Diners hold a special place in the hearts of many. They’re comfort food destinations that in many ways harken back to a bygone era.
And you certainly can’t mistake a great diner when you see one.
Leesport Diner shines brightly at the corner of Routes 61 and 73 just south of the Leesport borough line.
It replaced the Leesport Family Restaurant, a tired, worn down building that never seemed to have any cars outside. Toward the end, the former 24-hour diner had a plywood board out front with hours painted on it.
The only thing the restaurant had going for it was a great location. So it was no surprise that after the restaurant closed, a buyer stepped up and started over.
Everything about the new Leesport Diner looks clean and new, even though it is now more than a year old. The stainless steel still shines. The blue and white decor brightens the interior.
Leesport Diner is a stereotypical diner in many ways. There’s the obvious aesthetics. Then there’s the menu – a seemingly endless array of options including all-day breakfast. And what diner is complete without a soup and salad bar?
It may not be the largest salad bar in Berks County, but it is certainly one of the best that I have found. It has a range of ingredients with the most popular dressings. There are three made-fresh soups available. And for grain lovers, there is a case full of warm breads and rolls to choose from.
I loaded my plate – plates to be more specific – with all of the above. I built a salad with my favorite ingredients: lettuce, red onion, cucumber and ranch dressing. For my soup, I chose chicken orzo. And for my grain, a plump dinner roll that was calling my name.
All was good. The soup was a little salty, but was definitely hearty. The greens on the salad bar all tasted fresh. The warm roll was a good addition to my appetizer ensemble.
It wasn’t long after I finished my salad that my entree arrived. I looked through the entire menu at least twice before finally deciding on one of the weekend specials: chicken and spinach.
The Italian-inspired dish featured white meat chicken with spinach and red peppers in a white wine sauce – one of those dishes that fits for a diner but you would never see on an authentic Italian restaurant menu.
I enjoyed the flavors of the dish. The sauce was heavy and a little creamy, and it complemented all of the ingredients well. What I didn’t enjoy was the chicken. It was the processed chicken breast strips that felt artificially inflated, and it has that texture that just isn’t pleasant.
It’s really a shame because the flavor was very good. I just may have enjoyed it more without any meat.
Julie went with a meal that is on every diner menu in the country – roast beef and mashed potatoes.
There are two kinds of roast beef that you get at diners: the thin slice that’s closer to deli meat and the thick slice that feels more like a pot roast. This was the former.
Roast beef and mashed potatoes is an old favorite of mine from my trips to Risser’s Family Restaurant as a kid. Leesport Diner’s version is very much a comfort dish because it has that familiarity. The flavors are familiar and enjoyable.
As someone who has tried dishes from around the world and eaten at the highest quality restaurants, I still have a soft place in my heart for a good roast beef dinner. This was a good roast beef dinner.
And the food at Leesport Diner comes at reasonable prices as well. Our bill for the two dinners plus a glass of iced tea was right around $25, which is pretty standard for a diner today.
The Leesport Diner may not have the best food in Berks County, but it serves a niche and serves it well. It’s a nostalgia, but it’s also more than that.
A diner meal isn’t going to compare to a high-end steakhouse, but it’s enjoyable in its own way. That’s the legacy that Leesport Diner carries on.
5407 Pottsville Pk
Leesport, PA 19533