Tag Archives: Maryland

Mile 24 – Penn Alps, Grantsville, Md.

The entrance to Penn Alps on a rainy evening.

Tucked neatly near the Casselman River near the Casselman River Bridge, Penn Alps has been serving traditional American fare since the late 1950s.

Like The Casselman Inn just up the road, Penn Alps features a menu built around the German-inspired Mennonite and Amish cuisine, but Penn Alps has a larger dining area, seems to have a bit larger menu and also has a popular buffet. Other dining rooms can be, and are often, reserved for private dinners.

A sample of the typical buffet food at Penn Alps.

Besides being adjacent to the National Road, the history of Penn Alps itself is tied to transportation. Although the present building is comprised of several additions, the original building dates to around 1818, and served travelers along the National Road. The oldest alignment of the highway that leads to the Casselman River Bridge is along the north side of the building, which is the oldest part of the complex. The modern U.S.-40 ALT alignment runs immediately to the south.

The lobby at Penn Alps.

Since Alta Schrock, the founder of Penn Alps, bought the building, the entire facility has evolved into a campus, featuring the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which provides space for area craftsmen to produce and show off their work. Included in this complex of buildings is an early 19-Century house – the Miller House – and Stanton’s Mill, an old gristmill. While the grounds are free and always open, the actual artisans are at their posts intermittently from May through October.

Some of the work produced at Spruce Forest can be purchased in the gift shop inside the Penn Alps  restaurant. The shop also sells locally-produced baked and canned goods to take home.

One of the dining areas at Penn Alps.

Penn Alps is an ideal stop for travelers and locals who not only want to sample great food, but who are also looking for a locally-produced quality souvenir – edible or not.

Penn Alps is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Buffet hours are Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant can be reached at 301-895-5985.
Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop on Urbanspoon


Summer 2012 Festivals Along the National Road

Planning out summer activities? Check out this sampling of events happening along the National Road this summer! Of course, some are missed, but here’s what I’ve been able to track down:

All States

May 30-June 3: National Road Yard Sale, Maryland to Missouri.

Maryland

May 24-27: DelFest, Cumberland.

June 9-10: 44th Annual Heritage Days Festival, Cumberland.

June 22-24: 35th Annual Grantsville Days, Grantsville.

July 4 (tentative): National Road Monument dedication, Cumberland.

July 4: 36th Annual Soapbox Derby, Frostburg.

Pennsylvania

May 18-20: National Road Festival, Southwest Pennsylvania. (Note: I have had a hard time finding a website giving details about this year’s festival, but it is happening.)

June 14-16: The 9th Annual National Road Chainsaw Carving Festival, Addison.

June 16: 11th Annual Beer & Gear Festival, Ohiopyle.

Aug. 7-11: Mountain Area Fair, Farmington.

Sept. 5-10: West Alexander Fair, West Alexander.

Sept. 15-16: Covered Bridge Festival, Washington and Greene counties.

West Virginia

June 24: Ohio Valley Black Heritage Festival, Wheeling.

July 29: Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, Wheeling.

Aug. 10-12: Heritage Music Bluesfest, Wheeling.

Aug. 25: Wine and Jazz Festival, Wheeling.

Ohio

Columbus Fairs and Events

June 15-July 22: Springfield Summer Arts Festival, Springfield.

July 7-15: Zanesville Pottery Show and Sale, Zanesville.

July 19-22: Jamboree in the Hills, Belmont County.

Aug. 3-4: Y Bridge Arts Festival, Zanesville.

Aug. 10-11: Salt Fort Arts & Crafts Festival, Cambridge.

Aug. 18-19: Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, Reynoldsburg.

Sept. 15-16: Preble County Pork Festival, Eaton.

Sept. 22: Hebron Music and Arts Festival, Hebron.

Indiana

Indianapolis

May 24-June 2: Banks of the Wabash Festival, Terre Haute.

June: Jubilee Days, Knightstown.

September: Hoosier Fall Festival, Knightstown.

Sept. 22: Quaker Day Festival, Plainfield.

Oct. 4-7: Riley Festival, Greenfield.

Oct. 5-7: Clay County Popcorn Festival, Brazil.

Illinois

June 1-3: Fun Fest for Air-Cooled VWs, Effingham.

Sept. 1-3: Illinois Popcorn Festival, Casey.

Sept. 28-29: Grand Levee/Harvest Festival, Vandalia.

