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By Jacqueline Monahan
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Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas - More Than a Meal

Neighborhood locals can’t miss the towering white structure on Paradise and Harmon, regal and imposing even in the shadow of the magnificent Las Vegas Strip.  Tourists have made the place a destination, and maps have designated it as an attraction.

The Munich-inspired eatery is so much more than a place to catch a draught or slam down a brat(wurst).  Stepping inside is like being transported to Bavaria, and you’ll want to trade in your sequined Hard Rock T-shirts for leather lederhosen and jaunty Alpine hats.  Merry maidens in blue and white checkered dresses (think St. Pauli Girl) happily take your food and drink order, explain selections and serve schnapps on a long wooden paddle that holds five shots in their own little round niches.  A smack on the backside with the paddle is complimentary with each order and makes a resounding crack throughout the spacious, high-ceilinged dining area, as does the yelp of the recipient.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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As you enter the large reception area, you’ll see an ornate, dark wood bar to your left and the well-appointed gift shop to your right.  8-9 % of the restaurant’s revenue comes from the gift shop which sells imported goods like beer steins, toys, glasses and apparel.  They’ve even got a display case for Hummel figurines.  Video screens broadcast food preparation, and I got a chance to see how spätzle (tiny potato dumplings) are made, a clever way to whet one’s appetite on the way into the restaurant.

You will experience many taste, sight and sound sensations at Hofbrauhaus, but claustrophobia won’t be one of them.  The huge dining area easily accommodates scores of long blonde wooden tables, with equally long benches to match, on an expansive brown stone floor.  The place is made for crowds to enjoy the raucous atmosphere of 34 oz. beer steins, noisy celebrations, live music and playful servers.

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The high, arched ceiling, in shades of muted gold, yellow and mustard, is an exact replica of the one in the original Munich Hofbräuhaus (established 1589) and was recreated with the help of projected images from a DVD.  Lantern-like lights on long cords punctuate the ceiling at intervals between hand-painted plants, food items and cooking utensils.

A performance stage on the right side of the massive room is flanked by the U.S. and Bavarian flags (blue and white diamond-checkered).  Bands perform in one-month stints, always flown in from Germany or Austria to provide an even more authentic atmosphere performing at 5:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

All this is in the main dining room/beer hall.  Right through an archway, over which are the words “Thirst is worse than homesickness” in German, lies the indoor beer garden, with its fountains and full-size chestnut trees.  This area can seat up to 1000 people under a 45 foot, blue sky ceiling.  A separate entrance accommodates tour buses and special groups.

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Hofbräuhaus president Stefan Gastager

Hofbräuhaus president Stefan Gastager was on hand to give me a tour of the immaculate kitchen, equipped with its own smart conveyor belt that delivers completed plates to the end of a pick-up counter without ever tossing them over the edge.  80% of the food is prepared on the premises by German chefs.  Their famous giant pretzels and delicate apple strudel are imported at great expense – they must be shipped frozen and are extremely fragile, breaking into pieces like rare bone china.  But Gastager maintains that these items can only be made authentically in Germany, and authenticity is the Hofbräuhaus mission.  That, and a philosophy of German engineered taste, incorporating a 400 year old purity law.

All servers have a “key” to the famous beer machine, a dispenser that can fill any size stein or glass with a variety of liquor.  The state of the art appliance eliminates waste, assigns portion sizes and keeps track of cost for maximum efficiency.  A classic keg seems prehistoric by comparison.  Hofbräuhaus possesses the only machine in the state, and possibly the country.

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At The Beer Machine

The gracious Gastager debunked some commonly held myths about German beer.  It is not served warm, but at a shivery 40 degrees.  And the variety known as weissbier (a wheat variety) should NEVER be served with a lemon wedge.   Hofbrauhaus varieties include a lager, a dunkel (dark) and a seasonal brew, available only at the holidays.  The beer is filtered and made with all natural ingredients, no cheap fillers.  It’s so full of quality, it could almost be called Vitamin B, according to Gastager. Whose staff oversees drinking and stein holding contests in the beer hall.  They would know.

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A Typical Serving of Beer

Now, about the food; no, I didn’t forget, there’s just so much to see, do and learn about in this place.

A gigantic pretzel was presented to me, nearly bigger than the dinner plate it was served on.  Three small dishes nestled in its folds held a cheese spread, an onion mustard and a sweet mustard.  The imported treat was nearly addictive, each of the spreads delicious in its own way.  My favorite was the sweet mustard, slathered onto each torn fragment of chewy, savory, soft-baked pretzel.  Carbs, come get me and take your time.

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Best Selling Giant Pretzel

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I was served two tasting towers consisting of three plates stacked vertically on a metal holder.  The first, a meat-laden feast, was comprised of the restaurant’s best-selling wiener schnitzel (moist inside, crunchy outside), slices of tender roast pork and gravy, and three kinds of sausage (pork, veal and chicken, one of them smoked), each with a different texture and flavorful in their own way.  Sides included ultra-smooth mashed potatoes, a very mellow sauerkraut, and a bread dumpling competing with a potato version for ultimate superiority.  The potato dumpling is denser, but both satisfy purists and tourists alike.

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A dessert tower

A dessert tower arrived, looking like a skyscraper out of Nirvana.  This was holding thin, chocolate-filled crepes, imported apple strudel and a vanilla cream pudding molded into an inverted teacup shape and swimming in raspberry sauce.  A separate and very regal dessert appeared on its own serving tray: vanilla ice cream with tiny vanilla beans peeking out of the white expanse, generously covered in whipped cream and fruit slices rested frostily in a large wineglass, with hot raspberry sauce in its own boat perched nearby, daring me to pour it on.  I won that bet and nearly induced a fruit and cream coma with my spoon.

There was nothing served that I did not like, love or covet.  The Hofbräuhaus quest for excellence makes it all the way to the plate and table in an authentic and very Bavarian way.  A special Christmas menu will include Salmon Chowder, German Potato Pancakes. Roast Duck, Pork and Veal with Red Cabbage and Potato Dumpling, and Warm Cinnamon Bread Pudding.  New Year’s Eve celebrants can expect Bavarian Goulash Soup, HB Surf and Turf (ribeye steak and a shrimp brochette), asparagus and au gratin potatoes.  A Hot Triple Chocolate Soufflé will be the last, sweetest thing you’ll eat this year.  That’s some way to go out.

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Roast Pork

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Weiner Schnitzel is a Best Seller

And speaking of going out, more than 1.6 million visitors have done just that, making Hofbräuhaus their destination of choice.  With 90% tourist trade on weekdays and a 50/50 split between tourists and locals on weekends, the restaurant that’s more of an experience than a meal continues to thrive, a surprising international oasis complete with its own trees and watering hole where everyday is Oktoberfest.

For further information:

Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas
4510 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, Nevada  89169
(702) 853-BEER (2337)
http://www.hofbrauhauslasvegas.com

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