Harald Neuweg, chef and owner of Fritz and Franz Bierhaus in Coral Gables quotes “the king of chefs and chef of kings,” French culinary legend Georges Auguste Escoffier, as he and his staff hustle about the restaurant at 60 Merrick Way in preparation for the 22nd annual Oktoberfest.
“Good cooking is the basis of true happiness,” said Neuweg, and judging by the decades of success the French-trained Austrian Chef has enjoyed in his 36 years of serving classic Austrian, German, and Swiss Continental cuisine to the fickle South Floridian palate, he appears to know well that of which he speaks.
The 11-day Oktoberfest celebration, which began on Sept. 29 with the official opening keg tapping ceremony, launches nearly two weeks of classic Austrian music/entertainment, event contests, an anniversary night Apfelstrudel party, refined traditional festival cuisine, and ice cold Bavarian suds.
Closing night festivities are Sunday, Oct. 9, with the Oktoberfest Raffle grand prize drawing winner receiving a five-day stay at any Caribbean, Mexico, or Florida Club Med, with proceeds to benefit The Woody Foundation.
“We are in a beautiful plaza with beer garden outdoor seating and a close team working together to offer quality restaurant food and a nice friendly atmosphere,” Neuweg said. “It’s a family event for young and old as well as a hip-hop party with a German vibe.”
Musician/entertainers and the master of ceremonies Die Freche Vroni from Germany, and Die Edelsteiner from Austria, will fly in from their usual gigs high in the Austrian Alps. The quartet plays multiple instruments including the traditional accordion. They also sing, jodel, polka, and have fun engaging with the audience.
Just like the first Munich Oktoberfest party of 1812 that birthed this annual festival tradition, only German beers are available. No micro-brews allowed. The classic fare of Schnitzel, Bratwurst, Bavarian-style salads, and giant bier pretzels are favorite menu choices. On the anniversary day party Oct. 5, an all you can eat Oktoberfest buffet, and a 13-meter-long complimentary Apfelstrudel will be served with sparkling wine.
“Wienerschnitzel is our No. 1 dish and we make it with chicken, pork, or veal. Sausages are our No. 2 bestsellers. We make our own salads and desserts; our famous German potato salad is a lighter version of the classic with an oil and vinegar base. We want you to feel good about the food you eat and the money you spend so you will come back. We like to treat our customers like they are in our own dining room in our own homes.”
Neuweg learned the art of good cooking as a child in his hometown of Saint Agatha, a small village in upper Austria where he marveled at his mother Theresia Neuweg’s expertise in the kitchen and enjoyed bountiful meals made from scratch.
“Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a chef. I grew up in a family with 10 kids and Sunday lunch was a family feast. My mother really knew how to cook.”
That rich tradition of a happy hearth found in good food among family and friends continues in the heart of Coral Gables today, where guests of Fritz and Franz Bierhaus can find the heart of Austria all year long — and especially so for those 11 days of festival fun during Oktoberfest.