Byline: Beth J. Harpaz
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It's 2:30 p.m. on a Saturday in October -- well past lunch, and the slowest time of year in Sarasota, where the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches are most crowded in winter and spring.
But the line for ''homestyle Amish food'' at Yoder's Restaurant is out the door, with a 45-minute wait for a table. Salivating customers snake past a sign listing varieties of pie as waitresses walk by carrying trays heaped with fried chicken.
Yoder's is located in Pinecraft, an Amish-Mennonite neighborhood that swells in the cold months as buses bring visitors from Amish and Mennonite communities in Ohio and Indiana. Its comfort-food menu reflects traditional Amish home-cooking with yummy staples like noodles, pot roast, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. But the food is prepared with a light touch, avoiding the oversalted goo and blandness that gives this type of cooking a bad name.
The menu is also sprinkled with surprises you don't expect to find at an Amish restaurant: Asian chicken salad, ''Amish quesadillas'' (chicken, cheese and mushrooms), and a salad of mixed greens, crumbled gorgonzola cheese and dried cranberries. Breakfast includes a veggie Benedict -- spinach, tomato and avocado with hollandaise sauce and fresh fruit on the side.
No meal here is complete without trying Yoder's famous pie, which comes in two dozen varieties. The most popular flavor is peanut butter, with layers of crunchy peanut butter topping and vanilla pudding. Also popular are coconut, banana cream, strawberry and chocolate peanut butter. Some varieties are offered seasonally, like mincemeat.
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