For Orlando residents in the know, even though we have hot and hip foodie neighborhoods like Mills 50, the Milk District, and Winter Park, one of our most up-and-coming areas is Sanford, about half an hour north of downtown Orlando, in Seminole County. Sanford boasts a quaint, picturesque, historic downtown area of its own, with plenty of exciting restaurants, bars, and breweries along its cobblestone streets to tempt and tantalize anyone who appreciates good meals and tasty beverages.
Maybe downtown Sanford’s most beloved culinary destination is the German restaurant Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe (https://www.hollerbachs.com/). Theo Hollerbach has expanded his empire into a very good German market and deli (Magnolia Square Market), and even a clothing store for all your lederhosen and dirndl needs. But the restaurant is the main draw, a place to drink giant beers (if that’s your thing) and eat heaping plates of hearty, delicious food in a fun, festive, casual atmosphere.
Ze Germans have so many polysyllabic words that fit very specific situations and feelings, and the one they all take to heart at Hollerbach’s is gemütlichkeit, “a sense of well being one feels when enjoying the company of friends and family while savoring good food and drink.” You might not be able to pronounce it, especially after one of those aforementioned giant beers, but you will definitely feel it.
It doesn’t get much more fun or festive than this huge, soft, fresh Bavarian pretzel, which is served with with delicious sweet mustard (remember, the Saboscrivner is a mustard aficionado!) and savory, spicy beer-cheese spread called obadza. The two of us didn’t finish the whole thing, although we easily could have. Luckily, my wife isn’t into condiments, dips, sauces, or spreads, so more mustard and obadza for me!
At Hollerbach’s, I will usually order some combination of wurst (sausages), which are often just a mustard delivery system for me. But for our most recent lunch, I tried something new, and I’m so glad I did. This is eisbein, a skinless, bone-in pork shank, roasted to rich, tender perfection. The bone slid right out with no meat attached to it, and I could practically cut it with my fork! It made me so happy.
All the sides at Hollerbach’s are terrific, but I got mine with excellent sauerkraut (served warm with bacon, onions, and apples, and sweeter than what you’re used to on hot dogs) and potato salad (also served warm, with applewood smoked bacon, onions, pickles and vinegar, and sweeter and tangier than most potato salad you’ve had before). Obviously the sides were very complementary, and both worked well with the rich pork. This German mustard was quite spicy and helped open up my sinuses!
My wife always orders her favorite dish at Hollerbach’s: pork schnitzel, pounded flat and tender, coated in a cracker crumb breading, and pan-fried. She loves it with spätzle, which are buttery, cheesy, chewy homemade dumplings. For the uninitiated, they are kind of like tiny, uneven-textured, golden, buttery, pan-fried gnocchi.
They have a huge covered patio, and on cool, sunny days, we love to sit outside to eat, people-watch, and especially dog-watch. They almost always feature live music — usually a singing guitarist on the patio when we go for lunch on weekends, and a traditional German musical duo, Jimmy and Eckhard, that performs in the evenings, when people hoist their enormous beer steins and the place becomes a lot more raucous.
Hollerbach’s has beautiful cakes and other desserts that always tempt us, but this time, we walked directly across the street for my favorite ice cream in the Orlando area at Wondermade. I will have to review them some other time, but trust me — they have damn fine ice cream. But I really need to make it back, because my wife was too full and tired to head back around the corner to Hollerbach’s Magnolia Square Market, one of the best places around to buy sausages, salami, and other cured meats, as well as baked goods and other German groceries. An ethnic market with cured meats? That’s Saboscrivner heaven, friends.
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