Just how “out of the way” are you willing to go? Sister and I were meeting for lunch to celebrate my birthday a little late and needed a place somewhere between our homes (Harrisburg and Valley Forge). Because she is a heavy Yelp-er, she found the Penguin Hotel and Bar in Stevens.
I’ve been to many small towns in PA, but this was a new one for me. It’s right off the turnpike, just not right off a turnpike exit. Stevens sits just south of the turnpike between the Reading/Lancaster and Lancaster/Lebanon exits. Easy drive if you’re coming out of Adamstown through Shoeneck. A little more circuitous if you’re coming through Clay or Durlach. (Admit it—only one of those names might be familiar to you.) According to what I’ve read, even Garmin doesn’t know where it is.
But once you’ve found Stevens, you’ve found the Penguin Hotel, right next to the feed mill. Sister took a little longer than I did (backed-up turnpike) but eventually we met up and went in. It’s a nice little Pennsylvania tavern, bar entrance, dining room to the side. Very comfortable. I'd love to know more about the history of the place.
When our waitress presented us with menus, I wasn’t prepared for the variety of options. Asian salad? Black and Tan onion rings? Dutch-style cheesesteak? Or Penguin fries: Old Bay, bacon, and melted cheese. Wicked!
And then Sister reminded me that the burgers get raves on-line, so I flipped the menu over to read the list. And then I was speechless. Really, there is no adequate way to describe the choices for how to have a burger so I scanned it for my readers (see below--their website is not yet working but their Facebook page is). This is no ketchup/mustard/mayo/lettuce/tomato joint, or even a let’s-have-fancy-cheeses-to-appear-gourmet place. This is a what-would-people-like-to-try or what-would-I-like-to-put-together menu. I’m never getting the Amish burger or the Flying Dutchman burger (my dad would have loved that one) but I’m sure many have!
The guests at the next table were leaving as we were discussing the menu. A woman with a very Lancaster County accent said in my ear, “The Shepherd’s Pie is wonderful here. They’ve got the meat and the vegetables and then a scoop of mashed potatoes and all covered in gravy. I love the gravy!” Sister told her we were celebrating my birthday and she said, “It’s your birthday? Mine was Saturday. I’m 88.” We said, “Happy birthday!” and she said, “Well, are you going to share?” (meaning tell my age). When I said what it was, she said, “Oh, you’re just a baby. Enjoy your years!”
When our server returned, I asked her what the most popular burgers were. I was considering the B.O.M.B. (cheddar, bacon, tomato, and cole slaw) or the Round-Up (onion rings, barbeque, ranch, cheese). The server said the Cowboy (sautéed mushrooms, onions, bacon, and Colby jack) and the Round-Up were the most popular, so I chose the latter. Sister got the basic burger.
When they arrived, mine was so pretty I had to take a picture. And they were huge. I had asked for mine to be medium-well to well done because I don’t like pink hamburger meat and it was most certainly well done. And yet very flavorful and not dry. Sister took half of hers home.
Since it was lunchtime and I needed to go back to work, I didn’t try any of the beers. But Untappd gives an idea of what they serve. Of course we were too full for dessert but I know I’ll have to plan that one of these times so I can compare their shoofly pie to mine. And we have already made plans to come back for a holiday lunch. The Penguin Hotel and Bar is yet another little place in PA that’s both unique and familiar. Find it—it’s worth it.