Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 39 miles north of Reading to Whitehall, Pa.
Most restaurants I visit for Berks County Eats are new to me, a chance to discover something different, something unfamiliar.
And I love being able to experience a new place for the first time and discover something I have never tried before.
But there are also the places that I have been frequenting throughout my lifetime to which I continue to return.
One of those places is Dunderbak’s.
I first visited on a field trip with my high school German class. We watched a German-language performance at the Allentown Symphony Hall, then hopped on the bus and headed to the Lehigh Valley Mall for lunch at the most oddly placed German restaurant I know.
Dunderbak’s is like a whole different world, tucked in the corner of the mall next to Macy’s. A yellow awning with white stripes covers the entire dining room, casting a pale haze over the seats. In the center room, a line of European flags hang suspended from the ceiling. Toward the back of the room, the flags are replaced by a collection of woven baskets.
The menu includes a heavy dose of German-American foods (and like any good German restaurant, the beer list is also extensive, with four German, four Belgian, and four craft beers on tap at all times). German favorites include schnitzel, pork and kraut, sauerbraten and seven different wurst sandwiches.
If you are too busy shopping to enjoy a sit-down meal, wursts are one of many items available to go at the front counter.
Lately our visits have come in December, and there is nothing better than a hot cup of soup to warm you up on a cold shopping day. So I started off my meal with a cup of chicken and dumpling soup.
It’s a hearty soup with very little room for broth among the chunks of chicken, celery and carrots, and the thick round balls of dough. A bowl of it would probably make a satisfying meal; just a cup is enough to spoil even the hungriest appetite.
Julie also was looking for something to warm her up so she went with what is probably the most un-German thing on the menu, French onion soup. Unlike my own soup, hers was brothy with chunks of onion and bread, but the best part was the melted cheese that filled the top of her crock.
There are very few entrees at Dunderbak’s I haven’t tried (all of them good), and on this occasion I opted for the Munich wurst and pasta: smoked sausage served atop a bed of spaetzel pasta with onions, peppers and mushrooms.
Each component of the meal is good in its own right, but what really brings it together is the cup of brown gravy. Once that’s poured on, it gives a little moisture to the spaetzel and compliments the smokiness of the sausage to perfection.
On the side, I enjoyed an order of hot German potato salad. For those who have never had it, it’s almost a cross between roasted potatoes and sauerkraut, with a mostly sour, but not unpleasant, flavor.
Next to me, Julie was enjoying the Dunderbrat, one of the seven sausage sandwiches on the menu. The Dunderbrat is a traditional German bratwurst, topped with weinkraut and Swiss cheese. The bitterness of the kraut mixed with the sweetness of the Swiss made for a well-balanced sandwich. Dunderbak’s battered fries are a great addition and an easy way to overdue it.
Normally that would be the end of our meal, but we were dining with some friends and we collectively decided that there was room enough for dessert so we got ourselves an order of apple pie pierogis.
These fried treats, which looked more like hot pockets than pierogis, were filled with cinnamon and apples and served with whipped cream. Fried pies are always good, but the addition of the whipped cream for that little extra sweetness put this over the top.
Eating all of this at lunch time, this served as our last meal of the day so the $40 price tag for the two of us ($80 for our table of four), was well worth it.
Dunderbak’s is always well-worth the (sometimes aggravating) drive to Whitehall and back. It’s great food, an atmosphere unlike any other in the area, and a place that I will continue to come back to for years to come.