Always busy, always fun, and always good food--that sums up Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe in downtown Sanford. My visit there the other night with my friend Creighton only served to reinforce what many an area resident (and visitor) already knows--Hollerbach's rocks!
We journeyed out on a rainly and gloomy Friday night. Most of downtown Sanford seemed pretty well shut down. Even my favorite Art Affair Gallery was closed for the evening. But the street was lined with cars and there were plenty of people out and about--most of them dining at one of the many fine establishments in downtown Sanford. Hollerbach's was no exception.
We were lucky to go there on a somewhat rainy Friday night--normally there is a wait to be seated, but not this night. Also, we were there a bit early, just before7 PM. Nonetheless, they were quite busy and the inside seemed fairly packed. We chose to sit outside as it was a pleasant evening and it was a bit quieter outside. We were promptly greeted and seated. Within a minute or two our waitress appeared and took our drink order. In due time she arrived with our drinks--a half liter of a fine German Lager for me, and a glass of Riesling for Creighton. Just as our drinks were about to arrive, the live music started. At that point we discovered we were seated right by the speaker! Our waitress arrive with the drinks and offered to turn the speakers away from us, but then also offered to move us to a table a bit further away. We gladly accepted that offer. Nice service!
We promptly placed our order and, in due time, our food began to arrive. And in the meantime, we enjoyed the live music. The people inside were sure having a lot of fun, and the musicians were playing to their crowd, encouraging partipation, singing, and dancing. At one point they went through a list of the birthday celebrants there--it seems like all of Sanford come to Hollerbach's to celebrate a birthday, it was quite a list.
A plate of assorted bread (along with butter) was served. This was no ordinary bread. The white bread was sort of a French Bread, but quiet tasty and a bit warm. The rye bread was very, very good--a nice rye flavor, somewhat crusty, and oh, so good.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Spargel mit Schinken. This was six spears of tender white asparagus wrapped in prosciutto-like Black Forest Ham and served on a bed of mixed greens with some melon. I was surprised by the mushiness of the white asparagus, but overall the dish had a nice flavor. That was due, for the most part, to the black forest ham. The softness of the white aparagus was pleasantly offsett by the chewy texture of the ham, as well as the crunchiness of the melon. It was pretty good though I do not think I'd order it again.
I ordered a side salad. The Side salad was basically romain with some cucumbers, green peppers, onion, tomatoes, and croutons. I had the homemade buttermilk ranch dressing served on the side--that was very good! As salads go, this was pretty average, but definitely a good salad. The star of the dish was really the buttermilk dressing because it was very subtle and did not overpower the the other components.
For his main dish, my friend Creighton had the Sauerbraten. I had a bite--it was excellent. It had a nice sweet/sour flavor and was very tender. Very tender. The gravy that was over the sauerbraten was also very good, rich and dark and full of flavor. I did not try the sauerkraut, though Creighton said it was good. The Heaven and Earth Potatoes were interesting. This was mashed potatoes that were mixed with sauteed onions, bacon and apples. I think the onions and bacon were great flavors, but I found the sweetness of the apples to be somewhat confusing to my taste buds--it is not what I expect of mashed potatoes. Still it was pretty good.
For my main course I had the Beef Rouladen--thins slices of beef rolled up wtih bacon, pickles, mustard and onions. It was OK. I found the beef to be just a bit dry, and had a hard time tasting the pickles, mustard and onions. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, it just was not the outstanding dish I had hoped for, especially due to the dryness of the beef. It was topped with a gravy similar to the sauerbraten, thick and dark and rich. For go-withs I had red cabbage and spaetzle--both were very good. The red cabbage was good as any i've had, but not superior to any others, either. However, I did find the spaetzle to be superior--outstanding even--they were very tasty and a definite hit with me.
Overall, we had a very good meal here. I'd say it was as good a German meal as I've ever had, but also not any better than some I've had. I've had an equally good meal at the Bavarian Restaurant in Longwood. Of course, where Hollerbach's excels was in the service--it was outstanding, in the atmosphere--the live music really gives the place a German feel, and in it's business--it feels like a fun place, just due to all the hustle and bustle all around you. Certainly a place to eat at if you're in downtown Sanford. Very good German food in a nice atmosphere with a friendly staff. I'll be back!