Dairyland was making up for the chill of the outdoors with a truly tropical atmosphere inside.
When we left the house a little after 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, with the intention of going to the craft fair at the Warner Park Community and Recreation Center and then accomplishing a few errands, it hadn't started snowing yet. When we left the center shortly before 10:30 a.m., Warner Park was cloaked in white.
Then, to Woodman's East, where the checkout lines were the longest I've ever seen, backed up well into the shampoo/aspirin area. Despite that, those in line retained a chummy fellowship with their fellow shoppers. And we had the chance to catch up on the latest in celebrity news (apparently Brit is pregnant -- again!).
Then to Farm and Fleet, via Dempsey Road to avoid blowing snow on Highway 51. On the way, I realized we were less than a block away from the Dairyland Family Restaurant, a place I have been passing for years and yet have never tried. So we made a foray into its driveway, the location of which was becoming ever more difficult to discern. What a perfect time for diner food: a snowy late breakfast/lunch.
Dairyland features a traditional diner counter, booths, and tables. If I had it to do over, I'd have sat at the counter for more of that snowstorm camaraderie, because this is the kind of place where banter balances the middle-of-the-road food. Memorable snowstorm meals don't depend on high cuisine -- coffee and chocolate cake, or Plazaburgers and fries, or a red brat; all work fine.
Dairyland was making up for the chill of the outdoors with a truly tropical atmosphere inside. I have not eaten in a restaurant this hot since the back room of Jamerica during a July heat wave. I have to say that keeping a dining room this toasty might tend to take away the appetite of potential diners.
The breakfast half of the meal consisted of a ham and cheese omelet; the lunch half, a Reuben. The Reuben came with fries and a cup of soup, with a choice between two soups du jour -- potato or beef noodle. The beef noodle was good enough, with lots of veggies. The Reuben featured rather thick slices of corned beef, and was pronounced "okay," although not up to the one recently experienced at Erin's Snug Irish Pub, which has set a new bar for Reubens in our household. Still, that was a lot of food for under $6.
The ham and cheese omelet was good-sized (enough for two people, or two meals, take your pick; also under $6) and came with home fries that were perfectly done -- crispy on the pan side without being burned. The omelet came with orangey American cheese, but a cheese upgrade was available for a small sum. The proportion of cheese and ham to egg was good. It was not much different from the ham and cheese omelet you'd get at a Madison classic like Mickie's Dairy Bar, though I think the omelet there is larger.
Toast options included wheat, white, rye and sourdough, but the sourdough was overly buttered, undertoasted, and definitely white-bread. Still, I'd rather have undertoasted than burnt.
I admit that if it weren't for the perfect storm (ha ha) of the snow, our location between Woodman's and Farm and Fleet, and the noon hour, Dairyland would not have been my first choice. All in all, Dairyland's about in the middle of the pack of family restaurants -- lots of food for the money, fair service, and leftovers the next morning.