Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’

When Retro Roadhusband were driving down Route 30 / The Lincoln Highway in Paradise, PA Sunday we were saddened to see that Jacob Zoon Hex Signs store was closed and the property being offered for sale.

jacob zook hex sign store closed realtor information



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Recently a RetroRoadmap Flickr follower asked me for some road trip suggestions in my area, and I shared that Route 422 going west from Reading PA is fast becoming one of my favorite retro routes, in part because of places like Risser’s Restaurant / Diner in Womelsdorf PA. A classic diner on one side, homey dining room on the other, it’s two great Pennsylvania Dutch treats in one!Risser's Family Restaurant Welcomes You
While the dining room was darling with it’s vintage knotty pine paneling and painted mural depicting the plain people of the area, we opted to check out the restaurant  via the diner side on a chilly Saturday afternoon. The original diner  – called the Blue Star Diner when it opened in 1954 was partially bricked over (blurgh) but still retains it’s clean and classic roadside charm once you enter through the “diner car” entrance (Thanks to the Diners of Pennsylvania book for that info- and click this link to see the great sign it used to have!)

Risser's Diner Exterior Diner Car Entrance
If you weren’t completely convinced that you were in an actual vintage diner, this tag, indicating that the diner was manufactured by the Fodero Dining Car Co of Bloomfield NJ would set you straight. If you happened to be looking directly above the entrance that is!
Fodero Diner Tag

However, all you have to do is look around and see that, with the exception of some newer looking chairs, the diner is pretty much untouched, with it’s classic spinning counter stools, fluted steel backsplash, terrazzo floor and nice clean curved ceiling. We were handed menus from our waitress, but also needed a few minutes to absorb the posted specials. The one above the coffee urn caught my eye for sure!
Diner Counter

As you can see Risser’s serves traditional diner fare but also some more unusual items – Pig Stomach, Beef Heart, Oysters, veal, beltbusters – oh my! One of the tables near us ordered duck, and that isn’t something you usually see in a diner either, but it looked good.
Stuffed Pig Stomach & Beef Heart...Specials!

I had a good long look at the pie case before determining that I’d eat small and splurge on dessert. After consulting the extensive menu I fell back on the standard BLT for me and club sandwich for RetroRoadhusband. He decided to get the upcharge to visit the “salad” bar in the dining room for soup, “salad” and ice cream. I use the term salad in little quotey things because Pennsylvania Dutch definition of salad can include everything from greens to macaroni to cottage cheese, to mini marshmallows enrobed in hot pink fluff (ambrosia?).

Pie Case
My BLT was good and I was proud of myself for not eating more of RetroRoadhusband’s fries, because as soon as I saw the enormous cream puffs and eclairs (homemade) in the case, I knew exactly what I was going to order after my sandwich.

When I told the waitress that I’d probably take most of it home, she wisely suggested that she’d serve it in the to-go box. She was spot on, as this became a delicious gooey mess within moments of us diving into it. Diet be damned!

Save Room For An Eclair!I don’t think this photo truly shows the massive size of this pastry, as it was easily as big as a small sub or hoagie. I should’ve put a fork in there for scale. Guess I’ll have to order one again next time we go there to retake the photo :-)

So if you’re looking for standard – and unusual – diner fare while checking out scenic Route 422, check out Risser’s. We’ll be back for sure!

Ernie Risser’s Family Restaurant

4055 Conrad Weiser Parkway
Womelsdorf, PA 19567-1640
(610) 589-4570
Closed Mondays
I actually posted the “Satellite” view of this area so you could see the patterns and swirls made from the farming. Beautiful!

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If you’re ever in the Blue Ball PA area, bypass the ginormous Shady Maple compound and head to the Town Hall Restaurant for real old fashioned Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking! Opened in 1955 it’s located within the fire hall on route 322.
Town Hall Restaurant Exterior

We came out here over the summer to find the restaurant closed because it was Sunday, but peering in the window I knew it was a contender for the RetroRoadmap, with it’s knotty pine decor, green linoleum floor and cheery swivel counter stools.

Green Linoleum and Red Counterstools

Now that the weather has turned all grey and freezing, it’s perfect weather for hearty, filling PA Dutch food.  I had a twist on my old fave turkey croquettes, and Retroroadhusband enjoyed his burger. I always have to laugh when I go to restaurants like this as to what falls under the “vegetable” category:

Old Fashioned Vegetable Menu

Seeing that vintage Hamilton Beach mixer made me want a milkshake  – or frappe, where I’m from. And look – they carry locally made Kings potato chips!
Cake, Chips and Mint Green Mixer

That cake sure made me want a slice, and I thought the pie case with the rotating advertisements on top was just charming, in a low key old fashioned way.

