Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Once Upon A Time There Was Walp's

In 1936 Robert and Blanche Walp decided they wanted to cook and serve home-style dinners. They pooled their money, took out a loan, and convinced purveyors to supply them on a short term credit basis.

After finding a suitable piece of land at North Fenwick Street and Union Boulevard in Allentown, Pennsylvania, they erected a small restaurant building. A coffee counter with stools, a few booths, a small kitchen, and a juke box were installed along with two AMOCO gasoline pumps at the front of the building. A bunkhouse was erected in the back of the building to sleep truck drivers passing through the area, for Union Boulevard was then national route 22, a highway heavily traveled by cars, trucks, and buses.

The baking (shoofly pie, a specialty) was done by Mrs. Walp, the business end was handled by Mr. Walp, and daughter Thelma Walp Barnes coordinated the customer service.

Walp's was an immediate success and within four years out grew the original building. In 1940, Walp's was moved to it's famous location at Union Boulevard and Airport Road in Allentown. After World War II, son Donald Walp returned to Allentown after U.S. Navy service in the Pacific Theater and became a partner in his family's business.

Local folks would take the family for an auto drive into the country and always made a point of stopping at Walp's for lunch or dinner. A tradition was soon born.

In 1956, Frank Nikischer, Sr., a brother-in-law of Donald Walp joined the management team at Walp's.

After the death of Blanche and Robert Walp and the retirements of Donald Walp nd Thelma Walp Barnes, Walp's Restaurant was sold to Frank,Sr. and his wife Judith Nikischer. In the ensuing years Frank,Sr's three children, Frank, Jr., David, and Wendy joined the organization as managers and then as part owners. They were major factors in the continued success of the restaurant.
On November 29, 1998 Walp's Restaurant closed. The property was sold to the Rite Aid Drug Company. It was an emotional event for the entire family, the employees, and the many patrons, but after 62 years of serving the Lehigh Valley, the time had come to pass another Lehigh Valley landmark into the annals of history.

My daughter Jamiann and I had dinner at Walps on November 15, 1998 just two weeks before its doors were closed forever. The elderly waitress who tended our table told us that the owners were finding it very hard to find reliable help, they wanted to retire, and there was no one in the family who was interested in keeping the restaurant going. It was certainly a sad day for the Lehigh Valley, and travelers passing through.

The owners had the good sense to publish a cookbook to pass on it's many wonderful recipes, which include a great deal of Pennsylvania Dutch delectables.

For the next few weeks up until December 23, 2009 I will be posting recipes from this cookbook.

Blanche Walp's Famous Shoofly Pie

Wet Bottom

Liquid: 1/4 cups dark molasses ~1 1/2 cups boiling water ~ 3/4 level tsp. baking soda

Crumbs: 1 lb cake flour, 1/2 lb granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 5 oz. margarine

2 unbaked 9 inch pie shells

Prepare crumbs first and set aside, then prepare liquid, and set aside. Pre-eat conventional oven to 375 degrees. Place 1 1/2 cups of the liquid ingredients to each of the two pie shells. Next add 1 1/2 cups of the crumbs to each pie. Let stand for 2 minutes. Next add remaining crumbs. Immediately place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 320 degrees for the next 40 minutes. Remove from oven.

Pie Shell Recipe:

2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cups shortening
5 tbsp cold water

In a large bowl with a pastry blender, cut shortening into flour and salt until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry dough holds together. Shape into 8 ounce balls and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before using.

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