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By Zach Brown
Cooking with a Touch of Pennsylvania Dutch: The words are printed on the mural that spans the dining room wall at Risser's Family Restaurant in Stouchsburg. The wall is covered with Amish farm scenes and proverbs like "Kissing wears out, cooking don't" and "we grow too soon old, and too late schmart."
Part diner, part family restaurant, Risser's has been serving local favorites in western Berks County for decades. The original dining car opened in 1954 as the Blue Star Diner, and it still maintains its retro styling, with stainless steel trim on the counter and stools. The dining room has a more rustic feel, with the mural on one wall and country primitives throughout.
One of the highlights of dinner at Risser's is the soup and salad bar that comes with most meals. Six varieties of soups, from chicken noodle to clam chowder, are available on any given night. The salad bar includes more than 10 different dressings-including hot bacon dressing, homemade macaroni and potato salad, and some of the best red beet eggs anywhere. Fresh baked muffins and breads are also included.
And with every salad bar order comes soft ice cream, vanilla and chocolate, with topping options that include chocolate syrup, crushed Oreo cookies, peanuts, and chocolate sprinkles.
Risser's has all the standard diner fare: french toast, pancakes, and omelets at breakfast; soups and sandwiches at lunch, and meat and potato platters at dinner.
But Risser's specialty is traditional Pennsylvania Dutch entrees: chicken pot pie, pig stomach, beef heart, and a personal favorite, schnitz und knepp - warm, baked apples served with a dumpling and four thick slices of baked ham.
The flavor combination is unexpected, a mix of dinner and dessert. As the dumpling soaks up the glaze from the apples, it tastes more and more like apple pie. The saltiness of ham is a strange, but welcome addition to the dish, and it only gets better as the ingredients have time to blend together. The only downside to the dish is that it's only offered every few weeks as a special, and is not part of the daily menu.