Road Trip: Lancaster, PA

Highlights of a recent trip to Pennsylvania Dutch Country included not getting stuck behind any buggies on curving country roads, traversing a covered bridge, enjoying gorgeously sprawling farmland, and seeing two Amish or Mennonite youths riding bicycles without pedals — I don’t mean they weren’t pedaling, I mean the bicycles had no pedals, so they pushed themselves along as if on a scooter.  Is this an Amish/Mennonite thing, or just a youth-of-today thing?  I would hardly know the difference.

We also ate, first at Ida’s Cafe (507 Rohrerstown Road), where a local gazette review posted above the register lauds their “fare with flare”  — disappointingly, no flares were set off during our lunch. I’m not sure “flair” would be right, either — Ida’s is the opposite of Chotchkie’s — but their food is decent, homestyle, filling. Carrot bisque was golden and more ginger (and salt) than carrot in flavor but good anyway. Sandwiches are solid across the board. Ida’s is known for breakfast, has won local Best Breakfast awards. We didn’t order breakfast.

We like their friendly prompt service, but wish the tables weren’t so close together. Totally authentic small-town feel, casual, lots of formica on the premises and typos on the website, annoying in many contexts but charming here.

Also, overheard one table over:
Customer: was Santa nice to you this year?
Server: yes, and he brought me lots of gifts too.
Customers and (female, 40-something) server: [riotous guffawing]

Perhaps needless to say, lots of regulars at Ida’s.  Dinner at Barn Door Food & Spirits (14 Blue Rock Road, Millersville) was also conducted amidst a slew of regulars of all ages (an octogenarian octet was celebrating a birthday in a side room replete with a single perky helium balloon) in poorly-lit rusticity. Everyone (except us) seemed to know the staff and in many cases each other, but we outsiders also felt totally welcome. We enjoyed classic central PA dishes like ham loaf (meatloaf made with pork, how could that be bad?); fried clams were predictably mediocre but the hot roast beef sandwich was big, savory, and drenched in gravy; veal parmagiana was surprisingly delicious with decent spaghetti and below-average garlic bread on the side. Huge portions, full bar, dark lighting and wood paneling, lots of ancient farm implements tacked to the walls. Perfect ambiance for that kind of food in that part of the country, and no surprise it was extremely busy the night we were there.

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