Written by Juanita Fox
I am a sucker for local spots – restaurants, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, auctions, mud sales, yard sales and the like. I have been since long before I moved here at the beginning of the year.
I must say my wife Tina is not nearly as enthralled as I am. I think I picked it up from my dad who, in retirement after a long career as a school principal, could not pass up a yard sale and even worked for a company that liquidated businesses. He always returned from a week-long sale somewhere across the country with a bunch of small treasures from desks, shelves and drawers for my wife, my son and me.
If you have lived here for any amount of time, you know Lancaster County is the king of “local.” From highly rated Chicago pizza at a gas station in Leola to the iconic Town Hall Diner in East Earl and Roots Farmers’ Market in Manheim, all you have to say “is there a……” and you’ll find there is!
You can’t drive down any North-South or East-West county road here without seeing plant sales in the spring and produce in the summer. It’s like everyone has a super-big garden and grows more stuff then they can consume so they sell it.
And I laugh and my father would be laughing with me. A weekend doesn’t go by without a myriad of yard sales and, when there isn’t a sale, many people just put stuff in their front yard with a sign that says “free.” Yup, if it looks interesting, I stop and look and about half the time come home with something I probably don’t need.
So, let’s see if you too like some of my local spots.
Restaurants: For sure, there is the New Holland Family Restaurant. Why make turkey that takes half a day when they make it every day and give you more than you can eat? The problem with New Holland Family restaurant is you can go too often.
Town Hall Diner in East Earl is also high on my list. Super local with great soup and lots of oyster dishes (that I don’t try as I don’t like oysters).
I recently tried the White Horse Luncheonette on Old Philadelphia Pike in Gap. My Amish friend Mike Fisher took me out for lunch. I had chicken croquettes with mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. I was in heaven. White Horse is the local’s local and if you’re not Old Order, you are in the minority.
So, I like chicken croquettes, but I love chicken corn-rivel soup and the best I have tasted comes from the small lunch counter at the West End of Bird-in-Hand Farmers’ Market. It is to die for. Try it.
And my final two are unique…Joe’s Famous Wings and Wieners in Leola next to the fire station and the Victor Emmanuel (Italian) Club in Reading, which is probably the real reason I moved back to PA. You have to be a member to eat at Victor Emmanuel, but it is worth joining and you can feed a family of four with pocket change…not exactly but close.
So, those are my local restaurants…. I also like old hardware stores. Zimmerman’s in New Holland isn’t old but it is local and I never come out empty handed.
I love Amish general and grocery stores but they aren’t easy to find unless you are driving an Amish friend on errands. They are quiet, packed with stuff and sell everything. Several weeks ago, I even bought Amish liniment at a small grocery store where my Audi TT was the only vehicle without reins.
Farmers’ Markets are Lancaster County local and although I am still a fan of Green Dragon and Roots and would spend short vacations in the County so I could visit them several times a year, I now find myself overwhelmed with the tourists. Ironic!
And most of the fresh produce and meats that I went to market for are right at Shady Maple or Yoder’s.
Finally, I found a new local place this week…. A place I have driven by 100 times and never stopped: Achenbach’s Pastries (next to Eli’s) in Leola. I was heading to Lancaster to have coffee with an old colleague from Franklin and Marshall and I wanted to bring some sweets. Mike Fisher said “you have to go to Achenbach’s.” He said their pastry and long johns were the best. He was right. There are bakeries and bakeries and then there is Achenbach’s. From cake to pie to rolls and long johns, It’s the best and for us, “it’s local.”