A Unique Dining Experience - Penn Alps

Last Updated on May 7, 2015 at 10:46am | Tourism & Recreation

"A Unique Dining Experience" is a regular feature of The Republican newspaper and is being reprinted here in its entirety with permission. This article originally appeared in the April 30, 2015 issue.
 
 
Walking into Penn Alps Restaurant just feels like coming home. The peaceful atmosphere speaks of history and tradition, and favorites from the menu offer the comfort that comes from recipes that have been handed down for generations.
 
The restaurant is run by a board of directors, just as it always has been. For over five years, it has been managed by a team consisting of Tracy Fratz, Pam Margroff, and Sharon Slovak. This management team also shares a unique history - each has worked at the restaurant for over 30 years and each still spends time waitressing.
 
"We want the customers to have a pleasant experience," Tracy said. "We hope that they feel like they are at home here and get the attention they need to have. We want everyone to have a great experience. There is a lot of history here."
 
Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop is housed in the last log hospitality house along the National Pike that still serves travelers. It is situated between a 1797 grist mill and the historic stone arch Casselman Bridge (built in 1813). Three of the restaurant's six dining rooms were once part of the log stagecoach stop - Little Crossings Inn.
 
The restaurant was opened in 1957 by the late Alta Schrock. While she was working as a school teacher in Indiana, she felt a call to return to her beloved Alleghenies to serve its people. She hoped to provide a marketing arm for their cottage industries, a cultural center to showcase and preserve the area's arts and crafts, and music, history, and spiritual values, and to open a restaurant to serve hearty country fare. Her search for a location led her to this area near Grantsville.
 
Today, Penn Alps offers a varied menu, including the well-known daily soup and salad bar and weekend buffets. Daily specials are offered Monday through Friday. The German ancestry of the Amish and Mennonite charter members of this nonprofit organization is reflected in many entrees on the menu.
 
"We can't do everything by ourselves. We work as a team," Tracy said. "We have a great staff. Some of our staff has been here for 20 to 30 years. We feel good about what we've accomplished. We want to continue Alta's vision. We set goals and strive to do the very best, and business seems to be building each year. We are very fortunate that we don't have a large turnover in our staff."
 
Special features include Locals Night on Monday, Senior Citizens Night on Tuesday, Steak Night on Wednesday, and buffets on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Banquets can also be prepared there, and facilities are available for any event, such as receptions, weddings, reunions, and bus groups. Rooms can accommodate anywhere from 20 to 150 guests. They include the Alpine Room, which comes complete with a historic fireplace and seats 80, the Edelweiss Room, which seats 40, the Dunbar Room, which seats 30 and is the original room from the Little Crossings Inn, the Livengood Room, which seats 30 and is one of the original upstairs rooms of the Little Crossings Inn, and the Great Hall, which is also upstairs and is the largest and newest meeting room, seating up to 150.
 
The craft shop housed within the restaurant is the largest handicraft shop in the area. The building has been enlarged six times, with the original log tavern serving as the core. More than 2,350 craft producers are represented there, many of which are residents of the tri-state area.
 
Spruce Forest Artisan Village is also a part of the extended Penn Alps campus and was established 35 years ago. What started with a few cabins has grown to about a dozen log and frame structures of early vintage, two of which date to the Revolutionary War Period. Most of these provide studio space for artisans. The Miller House and Compton School have narrating hosts who volunteer time during the summer. School groups and chartered bus tours often take advantage of the educational and cultural enhancement Spruce Forest Village offers.
 
Artisans work in various media, including bird carving, basket making, hand-loom weaving, hand-thrown pottery, stained glass art, hand-forged iron, hand-crafted teddy bears, and hand-crafted natural soaps.
 
In-season hours (May through October) are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with staggered days off at the studios. Off-season hours are similar, but are subject to the weather. Special hours and decorations are featured over the holidays, including the popular "Christmas in the Village" event.
 
"I feel like Grantsville is growing," Tracy said. "We are a GOBA (Greater Grantsville Business Association) member. It's important to get to know other businesses. I feel like it's a close community, and we work well together. We want to help the local people, whether it's a benefit or anything to help in the community. It's nice knowing everybody."
 
Winter restaurant hours, from November 2nd to Memorial Day, are Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Sunday from 8:a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
 
Summer hours are Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
 
The restaurant can be reached at (301) 895-5985 or by email at info@pennalsp.com. More information can also be found on the restaurant's website.