Fall: Harvest Moon Music Festival, Vandalia.


Mile 25 – The Casselman Inn, Grantsville, Md.

The Casselman Inn, Grantsville, Md.

When the National Road was first built, taverns and inns sprang up along the side of the road, catering to long distance travelers, who, in the 1800s, could only travel a limited distance each day. Many of these inns are still standing, but have since been converted into private residences or other uses. The Casselman Inn in Grantsville, however, still operates the same way it has for nearly 200 years – as both a place for food and a place to sleep.

The Casselman is unique in that it blends two facets of Americana – a historic inn and Mennonite culture, which is especially strong in eastern Garrett County. The modestly-decorated dining area has the look and feel of a large family dining room, complete with a fireplace. Staff is typically dressed in either a modest, plainer clothes or sometimes even  more traditional Mennonite attire (think head coverings, for women). Every person a diner encounters – regardless of wait staff, hosts or bakers – is friendly and hospitable, making the restaurant feel even more less like a restaurant and more like a family’s home.

The hot roast beef sandwich at The Casselman.

The food is extremely well-priced, and many of the features are cheaper than a meal at a fast-food chain. Many of the ingredients are made-from-scratch on-site, and the bread is freshly made in a bakery in the basement (again, a traditional Mennonite connection). The menu pulls together traditional American, Mennnonite and local (seafood) cuisine. Despite the more or less “plainness” of the food, everything has rich flavor. For myself, I had the hot roast beef sandwich, which was served on Casselman Inn-made bread. Should one visit for dinner, bread and butter are included with just about everything on the menu. Just to point out a difference between the Casselman and many other inns still operating on the National Road – no alcohol is served (there are just Mennonite connections everywhere!). On the way out, there is the opportunity to buy many of the Casselman-made foods, notably bread, apple butter and desserts. See the menu here.

For overnight accommodation, the Casselman has two options: the first is a 40-room motor inn directly behind the original building that was built a few decades ago. The other option is one of four guest rooms in the old building – upstairs above the restaurant part.

So why all the Mennonite connections? The answer stems from both the heavy presence of Amish/Mennonite adherents in Garrett County and Somerset County, Pa. (many of whom used the National Road to move to this area), and the current owning family, the Millers. The Casselman was built in 1824 as “Drover’s Inn.” Over the decades of its existance, the name and owners have switched several times, until Ivan and Della Miller bought the property in the 1960s. Since Ivan was a Mennonite bishop, it only made sense for the Millers to operate their business in accordance with their beliefs. Although both patriarch and matriarch have died, the Miller family continues to operate the business in the same manner. (Small world note: my journalism professor at Huntington University in Indiana was Kevin Miller, who is a direct descendant of Ivan and Della. Yes, he is also a strong Mennonite).

One of the shelves of available food for sale at The Casselman.

The Casselman Inn is located at 113 E. Main St. in Grantsville – right in the heart of the town. The inn is open for three-meal service Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Everything but the lodging side of the business is closed on Sunday (need I say more about Mennonite connections?). The restaurant can be reached at 301-895-5266, and the number for overnight accommodations is 301-895-5055.

For those who are also interested with the National Road (like me), right in front of the Casselman is a mile marker with two historic-information signs.

The Casselman Inn on Urbanspoon


Mile 24 – Casselman River Bridge S.P.

The original Casselman River Bridge near Grantsville, Md.

Just outside the town of Grantsville, Md. is Casselman River Bridge State Park, a small, four-acre site that preserves a stone bridge that served as the original crossing of the National Road over the Casselman River. The 80-foot bridge was built in 1813, and underwent a significant restoration in the 1970s. At the time of its construction, it was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the country.

The current U.S. 40 bridge and the I-68 bridge from the original Casselman River Bridge.

Interestingly, this crossing was in use as part of the National Road until 1933, when the modern bridge that carries ALT-U.S. 40 was built. And in the 1980s, Interstate 68 was completed slightly farther upstream. In lobby of the Penn Alps restaurant, which lies just beyond the eastern end of the old bridge, there is an aerial shot of all three bridges crossing the Casselman River, which to me is an interesting juxtaposition of transportation history in the U.S. In fact, even from ground level, it’s possible to get photos of all three bridges together.

The park is free, but unstaffed, and is located at 10240 National Pike, Grantsville. A recently-completed walking path and crosswalk enables visitors to walk to the park and Penn Alps from Grantsville. There are picnic tables and plenty of room to walk around and fishing is allowed in the Casselman River. For more information, visit the Maryland DNR’s web page for the park here.

