Are you getting your fair share of Gemütlichkeit? It’s a wonderful German word that means a sense of well-being and good cheer in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe runneth over with Gemütlichkeit. “We make it happen,” says Theo Hollenbach, who owns the complex with his wife, Linda Hollerbach, and daughter, Christina Hollerbach-Simmons. “I tell all the people that work for me, they have to make people smile.”
What began as a single-room German eatery in 2001 has mushroomed into a drinking, dining, shopping and entertainment complex in historic Downtown Sanford. Hollerbach’s restaurant, the eating and drinking focal point, has grown into a large indoor dining area with an expansive outdoor deck.
This is the kind of place where you can raise a stein of imported beer — spill a bit if you like — throw your arm around a friend or stranger, join the oom-pah band in a robust singalong, and lock arms in dance. If you’re feeling especially festive, order up a three-liter “Das Boot” of Bier.
The long-standing duo of Jimmy (on accordion and vocals) and Eckhard (who sings and plays all sorts of stuff, including a long Alpine horn) entertain Hollerbach’s boisterous crowds. With ceaseless smiles, they perform German traditionals, folk music, Americana tunes, a few Italian ditties, and place a big emphasis on interacting with the audience. “What I love about Jimmy and Eckhard is that they play nearly the same show four days a week, but every time they do it, it feels like the first time,” says Linda Hollerbach.
A little weary of menus touting fancy fusion, gluten-free, hipster-influenced dishes, usually in small portions? You’ll get the full meat-and-potatoes treatment at Hollerbach’s. Its traditional German menu includes staples like Bavarian pretzels, Wienerschnitzel, Sauerbraten, sausages, wursts, potato pancakes and the rest. (The restaurant does offer vegetarian and gluten-free options, but we forgive them.) Don’t worry about leaving hungry.
Got beer? Of course — it’s the main attraction at Hollerbach’s. The bar offers a generous selection of mostly German brews, and you can order them in .3 liter, half-liter, one liter, two-liter and … Das Boot! (It holds three liters, but come on -- who doesn’t want to drink out of a big glass boot?) There’s also wine, schnapps and specialty cocktails like the Munich Mule (made with German fig vodka).
The Hollerbach’s complex now includes Magnolia Square Market, an authentic German deli, bakery, and shop. (We dare you to resist their decadent desserts.)
Lederhosen and other Teutonic garb is optional at Hollerbach’s, but if you want to be all in, Hollerbach’s Outfitters is right next door. Puffy-sleeved blouses, embroidered dresses and aprons for women; traditional breeches, embroidered suspenders, side-laced shoes and feathered hats for men. Go ahead, suit up. It’s okay if your new duds pick up some beer spillage or a couple mustard stains.
Hollerbach’s is in the midst of yet more growth. When completed in late 2019, it will include increased bar and dining room seating, a waiting area, meeting spaces — and most exciting — a second-story Biergarten.
So, by all means, komm mit auf die party. (Come join the party.) It’s pretty much non-stop at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe.