There are places in Berks County that seem lost in time.
There are farms that have passed through generations; homes that have stood for centuries; and back country roads littered with horse-drawn buggies.
The Deitsch Eck fits both descriptions.
Lenhartsville is a tiny hamlet in the northern reaches of Berks County. The town’s main thoroughfare, Penn Street, is a full 30-minute drive from its namesake in Reading.
Beginning in the 1700s, what is now the Deitsch Eck (“German Corner” in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect). was a tavern serving weary travelers along the road. That tradition carried into the early 20th century, when Penn Street became part of US-22. Today, Interstate-78 passes just north of the town, with Route 143 connecting the Eck with the highway.
Hex sign painter Johnny Ott owned and operated the restaurant beginning in the 1930s. With many examples of his work that adorn the main dining room (not to mention the large portrait of the artist that hangs on the wall), his presence can still be felt today.
The Eck is more than a restaurant, though. It’s also a tourist trap. In the back of the building is a Pennsylvania Dutch gift shop, offering a full array of tchotchkes, including magnets, key chains, cookbooks, replica birth certificates and every other “Dutchy” thing you could imagine.
Much like the restaurant itself, the menu is largely a throwback to a bygone era as well, offering simple meals like meatloaf, ham, liver and onions and scrapple.
I decided to start my meal with the fritter sampler, a taste of three of Deitsch Eck’s fried appetizers: apple fritters, corn fritters and potato fritters, all served with packets of honey for dipping.
The apple fritters were dusted with powdered sugar, tasting like a cross between a funnel cake and a McDonald’s apple pie. The potato “fritters” were more like a potato pancake, delicious, but would have been better with a bowl of applesauce. The corn fritters were more deep-fried goodness.
For the main course, I opted for an order of fresh sausage, butchered at the neighboring Peters Bros. meat market. The sausage was sliced down the middle and grilled flat, giving it a little nicer presentation. The meat did not have a lot of added spices, but was still very flavorful.
For dessert, I went with a Pennsylvania Dutch classic: shoofly pie. It was a little different from a traditional shoofly (I think I tasted a hint of honey), and was a little dry on top, but was still very enjoyable.
It was an enjoyable old-fashioned meal in a quaint old-fashioned place. For $20, I got three courses of food and a crash course in Pennsylvania Dutch culture.
Whether you are hex sign aficionado or just looking for a good, simple meal, consider taking the short drive north to the Deitsch Eck.