Old World Village in Huntington Beach- A slice of Bavaria in California
Just 10 minutes from one of Orange County’s famous surfing spots, you’ll find the Old World Village in Huntington Beach. This special enclave of shops and restaurants conceived and built in the late 1970s by Josef and Dolores Bischof to transport guests and residents to a Bavarian Village. Today, the cobblestoned streets, muraled buildings, flower baskets, and of course, the delicious smells of coffee and pastries are an escape from the busy modern world that surrounds the village. The Oktoberfest with live German Bands and cold German beer, is famous for being one of the best on the West Coast. And the new Pflaumenfest or Plum Festival, a way of celebrating Elly Schwarzer (Dolores’s mother), and her delicious Pflaumenkuchen (Plum Cake), is another reason to visit this 9 acre patch of Germany in Southern California.
So how did a Bavarian Village appear in Southern California? And why should you visit?
The Old World Village in Huntington Beach
“It was like growing up in Disneyland” Cyndie Bischof Kasko
Josef Bischof, a trained couture tailor, emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1952. At the time, California with its warm climate and barely tapped potential, was drawing many Germans. In 1955 he married Dolores MacGee, a beautiful and gregarious young German American woman. Josef was the kind of man who liked to fix, build and tinker… and Dolores, the welcoming life of any party. After a visit to Solvang, California, a famous Danish village north of Santa Barbara, Josef wanted to do something similar, but for Germans.
In the 1970s, people were flocking to Orange County. Miles and miles of orange groves were being converted into neighborhoods. In Huntington Beach, Josef and Dolores purchased 9 acres, and set out to recreate the Bavarian villages he remembered from home. Their goal was to create an authentic space where people could live and work like they do in Europe. By 1978, the complex was finished. Along the cobblestoned paths there were 53 shops with welcoming show windows, each with living spaces built above them. Buildings were decorated with 70 examples of Luftmalerei or murals representing different countries in Europe. Residents could enjoy the gardens, complete with gazebo and a Maibaum (May Pole). Restaurants and bakeries, even a church and meeting hall, meant that residents could live, work, and play without once having to get into their car. (Considering the Gas Crisis of the late 1970s, this was an excellent idea!)
Josef and Dolores raised their children, Bernie and Cyndie in this friendly environment. Cyndie remembers walking out her door in the morning and seeing pretzel vendors greeting her.
Today, the strolling pretzel vendors may be gone, but there are still plenty of shops selling delicious treats or wonderful imported items for residents and visitors to enjoy. And every once in a great while, a shop with living quarters is available to buy… so you can live out your fantasy of living in a Bavarian Village near the beach.
But the Old World Village is not a closed in community!
The Old World Biergarten Restaurant is incredibly popular with Germans, visitors to southern California, as well as locals. Be sure to bring your appetite because their sausages have been voted “Best Sausage in California”! Also on the menu, Schnitzel, Schweinehaxn, and everyone’s favorite, Rouladen. They even brought a special chef from Germany to teach the kitchen to make authentic Kaiserschmarrn! And of course, there is the German Beer… and the Shot Girls. Currently, the Biergarten is open Thursday through Sunday, and open Wednesday through Sunday during Oktoberfest.
The German Deli is another popular and incredibly important spot for hungry Germans looking for a taste of home. Shop for all of your favorite German foods, sausages, fresh baked goods, and Lebensmittel (groceries). Everything from Bratwurst to Dirndls and Lederhosen! Can’t get there in person? They do ship!
Looking for a Dirndl or Lederhosen? The Dirndl Haus, home of the Bavarian Bombshell has you covered with all styles and colors!
My personal favorite is the German Bakery and Market where year-round you can find German Breads, Rolls, and delicious pastries.
It’s Always Festival Season at the Old World Village
There’s always something going on at the Old World Village. Happy Hour, televised Soccer Games, special Brunches, Sidewalk Sales, German American Day celebrations, a Christmas Market, Rocktoberfest in early September, and of course Oktoberfest.
The Old World Village is home to California’s “Original” Oktoberfest. Called the Biggest Party in Southern California… September 19th, 2021 kicks off 6 weeks of Oktoberfest fun from Wednesday through Sunday in the Old World Biergarten! This special event has been a family affair since day one, so keep a sharp eye out for Josepf, who at 91 is still overseeing the party. The family brings in special party bands from Germany and Austria to keep things lively. Beer, dancing, dachshund racing, food and fun are on the menu for everyone young and old.
Everyone loves an Oktoberfest, but the festival that’s nearest to Cyndi’s heart is the Plum Festival or Pflaumenfest. This special festival celebrates the two women at the heart of the Old World Village, Cyndi’s mother Dolores (the First Lady of the Old World Village), and Cyndi’s Oma, Elly.
In 1939, Elly Schwarzer took her American born daughter Dolores home to Germany for a visit, and to bring her father back with them to the US. While there, WWII broke out, and travel home to California was impossible. Mother and daughter were trapped in Germany for 9 years before they could make their way back to the US. In all this time, they never lost hope. Elly did all she could for her father and her daughter, and cooked them delicious meals out of nothing to keep their spirits up until they could go home.
Elly’s specialty was Pflaumenkuchen, made with a yeast dough and Italian Plums. She baked this plum cake for Dolores’s August birthday every year until she was 100 years old! When she passed at 103, Dolores shared her mother’s recipe to keep up the tradition at the German Deli and Bakery.
In 1995, the family chose to honor both Elly and Dolores with the first ever Plum Festival. Today, The Fest is better than ever! You can enjoy Pflaumenkuchen made with Elly’s special recipe, Berliner with Pflaumenmuß (Jelly donuts with plum jam), Plum Strudel, and Plum Cakes. (And of course, there are other German foods as well). The family friendly party includes games and fun for children and adults, performances by German Dance groups, and in many years, their famous Dachshund races. (Due to Covid restrictions, the races won’t happen in 2021).
Part of Southern California for over 40 Years
Growing up in a German family in Southern California meant we were always on the lookout for slices of Germany, and like so many families, when we had the chance, we would drop by the Old World Village… for the flavors of “home”. I’m delighted that Cyndie, Bernie, and their father Josef still honor the old traditions, and share some of that German way of life, and some great food, with the world around them. And I’m especially looking forward to a stopping by for a piece of Elly’s famous Pflaumenkuchen. Mmmmm.
Visit the Old World Village
7561 Center Ave. #49
Huntington Beach, CA 92647