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Pennsylvania Dutch Restaurants - Are There Any?


Kibbee Nayee
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I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where the standard compliment for a meal was "That was good - it wasn't spicy at all" and the five basic food groups of Amish and Mennonite cooking were jokingly referred to as chicken, eggs, flour, corn and sugar. The Air Force took me away from that about 30 years ago, and I have since wandered the world and enjoyed the best food and drink from all over the world. I never saw a jalapeno pepper until I was 23.

But as I enter my dotage, I occasionally long for the flavors of my past. The aroma of pork and sauerkraut now wafts through my house, and I realize how good this simple ring-in-the-New-Year dish can be. In the autumn, I find myself returning to Lancaster for the sole reason of picking up a gallon or two of the Lampeter Fire Hall's chicken corn soup at its annual festival. It is perfection in a bowl. And nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the freshest of the sweet corn in late July and early August, when you put the pot of water on the stove to bring it to a boil, then dash down the road for a "dozen" (usually 15-16) ears of corn that were picked within minutes of your arrival. What you and I call charcuterie, these people have been making their own goodness -- liverwurst, Lebanon bologna, all manner of cheeses -- before it was cool. Ending a meal with a warm slice of shoo-fly pie and a scoop of fresh-made vanilla ice cream is an absolute taste of heaven.

As I think back, I miss the farmer's markets, where real farmers with real organic produce and meats were selling their highest-quality products for a ridiculously low price. I miss the road-side chicken barbecues, usually held as a fund raiser for an Amish child who had amassed some medical bills. I marvel at the yield per acre of incredible organic produce, all planted, farmed and harvested by hard-working men on horse-drawn equipment. And I used to take it all for granted. Not any more.

So, to make this long story a little less than endless, is there a source for good Pennsylvania Dutch cooking in this part of the world? And if not, why not?

I'll admit, this is hardly haute cuisine but it sure is comfort food.

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I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where the standard compliment for a meal was "That was good - it wasn't spicy at all" and the five basic food groups of Amish and Mennonite cooking were jokingly referred to as chicken, eggs, flour, corn and sugar. The Air Force took me away from that about 30 years ago, and I have since wandered the world and enjoyed the best food and drink from all over the world. I never saw a jalapeno pepper until I was 23.

But as I enter my dotage, I occasionally long for the flavors of my past. The aroma of pork and sauerkraut now wafts through my house, and I realize how good this simple ring-in-the-New-Year dish can be. In the autumn, I find myself returning to Lancaster for the sole reason of picking up a gallon or two of the Lampeter Fire Hall's chicken corn soup at its annual festival. It is perfection in a bowl. And nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the freshest of the sweet corn in late July and early August, when you put the pot of water on the stove to bring it to a boil, then dash down the road for a "dozen" (usually 15-16) ears of corn that were picked within minutes of your arrival. What you and I call charcuterie, these people have been making their own goodness -- liverwurst, Lebanon bologna, all manner of cheeses -- before it was cool. Ending a meal with a warm slice of shoo-fly pie and a scoop of fresh-made vanilla ice cream is an absolute taste of heaven.

As I think back, I miss the farmer's markets, where real farmers with real organic produce and meats were selling their highest-quality products for a ridiculously low price. I miss the road-side chicken barbecues, usually held as a fund raiser for an Amish child who had amassed some medical bills. I marvel at the yield per acre of incredible organic produce, all planted, farmed and harvested by hard-working men on horse-drawn equipment. And I used to take it all for granted. Not any more.

So, to make this long story a little less than endless, is there a source for good Pennsylvania Dutch cooking in this part of the world? And if not, why not?

I'll admit, this is hardly haute cuisine but it sure is comfort food.

I'd posit this question to Todd Kliman. IIRC, he recently predicted that Penn. Dutch cooking was going to be the new cupcake.

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There's also one in Germantown, MD.

Some of the stuff is really good and unique, like the baked goods and meats - other things are kind of head scatchers (are they growing bananas up in Lancaster County?)

The restaurant serves most of the kind of stuff that's for sale at the counters - fried chicken, pot pies, etc. I don't recall corn soup per se, and I don't get the sense that the menu is very seasonal. And of course you can only get breakfast and lunch, and only on Thur/Fri/Sat. If you're OK with stackable chairs and wipeable table cloths, the food is pretty decent.

I wonder how a local restaurant of this ilk might work, other than these dutch markets. Cracker Barrel (or Good n Plenty) style, with vast cauldrons of food and high volumes? Or as a glorified, white table-cloth kind of place? Or maybe a Legion hall that slowly morphs into a dining hotspot, with florescent lights and plastic cutlery but a danged fine meal?

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What about Lantz Restaurant at the Dutch Country Farmer's Market? (I haven't eaten there. Only shopped at the market back when it was in Burtonsville).

I don't know of any around here, but was going to mention this market to you as well. I've gotten food from the restaurant back when it was in Burtonsville (it's now in Laurel just east of Route 1 on 198 East), but always only noticed sandwiches. I'll be checking out the chicken corn soup sometime.

Even if they don't have all of the food you're looking for, it's a really fun place to visit and everything is still cheap.

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Thanks for all the ideas. I will definitely try the one in Laurel, but I probably should have asked if there are any Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants in northern Virginia or the District. By the time I cross the bridge and go all the way to Annapolis or Germantown, I might as well keep going another hour to Lancaster for the genuine commodity.

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The short answer is no. We used to have the PA Dutch market in Chanitilly,but they moved to their current location is Germantown years ago. I sometimes go there by taking the scenic route across the Potomac on White's Ferry. It isn't that far, less than an hour from Fairfax and it is a pretty ride. Otherwise it is directly off I-270. Here is their website.

http://www.lancastercountydutchmarket.com/

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