The other side of PA Dutch Country

Get away from Witness country, and Lancaster County turns from green to rust. Lancaster, the big city in these parts, looks like Wilmington, DE. Or any blue-collar Northeast city. A mini-Philadelphia or Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Without their pretty waterfronts.

It’s big enough to have a professional baseball team, the Lancaster Barnstormers. (Heh, heh.) Three synagogues. A theater company that tries. Direct train service to NYC.  And a fairly easy drive to Philly, Baltimore, NY and DC.

No Whole Foods (boo, hiss), but there are semi-respectable substitutes. And the best thing about the place: a giant indoor farmers’ market, said to be the nation’s oldest. Amish, African and Thai food stalls all in a row. The best Pad Thai and stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had anywhere in the world.

For a taste, check out this cookbook I proudly brought to my hosts in India.

Continuing the tour, Williams-Sonoma finally made it to Lancaster’s one mall. Whole Foods, Nordstrom and Bloomies are 45 minutes away in real malls.

But Lancaster has something they don’t: a Pottery Barn outlet that’s a magnet for out-of-towners who seem to delight in shelling out ridiculous amounts for rejects not fit for Goodwill. (Outlets are very big here; and I’m not very big on outlets, in case you haven’t noticed.)

A surprising number of Lancastrians, as they’re called, come from elsewhere. From the Dominican Republic to Russia and New York, looking for better lives — and affordable housing.

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