(R-R-R-R-ING), “SCHMUCKER’S!”

For A Classic Roadside Diner – It’s the Real Deal!

When I first walked into this Toledo roadside diner 25 years ago, it felt like my kind of place. Back from my Army stay in Europe, now in college treating my girlfriend (soon to be wife) to a great bite I could afford, the road leads here. It was 1992. The waitress said it still looked the same as it did when it opened in 1948.

Recently, my wife and I traveled several hours to see one of our kids and our niece attending school in the area. Their school wasn’t in the immediate area, but it was close enough for a road trip to the dear ole diner still frying up memories after all these years.

When we drove around the place hoping to find a parking spot, I asked the ‘kids’, “Whattaya think?”

A deep voice in the backseat said, “As long as it has burgers, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

So it goes.

We snapped a photo to commemorate the old roadside diner with its nondescript faded yellow brick, glass block windows, and neon sign. It still felt right, even after romanticizing it in our minds from back in the day. And, ooh, that smell: a concoction in the air that wafted somewhere between fresh-hand-peeled potatoes and thoughts of grandma’s pie cooling on a windowsill.

It’s funny how a mere scent can trigger a memory. The most memorable thing about Schmucker’s Restaurant, bar none, is the pie! To quote an old saying, the pie “is to-die-for.”

[To-die-for is popular American hyperbole from the 20th Century and means that something is so amazing that it is worth dying for. For example: “Get the pie! The pie is to die for!” – Idiom Origins]

When we went inside, we crammed the doorway with another cluster of folks waiting for a table to be emptied and bused. I hoped it wasn’t the one within arm’s reach because then someone else was sure to be loitering in my space while I ate. So, ya, Schmucker’s Restaurant is …cozy.

But that’s the charm of it. That, and the fact nothing changes inside these walls unlike the ever-changing world outside. The owner’s name is still Schmucker, albeit the grandchild of the founders Harvey and Nola. Heck, even the chrome stools at the wrap-around lunch counter are originals. Once we nestled into our seats, yes, by the door as feared, we became a quaint world unto our own. All was well.

“What’s that ringing?” my niece asked. “It sounds like an old movie.”

In the back corner of the restaurant, a worn, wooden telephone booth has been there since day one. After we heard it several times, we tried to record it but couldn’t quite get it right. So, my niece called the restaurant. We heard and recorded the old-fashioned ringing telephone a couple of times over until our waiter reached inside it and answered, “Schmucker’s…”

My niece panicked and hung up. We later confessed our sin, thinking we’ll make up for it in the tip.

Our waiter was a young fellow with a bright smile. He was everything you’d expect from a family-diner straight out of Yesteryear. He was friendly, helpful, patient, and attentive. But more than that, he was a conversationalist. And that’s the thing about a diner like this. You learn about not just the place itself, but the community it serves.

“Hold that thought,” he said to us as he backed away to seat some newcomers. Several minutes later he returned to pick up the conversation almost in the mid-sentence he pardoned himself from.

“Whattaya have?”

My son ordered up the Wimpy Burger Platter. I asked if he knew who Wimpy was. Of course, he didn’t. I don’t even know if he knows Popeye (outside of the chicken chain).

I couldn’t resist. I blurted out the catchphrase from the early-era television cartoon, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Blank faces. Crickets. … “Is this a dad joke or something?”

[“A dad joke is a short joke, typically a pun, presented as a one-liner or a question and answer, but not a narrative. Generally inoffensive, dad jokes are stereotypically told with sincere humorous intent, or to intentionally provoke a negative reaction to its overly simplistic humor. Many dad jokes may be considered anti-jokes, deriving humor from an intentionally unfunny punchline.” – Wikipedia]

Perusing the menu, it was hard to make a decision between meals that had side notes like, “Just the way Mom makes it on Sundays.” Or, “Grandma Schmucker’s secret recipe since 1948.”

“Hot Roast Beef” seemed like such a staple comfort food for an old-time roadside diner experience. But then again “Fresh Perch” considering our proximity to a Great Lake was alluring, too. The menu had everything you may imagine for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast! I was usually the quick and decisive one to order but I seemed to be channeling my wife … “Uh, I’m sorry, can you come back to me?”

