The Boyertown Area Times
Windmill Family Restaurant celebrates its long history
Opened in 1952 the Morgantown-area restaurant welcomes customers as family
The Windmill Family Restaurant has long been a haven for good food, attentive service and a friendly atmosphere. The restaurant, with its iconic spilling windmill is located at the busy intersection of routes 10 and 23 just over the Berks County line in Lancaster County,
Lisa Wilcox has worked at the restaurant for 20 years and served as manager for 12. She said management and staff work hard to make customers feel welcome and accommodate their needs.
“We’re like a big family here,” she said. “We know which of our customers are going through a rough time and might need a hug. We look out for each other.”
A Long History
The Windmill opened in 1952 as Murphy’s Place, a small building surrounded by farmland. The restaurant began as a frozen custard stand, with a lunch counter added soon after its opening.
According to an article published in 1996 by a local historical society, the restaurant was a gathering spot, attracting neighbors, baseball teams and community groups, as well as truck drivers, tourists, and the occasional school bus carrying children to an outing at Hershey Park.
Long lines would form as customers waited for ice cream cones, hand-shaped hamburgers, sandwiches and other items.
Grace and Richard “Murphy” Rhodes owned and operated the restaurant for 20 years before selling it to Trifon and Mildred Skiadas. It was renamed The Gateway in recognition of the building’s location between Berks and Lancaster counties.
At some point the windmill was added to the building, which has been expanded several times.
“Nobody seems to remember exactly when the windmill was added, but once it was, everyone stopped calling it the Gateway and starting saying, ‘let’s go to the Windmill to eat,’” Wilcox explained.
The Skiadases had the restaurant until 1998, when they sold it to Christos and Mildred Karabas.
Last year, the Karabases retired and sold the business to their son, Niko, who grew up working in the
restaurant, and long-time Miguel Cortes.
“Miguel and I have worked together for years,” Niko Karabas said. “We practically grew up here together.”
Combining Old and New
Under the direction of Cortes and Niko Karabas, the restaurant is trying to maintain the traditions of the past while adding some more contemporary items to the menu and using social media to attract younger customers.
Many people who frequent the restaurant enjoy standard Pennsylvania Dutch fare like pork and sauerkraut or chicken pot pie, so those items are always available.
Additionally, customers can find offerings like Buffalo tenders, bacon and cheese fries and portabella burgers. The menu also includes a variety of breakfast items; hot and cold sandwiches; salads; and dinners featuring seafood, steaks, and pastas.
“We’ve got a big menu and it’s pretty unique when you think about it,” said Niko Karabas. “I’m Greek and Miguel is Mexican. So, you’ll see spanakopita and empanadas popping up on the menu along with the Pennsylvania Dutch specialties.”
The owners purchase eggs and produce from area farmers whenever possible, believing that fresher is better and farm to table is the way to go. Buying food from local farms also helps keep prices under control.
“We’ve had to raise prices a little bit to be able to keep up since the pandemic but can still offer good deals because we’re able to buy locally,” Cortes explained.
Wilcox has started using social media to reach customers, posting the daily soups and specials and other information on Facebook and Tik Tok. But she still keeps an old-fashioned call list of customers who want to be notified when their favorite special is available.
“We try to strike a balance
and keep everyone happy,” Wilcox said.
Business at the Windmill, which is open every day, has increased since the December 2021 opening of the nearby Hollywood Casino Morgantown.
“Not all the restaurants in the casino are open every day, so customers will stop here to eat on their way there or when they’re finished,” Wilcox said.
They also get customers who are coming or going from Maple Grove Raceway, as well as people who stop on their way to Delaware shore points.
“We have some people who stop by for breakfast on the same day of each year on their way to the beach,” Wilcox noted.
Catering to their Customers
The restaurant features a gift shop that includes some locally made items, as well as stuffed animals, candy, soaps, jewelry, slates, cards and other items. Ice cream is available inside and at a walk-up window, and customers can enjoy a dog-friendly, outdoor dining area.
Breakfast is served all day,
along with daily specials that often are requested by customers.
“If someone asks us ahead to have a special they like, we’ll try to make it for them,” Cortes said. “We want everyone who comes in to leave here happy.”
Linda Jacobs, who with her husband, Roger, lives in Morgantown and frequents the restaurant, had just finished an order of stuffed peppers — one of the Windmill’s daily specials on Friday, March 3.
“They’ve got good specials every day,” she said. “The peppers were delicious. I ate so much I can hardly move.”
She called the restaurant “homey,” and mentioned the friendly service and good prices.
As many restaurants have since the pandemic, the Windmill faces challenges finding enough staff. Wilcox and Cortes are normally there from opening to closing every day, with Wilcox pitching in to wait tables over the breakfast shift.
Cortes acknowledged the hours are long, but said he enjoys preparing foods that keep their customers happy.
“We’re here for our customers,” he said. “Without them there would be no Windmill Restaurant.”