Old world preserved at Mary Yoder's Amish Kitchen
By Brian W. Fairbanks
In Middlefield, Ohio, the second largest Amish settlement in the Buckeye State, horse-drawn buggies comfortably share the road with more modern means of transportation. The landscape of farmland and old style barns is occasionally interrupted by glowing neon signs advertising Kentucky Fried Chicken and Arby's cheese melts, but to truly taste the spirit of this old world environment, have breakfast, lunch or dinner at Mary Yoder's Amish Kitchen, located 45 minutes from Cleveland.
Even the parking lot, spacious and clean without a cigarette butt in sight, offers a clue that this will not be the typical big city dining experience. You're unlikely to be distracted by a fellow patron's loud cell phone conversation or deal with servers who are only competent when it comes to collecting the tip. Manners haven't gone out of style in Middlefield (although the horses, being horses, do leave mementos in the street).
Walk in the door and the first thing you see is the bakery and gift shop. Homemade bread and maple syrup line the shelves along with fluffy teddy bears and glass ornaments engraved with inspirational thoughts. The one bearing a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson stands out: "Live the life you imagined." I can't imagine a better life than one that includes regular visits to Mary Yoder's.
The dining area in the rear has a cozy atmosphere that belies its size. Large handmade quilts (for sale, but with an average price tag of $400) adorn the walls between windows through which you can watch the flow of traffic. In this setting, your ears might swear they hear the hoof-beats of the horses but not the motors of the cars.
The menu arrives promptly, printed on the paper place-mat. Hot sandwiches, most under $5.00, sound tempting but I order the fish dinner with a choice of two side dishes for $9.29. I choose the cole slaw and mashed potatoes. The slaw arrives first. It's nice and creamy with a sharp but not overpowering tang. I empty the bowl by the time the mashed potatoes arrive on the same plate as the fish. Will the gravy from the potatoes run like a river into the nearly foot long piece of lightly breaded deep fried cod?
Not likely. These potatoes are thick with a volcano like center that securely holds the gravy. Let your fork begin its excavation in the middle and work its way around. Once those spuds are gone, they're gone, clean off the plate, gravy too.
The fish actually looks like something that once swam in a body of water, and fairly recently at that. Squeeze the lemon on top of it, apply the tartar sauce (from packets), and dig in.
"How is it?" I ask my companion.
"Chewy," she says.
"Is that good?"
"Yes," she says.
"It has substance."
Yes, it has substance, and so does that apple butter in the decanter. Even though my companion confesses that she feels a "little bloated," a condition she blames on eating too much of the water heavy slaw, we both spread apple butter on our bread rolls and our stomachs gallantly make room for them.
As we nurse yet another refill of coffee, I don't wonder, as I am prone to do, just how long we might be allowed to linger. At Mary Yoder's, they're pleased to let you digest the food before sending you out to brave the elements. When we did feel like stretching our legs, we did so while browsing in the bakery and gift shop. A pleasant time was had by all.
Mary Yoder's Amish Kitchen
14743 N. State St.
Middlefield, OH 44062.
Phone: (440) 632-1939.
Hours: Monday, Friday and Saturday from 7 A.M.-8 P.M.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 A.M.-8 P.M. Brian W. Fairbanks has no particular "policy" when it comes to reviewing a restaurant. He shows up and eats. If he isn't satisfied on his first visit to the establishment in question, he won't return.
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