Rotating Advertisements on Pie Case

They still have postcards available that show the exterior, and it hasn’t changed much since it opened over 50 years ago.

Vintage Town Hall Restaurant Post Card

Service was friendly, food was filling and it was much more enjoyable to eat here than to join the busloads of folks up the road!

Town Hall Restaurant
4315 Division Highway
Blue Ball, PA 17506
(717) 354-4056
Closed Sundays

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Right off the bat I’ll tell you that whatever I write about Roadside America in Shartlesville PA will not be able to capture how truly cool, vintage and wonderful it is. Trust me. But one thing you should take away from this post is- you MUST go see Roadside America because it is one of the coolest roadside attractions I’ve ever visited!


Wilkum to Roadside America Shartlesville PA

As regular readers may remember, the Retro Roadkids visited a few weeks back, and I was determined to stuff as much fun into the short weekend as I could. When I sent up a social media flare to get ideas of where to take them, my fave vintage gal blogger Mary Deluxe reminded me of Roadside America, which has been in its current location since 1953. I had had one of their old fashioned looking brochures in my collection for years, but this was the push I needed for us to explore this place. OH what I had been missing!

Roadside America - The Original

We got a bit turned around with the directions my phone gave, which gave us the excuse to stop at a Girl Scout bake sale to ask for directions and buy a bunch of sweets as a thank you (And I have tried to update the info in Google for future visitors.)

Once we were pointed in the right direction we soon found the place – literally on the roadside of Route 78. As we pulled up we came across this giant Amish couple who I am sure are very friendly, but the Retro Roadkids pretended they were a bit ominous!


Honestly we really had no idea what to expect with Roadside America- we knew it was supposed to be a miniature village with trains running through it, but that was about it. However, I got the feeling we were in for a retro road trip experience when we walked into the wonderfully preserved gift shop to purchase our tickets.

Roadside America Family Owned and Operated

As I mentioned above, whatever I say about this place will not convey how cool it is once you open the door and enter the attraction. Even the photos don’t show the scale, level of detail and incredible hard work that went into creating Roadside America. But what I can show you is this, one happy Retro Roadkid, as enamored with the place as we adults were!

Roadside America and Happy Retro Roadkid!

Now for the backstory of this family owned and operated attraction, here since 1953:

Roadside America - They Just Don't Make 'em Like That Anymore

Yes, one man and his family devoted over 50 years of their time and effort to construct Roadside America. This wonderfully preserved attraction is the work and dream of just one man and his family- Laurence Gieringer, who started building the pieces of The Original Roadside America when he was in his teens. He continued with it for over 60 years, expanding, building by hand, mechanizing, planning, the whole deal. Amazing.

Roadside America - In Memory of Laurence Gieringer

From the official Roadside America Inc website:

“ROADSIDE AMERICA is an unforgettable panorama of life in rural United States. The exhibit spans more than two hundred years in time and lets you see, in exquisite miniature, how people lived and worked in pioneer days … through the years since then … right up to the present.”

Note that Roadside America really shows a time capsule of the country, as “the present” referred to really is circa 1963 when Laurence passed. This time capsule effect can be seen in the wonderful details of this Most Modern Esso Service Station seen below.

Roadside America - The Most Modern Esso

(Again from their website) The exhibit fascinates not only because of its authentic, beautifully crafted miniatures, but because of the excitement of continual movement. Swift trains glide through tunnels and over bridges … a tiny fountain bubbles in the miniature Zoo … a mountain trolley hustles through the woodland … an old-time grist mill slowly grinds grain for flour. This is only a small part of the action at ROADSIDE AMERICA.

Roadside America - Play The Hurdy GurdyTo think that someone dedicated their life to creating such a wonderful miniature world, and that we can enjoy it to this day, is impressive. Would anyone today have that level of focus and dedication? I’d like to hope so, but I’m not so sure.

There are many buttons to push, details to observe and wonders to behold, but don’t leave until you’ve seen the Night Pageant, which plays roughly ever half hour. Sure some folks may think it is hokey, or heavy handed with its imagery, but remember this is the work of one person, and his view of the world from a simpler time. When you look at it that way I think you’ll be touched. Don’t pull the jaded hipster act on me please – I get teary eyed at patriotic songs.


Night Pageant

On the way out don’t forget to roam the gift shop looking for retro souvenirs and put a quarter into the player piano / orchestrion / nickelodeon in the alcove. While I was bummed that they had run out of silver charms for my charm bracelet, both my sister and I got a laugh at the fact that, unbeknownst to each other, we had both purchased the exact same pack of Roadside America playing cards.

It was tough leaving this great vintage attraction, but the only thing that took the edge off was knowing they had an even bigger gift shop just across the parking lot at their Pennsylvania Dutch Gift Haus.

