Das Dutchman Essenhaus forms a massive complex of Amish Country attractions on Middlebury's southwest side. There's a restaurant, hotel, conference center, bakery, shops, mini golf, even a noodle factory (which, unfortunately, isn't open to the public). The Essenhaus, as it's commonly known, is best known as an Amish-style restaurant that seats 1,100 people. Located inside a massive, two-story, white frame house, the restaurant is divided into buffet and menu dining rooms and serves hearty meals three times a day. You'll find 20 hot and cold items at the Thresher's breakfast buffet, including eggs, breakfast meats and fresh fruit. French toast, hot cakes, omelets and fried mush fill out the menu. At dinner, visitors choose from chicken, roast beef or ham dinners, served family-style with sides of mashed potatoes, noodles, vegetables, gravy, dressing, hot-baked rolls and dessert. (The Essenhaus prepares 29 varieties of pie.) You won't leave hungry. Dinner costs $15.50-$16.50, depending upon your meat selection, with discounts for kids.
While you wait for a table at The Essenhaus, pass the time with a dizzying array of shops (which, we must admit, left us wondering about the simple, uncluttered lives the Amish promote). Fill your bags with candles, spices, quilts, home decor, toys, furniture and gift items. Purchase fresh baked goods at the bakery. Family activities before or after mealtime include miniature golf, bicycle rentals and Amish carriage rides. Amish-made furniture fills the rooms at the hotel, and modern country decor makes things feel quaint without being too cute. Every room has free wireless access, cable TV and a refrigerator; some include balconies, kitchenettes, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and separate living and sleeping areas. All guests can take advantage of the hotel's complimentary Continental breakfast, indoor pool, exercise and game rooms, a small outdoor patio overlooking the pond, fresh-baked cookies each evening in the lobby and, thank goodness, a network of pleasant walking paths, so you can walk off all of that food. From $104.