Dutch Haven - "The Place that Made Shoo-fly Pie Famous"

 

Visitors have been coming to Lancaster County by traveling Route 30 for literally hundreds of years. But for over 50 years, a very special building has signaled their arrival in Amish Country. It’s been around long enough that folks tell their grandchildren about it. It has a claim on being the area’s oldest visitor landmark. Most importantly, it’s the “place that made shoo-fly pie famous.” That building is the landmark Dutch Haven windmill, with its revolving arms still beckoning travelers to stop and come inside.

With a history that goes back to the very beginnings of tourism in the county, the building is rich in memories both for visitors and for local residents. One local who has a warm place in her heart for Dutch Haven is Lois Schrock, who has worked at Dutch Haven for many years. Lois and her husband were well-known to locals and to visitors as the originators and former operators of the Red Caboose Motel and Mill Bridge Village. She talks about Dutch Haven as she would a relative of the family. And she is glad that the structure has been preserved, and that those famous shoo-fly pies are still being made and sold there.

Dutch Haven opened, without the windmill, in the early 1920’s. At that time, it was a small luncheonette, and continued to operate as such when the new owner, Roy Weaver, purchased it in 1946, and Dutch Haven’s life as a full service restaurant officially began. The fame of the restaurant grew with his wife’s delicious shoo-fly pies, an unusual dessert that was new to most people who stopped by to eat. Indeed, shoo-fly pies were virtually unknown until Dutch Haven opened and served the pies warm, topped with whipped cream. Meanwhile, Roy topped the building itself with its famous landmark windmill.

Tourism first started to grow in Lancaster in the 1940’s, and since many visitors came from New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, they drove right by Dutch Haven, and stopped in to have some of the legendary pie. And who knows? Maybe Doris Day or Dinah Shore had even stopped by prior to their recording of the song “Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,” a song also recorded by Stan Kenton and Guy Lombardo.

As tourism traffic increased, so did the restaurant, with buses paying visits into the 1970’s. The restaurant menu featured such items as the “Distleburger,” named after the “distlefink,” the Pennsylvania Dutch bird which is a symbol of good luck. Of course, there was also chicken corn soup, sauerkraut, “bot boi” (pot pie), pork BBQ, lettuce with warm bacon dressing, and perhaps the favorite dish on the menu --- Amish-style turkey filling. The gooey shoo-fly pie was still “the thing,” says Lois, and the dessert was even mentioned in a TIME magazine article. The menu encouraged diners to “Take one for yourself or send one to someone nice.”

But then business started to decline, and so did the property. Saving it from an uncertain future, it was purchased by the current owner, Paul Stahl. By 1993, the interior had become a craft cooperative. Even though the restaurant no longer operated, the shoo-fly pies that were the key to Dutch Haven’s fame were still being made with the same famous recipe. At that point, Lois gladly returned to work at Dutch Haven. “My interest was to help to do whatever needed to be done to get it up and going again. I am grateful to Paul for buying the property because of my interest in the history, the building, and the place.”

Gradually, the store expanded to what it is today, specializing in Amish furniture and over 10,000 unique gift items and collectibles. Fortunately, the walls on the inside of the windmill still contain many of the original decorations and paintings from the “old days.” The paintings were by an artist named Vince DeHaven, his last name being an odd coincidence to say the least! Other reminders of Dutch Haven’s past remain as well, including the old mailbox painted with Pennsylvania Dutch designs. You’ll also see the big barrel, informing visitors that “genuine Amish style root beer” is available. Now filling what were once restaurant dining areas, are rooms bursting with over 10,000 items. You'll find one of the best selections of primitive Amish pine furniture --- corner cupboards, pie safes, chests, and shelves are all available. Gift and decorating items range from Amish woodcrafts to jams and jellies, potholders to copper crafts, and T-shirts to stunning pottery.

