Eating Well on the Road

By Frank Whitman

Hometown Kitchen parking lot

We’re just back from a bucket-list road trip – one that’s been postponed for years because of covid, conflicts and calendar congestion.  Finally, we set off for Pennsylvania for genealogy, architecture, and good food along with a dose of classic American tourism.  

We ate at an off-the-beaten-path chef-curated restaurant, small-town local favorites, and authentic Amish establishments.  And yes, there were some ice cream and bakery visits along the way. A lot of good eating was packed into five days. 

In a remote, woodsy location of the Laurel Highlands in the Allegheny Mountains, a little more than an hour from Pittsburgh, the Treetops Restaurant was a surprise. On the trail of Frank Lloyd Wright, the

Coffee at Treetops

bold American architectural genius, we visited Polymath Park, the site of two FLW houses and two more built by his apprentices. The houses were remarkable and well worth the trek, but the restaurant was an unexpected treat. 

The Park is a husband and wife collaboration – he’s the master carpenter in charge of the houses, she’s the chef.  The restaurant, their former residence overlooking a Laurel Highlands forest, is done up in the FLW style.  The food is simple and creative, stylish and delicious. 

Lunch started with Portobello Stuffed Ravioli and just-out-of-the-oven rolls. The main dish was a choice of a chicken, salmon or vegetable bowl with rice, spinach, onion, watermelon radish and feta dressed

Treetop Salmon Bowl

with a lively vinaigrette. The chef’s dessert was a tasty individual blueberry clafouti.  Coffee was Chemex pour-over at the table.  All this out in the woods, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Our second FLW stop was the remarkably detailed Hagen house at Kentuck Knob. Wright wouldn’t build on the hilltop to take in the spectacular view, instead he tucked the house into the mountain side just below the crest. Using natural, local materials the house is a showcase for Wright’s unique style and forceful personality. The Hagen ice cream fortune financed the almost 100% over-budget house.  To honor the Hagens we each downed a scoop at the visitor center.

Fallingwater House

The spectacular and world-renowned Fallingwater was our final FLW destination.  This house, with its strong horizontal and vertical balancing act, sits over the Bear Run stream. A quintessential Wright design, it is a pilgrimage site for architects and fans from around the world. Followers from England, Switzerland, Scotland, Denmark and Sweden along with Americans from across the country were all with us to see Wright’s masterpiece. 

At the cafe, a very good chicken salad on croissant sustained us for the afternoon ahead.

At dinner in Uniontown, PA, our base for the Wright tours, we skipped the parade of chain restaurants surrounding our hotel thanks to an enthusiastic suggestion from the front desk. Meloni’s, a family-run,

Ravioli at Meloni’s

local-favorite, red-sauce restaurant was just the ticket. Our server, Michai, pulled up a chair and filled us in on her menu faves and shared some insight into the local scene. Cheese ravioli, chicken parm (both with flavorful red sauce), and a glass of Chianti were just the ticket after a long day.  

The Pour on Center Restaurant in Ebensburg, PA was another local winner. Ebensburg, my mother’s hometown, is a borough in coal country that thrives as the Cambria County Seat. After cemetery genealogy and revisiting childhood memories, we discovered this local pub with a surprisingly good beer list, creative cocktails and down-home fare.

Hamloaf and Meatloaf at Katie’s

On the way home we stayed two nights in Amish Country. When we arrived in Intercourse, the tongue-in-cheek named town outside of Lancaster, our first priority was an authentic Amish meal. With some help from the hotel staff we identified Katie’s Kitchen in nearby Ronks as the real deal.  While waiting for a table, we were able to watch the young women servers in their white heart-shaped Kapps, long plain dresses and practical aprons bustling about, cooking, serving, washing and managing – not a male to be seen. 

Gene Wenger’s Ham Loaf and Homestyle Meatloaf were appealing “Homemade Platters.”  Rarely seen on restaurant menus or at home, the delicious ham loaf was dressed with a sweet pineapple glaze.  The thick slab of tender meatloaf came with house-made mashed potatoes and a dark rich gravy. 

Hometown Kitchen

For another take on Amish food we tried The Hometown Kitchen in Quarryville the next night. Bright murals of local sights covered the dining room walls.  Ethereal dinner rolls (soft with a slightly uneven texture and great flavor) served with homemade strawberry jam (so good we brought some home) started the meal. An open Roast-Beef Sandwich (we would call it pot roast) was tender and beefy.  I hoped I could skip the slice of bread under the generous portion, but it was just as enticing as the dinner rolls. Mashed potatoes were rich and creamy.  Marsha’s Chicken Pot Pie, served over homemade noodles, was loaded with meat and carrots.  Both coleslaw and crunchy broccoli and cauliflower salad flavored with bacon were both excellent.  

I could see the hand of a master homestyle baker at work and was rewarded by a light chocolate cake

Hometown Kitchen sides

skimmed with milk chocolate icing.  Sadly, even with some help from Marsha, I couldn’t finish.

Driving back at dusk past lush dairy farms lit by a brilliant sunset we saw lots of the signature horse-drawn buggies along the roads parked at stores and in barnyards. There was even a pony cart driven by two young girls. 

The Amish work hard, but they live (and eat) well!