So, with a homestyle dinner, fresh garden salad, homemade soup of the day (Nola’s recipe), and an old-fashioned strawberry soda (they also had chocolate and cherry), I wondered if I’d be able to save room for pie.

Then I laughed and laughed and laughed.

I had to decide on one of Nola’s 54 pie recipes:

  1. Almond Joy
  2. ANDE’s Mint Delight
  3. Apple (daily)
  4. Apple-Raisin-Walnut
  5. Banana (daily)
  6. Blackberry
  7. Banana Split
  8. Black Bottom
  9. Black Forest
  10. Blueberry (daily)
  11. Blueberry Crumb
  12. Burst O’ Berry
  13. Butterfinger
  14. Candy Apple
  15. Caramel-Apple-Walnut (daily)
  16. Cherry (daily)
  17. Cherry Berry
  18. Cherry Crumb (daily)
  19. Chocolate Chip Pecan
  20. Chocolate Cream (daily)
  21. Chocolate Peanut Butter (daily) Our waiter said this is the most popular. It was my choice. And it’s my recommendation. It was … to die for!
  22. Chocolate Raspberry Cream
  23. Coconut Cream (daily)
  24. Coconut Custard
  25. Custard (daily)
  26. Dutch Apple (daily)
  27. Fresh Strawberry (seasonal)
  28. Fresh Strawberry Banana (seasonal)
  29. Keylime (seasonal)
  30. Lemon Chiffon
  31. Lemon Crunch
  32. Lemon Meringue
  33. Mince (seasonal)
  34. Mounds
  35. Nestlé Crunch®
  36. OH-IO Buckeye Pie
  37. Oreo Cookie
  38. Peach (daily)
  39. Pecan (daily)
  40. Pineapple Cream
  41. Pumpkin (seasonal)
  42. Pumpkin Apple Streusel
  43. Raisin (daily)
  44. Raspberry Cream
  45. Red Raspberry
  46. Rhubarb (daily)
  47. Snickers
  48. Scutterbotch (daily)
  49. Scutterbotch Mousse
  50. Strawberry Rhubarb (seasonal)
  51. Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel
  52. Sweet Potato Streusel (seasonal)
  53. Triple Chocolate Indulgence
  54. Vanilla Peanut Butter (daily)

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Saturdate at Sunwatch …with Tina the Turkey

It had been 20 years since we had last visited Sunwatch Indian Village & Archaeological Park in Dayton.

The layout is wonderful in that upon the approach you cannot see the 800-year-old Village before you walk out of the back of the interpretive center. Then, from an elevated view, you begin to see into the ancient culture of the Fort Ancient people. Marvel at the recreated structural designs that reveal apparent astronomical alignments from a complex of strategically placed posts. Closely examine inside and outside the five lath and daub structures with grass thatch roofs, and portions of a stockade.

Although insightful eye-opening tours are provided, we ventured into the wide-open space on our own. Along the way, a wild turkey named Tina befriended my wife and walked alongside her. When the nesting (atop a grass roof) geese (the male) flew a warning overhead, Tina sought her adopted human mother to shelter her from the bully of the Village. LOL. When we circled the grounds we had to make an impromptu detour as the Canada Goose swooped from the rooftop to cut us off at the pass and chase us into adrenaline-filled laughter and retreat.

It was a wonderful visit, just as we had remembered. There are so many interesting learning opportunities at this national historic landmark. The 3-acre village site produced an abundance of artifacts, including turkey eggshell fragments (maybe Tina was visiting her ancestors too ;). The interpretive center features many of these well-preserved relics that had been recovered from the site.

If you go, say hi to Tina. She’s a friendly unofficial tour guide.

To plan a visit, click here.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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Hiking Buzzardroost Rock


This SATURdate was where spirits soar

The first thing you want to do when you go hiking is to make sure your source to find the trailhead is current.

We looked at an Ohio hiking book we’ve had for years to find our way to a very enjoyable hike with sweeping clifftop views that we had taken years ago. Following the written directions in the book, we turned onto an unpaved road and drove the distance, looping back, and starting over. We somehow missed seeing the trailhead. In another attempt, we missed it again and turned around on the narrow gravel road along a hillside. When we stopped where we figured the trailhead should be, it wasn’t there. I got out and walked the road looking for clues. I found a weathered board deep in the weeds of an overgrown trailhead that read, “New entrance to Buzzardroost Rock is 7/10 mile east,” or something to that effect.