Roadside America - Thank You Come Again

The Dutch Gift Haus appears to originally have been the restaurant and lunch room for Roadside America, and still has the wonderful linoleum floor and counter in great shape.

Pennsylvania Dutch Lunch Room - Roadside America

Snack Counter

There are all sorts of Pennsylvania Dutch trinkets, souvenirs, hex signs, trivets and even shoo-fly pie and more to purchase, and we had fun trying on the Amish hats and bonnets with the Retro Roadkids. There are also non Penna Dutch related souvenirs, antiques and modern trinkets and toys for those of you not as enamored with the colorful PA Dutch stuff like I am. I mean, who can resist the word distlefink?!

Hex Signs
Again Retro Roadsis and I cracked up at the fact that we both bought the EXACT SAME dish towel with knitted loop on it, without knowing it. Great minds think alike!

So please, whatever you do, make a point of visiting this great roadside attraction, charming gift shop and friendly folks. I admit to being mortified at how long it took me to just get up and go there, so here’s a rush and a push and a shove for you to GO there SOON!

The Original Roadside America Miniature Village
Roadside Drive
Shartlesville, Pennsylvania 19554
(610) 488-6241


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Road scholar and all around good guy Larry Cultrera of Diner Hotline polled his Facebook pals this week asking where he should go for breakfast. If Larry lived in my neck of the woods I would have directed him to Jennie’s diner, a classic vintage stainless steel beauty in Ronks PA, just outside of Lancaster. And with the less than satisfying oatmeal and soft-boiled egg turned hard that I just made for my breakfast this sunny Sunday, I should probably drive out there myself!

Air Conditioned

Built in the 1950’s (either 1952 or 1959 depending on the source)  the diner is a well preserved Silk City built diner, with a new stainless steel vestibule recently added for folks waiting for a seat.  The shiny diner is nestled right next to a farm on the historic Lincoln Highway, and it would not be unusual to spot some Amish folks passing the diner in their black buggies.

Jennie's Diner Sign Lancaster PA

The diner is open 24 hours and specializes in Pennyslvania Dutch cooking. The first time I ate at Jennie’s was a very late night “after gig” meal with RetroRoadhusband, where I was introduced to that Penn Dutch “delicacy” known as Scrapple. As my story goes, he ordered it, and soon after the waitress put a plate on the counter with what to me looked like a burned kitchen sponge laying on it. That was RRH’s Scrapple, and while he was delighted to see it arrive, I was pretty much scarred for life.

My recent visit to Jennie’s was between the the more civilized lunch and dinner hours, what some would refer to as the Early Bird Special time of day. The diner was nicely filled with couples and groups sitting in the vintage diner booths and there was a handful of chatting gentlemen sitting on the stools at the counter.

Decorated for Fall

I was told to sit anywhere I like by and I opted for the corner booth. I always try to sit in the corner booth if I can, since it gives a good view of the entire diner. And as I also always say, cowboys always sat in the corner so no one could shoot ’em in the back! You’re more likely to perish at Jennie’s from trying to finish the generous portions of  tasty food that comes with your meal, so no need to worry about cowboys.

Hand Printed Menu

I opted to order one of my longtime faves, chicken croquettes and not only did they come with mashed potatoes and gravy, but also one vegetable AND salad. Curious to try a local dish, I requested the lettuce with hot bacon dressing as my salad, and when it arrived with tons of dressing, crumbled bacon and bits of hard boiled egg, I knew that this was local, and not lo-cal!

Lettuce With Hot Bacon Dressing - Fattening?

My 2 giant croquettes arrived atop a mound of potatoes, covered with gravy and my side of cucumber salad. And I got a basket of rolls and butter while I was waiting too. Generous portions to say the least, and I did my best to sample all and finish the tasty croquettes. Food coma anyone?

The curved roof of the diner is bordered with framed photos of men and women in the military. When I questioned my friendly waiter he said that they were either customers of Jennie’s, friends, relatives of customers or local folks. When these folks come back from “over there” or wherever they are, they will be given a free meal at the diner.  I was touched by this gesture of support and hope that everyone comes home safe and sound.

It's an Honor

While I was leaving the diner I realized that the “artiste” in me always wants to get a photograph of the diner by itself, with no cars in the way. Then I realized that would be almost impossible with the bustling 24 hour/ 7 day a week activity at Jennie’s, so I snapped this happy busy scene. As famous diner painter John Baeder once said, the cars looked like baby piggies nestled up to the big mom pig for a meal. These little piggies certainly will get their fill eating at Jennie’s Diner!

A Full House

Jennie’s Diner
2575 Lincoln Hwy E
Ronks, PA 17572
(717) 397-2507

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