Yoder’s Restaurant, Sarasota, Fla.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the blog after a golf tournament, a visit from my wonderful lady and now a road race coming tomorrow, but it’s time that I get back to one of the things I do best, and I’m going to make my return with a slice of Amish culture from Florida.
When you think of the Amish, you tend not to think of Florida. However, seeing as how they mostly shun the modern technological ways of living, it does make sense that they would pick a location that doesn’t have to worry about cold weather. Apparently, enough of them liked Sarasota on Florida’s west coast to set up a full community there, and when driving through the Gulf Coast town, one quickly notices where the Amish village begins.
At the heart of the Amish village is Yoder’s, one of the most famous restaurants in the country and certainly the most famish Amish restaurant in the country. Yoder’s was started when an Amish family moved south to Sarasota and set up shop, using all of matriarch Amanda Yoder’s recipes to provide traditional Amish cooking to both Amish residents and the outside world.
What makes a traditional Amish-cooked meal? Yoder’s doesn’t use a single pre-made thing on its menu. You won’t find cans, mixes or jars of ready-to-use ingredients that tend to line the kitchens of the average pressed-for-time American in Yoder’s kitchen. Instead, every item on the Yoder’s menu is made from scratch each day.
On the dinner menu, one of the things they’re most famous for is their fried chicken. On most days, Yoder’s chooses a pressure-frying method for its chicken, which is a process that speeds up cooking time and makes the chicken moist inside. However, once a week on Fridays, Yoder’s leaves the pressure fryer alone and goes with the traditional pan-frying method of cooking the chicken.
The results work perfectly. Even with the pan-frying, Yoder’s chicken is crispy on the outside without being too greasy and juicy rather than tough on the inside. I’m not sure if it’s the Amish style of cooking or the secret breading used on their chicken, but whatever it is, Yoder’s chicken recipe works wonderfully. Of course, the best thing to pair it with is some homemade mashed potatoes with gravy. I’m not even a big gravy fan, as I like to let a good potato stand on its own (blame my 19 months in Idaho, where it’s impossible to find a bad potato), but the gravy at Yoder’s is so good that an exception needed to be made. With Amy being with me, fried okra was chosen as another side, and it’s a very interesting taste that works well. I’d actually never had okra before, but it was a delicious experience.
But the biggest thing about Yoder’s are its desserts. More specifically, the thing about Yoder’s is its pie. Yoder’s menu boasts 28 kinds of pie, from homemade butterscotch to Dutch apple crumb to cherry to coconut cream. Its most famous and most popular, however, is its peanut butter cream, and when something with peanut butter is a restaurant’s signature, that’s like a siren song for me.
Yoder’s uses a mix of peanut butter and powdered sugar to form both the base and topping of the pie. It starts with a layer of the peanut butter mix, then adds vanilla pudding to form the actual filling. The pie is topped with fresh whipped cream and then finished off with more of the peanut butter mix.
The result is heavenly. The peanut butter taste works perfectly with the other flavors and the vanilla pudding is light and delicious. It’s one of the best pies I’ve ever tasted, and my search for the world’s greatest peanut butter dessert might have found its answer, which doesn’t mean I’m going to stop searching at all. I love the taste too much.
Meanwhile, Amy opted for the chocolate cream pie, which uses a homemade chocolate pudding and whipped cream and gets topped with chocolate chips. It was also excellent, and definitely worth getting if I ever find myself back in Sarasota. Then again, with 26 other pies on the menu, there’s a lot of others I’d like to taste. For those who aren’t big on pie, Yoder’s also serves up cake and cheesecake for dessert, along with hand-dipped ice cream. Chocolate cake is always on Yoder’s menu, along with a cake of the day.
Knowing how Yoder’s does everything else, you can count on two things with whatever you order: it’s going to be homemade, and it’s going to be delicious and completely worth the trip into Sarasota.
Time to go: Anytime between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday is fine. Yoder’s serves breakfast early, and you can order one of its pies at any time of day. Yoder’s is not open on Sunday.
Wait during my visit: Ridiculous. Yoder’s is very popular and Amish cooking means it takes its time to be ready. One bit of good news is that if you are in a hurry, you have the option to eat outside. Yoder’s offers a small picnic area for its guests, allowing those who want to sit in the sun and eat to do exactly that. That’s what we did, but the wait was still quite long. Plan ahead.
Location: Yoder’s is at 3434 Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota, Fla.
Cost: Not cheap, not awful. Plan on about $11 a plate, plus an extra $4.50 for slices of pie. Trust me, the pie is worth it.
Parking: Not a lot, as the lot is small, but as several of the patrons are Amish who can walk to Yoder’s, it doesn’t always get full.
Website: Yoder’s. The restaurant also features an Amish store off to the side, and it has that on its website.
Signature items: Fried chicken, pie.