As the pages of "skew" took shape this month, its theme put us in the mood for some authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cookery. Not knowing where to go, I grabbed a phone book and found a place called The Village Inn. They advertised having authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, and that's what 4 1/2 hungry people were looking for. Unfortunately, what we found was a rather generic restaurant. Actually, it reminded me of a highway diner with table cloths.
Well, we were there, so why not make the most of it, right? The tables have no real bearing on the food anyway. On the menu, we found a large selection of standard restaurant fare. Only two entrees could really be considered Dutch, the chicken croquettes and "Chicken and Waffles". No pot pie, shnitz en gnepp, or pork and sauerkraut to be found. The waitress wasn't much help, either. Of course, she probably thought we were crazed, or at least a little out of place. I guess our style set us apart from the locals. So we just chose as best we could.
The appetizer selected was a plate of cream cheese, apple butter and saltines. Not very extravagant, but surprising in it's taste combination. Go out and try it. It's good. Really. In fact, it ended up being the best part of the whole meal.
For a salad, I had lettuce and hot bacon dressing. The salad was average, the lettuce was a bit wilted. It's basically bacon and a hot vinegary dressing on iceberg lettuce.
The entrees came, and the disappointment began. The chicken and waffles was taken quite literally. There was a plate of gravy-smothered chicken, another plate with one rather lonely waffle, and some maple syrup in a paper cup, like the ones they have at Arby's to put your ketchup in. Evidently, no one ever told them the chicken was to be served over the waffle. Someone else at the table had the chicken croquettes. It was a mixture of chicken, potatoes, carrots and celery deep-fried, and served with potato filling and overcooked green beans. That dish got a much better taste score. The potato filling itself was given a very good vote, and was incredibly filling.
As a side dish, two of us tried chow-chow, which sounds like a breed of dog, but what the heck. Never having it before, it's hard to compare, but I found it to be another odd taste sensation. I liked it. A colleague of mine, however, did not share my opinion of mixed pickled vegetables and stopped eating after only one green bean.
Dessert was vacant of anything remotely PA Dutch. The desserts we ended up with (strawberry short cake, strawberry rhubarb pie, and rice pudding) were quite good as desserts go but that didn't make up for our missing out on shoo-fly pie, funny cake, and other PA Dutch desserts.
Overall, the Village Inn rates average as a restaurant, but fails alarmingly to live up to its claim of authentic PA Dutch cooking. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there again.
The Village Inn. 4140 Tilghman Street, Allentown, PA. (610) 395-2017. Open Seven days a week.