The deck of the Casselman River Bridge


Mile 11 – Princess Restaurant, Frostburg, Md.

The Princess Restaurant in Frostburg, Md.

Tucked neatly into the row of shops, bars and restaurants that line Main Street in Frostburg is the Princess Restaurant, one of the city’s oldest continually-operating dining establishments. In 1939, George Pappas, Sr., opened the Princess as a confectionery and luncheonette, and by the 1940s, the business evolved into the restaurant that it is today. The restaurant has been in continuous ownership of three generations of the Pappas family. Keep in mind that this restaurant has existed before, during and after the construction of the interstates, and until I-68 was built late in the 20th Century, the Princess Restaurant was on the main highway.

The plaque at "Truman's Booth."

The inside of the restaurant arguably looks and feels like a diner from the 1950s or 60s. Small booths line one wall of the main room, while a bar-type set-up occupies the other side. A more modern dining room also exists next to the older one. At each booth, a old-style jukebox is at the end of each table. Although most have “out of order” signs, it appears that some may still work. And, an additional novelty of the Princess is a booth in which former President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess, dined on Fathers Day 1953.

As for the food, the Princess is exceptional, quite possibly due to over 70 years of refinement. The restaurant has breakfast, lunch and dinner items. The list of 40-plus different types of sandwiches alone out-preforms many chain restaurants. For dinner, patrons can choose from a wide selection, from steak to pasta dishes to seafood to chicken.

"Broiled Cod Loin with Crab Meat," Princess Restaurant.

I ordered the broiled cod with crab meat, plated with fries and corn. In case the name doesn’t make it evident, my dinner was just a cod filet surrounded by seasoned crab meat and covered in butter and garlic and then broiled. The entire dinner was cooked perfectly and thorough. I also liked the portion size at the Princess. In my opinion, a lot of the larger chain restaurants tend to serve huge portions (with a higher price tag!), but at the Princess, massive portions seem to not be the case, which I think is great. In no way was I left hungry or wanting to eat later, but I also didn’t have the “I ate too much that I can’t move” feeling.

Being from Allegany County, I almost feel ashamed saying that this was the first time I had ever been to the Princess. And after having visited, I think I’ve been missing out on great, more-than-reasonably-priced food! On a larger note, my visit also reminded me of the point of this blog – to find places like the Princess that remain independent and unique along U.S. 40. Like I said, this was the first time I had been to the Princess, but I also remember the dozens of times I have eaten at chain restaurants in Allegany County, all the while missing out on good, local food.

The interior of the Princess Restaurant.

The Princess Restaurant is located at 12 W. Main St., Frostburg. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sunday. Phone: 301-689-1680; Fax: 301-689-9029. Take-out is available.

Princess Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Mile 6 – D’Atri Restaurant, LaVale, Md.

D'Atri Restaurant, LaVale, Md.

D’Atri Restaurant in LaVale, Md. has been a locally-renowned eatery for years. In the 1970s, Robert D’Atri opened a small takeout/delivery operation on Columbia Street in Cumberland, and about a decade ago, the family opened a larger restaurant on National Highway (ALT-U.S.-40 in LaVale). The restaurant is immensely popular in the Cumberland/LaVale area, notably for both its pasta and subs. Both restaurants have continued to operate within the family, and in the past year or so, the family opened Patrick’s Pub in South Cumberland, further expanding their culinary influence in the area.

Like I said, D’Atri, (or D’Atri’s, locally) is known for its pasta and subs. On my most recent visit to the LaVale location, I ordered a “small” steak sub. Small – by D’Atri standards – is seven inches, and each bite is worth the price ($6-$7). Each sub with lettuce features D’Atri’s signature seasoned lettuce, which gives the sandwich an more Italian-like flavor.

A steak and cheese sub at D'Atri's in LaVale, Md.

Portions at D’Atri’s are generous, to say the least, especially when it comes to subs and pasta. The atmosphere is not unlike other smaller, locally-owned restaurants around the country, and for locals, D’Atri’s is an establishment which comes with a high probability of running into someone you know.

D’Atri’s is open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Takeout is also available by calling 301-729-2774. The restaurant is located at 1118 National Highway in LaVale, near the intersection with Campground Road (which is the general division line between the residential and commercial halves of LaVale.

D'atri's Restaurant on Urbanspoon