The Mom Says:
Der Dutchman is one of those places we've always meant to visit. We've zipped by it for years on the way to I-70, taking that short cut via Plain City, and we always said, "We really should go someday." So finally we did.
It's billed as a restaurant with "Amish kitchen cooking," so I was hoping for a genuine, communal-table setting like I've experienced in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where you sit with strangers and serve yourselves from heaping bowls of food. But this was not to be. Instead we found a sprawling hospitality complex, complete with petting zoo (two friendly sheep and a skittish calf), playground, buggy ride, bakery, deli and gift shop.
Mild disillusionment aside, it was still a good experience and a very good meal. We didn't score the "buggy table" - a first-come, first-serve table for four inside an old Amish buggy - but we did have our own table where I insisted we do the "family-style" meal.
You can order a la carte meals or hit up the large dinner buffet, which I noticed many young families doing, probably for the speed and variety of food. But I wanted the kids to experience something a little different. With family-style service, you at least get your own heaping bowls and plates of food to pass around and share.
We ordered the two-meat meal - broasted chicken and roast beef - which came with a trip to the generously stocked salad bar (chilled plates were a nice touch), mashed potatoes (real but nothing extraordinary), bread dressing (very tasty mix of shredded rolls with herbs and minced vegetables), gravy (made from either a rich, salty stock or a lot of Bouquet browning additive), and creamed corn (a little sweet).
The chicken was the Gerber brand, which everyone in Columbus seems to be discovering lately. It's an Amish brand we've had for years in our Delaware Buehler's, so the tenderness and good flavor were no surprise to me. The roast beef was a little salty but otherwise well cooked.
Dessert was a slice of their famous pie. I went for the peach. Disclaimer: I grew up working in my family's pie bakery in New York, so I'm a bit of a pie snob.
I've never been a fan of cold pie, but I realize for the volume of business the restaurant does, they have to refrigerate. The peaches were fresh and firm (but I missed the nutmeg and almond extract that I like to add to peach filling). The pastry shell itself was good, falling somewhere between French flaky and German crumbly.
Service was friendly and attentive. Der Dutchman is obviously the No. 1 employer of teens in the area and they do a fine job. No alcohol is served, but I can recommend their delicious raspberry iced tea.
The prices were reasonable and all-inclusive. The bathrooms were nothing fancy but there is a nice, deep-set wooden diaper-changing station mounted to the wall in the women's room. They don't take reservations but if you do encounter a wait, there's a large foyer with comfortable seating and shaded verandas with rocking chairs.
Like I said, a sprawling hospitality complex. It won't give you much of a window into Amish culture, but it's still a different-enough experience that kids will enjoy.
THE KID SAYS:
I didn't know what to expect at Der Dutchman, but it was cool. I liked that it looked old fashioned. There were some seats where you could sit in a wagon, but I didn't get to sit in there.
The food was great. I liked the salad. The salad bar was great because the vegetables were very fresh and the croutons were very crunchy and have lots of flavor. I got broccoli and lettuce.
I thought the dinner was good. The chicken was really good. The stuffing was really, really good and very flavorful. The mashed potatoes were heavenly. I didn't get any gravy on it, though, because I don't really like gravy on mashed potatoes.
The roast beef was good but you had to chew it a lot, maybe because of my braces. You can't eat gum either when you have braces, which is affecting me in many, many ways. It definitely makes Halloween is a bit less fun because there are so many candies you cannot eat.
For dessert I ordered the butterscotch cream pie. I need a dictionary here for a different word than heavenly. OK. It was delightful. It was very creamy, melted butterscotch with whipped cream on top. It was scrumdiddlyumptious.
The service was great. They were very nice. The bathroom was very clean and there was a door in between the toilets and the sinks.
There was a petting zoo near the restaurant, which I liked, and gift shops. It was unusual, the amount of things they had there - the candy store, the petting zoo, the restaurant and some playgrounds. The only thing that seemed Amish was the decorating and all the wagons outside, but everything else was pretty modern. I did see an Amish family eating there.
I think classy people would like going there because it just seemed very proper.
I would definitely go back because the food is great.
445 S. Jefferson Ave. (Rt. 42), Plain City• 614-873-3414
PRICE: Family-style meals range from $12-$16.69 for ages 12 and older; the buffet is $12 with a pie an extra $2; sandwiches and a la carte meals from $3.79 up to $12.59. Family-style meals are free for kids 3 and younger, $5.29 for ages 4-8, $7.29 for ages 9-12. The 8-minute buggy ride cost $2 per adult, $1 per child.
HOURS: 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Sundays.e