We stayed at the Doubletree in Holland, MI, a nice hotel that turned out to be centrally located for the trips we made during our visit to Western Michigan. Because I'm a longtime Hilton Diamond member, we got a free breakfast each day we stayed at the hotel. But because we're more adventurous, we decided to pass up the free breakfasts at the hotel and seek out where the locals eat breakfast. One of those places was the Windmill Restaurant in downtown Holland.
The downtown Holland area is very nice - Holland, itself, is a very nice city. There are a number of shops and eateries that you won't find in malls. Being that it's less than 30 miles from Grand Rapids, we were told a number of people come from that area to shop in Holland because of the unique nature of their shopping and restaurants. The Windmill is located in the heart of the downtown area on W. 8th Street (see map). And because of the Dutch influence on the area, there's a lot of Dutch heritage touches to the city. The Windmill is named, of course, after the large Dutch windmills found all over the home country of The Netherlands. Owner Terry McMurry runs the little family restaurant that opens at 5 a.m. daily (7 a.m. on Sunday) and serves breakfast and lunch throughout the day until they close at 4 p.m. (2 p.m. on Sunday).
We got to the restaurant just after 9 a.m. and although the place isn't small, it was packed with a number of people getting breakfast. We had to wait in an area up front for about 15 minutes to get a table, but while we were there the line stretched out the door and onto the sidewalk. That's a good sign for any family-type restaurant like The Windmill.
The interior of the place is not fancy, but comfortable. The restaurant features a number of booths along the long wall, tables in the back and a couple tables with chairs and bench seats along the wall up front. There's an old style lunch counter that was lined full of people while we waited. The Windmill gives you a choice of a booth or table, or sitting at the counter. We talked about sitting at the counter, but I wanted a table or booth.
A table up front with a bench seat opened up and we were escorted there. There was another table of younger girls seated next to us that was just finishing up their breakfast fully cognisant that the more they dawdled, the more piercing stares they'd get from people who were standing in line waiting for their table to open up.
As we looked through the menu, we found a number of breakfast items that sounded pretty damn good. They also had comfort food staples such as meatloaf, hot beef sandwiches and burgers. But I was looking for things like French toast with blueberries on top, or blueberry pancakes, or anything with blueberries since we were in the heart of blueberry country in Western Michigan. We had heard some lady who was standing in line in front of us rave about the hash brown omelet, as well.
We saw something interesting on the menu that Cindy had to ask the waitress about when she brought her some coffee - thin pancakes, rolled up and filled and/or topped with your choice of brown sugar, powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. The waitress said, "Oh, yeah, they're very popular and really good." She explained that you could also get the rolled up pancakes with either a strawberry or blueberry filling. Cindy asked if the blueberries were fresh or if they were more like pie filling. The girl admitted that it was more like a pie filling. "It's not blueberry season around here yet. We won't start to get fresh blueberries until July or August." OK, that pretty much ruled out anything with blueberries for me.
I kept looking over the menu and decided to get the corned beef hash and Swiss cheese omelet. We'd noticed on the table next to us when another waitress was cleaning it off that there were these thick pieces of toast. Cindy asked if they made their own bread. The waitress said, "We sure do! You get your choice of either regular bread or the homemade bread for toast."
By this time, our waitress came back and we were ready to order. I did order the corned beef hash and Swiss cheese omelet along with a couple slices of the homemade whole wheat bread. Cindy ordered something called the Bird's Nest - one or two eggs over easy (Cindy got one egg) laid over hashbrowns mixed with real bacon bits, then topped with cheddar cheese. She got some of the homemade white bread toast. And she was intrigued enough to try one of the rolled pancakes with cinnamon sugar filling and topped with powdered sugar.
Since it was pretty busy at the restaurant, we knew it would take some time to get our food. We were seated right next to the front window and we marveled at how many people were standing in line to get in. At one point, Cindy counted 22 people standing in line. She said, "I think we came at the right time."
A family of four - man, wife, boy, girl - took the table next to us after the girls gave it up a few moments before. Now, I know this is close quarters and it's tough not to listen in on the conversations of others even when you don't want to, but this turned out to be another hazard of eating out. As we were waiting for our food, the family began to give their order. The boy - probably 11 or 12 - ordered his breakfast which included one of the roll up pancakes. The girl - a little older, we guessed - then ordered her breakfast which also included a roll up pancake, as well.
Then the father stepped in. He said, "OK, this is what we're going to do..." He immediately told the waitress to cancel the kids orders and he ordered FOR THE TABLE! "This is what he's gonna get," he told the waitress as she basically ripped the ticket out of her book and started over. Then he ordered for his daughter, then himself, then his wife. Cindy and I were just completely incredulous after we witnessed this. It was like he was saying, "No, no. You're not gonna get that. You're gonna get THIS!" He did order the rolled up pancakes for everyone, though. But still, why didn't he just begin to order for everyone before the waitress took the kids orders?
I didn't notice it at the time, but Cindy pointed out to me afterward that she felt the wife was a little creepy. "Did you see that she was just staring at us while we were eating," she asked me after we left. I did notice out of the corner of my eye the lady looking our way, but I thought she was looking out the window. Cindy said, "Oh no. She was just staring at us while we were eating, looking over our food. I almost asked her to please stop."
Our breakfast did show up about 20 minutes after we ordered and I was hungry. The thin omelet was good sized and chock full of a creamy mixture of Swiss cheese and what appeared to be homemade corned beef hash. It was excellent. It was more than enough for me along with the large pieces of homemade toasted whole wheat bread.
Cindy's Bird's Nest breakfast was not very big, sitting on a small plate that was dwarfed by the homemade white toast on her plate. She said it was very good and raved about the bread. "Oh, my God," she exclaimed. "This bread!" The bread was good. It was thick, fluffy, chewy and very flavorful. I don't know if there was an upcharge for the homemade bread over the regular bread, but I wondered why anyone would want to get a meal with regular bread rather than the homemade bread.
But the highlight of the meal was the pancake roll up. Cindy had asked for maple syrup to go along with the pancake, but a couple bites into it she decided she didn't need it. The cinnamon sugar inside the rolled up pancake was plentiful and the combination with the powdered sugar on top was a great taste sensation. We joked that we'd probably have a major sugar buzz afterward, but it was excellent in taste.
These little family restaurants like The Windmill are fun to find when we're out searching around for places like this to eat. Other than the family next to us with the obnoxious man and the lady staring at us while we were eating (we felt sorry for the kids - they seemed rather pleasant), we were very happy with our breakfast at The Windmill. We contemplated going back at some point during our visit to Holland, but decided to seek out other breakfast places in the area. But I wouldn't have minded going back in the least.