One of our favorite places to eat lunch in Amish Indiana is the old Emma General Store, now known as Emma Café. If you head south of Shipshewana and find the little town of Emma, it’s not difficult to find the café—Emma is small enough to have just one main intersection, and there it is on the corner. Emma—also called “Emmatown” by the locals—was first known as Eden Mills, but was renamed long ago after a local woman who was the first postmaster there.
The business has its own website at www.emmacafeandcatering.com. There I learned that the general store was built in 1881 by the Hostetler brothers. In 1931 the store burned down, and the present building, which took its place, has served the local Amish and English community ever since. The Hostetler family who owns the business today are distant relatives of the original owners. Today, the emphasis has moved from the general store concept to a larger restaurant presence in the old building, and the addition of catering and pizza delivery. It’s a rustic building, and the inside could use a fresh coat of paint, but the food is cheap and good.
We pick up a copy of The People’s Exchange and read the ads while we wait for our food… Anything you need is for sale within its pages, both Amish and “English” goods and services. My favorites are the ads describing horses for sale.
Sometimes we start looking at the locally made preserves and pickles and things on the shelves along the wall, and we end up taking something home with us. There are also baked goods displayed temptingly in the case underneath the cash register, and slices of locally made pie in a cooler nearby.Something new at Emma Café is the classic car cruise-in held on the first Monday evening of the month. Turnout has been good, we were told by our waitress, and so the tradition will be continued this summer.
Lately Emma Store and Café has tried to jump on the new self-serve frozen yogurt and toppings bar bandwagon. I don’t like to be negative, but it’s visually intrusive and not very pretty, and I hope it fizzles out and they put things back to how they used to be. Nevertheless, we’ll keep stopping by for a sandwich, soup, or pizza and a taste of small town living.
As of November 21, 2015, Emma Store and Cafe is closing its restaurant/cafe except for a pizza buffet on Friday and Saturday evenings, to focus more on the catering part of the business.
We will miss our lunches there!