Thursday, July 12, 2012

Charming Kitsch in Stanley, Wisconsin

Alberta May's
225 East 4th Avenue
Stanley, Wisconsin

Well, this is just weird.

We came upon this restaurant thanks to one of those blue freeway signs. You exit Highway 29, head into town four blocks past the railroad, and turn right. Three blocks down, on the left, is a building that looks like an apartment building; it's actually a former hospital, and now is an assisted living center. You think surely there's not a restaurant in such a place, but there's the sign, hanging on the brick wall, and another over the door, so you park and go inside. You find yourself in a large, under-furnished lobby, with a hallway going off to the left and a small office on the right, and, ahead of you, the entrance to Alberta May's. Skeptical, you enter, and despite all the signage, you are surprised and relieved to find yourself in an actual restaurant.

If you can get over the worry that you'll be dining on hospital food, you'll find the experience of dining at Alberta May's a pleasant enough one. We were there around eleven in the morning, and opted for breakfast dishes: a dumpling omelet for me, a three-meat omelet for my friend. The omelets at Alberta Mays are made with two eggs, not the three that has become the industry standard around the country. I found that two are more than sufficient. The third egg maybe adds a little thickness to the envelope that surrounds the filling, but that isn't, strictly speaking, necessary for the enclosure, and I can do without the extra calories and cholesteral it also adds.

What's that mean?
The dumplings were outstanding. It's hard to grasp that I could feel so warmly toward fried chunks of mashed potatoes and flour, but there was just something so wholesomely familiar about them. The phrase, "Like Mom used to make" comes to mind, though my own mother never made a dumpling in her life, I don't think. Still, it's what we Americans think of as Home Cookin', and rightly so. The eggs were fluffy enough, and the cheese on top was a tasteful sprinkling of Cheddar (surely Wisconsin Cheddar), not the slathering that some restaurants feel compelled to impose. The mushrooms inside were sautéed in a little butter, and the seasoning, mainly dill, was deft.

The three-meat omelet was equally well-made, and if bacon, ham and sausage are not to my own liking, it's no reflection on the skill of the cook. The bacon, at least, was nicely crisp and crumbled; the ham and sausage could have been of a better quality without upsetting me, but they, too, were well-prepared.

The service was a down-home as the menu, and by the time we ordered we'd been made to feel welcome, as much a part of the Stanley scene as any of the oddly-dressed teenagers who flittered through the lobby outside. (I think maybe they were putting on some kind of show for the old folks.) The small restaurant offers an even smaller bakery and gift shop, which just adds to the charming kitsch of the place.
Alberta May's on Urbanspoon


  1. I had to smile when I saw your review. Was looking at your blog ( found off Urban Spoon) .. Had been looking at your review of Chess Club (which we haven't visited in a while .. but used to love it..

    Anyway - when looking at your list of out of town restaurants I saw STANLEY .. I've only been to Stanley once - and that was to visit my uncle who lived upstairs in the assisted living. While I didn't eat in the restaurant it's my understanding that they do the cooking for the resident's upstairs .. I don't remember what we had for lunch that day - but do remember being happy that Uncle Ray was getting good food!

    Thanks for the pleasant memory!


    1. You're certainly welcome. If Alberta May's does the cooking for the residents there (which would explain why it's in the building in the first place) then your uncle certainly is getting good food, and quite a choice. Far, far better than the sort of food one thinks of on hearing the phrase "institutional food."


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