Monday, May 3, 2010

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café: Sneaking German food into a generic menu is our specialty

They sure know how to pack in a busy Sunday brunch crowd at Hollerbach’s! With 65% of the items being nontraditional German food, I could tell that German food is NOT their traffic-maker.

Being recommended by two different German acquaintances of mine, I traversed to sleepy little Sanford on a perfect spring day. I was expecting a small eatery, but this place was sizeable with several rooms, an outdoor patio with live music, a bar, and a separate dessert counter. My companion and I settled for the best bang for our buck- the Schlachthaus Platter Für Zwei ($26.59) with German potato salad, sauerkraut, sweet red cabbage, and Leberkäse.

Where to begin writing about this spread? Let’s see, three different sausages were presented- Bratwurst, Weisswurst, and Knackwurst. {It is worthy of mentioning that this is the proprietors’ grandfathers’ personal recipe that is specially made in Wisconsin and shipped directly to him.} The Bratwurst was thick, meaty, and (not surprisingly) salty. The casing was a little chewy but the innards were good. The fatty Knackwurst was bold with accents of pepper and onion. Of the trio, the Weisswurst was a personal favorite- soft, perfectly seasoned veal, with a mouth-watering creamy texture to the sausage. The Leberkäse (think of it as bologna or exalted spam) was a well-seasoned slice of pork. Mildly smoky, it was smooth and so soft to chew on. It would have been the clear front runner had the exterior been crispy- as that is traditionally how it’s made. Another accompaniment, the Kassler (a boneless smoked pork loin slice) was salty and lightly fried with a fabulous pork jus. To round off, the meal was served with horseradish and mustard dippings.

The red cabbage was tart and almost syrupy sweet. Which was fine, however, I even noted the sweetness in the potato salad (more like rough mashed potatoes) with parsley and ham bits in the mix. I found this to be a little unappealing. The sauerkraut was a miss as well- there was not a single note of granny smith apples as advertised (it would have greatly helped this dish).

On a whim I ordered Spätzle with Rahm sauce. It turned out to be a VERY addictive side item and was quickly devoured. The Spätzlebrett method produced uneven, random-sized bits of doughy goodness that were so fulfilling. They just slid down my throat while my tongue concurrently screamed for more. Don’t you just love whims?

To go the extra mile, we ordered their German chocolate cake. SPLENDID. Light layers of cake with equally light frosting layers danced in my mouth over chocolate shavings. I didn’t like the Chocolate Pistachio Cake- it was obviously an old prisoner of the fridge.

A special thanks goes out to our server- Cory. You really knew your restaurant, its history, and even your boss’ history. We felt grateful to be under your brief care.

IN A NUTSHELL: Not that you have many other choices, but this is a decent way to sneak some German food into your belly for cautious first-timers. A full bar establishment, try dinner hours if you want more German food selections. This place has been around for a while and it continues to grow and morph (hence the weird American options on one page, while entrée words you can barely pronounce on the other). Try and spot the owner- for a hint, he can pass for Santa Claus.
Hollerbach's Willow Tree Café on Urbanspoon


  1. I really enjoyed my trip to the the Willow Tree back in 09. I fully intend to go back one of these days...

    But you really liked the Weisswurst? *shudder*

  2. I guess I lucked out with a nice Weiss!
    It was good. Cory was awesome. He bartends during daytime.

  3. We were thrilled to finally find a good German restaurant with good food, and finally some good German beer. A wee bit expensive for the amount given, but that's ok. We truly enjoyed our visit and were well taken care of. We'll certainly be back. And we were able to get some good cold cuts and German items at their new supermarket around the corner. Delicious bread a must try...