Dining in Holland
Last July, Don and I squeezed in a little Dutch Dining Adventure on our Michigan trip.
I remember Holland, Michigan from when I was about 10. Sometimes you just have to revisit some of those old memories, when you have a chance.
I remember going to some kind of Dutch Village when I was a kid. So of course, I told Don we needed to play tourist, before lunch.
Actually the village I remember was costly and more for kids. We opted to spend time at Windmill Island, instead.
We got to go up in the DeZwaan Windmill, which is an actual working mill, brought over from Holland over 50 years ago. I saw a lot of wooden shoes and missed the ones I remember buying years ago.
Then it was time to catch lunch in downtown Holland. The sweet little diner looked picture perfect.
There was a pair of kissing Dutch kids in the window, plus a welcoming sign. Luckily there was no line. We heard the place could be crowded. It was nearly 2:00 and luckily they were still open. We headed in.
There were lots of stools available at the counter.
We could have had some chat time with the staff, if we'd gone for counter dining.
There were lots of cozy booths and most of them were full.
I sort of liked this odd one at the very back of the room. It had a framed print of the Big Red Lighthouse, that we also saw in the morning.
We were given a nice booth in the front. Don took a seat and I snapped a few pics.
If I'd had more time, I could have counted tulips or windmills or cute kissing figures. I'm not sure what the history is with the kissing Dutch kids.
We were actually starved, so everything on the menu looked wonderful.
I ordered the egg salad, with bacon and tomato, on homemade toasted bread. Even the waxed paper had little windmills.
Our messy sandwiches were delicious. Don's French Dip was as good as the reviews we'd read before arrival.
I got my turn to attack my overstuffed sandwich!
I allowed Don to take a photo of me and my egg salad sandwich. I was pretending to be Elaine May in "A New Leaf". Don played Walter Matthau, politely telling me when I had egg on my face.
Our server was quite young and couldn't tell us much about the history of our restaurant.
I read later that the cozy place had been a restaurant since the 1940's. It didn't take on the Windmill theme until 1964.
Our young server did know a little bit about the annual Tulip Festival.
I asked her if she had ever seen the 1942 movie, "Seven Sweethearts" and of course she hadn't. I told her she must!
"It's about this very town and the tulip festival!" I practically shouted. She actually seemed curious about the old movie. This photo reminded me of a scene in the old film.
I was excited to hear that the town still participates in a street scrubbing activity, before the festivities begin.
We finished up and got ready to head off. I took one last look at a shelf of Dutch decor.
Sigh... I laid eyes on the sweet wooden shoes and remembered the pair that I I once owned. I wore those things daily for quite a while, even after my dog chewed off the points!
Fun stop with good food and good memories!
Last July, Don and I put Frankenmuth on our Michigan road trip route.
For over 45 years, I have wanted to return to "Michigan's Little Bavaria". I have fond memories of eating in some kind of German restaurant with my family. I narrowed it down to two places that were around in 1973. Was it Zehnder's or Bavarian Inn Restaurant?
July 5, 2020
Don and I drove into town on a beautiful summer day. It was Friday, the day after July 4th. Main Street was surprisingly uncrowded.
Right away, we spotted the two restaurants, across the street from each other. Neither one actually rang a bell with my teen memory. But both had me very curious.
Lunch at Zehnder's
We decided to go for lunch at Zehnder's, even though the fine neon sign announced chicken dinners, not German food.
The sign was quite the lure. I believe it's been there since the 1930's. William and Emilie Zehnder's restaurant goes back to 1929.
The Zehnders started their biz in a building that had been the New Exchange Hotel. (originally built in 1856) Instead of focussing on German food and decor, they added some colonial columns and started serving chicken dinners.
I was curious to step inside and see what the place was all about. I heard there were 10 dining rooms! It all seemed a little like a theme park.
It was about noon, when Don and I arrived. We spotted a couple of hostesses, who looked like they were wearing uniforms left over from the restaurant's grand opening, 90 years ago.
Lots of People
The tourists inside the restaurant, weren't dressed at all like those diners from long ago. The dining and waiting areas were filled with people in shorts and ball caps, flip flops and tank tops.
We were welcomed at the door and our name was taken. Then we were directed to one of the waiting lines.
Quick Look Around
Don held our spot and I peeked around. Some rooms looked like banquet halls. I wasn't thrilled about that idea. The Original Dining Room was much smaller. It was built in 1856 and rebuilt about a century later.
The Original Room had a very 1950's feel. So did the waiting area, just outside the room. There was a fireplace and a big console TV and a small crowd of tired looking folks. Were they lounging after feasting? Were they letting someone hold their spot in line? Where were all these people from. Frankenmuth only has about 5,000 residents.
Cowpath Dining Room!
I headed back to join Don, just before our name was called. A gracious young woman asked us to follow her into one of the enormous dining rooms. I tried to find a tone that was the opposite of annoyed tourist and I asked,
"Is it at all possible to put us on a waiting list, for a smaller dining room? We would love that."
She didn't act a bit bothered. She peeked inside a nearby doorway, then said it would be just a minute. Pretty soon, she was escorting us to a little wooden booth in the "Cowpath Dining Room".
