The hometown flavors and hole-in-the-wall diners that make Ohio worth the drive
Music? Check. Driving companion? Check. Destination? Well, we’ll see about that.
The humble state of Ohio has always held a special place in my heart. I spent my four, glorious collegiate years in what I still lovingly refer to as “Middle of Nowhere,” Ohio. While I was surprised to find myself in a town of 5,000 residents, guarded by miles and miles (and miles) of cornfields, I discovered that life lived at a slower place has its own charm.
Taking a road trip through Ohio is about the journey, not the destination. It’s about eating at hole-in-the-wall-diners, meandering through backroads dotted with barns, and (safely) overtaking horse-drawn buggies.
If you hop in the car and let chance take you on a tour of the state, you’ll probably discover that getting lost without cell service turns new friends into best friends; “Service with a Smile” isn’t just a phrase, but a mantra for how business is conducted; and even ice cream tastes sweeter when enjoyed at a slower pace.
Centralized in the Northeast corner of the state, all of these spots are easily accessible from Cleveland, Columbus, and Pittsburgh.
This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bakery is located on a small dirt road (off another small dirt road) in Millersburg, Ohio. Follow the hand-painted signs, and enter a world of freshly-baked bread and apple fritters the size of your head. Everything is prepared in the adjacent kitchen, which perfumes the shop with the sweet smell of Amish-made baked goods. After just a few minutes in the shop, you’ll inevitably stumble up to the checkout counter laiden with an armload of treats. Just be sure that the cheese pies, cream bread, and local popcorn kernels are included in the bunch.
Like any respectable small town, Granville, Ohio has a beloved ice cream shop. However, Whit’s is no ordinary shop, as it serves the best custard you’ll ever have the pleasure of devouring. Once you’ve tasted this glossy custard, nothing else will compare. The menu at Whit’s is simple and straightforward. There are two mainstay flavors (chocolate & vanilla), and a rotating Flavor of the Week. If you get the chance, be sure to try the extremely elusive (and extremely popular) Black Raspberry Chip. And just like any respectable custard shop, if the weather is nice, expect a line out the door.
Life moves pretty fast at Kennedy’s Bakery in Cambridge. From 6 AM to 6 PM, the shop caters to a revolving door of customers getting their Kennedy’s Fix. The bakery has been serving the area (with a smile) since 1925. It’s hard to recommend anything specific, because everything is so delicious, so let your eyes and stomach order for you. If you’re stuck, you can’t go wrong with the Red Velvet donut. Yes: Red Velvet donut.
Reason enough to visit, Ohio’s Amish Country is dotted with local cheese shops. Located inside a charming European-inspired chalet, Guggisberg is one of our absolute favorites. Nationally renowned, Guggisberg is famous for their award-winning “Baby Swiss” cheese, developed to satisfy American palates with smaller holes and a creamier taste. Arrive hungry, as samples are plentiful, and it’s impossible to leave empty-handed. And if Swiss cheese isn’t your favorite, be sure to try the Amish Butter cheese.
Schlepp's Family Restaurant
Considering I’d eaten breakfast a mere hour before, I never thought I’d be able to finish my meal at Schlepp’s. But the food is just that darn good. This textbook ma-and-pa establishment in Belmont hits classic diner fare out of the park. Two customer favorites are the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich and the Liver and Onions, but I’m partial to the colossal Ham and Cheese Sandwich. Either way you slice it, do not walk out of the restaurant without trying Schlepp’s homemade bread.
Der Dutchman-Walnut Creek
Settle down at Der Dutchman and get ready for some homestyle Amish cooking. This is the spot in town to get your fix of Cornmeal Mush and Homemade Biscuits (breakfast), or Broasted Chicken and Dinner Rolls (lunch and dinner). The charming dining room overlooks the sprawling Goose Bottom Valley, so you can enjoy the view as you fill your plate at the generous buffet. Attached to the restaurant is the legendary Der Dutchman Bakery. Be a hero by bringing your loved ones some of their cream-stick donuts, or perfectly baked chocolate chip cookies, which I personally had to gift to my neighbor because I couldn’t stop eating.