Down the road (Ohio 125 about 5 miles east of West Union, Ohio) there were two gravel parking lots for the Buzzardroost Rock trail. One was on the south side of the roadway and the other was down a gravel drive north of the roadway. The trailhead is at the information kiosk. Conveniently, there’s also a port-o-pot.

Buzzardroost Rock is at the Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve. It’s about a 4.4 mile out and back hike with a small loop trail near the end. This hike is about a mile longer than the old route.  Either direction you may choose on the loop trail near the end is about the same distance to the observation point.

We’ve learned to bring two pairs of shoes and a plastic bag to put the muddy ones when done. It really came in handy on this hike. Trails under cover of the canopy of mature woodlands often stay muddy long after it rains. This was no exception. However, there was a wood plank networks placed over some of the soupiest parts of the trail. Still, there were other sections that had to be navigated with care as was evident by the number of feet and body skid marks where others slid or fell. The trek is uphill and ranked in our guide book as moderate to difficult. In the heat, we were pleased that we brought plenty of water.

When we got to the small loop trail we chose to leave the woods trail to explore the open prairie. With the sun shining, the blue skies with powder-white clouds popped against the lush green landscape. A couple of old farmstead buildings whispered to us from the overgrowth piquing our curiosity to explore what was behind the weathered boards still managing to stay erect. The wild prairie flowers are just a fragment of the nearly 500 species of plants that have been discovered in the Preserve, which is one of the most biodiverse natural places in the area.

After the trail returned to the woodland ascent, the sky could be seen through the timber on both sides. The peninsula narrowed and led us out to the top of the Peebles dolomite rock outcrop overlooking Ohio Brush Creek and the valley floor some 900 feet below and as far as the eyes could see.

A metal railing framed two long wooden benches and a sign telling about the scene. This is where we unpacked our bagged lunches and enjoyed a much-earned bite to eat while chatting with a few strangers. They shared a tale or two about their hiking and climbing adventures in Ohio and elsewhere in North America citing Red River Gorge in Kentucky, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and Yosemite in California.

A trip to Buzzardroost Rock [75 miles East of Cincinnati near the Ohio River] must also include a couple of stops to see what is known by locals as Wheat Ridge Amish Country. You’ll feel like you entered another period of time when you come out of the other side of the 1855 Harshaville Covered Bridge. Drive with caution around the bends and rolling hills because Amish buggies, bicycles, and scooters share the country roads. Tucked in this quieter Amish country are two jewels: Keim Family Market, and Miller’s Furniture, Bakery & Bulk Food Stores. Both are Amish-owned and operated and have been for generations. Make sure you have room in your vehicle to take home their legendary baked goods, gorgeous furniture, and plenty of fixin’s from the bulk food stores. And if you happen to stop here before the hike, their deli sandwiches taste best atop of the Rock.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

For more SATURdate ideas to spend with friends, family, or solo, visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/saturdate/.

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WACO Open Cockpit Biplane Ride

The friendly skies will be OPEN
for
OPEN COCKPIT BI-PLANE RIDES
Beginning in June

Call the WACO Air Museum in Troy, Ohio
at 937-335-9226 or go to www.wacoairmuseum.org

to plan your unforgettable experience for two.

“Sunny” is ready to come out and play!

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SATURdate in Tipp City

This SATURdate was in Old Tippecanoe City …
But Mostly Lost in an Antique Store and Art Gallery

Old Tippecanoe City is an old canal town that is now named Tipp City. The remains of the old Miami and Erie Canal Lock 15 are sandwiched between the historic Tipp Roller Mill and the Great Miami River Recreation Trail. If you’re on a bike ride and need anything, in town is the Tipp Cyclery.

Tipp City is a great walking town with original, locally-owned shops, and dining options that offer a wide array of experiences. A great Mom and Pop to grab a bite is Sam & Ethel’s Restaurant. Pull up to the lunch counter or a table and enjoy comfort food in a comfortable place that has warmed the hearts of generations. I had the pork tenderloin sandwich because the atmosphere in town on this day was festive like being at a fair. And my serving of “fair-food” was far from fair, it was so tasty I’m raving about it here.

