When you wanted to celebrate a special occasion or host a group of friends at THE restaurant in the area it was the famous Ulbrick’s Café located on highway 75 on the south side of Nebraska City. It was a good idea to have reservations because the place was always packed. The place is gone now after the dedicated lady whose name it carried passed away and the fast food industries attracted the masses.
“Our Specialties” advertised were FAMILY STYLE MEALS, which included home fried chicken, ham, steaks, seafood’s, and creamed vegetables. The hours were Monday, closed to rest, Tuesday thru Friday 5:00 to 9:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday 11:00am to 9:00pm. The café was small and built around the kitchen … so the wonderful aromas that came from there enhanced the appetites much to the delight of the customers. The tables were of the 50’s style kitchen tables, shoved together tight, covered with a tablecloth of oilcloth which was easily cleaned between settings.
Satisfied customers would try their best to beg the recipes from Mary. She would smile and thank them and never gave out any hints. Later following Mary’s last years she finally offered some of her secrets. The following recipes come from her notes:
When you were seated and order taken you were soon served a large lettuce salad. The tasty ingredient was her secret home made salad dressing. This is still a winner.
Salad Dressing (Mary Ulbrick)
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup vinegar
¼ teaspoon celery seed
¾ cup salad oil
Warm the dressing and shake.
Do you make your own Noodles?
“I sure do”, said Mary, with a little help … “and they are so simple to make.” I use whole eggs, being sure not to beat them too much. Salt them before adding Gooch’s flour, to which a pinch of baking powder has been added. Use just enough flour so they are easy to handle. Sprinkle the breadboard with flour and knead like bread. Take a small portion and roll to the thickness you want. I like mine quite thick. Let dry and cut and they are then ready to use. Be sure the broth is to a rolling boil before adding noodles.
Are you going to have creamed turnips or cabbage tonight?
Mary said, “We start from the first. Cut your cabbage in small pieces and add a little onion. Sprinkle considerable salt and sugar on the cabbage and place on a hot burner. Do not cover with a lid. Watch closely. Bring to a boil and then drain. Do not over cook. After draining off water, add good, rich cream until cabbage is covered. I use Meadow Gold Rich Cream and butter.
Place kettle of cabbage back on hot burner and boil a few minutes in cream and then thicken with corn starch (not to thick). Season with salt to taste. Remember cabbage is a vegetable that takes a lot of salt and not much cooking.. Leave the lid off the kettle which will make the vegetable free form gasses and taste sweet.”
Mary Ulbricks’s home fried chicken was the real reason people drove miles to eat there. She said, “I do not use any batter. I fry chicken in an old fashioned iron skillet with lard and I use only flour. The most important thing is to have nice tender chickens that have not been frozen. Salt and pepper to taste.”
Now, after that if you had room … “Care for dessert?” Mary served home made pumpkin pie the year around.
1 large can Libby’s pumpkin
2 cups sugar
2 large pinches salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons nutmeg
3 cups Meadow Gold Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix pumpkin, eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon and add milk and vanilla. This will make 2 large or 3 small pies. Do not substitute other brands of pumpkin if you want to be satisfied!
Anyone born and raised in southeast Nebraska knows that Nebraska City apples are king. Along the Missouri River, you find a deep, porous Loess soil, rich and fertile, and ideal for the growing of apples. Loess soil is wind blown, deposited over eons of time. This type of soil is found only in small areas in China, Germany, and on the lands bordering the Missouri River. In season, Ulbrick’s would offer their famous apple cider punch.
1 quart very cold cider
Juice of one orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Serve with ice in cold glasses
Mary Ulbrick’s success was from real home style cooking with her secret seasonings served family style. A free second bowl of creamed cabbage or creamed corn would be offered to each table that consumed the first bowl. More fried chicken would be brought if the platter was empty. The cost of the meal was moderate and she glowed when complimented on her talents. She is now cooking in Heaven I am sure. Those of us, who grew up eating similar home style meals, almost daily in our homes, think back and realize how fortunate we were. God Bless those wonderful mothers and grandmothers who taught us to not “eat to live but live to eat.” Pass the fried chicken please!