exterior of Dawn's Deli in Lenhartsville, PA

First impressions are vitally important, especially when it comes to restaurants. They make or break opinions, determining whether and when you’ll be back.

One restaurant that made a great first impression on me recently was Dawn’s Deli, a little place from the little town of Lenhartsville in northern Berks County.

I had never heard of Dawn’s Deli before this year’s Taste of Hamburg-er Festival. As far as I knew, the only restaurant in Lenhartsville was the Deitsch Eck.

But I certainly know about Dawn’s Deli now.

burger cut in half showing the patty, cheese, tomatoes and pesto

Among the three burgers we sampled at the festival was Dawn’s Taste of Italy burger. It was our favorite of the day. And the judges agreed, naming it Best Overall Burger.

The Taste of Italy burger featured mozzarella, pesto mayo and homemade bruschetta on a garlic bread bun.

woman eating a hamburger at a street festival

Why was it so great? The homemade bruschetta, for starters. It was as good as any Italian restaurant, with just the right amount balsamic. I could have eaten just the bruschetta with the bun and been happy. But add the pesto and mozzarella, and it turned into a hamburger masterpiece.

It’s one of the best burgers that I have had anywhere. The only thing left to do was go to Dawn’s Deli for the full experience.

Dawn’s has a storefront along Penn Street in “downtown” Lenhartsville. A wacky, waving, inflatable, arm-flailing tube man beckons customers inside.

a bottle of Pure Wild Tea and a bottle of Kutztown Red Cream soda on a pink tabletop at Dawn's Deli

In the one-horse town, Dawn’s also serves as the local convenience store, with shelves full of groceries and a full urn of coffee. There’s a few seats, but not many. A group of six was in at the same time as us, that left only a couple of tables for us to choose from.

At the back is the grill, the place where the magic happens. A large poster menu hangs on the wall with dozens of sandwich and burger options. Some are traditional. Others are entirely unique.

basket witha  burger topped with sauteed onions, cheese and funyuns

I found a one-of-a-kind offering on the day’s specials. It’s called the Funyun burger, and it’s exactly what it sounds like and so much more.

The burger was topped with Funyuns (the onion ring chips) AND grilled onions with a creamy garlic spread on a grilled roll.

It wasn’t the Taste of Italy, but it was very good. Onions and garlic are among my favorite ingredients for just about anything so of course I loved this. The grilled onions packed most of the flavor, but the Funyuns added a crunchy texture. The garlic sauce was a welcome addition, the right spread to compliment the rest of the toppings.

Let it also be said that Dawn’s burger patties are a great base. With both burgers that I’ve tried, the patty has been well-cooked and juicy.

My only problem was the grilled roll made it too hot to hold. But I dealt with it.

grilled cheese sandwich with bread crusted in Parmesan

Julie found another of Dawn’s unique offerings, this time off the main menu. In bold text on the sandwich list is the Parmesan crusted pizza grilled cheese. It’s a mouthful to say, but it’s a delicious mouthful.

Playing off the traditional grilled cheese, this version is filled with cheese and pizza sauce. Then, the whole thing is coated in Parmesan and grilled, giving it a crispy, flavorful outer shell.

It didn’t look like pizza, but it sure tasted like a great slice of pizza. A few pepperonis might have made it even better, but there was no complaints about what we got.

basket of fresh-cut French fries from Dawn's Deli

Completing our meal was an order of fries. These were some of the thinnest fries that I’ve seen. That means a little less potato and a little more flavor from the fryer. Good stuff, but I prefer the reverse.

Our total bill, including a pair of drinks, still came in under $20. Not only is the food great, but it’s a bargain compared to many other places we’ve been.

First impressions are great, but second impressions count, too.

Dawn’s Deli delivered on both.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Very Reasonable

Dawn’s Deli
71 Penn St
Lenhartsville, PA 19534

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