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Jul 17, 2001 03:34 PM

Yoder's vs Shady Maple

  • d

I'd decided on Shady Maple for a weekday buffet dinner, when a poster suggested that Yoder's, although having a smaller selection, was a better choice.

Any comments?



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  1. Doug, I guess you probably read the lengthy Amish thread attached below - since I have only been to shady maple and not to Yoders yet, I cant make the direct comparison, but I note my local mennonite hostess on the last trip we took into that area liked Yoders and Dieners best of the local eateries.

    Please post when you get back and tell us what you thought!


    2 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      Thanks. Yoders is tempting, but so is the broasted chicken and the pork at Shady Maple!
      I'll report back, whichever one we go to.


      1. re: Doug Weller

        If you are in the Ephrata area and looking for a great lunch, I recommend The Udder Choice. It is an ice cream parlor with a cow theme, but has great homemade soups and sandwiches. It is on Rt 322 just west of Ephrata. If you see the Sharp Shopper Plaza on the left, you have gone too far. It is very hard to see. When you pass Citifinancial, it will be very next right turn. Dove Christian Fellowship has taken over most of the building and Udder Choice will be moving into their own building when it is finished.
        We are fans of Yoders and Dienners. I just heard Dienners bought Harvest Drive Restaurant near Intercourse. Last time we were there, it was terrible. So with Dienners there, it should be great. More room than the tiny place they have on Rt 30.

    2. Doug:

      I had the idea of eating in the Shady Maple the other day, when I was driving on the PA Turnpike near exit 21 at dinnertime.

      Fifteen years ago, I was the biggest Shady Maple fan there was, but over the years, I've watched the food there slide downhill and the place just got bigger and bigger.

      This new giant Shady Maple is really a temple of gluttony! It looks like a large house of worship on the outside and Leonard's of Great Neck on the inside.

      Anyway, I went in and the wait (on a weeknight) was at least a half an hour. But with all that marble and soft lighting, I felt like I should have been wearing a rented tux and bringing a cheap gift.

      I walked out after ten minutes.

      The best food in Lancaster County seems to be in small restaurants that are hardly ever open. The snack bar in the Shady Maple Supermarket is okay in a pinch, but finding really good Amish cooking is like finding a hot late night dance club.

      A book with a title like "Lancaster County Restaurants That Were Once Good and Have Either Been Torn Down Or Now Serve Frozen Tasting Food" could run 3,000 pages long.

      My favorite place in Lancaster County right now is the White Horse Lunchonette, but I'm afraid to reccomend it because I know that it's only a matter of time before they start serving frozen pizza and Italian Subs.

      BTW...if I were to put Chowhounding aside for a moment, I'd say that Yoders is far better (as of one year ago) than the Shady Maple, if you bring kids there, it's easier to keep an eye on them, and the choices are fewer and far more different from each other.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Brian Yarvin

        Thanks Brian. Still not sure why fewer choices is better, but if I can get some decent meat dishes at Yoder's I'll go there (salad choices ok, as that is what Helen will go for?).


        1. re: Doug Weller


          I find that in Amish buffets with many choices, to many of them are too similar. How many different kinds of chocolate pudding do you need if they all came from a mass feeding kitchen? Or how many overcooked roasts in brown gravy?

          Within the genre, fewer choices means a smaller kitchen and more attention paid to what's out there.

          Lancaster County chowhounds face another problem; the best places often look really tacky. Normally, I would avoid really bright places that seem to have ultra-bright interiors of formica and vinyl and exteriors that look like updated Howard Johnson's, but down in Amish Country, that's a good sign.

          I still strongly reccomend you avoid the buffets unless you're feeding kids and teens. (then you MUST take a fourteen year-old the Shady Maple is the Disney World of food)

          I hope this helps!

          BTW...even if you give up on Lancaster, don't give up on the Amish! Other Amish areas have far better food than Lancaster - the towns of Charm and Baltic Ohio have places that really show how things are done.

