I-80 Restaurant Serves 'America's Worst Apple Pie'
Did you ever drive along a highway and notice a billboard that really gets your attention? It would be a billboard that makes you so curious that you want to stop and visit that place of business.
There's one along Interstate 80 in Venango County that has been getting a lot of attention for many years. It advertises a restaurant that wants everyone to know it serves America's Worst Apple Pie.
The restaurant claiming America's Worst Apple Pie is the Plaza Restaurant, near the town of Emlenton. The restaurant is located at the Emlenton Travel Plaza at Exit 42 of I-80. Carol Burns is the owner.
"Quite a thing to be proud of, right?” she said.
Carol says the idea of promoting America's Worst Apple Pie came from her father, Ed Yasechko, who founded the Emlenton Travel Plaza in 1972. It was in the year 1989 that he wanted a gimmick to bring people into the restaurant. He took a gamble that a negative campaign about the pie would create curiosity and attract customers. The gamble worked.
"He just thought that it would be a good marketing thing to do,” said Carol as a man from Elk County ordered a slice of apple pie. He said he saw the billboard while traveling on the Interstate and wanted to give the pie a try.
Erika Heczler, a waitress at the Plaza Restaurant, says that’s a scene that takes place every day.
"Most people that come in they always ask because it's advertised a lot,” she said. “If they ask about the apple pie directly, I always say, ‘You think it's the worst? You think it's the best? It all depends on your opinion. But, you've got to try it."
The restaurant sells anywhere from 20 to 32 slices of pie per day and around 4 to 6 whole pies. Trying America's Worst Apple Pie is an unexpected activity for many travelers during vacation trips.
Ed Schmader couldn't believe the ad campaign when he signed on as general manager at the travel plaza 11 years ago.
"It was very interesting because it was so known for that slogan. It was so known and people come from everywhere, you know."
America’s Worst Apple Pie is always served on a special red plate. It's not unusual to see travelers take a picture of themselves with their pie.