The , and a significant percentage of pie connoisseurs appear to be in agreement: is Bradenton’s favorite spot to purchase a Thanksgiving pie.
Since opening its doors at 3401 14th Street W. in 1981, Miller’s has become something of a local landmark. The humble family business met so much success that it expanded in 1995 to include a gift shop and 250 seats. Just like every Thanksgiving the restaurant has hosted since 1982, the Millers anticipate a full house on Thursday.
“The year they opened the restaurant, they stayed closed on Thanksgiving,” said Nick Miller, the restaurant’s current general manager and grandson of its founders. “The family ended up trying to go out to eat and had to wait in line forever. They decided right then and there that the next year, they would stay open for Thanksgiving. It’s been our busiest day for nearly 30 years now.”
Erma and Ervin Miller, Nick’s grandparents, relocated the Miller family from Ohio to Florida’s Gulf Coast in 1981, where they initially worked for Yoder’s Restaurant in Sarasota. After realizing there were no Amish-style restaurants in Bradenton, the family decided to open Miller’s Dutch Kitchen.
“I think a big part of our success has come from how unique we are here,” said Miller. “In Sarasota, there are plenty of Amish-style restaurants like Yoder’s, Sugar and Spice, and Millie’s – but for quite some time, Miller’s was the only place in Bradenton serving good Amish cooking.”
Although Ervin Miller passed away shortly after the restaurant opened in 1982, Erma and their children kept the business thriving. Today, five of the Miller children still run the business with the assistance of several of their own children. Nick Miller said family members make up about 20 percent of the staff.
Thanksgiving is one of the family's busiest weeks. On average, the restaurant sells about 3,000 pies Thanksgiving week.
“Everyone comes to pitch in during Thanksgiving and Christmas – even the cousins who don’t normally work here,” Miller said. “We have very strong family support during the holidays.
“I’ve worked every Thanksgiving since I can remember,” he added. “I probably started when I was around 6 or 7 years old. My cousins and I would put on little aprons and do whatever we were allowed to do to help out – usually measuring out fillings or something like that.”
Over the past three decades, the Miller's have perfected the Thanksgiving preparation process. But there are still firsts: this year the family will offer a Thanksgiving buffet in addition to made to order meals.
On Sunday, the family and staff at Miller’s began prepping 80 turkeys for Thursday’s feast. Next, they prepared the gallons of pudding that will fill numerous varieties of their scrumptious pies. Starting early Tuesday morning – very likely as you read this article, in fact – the Millers are baking around the clock to meet the demands for thousands of pies. On Wednesday, the day when most customers come to pick up their pies and even make last minute orders, Miller’s Dutch Kitchen will be in overdrive putting together the cream pie varieties.
Out of the more than two dozen variety of pies offered at the restaurant, Miller said that pumpkin pie is by far the most popular Thanksgiving item – usually generating between 700 and 950 orders. Peanut butter pie, however, takes the cake on Christmas – and every other day of the year, for that matter.
“Our peanut butter pie is by far the favorite,” said Miller. “We probably sell it at a four to one ratio in comparison to our other pies. When customers come in for the first time, a lot of time I’ll give them a piece because I know it will get them hooked.”
Following tradition, the Millers plan to sit down for their own family meal in the restaurant once the crowds die down.
“We close three hours early on Thanksgiving and at the end of the night once a big table opens up, we get to sit down and have our family dinner,” said Miller. “We usually don’t get around to eating until around 6:30 or so.”
Miller credits the restaurant’s popularity on Thanksgiving in large part to its home-style, from-scratch cooking. The majority of items on the menu are old family recipes, some of which the culinary masterminds in the kitchen may take to their graves.
“A lot of these recipes only exist in the minds of my dad, John, and my uncle, Gene, who do most of the cooking,” Miller said. “Some of them are actually written down, but most are just in their heads.”