It was in 1955 that Ray Kroc teamed up with the McDonald brothers, rewriting the history of the fast food restaurant.
From the humble beginnings in San Bernardino, McDonald’s became the benchmark for American fast food, leading a multi-billion-dollar industry.
But despite the dominance of fast food giants, local quick service restaurants continue to thrive in a niche market.
In 1952, three full years before the McDonald’s revolution began, one of Berks County’s favorite fast food spots opened it doors.
Not much has changed in the six decades since Schell’s began selling hamburgers and hot dogs along 5th Street Highway in Temple. The prices have gone up a little (you can’t get fries for 15 cents anymore), but the menu is largely the same: burgers, dogs, grilled cheese, fried chicken, fries, onion rings, and my personal favorite, hamburger bar-b-que.
Hamburger bar-b-que is so simple to make (four ingredients: ground beef, ketchup, mustard and brown sugar), yet I find it hard to top Schell’s. A tip for first-timers: to cut down on the mess, eat your sandwich upside down. The thicker top half of the bun will absorb more of the juices.
Of course, what fast food meal is complete without a side of fries and a milkshake? The crinkle fries are crisped to perfection and pre-loaded with plenty of salt. Schell’s offers four flavors of milkshakes from its soft serve machine: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and my personal favorite: raspberry. The shakes are nice and thick, and though they won’t do much to quench your thirst, they are delicious.
Those with a sweet tooth may want to forgo the shake in favor of some frozen treats. Just across the parking lot is one of the sweetest places in Berks County, Schell’s Dairy Swirl. (Rather than skip the shake, I decided to make an ice cream-only trip later in the week).
If you aren’t sure if you still have room, inside the barn-like building are large pictures of sundaes, ice cream cones and banana splits, just to get you a little hungrier.
I went with a banana split arctic swirl, the equivalent of a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Watching them make it is the best kind of torture as they slice up a fresh banana and add it, along with the remaining ingredients, into a cup of vanilla soft serve, then mix it all up into a delicious mess.
Sundaes are another favorite at the Dairy Swirl. My wife’s peanut butter sundae was loaded with peanuts and peanut butter sauce, and piled high with whipped cream. Maybe it was piled a little too high because half of the whipped cream (as well as the cherry on top) fell to the floor as she tried to eat it.)
And the fun doesn’t end with dessert. After you finish the last spoonful of soft serve, 27 holes of miniature golf are waiting to challenge even the most experienced putters.
Schell’s course is not just nine holes longer than a standard course, it’s far more difficult. The slopes and patches of “rough” and “bunkers” that surround the holes can be frustrating for those looking for a low score (like myself), but immense fun for anyone who doesn’t take their game too seriously.
The next time you’re thinking about picking up some fast food, skip the drive-through lane and head to Schell’s. The prices are just as reasonable, but the food is so much better. Besides, I’ve never seen a Burger King with mini-golf.
So whether you go for a quick dinner, a creamy dessert or a round of golf, Schell’s is a sure hole-in-one.