Dandelion salad and warm, soft pretzels are just two of the delicious dishes the Keystone State calls its own
Pennsylvania has a colorful and delicious heritage that lends to some of the best eateries in the state. From traditional Pennsylvania Dutch favorites and locally harvested ingredients to beloved nostalgic snacks, the Keystone State knows how to dish it up.
Pennsylvania Dutch Food
Famous for its rich Pennsylvania Dutch history, the town of Reading in Berks County is aptly considered the Americana Region with its bright culture and cuisine. Margo DeRouchie at Visitpaamericana.com is a “Pennsylvania Dutch gal at heart” and shares family favorites from her upbringing. Just mention traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dishes and Margo will tantalize your tastebuds with unique recipes.
“Corn pie and dandelion salad were special dishes to me as my parents would lovingly prepare them together,” said Margo. “My mom was responsible for making the flaky pie crust and my dad would then prepare the corn pie filling in the deep-dish cast iron Dutch oven, which I have been gifted.”
Her father would pick fresh dandelions while her mother made her signature hot bacon dressing. While corn and dandelions are seasonal ingredients, she typically enjoys these meals at Easter.
Margo invites folks to “kumm esse” (come eat), “tickle their tongue” and “eat until they ouch” at the Deitsch Eck (Dutch Corner) restaurant in Lenhartsville, where you can taste the culture for yourself. For recipes, email Margo at Margo@visitpaamericana.com and bring Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine into your kitchen.
More Pennsylvania Foods to Taste
A coveted product used by chefs nationwide grows in the lush landscape of the Allegheny National Forest. Wild leeks, also called ramps, are a distinguished culinary ingredient many cooks utilize for their bold onion and garlic flavors.
Linda Devlin, executive director of the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau, describes wild leeks as “a favorite springtime wild onion-like plant that grows in the dappled sunlight of the woodlands of McKean County, Pennsylvania.”
She explains they are “slightly sweet in flavor with a strong onion scent.” For a truly “ramped” up experience, she suggests visiting the Twisted Vine Winery & Eatery in Kane during springtime when wild leek harvesting is in full swing.
According to Linda, they offer a full leek menu, featuring dishes such as ham and leek soup, deep-fried leeks served with a Cajun Ranch dip, stuffed leek burgers, ham and leek pizza with a butter garlic base sauce, and sauteed leeks with their steak entrees. The restaurant can accommodate groups of up to 90 people. Invite your bunch to try unique local favorites like a Leek Vodka Bloody Mary and scratch-made leek dip. A hearty cream-of-mushroom soup is a Chester County regional favorite keeping Pennsylvanians warm during cold winters. This flavorful dish is a staple in the town of Kennett Square, which is also considered the “mushroom capital of the world.”
Mushrooms of Pennsylvania
Courtney Babcock, director of Sales with the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau, says that 65% of the country’s mushroom crops come from Kennett Square. They even celebrate with an annual Mushroom Festival every September.
Courtney’s childhood was full of mushroom-fueled recipes with the creamy soup a family essential. Her go-to mushroom soup recipe can be enjoyed at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, where they’ve been simmering the same ingredients since 1906. She suggests indulging your palate with new twists on the creamy classic at other local eateries.
“Nearby Gable at Chadds Ford, an old dairy barn converted to a charming, rustic restaurant and venue, serves a unique version,” says Courtney, describing the dish as a “cream-free” mushroom soup combined with the idea of French onion, complete with a crouton and cheese.
Another group-friendly restaurant boasting history and blending old-world charm and excellent cuisine is General Warren in Malvern, serving a mushroom bisque-type option.
When your group visits historic Philadelphia, be on the lookout for a soft pretzel stand. Better yet, visit the Center City Pretzel Co. located in the Italian Market, where they’ll create a soft baked snack in the shape of your favorite sports team’s logo.
“They have a rich history in the Pennsylvania area, ever since the first pretzel factory in America opened in Lancaster County in 1861,” says Annie Jirapathakul, tourism sales manager with Discoverphl.com. “I was fascinated by the shape,” she continued, “because I liked how you could take a single strand of dough and just by twisting it turn it into something different.”
Annie’s tried the art of pretzel-making at home and suggests a place for the right supplies for your group’s sous chefs. “The Pennsylvania General Store in Reading Terminal Market sells a bake-at-home soft pretzel mix that is a great souvenir,” she says.
For a ready-to-share snack, Annie suggests trying South Bowl for their cheese sauce and pretzel bites.
Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, Pennsylvania
When your group is craving one-of-a-kind craft brews, visit the Bullfrog Brewery, nestled in downtown Williamsport, for its award-winning beer.
Gina Edwards, tourism coordinator for Lycoming County, says the brewery is a staple of Williamsport. Locals and travelers come together for the exceptional craft beer selection, live music and laid-back atmosphere.
“I always have a Billtown Blonde when I go to the Bullfrog,” says Gina. She explains that this beer is a “crisp, refreshing ale, with light citrus nuances and a nice malt backbone.”
She suggests pairing it with menu offerings like the healthy veggie plate and homemade lemon-garlic hummus. Or try it with the delicious pork belly mac and cheese. “The best mac and cheese in Lycoming County,” says Gina.
Pennsylvania has plenty more restaurants to enjoy and attractions to experience, so be sure to Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel for more information and travel ideas.
By Heather Dale