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Butler Eat’n Haus
*** 1/2
Out of a possible five
$

Eat’n is worth trip to Butler

In this quaint little town, on a quaint little street, lies a quaint little restaurant.

The Butler Eat’n Haus, my friend J.J. McCoy said, is the place to get beef and noodles. And with a name like that in a town like this, how could it not be?

The dish that McCoy – part of a large contingent of regulars who work at nearby Nucor Fastener in St. Joe – loves is the Wednesday special. And it really isn’t anything special in terms of makeup, but that is kind of what makes it special. It has tender, stringy bits of roast with thin noodles cooked until just al dente in “only pure broth,” said Robin Helbert, who owns and runs the restaurant with her husband.

Add a heap of mashed potatoes and a side of green beans, and you will be taken back in time, perhaps to your mom’s or grandma’s dinner table. The Amish-style baked goods from Dutch Heritage Baking and Catering in Spencerville will also take you back.

The women who run the bakery used to work at the Eat’n Haus. Their wheat and white breads on the salad bar were fantastic – moist and soft with that distinctive yeast flavor only homemade bread has – and, yes, there were pies.

Lots of pies.

Thirteen pies, to be exact.

The most impressive pie was the lemon meringue. I am not a big fan of lemon pie and even less of a fan of meringue because, honestly, when isn’t whipped cream better? The answer is when it is stacked up next to Dutch Heritage’s meringue, which was fluffy and light but still sweet and somewhat rich.

I wished the meringue topped some of the other pies – namely the dark brown butterscotch or the lightly whipped but still nutty peanut butter – but lemon was it.

There were also Dutch Heritage cookies and other baked goods at the register to take with you. They are sold separately and can’t be included on your bills, so if you are paying with plastic, take a little extra cash.

Also beware that on beef-and-noodles Wednesday, you won’t find any cookies. Helbert said Dutch Heritage delivers on Monday and Thursday, so they are always gone by Wednesday.

The Eat’n Haus makes its share of homemade goodies, too, and there was no better place to find them than on the salad and soup bar. All of the salad dressings are made from scratch, as is the slaw and macaroni, potato, broccoli-bacon and kidney bean salads. The shell macaroni was my favorite with its creamy, sweet dressing and diced red onions and pickles.

The soups I tried – cheesy potato, chili and cream of chicken – were all satisfying, but the cream of chicken was easily my favorite. Kind of a forgotten soup outside of casserole recipes, it was rich and somewhat buttery with big chunks of chicken and only needed a dash of pepper to make it perfect.

The Eat’n Haus also puts care into its Friday night staple, all-you-can-eat fish and frog legs. The restaurant offers pollock and cod, each with different house-made coatings. The sweeter, flakier pollock is dredged in a dry mix and the meatier, moister, unctuous cod – which, for my money, is the better choice – is coated in a wet batter. The frog legs are coated in a combination of batter and breading, and they, too, were worth the trip.

I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest taking some of that fish, a couple slices of the homemade bread and a squirt of homemade tartar sauce to make a fantastic fish sandwich.

There was little I didn’t like. The patty for my patty melt was mediocre at best, but the caraway-dotted rye bread and use of American and Swiss cheeses improved it immensely. The side order of hash browns, however, were not crisped enough and could have been cooked in butter or had some of the grilled onions from that patty melt because they were basically flavorless.

The service at the Butler Eat’n Haus was impeccable and even rose above normal expectations. For example, one server brought me ice water with the coffee I asked for with dessert just in case I wanted something cold to drink, too. Another was not just nice to my kids, but she went out of her way to talk to them and marvel at the crayon artwork on their paper placemats.

I guess that is the kind of treatment one should expect from such a quaint little restaurant on a quaint little street in a quaint little town.

Restaurant: Butler Eat’n Haus

Address: 223 S. Broadway St., Butler

Phone: 260-868-5523

Hours: 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Smoking status: Both; separate rooms

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Beef and noodles ($6.65; $5.65 light order), fish/frog legs ($8.99), patty melt ($3), pie ($2.65)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net, and you can hear Ryan from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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