Biergarten is a buffet restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase Germany at Walt Disney World that is set in the middle of a Bavarian Village celebrating Oktoberfest year round. Biergarten serves authentic German cuisine for lunch and dinner (menu). At the center of the village is a stage where costumed musicians perform traditional Oktoberfest entertainment and where guests can get up and fun fun on the dance floor.
Biergarten is a 1-credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan, and also accepts Tables in Wonderland. As a buffet, it’s priced slightly below average for a table service restaurant, making it a good option if you’re paying out of pocket, but a poor option for maximizing your value on the Disney Dining Plan.
Biergarten is an interesting restaurant. The exterior is somewhat understated, with only the painted name of the restaurant above a small archway at the back of Epcot’s Germany pavilion. However, once you step inside, you’re inundated by the sounds of the traditional oompah music, other entertainment, and a Bavarian Village setting (outside, no less!). The seating is communal, which may not appeal to all patrons, but was fine by us. The other guests at our table chatted with us throughout the meal and we had a good time. If you’re looking for a romantic meal or are shy, this may not be the best dining option for you.
This review covers two visits to Biergarten, the most recent of which occurred last year, after which this review was updated/basically re-written…
Let’s start with the ambiance. Aside from the communal seating, which may or may not be your thing, Biergarten has great ambiance, and is just a really fun experience.
The seminal Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center book by Richard Beardpaints a vivid picture of the scene in Biergarten: “Three stories high, with tables placed around a tiered semi-circle, the indoor garden miraculously conveys the feeling of an outdoor courtyard. In one corner is a tree, in another a full-sized, functioning waterwheel.
On the opposite side of the garden is a meticulous re-creation of the best of sixteenth-century Rothenburg, complete with its residences. In the center of the town square is a stage where live entertainers, including that inevitable and beloved oompah band, dance and sing and make German music.
Served with the best German beers are such traditional tidbits as bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato dumplings, hot pretzels, sauerbraten, smoked pork in aspic, sausage…everything that is Teutonic and tasty.
The setting is simply splendid, the sort of place we would all love to visit, and many will be loath to leave the jollity of the Biergarten. But leave we must, back to the platz for a last look around…”
I quote extensively from this for a few reasons. First, it saves me the effort of actually thinking and coming up with my own words to describe the place. Second, because it really does describe Biergarten in a way that immerses you in the scene. Finally, and most importantly, because this book that was written before the opening of EPCOT Center in 1982 is still largely accurate when it comes to Biergarten.
This is what’s key for me. So much of the rest of the book is a trip down memory lane, filled with things that have long been removed from EPCOT Center, or things that never came to fruition in the first place (the same page of the book discusses the Rhine River Cruise attraction that would be opening soon in Germany!). For an EPCOT Center fan like me, one of the great things about Biergarten is that it still captures the essence of the early days of EPCOT Center, and embodies that mission of entertaining and educating.
Some might find it a bit of a stretch to claim that a restaurant set in an outdoor Bavarian party where the beer and food is flowing, but is it not? One of the things we most enjoy when traveling is sampling bits of the culture, and taking part in food, drink, and joviality in these places is key to an understanding of the culture. We’ll get to the food shortly, but for me, the setting of the restaurant and the oompah band provide a slice of that culture, and inform guests in the process.
Regardless of whether you think my take that Biergarten succeeds at being a classic EPCOT Center “edutainment” experience, I think there’s little denying that it’s an incredibly fun restaurant. It actually does feel like nighttime in a quaint Bavarian village (a setting that is conveyed quite nicely, right down to details like the moon, and lamps lighting the tables) but the band that performs makes the place come alive. Heck, even the communal seating, which we both were dreading prior to our first visit, gives the restaurant a real energy. Before you even start eating, Biergarten is a great experience.
The restaurant has two buffet “sides” like many buffets, both of which are identical–or nearly identical. The buffets start with salads and breads, then have cold meats and meat salads, followed by the warm meats and salads, before finishing with desserts. It’s also a good place to go for beer, with flights and full liters available. My top pick is the SchÃ¶fferhofer Hefeweizen.
As for Biergarten’s food, it’s mostly good but most things aren’t memorable. The highlights, I think are the Pretzel Bread, German Potato Salad, Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Pork, Rotisserie Chicken, SpÃ¤tzle, and of course, the various sausages. Dessert-wise, the Apple Strudel was really the only thing that impressed me.
Food was considerably better during my more recent visit. The previous time, we found food to seem like it was sitting around under a heat lamp too long. This could be because the restaurant was slammed on the second visit (with sometimes long lines for the buffet), so food was being turned over at a much quicker rate.
It was all good, but the most memorable thing about the meals is definitely the ambiance. Since I give a lot of weight to ambiance at Walt Disney World restaurants, I consider Biergarten a winner. Even the very best in-park food typically doesn’t compare to great real-world restaurants at comparable price points, so I feel you’re paying for the superior ambiance and Imagineered environments at Walt Disney World restaurants.
My usual theory with buffets is that you can get unlimited amounts of decent food versus a decent amount of good food at a normal restaurant. I think that definitely holds true at Biergarten. I like being able to try a variety of different German foods here, and eating a lot of it is definitely a selling point, but even my favorites above aren’t true stand-outs. The only exception to this, I think is the potato salad and the sausages, all of which are really good.
Isn’t that sort of the point, though? Biergarten has good beer, good sausages, and good potatoes. I just named three of the major food groups, and so long as a German restaurant gets these things right, it’s a winner by me. Throw in the party ambiance, and it’s a great pick.
Overall, I highly recommend Biergarten, in large part due to its exceptional ambiance, which makes it one of the best themed restaurants at Walt Disney World. After our first visit, I wasn’t terribly high on the food at Biergarten, but I found it to be considerably better the second visit (and have increased the restaurant’s score to 8.5/10 as a result). Still, it’s not for everyone, nor does it have the best food in Epcot’s World Showcase. The food is fairly good and is a departure from the standard buffet fare at Walt Disney World, and provides the opportunity to sample a number of German foods. It’s not too adventurous (this is not a Boma-level buffet), which could be good or bad depending upon your perspective, but in fairness, I wouldn’t say that German cuisine is particularly exotic for most Americans. It has good beer, good sausage, good potatoes, and good times. Enough said.
If you’ve been to Biergarten, did you like it? Do you think it’s a great option for dining in the World Showcase, or do you think the food falls a little short? Planning on going? Share your questions or thoughts in the comments!