If you live anywhere near Berks County, you’re familiar with Kauffman’s BBQ chicken. The wagons are everywhere during the summer, selling the famous chickens and baked potatoes at fundraisers throughout Berks and its neighboring counties.
But the aluminum foil-wrapped dinners are just a tease – a taste if you will. To get the true Kauffman’s experience, you have to make the trip to the ranch, Kauffman’s BBQ Restaurant in Bethel.
Kauffman’s is found as close to the middle-of-nowhere as you can find in Berks County, just south of Interstate 78 and the Lebanon County line on a winding country lane, appropriately called Gravel Pit Road.
An 18-hole miniature golf course spreads across the lawn with an old-fashion plow, a wishing well and a wagon wheel guarding the holes. The ranch’s pet peacocks roam free through the parking lot. A giant rooster stands guard at the entrance.
If you aren’t hungry when you arrive, you will be. Inside, a picture window reveals the magical process, allowing diners to watch the chickens as they rotate in the rotisserie ovens, flavor dripping onto the birds below and marinating the potatoes that bake on the bottom rack.
Meals are served cafeteria-style, and the line for the dining room winds through the take-out area, and sometimes out the door. A pair of menu boards announce the platter options, including baked ham, Salisbury steak and clam strips. But for most diners, the only real option is whether to get a ¼ chicken or ½, and white meat or dark.
Customers file down to a narrow lane where you pick up your tray and pick out your desserts from a refrigerated case (sneakily located at the front of the line) before placing your order. Meals are served on disposable paper plates and cups.
All platters include a trip to the salad bar, which has all the staples, including a flavorful macaroni salad that can be used instead of dressing.
Naturally, the best part of every meal is the chicken. Cooked to a golden brown, the skin is full of flavor — a little sweet with a hint of spiciness, especially in the blackened edges of the wings and thighs. There is no extra sauce because it doesn’t need it.
Every platter comes with a choice of potato: baked potato, french fries or potato filling, a delicious mix of mashed potatoes, bread crumbs, celery and herbs, loaded with brown gravy.
And of course there’s the dessert options, a variety of fresh baked cakes and pies, including a classic apple crumb pie with a thin, flaky crust and apples that melt in your mouth. Or if you prefer something a little colder, Kauffman’s has a full ice cream stand in the take-out area with soft serve and a freezer full of Hershey’s hard ice cream. Grab a cone and enjoy it on their enclosed porch, furnished with retro yellow fiberglass picnic tables.
All of the platters at Kauffman’s are priced under $10, and the miniature golf is just $4 a person, the perfect prices for an afternoon outing with the whole family. Make sure you plan your trip for later in the week because the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you can’t make it to the bar-b-que ranch, you can get the same quality chicken at fundraisers all summer.