There is no doubt that Berks County is blessed with a plethora of amazing restaurants. From upscale, downtown dining to back country bars, the options are seemingly limitless.
But sometimes the best meals are the ones you can’t get in any restaurant.
Pick up a copy of the Reading Eagle or the Merchandiser and you will find a treasure trove of dining options at local churches, fire companies and social clubs.
Homemade meals from pancake breakfasts to roast beef dinners are available every weekend. But the true specialty of Berks County is chicken pot pie.
I’m talking about genuine Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie, the three-part dish of dough, meat and potatoes served in a bowl. (Sorry KFC, but what you serve is chicken pie, not chicken pot pie).
And some of the best pot pie in Berks County is only served once a year, in the small village of Stouchsburg.
Every March, the Marion Fire Company hosts an annual pot pie supper at its social quarters along Stouchsburg’s Main Street. The wood paneling adorning the walls of the social hall is broken up only by the large bingo board used on Tuesday nights.
Dinner is served family style. Large bowls of pot pie, peas and applesauce are passed around the table for diners to take as much as they would like. The only downside is that some people (i.e., me) put so much pot pie on their plates that the rest of the table has to wait for another bowl to be delivered.
The reason I take such large portions is that the fire company is serving near perfect pot pie.
So what makes it so good? Any good pot pie starts with the dough. More than an over-sized noodle, the dough is thick enough to chew, but soft enough to slide right down.
The second piece to the pot pie puzzle is the meat. Unlike most places where chicken is the only option, the Marion Township Fire Company also serves the under-appreciated beef version of the dish, with large chunks of roast beef mixed in, the juice from the meat combines with that of the dough and potatoes to create a pseudo-gravy that helps keep the dish moist. It’s everything you could hope for in real Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie.
Like all good social dinners, dessert is included with your dinner ticket. An array of pies and cakes tempts the diners. My choice is the spice cake, which is served with cream cheese icing, a short and sweet finish to a hearty meal.
There are plenty of organizations across the county serving delicious dinners so you don’t have to make the trek to the Lebanon County border. But for me, the yearly trip is a family affair, a mini reunion built around a home-cooked meal, all for less than $10 per person.