          1. re: Brian Yarvin

            But I love buffets! So where would you go without spending huge sums (I know where to get expensive Amish food!)?


            1. re: Doug Weller


              If you want a great buffet for the sake of buffet, I'm not sure that I'd choose Amish. Their buffets seem so filled with gray meat, brown gravy, and lighter brown starch.

              Currently (as I said) I like the White Horse Luncheonette on Old Philadelphia Pike east of Intercourse. No buffet, but try the pies, the scrapple, and if they have it; the biscuits and gravy with the gravy made from Amish sweet bologna instead of breakfast sausage. In a life of eating (or maybe a life of overeating?) this is my only real Chowhound-type find.

              Of course, it's been months since I've been there, and it may now be a chinese take out.

              While I'm here, I'd like to ask if anybody has tried Haag's Hotel. It seems promising, and it's only a few miles north of Lancaster County.

              1. re: Brian Yarvin

                I feel you can pick your way through the buffet at a place like Shady Maple. Also show up EARLY - before noon - for lunch if you dont want to wait. Yes the beef roast is going to be bad. avoid the fish. I do not like their boiled sausage and pork - its bland and heavy. take tiny servings the first time around - you can always go back for seconds. Many of the desserts will be mediocre, out of a mix(the puddings and jellos for example) I think of this food as being like a church supper where some of the dishes will be dreadful made with convenience foods and others superb and traditional. I have had meals there where they served 3 different potato salads and 3 diff slaws. The sides, and the great broasted chicken and the pork made the meal worth while. we have had great peach crisp and apple desserts, but tho most people like them the desserts are not top tier (how often to you get top tier pie in a restaurant?) .

                Haags Hotel just off US 78 in Shartlesville, NW Berks Cty., is better overall and much more atmosperic and relaxed (its an old coaching hotel), in a Pa. Dutch but not Mennonite area (they serve on Sundays) but the food is generally similar in type. They serve a fixed meal, family style with a choice of meats. Their bread and pies (like Shady Maple) are not as good as they should be (the pies are a cut better). Their chicken and ham are excellent and full of flavor (once again the pork and sausage are not quite as good) but the sides are superior, including the slaws,the "dressing", potpie (yum!) and even cottage cheese.

              2. re: Doug Weller

                But Shady Maple is NOT cheap. I seem to remember it is like $13.00 at lunch on a Saturday. I was not impressed. The food had been sitting for a while and everything had gravy. An Ephrarat Friend raved about the Old Straburg Inn buffet for years. They recently changed chefs and are still in limbo.


                1. re: Steve

                  You're right of course, it's not cheap. I was also thinking of their fast food place - their web page says:
                  Dutchette Fast Food - Specializes in juicy cheese steaks, burgers, self serve bars, bloomin onions, edible soup bowls, deli sandwiches, fries, onion rings, platters and much more. After 4 PM receive a FREE SUNDAE (ask for details). Take out is available:

                  Might be a better bet!

                  1. re: Doug Weller

                    I doubt it!
                    No reason to think Shady Maple's fast food is particularly good - its generic and has never looked attractive to us (tho weve only looked after finishing dinner in the main restaurant). $13 (less for kids) is a major bargain for that much food and variety, paced as slowly as you like, and with all the people watching - maybe youd pay half as much downstairs for something you could get anywhere.

                    I thought some of the other suggestions by Eric were great and I am hoping to have to time to follow up on them next time we visit that area.

                    ps. if you have time, check out the Shady Maple supermarket - it is pretty staggering and a good source for local products.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      I've taken careful note of Eric's suggestions and found them on a map. I'm not sure if there is both a White Horse Tavern and a White Horse Luncheonette. We'll probably end up either at one of the small restaurants or, if we really want a buffet, Yoders.

                      Or of course just grabbing something at the Shady Maple Supermarket or a stand somewhere.


                      1. re: Doug Weller
                        Chester County Chowhound

                        >> I'm not sure if there is both a White Horse Tavern and a White Horse Luncheonette.

