Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 86 miles southwest of Reading to Gettysburg, PA.
As Independence Day approaches, plans are being made for parades, fireworks and family barbecues. It’s a day of celebration and revelry across America as we celebrate all of the freedoms we enjoy in this land.
But it is just as important to remember those who sacrificed everything so that we may continue to live free.
Nowhere in American does “freedom” take on such a somber meaning as it does in Gettysburg.
It was July 1, 1863, 151 years ago this week, that Union and Confederate soldiers engaged in the first of three days of fierce fighting in and around the county seat of Adams County, Pennsylvania.
Today, the battlefield stands a solemn reminder of ultimate price that was paid for independence. Devil’s Den. Little Round Top. The Peach Orchard. Cemetery Ridge. All places around town that have become etched in American history.
A century-and-a-half later, the Civil War is big business for the town, as millions pour in to Gettysburg each year to pay their respects. In town you’ll find museums, storefronts and restaurants that add “Lincoln” and “Union” to their names to attract visitors.
At first glance, Hunt’s Battlefield Fries is just another one of those businesses. Adding the word “battlefield” and hanging bunting from the front porch makes it seem like just another tourist trap at first glance, but we decided to give it a try anyway.
Inside, the decor is best described as busy. One wall appears plucked from a Nashville club circa 1998 as autographed photos of Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and other leading ladies of country music cover every inch. Opposite are a collection of faux tin signs.
And then there are the hats, hundreds of them. Each one bears the name of a U.S. Army brigade, Air Force squadron, Naval warship or other military unit. It’s a bizarre, yet touching tribute to all those who have defended America in the last 240 years.
But Hunt’s is a restaurant first, and it is the food that had customers lining up for a table in the sardine can that passed for a dining room. At least in the summer months the outdoor patio is a viable seating option, otherwise there would be room for no more than 20 diners at a time.
Upon seating, we were explained that all food is made to order so the wait would be about 40 minutes so we searched through the incredible collection of sodas before finding a pair of Berks County favorites and passing the time with a trivia booklet sitting on the table.
As the name implies, the Hunt’s offerings start with fries, with burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches filling out the remaining menu. I decided a chili burger would do well and was not disappointed. The burger was cooked perfectly and the chili was excellently seasoned, adding a little sweet and a little heat. The fries were fresh-cut, and I gave them a vinegar bath and tossed on a few sprinkles of Old Bay and Cajun seasoning from the toppings bar. A little crispy on the outside, but still a beautiful golden brown, the fries were made that much better by the add-ons.
On the other side of the table, my wife was enjoying an American classic of her own: grilled cheese with tomato and bacon (because a plain grilled cheese was just not enough). The bacon and tomato added more crunch, a little salt and a lot more flavor. And because she can’t get enough cheese, she also added a side of cheese sauce for her fries.
A burger, grilled cheese and fries in Gettysburg, our food at Hunt’s Battlefield Fries were about as American a meal as you can get, all for about the price of admission to the park’s museum and Cyclorama.
From Hunt’s, it is just a short drive to the actual battlefield, the place where freedom for all Americans was ensured 150 years ago. And this all-American meal feels right at home there.