Late on a wine-gold afternoon we stop. Six of us are touring the Pennsylvania Dutch country together, cruising the back roads and tasting the harvest cider. It's been a very good day and we want to stay, to prolong it. We want an evening in a place that squares with the perfect white farm buildings and serene villages. No one wants to end this day in a plastic motel.
"How about a nice country inn?"
Optimists cheer and pessimists maintain that such inns exist only in Cary Grant reruns. Always make local inquiries.
We are directed to Lititz, to the General Sutter Inn. Optimists are vindicated. No one is disappointed. If there were a wishing well it could be the "small hotel" of song.
Among the trees, a handsome brick building with white trim overlooks a fountain. It is on Lititz Square, the ivied center of a clean old town. There was been a hotel or inn on the site for better than 200 years.
The inn is like a large country house - 16 rooms, no two alike, all comfortable, with such amenities as ample beds, baths and telephones. All windows open out over the square or brick-paved courtyard with shops.
General Sutter's California mill was overrun by gold-seekers back in 1849. In all that swirling fever he never got rich. He came back to Lititz and the house he built, across the street from the inn, now houses a country hardware store and newsstand.
Lititz is an ideal town for strolling. Examining the architecture or just looking at other people's houses. Near the inn, a pretzel factory, an aromatic chocolate factory and a bar with pool table and tin ceiling. In Georgetown in would be hopelessly crowded.
Owner/host of the General Sutter Inn, Jim Constantine, is a restaurateur by trade, and he sets an attractive table. A classic American menu: home-made soups, duck, veal, seafood from Baltimore and three kinds of steak. Entrees range from $4.95 to $9.95. The inn is open very day and the restaurant every day but Christmas and New Year's, Saturdays from 5 to 11 and Sundays from 11:30 to 8. Credit cards are accepted and reservations suggested. Rooms are $24 to 26, year-round.
General Sutter Inn, 14 East Main St., Lititz, Pa. 717/626-2115.
Picture a country tavern: Good food and drinks. Afternoon haven with pleasant people. A meeting place, a fireplace. Not a place to stay the night but to enjoy the day.
Stouch Tavern is one to picture. It's in Womelsdorf, at the northern edge of Pennsylvania Dutch country. If your weekend turns cold and damp or you turn hungry and thirsty, it's a comfort.
Inconspicuous in a row of immaculate street-front buildings, the stone tavern opens to a main dining room, a lounge and a rambling upstairs array of meeting/dinner rooms. The atmosphere of neat restoration extends to white tablecloths, candlelight and sparkling crystal.
Just two years ago, Bruce and Pat Beninghoff backed into the restaurant trade when the partnership restoring the tavern came apart and left them holding the business. They've grown well in office, and their menu has few weaknesses; it rests on the fact that Stouch Tavern is in farm country where fresh fruit, vegetables and meats are a matter of area pride. Even the trout is super-fresh, trucked over from a limestone spring hatchery only a few miles away.
The dozen or so entrees are priced from $5.95 to $12.50 (lobster). Selections change seasonally with Pat Beninghoff's interests.
Like the General Sutter, Stouch Tavern occupies a building and location with a generations-long history of hospitality. It's been a tavern since 1785, and the hosts are quite firm about George Washington's having stopped and dined, and spoken from the front porch. On Nov. 13, 1793.
Stouch Tavern, 138 West High St., Womelsdorf. Saturdays 5 to 9, Sundays 12 to 6:30. Reservations preferred and credit cards accepted. 215/589-4577.