I Tried the Outdoor Winter Experience at Café Hollander on Downer

Thinking about trying out one of these outdoor dining experiences? Here’s what it’s like.

Walking up to Café Hollander on Downer Avenue, I saw the little village of Domes and Canal Houses lining the street, finally ready for guests to enjoy the company of their friends and family while enjoying a delicious meal. Entering into the cozy, adorable dome, I immediately noticed how toasty and comforting it was. It was as if I stepped out of the cold, confusing world into a sweet little escape filled with tiny wreaths and twinkle lights.

Our “Snackuterie” board (included with reservations) greeted us on the table, filled with toasted bread, herb goat cheese dip, chicken salad, grapes, cucumbers, chocolate and more treats to start the night off right. The toasted bread and herb goat cheese dip stood out as some of my favorites from the board, though the entire spread was delectable.

The snacks went wonderfully with the festive and oh-so-good Buckatabon Old Fashioned, “Holiday Edition.” It’s a cinnamon-apple laced holiday-flavored Buckatabon Brandy with cinnamon, Lowlands Bitters, orange, muddled cranberries, Sprite and simple syrup, according to the menu. It was served on a cute little drink cart in a “help-yourself” kind of manner.

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The drink serves up to six and is one of the Beverage Bundle add-on options that Café Hollander is offering. Other beverage add-ons include their Spiced Mulled Wine, Apple Pie Mule, Fireside Fix Hot Cocoa and more. There’s also a non-alcoholic option of hot cocoa and cream served with mini marshmallows.

“Snackuterie” Box from Cafe Hollander

After snacking for a bit, our server brought out the Modern Family Feast, one of the “Family” Meal Add-ons. Served “pan-style,” it included house-made meatloaf with gravy and bacon-cheddar broccoli, crispy chicken quinoa bowl, five-cheese mac & cheese and four mini smash burgers with muenster cheese and pickles. All of the food was spectacular, though the crispy chicken and the meatloaf with gravy stood out as particularly delicious.

The meal serves about four people and is one of six meal options for this experience. The others include the Wisco Snack Attack and the Comfort Collection, to name a few. Beyond the full meal add-ons, there are also à la carte items available including soft pretzel bites, house-made cheese curds and more.

As for COVID-19 precautions, both the “Snackuterie” and the meal were served in boxes that kept the food covered until we opened it, the domes were sanitized with atomizer fog bombs and we were asked to wear masks when interacting with the server (who was also wearing a mask at all times) was present.

Cleaning the domes between parties at Cafe Hollander

I also got to check out the twinkly heated Dutch Canal Houses, which offer a similar but slightly different experience. These little greenhouse-like huts are each uniquely decorated, but common themes in their decoration include plants, sparkly lights and garland. Like the domes, these also include a “Snackuterie” box with the reservation and the option for meal and beverage add-ons with the reservation. I really couldn’t choose which I liked better because both were charming, cozy and comfortable.

Both the Domes and the Canal Houses can be reserved for $100 on Mondays through Fridays from 4 p.m. to close as well as Saturdays and Sundays, which includes the “Snackuterie” box. Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. they are available for reservations or walk-ins for just a $25 cleaning fee.

They both can seat up to six people for 90 minutes. Dogs are welcome in both as well, and if you ask your server, they’ll bring out house-made doggie treat for them to enjoy. The menu for the “Family” Meals and Beverage Bundle add-ons can be found on their website, and guests have the option to either order these ahead or within the first 30 minutes of their stay. The restaurants will also be offering to-go versions of the “snackuterie” and family meal boxes starting next week

To see all of the Lowlands Group Winter Experiences, head over to Lowlandswinter.com to see what each restaurant has to offer.

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Brianna Schubert is a freelance writer at Milwaukee Magazine. She is studying journalism, psychology and Spanish and is in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.