|Candied Yams at Der Dutchman, Sarasota, Florida|
Ever since my first visit to the Pinecraft area of Sarasota this past August, I've been dying to go back. The Amish-Mennonite community has a certain charm. And, they of course have pie. Everyone who has kept up with my blog and Facebook page knows how much I love the pie. So, after my last post about Yoder's, a friend and Sarasota native told me about another Amish favorite. Dutch Heritage, now called Der Dutchman, is also situated on Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota. Although only a few blocks down from Yoder's, its ambiance is entirely different. Der Dutchman is no small restaurant. As soon as you drive into the lot, you realize that this restaurant is made for visitors. The large wrap around porch and wooden rocking chairs seem reminiscent of the Cracker Barrel. And when you go through the front doors into the large gift and pastry shop, you can't help but think Der Dutchman is indeed the Amish version of the popular country store. So, it makes me wonder, which came first? Kind of like the proverbial chicken and the egg. But now I am digressing and this blog is supposed to be about the food, so ...
What I loved: Just like its cousin down the road, Der Dutchman is quite popular and diners may also find themselves confronted with a line. But thankfully the line at Der Dutchman is a lot more tolerable. This restaurant's dining room is quite large and clearly accommodates many more diners. Large parties will definitely be more comfortable. In fact, during this visit I found signs clearly marking seating for members of organizations and businesses who were meeting at Der Dutchman that day. It's rather comforting to know that this restaurant welcomes large groups because my family, when all together, can be pretty big.
Another great feature of the Der Dutchman dining room is its large buffet service. Although Der Dutchman provides diners with a traditional menu, a visitor would be crazy not to partake of the buffet which is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is no skimpy buffet and for $14 it is also a great deal. There are a multitude of offerings on the buffet, nearly guaranteeing that every diner is going to find something to their liking. And, although it does not include pie, this buffet does include various desserts. During this visit with my children, sister, brother-in-law and toddler niece, each of us did indeed find something to our liking. Not an easy feat for a group with diverse tastes. (The only one who ordered anything from the menu is my burger-obsessed son.)
Some of my buffet favorites include the broccoli salad (yum), three bean salad, macaroni and cheese and candied yams. The green beans were a surprise. Clearly they are made from fresh legumes (these are a vibrant crisp green) but they taste nearly like the ones that come from the can. (I know I'm not the only one who has wondered how and why canned green beans seem to "taste" good; nothing else from a can really does.) Yes, it's a mystery but I don't care. These are good.
My biggest surprise favorite? The fried chicken. I know what you are thinking. Didn't I frown a bit the last time I bit into Amish fried chicken? Didn't I go on and on about the Amish being light on seasoning? Wasn't I a hair away from daring to call Amish fried chicken bland? Well, I take it all back. I don't know what they do different at Der Dutchman that they don't do down the road at Yoder's but Der Dutchman definitely has the fried chicken I've been looking for. Still lean and not fatty, Der Dutchman's fried chicken has all the flavor that its cousin down the road lacks. And the fact that they serve it buffet style means that I can select the pieces (the wings) that I like best. Score!
What I didn't love: Now, as you all know, I rarely walk away from a restaurant with a 100% scorecard. Der Dutchman did not meet my challenge without some marks. I will be blunt and say I won't dare have the brussel sprouts again. Some of you may not be surprised. After all, we are talking about brussel sprouts here. But I happen to like this rather unappreciated vegetable. I just think that they should be cooked in only one way: roasted with olive oil, salt and butter. Apparently the Amish eat them old school - steamed - and, let's face it, steamed brussel sprouts just taste like ...
I also did not love the german chocolate cake, at least I think it was german chocolate cake. Maybe it was a carrot cake. It may have had nuts. All I know is that it had a coconut frosting. Whatever it was it was overloaded with allspice. Hmmm... maybe it was a spice cake. Who cares. Even Anna did not venture past her first bite. Crossing that off the list when I make my next trip to the buffet.
How much I spent: $$. For myself and my two kids, my bill came to about $45 with soft drinks and tip.
My overall rating: 3 3/4 spoons. Tried and true fans of Yoder's may scoff at Der Dutchman, since it is now part of an Amish restaurant chain that includes locations near other Amish communities in Ohio. But that fact that it is part of an "English-style" commercial enterprise doesn't bother me. Der Dutchman is a perfect complement to its Amish cousin, Yoder's. Yes, the latter has a pie to die for and I will always be willing to drive 100 miles for that pie. But, Der Dutchman has a fried chicken that that will always keep me coming back. My plan for my next trip to Sarasota is already clear. Dinner at the Dutchman and dessert at Yoder's. I think I've found utopia.