Family-Style Dinners at Bavarian Inn, Frankenmuth, Michigan

The Bavarian Inn Restaurant’s German roots are evident the minute you see the building. Its traditional alpine-style with half-timbered architecture has a Glockenspiel clock tower, which rings four times daily. The nearby fountains remind me of those found in traditional European town squares. You’re immediately in traditional Bavaria.

Location: The Bavarian Inn is at 713 S. Main Street in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Menu: The Bavarian Inn has served all-you-can-eat family-style meals for over 125 years. The twelve dining rooms seat over 1200 guests, making it one of America’s largest restaurants. The restaurant has two specialties, authentic German food, and fried chicken.

German-themed dinners include authentic Wiener schnitzel, which is a breaded veal cutlet. Roulanden, beef rolls filled with bacon, celery, onions, and dill pickle are another German favorite. Sauerbraten is a marinated roast beef with red wine sauce. There’s an abundance of side dishes accompanying each meal. There’s dressing, noodle soup, buttered noodles, cranberry relish, and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and salads. The salads include a vinegar-based coleslaw, pasta salad with bits of chicken, and sweet and sour white bean salad. For dessert, there’s house-made ice cream or sorbet included in the price of your meal.

Although the Bavarian Inn is famous for their family-style fried chicken dinners, they also have a vegetarian and gluten-free menu. There’s a wide-variety of items on the vegetarian menu including a Michigan black bean burger and an eggplant parmesan. Offerings for vegans include vegan chili and a quinoa vegetable stir-fry.

House-made baked goods and Michigan’s largest selection of German beers make the Bavarian Inn special.  Baskets of white bread and Stollen (fruit and nut bread) accompanied our meal. I thought the Stollen was traditional German bread until a German-born senior, insisted that in his homeland you would be served dark brown bread. The next time I looked up, the German dark brown bread had magically appeared on his table. When I insisted the Stollen was German bread, he harrumphed that Stollen isn’t bread but rather Christmas cake. Nonetheless, we devoured both the house-made white bread and Stollen spread with strawberry rhubarb jam made from Michigan fruit.

While the theme at the Bavarian Inn is German, there’s an emphasis on using Michigan agricultural products. For example, the cranberries are from Michigan Cranberry Company’s bog in Cheboygan, while the potatoes are from the Horkey Brothers farm in Dundee, Michigan. You might say that the Bavarian Inn is at the intersection of traditional Bavaria and modern Michigan.

If you’re looking for a traditional Michigan dish, try the broiled Lake Superior Whitefish.

Thoughts: Inside the Bavarian Inn, the German theme continues to be evident. They’ve uniquely decorated each dining room with the German theme. Some dining rooms have carved wooden ceiling tiles, while others have thick brown wooden beams over a white ceiling. There are large beer steins, and coats of arms hanging on the wall. White table clothes cover the tables. Colored overlays provide a pop of color.  A crisp white napkin accents each place setting. While the white table clothes might give the impression of a formal setting, the family-style service provides a comfortable casual atmosphere. Casual clothes for diners are perfectly appropriate here.

The servers dress in traditional Bavarian attire. The men wear Leiderhosen, ties, and Alpine hats, while women wear colorful dresses with gathered skirts and a white peasant-style top laced up the front.

After dinner, outside the Bavarian Inn, we discovered their answer to an outdoor Biergarten (beer tent). The Fischer Platz was alive with accordion music accompanied by electric guitars. Men, dressed in lederhosen and suspenders, played “Edelweiss” while couples and children danced.

My favorite dishes are:

  • The large platters of chicken, fried to a golden brown.
  • The traditional German Jager Schnitzel (Hunter’s Schnitzel), pork loin breaded in Parmesan cheese and seasoned breadcrumbs. A creamy mushroom sauce tops it all and it’s accompanied by Kartoffelkaseknodel (potato cheese puffs).
  • The cranberry relish, sweet with chunks of apples and oranges, yet tart from the cranberries. This fruity side is almost like dessert.

Read more reviews here.

Price range: The traditional all-you-can-eat family-style chicken dinner is $23.99 per person. All white meat chicken is available for an additional $2.00 per person. Single serving plated dinners are also in the same $23 price range, so I recommend ordering the all-you-can-eat family-style portions. They allow you to take home leftovers from your first serving. Also, if you aren’t hungry enough for dinner, ask to order off the lunch menu. It’s also available at dinner.

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Amy Piper

Amy Piper is a freelance food and travel writer. She writes about food and multi-generational travel on her blog Follow the Piper. You can follow her on Twitter @amythepiper.

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