If you drive 45 minutes northwest of Waterloo you’ll find yourself the humble rural towns that make up horse and buggy country. Here you’ll find a pastoral landscape of farms with red barns and white houses with green roofs, horses and buggies parked in covered parking lot stalls, and simple comfort food with an emphasis on value for money. June and July are especially popular months here, as their seasonal strawberry pie
That’s just what you’ll find at Anna Mae’s Restaurant
in Millbank. A local favourite, Anna Mae’s is known for its broasted chicken, pies, big portions and small prices, and friendly, honest service.
Despite being located in a long, white building with seating for 175, Anna Mae’s is always packed with people (mostly local farming families and retirees), so you’ll likely have to put your name on a list and listen for someone to call your name over the loudspeaker.
However, you don’t need to worry about getting bored – you can sit outside by a small fountain and watch horses and buggies trot by – or you can browse for a souvenir or dessert. The front portion of the restaurant is dedicated to an eclectic selection of wares (including toys, scarves, and slightly strange traditional Christian literature) and their bakery. There are racks and racks of old-fashioned baking (all made with white flower and sugar of course): bread, cookies, muffins (these aren’t the greatest), long johns (a hot-dog-bun-shaped dougnut filled with icing – it’s better than it sounds), cheesecakes, apple fritters, and squares.
However, the pies are why Anna Mae’s is known throughout the region. In fact, namesake Anna Mae Wagler started her business by selling pies at the end of her farm’s laneway and her business expanded to today’s restaurant. With almost two dozen flavours, including the excellent lemon meringue and raspberry custard, there’s something for everyone. My personal favourite is the strawberry pie. Only available during strawberry season (June and July), fresh, uncooked (that’s the key the amazing flavour) berries are covered in a clear, sweet syrup. The strawberry pies are served with or without “topping” (aka whipped cream). If you are lucky enough to be at Anna Mae’s when they have strawberry pies, make sure you put in your order (they’ll set one aside for you to collect later) before you sit down for your meal otherwise they may be sold out for the day by the time you finish. (You can also call ahead to order one for a certain date)
But dessert’s not the only thing to look forward to here. Once you’re seated at one of the wooden tables, you’ll be able to browse the menu. It won’t take long – there’s just a few options, the emphasis is on their daily meat special (each day offers the likes of roast beef, pork roast, sausage, or turkey) and they’re specialty broasted chicken. Creating this trademark dish means combining frying and pressure cooking to create a moist chicken breast or wing covered in a non-greasy fried coating (that apparently has fewer calories than traditional fried chicken). Apparently the broasted chicken method of cooking can be fairly dangerous for amateurs (hot oil in a pressure cooker can be that way) so most kitchenware manufacturers only sell the broasting equipment to commercial kitchens.
The meat dishes are served with mashed potatoes and gravy and veggie sides. One great thing about Anna Mae’s is that you can choose a variety of sizes of meal – from senior/small size (for only $6.79), small portion with dessert, regular plate, platter (large), or the full meal deal with soup or salad, meat, potatoes, vegetable, homemade dinner roll, and dessert (for $11.99). Whichever one you choose, your plate will be filled to the edges and even the regular plate is quite filling.
The servers and cooks are all local women, and most are Mennonite (some the Old Order type with bonnets and long dresses). The service is friendly and efficient, and are good resources for suggestions for local attractions and country drives.
One visit to Anna Mae’s and you’ll want to make it a June tradition to visit to pick up a few strawberry pies and some pieces of broasted chicken.
Anna Mae’s is open Monday to Saturday breakfast through dinner.