As I turn from 161 onto 42, I pass the closed down gas station on the left and the McDonald's on the right, advertising two fish sandwiches for 99 cents on the lit sign. Passing Plain City Lanes on the left, the town's only bowling alley known for aging lanes and shoes and great pizza, we see the building we have made the roughly 15-mile trek from Dublin: Der Dutchman.
Here on Route 42, at the edge of the sleepy town of Plain City and before the 42 interchange with I-70 is one of the best restaurants in America, Der Dutchman, a mammoth respite for hundreds of people who flock to it each day to enjoy Amish cooking.
If you live in an area without Amish or Amish cooking, you are missing one of life's treasures. The Amish live primarily in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania and live a "plain" or simple life. One of the strict Mennonite groups, the Amish are noted for farming with horse-drawn machinery, houses without electricity, and using horse-drawn buggies for transportation. The men and women wear homemade clothing of dark colors with no belts and often no buttons. Although the Amish local community usually defines the strictness of the local Amish, there are parts of Ohio where you can still drive down a country road and see a farmer plowing his field with a work horse and see Amish families traveling to town in their buggies.
Der Dutchman advertises Amish cooking, and tonight there was a wait in the mammoth restaurant with over a couple of hundred tables of well over an hour. And everyone waited in anticipation of the scrumptious homemade cooking, with their wait buzzer in hand.
To pass the time, the building also houses a giant gift store of quaint, handmade furnishings, Vera Bradley bags, Ohio State memorabilia and unique scarves, shawls, jewelry, and kids books. We move from the gift shoppe to another huge draw of Der Dutchman, Amish desserts and homemade cheeses.
We walk down the aisles of the bakery, past the pie cooler with home-baked chocolate-cream pies and strawberry pies, past the just baked peanut-butter cookies, over to pick out our favorite Amish cheese, lacey Swiss, and past the irresistible pecan rolls. We pay for our blueberry pie, cheese, peanut butter cookies, and pecan rolls for Sunday breakfast, get our two shopping bags, and carry them to the car before we are called to our table. Is there something wrong wearing a FitBit to track steps when the steps are going to and from the Amish bakery to the car?
Soon after we return to the restaurant our buzzer lets us know and table is ready, and we can't wait for the Amish dinner.
Although you can order off of the menu, most of the hundreds of diners choose the dinner buffet. Mmmmm. It is hard to describe this made-from-scratch Amish cooking of mashed potatoes, egg noodles, fried chicken, gravies, bread and rolls, and more salads than I can list. But I can tell you the potato salad and macaroni salad are unlike those I have had anywhere else. Sweet and finely chopped.
All-you-can-eat is an understatement. I go up twice and my husband three times, picking between servings of fried chicken and egg noodles, too good for words.
Yes, that really is my husband's second plate. Again, I think of my FitBit. I seriously doubt that it was meant to record steps to an from an Amish buffet. Does it matter that I really did eat mainly fruits for my lunch? I doubt it at this point.
Finally it is time to decide-- dessert or no dessert. There is no hesitation. I order my all-time favorite pie, Chocolate cream, and my husband orders homemade blueberry with vanilla ice cream.
As always, I ask for a take-home container for the remaining chocolate pie. It is a wondrous meal!
In today's world of sports bars with 20 blaring televisions and beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages punctuating noisy bar restaurants, Der Dutchman is truly worth the drive. No televisions, no alcohol, no NCAA March Madness. Just some of America's best food cooked and served by genuinely kind, small-town folks who really know how to work hard and serve others. And we are lucky to live close enough to enjoy it!