                        Yes, they both do exist... they are about a quarter mile apart and on opposite sides of PA 340/Old Philadelphia Pike.

                        Been to the luncheonette a couple of times--it's decent but not particularly memorable. Haven't tried the pies though...

                        Have not tried the Tavern.

                        1. re: Chester County Chowhound

                          Thanks for that. I'd stop at both to look at the menus, but I think that might drive Helen crazy!

                          Maybe the Tavern.


                          1. re: Chester County Chowhound

                            Hi everyone. Sorry I haven't joined the thread in a while. I was talking about the luncheonette and while much of the food - especially plates with brown gravy on them - is just decent - I've had great breakfasts and desserts there.

                            What I don't know is if the very idea of roasted meat with brown gravy is in itself so tiring that I can't even judge it anymore. This is my problem with the Shady Maple; those rows of brown meats and funny colored desserts (the red cake is especially strange) just turn me off.

                            My dream buffet has ten or fifteen excellent dishes and I get to try them all...sort of a poor man's tasting menu.

          2. May I suggest:
            1-drive around and look for firehouse & church suppers on a sat afternoon (they're all over)
            2-stoltzfus family style just outside of intercourse if it's still there
            2-white horse tavern, also near intercourse (same one brian recomended?)
            3-small restaurant across from bus plant at west edge of honeybrook is wonderful
            4-check "Lancaster Farming Paper" for benefit barbeques

            good apetite!

            1 Reply
            1. re: eric

              Thanks for the suggestion. We're there on a Thursday, so a couple of them might not apply.

              There's a White Horse Tavern near Intercourse, but it was a White Horse Luncheonette that Brian suggested describing it as a small place just east of Intercourse on the corner of routes 340 and 897. I've taken notes about it and will look for it.

              Looking through the net, I find this:
              Honey Brook Restaurant 
              Rt 322, 1/2 Mile West of
              Rt 10 
              Honey Brook, PA 19344 
              Winter Hours: M-Th 7am-7pm  
              F-Sat 7am-7:30pm         
              Sun 8am-7pm 
              Summer Hours: M-Th 7am-7:30pm 
              F-Sat 7am-7:30pm 
              Sun 8am-7p, 
              And in a description of a bike ride (!)"We ate lunch at the Honeybrook Family
              Restaurant instead of the planned pizza joint. Everyone enjoyed
              the food. Five out of six at our table followed Wally's lead and had the hot turkey sandwich with real mash potatoes and cole slaw.
              Some had desert such as phenomenal coconut custard pie (guess who had that), shoo-fly pie, and pumpkin pie. Linda who did not follow our lead nevertheless had turkey in the form of a burger."

              We'll have to think about that. But Helen might really want a salad bar, and I might want to have more than 1 dessert!
              I'll take all this with us and we'll decide on the day, but thanks very much for these suggestions.

            2. Shady Maple's food is horrible. I couldn't find anything good. The food was cold. The meat was touch, vegetables were canned. It's just a lot of mass produced food.

              1. I would choose Yoder's over Shady Maple, not because the food is that much better (they're both just ok), but because it's smaller and quieter. Shady Maple is like eating in an airplane hanger. It's always crowded and incredibly noisy. You spend more time fetching your food than you do eating it, and I find the whole environment extremely stressful. At Yoder's, it is at least possible to go early, when it's not so crowded.

                As to the food itself, I've lived in Lancaster for eight years now, and in my experience, Amish food in general is just not very good. It's underseasoned, oversweetened, and mind-numbingly repetitive. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes seem to be the staples, along with the depressing roasted meats and gravy mentioned earlier. The only kinds of vegetables they eat are somehow loaded with sugar. Lima beans with sweet sweet sweet tomato sauce. Salad with sugary bacon dressing or apple butter slopped all over it. You want to make something Amish? Add a cup of sugar and half a dozen hard boiled eggs. These buffets are great places to take a family of picky eaters at a reasonable price, but there is very little food there that rises above the ordinary.