I should have asked about that odd name. But, I was thrilled with our sweet little room. It felt like we'd stepped right out of Old Colonial America, into a Bavarian cafe.
There were only five booths, each with carved and painted detail. We sat down and Don ordered a beer to honor the Zehnder's German roots. It was not nearly as gigantic as my photo suggests. Or maybe it was?
I made Don pose again, to show off our cozy spot with our own chandelier!
Dana, our very sweet and young server, greeted us in her little white cap and apron. She was delighted that this was our first visit.
She got us started, with some Creamy Cabbage Salad, along with some homemade bread and jam. The stollen-type bread, was served in an odd covered dish. It was yummy, with little bits of dried cherry and pistaccio. Dana seemed delighted that we liked it. She talked about growing up in the area and her cooking with her grandmother. I pictured Dana with her dear old granny, in a flour-dusted apron... and then realized I was probably older than her grandma.
German and American Food
I love family-style dining, but Don wanted German food and I wanted chicken. Plus, we weren't hungry enough for all-you-can-eat family-style chicken, for $25. each. Luckily there were plate options.
Don and I were happy with our choices. I got a $15. plate with 2 pieces of chicken, mashed taters and dressing. Don got a corned beef Reuben, on swirl rye, with homemade chips. All good!
Bavarian Inn Restaurant
Since we were spending the night, we were able to check out the Bavarian Inn, later.
There was a bit of a Disney World atmosphere, as we approached the complex of storybook buildings.
Today, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant and Zehnder's, are both owned by descendants of William and Emilie. After a little internet search, it became clear that the two are in competition. Both serve fried chicken, but the Bavarian Inn obviously is the one that embraces the German culture.
The entrance on Main Street was pretty festive with colorful flowers, shutters and German figures, popping out of windows. We headed over to learn more.
The Bavarian Inn, like Zehnder's, had once been a hotel. The Fischer Hotel was the first establishment in Frankenmuth to offer up platters of fried chicken. What is it with all this chicken?
The Zehnder's bought Fischer's, in 1950 and had their son "Tiny" manage the restaurant. By 1959, they expanded and embraced a new Bavarian look.
Don and I explored in the early afternoon. We compared the exterior to some old photos.
In the first old photo, you can see the 1959 addition, next to the old hotel. The addition has spiffed up quite a bit since then, with a glockenspiel tower and a festive biergarten.
Don and I entered a door, near the tower and got a little lost with our wandering.
We traveled down some halls and up and down stairs. There were plenty of amusing surprises. A mighty grand Pied Piper mural decorated the walls, on the way down to a giant basement gift shop.
There were halls and walls, covered with photos and plaques. Lots of family photos and history.
Around 7:00, Don and I headed to the main restaurant entrance. We weren't hungry for dinner yet, but we checked out the options. There were supposedly 12 dining rooms.
There were two rooms off the main entrance. Tiny's Room would have been my pick, but it wasn't open. Tiny died in 2006, but his wife can still be spotted on the property. Almost 98 years old!
The Family Crest Room was fairly full. The waiters in lederhosen and felt hats, bustled around. I found numerous rooms that looked more inviting, but they weren't open. It made me wonder when the dining rooms ever get used... if not on a Friday in July.
Michigan on Main, Bar & Grill
Don and I decided to step into the adjoining bar/grill for some fine photo ops and beer.
We just weren't quite ready to take on all the families in the big dining room. I found a more interesting fellow to befriend, at the bar. My dashing mannequin in lederhosen, seemed to be moping. I failed to cheer him up.
We cheered ourselves up by sharing a giant pretzel at the bar. We also listened to lots of local gossip, since we seemed to be at the go-to spot for the young, afterwork crowd.
By the time Don and I finished our pretzel we both agreed we just didn't have the appetite or energy to face the family-filled dining room.
We headed back to Bavarian Inn Lodge, as the sun was going down.
When we reached the lodge, we made a spontaneous stop at Oma's Restaurant. We enjoyed some live music and continued our poor eating habits, with bottomless bowls of popcorn.
I didn't get to do any polka dancing, but we did participate in the nightly Schnitzelbank singalong. Our server Holly handed out napkins with the verses and we fumbled along with the words and motions. What a way to end the evening!
I'm afraid Don and I did not do a very complete job of exploring the dining options of Frankenmuth. We need bigger appetites and budgets. But we loved wandering and nibbling here and there! We had chicken and a German Rueben in Frankenmuth. That will do it for us, this time!
Roadside Lunch in Missouri
Last November Don and I stopped for lunch, not far from the touristy Branson area. We were traveling on Highway 265, when we spotted the log cafe.
I couldn't resist the red rocking chairs and the chainsaw art. Plus, the name Billy Gail's sounded perfect for Arkansas. It sounded like something from the old sitcom, Petticoat Junction.
We pulled right off the road and headed for the red door. There were lots of signs, besides the big one on the roof. The bear held an Open sign.
There were 3 signs and a dozen stickers on the door glass. There was a Come On In sign and a Happy Holidays sign and a Let It Snow announcement, painted on the window.
