It’s sad but true that Lancaster county has become a melage of tourist traps and outlets. These days, it seems more and more people come to buy useless trinkets rather than really appreciate the unique Amish culture. Attractions have sprung up everywhere allowing people to indulge in a moment of Amish austerity – from buggy rides to quilting and food. On my last visit I realized that I had forgotten both how beautiful the land is and how crowded it can get from the busloads of tourists.
Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, when done right, rivals Southern cuisine in my mind for title of “best comfort food.” It’s a product of their Germanic heritage and agricultural lifestyle – seasonal food with a focus on the food rather than the trend. Sadly, many of the jars of chow-chow or apple butter you might find at the local tourist shop aren’t great representations of this tradition.
Enter the Good ‘N Plenty. Though I hate to point people to yet another tourist haven, I feel justified in that the food here is really good. And the restaurant itself is over 40 years old, having been opened in 1969 by Christ and Dolly Lapp (who still run the restaurant).
There are a few kitschy touches. To enter the restaurant, you must first navigate a tourist waiting area selling everything from Beanie Babies to “Welcome to Intercourse” road signs. The waitstaff and bussers, while friendly, sometimes look slightly embarrassed to be caught in public wearing their faux-Amish farmhouse gear. And within the past year, the restaurant has instated an a la carte menu. Do not be fooled. Go directly to the family style, all you can eat dining, which costs a measly $20/pp (before tax and tip).
When your name is called, you’ll be seated at one of dozens of long tables covered by cherry red-checkered tablecloths. At each table is a jug each of water, iced tea and lemonade, a bowl each of applesauce, chow-chow, and chicken salad, and dishes of apple butter, cottage cheese, and whipped butter. You can begin helping yourself immediately, before the friendly waitress brings slices of fresh-baked white and wheat bread.
Before long, you’ll be joined by others – usually tourists – with which you’ll share your meal. The rooms resound with laughing and calls of “Please pass the chicken!” mingled with the waitresses’ happy chatter: “Do we need some more noodles, honey?” On our last visit we were joined by a couple from Canada and a group of Floridians doing a cross-country tour.
Once you’ve tucked into your appetizer plate, the waitress will start bringing out the hot entrees. These vary daily, but always include fried chicken, buttered noodles, and a vegetable. Eat until you’re full to bursting, but save a little room because when she clears the table, it’s time for dessert. Each table gets two pies – shoofly and a fruit- ice cream, pudding and cheesecake.
All said and done, this is how our “menu” might have looked for our last Good ‘N Plenty meal:
– Fresh baked brown and white bread, butter, apple butter and cottage cheese
– Cabbage slaw, chow chow, chicken salad, applesauce
– Fried chicken, roast beef, and German sausages
– Hot buttered noodles, carrots and mashed potatoes with gravy
– Shoofly and apple pie
– Strawberry cheesecake
– Your choice of homemade chocolate or vanilla ice cream
– Coconut pudding
Bottomless beverages included: Water, Iced Tea, Lemonade, Coffee, Milk and Tea
You’ll eat, and eat, and eat, make new friends, and then eat some more, until you hurt. It’s a meal you won’t ever forget.