136 North Main Street
The great majority of respectable restaurants I’ve encountered over the years serve lunch Monday through Friday exclusively, aiming straightforwardly and unabashedly at the business crowd. What this means, unfortunately, is that (decent) establishments offering up Saturday lunches – with the exception of diners, ptomaine palaces, the usual assortment of chain chophouses, and distinctly ethnic eateries (Asian, Indian, Mexican, etc.) – may be somewhat difficult to find… And this is certainly a regrettable state of affairs, as a cozy, relaxing Saturday luncheon – as my wife and I have been rediscovering of late – is one of the unmitigated joys of life.
For starters, you don’t have to suffer through the usual infestation of obnoxious office types loudly feeding their faces at the speed of light in order to get back to their desks in the allotted sixty minutes. Hence, the atmosphere on a Saturday is infinitely more laid back, allowing one to sip a cocktail or glass of wine at one’s leisure while, at the same time, savoring the quietude as well as the cuisine (should you, however, decide to frequent such chains as the Cheesecake Factory, etc., all bets are off).
Another plus… Since members of the wait staff aren’t overtaxed attending the invading hordes, they will be freed up to acquit themselves with a good deal more competence. Bottom line: You, the diner, will undoubtedly be the recipient of pleasant, unrushed, and generally superior service.
One final advantage of Saturday luncheon dining – and by no means of minor consideration – is the monetary aspect. Since dinners tend to be more expensive than noonday excursions, one will be able to sample the kitchen’s wares without hocking the family jewels, as a number of evening entrées are usually also available at lunch – in smaller portions, of course, but also at greatly reduced prices. Indeed, unless one possesses the appetite of a ravening hyena, or is bedeviled by insatiable cravings for 25-year-old Bordeaux, the savings should be quite significant.
So much for prolegomena… My most recently discovered – and highly recommended – luncheon stopover is the Washington House in Sellersville, PA. Built circa 1742 as a small frame farmhouse, the property was later purchased by Samuel Sellers who enlarged the building and transformed it into a tavern/hotel. In 1856, “Sellers Tavern” was sold to the North Pennsylvania Railroad; the company then added the ornate Victorian bar and distinctive cupola. Today, patrons can check out the history of the building and the town by taking a nine station self-guided tour through the restaurant.
But when hunger pangs begin to intrude upon historical pursuits, you certainly find yourself in the right place. The menu (lunch & dinner) is an eclectic amalgam – ranging from Asian-glazed salmon over fried rice to chicken salad with walnuts to stuffed poblano pepper accompanied by black bean purée – with a pronounced Pennsylvania Dutch/German accent.
The Wiener schnitzel, for example, is one of the best representatives I’ve sampled this side of the Atlantic. It is lightly breaded and sautéed to crisp, golden perfection. It is then crowned with sautéed mushrooms and melted imported Swiss, set on a pillow of spaetzle and addictive red cabbage, and surrounded by an ethereal lemon-butter sauce. And this is the “real” veal, not that Styrofoam-y cardboard processed garbage that is often found in lower class Italian eateries attempting (unsuccessfully) to impersonate their betters.
Then, of course, there is always the utterly delicious Prussian pork & noodles. This dish incorporates three generously proportioned pork & caraway meatballs, wide pasta noodles, and sautéed cabbage strips all swimming in a seductive brown sauce. Comfort food taken to the max. The sauce itself is worth the price of admission.
If you’re interested in appetizer variations on the PA Dutch/German theme, be sure to try the hearty roast pork soup or Alpine spaetzle companioned by tomatoes, figs, Westphalian ham, and bountiful apportionment of Bavarian blue cheese. My nod among these starters, however, would undoubtedly go to the extraordinary rouladen eggrolls. Crisp, appropriately crunchy, and stuffed to the gills with ground beef, sauerkraut, dill pickles, and splash of whole grain mustard, they are cut on the bias and served up with a zippy horseradish sauce.
But if there is one dish that is the absolute sine qua non of your gastronomic sojourn to Washington House, it is the superlative side of fried dill pickles. Yes, sounds weird, I know… but it works. Dill pickle slices are rolled in lightly seasoned breadcrumbs, deep fried, and paired with a fabulously flavorful lemon-tarragon aïoli dipping sauce. The result is… well… outstanding. Trust me on this.
Sandwiches here are also a good bet, as the kitchen always seems to add a little extra dimension to propel familiar offerings out of the realm of the ordinary. The BLT, for instance, utilizes applewood smoked bacon, adds cucumber as well as lettuce, and concludes by slathering Le Bus slices of whole grain bread with a seductive basil aïoli. The roast turkey sandwich, also prepared on whole grain, is embellished with Gruyère cheese, shaved fennel, baby arugula, tomato, and a provocative sun-dried tomato-basil mayonnaise. And the German sausage sandwich – knockwurst, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and whole grain mustard on a soft pretzel roll – is yet another winner.
Desserts offer many traditional favorites, including apple strudel, linzertorte, crème brûlée, and New Orleans style bread pudding. But if you’re at all like me, and you find the combination of chocolate and peanut butter simply impossible to resist, the made-in-house chocolate peanut butter mousse cake is an absolute must. Presented in a glass goblet topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, it is decadence personified.
Service here is young, personable, enthusiastic, and exceedingly competent. Even on a recent inexplicably crowded Saturday afternoon, with a large private party whooping it up in one of the restaurant’s private dining rooms, both kitchen and wait staff put in a performance as smooth as a Japanese railroad.
If you stop by for a Saturday lunch, you may certainly walk in without prior arrangement. However, the proprietors of Washington House also own the adjacent Sellersville Theater, which books in a variety of name musical acts. And since many folks dine at Washington House on their way to the Theater, be advised that dinner reservations the night of a performance should be considered de rigueur.