Van Abels: Hollandtown, Wisconsin

(Her) There is no other place like Van Abels. Well, at least none that I know of.   They have been in the same location since 1848 and not many restaurants can say that. They operate sort of like a supper club.  You walk in and sit at the bar while you order and wait for a table to be prepared.  While you are at the bar make sure you ask them to mail a postcard for you–they will do this for free if you are using one of their postcards.  You might also want to try one of the craziest bloody mary’s I’ve ever seen.  It comes complete with, among other things, a sausage and mozzarella whips.  It was just so “Wisconsin” I wished I liked bloody mary’s.  The elderly ladies at the table next to us sure seemed to enjoy them.
The quintessential way to order your food at Van Abel’s is “country style.”  It really blows my mind every time we go.  You are seated at a table and plates and bowls of food are brought out to you.  I’ve had country or family style meals at other places, but never to this magnitude.  You start with appetizers like a bread basket and a hunk of butter, 3 bean salad, carrots celery and green onions, and fresh cut coleslaw.  Fresh cut coleslaw? you heard me. That’s shredded cabbage with a vinegar-y dressing over it….I have made trips to Van Abel’s for their coleslaw alone.   The hubby actually trusts that Van Abel’s will always deliver the goods so much that he was willing to eat around the onions in their 3 bean salad just to have a taste. (the people who really know Greg won’t believe this of course, but I saw it with my own four eyes!)
Next, your meal is brought out family style.  Here’s the rundown:
A plate of broasted chicken or fish or both, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, corn, cranberries, pickles and lemon if you got fish, and the most amazing green beans with bacon sauce.  I’ve been told that people are obsessed with the green beans from Van Abel’s…I can totally see it, I’ve never had anything like them anywhere else.  Everything here is homemade and you can tell the recipes have been around forever.  For me it’s like eating dinner at grandma’s.  I even tried to set the milk on the floor and had to stop myself (my family will get this reference).  For a better understanding of the massiveness of this spread, check it out here on Living with Amy
Just when you think you are done, a plate of bars is brought out. I can’t even remember what is all on there, I just know that everything is awesome.  Our waitress told us the peanut butter rice krispie bars are a big hit.  The food is tweaked a little bit depending on which night you are there, but it’s always a buffet delivered to your table.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the amount of food.  If you do go, bring friends or family with you, it’s a better experience to eat family style when your family is bigger than 2.  I was a little disappointed with our last visit because we assumed they would tailor the food brought out to the amount of people sitting at the table–it was just the two of us.   So much food went to waste that I really was upset.  Everything they serve family style is all you can eat, so I really wish they would have started us out smaller and brought food out as we finished things.  A plate with 8 pieces of chicken on it, a 2 pound plate of ham, a plate of 8 rice krispie bars, and an entire pitcher of milk made it seem like the waitress was a little out of touch with what was going on at our table.  It was however, completely our mistake for assuming they would make adjustments and not ordering a different way. In her defense,  I think the waitress did sense that we were a little distraught, because she did let me pack a lunch for the next day even though you don’t usually take food home from an all you can eat.  Next time, we will definitely bring at least another couple with us. (That means you Chris and Kris– fire up your feed bags)
Food 9   Value 10  Ambience 8.935

(Him) This place is moving on up the list. Each time I go it gets better. Truth be told it’s fat man nirvana as they serve you family style which allows you to keep eating and eating and eating. The wife really sums it up and I can offer no more. Well….they did show the Brewers playoff game on a big screen in the middle of the dining room so that was way cool much to my wife’s chagrin. What was that you say….um…oh yeah….was that a fair ball? This was the normal conversation between at bats. A whole pitcher of Milk. That’s right. A whole flippin’ pitcher. Perhaps that’s the price of admission. The bar is cool, the business history is cool, the game room with outdated but not yet vintage games is cool. Even the old bartender sports a black eye.   Who the hell is that 70 year old guy scrapping with? They are rough and tumble in Hollandtown.  So er… just go here and enjoy. 9.5 all around.

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