Guten tag, Berks County.
I, like a lot of Berks Countians, can trace my family history back to Germany. And I also happen to love German food, like what can be found at the Reading Liederkranz, a private club that bills itself as a “German Singing and Sport Society.”
I have been to the Liederkranz many times, but it was always for events (Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt) and never for a sit-down meal in the dining room.
Not being a member, that was never really an option until Julie and I were invited by our friends (and members) Jerry and Lisa to join them for dinner recently.
I don’t know what I was expecting to find inside the clubhouse, but this wasn’t it. For the most part, there’s nothing remarkable about the dining area. The diner chairs and vinyl tablecloths are a dark maroon while the walls are off-white with wood around the bottom. It’s all set against a drab gray carpet. The old-fashioned numbers on the tables made it feel even more like a diner in need of an upgrade. The bar area, as well, just felt like a bar when I walked past.
The only real distinguishing feature is the wooden dance floor which is set in front of a wall painted with a beautiful Alpine scene.
One thing that was clear from the start: if you’re in a hurry, this is not the club for you. There were a few tables taken in the large dining area (it was about 6:30 on a Thursday when we arrived). After being told to sit anywhere, it was a good 10 minutes before our server came to our table with menus.
As a German club, it’s not surprising that the menu at the Liederkranz is filled with a variety of traditional German meals. But there are other additions like burgers and sandwiches. Thursday is also wing night, but we decided to pass.
Julie, along with our friends Jerry and Lisa, decided to get the weekly special – a three-course meal that started with jumbo shrimp and a salad.
It was an interesting first course, jumbo shrimp being the least German item on our table throughout the night. The salad was good if you like lemon vinaigrette because it was strong and puckery. I happened to enjoy the bite I had, but I don’t think I could have handled the whole salad.
The entree for the three-course special was sauerbraten with a side of spätzle and red cabbage. Sauerbraten is a German pot roast that has been heavily marinated with pickling spices, making it slightly sour but also very tender.
The roasted beef is almost always served with gravy, but this version was different. The gravy was thick and had raisins throughout. The sweetness from the dried fruit gave the whole dish a sweet-and-sour spin that is very pleasant and helped it stand out from similar dishes.
The spätzle (German pasta) were very finely cut noodles. They were a little crispy in some bites – so small that they seared quickly in the pan. Still, they were enjoyable as was the red cabbage – a personal favorite of mine from our visits to the Oktoberfest celebration.
Red cabbage was also one of my choices for a side to go with my schnitzel.
The menu includes the “Schnitzel Ecke” (schnitzel corner) where you can choose from three styles of schnitzel and two cuts of meat – pork or chicken. I went with the “gypsy style.” The fried chicken cutlet came topped with pan-fried onions, peppers and paprika.
I’ve had plain schnitzel at Oktoberfest and enjoyed it each time. This was better. The paprika gave it just a hint of heat while the onions and peppers popped in every bite. It was just what I was hoping for.
The other item on my plate was the German potato salad. It’s a cold potato salad that features large chunks of potato with herbs and vinegar. It’s slightly sour – like a lot of German foods – but so good. I won’t eat the Pennsylvania Dutch version of potato salad, but I love this.
When she came to clear our plates, our waitress asked if I wanted to order anything for dessert since everyone else would be getting it with their meals. Julie was gracious enough to share her apple strudel with me so I didn’t have to order one of my own.
The plate had two slivers of strudel with a pool of custard and four dollops of whipped cream. Another favorite of ours from our Oktoberfest visits, the strudel is delicious. The apple and pastry crust melt in your mouth while the custard is rich and sweet. It doesn’t get much better than this.
It was a little while again before our checks arrived. Our server was very nice but it was a good thing we weren’t in a hurry. Our final tally for the night was $40 which seems like a fair price for quality food.
The waiting aside, it was an enjoyable evening with friends and good food. I would consider a membership in the future, but with 300 restaurants in Berks County left to explore, I don’t think I would get my money’s worth out of it right now. But we definitely got our money’s worth for this meal.
Danke schön, Liederkranz.
Food: Very Good
Reading Liederkranz (Members and Guests Only)
143 Spook Ln
Reading, PA 19606
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