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Seated at a corner table with wonderful aromatics wafting from the kitchen, my bubbly waitress for the evening, Beth, asked if I have dined at Hickory Bridge Farm before. When I explain that it was my first time at the restaurant, she smiled and said, “We are easy to get along with.”
It is exactly that kind of warm welcoming gesture that makes Hickory Bridge Farm a unique place to dine. Tucked away in Orrtanna, Pennsylvania, just nine miles outside of Gettysburg, this family run restaurant has been serving the community with scrumptious country dishes since 1977 and has retained its popularity since.
All the dishes are served family style made from homemade recipes that cannot be found anywhere else. The ambiance of the rustic barn, adorned with wood paneling and country character, provided the perfect backdrop to an equally perfect meal.
The meal was kicked off with the first course, a decent sized traditional salad. Bits of bacon and shredded cheddar cheese sat atop a bed of crispy lettuce. A sweet and sour dressing was served over it, which gave each bite of the salad a refreshing taste. Served along with the salad were spiced peaches and slices of whole wheat and white homemade potato bread.
The bread was warm and came straight from the oven, its texture delicately soft and just perfect with a smear of apple butter. Moments after the salad was cleared from the table, Beth brought more than half a dozen plates of food and sat them before me. With no other option but to dig in, I truly began to understand why the majority of the tables at Hickory Bridge Farm were full that evening.
For the reasonable price of $24.50, diners were able to feast on three entrees and a variety of side dishes. One such delicious entree was Hickory smoked ham with a blackberry sauce. Nuances of the smokiness of the ham came through with each bite of tender meat. The classic dish was elevated with the addition of the fruit sauce, as pieces of blackberry mixed well with the flavor of the ham.
Sweet apples with cinnamon, just one of the many side dishes, also paired well with the texture of the entree. Another delectable entree was the boneless, white meat chicken, served with a creamy cornbread stuffing. The richness of the dish reminded me of comfort and the taste helped me feel the warmth of the restaurant.
A side dish of roasted potatoes with caramelized onions served as a good pairing with the chicken entree.
A meal wouldn’t be complete without a couple side dishes of vegetables, which Hickory Bridge Farm creates with strength. A bowl of sweetly cooked carrots and green beans helped round out the meal. For more of a crunchy texture, fried corn fritters were served with sifted powdered sugar on top.
Rolled into perfectly round balls and deep fried to perfection, these corn fritters were masterfully created. A bite into a fritter provided a nice crunch on the outside, while remaining soft on the inside. The corn fritters were one of the highlights of the side dishes and I wasn’t surprised when I heard neighboring diners ordering more.
If that wasn’t enough to satisfy diners’ taste buds, the Crab Imperial dish was one of the highlights of dinner at Hickory Bridge Farm and has been a family tradition for years. Served in a oval shaped casserole dish and sat atop a basket, the piping hot Crab Imperial had a velvety smooth texture with richness that showcased the flavor of the crab.
Like most of the recipes cooked in the restaurant, the Crab Imperial is a family cherished recipe and its ingredients are kept secret. Before I knew it, the majority of the food disappeared from my table. I watched as Beth stacked empty casserole dishes and plates in her hands, carrying them away right before reminding me that my meal wasn’t finished until I had dessert.
The dessert menu made my mouth water, regardless of that fact that I was already full. Among the options were pumpkin pie, warm apple crisp, rum cake, and ice cream pie. The pumpkin pie was a perfect seasonal choice and the portion was generous. The creamy texture of the pumpkin filling served as an ideal reminder of autumn, while the flaky crust balanced out the smoothness of the pumpkin and the swirl of whipped cream on top.
Bert Martin, a third generation family member in the Hickory Bridge Farm lineage, takes pride in his successful establishment. He explained how all their meats are fresh and never frozen, and locally grown vegetables are used when they are in season. Bert also emphasized how almost all of the recipes cooked at the restaurant come from his grandmother.
“We like to keep it family style,” he explained, “We don’t like to rush people in and out.” The restaurant gives an ample amount of time, two hours, for diners to enjoy family conversations over the the country flavors of their kitchen. Throughout the evening, Bert bounced from table to table like a social butterfly as he greeted guests as if they were an extension of his own family.
The warmth of the people at Hickory Bridge Farm stood as an equally important component of what makes the restaurant a true family style dining experience.
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, Hickory Bridge Farm gets ready for one of its most family centric nights of the year. “Thanksgiving is the busiest day,” stated Bert, “we seat 450 people, that’s a lot of turkeys.” Hickory Bridge Farm serves dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5-8 PM. The dining room is also open on Sunday from noon until 3 PM.
The menu at the restaurant changes weekly, but the warmth of the staff and homemade flavors of the food are always consistent. This popular destination is more than a charming restaurant, it is also a bed and breakfast. Opened in 1977 at the same time as the restaurant, the adjoining bed and breakfast offers accommodations in a farmhouse that dates back to the 1700’s, as well as stand alone cottages surrounded by the tranquility of the woods.
Hickory Bridge Farm is located at 96 Hickory Bridge Road in Orrtanna, Pennsylvania. For more information on the restaurant and bed and breakfast, call 717-642-5261, or visit their website at hickorybridgefarm.com.