After that, somewhere along the streetscapes, we ducked into The Hotel Gallery, and later, Midwest Memories Antiques. Both places seemed to be Pandora’s box of delights, one room and/or floor leading to another, and another, until I felt like I was as lost as a child separated from a parent. Fortunately, today, we have cell phones so I called my wife to locate her. But when she described her surroundings as between somewhere between vintage clothing and outdated cameras, I looked around and knew to try to find her inside was futile. So I dove back into a world of repurposed imagination.

Twice I ventured into a room where people were gathered. I thought I’d interrupted a private gathering only to find out that these strangers were new-found friends. They invited me to take a seat and chat with the growing group. Then, a guy with a cane stood up and asked his companion, “Well, do you think we’ll be able to explore our way out of this maze sometime today or do I need to send up an S.O.S?”

Usually, when I stand co-pilot to a day of shopping, there comes an abrupt about-face in which I turn to my wife and say, “That’s it! I’m done.” It usually comes with no warning.

But in Tipp City, I never reached that tipping point.

Each place in town is its own architectural staple, outside, and expresses its own personality, inside.  From the artists’ nooks to the florist, coffee shops, and tea room to the bakery, and the toy store out of Yesteryear, it makes for an enjoyable day.

On this brisk day, we particularly enjoyed a cup of coffee on a bench in the heart of town where others agreed, it’s a great place to people watch, too. Lots of smiles, hugs, and laughter filled the autumn air. Heck, there was even a kid holding mom with one hand and a red balloon in the other. You’re not going to get any more Rockwellian than that.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

For more SATURdate ideas to spend with friends, family, or solo, visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/saturdate/.

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SATURdate in Hamilton Ohio

This SATURdate was in the “City of Sculptures” …
But Mostly in a “Real” Coffee Shop

Hamilton, Ohio features a “real” coffee shop called True West Coffee. There are two; we went to the one on the west side of the river in a quaint boutique shopping district across the street from The Village Ice Cream Parlor, which is great, too.

This coffee shop is a bit of a drive for us but we love it so much, we’ve been there on several different Saturdays to catch up on some work or reading. It’s an old house. The driveway is now a drive-through but because of the well-crafted sandwiches, don’t expect this drive through to be an expedient way of getting served.

Instead, park in the adjacent lot by the gazebo. Be sure to stop for a photo opp by the statue of the guy holding up an umbrella with fountain rain dripping from it. After all, you are in the City of Sculptures. Now, walk up the porch. It has a couple of tables to sit. Inside is a lovely-rickety room where tables are pushed and pulled to accommodate different groups or the introverts who staked out each corner. The upstairs is a great hideaway if you can stake a space. A hole in the ceiling shares the air between the two retreats.

This coffee shop doesn’t pull in one demographic over another. It’s a well-balanced cross-section of backgrounds as well as ages. The counter dividing the active kitchen from the former living room with a fireplace is where you order. A colorfully chalked up blackboard details the offerings. We’ve tried several artisan sandwiches but keep coming back to the George Bailey! It’s no coincidence that it’s named after a character in the timeless movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.

When the weather is warm or even a bit brisk, the patio that stretches up the back hill has tables to lounge, too. It’s where we usually go because there’s a tranquility to it. Tranquility with a vibe to it.

Then, a leisurely after-lunch stroll along the urban section of the Great Miami River Rec Trail lured us deeper and deeper to where we had no idea. We followed temptation further up around the bend, on repeat, until we walked out of the city and into the countryside. It’s a strange feeling to be on the border of urban and rural. It reminded me of a book in which Founding Father Ben Franklin described a walk to clear his head. It took him through Philadelphia’s streets until he was on a country trail looking back at where progress ended along with his problems.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

For more SATURdate ideas to spend with friends, family, or solo, visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/saturdate/.

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SATURdate East Of Cincinnati

This SATURdate spent east of Cincinnati in Clermont County.

East of Cincinnati is a cluster of eclectic attractions in Clermont County. We stopped at four: the world’s only cardboard boat racing museum, a dreamy river town, a vineyard ripe with atmosphere, and the world’s most interesting grocery store. Not a bad way to spend a day.

The Cardboard Boat Museum is an unusual place along the bank of the Ohio River. It’s not a big place, but it’s interesting. Call ahead to make sure they are open because volunteers run everything so hours may vary. Housed in an old service garage, it acts the part.

