The Simple Life, Served a la Mode, in Sarasota

Just up the road from the Mennonite Tourist Church, on a street where women in white bonnets and blue dresses pedal their bikes to the store, is a time capsule of a restaurant.

Inside, the abundantly cheerful waitresses wear flowered aprons with frilly white trim. Checkered cloths adorn simple, wooden tables. A diamond-shaped quilt hangs on the wall, along with a poster that reads, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." The smell of fresh bread is everywhere.

Yoder's Amish Restaurant in Sarasota has been here for 35 years. Locals and tourists are hooked on the startlingly traditional atmosphere, the enormous portions of simple food, and of course, the pie.

Really, I recommend you skip straight to the pie.

You can try the fried chicken, which is hulking and deep-fried, and a little on the dry side. It comes with two sides, and will feed you for two days.

You could also sample the homemade bread, which is made fresh every morning, and comes in soft, pillowy slices with every meal.

But the pie is why you are here. They've got everything from strawberry rhubarb to mincemeat to shoofly pie, which features a "cake-like center" and a "molasses wet bottom."

I went with the basic bliss: dutch apple crumb. The apples are fresh and warm, without a traced of canned, sickly sweetness. The crumb topping is perfect -- crunchy but not too crisp, made hearty by a touch of rolled oats.

Paired with a heaping side of vanilla ice cream, this dessert feels like a warm hug from Mom on the first day home from college.

Or like eating Amish food in the middle of a Floridian summer.

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