Exploring Frankenmuth: A Recipe Journey

the Bavarian inn entrance

A Charming Town with a Flavorful Reputation

Frankenmuth, nestled in mid Michigan, is a picturesque small town that exudes warmth and history. While its not the biggest tourist spot out there, it has carved out a special place for itself in Michigan.  After eating here I knew I had to make some Frankenmuth Recipes.  Here are some of the reasons why Frankenmuth stands out:

  • Bronner’s Christmas Store: Known far and wide, Bronner’s is a holiday wonderland that celebrates Christmas year-round. From twinkling lights to festive ornaments, this store is a must-visit for anyone seeking a dose of holiday cheer.
  • German Lutheran Heritage: Frankenmuth proudly wears its German heritage, specifically Bavarian heritage. The town’s roots trace back to the 19th century when German settlers established a community here. Their influence is still palpable in the architecture, traditions, and even the language spoken by some locals.   I had dinner with a German colleague a couple weeks ago who did grad school in Michigan.  He noted how the German spoken  in Frankenmuth is an old dialect, full of old school words and phrases.  It was like visiting a 1950s American diner.
  • Chicken Dinners: But perhaps the most mouthwatering reason to visit Frankenmuth is its reputation for delicious chicken dinners.  Frankenmuth has been known for its chicken dinners since 1888.   My coworkers have very deep opinions on where the best chicken in Frankenmuth is!
steam fried chicken on a plate with buttered noodles and cranberry relish

Frankenmuth Recipes

I put together three copycat recipes of my favorite things from the meal.  If your mouth is watering, you should check them out: 

  1. Zehnder’s Chicken Recipe: This is my new favorite way to make fried chicken.  We steam the chicken before frying so that both the breading and chicken come out perfect.
  2. Bavarian Inn Buttered Noodles:  These aren’t your grandma’s egg noodles.  We use wide thick egg noodles and lots of chicken flavor for a great noodle side.
  3. Frankenmuth Cranberry Relish:  This relish is closer to a thanksgiving cranberry side dish than a pickle relish.  It’s both sweet and tart and goes great with fried chicken.

A Bavarian Adventure at the Bavarian Inn

During our recent visit, we decided to eat at what I’d call the most iconic building in town, the Bavarian Inn.   To give you my impressions:

  • Nice Bavarian Facade: The Bavarian Inn greets visitors with a charming facade straight out of a fairytale. Its half-timbered architecture, flower boxes, and intricate woodwork evoke the spirit of Bavaria. And if that weren’t enchanting enough, there’s a real working glockenspiel that chimes melodiously throughout the day.   Allan and I toured Bavaria in 2019, and the Bavarian Inn would fit right in with some of the small country towns outside Nuremberg and Munich.  In fact, the clock reminded us of the big glockenspiel in Munich. 
  • Romantic Carriages: As we approached the entrance, horse-drawn carriages lined the front—a scene that felt straight out of a period drama. Couples strolled hand in hand, and the clip-clop of hooves added to the ambiance and romantic atmosphere.
  • Nostalgia Beckons: Stepping inside the restaurant, we were transported to a bygone era. The interior exudes warmth, with polished wooden beams, antique lanterns, and cozy nooks.  It reminded me of going to big family meals as a child.
Munich clock tower

A Feast Fit for Royalty

Frankenmuth chicken dinners are often served family style, meaning the courses are served off common plates that the whole table takes from.  The meal flowed this way:

  1. Two kinds of bread and soup.   We were given a platter of stollen bread (sweet bread with fruit) and white bread.
  2. The main course.  They put out four kinds of salads and relish, buttered noodles, five kinds of meat, gravy, and more.   The meats included ham, schnitzel, roast beef, bratwurst, and of course fried chicken.
  3. Dessert, we were served adorable dishes of ice cream.

A Tale of Two Zehnder’s

Why the dual presence of Zehnder’s and Zehnder’s Bavarian Inn across the street from each other?  Both restaurants trace their lineage back to the same Zehnder family. The family split between the two restaurants back in the 1950s.  Zehnder’s chose to embrace more American sides, while the Bavarian Inn leaned toward its Germanic heritage.  Both have very similar fried chicken and there is overlap on their sides.

Whether you’re drawn to the nostalgia of the Bavarian Inn or the classic American fare at Zehnder’s, Frankenmuth promises a culinary adventure that transcends time and borders. Prost! 

Zehnder's fried chicken with buttered noodles gravy and cranberry relish
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