After seeing Jim Leff write about the "heart-breakingly beautiful brownness variation among bags of Martin's pretzels" in CHOWTour Dispatch #8 and his overall adventures in PA Dutch Country in CHOWTour Dispatch #9, I began to daydream about the Martin Pretzel bakery in Akron, PA.
To all interested, if you're ever in Lancaster County, you could stop by their unbelievably small bakery on Diamond Street in Akron (go in through the back screendoor) where you can buy the pretzels right out of the oven at any variation of browness or saltiness you choose.
If they're making a batch (they usually are), and if you ask, they'll almost certainly sell you "soft pretzels." Which means that they'll reach in by hand to pull them off the conveyor belt early. It's really a soft/hard pretzel hybrid. And it's so good that my words would fall short in describing it.
If you enjoy Martin's pretzels, this will be a Double-edged Sword proposition, however. You'll never enjoy a bag purchased from the store in quite the same way.
Even the fully cooked pretzels purchased from the bakery are better fresh than store-bought. I notice a significant difference in texture and taste even a day after they've been baked.
Still, even bought off the self, Martin's pretzels are better than any other, IMO. Especially the Akron version. The New York bakery's fall short.
If you do go to the factory, you should know that it is a very conservative Mennonite operation. They are kind and happy to serve you face-to-face, even answer questions. It makes things better all around if the same humble courtesy is returned to them.