An Apple a Day

Bring in this harvest season with apple fritters

By Ryan Cornell

NEW MARKET — Apple season has once again returned.

And whether that refers to the launch of the latest iPhone or the ripening of local apple orchards, one thing’s for certain: there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the fleshy fruit at the Johnny Appleseed.

Named after the legendary orchardist, the New Market restaurant boasts apple pies, apple dumplings and a line of apple butters, but its signature dish is clearly the apple fritter.

Round, brown and dusted with powdered sugar, the fritters possess both the consistency of a hush puppy and the flavor of a caramel apple — or as server Kimberly Petty describes them, “donut holes but with apples and cinnamon.”

While other restaurants might hand out baskets of bread and butter, servers at the Johnny Appleseed give customers a complementary apple fritter before each meal, a longstanding tradition as old as the restaurant itself.

Mary Smith, who’s managed the Johnny Appleseed for the past 30 years, said they’ve cooked up millions of fritters over the years, including more than 100,000 per year that land on the table when each customer sits down.

“We also sell a lot of fritters to go,” she said. “If people are between meal periods and they’re traveling past, they’ll stop and just get a dozen fritters.”

She declined to divulge the top secret recipe behind making the fritters, but said they’re made from scratch with fresh apples.

The Johnny Appleseed opened in the early 1970s and showcases the area’s past dominance in apple growing. On one wall of the restaurant, a collection of apple boxes display names of local orchards such as Turkey Knob, H.F. Byrd and Showalter’s.

“You’ll notice a lot of the orchards that are there are no more,” Smith said. “They’re housing developments now … needless to say, we get a lot of people who grew up here and moved away that come back and say, I remember when that orchard used to be here.”

The restaurant, which shares a building with the Quality Inn by Interstate 81, is easily spotted by its iconic statue of Johnny Appleseed in his stove pot hat and goofy smile overlooking the parking lot.

The real “Johnny Appleseed,” John Chapman, lived from 1774 to 1845. He would have celebrated his birthday later this month on Sept. 26.

Apple fritters also can be ordered “to go” in quantities of three, six or 12.

Where: 162 W. Old Cross Road, New Market
When: 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day
Cost: $3.79 for a dozen apple fritters
Call: 540-740-3141
Online: http://tiny.cc/p6exlx