Celebrating its 200th year, Oktoberfest officially kicked off this past Friday, as it does mid-September every year in Munich. And although it may be confusing -- you'd think the event would take place in, well, October -- Bavaria bases the timing on a tradition that dates back to pre-refrigeration times. The purpose of the event, historically, was to drink up old stocks of beer, making room for new brews crafted after the hop harvest.
If one stays true to tradition, the soft pretzel, known in Germany as Brenz, is typically consumed alongside the beer. This can be easily accomplished at one of the German beer bars around town (such as The Red Lion, Chalet Edelweiss or Alpine Village Inn), but if you want to throw your own Oktoberfest, finding locally made soft pretzels can be a bit of a challenge if you don't know where to look. So we've done some scouting, and found what we consider to be, in alphabetical order, the top 4 soft pretzels in town. Turn the page. And if we've missed any, please let us know.
1. Alpine Village Market: At the Alpine Village Market, you'll likely find yourself finishing the $1 soft pretzels prior to paying at the register. That's because the pretzels are made on a rotating basis throughout the day, often served straight from the oven. The texture is as nostalgic as its permeating smell of lye, typical of a true Bavarian pretzels. Live on the east side and want to taste these pretzels, even if it means scraping a DIY Oktoberfest? Then head to The Red Lion where they serve Alpine's pretzels (for $2.75) warm, with lots of mustard. Alpine Village Market: 833 Torrance Blvd, Ste. 1, Torrance; (310) 327-2483.
2. La Brea Bakery: The bakery that sparked the bread renaissance in Southern California makes sure no dough is left behind. At their La Brea location, you'll find pretzels ($2.00) in small challah-shaped twists, in baguettes, and in typical pretzel loop form. Their pretzels are structurally sounder and more bread-like than the other softer options around town, but with a nicely salted crust. La Brea Bakery: 624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles; (323) 939-6813.
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3. Röckenwagner + 3 Square: With a little under 10 varieties ($2.50 - $3.50) found at both of his Westside cafes, Röckenwagner and 3 Square, German native Hans Röckenwagner has found a way to honor the pretzels of his childhood while breaking tradition with his pretzel croissants and bacon cheese sticks. Soft, with a subtle taste of malt and a slit at the base marking the hands of a pretzel artisan. You can find the pretzels at any of the ten farmer's markets around L.A. the store participates in weekly.
4. The Village Bakery: Finding yourself at this popular Atwater Village Bakery between Wednesday and Sunday means that you can pick up one of their beer infused, circular soft pretzels, for $2.50 each. You'll also find that, depending on the day, the pretzels at Village impart varying levels of malt due to the inclusion of either Guinness, Mad River's Jamaica Red Ale, or Stone Brewery's Smoked Porter. This may be the closest you'll get to an all-in-one Oktoberfest. The Village Bakery: 3119 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 662-8600.