Although many seasonal celebrations (such as Halloween) have been scaled back this year, there’s still one place in Orlando where you can safely honor the annual harvest festival with feasting and fun. Epcot’s Biergarten Restaurant is once again open for business with a few important modifications, and we recently enjoyed a socially distanced dinner there to celebrate an early Oktoberfest, Walt Disney World-style.
Since the start of the pandemic, many people have been craving communal gatherings where they can share a meal and enjoy live entertainment. The Biergarten Restaurant in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion has been providing theme park guests with all of the above for almost 40 years, and now they are doing it with the same safety precautions being practiced across the Walt Disney World Resort.
We made an online reservation for Biergarten for a weekday afternoon several weeks in advance through the My Disney Experience app. Remember, you’ll also need a park pass reservation to enter Epcot, even if you have a dining reservation.
Experts say outdoor dining is safest, but Biergarten’s enormous dining hall feels like the next best thing. Disguised as a Bavarian village’s outdoor plaza, the soaring ceiling makes it appear like you are eating outside.
During our meal, we mostly had the massive space to ourselves, with only a handful of parties scattered around the room. Previously, unfamiliar parties might be paired up to share the long communal tables, but now everyone gets a private table.
The biggest—and in our opinion best—adjustment to Biergarten’s operations is the replacement of the traditional buffet with family-style service. Rather than standing in line to ladle food from under a heat lamp onto your own plate, a waiter will bring platters with samples of everything on the menu.
Of course, it’s still an all-you-can-eat meal, and your waiter will happily deliver seconds (or fourths) of any dishes you desire. Personally, we found the initial servings more than sufficient for stuffing two adults.
It starts off with a selection of cold appetizers, with the potato salad and beets being particular standouts. And, of course, you can’t beat fresh, hot pretzel rolls with salt and butter!
The entrées include all the Teutonic standards: bratwurst, sauerkraut, spaetzle, schnitzel, and roasted chicken with potatoes. The sausages are certainly the stars of the show, but I also especially enjoyed the savory meatballs smothered in hunter’s gravy.
Biergarten doesn’t serve stuffy gourmet fare but hearty homestyle grub. In fact, if you hail from a heavily Germanic region (like Pennsylvania or the Midwest), this may feel more like Mom’s comfort food than exotic international cuisine.
For the grand finale, the selection of sweets includes cheesecake and chocolate cake roll, but you’re really here for the exceptional apple strudel.
Don’t forget a frosty beverage to wash it all down! Draft beer is served in ginormous liter-size glass mugs, which make for a much better value than the Food & Wine Festival’s beverage samples on a dollar-per-ounce basis.
Now that we’ve got the eating out of the way, let’s talk about what makes Biergarten more than a mere restaurant: the Oktoberfest Musikanten “oom-pah” band.
Biergarten’s musical quartet performs 18-minute-long shows every hour or so, featuring German favorites from “Edelweiss” to “Beer Barrel Polka,” played with handbells, giant horns, and singing saws.
The musicians do not wear masks, but they stand at least 6 feet away from each other, and remain much farther than that from the audience. Sadly, the dance floor remains closed to promote social distancing, but there’s no rule against dancing in your seat—or enthusiastically waving your stein.
Fortunately, our reservation time coincided with the start of the Oktoberfest band’s performance. If you time your meal correctly, you can enjoy a full show while settling in, and then see a second performance while finishing off dessert.
Better yet, enjoy a complete performance from Epcot’s Biergarten Oktoberfest Musicians from the comfort of your computer with this video:
At $46 per guest ($25 ages 3-9), Epcot’s Biergarten Restaurant isn’t an inexpensive meal; add in tax, tip, and a drink, and you can count on spending $70 on your meal. The quality of the food served is as good or better than ever—especially since it no sits suffering in buffet steam trays—but the price has increased over the years even as certain menu items (like fish and sauerbraten) have been 86’ed.
Even so, when you add up the entertainment and unlimited food, Biergarten Restaurant remains among the best full-service dining values in World Showcase. So, the next time you’re planning a socially distanced special occasion dinner at the theme parks, consider taking a trip back to the Black Forest!
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.