Our weekend of dining in PA Dutch country


Well, if you’ve been keeping up, you read about my plan for our trip, what we did on our trip, and maybe even the email from the Amish Village owner.  This one’s all about the food.  We ate a lot while we were out that way, but we didn’t hit the regular buffet/smörgåsbord places like Miller’s or Dienner’s.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about my shellfish allergy.  Buffets can be a nightmare for someone like me… not only do I have to worry about cross-contamination in the kitchen (like on shared cooking surfaces, utensils, or fryers), but I have to worry about my fellow slovenly patrons carelessly flinging bits of deathfish on to adjacent foods, or better yet inadvertently dropping some off of their plate while at a different table.  No thank you.  No worries though, with the internet I was able to do a lot of research ahead of time on shellfish-free and allergy friendly restaurants.

FOOD

Prince Street Café
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Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

The continental breakfast at the Super 8 in Lancaster was lacking, so we decided to check out the Prince Street Cafe first thing on Saturday morning.  We were quite glad that we did!  I had an email exchange going on before our trip with the manager that put me totally at ease.  I noticed there was no shellfish on their menu, but I emailed them to be sure.  It ends up that they do occasionally have a seafood soup and it would be in-house while we were there, but I wasn’t worried about the cross-contamination there after hearing how it was prepared and seeing that they acknowledged food allergies on their menu by offering gluten-free and nut-free options.  I can’t stress enough what a relief & pleasure this type of email exchange was.

The place was packed and we got there shortly after 9:00am.  The line before us went quickly & there were thankfully menus posted prominently in two places near to where you order.  My wife & I both chose the classic breakfast sandwich on ciabatta, I opted for the addition of bacon.  I also had an iced tea, and added some honey which was available on the counter… which made it absolutely perfect.  The sandwiches were great, the eggs were cooked perfectly (by a microwave of all things, I think), the cheese was beautifully melted & the ciabatta was nice & fresh.  I dug the nice slab ‘o bacon too, it didn’t overpower the sandwich.

All-in-all, this seemed like a great place to hang out.  The employees were friendly, there was a really diverse crowd, it was very relaxing.  We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in the area, perhaps for a lunch or even just some coffee.

Jakey’s Amish BBQ
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Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

I hadn’t  seeked-out Jakey’s before our trip.  I did find a business-card sized ad in the giant tourist brochure display wall in our hotel.  I saw the word BBQ, and it was all over.  I mean, I do love BBQ.  I did find a menu online before going in, and again no deathfish, but I did do the usual awkward asking if there is/was every any shellfish prepared there before ordering & after looking over the menu.  After a no from the waitress, a confused look, then a double-check with someone in the back, we were good.  My problem in general with BBQ joints is that I want everything.  Thankfully they usually have sampler or at least combo platters.

Since we were there for lunch though, and doing some touristy running-around, I came to the sad realization that I shouldn’t fill up on BBQ.  I opted for the barbecue turkey sandwich with the mild sauce, and my wife went for the chicken sandwich.  Sadly, you don’t see a lot of turkey BBQ ’round the ‘Burgh… so I was glad to have that as a choice.  I had a side of fries, & Bethany got the macaroni salad.  My sandwich was delicious.  The turkey was nice & juicy, and there wasn’t so much sauce that you couldn’t appreciate the taste of the meat.  I did grab the spicy BBQ sauce that was provided on the table… for the sandwich & for some french fry dipping.  It wasn’t really all that hot for being the “spicy” sauce, but it was really good.  I’d like to try the other meats & the Carolina-style sauce…  Maybe some corn fritters instead of the fries?  We’ll be through again when we’re back that way!

Added bonus, it had a real BBQ joint kind of vibe… it shared space with a T-shirt shop that sold all kinds of stuff, from religious to raunchy.  The tables had that red & white checkered pattern tablecloth, and there were while plastic outdoor type chairs.  The guy behind the counter who I must assume was the owner or at least a manager was very cool to his employees who seemed new, telling them they were doing a good job.  He even sent out extra fries for us, apparently there weren’t enough on my plate when it came out!  Ha ha.  Our waitress did quite well, especially if she was new.  The order was correct, quick, and we had sweet tea refills without even asking.  Add this place to my list of favorite BBQ joints!

