A Taste of Amish-Style Cooking in the Midwest

Food & Beverage, Magazine Features

The region offers various dining options and tours for groups looking to experience a unique lifestyle and feast on hearty cuisine

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The Midwest—specifically Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois—is home to large Amish populations. Many families migrated to the region in the 19th century as land in the East was becoming increasingly expensive and scarce. Like other ethnic groups, the Amish built tight-knit communities near each other.

The Amish thrive because they are self-sufficient and make good use of the fertile Midwestern land for growing crops and raising livestock. They are known for their tasty meals and splendid baked goods made from simple recipes and homegrown ingredients using traditional methods.

Amish men working with their horses. Photo courtesy of Ohio’s Amish Country Magazine.

What’s on the Menu?

Common dishes include fried chicken, mashed potatoes, noodles, soups and casseroles. Homemade breads and jams, plus dairy products like milk, butter and cheese, are also a big part of the Amish diet. Desserts consist of delicious pies, cookies and cakes. Many recipes have been handed down from generation to generation.

Meals are important to Amish culture as they are a way of bringing people together. To outsiders, trying their food offers a unique cultural experience. Dining options range from in-home meals to Amish-style restaurants.

Homemade jams, jellies, salsas, and more are available at Dutch Country Market. Photo courtesy of Dutch Country Market.

The Midwest’s Amish areas abound with restaurants, bakeries and markets that are popular with both locals and tourists. Keep in mind that Amish-owned businesses are not open on Sundays as it is a day of worship.

 

A hearty meal from Das Dutchman Essenhaus. Photo courtesy of Das Dutchman Essenhaus.

  • Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, Indiana is famed for ample portions of hearty, made-from-scratch Amish/Mennonite dishes. Owned and operated by three generations of the same family, the state’s largest restaurant offers three types of service: buffet, menu and family-style. It makes more than 30 varieties of pie, from coconut and banana cream to shoofly and rhubarb-custard.
  • Blue Gate Restaurant & Bakery in Shipshewana also appeals to groups touring Northern Indiana Amish Country, the third-largest Amish community in the country (after Pennsylvania and Ohio). As at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, guests can choose from the buffet, menu or family-style dining and a staggering variety of pies. The buffet offers everything from fried chicken, meatballs and BBQ pulled pork to mac ’n’ cheese, chicken dressing, buttery egg noodles and mashed potatoes with gravy.
  • Dutch Country Market in Middlebury, Indiana sells house-made products ranging from noodles to candies. Featured goods include jams and jellies, apple butter, sauces and salad toppings, plus soaps, candles, lip balm made from the honey from the family’s own bees. You can watch oodles of noodles being made most weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

In Ohio, one of the most popular restaurants is The Amish Door in Wilmot, less than an hour south of Akron. Other eateries ideal for large groups are Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek (famous for its peanut butter crumb pie), Der Dutchman in Walnut Creek and Berlin Farmstead in Berlin.

In Arthur, Illinois, Yoder’s Kitchen is the place to indulge in buffet-style dining the Amish way.

 Several tour companies in the Midwest provide educational visits that spotlight Amish culture.

  • Buggy Lane Tours of Shipshewana, Indiana offers buggy rides and sightseeing tours that explore Amish Country backroads, let guests milk cows and end with a family-style Amish meal.
  • ACM Tours in Central Illinois. Whether you’re looking for lodging in the Arthur-Arcola area or a quick tour of Illinois Amish Country, ACM Tours is happy to help. It works closely with Amish families who open their homes for dining experiences for groups of any size.
  • Ohio Amish Country. Several local receptive operators can arrange a small- or large-group booking for a tour, meal or workshop in Holmes and Tuscawaras counties and other Amish areas around the state.

Boasting a population of more than 130,000 in just Ohio and Indiana combined, the Amish community remains a significant contributor to America’s rich melting pot of religious and cultural diversity. Partaking in a tour and sampling the food are great ways to discover the Amish values of faith, family and simplicity.

By Sophia Divagno

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