For today’s virtual quarantine road trip, let’s visit the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, Michigan, where our friends Bill and Jessi took us one summer in 2014. I liked it there. Sigh.
It might seem weird since I’m a vegetarian and all, but what I was most looking forward to in Frankenmuth was eating at one of their famous Bavarian chicken joints. There are two to choose from: Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s, and they supposedly HATE each other. My friend Michelle told me that the two families basically built Frankenmuth so no matter which place we picked, it would be a big deal.
I mean, if you’re like me and give a shit about these things.
Zehnder’s and the Bavarian Inn really are right across from the street from each other, but there were no picketers or chicken dinner sabotage that I could see. No one was egging each other’s windows or passing out derogatory flyers. But since Roadside America mentions their rivalry, I know it must be true. I just wish it was more blatant and spectator sporty.
I personally wanted to eat at Bavarian Inn, because it just had more of a Black Forest aesthetic to me, but Bill kept piping up with the merits of Zehnder’s, which just looked like some dumb colonial slab and not at all lederhosen-y. Turns out Bill might have eaten there once sometime in his liftetime and I think he forgot to tell us the part about how a Zehnder’s busboy saved him from choking on their world famous chicken dinner so now he feel indebted to them.
But then Jessi mentioned that she has eaten at the Bavarian Inn before and liked it, so PRAISE JESSI, we settled on the Bavarian Inn because girls rule! There was no blantant anti-Zehnder’s propaganda inside the doors of the BavInn (my new, sweet pet name for it), but I should have at least wrote “for loose bowels, call Zehnder’s” in one of the bathroom stalls. Ah, hindsight.
Fuck you, Zehnder’s.
I want shutters like that on my imaginary never-house.
I anticipated a long wait, since this seemed like the type of place that was like the Disneyworld of Old Country Buffets* for elderly tourists, but we had a table within 15 minutes! And even had a scantily-clad Bavarian beefcake entertaining us with an accordion. (I mean, he was showing a lot of thigh and calf, but not a lot of below-knee, because that was covered with a modest swath of wool.)
*BavInn isn’t even a buffet so I have no idea why I wrote that, other than the fact that it’s 150 degrees in my house.
I told Chooch that this place was going to be like the Hooter’s of Frankenmuth, with Bavarian boobs spilling out of corseted beer garden dresses. Partially because I was trying to get him stoked on eating there (he’s at that age, guys; boobs are everything), and also because that’s what it looked like in my hopes and dreams. Turns out the waitresses’ costumes were way more modest than the accordion player and his scandalous leg-skin.
There was no cleavage to be had. Not even of the accidental variety.
Back to being a vegetarian: I was pleasantly surprised that the Bavarian Inn had an entire vegetarian menu! Bill said he only asked for it because he overheard someone in front of him asking for it. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to ask because places like that usually don’t cater to my kind and I was fully prepared to just get some side dishes but instead I got to have vegan chili and BY GEORGE it was fucking great. It had quinoa and perfect little cubes of sweet potatoes and was just a true delight my tongue even though I can’t imagine a real Bavarian eating that on their lunch break at the cuckoo clock factory.
It didn’t matter, because I still ordered a side of SPAETZEL. You guys, spaetzel. That is my ultimate comfort food because my Pappap, whose family was from Austria, made a huge pot of these buttery Alpine dumplings every Christmas and they were just spectacular. After he died, my mom tried to carry the torch but they just never tasted quite right. And then I asked Henry to make them one year for Thanksgiving but his came out really small and pathetic because he doesn’t have any of the good European regions in his genes, I guess. I mean, I still ate them of course because anything coated in that much butter is still going to taste rad. But I just haven’t had any as good as my Pappap’s, not since 1995.
And these noodleturds were by no means bad! Bavarian Inn has their shit together but these were just seasoned in a way that deviated from my Pappap’s spaetzel perfection. I still ate the ever-loving fuck out of them though. Why wouldn’t I?
Can we talk about our amazing waitress Kristi for a minute? Chooch spilled his lemonade all over the table so she swooped in and moved us to a clean table right next to us, all without making Chooch feel like a heel for being a normal 8-year-old who spills things in restaurants. And she brought us copious amounts of this delicious sweet bread (bread that’s sweet, not sweetbreads) which we enjoyed with ridiculously magical homemade strawberry jam. And our lunches were delayed so Kristi also brought us out bowls of German potato salad, coleslaw and something else that I forget now, but it was all perfect and made me want to book a Globus tour ASAP.
Chooch was really anxious to sayeth Prayers from the Psalms before he ateth his chickeneth. (Everyone at the table got chicken, because duh—Bavarian Inn is world famous for that shit. Maybe one day they’ll be renown for their faux-chicken too. Now I wish I had ordered the fake chicken patty on pretzel bun. Oh well, there’s always next summer when we go back and stay at the Bavarian Inn, because yes, they have a huge resort-y hotel too. WITH WATERSLIDES.)
My second favorite part of the experience (hello: Spaetzel #1) was when I mused out loud about the comfort of the waitresses’ dresses and then a few minutes later, upon Kristi’s return to our table with more iced tea for Henry, Bill asked her what might have been the creepiest thing she had been asked by a man all day:
“Excuse me, but is your dress comfortable?” he asked casually, like he works for Cotton and it’s his job to determine a woman’s comfort as research for the next commercial featuring some random blond actress who can also kind of sing alright.
The Fabric of Our Lives: Dirndl Edition.
“You know,” she said after thinking about it for a few seconds, “it really isn’t too bad. It’s the nylons that drive me nuts, though. I can never wait to get home and peel them off, you know?” And Bill nodded knowingly.
PSHHHHH. You wish, Zehnder’s. In your dreams.
This is the back of the glorious Bavarian Inn. Surely there’s a nook or cranny somewhere in which I can live undetected.
You know I must have been stuffed full of spaetzel when I declined dessert, and they obviously had streudel, you guys. Motherfuck, do I love streudel. My grandma’s side of the family always made some sick streudel.
Streudel and spaetzel. These will be served at my pretend wedding. By Bavarian beer maidens, all named Gretchen.
Jesus, is it any wonder I’m a slut for Bavarian things? My childhood memories practically reek of edelweiss.