Walking down the street in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, you’d probably walk right by the Village Peddler Country Store if you were looking for a restaurant. Sure, there’s a “Café” sign in the lower left corner of the plate glass window, but your eyes are caught instead by the colorful decorations and furnishings calling out for attention. It’s a gift shop in its own right, but the café inside is the real star of the show.
Walking into 14 Erie Avenue in downtown St. Mary’s, be ready for a pleasant shopping experience, as they display many things other than the typical mall-type gift store inventory. Heritage Lace will appeal to some, while home-made cream and butter fudge will tempt others. Lots of seasonal decorations are available; but this is far more than just a Christmas store.
If you happen to be looking left as you enter, maybe you’ll spot the archway leading into the next room. Follow those instincts and head into this terrific little dining area. Decorated like a streetscape, you can dine in front of faux shop windows or enter the little center room with two cozy booths and a table for two. The café wraps around this center room with more tables looking into the kitchen. No matter where you sit, you feel like you are in an intimate area.
When Doug and I arrived, we were actually met just inside the door by owner/proprietor Todd Fitzgerald. Since it was dinnertime, and we must have looked hungry, he wasted no time showing us to a table and gave us menus. Starting right there, it all seemed like very much a family business, with three generations all working together.
We had our orders taken by a young gentleman with a great personality who knew how to deliver first class service – clearing plates as soon as they were finished; but not appearing to hover. He gave some worthwhile hints regarding the specials and the menu items, pointing out that they had two homemade dressings for the salads. We ordered both the poppy seed and the dorte – both wonderful.
The salads were generous and obviously made fresh when we ordered them. Here it was the middle of winter and I don’t know where the ingredients came from, but they couldn’t have been any fresher.
Doug was pleased with his tasty fish sandwich and side of bow-tie pasta and fresh fruit garnish. I ordered the spinach and cheese quiche with fresh fruit accompaniment. The presentation of the quiche and fruit was almost stained glass-like. The colors complimented each other so well, it was art first and a meal second.
While we ate, we couldn’t keep our eyes off the elevated cake plates on the half wall to the kitchen. For desert, Doug tried the Red Velvet Cherry Torte and I had the Hawaiian Wedding Cake which was out of this world. They offered a full slice or a half slice which was a refreshing option. Luckily I ordered the full slice. Heavenly.
Next time you are checking out the chainsaw carving event in nearby Ridgway, PA or the elk herds in Elk County, do yourself a favor and stop at the Village Peddler for lunch or dinner. Be prepared to spend a few minutes in conversation with Todd before you leave. He’s a talker, but a super-friendly octogenarian with some great stories.
Maureen Bardwell and her photojournalist husband Doug love to travel the world in search of those unique, off-the-beaten-track restaurants, bakeries, wineries, and local craft shops. If you’ve got a favorite you’d like to see mentioned here, drop us a line. Follow Doug Bardwell on Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+