After a surprising dinner of homemade stuffed manicotti (we were, after all, in the heart of Dutch Country) we wake up to the surprisingly wonderful aromas of fresh-ground coffee and horseradish. The java’s brewing about 20 yards from where the horseradish is grinding away, making our eyes water in Lancaster’s Central Market. Inside this big old brick barn is a crazy swirl of fresh pastries, fields of produce and mind-boggling varieties of scrapple.
With our senses on high alert we head out of town, east along Route 23, the two-laner we now think of as Lancaster County’s “Homemade Corridor.” All along 23 we see hand-painted signs hocking home-built gourd birdhouses, homegrown grass-fed chickens, hand-blown glass, hand-sewn quilts, home-brewed root beer and handcrafted brooms. (The signs themselves are works of rural folk art.) We spend less than 20 bucks on a couple of incredibly sturdy brooms from a Mennonite lady who shows us how the corn bristles wrap tight around handles as strong as hiking staffs.
But best of all is the home baking, off 23 a couple of turns, and as hard to find as we were warned. “Oh, you’ll never find Sadie’s Bake Shop,” laughed Sue Kuestner, our hostess at the graceful Inn at Twin Lindens. “But if you do, you’ll be glad you tried.”
Sue was nearly right on the first count, 100% on the second. Sadie’s Bake Shop is in the basement of Rachel Lapp’s Amish farmhouse. Lit by gas lamps, the rustic basement holds a modern bakery, which started pumping out pies, cakes, bread, and whoopie cookies about 30 years ago. Founded by Rachel’s mother Sadie, tradition is kept very much alive and delicious here.
We tell Mrs. Lapp we’ve driven a good ways to taste her baking. “Oh, people come from all over,” she says unimpressed. “Even from New Jersey!”
With a gooey shoofly pie and a dozen whoopies in the back seat we backtrack the twists and turns and only get lost once on our way back to the highway. Getting lost is one of the great pleasures of the back roads of Lancaster County. And it’s how we find Rohrer’s Mill, one of the oldest continually working water-driven gristmills in the country.
Rohrer’s is known for grinding corn that’s roasted before it hits the mill, which gives the cornmeal a unique nutty flavor. One of Lancaster’s oldest scrapple makers uses Rohrer’s roasted cornmeal as its secret ingredient. And it’ll be ours for delicious polenta and cornbread. So we pile a couple 5-lb sacks next to the pies and head back through the Homemade Corridor along Rt. 23.
Another hand-lettered billboard looms before us: “Home-made root beer for sale, 2 mi on left.” Mmm, rootin’ tootin’ homemade root beer. We can’t help ourselves, so we make sure there’s room on the back seat next to the shoofly and cornmeal and get ready to turn left in two miles.
With any luck later on, we’ll also stumble across a welcome motel and a happy tavern. Until then, we’ll see you around the bends and back roads.
When you hit the road, here's where to stop. (For all a map with photos of all these places and more, go to www.visitpa.com/shunpiker.)
Central Market, downtown Lancaster
Chock-a-block with fresh produce and meats and egg noodles. Plus flowers and crafts and our favorite, Long’s Horseradish, ground right before your watering eyes. (Get to know why our mom always called this stuff “jerk nose.”) On the corner of King & Queen Streets. 717.291.4723.
Lombardo’s Restaurant, downtown Lancaster
Had enough potpie? Here’s a great family-run Italian restaurant with homemade favorites like lasagna and stuffed manicotti. Not to mention stuffed diners dipping bread into the homemade red gravy. Reservations at 717.394.3794. In downtown Lancaster at 216 Harrisburg Avenue.
The Inn at Twin Lindens, Churchtown
Sue and Norm Kuestner make you feel right at home in this gorgeous mansion. Sue’s breakfasts are legendary, and she cooks fabulous suppers on Saturday nights, and everything’s from local ingredients. Reserve well in advance. Right in the center of Churchtown on Rt. 23. Call ‘em at 717.445.7619.
Sadie’s Bake Shop
Pies, cakes, bread, rolls, donuts, cookies and yes, whoopie pies – all hand made in the basement of the Lapp family’s Amish farmhouse. And all worth getting lost for. 489 Lambert Road (go north off Rt 23 onto Churchtown Road, take a right on Hammertown, a left on Turkey Hill and a right onto Lambert.) Call 717.445.7595 when you get lost. Closed Wednesdays and Sundays.
Nolt’s Broom Shop
These new brooms will sweep clean for a good long time. Handmade by the Nolt family for generations. Look for the hand-painted sign right on Rt. 23, between new Holland and Leola (just east of Rt. 772). Call 717.656.7450. No Sunday sales, please.
This is another place we’ll wish you good luck finding. But the roasted cornmeal is worth the effort. It’s one of the last water-driven gristmills in the country, a true timeless treasure. (We gotta look at the map to figure where it’s at.)
Shady Maple Smorgasbord
Fill ‘er up. Here’s all you can eat of the county’s country cooking. Roast veal to butter beans, Delmonico steak to peach pie and on and on and on and (burp). Too much good food, one crazy low price, no tipping. Plenty of parking for cars and buggies alike. One mile east of Blue Ball along Rt 23. 717.354.4981 or www.shady-maple.com. Closed on Sunday.
Ok, now it's your turn. Let us know what you find out there with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.