Left at the Fork

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Schwalm’s Cleona Restaurant, Cleona PA

REVIEW

Good country cooking is becoming ever more scarce in eastern Pennsylvania Amish country. We keep searching but the results have been lukewarm at best. Schwalm’s feels right but, based on a first visit, we’re just not yet convinced. There were decent things to eat (in a couple of cases, more than decent), but most of what we tried, while all perfectly edible, was simply standard issue luncheonette food.

Pepper hash, another eastern Pennsylvania specialty, is appropriately sweet, sour, and squeaky.

The eatery, larger than it appears from the street, was packed on a Friday night with what appeared to be regulars, mostly in their 50s through 80s. We took that as an encouraging sign. Our waitress was a sweetheart, eager to please.

Coconut cake, like many of the cakes, is displayed along a counter as you enter. It’s very sweet and satisfying. Our waitress told us the slices were just too small so she dished up a double wedge!

The menu, while not by any means Amish, has a nice sprinkling of local Pennsylvania favorites, and you’d do well to choose the two regional sides, potato filling (mashed potatoes seasoned and bulked up with bread) and pepper hash (a crisp and refreshing sweet-and-sour chopped cabbage slaw). The fresh sausage entree, with a menu warning that it’ll take 20 minutes, was dry and overcooked, leaving the normally mild-tasting sausage almost void of flavor.

Fresh sausage takes 20 minutes. The split skin result looks odd but also crustily appetizing. Unfortunately, our serving was way overcooked and dry.

Cakes are displayed along the counter as you enter. They also boast an enormous roster of pies. A slice of coconut cake was sweet and fresh and enough for two, while our shoofly pie was middling, too light on the crumbs, and flavor. Further exploration is surely necessary.

We adore shoofly pie, although we found this one just OK.

Here’s what needs to be done: further menu exploration. We suspect that there are enough winners on the menu to put together a recommended eating plan for a visit. We just can’t quite do that yet, from one visit.

A soup special of ham and bean was wholesome-tasting but apparently completely unseasoned.

213 East Penn Avenue
Cleona PA 17042
717-274-9942

Almost everyone in the packed house had a side of macaroni and cheese. Must be a house strength, we figured. It was ordinary.

LAF TRAK: 

FOOD: 

BEST THING TO EAT: Potato filling

Beef barbecue was an adequate sloppy Joe.

2 Comments

  1. I feel your pain of trying a LOT of items but only a handful are great! That sausage looks amazing, though. I think I’ve eaten more mediocre shoofly pies than great ones, sadly.

    • Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

      July 16, 2017 at 11:10 am

      We had homemade shoofly pie a lot in our family. My father loved it so much that one or another of his kids would usually make him one (along with a pecan pie, another of his favorites) every Father’s Day and birthday. We all make awesome shoofly pies. So you can imagine it’s not easy for a shoof (as he called it) to measure up. Schwalm’s may well bake theirs in house but it tasted, to me, like a commercial product. Not bad, but no spark.

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