Big bay doors are often opened wide to create a breezy feel as air travels through from the door leading to the back deck. From the looks of the bar inside, the bar out on the deck, and the garden around the corner, you get the feeling this is clubhouse. And in a sense, it is. A lot happens here.  After all, this is where some of the best sea-worthy vessels made mostly of cardboard, duct tape, and paint are made for competition racing.

Look around at the designs and you’re likely to ooh and ahh. If you start asking questions, pull up a stool because the folks running this joint are enthusiastic and pleased to share everything you ever wanted to know about racing these crazy watercrafts, and more. We had such a wonderful time that we began dreaming about the boat we’d build and race at their next annual regatta. Like I said earlier, the museum is true to its service garage roots. The folks there are eager to provide the material and coaching to float your boat.

Since it was time for lunch and we were already in New Richmond, Ohio, we decided to just cruise the main drag along the river and through downtown to see if any place stood out. Front Street Café did just that. With its pink brick, green awning and purple umbrella sidewalk tables, we knew this was what we were hoping to stumble upon.

There was nothing but a break wall and hill on the other side of the street which allowed a panoramic view of the river. The colorful and spacious interior of the café lent itself nicely to the wall hanging art which was for sale. Each of the dozen or so paintings cost a thousand or more dollars, which was unexpected considering the laid back feel in the place.

After a lunch that hit the spot, we took a walk. A corner shop by the name of Mr. Grim’s Nostalgic Nook lured us inside with some oddities that caught our attention as we passed by the front window. The door was already open to a little world of Yesteryear so we took a walk down memory lane. Across the street, we explored a community park that seemed more like an otherworldly scene in one of those thousand dollar paintings back at the café.

I scratched my head. Maybe it was. A couple sat on a park bench shifting down to their “park gear” without any hint of wanting to move from their perch for quite some time. The painted white gazebo, lush green landscaping, and cool to the glance river view made us consider scrapping our afternoon plans to do the same. But then an Underground Railroad marker caught our attention. And just beyond it, we skipped down the wall of stone steps to skip stones into the Ohio River. The small town’s down home charm and riverscape made it hard to leave, but we still had a winery to see.

Harmony Hill Vineyards is a rural retreat nestled on 72 acres on a nationally certified wildlife refuge farm. The winding and slow drive across the property unveiled a scenic view of wooded and rolling countryside.

As soon as we walked into the winery, Bill and Patti Skvarla engaged us in conversation. Somewhere along the line, Bill and I were laughing and talked about our Italian, no, Sicilian heritage. He was Sicilian on his mother’s side of the family and Slovakian on his dad’s side. I smiled because I was Sicilian on my dad’s side and Slovakian on my mom’s. So, yeah, we hit it off. Later Bill pulled up a chair and talked to us at our table on the covered patio overlooking the vineyard. When he mentioned his love for dogs, his boxer, Tyson, (get it?) appeared on queue.

Bill encouraged us to stroll the grounds along the walking trails so we did. We followed the woodland paths all around the vineyard listening to nothing but the country air and the birds drifting thought it. When we returned, we took a peek at the underground wine cave, which is one of only eight such structures in the country. Back at our seats, where a light breeze and live music picked up, we opened our picnic cooler like so many others to pair our bread, cheese, and other foods with our wine of choice.

We could have stayed at the winery until the stars filled the sky but it was already late. On the road back, we came across Jungle Jim’s International Market.

Although their flagship original store is in Fairfield, Ohio, this major undertaking wasn’t playing second fiddle. It was every bit as impressive. And although it’s themed very much the same, at the same time, it has an identity of its own. There’s six acres of food under one roof! This foody-haven offers thousands of imported and national brand groceries. There’s a full acre of produce (including organic and international), 12,000 wines, 1,200 beers, 1,600 cheeses, and 1,000 kinds of hot sauce.

If it’s edible, you’ll find it here!  So we did some unexpected grocery shopping – good thing we had the cooler because we still had a bit of a drive to get home.

Of course, these are just four stops that we found east of Cincinnati in Clermont County. There are plenty more options for attractions, recreation, shopping, and dining at https://www.visitclermontohio.com/.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

For more SATURdate ideas to spend with friends, family, or solo, visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/saturdate/.

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