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Hocking Hills Culinary Delights

No matter where you travel, the best way to really experience the local culture is to seek out dining experiences unique to the area. That doesn’t mean you have to dine exclusively at five-star restaurants; in fact, in some locations that might not even be an option. Take the Hocking Hills area in Southeastern Ohio, for example. Located near the center of Ohio Appalachian country, this region has long been noted for its scenic drives and natural beauty, however it’s also a fun place to enjoy some unique culinary delights.

First stop — Etta’s Lunch Box Cafe, a required stop on any Hocking Hills culinary itinerary. Located in New Plymouth, near the intersection of State Route 328 and State Route 56, this combination general store and cafe is the brainchild of Tim Seewer and LaDora Ousley. Named for Grandma Etta, it was originally built to house La Dora’s ever expanding lunchbox collection.

Over the years, LaDora has amassed over 800 lunchboxes, with the oldest one dating back to 1902. Believe me, it’s quite the collection. They are everywhere — on the shelves, the window sills, the counters and even hanging from the ceiling. To be honest you could spend hours just looking at them and trying to pick out the ones you carried to school. It’s a great walk down memory lane. And even though the cafe is housed in a historic building, it has a level entrance and plenty of room for a wheelchair or scooter to navigate around the dining area.

Tim also whips up a mighty fine meal. The menu is simple and includes sandwiches, salads and breakfast entrees, but the portions are substantial and the food is tasty. And you couldn’t have better company than Tim, who is a veritable cornucopia of 60s TV trivia. Order a sandwich to go and enjoy a picnic or eat on the premises and enjoy the ambiance. Either way you can’t miss.

For a sample of the other end of the Hocking Hills dining spectrum, head up north to Logan and treat yourself to dinner at the Inn at Cedar Falls. Housed in two 1840s log cabins, this intimate restaurant seats 45 and is noted for unique dishes prepared with fresh locally grown ingredients. The wine list is substantial and the deserts are decadent. Be sure and save room for the excellent bread pudding. In a word, it’s sinful.

As far as access goes, although the main parking lot is located across the street, accessible parking is available in front of the restaurant, near the accessible entrance. There are two steps down and a narrow doorway at the front restaurant entrance, but guests who can’t manage the steps can access the back portion of the restaurant through the patio. It’s not well marked but the employees are very helpful and are happy to offer assistance or directions.

And if you’d like to spend the night, the inn has two accessible options; the Sumac Cottage and the Redbud Cabin. Both offer good access and are equipped with roll-in showers. The Sumac Cottage sleeps two, while the larger Redbud Cabin sleeps four.

Finally, for a totally casual dining experience, pack a picnic lunch and head down the road to Ash Cave, one of the top natural attractions in Hocking Hills State Park. And the good news is, this beautiful area is also nicely accessible. There is accessible parking at the trailhead, with barrier-free access to a scenic quarter-mile paved trail which winds alongside the river. The surrounding trees provide a nice shade cover and the level trail is easily navigable in a wheelchair or a scooter. It’s a very pleasant stroll and the trail is well maintained. As an added bonus there’s a misty waterfall at the end of the trail (best viewed after heavy rains) right next to the cave.

And when you’re ready to chow down, head back to the trailhead, where you’ll find a number of accessible picnic tables. It’s a very pleasant place for a midday break and a great way to experience the natural beauty of Ohio’s Hocking Hills.

If You Go

Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe
(740) 380-0736
www.ettaslunchboxcafe.com

The Inn at Cedar Falls
(740) 385-7489
www.innatcedarfalls.com

Ash Cave
www.hockinghills.com/parks/p_ash.htm