The Pennsylvania Dutch Market, which moved from Westminster to Cockeysville nearly four years ago, is a foodie's dream come true.
Vendors here sell row upon row of fresh-baked breads and cinnamon rolls with thick layers of icing; fabulous cheeses; deli salads; spinach and strawberries grown in nearby Lancaster County; smoked meats, sausages and chickens; candy, soft pretzels, peanuts, pies and so much more.
The sprawling market also sells blankets, soups and furniture. It has a deli and a barbecue stand, but the sit-down meals are found at the Dutch Kitchen, where customers sit in simple booths, hunched over steaming platters groaning with old-fashioned fare like chicken salad sandwiches ($5.95) and ham steak with pineapple rings ($8.95).
Food is served quickly, by soft-spoken women in white bonnets or men with long beards, in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.
Breakfast choices include omelets for $5.95, waffles for $3.45 and creamed chipped beef over toast for $4.45. Lunch and dinner offerings include a cheese steak for $5.45, a grilled cheese and bacon for $3.95 and beef tips over noodles for $7.45.
Nothing complex, but admit it - this is just what you feel like eating, and these are the prices you feel like paying.
Chicken pot pie ($7.45) is really more of a soup, with a flavorful broth and feather-light noodle squares instead of the heavy crust usually found on these pies. Like other entrees, it comes with a choice of sides, including the addictive chow-chow, a sweet and sour pickle made with mixed vegetables, and macaroni salad, made the traditional way with a creamy mustard sauce. A single warm roll rounded out one of the most satisfying meals I've eaten in a while.
Crab cakes ($10.45) are perhaps the most extravagant thing on the menu and just proved to us that this is a kitchen that does not make missteps. They were generously portioned, light on the filler and fried a golden brown. Served with stewed tomatoes and a sweet cranberry salad that reminded me of Thanksgiving, this was another strong showing.
As if these choices were not bargain enough, the Dutch Kitchen offers "all you can eat" specials 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Fridays for $8.99; $4.50 for kids. These rotate among several configurations. The first Friday of the month is always all-you-can-eat barbecue chicken, with potatoes, macaroni salad and cole slaw; the third is a hot roast beef sandwich with fries, gravy, apple sauce or slaw.
A bakery case next to the restaurant entrance features treats not to be missed. They aren't the same every day, but one of the best is a strawberry pie made by owner Dan Lapp's wife, Ruth Ann Lapp. It features ruby-red berries, cut in half and sweetened just a little, poured into a flaky pie crust and topped with clouds of whipped cream.
The only thing better is a creamy, just-tart cheesecake, topped with chopped apples and walnuts. The simple ingredients combine with mouthwatering results, just like so much at the Dutch Market.
Where: 11121 York Road, Cockeysville
Open: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Credit cards: All major
Prices: Appetizers $1.95-$7.25, entrees $2.95-$10.45
Food: *** 1/2 (3 1/2 stars)
Service: *** 1/2 (3 1/2 stars)
Atmosphere: *** (3 stars)
[Outstanding: **** Good:*** Fair or uneven: ** Poor *]