Stoltzfus Farm Resaurant
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Family-Style Meal

Family-Style Meal

Now, this place was just incredible.  Again, I checked out the menu online beforehand, and asked the hostess about shellfish when we arrived.  No deathfish in sight (or hidden in the kitchen), so I was good to go.  It looks like a  quaint little farmhouse with a beautiful garden on the outside, and once inside it doesn’t really lose that farmhouse appeal.  We were seated in a room off to the side with smaller tables, as large tables filled the front room (& I believe around back) and were full of mostly families with a bunch of children.  Our waitress could have played Granny in the Tweetie & Sylvester cartoons if they were to be made into a live action film.

On the way in the door, you opt in for (& pay for) the buffet, and then if you make it through that, you can order desserts à la carte.  We didn’t make it to dessert.  Why?  Well, they managed to stuff me full of literally everything on the menu.  I actually had everything too.  It was quite comforting to not have to worry about any cross-contamination or hidden ingredients… and it helped that everything tasted perfect.  first they brought out applesauce, pepper cabbage (a kind of cole slaw with red bell peppers & a vinegar dressing), chow-chow, and apple butter w/ white & wheat bread.  It was my first time trying chow-chow, and I loved it.  It tasted like bread n’ butter pickles, but was a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, green beans, cucumbers (pickles), kidney beans, and maybe peppers and onions?  Next, she brought out everything else…  Fried chicken, sausage, hamloaf, green beans, corn, buttered noodles, potato stuffing (I’ve heard it called potato filling), & sweet potatoes.  All their meat comes from Stoltzfus Meats, right next door.  The fried chicken was excellent, the breading was perfect & the chicken itself was delicious & succulent.  I could eat potato stuffing all day… I mean carbs + carbs, covered in carb-filled gravy?  Yes please.

I could go on, but you get the point.  If you catch me on a craving & a free day… I just might drive out there to get a meal & come right home.  It would be worth the drive!  I wish I had room for the tapioca pudding.

Wawa
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Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

It’s odd mentioning it with the other places, but we did eat breakfast there.  I’m from the other side of the state where we have Sheetz & Get·Go… so of course I had to try a Wawa.  I’m a huge Sheetz fan, and had it in my head that I already liked Sheetz better.  I may be wrong.  The girl that made our sandwiches was really friendly, and offered to help us with the touch screen if we needed it.  (We must have appeared to be n00bz while we were blipping through checking out the entire menu.

My sandwich not only ridiculously large, but they eggs were really fluffy.  I think the menu said something about them containing cheese?  Whatever they do with them, it works for me.  I got a steak egg & cheese sandwich and it was delicious.  Wawa has the same problem as Sheetz & Get·Go as far as wrapping sandwiches though.  No matter where I get touch-screen gas station food, there’s always more sauce/ketchup/dressing on the outside of the bun than the inside.  You’d think that someone would have come up with a solution for that by now.  Perhaps it’s a tie.  Maybe Sheetz is still my favorite.  It’s pretty close though.  (Luckily, there was no deathfish on the menu, so it’s a safe place for me if not classy.  Ha ha.)

Strasburg Railroad Trackside Café
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Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries...

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries.

We stopped here to get some lunch after the first train ride of the day at the Strasburg Railroad.  It was an OK cafeteria-style kind of joint, sadly cash only.  I checked out the menu when we got in there, & did ask if they ever cooked shellfish.  I was told they didn’t & felt safe.  I got a turkey sandwich & Bethany got a burger, and we shared some fries.  My sandwich was pretty good… but Bethany wasn’t a big fan of the burger.  The fries seemed a little old for some reason.  I think we both wished we had just went back to Jakey’s.  Ha ha.

Overall though, I guess we got what we paid for, it was a nice cheap quick & convenient lunch.  I did like the fact that they had up signs warning about the use of peanut oil for those with peanut allergies.  For a family attraction & with food allergies on the rise, this is a responsible thing for a business to do.

Splits & Giggles
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First off, best name ever for an ice cream shop.  Secondly, the guys that own & run the place are very cool.  I also can’t believe I didn’t pause to take a photo of the ice cream.  This was another place that I had scouted-out beforehand, and found through either Urbanspoon or Allergy Eats.  I saw that their menu was devoid of deathfish, so I sent the now standard just-to-be-sure email.  They had a soup containing seafood, but it hasn’t been in-house for a while… so I was safe.  These guys were really cool via email, and even dropped me a line about special hours for that Sunday when they noticed I didn’t stop in on Saturday.

