THE AMISH AND RESTAURANTS
By Kevin Williams
Gloria wrote in the The Amish Cook column this week about dreaming of one day owning a restaurant.
Which raises the question: Are there any Amish-owned restaurants open to the general public?
So I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts on the topic forged by 25 years of experience visiting Amish and Mennonite settlements from Maine to Montana. The answer to the question of whether there are any Amish restaurants owned and operated by the Amish is “yes” with some caveats.
First, food is a wonderful way to experience a culinary culture, whether it is Amish, Indian, French, Middle Eastern or any other. Food capsulizes the rich experience of a people and their flavors.
Because of the technology needed, the government regulation and time away from family required to run a restaurant, restaurants among the Old Order Amish are a rarity. Larger “Amish style” restaurants aren’t usually Amish-owned, but do offer foods that are similar in type to authentic Amish cuisine. Some of these restaurants even hire Amish cooks to work in the kitchen which helps ensure authenticity.
Roselen’s Coffee and Delights (The name come from combing the names of the two Amish sisters that run it, Rosalyn and Lena) is one of the few actual Old Order Amish-owned restaurants I know of. Roselen’s is located in Arthur, Illinois and some jokingly refer to the place as an “Amish Starbucks” with their drive-thru window and selection of coffees and lattes, plus they have a full menu of sandwiches and meals. While Old Order Amish, the Arthur community does have an entrepreneurial streak. I’m not sure the business would be accepted in other Amish settlements.
Meanwhile, an Amish family ran a restaurant for awhile in Nebraska a few years back but as of this writing they are no longer doing it.
Crafts Unlimited is a craft store run by Old Order horse and buggy Mennonites in south-central Ohio (Crafts Unlimited, 4417 ST 41 South, Bainbridge, Ohio) but tucked away inside is a full-service restaurant, a rarity among the “Plain people.” Crafts Unlimited is a wonderful, rare opportunity to experience authentic Mennonite cooking.
Some Amish in Geauga County, Ohio and northern Indiana offer “in home dining.” Those homes open to the public once or twice a month for authentic homemade meals
The Mullet family in Nappanee runs just such an operation from a banquet room in their farmhouse. Reservations are required. Their number is 574-773-2140 (voicemail only). In-home dining provides a chance for a truly authentic Amish culinary experience in a great setting.
More common are Beachy Amish Mennonite owned restaurants. The Beachy Amish Mennonites, who have their roots in the Amish church, but use electricity and drive cars, own a couple of my favorite Amish dining establishments: Yoder’s Restautant in Sarasota, Florida and probably my most favorite of all: Mrs Yoder’s Kitchen in Mount Hope, Ohio.
The Ronan Café in Ronan Montana is a Mennonite restaurant in the town of Ronan, Montana. If you are ever in the area, that is one I highly recommend for a taste of Amish/Mennonite style cuisine.
Heidi’s Bakery and Café in Oakland, Maryland is a Mennonite owned deli and bakery with an amazing selection of baked goods and savory entrees and sandwiches.
Amish owned bakeries? Now THOSE are plentiful, and a topic for another time! I’ll write about some of my favorites in a future installment.
Oh, and by the way, the column also raises the question about how many Amish eat in restaurants. Gloria says that varies widely from community to community. In Flat Rock, Illinois, the Amish don't eat in restaurants often, but
in older, larger and more established Amish settlements eating at restaurants is more common. I love this photo I took of a Pizza Hut outside of Shipshewana once.