Arthur and nearby Arcola are home to Illinois’ largest Amish communities. Located not far off Interstate 57, these communities are in east-central Illinois. The Arthur community was founded in 1864 by Amish people from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa. Arthur and the surrounding area offer wonderful dining, shopping experiences, and fun stops. Growing up near this area, I was lucky enough to experience some of the fine Amish food over the years, so I know that dining is one of the best reasons to come to the Amish community! There are a few ways to enjoy the homemade goodness of the Amish experience.
1. Dining In An Amish Home
A few Amish families in the Arthur countryside open their homes to outsiders. I have experienced this opportunity twice: once for my husband Keith’s birthday with two other couples and another time with a group of friends. Before the second meal, we shopped and had a fun girl’s day out, finishing it up with dining in the same wonderful woman’s home.
Elizabeth was our hostess, and she was very gracious. Her home was simple and nice. She was willing to answer questions about her garden and food preparation. Our meal was served at a lovely, long wooden table, and dinner started with a prayer. She and her daughter then provided water, lemonade, and a serving of homemade bread, butter, and apple butter. The salad was accompanied by homemade ranch dressing. Many of the items on the table came from her large garden. The meal included fresh corn, mashed potatoes, and amazing noodles, chicken, and meatballs.
Dessert was a choice of peanut butter or strawberry pie. When I went for Keith’s birthday, Elizabeth had baked a beautiful angel food cake as well as an extra for sale. Keith immediately took it off her hands!
When I set up my tours, it was through a company that is no longer in business, however, ACM Tours offers tours dining in Amish homes. The cost is $27.50 per person and is the same no matter what age except for a child under the age of five. They also offer a guided tour for motor coaches and large group discounts.
Barry Burnett of ACM Tours said, “There is a minimum of eight people for a group meal. It is best to reserve a meal with two weeks’ notice and if the group is larger than eight or so, the further out, the better.”
He also noted that if you need to change numbers that it needs to be done at least 3 to 4 days in advance or you will be charged for the number of meals that were ordered.
Arthur Chartered Tours out of Tuscola, Illinois, also offers Amish in-home dining as well. We found the food and the opportunity to dine in an Amish home a fascinating look into their lives and culture. The experience offered a wonderful chance to sample the food the Amish are famous for!
2. The Food
Yoder’s Kitchen in Arthur is almost as much a destination as it is a dining stop. Anna Herschberger and her husband Nelson, along with their sons, Daren and Derrick, own Yoder’s Kitchen. This wonderful restaurant offers buffet-style homemade food. Besides the buffet, you can also order off the menu, which I usually prefer because I always want the one breast chicken dinner. I also have to have the mashed potatoes because they are made with real potatoes! A bakery and gift shop are also attached to the restaurant.
The grandkids loved the visit to Yoder’s Kitchen this past summer. They enjoyed the entire Arthur experience and the visit to a bit of a different culture.
To try cooking like the Amish at home, buy some of the bulk food the Amish use at Beachy’s Bulk Foods. Beachy’s Bulk Foods provides a wide range of specialty Amish products that you can take home and prepare yourself. Beachy’s selection includes deli meats and cheese, freshly made peanut butter, gluten and sugar-free items, pickled jar goods, homemade pies, and baked goods. My personal favorites are the prepared soup and casserole mixes. The homemade jellies (especially the seedless blackberry jam) are wonderful on homemade bread! Plus, I always have to look for pickled beets for my husband.
3. Amish Culture
Outside of Arcola is the Illinois Amish Heritage Center. While this is only open on special occasions, it is worth taking a minute to drive in, and see the Amish houses on display. The two historic Amish houses include the oldest Amish house in Illinois, the 1865 Moses Yoder house. Plans include an Amish living history farm and a 10,000 square foot museum center. While the center is not complete, they plan a future state-of-the-art museum with exhibits on Illinois Amish heritage and culture. “The mission of the IAHC is to enhance the preservation, understanding, and appreciation of all aspects of the culture and heritage of the Amish people in Illinois from 1865 to the present.”
4. Tradition Of Hospitality
While the Amish live separately from the rest of the world in their own communities and the “English” are not technically part of their community, the Amish are very hospitable and have opened their communities to tourism. Farming is often considered the main source of income for the Amish, however, their prowess in woodworking, cheesemaking, baking, and more allow visitors in central Illinois to enjoy the benefits of their unique talents. Some of these talents are enjoyed during the Amish dining experiences. We loved the homemade food and items from the gardens and baked delights!
5. Shopping After Dinner
After traveling to the Arthur and Arcola area, you may want to take a minute and stop at some of the fine wood shops where Amish craftsmen make beautiful furniture and more. Cabinets for the home are available in the Arthur area as well. There are a variety of items available that make shopping in this unique location an enjoyable getaway!
The Amish community offers a handcrafted destination where you can find several quality items for the home, see countryside farmed in a way it was done generations ago, and dine on some of the best homemade cooking around!