Once inside, there was lots to see in the front room.
There were shelves and cases, filled with well-loved toys. This was very entertaining for the Baby Boomer in me. It's scary to see how many toys I recognized.
There were also things for sale, like jams and hats and leopard skin purses. And there was another sign. Huggin" Place. Now that was a mighty sweet sign.
There was a little kitchen-corner with coffee and mugs. That must have been set up for busy times, when folks have to wait a while for a table.
During touristy summer months, you might have to wait a while on one of the red benches. The only one we saw waiting, was the Grinch.
Our Dining Room
There was a bit of a maze of rooms. The 50+ year old building has probably seen some additions and alterations over the years.
We were given a table in a cozy room, filled with lots antique what-nots and locals, who greeted the servers by name.
Our server was energetic and pleasant when she handed us menus. She introduced herself with a helpful tip, so we wouldn't forget her name. "Just remember the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's!"
Besides the menu I saw another sign worth reading. It was a poem, by Trey. I read the poem and got another hint. I should try the pancakes... as big as hubcaps!
Checks of All Colors
Don and I decided to go all breakfast for lunch.
Tiffany brought our plates and offered to snap a photo. Wow! I had no idea how fantastic we looked, with all our checks!
Don's ham and cheese omelet was covered with crispy hash browns. He was in heaven.
My pancake was ridiculously fun!
The buttermilk circle hung about an inch off the edge of my plate. I had to stare at the other diners to figure out how to approach the beast! Folding was the only way. Hopefully I put on more syrup than this photo! My mouth feels dry just looking at it!
After we finished our feast, the rush was over. I was able to peek around a little more.
I of course found more signs. Prayers go up, Blessings come down. That sign was beneath the carousel horse. I kind of liked the rusty egg sign.
My eyes were drawn to some old games that I remember from my childhood. So many hours of croquet, in so many yards! I spotted a wooden Carrom board! Whatever happened to the one my family owned?
More Toys at Checkout
We headed to the front room to check out. I got to admire more of the toys.
The man at the register, I believe was a member of Billy and Gail's family. Billy Gail was not one person, but two. They bought the building in the 1995 and named the restaurant with both their names. As I looked around the place, I overheard a phone conversation. Someone said that Gail hadn't been well. I detected real worry in the tone.
Sit a Spell
We took our leftovers and headed outside to have another look at the curious property and the rambling building.
I wondered about Billy and Gail, who created their own cafe along the highway 25 years ago. As we drove away, I looked it up on my phone and read that Billy had passed away in 2012.
Billy Gail's a Few Months Later
As usual, I'm behind on blog posts. It's been 4 months since Don and I had our fabulous breakfast feast.
I looked up Billy Gail's just moments ago and learned that Gail passed away just weeks after our visit. That made me sad. I hope Billy and Gail's kids can hold onto the sweet place.
I could sure use one of those gigantic pancakes right now.
Missouri Lunch in the Fall
Don and I stopped for lunch in Neohso, this past November.
We were up for a small town dining experience. There was something about the name "Charley's Grill" that sounded like a good bet!
Just off the Square
We found the cafe, on a small street off the main square.
I liked the metal awning and red trim. The hay bales and pumpkins invited us right on in.
I wondered if we might be sharing the diner with some workmen, when I saw the truck pulled up in front. We love to eat where the locals eat. The truck actually belonged to some young, local women. The happy, chatty women were leaving as we entered.
We opened the door and made a small racket, when the dangling metal cup and utensils, clanged from above.
The owner, BJ greeted from the grill. We took a table near a glassed in display case.
We learned that Charley's has been a local favorite for 38 years. BJ and his wife Amanda have owned the biz for about 7.
I'm not sure how old the building is, but it was a jewelry store at one time.
It was also a dental office for a while. But how about the fine display shelves? Maybe they were put in when Charley's first opened. I spotted lots of cookie jars and old photos.
BJ left the grill to hand us menus. His wife Amanda was in back at that moment.
I was pretty excited about trying the Lunch Plate special, "Spaghetti Red"! Pasta with chili sounded perfect! Watching BJ tend my spaghetti on the grill, just made me laugh.
I was thrilled about the presentation of my meal! I was thrilled about the price! $5.95!
My pasta was buried in chili and surround by pickle chips and shredded onions. It hit the spot! I ate every bit, which is unusual for me!
Original Charley Burger
Don's burger was equally yummy. The caramelized onions were grilled right into the patty. The flattened patty was nice and crisp around the edges! Yum!
The atmosphere surrounding us was pleasant and upbeat. I could hear BJ whistling with the radio tunes. I could see Amanda greeting a few regulars with hugs.
Thanks BJ and Amanda!
It's nice to see a young couple running a "Mom and Pop" restaurant. They've been doing this for a few years, but they showed no signs of burning out.
I would be burned out in a day. They said they had been there since 6 am and they seemed to have no other help. But they were in cheery spirits!
Cheery cheers to Spaghetti Red and to the young owners of Charley's Grill! It was a good lunch and a good visit!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.