Risser’s Family Restaurant | Womelsdorf, PA

February 12, 2011

[UPDATE: Risser’s has closed.]

Risser’s Family Restaurant (Facebook)
4055 Conrad Wesier Parkway (map it!)
Womelsdorf, PA 10567
(610) 589-4570
Open Tues-Sat, 6:00 am – 7:30 pm; Sun, 6:00 am – 1:30 pm
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The “family restaurant.” Now there’s a phrase packed with connotations! What does it bring to mind for you? For me, it recalls small one-off restaurants. Found in small towns around America. Usually close to highways. Definitely family-friendly. Often crowded with regulars. Serving one or two regional specialties but otherwise generally decent food. Family restaurants are close to diners, but bigger. Larger dining rooms. More room for big groups and buffet lines. Many of them, like Ernie Risser’s Family Restaurant, have a small diner side – if you want that type of experience – plus an extensive dining room if the whole family’s come to dine.

ATMOSPHERE: When it comes to the definition of family restaurants, Risser’s is all of the above. Some of my wife’s family is from eastern Pennsylvania, and they discovered it on a visit, parked along Highway 422 between the small towns of Womelsdorf and Myerstown. (Can we say German influences?)

On our visit, we opted for the diner side of things. Truly a tight squeeze. Small stools at the counter, snug little booths. Shiny chrome here and there. Sassy servers.

But the dining room offers more open seating and room for big families. (We returned on a later trip with a group of 15; they easily tucked us into the dining room.)

FOOD: Risser’s gives you all the family restaurant breakfast favorites: eggs, home fries, omelets, French toast, sausage gravy and biscuits. Plus a few not-as-common things: pancakes (called “hotcakes”) loaded with all sorts of fruit. Not just blueberries, but apples and cherries, too. Or there’s the dried chipped beef on toast (aka, an SOS). But no scrapple on the menu.

As we were visiting in the fall, they had a couple seasonal favorites on their specials menu. These include the apple hotcakes, which have apples and cinnamon in them, and the pumpkin pancakes, which are what you’d expect. Or you can go all harvest-crazy and do the autumn hotcakes: apples and cinnamon in… wait for it… pumpkin pancakes.

Good diner coffee. I like the big blue mugs.

We tried the sausage gravy casserole: two eggs, cheddar cheese, home fries, coated in gravy. Sure, it was good. Chunky potatoes. Mostly flavorful gravy. Nothing to write home about, but if you’re a fan of the little-bit-of-everything dishes, this your guy.

Here’s the creamed dried beef on toast. Pretty rich gravy drowning the toast. Nice meaty chunks. But nothing amazing.

A plain old blueberry pancake for my son. Big blueberries. A small lake of melted butter.

And of course, we had to have the autumn hotcakes. Not the greatest pancakes ever, but there’s really nothing to dislike here. I mean, come on… tasty pumpkin pancakes, chunks of apples baked into them, generous dusting of cinnamon sugar, plus a melted pad of butter. Oh, and you pour syrup on it. They’re fitting for the season: warm, sweet, and filling.

SERVICE: Our server was great. The right amount of sass, tempered by quick coffee refills and fast turnaround on our order.

Oh, and this is another mainstay of the family restaurant: the paper place mat with local advertisers.

OVERALL: If you’re traveling down Route 422 in rural eastern Pennsylvania, find a way to stop at Risser’s. It’s good road food – like the Kumm Esse Diner down the road – that offers you a few specialties in the midst of an otherwise ordinary, but solid, breakfast.

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I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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