Yes, Hofbräuhaus Cleveland is loud, touristy and occasionally annoying. But if you think it's any different overseas at the original in Munich, you obviously haven't been there. Like the original and other official outposts in Columbus, Pittsburgh and Chicago servers here are clad in dirndls and lederhosen. Beer, brewed on-site in gleaming and prominently displayed copper kettles, is sold by the liter ($10.99) and half-liter ($5.99). Those draft beers, by the way, are spot on, with crisp Bavarian helles (pale), dunkles (dark), hefeweizen (wheat) and a rotating seasonal. All told, this place is a real doozy, in the best sense of the word.
Take a seat in the first come, first served beer hall and it won't be long before one of the countless servers makes his or her way over to your table for a beer order. Keep your eyes peeled for the jaunty pretzel girls, too, who roam the hall dispensing quick and cheap sustenance in the form of Bavarian-style pretzels ($2.25) from wicker baskets.
Note that lines tend to get so long for tables here at times that the restaurant erects a tent and staffs the beer garden kiosk, which dispenses cold beer and warm mulled wine. By the time spring rolls around in 2015, the outdoor 1,000-seat bier garden will relieve much of that pressure. Groups and those wishing to sit in the Hermit Club or upstairs can call ahead and attempt to make reservations, but those spaces are often booked for private events. Best advice: come early, come on weekdays, and try to avoid peak weekend hours.
Part of the problem, of course, is that folks don't leave. Yes, shotskis (a ski with shot glasses glued to it requiring participants to drink in synch) are a sign of the apocalypse, and the Chicken Dance makes one covet a skewer to the eardrum, but the plain truth is: the Hofbräuhaus is given the right mood and company more fun than drunk skinny dipping in the Rhine with pretzels as water wings. Actually, it's pretty much the same thing.
1550 Chester Ave., 216-621-2337, hofbrauhauscleveland.com.