I asked Lois about the famous pie, which she passionately feels really is the best shoo-fly. It is difficult to argue with someone who has sampled as many different shoo-fly pie recipes as she obviously has. While the ingredients to these pies are often similar, Lois feels it is the unique combination in the Dutch Haven recipe that makes them so good. Try and find out what the recipe is, and you won't get very far. She stresses that even people who say they don’t like shoo-fly pie discover that Dutch Haven’s pies are delicious. Apparently so, since between 40,000 to 50,000 are baked there annually.

Many people make Dutch Haven a stop on their regular visits to Amish Country. One man said he took his first shoo-fly pie home and ate the entire pie in one sitting! Another visitor tasted the sample and asked what it was. Lois said simply that it was shoo-fly pie. The visitor responded in shock, “Why it can’t be. I don’t like shoo-fly pie!”

Over the years, a frequent visitor to the weekly Manheim Auto Auction was also a frequent visitor at Dutch Haven to pick up a pie. And you can send a pie to yourself or a friend virtually anywhere in the USA. They hold up quite well, and taste like they’re hot out of the oven after a little warming in the microwave. I decided to put the above comments to the test. First, I took a pie to some friends who are not fans of shoo-fly pies, but I encouraged them to give it a try. All three of them did, and told me in great surprise, “This is the first shoo-fly pie I’ve eaten that I really like.”

Next I wanted to send the pie to someone I knew liked shoo-fly pies, my uncle and his wife in Florida. It was a simple phone call to Dutch Haven and off went the pie. They loved it, and told me that they divide the pie in half to be sure that neither of them eats it all! They also said that the delivery man commented on the pie as he was dropping it off. It seemed he would have liked to have been the recipient, or at least been invited in for a slice.

Jakey's Amish Barbeque

Just a couple years ago, food returned to the Dutch Haven menu. Just behind the windmill is Jakey's Amish Barbeque. Barbeque meats and sandwiches are local favorites at markets and auctions. Amish picnics often feature barbeque chicken. Local volunteer fire companies host pork BBQ dinners to raise money. But as a visitor, the likelihood of your being able to eat at one of these events is limited. What to do? Why drive on over to Jakey’s any day of the week. (Yes, they’re open Sunday.)

We’re talking real pit BBQ. The smell of the smoke hints at the taste to come. You may have to wait a little for your sandwich --- it’s not a fast food restaurant --- but you’ll be getting the “real deal.” I tried a generous sliced beef barbecue sandwich with a delicious sauce. And the French fries are not the frozen variety, but hand cut, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I decided to top it off with lemonade. Like everything else, this is “made from scratch,” fresh squeezed and so satisfying on a hot day.

Besides the slow cooked sliced brisket, pork, turkey and chicken sandwiches and platters, you can also enjoy some other local favorites, including funnel cake. I like to think of funnel cakes as donuts that have spiraled out of control. The batter forms unusual shapes and it’s so much better enjoying a warm funnel cake sprinkled with powdered sugar than a donut that’s been sitting around for hours (or days). Naturally, Dutch Haven’s world famous shoofly pie is available by the slice.

More traditional fare like hotdogs, hamburgers, and ice cream will keep the kids happy. But when you travel, you should try the specialties of the area. Sampling regional barbeque is great fun, so be sure to sample some of ours. A couple from the Carolinas enjoyed a sandwich while I was there, and the gentleman said he ate it “from the inside,” because he liked the meat so much!

So, whether you visit Dutch Haven for some serious shopping, to sample the pie, to try some great BBQ, or just to see the historic building itself, you’ll be discovering a part of Lancaster County’s history. When you walk in under the welcoming arms of the windmill, you’ll be encouraged to try a free sample of “America’s best shoo-fly pie.” And like many visitors before, you will probably decide to “Take one for yourself or send one to someone nice.” After all, it IS the place that made shoo-fly pie famous!

Dutch Haven is open 7 days a week. For more information, about this Lancaster County landmark, call (717) 687-0111, or go shopping and send a pie online at www.dutchhaven.com

 

--- by Brad Igou

 


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