Thursday, May 22, 2003

Hofbrau-hahas


Beer, accordions and the chicken dance in Newport - who could ask for more?

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Tuba player Benny Harnish provides the background oom-pahs for beer drinking.
(Ernest Coleman photos)
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They've done the chicken dance, they've drunk their beer on the count of "Eins, zwei, g'suffa," they've made an attempt at the polka and they've eaten their roast chicken.

John and Kelly Stapleton of Georgetown, Ohio, with their daughter Abigail, are having a really good time at the new Hofbrauhaus in Newport.

"My favorite day of the year isn't Christmas, it isn't Valentine's Day, it's Oktoberfest!" says Kelly. This is their third visit to the restaurant, which opened three weeks ago at Third and Saratoga streets, across from Newport on the Levee.

Her brother, Terry McGann, who's visiting from Louisville, has been to the original Hofbrauhaus in Munich, but says, "This is better. They speak English."

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The original Hofbrauhaus is a 400-year-old institution founded by Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria. It's an important tourist attraction and the cornerstone of Munich's Oktoberfest. The first export of the concept was to Hong Kong, but that has closed, making the Newport location the only other Hofbrauhaus outside Munich.

Its location in Greater Cincinnati is a natural, matching the region's German heritage, and the concept has met with a huge surge of interest.

Jim Combs, president of Bistro Group, which runs the operations at Hofbrauhaus, says business has been 35 percent above their projections.

Parade after parade

Dave and Yvonne Cline of Fort Thomas are celebrating their 14th anniversary at Hofbrauhaus. They are having a good time on their first visit, but when the master of ceremonies gets out the Bavarian flag to start a tour around the room, Yvonne says, "Oh no, not another parade. We already did one parade."
[IMAGE] Sarah Kleiner (left) raises her mug in a toast with Marla Meyer and friends during a night out at Newport's Hofbrauhaus.
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Two women are asked up onstage to hold up posters with the words to the song "Ist das nicht ein Schnitzelbank?" They smile like they're truly enjoying their role, while another woman who is brought up front for a birthday dance looks like she wishes she could sink through the floor.

German party formula

It really is Oktoberfest every day at the Hofbrauhaus, and the people who are having the most fun are the ones who have simply given themselves up to the German party formula:

• Big steins of beer.

• Large portions of food.

[IMAGE] The outdoor beer garden has been a popular spot in the restaurant.
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• Really loud music from the accordion and brass band.

• Yes, the chicken dance.

There are sing-alongs, too, which will be familiar to anyone who's ever been to the chicken restaurants in Frankenmuth, Mich., or any other large German restaurant.

There are three areas at the Hofbrauhaus: a large beer hall where customers sit at long, shared tables; a bierstube, or smaller, more quiet room, and an outdoor beer garden, adding up to 13,315 square feet of space. Even with the ability to seat 740, the crowds have been overflowing.

Ongoing adjustments

Opening night went "about as bad as it could," says Combs, but they've made adjustments, including switching to a smaller menu in the beer garden.

They plan, too, to increase beer production - they've been selling twice as much as they thought they would, Combs says.

There still are waits for dinner, especially on the weekend. If you want to be seated immediately inside, you need to arrive early.

But don't worry about the wait: The music - and the fun - go on into the night.

E-mail pcampbell@enquirer.com



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