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Posted on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 6:03 a.m.

Haab's Restaurant carries on anniversary tradition with meals at 1934 prices

By Janet Miller


Dave Kabat, co-owner of Haab's Restaurant in downtown Ypsilanti, works on some dinner orders for customers.

Mark Bialek | For

Every third Monday in October, Mike Kabat throws opens the doors of his downtown Ypsilanti restaurant to feed a public hungry for nostalgia and a good deal.

The Haab’s Restaurant anniversary has become a community tradition. 

For anyone with spare change in their pocket and two or three hours of time, Haab’s will serve a meal of chicken in a basket, spaghetti or a barbeque sandwich at 1934 prices. Monday, Oct. 19 marks Haab’s 75th anniversary. 

Depending on the weather, Kabat expects to serve between 1,400 and 2,000 people. 

It didn’t start out as an annual celebration.

On a quiet Saturday night in July 1981, Kabat and partner Harvey Glaze brainstormed how to get more traffic through the door. A recession was in full swing and business was slow. 

“We thought it would be nice to be really busy, and we were kicking around a few ideas,” Kabat said. “We wanted to do something extraordinary.”


Waitress Betty Ross serves up dessert for some Haab's Restaurant customers.

Mark Bialek | For

But when the day arrived, Kabat feared it was a dud. Shortly before the 11 a.m. restaurant opening, no one was in line, and Kabat worried he would be left with a kitchen filled with uneaten food. 

“I was scared to death,” Kabat said.

A man from Canton who had just finished a dentist appointment lined up at 10:55 a.m. Others followed, and by the end of the day, Haab’s had served 1,400 meals. They only thing they ran short of was Parmesan cheese.

Kabat thought that was the end of the idea. But a newspaper editorial sang his accolades, and Kabat felt he should run it a second year. And a third. And a fourth. 

Except for two years, Haab’s has offered the anniversary special every year since.

“People talk about it. This is our identity. It’s our brand,” Kabat said. “We get calls about at 10:30 p.m. on Friday nights in February from people wondering when it’s going to be. It’s synonymous with the name Haab’s.” 

And, he said, it’s a fun and festive day that brings the community out.

At least for the day, the event is a losing proposition. Kabat said it costs $2 just for the raw chicken for a single meal - and that doesn’t include the French fries, honey, biscuit or labor. Kabat said he doesn’t want to know how much the day costs him. 

“The more you serve, the more you lose,” he said. But what he loses that day, he gains in goodwill - and hopefully return visits.


Dave Kabat, co-owner of Haab's Restaurant in downtown Ypsilanti, stands by the restaurant.

Mark Bialek | For

The line begins to form in the morning and continues throughout the day. Peak wait time can be three hours, and anyone in line by 9 p.m. will be served. In past years, that has meant 150 people. 

Kabat keeps a careful eye on the weather in the days before the anniversary to determine how much food to order. Cold and rainy weather means 1,400 meals. A nice day means 2,000.

Haab’s is all about tradition: The restaurant has occupied its same downtown Ypsilanti location since Otto and Oscar Haab, offspring of German immigrants, opened the restaurant during the Depression.

The restaurant, with its dark wood and pressed tin ceiling, is so steeped in tradition that Kabat first balked at buying the business. He worried a change in ownership - even if it wasn’t accompanied by other changes - would turn away customers. Nevertheless, Kabat and Glaze bought Haab’s in 1976. Glaze retired and sold his share to Kabat in 1991; he now owns the restaurant with his son, Dave.

Haab’s has expanded to include three dining rooms, and the menu has evolved over time - adding seafood and vegetarian options. But many of the original menu items remain, from the lake perch to the fresh salmon.

The doors will be open from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday. The meals cost 50 cents for chicken in a basket, 40 cents for spaghetti and 20 cents for a barbeque sandwich. 

And no - there are no reservations and no carryout.

Janet Miller is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or call 734-623-2530.



Sat, Oct 17, 2009 : 1:41 p.m.

Waiting in line in the freezing cold to pay for a cheap meal? Who cares? When will the residents of Ypsilanti stop living in the past?

Ryan Munson

Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 11:05 p.m.

I lived in Ypsi for a little bit longer than a year and enjoyed my times at Haab's. Do keep the door open. I'll be back with more people soon.


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 4:45 p.m.

LOL....Good catch, linux! Haab's is the best. Don't forget to order a hot fudge cream puff!! :)


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 4:25 p.m.

Went there for first time in about 20 years a month ago...nothings changed...even got coffee served in a cup with a chipped rim and waitress with chip on her shoulder..I'll wait another 20 years and check back in.


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 10:32 a.m.

"and that doesnt include the French fires..." Wouldn't it be cheaper, and just as good, to use a fire started in the USA to cook the food?

dading dont delete me bro

Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 10:01 a.m.

haab's is excellant! my wife's company has their Christmas party there every year. they are wonderful people that both own it and work it. haab's always comes through with donations for fundraisers for our group. please, please, please go and eat there. i don't like long lines, but i enjoy haabs!


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 8:35 a.m.

I'm new to the area and tried Haab's... I love love love the chicken in a basket... sooooo good :)

Janet Miller

Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 7:48 a.m.

Mike Kabat said the peak time for the line is between 5-7 p.m. and that it can be as long as three hours. Of course, it depends on the weather. The line tends to be shorter if the weather is bad.

Laura Bien

Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 7:36 a.m.

Just for fun, after reading this story I dug up an ad from their very early days in the 30s in case readers would like to see their original name: it's at

Go Blue 123

Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 7:06 a.m.

Any idea how long the line will be around 5pm?

David Briegel

Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 6:52 a.m.

I love their Chicken In The Rough and string fries and their beef is always good! A fine place with a great tradition!


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 6:15 a.m.

My very first job was at Haab's I was in high School and was fifteen years young! I remember Otto Haab like it was yesterday a short but very firm man. Otto made a lasting impression on me, he always fed his employees before they began work! Every thing was made from Scratch, today Haab's still has many of the same menu items! I hope it lasts forever it is my daughters favorite place to eat! I love the London broil myself, however I have NEVER had a bad meal at Haab's. Thank God for apple pie and Haab's, make some thing last forever. Thank you Mr Kabat for all yu have done! Some things are just not about the dollar.