You won’t really understand what I’m going to tell you about our day yesterday, unless you are a dyed in the wool antiques buff and/or an occasional lover of country style, high caloric eating. Because, as a treat for both of us, we drove 2 1/2 hours each way to a little town in central Florida called Arcadia, where we poked around little antique shops (some featuring such choice “collectables” as barbed wire, old lunch boxes, coke bottles and electrical insulators) and ate an enormous lunch of fat juicy burgers, deep fried string onions and chocolate peanut butter cream pie.
Arcadia came into being in the late 19th century as the economic and logistic hub of the cattle and citrus ranches in that area of central Florida. A lot of that activity still goes on today but what makes the town different in the winter, is that its main downtown area has been, more or less, taken over by small antique dealers, many from the midwest, who can’t afford the rents in the more upscale coastal communities. The word of their gathering has gotten out and on weekends the place is pretty crowded and a lot of fun.
When we operated our antique shop in Camden we did quite a bit of buying in Arcadia especially at a sweet little shop called Maddy’s. So it was a very enjoyable walk down that particular memory lane yesterday to visit with Maddy’s daughter who remembered us fondly and just happened to be having a big show that day. (We were sorely tempted.)
However, driving all that way just to revisit our old business stomping grounds wouldn’t have been enough, so in addition, we decided to completely ignore our usual efforts to eat responsibly and have lunch at Wheeler’s Cafe.
Wheeler’s is one of those places that simply exudes ratty, rustic charm. The formica on the counters is worn thin by many thousands of elbows and randomly framed little photos of past rodeos and farm fairs hang haphazardly on the walls behind the booths. The women waiting on tables are briskly (one could say brusquely) efficient as they bark their orders to the cooks in the back and the food is well cooked, fresh and simple country fare.
There is one notable exception to all this however. Their pies are – drop dead – over the moon – better than your grandmother’s – terrific. How they got that good, I don’t know. The lady behind the cash register claimed their peanut butter cream pie was in existence when the place opened in 1929, but she didn’t know its origin.
No matter….Wheelers serves many different pies each day and runs out regularly. While we were there I saw a number of obvious locals come in and order pie, only pie, to go. Sarah, who bakes a terrific pie herself, concurred that these creations were well worth falling off the caloric responsibility wagon for.
5 hours on the road for a nostalgic visit to Maddy’s Antiques and 2 pieces of Wheeler’s peanut butter cream pie? You bet!
We returned full of fond memories and the best chocolate peanut butter cream pie on the planet.