Day Trip to Sarasota Part I - The Amish of Florida
Bushnell, FL - Events of Saturday, February 9, 2013
Wait, what? There are Amish in Florida? Yes, there is a small Amish/Mennonite community in Sarasota, FL called Pinecraft. We found out about it a few years ago from the Mennonite couple who run Scenic Hills RV Park in the Amish country of Ohio because they go to the Sarasota area in the winter. On Saturday, we took a day trip about 90 miles south to Sarasota to check out Pinecraft.
We also found out the company that owns our favorite restaurant in Berlin, OH, Der Dutchman, bought what was previously an independent restaurant in the heart of Pinecraft. Therefore, we headed straight to Der Dutchman for their breakfast buffet.
It was a drive of a little over an hour and a half to Der Dutchman. Florida is a little more laid back Ohio, so the restaurant in Florida serves the breakfast buffet until 11:00 a.m. (11:30 on Saturdays) whereas they only serve the buffet until 10:30 in Ohio. We got an early start, so we got there in plenty of time to enjoy the buffet.
The decor is similar to other Der Dutchman Restaurants we have been to, and the aromas wafting out of the dining room were also the same. The only clue to the fact we were in the south was the presence of Tabasco on the table.
The breakfast buffet was also similar to other Der Dutchman Restaurants with scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, bacon, sausage, sausage gravy and biscuits, fried mush, French toast, pancakes, fruit salad, frozen fruit slush, pudding, hot oatmeal, cold cereal and more. In Sarasota, they also had ham, cheesy potato casserole and a wider variety of breakfast pastries than we get at the Der Dutchman in Berlin. There were a couple of items, like the sausage gravy and the smoked sausage, that we thought were not as good as in Berlin; but in general, everything was delish, and we ate way too much.
The breakfast buffet is $8.79. You can also order breakfast from the menu, but almost no one does. For lunch, there is a salad bar for $8.69, which is also included with the lunch buffet for $10.49. The salad bar is also available for dinner and is included with the dinner buffet for $12.99. The regular lunch and dinner menus have most of the Amish-style dishes served at Der Dutchman in Berlin (sandwiches cost from $5 to $10 and dinners are $10 to $13), but the menu in Florida also includes items like barbecued pork ribs, taco salad, spaghetti, wraps and quesadillas to appeal to a broader range of customers.
After breakfast, we meandered through the bakery and gift shop where there were a couple of additional clues to the fact we were in Florida. There was Key lime pie along side the cherry and apple pies in the display case...
...and there were 'gator pencils, bubble gum oranges and rubber balls shaped like oranges in the gift section.
Most of the several thousand Amish and Mennonite who stay in Pinecraft are snowbirds, although there are a few year-round residents. Young couples also come here to honeymoon. Winter is a slower time on the farm, so many weddings take place after the fall harvest. Young people also come here for seasonal work.
Amish and Mennonites come mostly from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. The Amish arrive on buses so they obviously don't bring their horses and buggies. Instead, they rely primarily on bicycles and adult tricycles for transportation with an occasional golf cart thrown in. The restaurant even has a special parking place for bicycles.
As we left Der Dutchman, we passed an Amish couple. The man was on a recumbent bicycle, and the wife was on a trike. We saw another couple ride away on a bicycle built for two; but unfortunately, we couldn't get the camera out fast enough to get a photo.
The area contains numerous homes and cottages that are rented by the night, week or for the entire winter. The homes in Pinecraft have electricity. Mennonites use electricity and drive cars, but the Amish do not. However, the Amish are more tolerant of modern conveniences when they are vacationing because the accommodations are considered to be temporary, and most of them don't hesitate to use electricity. However, the strict, Old Order Amish don't even come to Florida to vacation because they think it is much too wordly.
The Amish community in Pinecraft is unique. It is made up of Amish from various parts of the country and from various Amish sects. You will see different styles of clothing and hear different German dialects. Having been born and raised in the United States, the Amish also speak perfect English, but they frequently speak their German dialect when talking to one another. In church, they speak hoch Deutsch (high German). Speaking of church, the Amish traditionally worship in one another's homes, but due to the small size of their accommodations in Pinecrest, they worship in the free-standing Pinecraft Amish Church.
Pinecraft started as a tourist camp in the early 1900s. One of the first permanent settlers in the area in the 1920s was Amishman Daniel Kurtz, who ended up farming celery. Other plain people followed and joined in farming produce. Eventually, as the city of Sarasota grew, Pinecraft became the suburban, residential neighborhood that exists today.
We usually don't go out to eat or go sightseeing on weekends to avoid crowds, but we did this time because we wanted to visit the farmer's market that is held on Saturdays in historic downtown Sarasota. We headed there after breakfast, and we'll tell you all about it and what else we did in Sarasota in our next post.