I was hoping to make it there for a lunch or light dinner topped off with some ice cream, but as it happened we were heading home well after lunch & way before dinner, so we decided to ruin dinner & just have some ice cream.  It was a good call.  I had a hot fudge sundae in a waffle bowl, and Bethany went for rocky-road in a pretzel cone.  The ice cream was great, and the place was really cool.  It had a nice neighborhood vibe.  They even took a bowl of water out for some customers who were outside eating some ice cream whit their dog.  Next time we’re in the area, I’d like to get in & try one of their panini sandwiches.  They get bonus points for the line “Please alert us of ANY food allergies or concerns you have before ordering.” on their menu.

FOOD

Well, that was all of our meals while on our road trip.  I won’t include the Hardee’s that we hit on the way home…  it’s probably best for them if I don’t comment.

Ever been to any of these places?  Let me know what you think!

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Don’t shave your panda in the dark (without light).


So I’ve been jamming with some cats in Ernie and the Berts, and they have both begun the addictive art of blogging.  I’m not sure how exactly the blogs will take shape, and maybe they’re still not sure either.  This hasn’t stopped them from posting some interesting stuff so far.  I’m just glad that there are people out there just as insane as me sometimes.

Check ’em out…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh yeah… <shameless plug>Ernie and the Berts is playing our 1st real show this Friday at the 31st Street Pub… you should come check it out!</shameless plug>

Episode II: Crapplebee’s Writes Back


Did you read my Crapplebee’s post, and the AllergyEats blog post that it referred you to?  (Really, check out all the comments, especially from AEPaul about the posts at aceliaconthemove.blogspot.com!) Okay, then you’re ready to read this.

Well, maybe read one more thing… the latest blog from AllergyEats with the response from Applebee’s.  It’s awesome to know that there are others out there that share my affinity for writing letters/emails to companies and getting stupid responses.  I encourage you to let AllergyEats know that you want to see it pursued further.  I want to encourage you to pursue it yourself.  Write emails, write letters, write blogs, make phone calls, blog, tweet,  Digg it, post on Facebook or to the 3 people left on MySpace that aren’t bands, Tumblr, re-blog, re-tweet, re-Tumblr this until it gets out an annoys everyone and not just Applebee’s.

While Paul at AllergyEats dissects the message in his own way, I would like to translate the response as I read it:

Dear AllergyEats Subscribers,

“Dear people that we could really care less about,”

We recognize the importance of making sure our food-allergic guests have safe options they can enjoy at their neighborhood Applebee’s.

“We’re saying that we recognize that the food-allergic need to have safe options, but we don’t feel the need to mention any specific allergies or options.  While we recognize the importance, we’re also not saying that we’re doing anything about it.”

Food allergies are a serious concern, and we are working to improve how we accommodate the needs of our FA-guests.

“We’re telling you that food allergies are a serious concern, even though they’re clearly not because it hasn’t yet affected our profits.  We’re also telling you we’re ‘working to improve’, and again failing to mention any specifics”

Depending on the food allergy, we do offer different menu items that are appropriate options, or that can be prepared without the allergic food.

“We obviously didn’t read your blog, because you were told something quite different by your server and manager, about how there was butter all over the grill & absolutely no way to accommodate you.”

We recommend that you talk with your server or restaurant manager about the allergy, and how your meal is prepared, to help ensure your dining experience is safe.

“This is another way of letting you know that we didn’t read or comprehend your blog… or don’t have all that great of a grasp on the English language, because you already tried what we just recommended, and it most certainly did not work out for you.”

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention — we value the safety and enjoyment of all our guests.

“We’re not going to follow up with the server & manager from that store who are obviously unaware of our apparent policies, because we really really really don’t care.”

Sincerely,

Applebee’s

“Full of Shit, Applebee’s (The newly sentient restaurant chain, now capable of writing letters.)”  –  Seriously.  They couldn’t even sign their name or provide some contact information for a follow up?

I think I may just have to write to Applebee’s myself.