Sometimes desperation is a better guide than Roadfood radar. We pride ourselves on being able to zero in on a great eatery based on its looks and a certain je ne sais quoi; and the truth is that if we hadn’t been hugely hungry, we would have driven right past Lange’s Café. It looks like a million other places we’ve driven past; nothing about it set our radar beeping. But we were desperate, and had no tips to follow in the area, so we walked in. There, just inside the door, was the pie and pastry case. Bingo!
We knew by the look of the caramel rolls and the crust on the pies that this was paydirt. And sure enough, as we ate our way through as much of the menu as possible, we swooned with pleasure over and over again.
Beef is the entrée not to miss. Listed as roast beef if it comes on a plate with mashed potatoes, green beans, and gravy, and as hot beef if it is served in a sandwich with mashed potatoes on top and gravy all over, it is pot-roast-tender and deep-flavored. Mashed potatoes are the real thing; dinner rolls that come alongside are freshly baked.
The caramel rolls that so many people eat for breakfast must be sampled any time they are available. They are immense blocks of sweet, yeasty dough – about 3x3x3-inches; and they are bathed in buttery warm caramel syrup that has a burnt smack to its sweetness.
Now, we have saved the best for last: sour cream raisin pie. It’s a specialty of bakers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa; and over the years we have made it our business to sample every SCR pie we come across. Lange’s is built upon a custard that is dense, packed with raisins, creamy and sweet with the sour-cream edge that makes its sweetness all the more potent. Its meringue is airlight; the crust flakes when poked by a fork. It was our supremely lucky day, for we walked into Lange’s about 10am and the SCR pie was out of the oven only a short while. Our pieces were faintly warm, like baby food, and as we ate, we declared this the best sour cream raisin pie ever made … 10 on a 1-10 scale … the crème de la cream … the Mother Lode.