Berks County is home to many retro drive-in restaurants.
Places like Schell’s, Cee-Gees, the Kwik Stoppe and Intel’s Pennside Drive-In are local favorites that continue to attract diners for classics like hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and, of course, ice cream.
Retro restaurants like these can be found everywhere from the biggest cities to rural backroads.
The latter is where you will find Schuylkill County’s favorite drive-in: Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy.
Heisler’s is like a mix of Schell’s, Boehringer’s and the Works. It’s a retro quick-service restaurant with homemade ice cream. It’s also a mini-golf mecca with two 18-hole courses. Add to that the driving range, arcade and gift shop, and Heisler’s has to be considered an entertainment destination.
Though only a 45-minute drive from Reading, Heisler’s feels like another world. The complex grew up around the original Heisler’s dairy farm, which explains why it feels like the middle of nowhere, three miles from the nearest numbered highway (Route 895) along a windy, two-lane road.
Yet when we pulled up, the parking lot was packed with customers from all over, including several from Berks County (the Fleetwood Tigers and SV Panthers shirts gave away their hometowns).
Despite the crowded parking lot, there wasn’t much of a line to order – most of the people seemed to already be on the golf course or eating – so we were helped quickly.
Our order was fairly simple: a cheeseburger for Julie, a hamburger for me, an order of fries to share and two bottles of water. And it was out in a hurry.
The burgers were fresh off the grill. I prefer the basics: LTO. I have no complaints about the burger. It’s fast food not gourmet. Don’t expect anything more and you won’t be disappointed.
The crinkle cut fries were a bit of a letdown though. I have to assume they had been sitting for a moment before being served because they warm, not hot, and a little hard as opposed to crispy.
I’ve had their fries when piping hot and they are very good. This was an off-day for them.
Between dinner and dessert, we took time to play 18. When I was a child, my parents had brought us to Heisler’s once or twice. The old miniature golf course (and tepee) is gone, replaced in 2003 by two more modern courses.
The Black Diamond Fairways features a coal mine theme, complete with a rock waterfall. It’s also the busier of the two (especially with kids). We decided for the faster, calmer round at Lewistown Fairways.
It’s a beautiful course that’s fun and challenging enough that Julie couldn’t luck into a win against my 3-under performance.
After working up our appetites again, we were at the dessert window (desserts are ordered at the front of the building, hot food at the side).
I went with a very…vanilla option, choosing a vanilla milkshake over more complicated desserts. I can’t help it; I love milkshakes. And Heisler’s milkshakes are not too runny, not too thick and sized just right. They work just as well for dessert as they do with your meal.
When it comes to desserts, Julie is more of a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl. She went with the peanut butter sundae with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter topping, whipped cream and a cherry on top.
It must have been good because she devoured it pretty fast. We had absolutely nothing to complain about at dinner.
For everything – dinner, miniature golf and dessert – we spent around $35. Not bad for an evening of food and entertainment.
A few other notes for those who have never been to Heisler’s or haven’t been there in a while:
- Heisler’s is CASH ONLY. There’s an ATM on site if you forget, but who wants to pay those fees?
- The Waffle Shop is still there, but it’s no longer serving waffles and ice cream. It has been converted into a private party area.
- Most of the seating is located under a large pavilion. It can fill up at the dinner rush so be prepared to not get a table, just in case.
Heisler’s is a fun time with good food. Yes, there are plenty of places in Berks County to get similar food and a similar experience, but sometimes it’s nice to just go for a drive and explore something different.
And for us, Heisler’s is worth a drive, if only once a year.
Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy
743 Catawissa Rd
Tamaqua, PA 18252