Pennsylvania's rich culinary heritage has been simmering for years, piled high with French fries, served with maple syrup, topped with a bit of chow chow, and laid out before you like Thanksgiving dinner all year long.
Warning: Your PA dining experience could leave you pounds heavier, but you'll develop a sense of appreciation for good food and a deep desire for a doggie bag.
Belt-loosener favorites on the smorgasbords of Lancaster County:
- Apple Butter: a smooth apple spread, not quite as sweet as jelly
- Buttered noodles: egg noodles bathed in a brown butter/brown sugar sauce
- Chow Chow: slightly sweet, slightly sour pickled veggies
- Scrapple: a spiced pork and cornmeal breakfast loaf that's fried and served with either maple syrup or ketchup
- Shoo-Fly Pie: a wet-bottom molasses pie with a brown sugar crumb topping
Served Up with a Side of History
Long before there were drive-through restaurants, the diner offered Pennsylvania's predecessor to fast food. Quick service, home-style meals served in large portions and buildings shaped like rail cars (and often transported to their sites via train) made the diner an everyman's eatery.
Over the years, PA has been home to thousands of these foodie institutions; today slightly more than 200 remain.
Fan favorites include:
- Dean's Diner, Blairsville
- Kuppy's Diner, Middletown
- Melrose Diner, Philadelphia
- Wellsboro Diner, Wellsboro
Near-Extinct PA Foods
Unfortunately, some of the less famous edibles are heading the way of the dinosaur. But our signature dishes aren't dead yet. Eager palates can still find gems in family eateries.
Generations of PA Dutch grandmothers have been cooking up odd foods like stuffed pig's stomaches - but they've also been roasting dried apples with ham and dumplings for a juicy combination of sweet and savory not found anywhere else: Schnitz und Knepp. If you're near Reading, drop by Risser's Diner on Route 422.
If you think the keystone of any meal lies in the side dishes - not the main course - you might prefer a cold, crunchy bite of Pepper Hash. This tangy blend of green and red peppers, cabbage and vinegar sauce lingers in seafood joints near Philly. Kevin and Robert Nicholl's of Nicholl's Seafood in Northeast Philly serve it for $2 with anything fried.