pretzel was served fresh and warm and enjoyed with Bavarian cheese dip.
Besides the super gigantic pretzel, there several other tasty snacks on the menu that we all went family style on, including the half roasted chicken, suckling pig and sauerkraut below. We also ordered kasespatzle, which is like German mac 'n cheese with potato pasta. It was all so very, very good.
Ambiente One other aspect of Suppenkuche that I really like, though, is its ambiance. It was really quiet when Kris and I first arrived there at noon, but as more groups started arriving over the next few hours, it got even more fun and festive. Towards the beginning of the afternoon, a father brought around his very adorable toddler to cheers everyone in the restaurant with her very own (well, actually his, I hope ;P) half-liter glass.
Later on, a group of frat'ish guys sat at the table next to us and they were just hilarious. Every single one of them had those one liter glasses of beer and they made every little excuse to clink their glasses. Whether it was someone arriving. Food coming out. Someone getting another liter. Someone coming back from the bathroom. Etc. They just clinked glasses and yelled "YEAAAAH!" over everything literally about every two minutes.
When I told my brother, who had just gotten back from Germany, about my Suppenkuche experience and showed him the photos, he exclaimed, "That's exactly like the Wirthaus that I went to in Freiburg!" and vowed to go with his friends while Oktoberfest was still going on. Kris said that she brought her German friend there once and he had said that it was the most authentic Wirthaus experience that he had had in the States, so you know it's good.
Suppenkuche, in general, is awesome year round and they always have great beers on tap and fantastic food on their menu anytime that you want to visit. I still can't wait for Oktoberfest to roll around next year though.