Mea Cuppa, a Charleston-based coffee shop, doesn’t normally serve German food for its coffee-fiending customers.
Neither does Pop Up Kitchen, a traveling kitchen that usually serves street tacos at events.
But Saturday at OktoberWest, Charleston’s restaurants adapted to the theme, bringing German food to the thousands of visitors who came out for the annual event.
For Pop Up Kitchen, that meant cooking up 200 beer-braised frankenfurters and 40 veggie kabobs. Mea Cuppa sold a German plate, compete with smoked brats, German potatoes, purple cabbage and a dinner roll — a far cry from their reliable spread of coffeehouse pastries.
“You want to fit in,” said Holly McCallister, owner and chef at Pop Up Kitchen.
So did the thousands of festivalgoers who flooded Charleston’s West Side Saturday evening for the 12th-annual OktoberWest, many of whom drank the beers on tap at tents set up outside, and some of whom wore lederhosen and other traditional German attire.
Bad Shepherd Brewing Company didn’t have such a difficult time fitting the theme. The beer company had five different beers ready, each conforming to Oktoberfest and autumn in a different way. The most obvious: the Prost, an Oktoberfest beer. Less obvious: The Taschenrechner, which means “pocket calculator” in German.
“I would say these beers were chosen because they match up with the theme of the festival,” said Alex Bradley, a server at Charleston’s Black Sheep restaurant.
By 4 p.m. Saturday, when the massive block party started, more than 1,350 people had preregistered. But Adam Stollings, director of marketing and promotions at Charleston Main Streets, said he expected up to 2,300 by the end of the evening — a record for the event. Last year, people came from 11 different states, he said.
People (and their dogs) milled around the neighborhood, trying new beers, noshing on German food and listening to live music.
Also on tap: best traditional dress contests, a sausage toss competition and keg rolling.
Venu Menon, owner of Mea Cuppa, said meal prep for pepperoni rolls started Friday night and took about six to seven hours. He began cooking everything else around 8 a.m. Saturday morning and was prepared to serve between 300 and 500 people.
“We wanted to do something that fits the theme a little bit because it’s very traditional, but it’s festival food,” he said. “Who can resist grilled meat?”
Each part of the German plate was specifically chosen and seasoned, like the German potatoes, which were prepared with vinegar, sugar, onion and bacon.
“My whole family and I love to cook, so we love to do food events whenever we can,” he said.
The event’s choreography comprised of 150 volunteers, 50 vendors and the cooperation of the city’s local businesses. Stollings’ job, which started with printing a map of the West Side and physically drawing out where vendors would be, includes making sure there’s enough food, enough beer and no lines — people hate waiting in lines, he said.
It’s the state’s biggest Oktoberfest celebration, he said. And it’s a good chance to see a new band, check out the neighborhood, and kick off the fall season — despite temperatures that hit 90 degrees during the day.
“People just like the community, they like seeing things happening on the West Side, and people just really enjoy craft beer,” he said.