It has to be said – the parking lot at Funck’s in Leola is supremely daunting. There are exactly 187 official parking spots, though that number doesn’t include the large grassy hill around back that excess vehicles can be perched on top of if the actual spaces are all filled up. The parking lot is a small but important reminder that for Funck’s, it’s not impossible to hold quality and quantity on nearly equal pedestals.
Located on New Holland Pike across the street from a particularly ebullient-looking combo Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins, Funck’s is the latest in a line of food stops at the 365 W. Main St. address.
Previously, the space was known as Batten’s Corner, before that, the long-standing Leola Family Restaurant. With each new owner, the walls got a little bigger and updated, to the point that now the interior of Funck’s could well match an upscale spa as much as a community eatery. Though the Funck’s in Leola just opened in March, the Funcks themselves are no strangers to the area. The brothers Funck, Alan and Matt, own and operate Funck’s locations in both Palmyra and Fort Indiantown Gap, as well as the Mt. Gretna Hide-a-way. Even before that, their parents started owning restaurants dating back to 1969 with the opening of an area Tastee Freeze.
This is all to say that for 50 years, the Funcks have had a pretty good idea of what the local community likes to eat.
After my initial panic over dozens of filled parking spots had subsided, my significant other and I nervously made our way to the door, sure that we’d be handed a blinking device telling us to come back in a half-hour’s time. To our surprise, we waited all of 60 seconds before a waitress found an empty booth. The ambiance of the restaurant lends itself well to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” type of night. It’s easy to make it what you want it to be. During our 90-minute meal time, I witnessed a small three-person business meeting regarding future corporate construction plans, two pals sharing a beer over Olympic handball and a rowdy group of six twentysomethings vigorously debating each other over preferred episodes of “The New Girl.” As is requisite, TVs adorn the walls near the main bar with scarcely three feet of space between each, which will come in handy for Funck’s upcoming inaugural football season.
When it came time for food, I tried to go with something historically Funck-y: the family restaurants have offered a four-piece fried chicken, using a presumably-secret homemade family recipe, since 1969. The chicken, along with sides of red skin mashed potatoes and rice pilaf, proved to be more than filling. I am not ashamed to say that when the waitress handed me my plate, my arm literally buckled under the weight of all the delicious food. However, as good as the food is, it’s not the true calling card of Funck’s. That would, of course, be the number 115.
That number applies to the amount of craft beers that Funck’s has on tap at any given time. Federal Taphouse in downtown Lancaster is the only bar to come close, with an even 100 on tap. And if it was up to co-owner Alan Funck, there would be even more.
“Honestly, we wanted to do more than 115, but the logistics of the construction prevented that,” says Funck. “Our original number was 137, but the taps didn’t fit. If we did another location, we would absolutely do more than 115.”
As of last year, there were nearly 4,300 breweries in the United States alone. Having such a large number of rotating taps and options seems like it would be daunting, but not to Alan and his right hand beer man, assistant general manager Chris Viozzi. In fact, it’s something else entirely: fun.
“We really have the opportunity to experiment with pretty much anything we want, and everything sells great for us, so we’re not worried about ordering something and getting stuck with it,” explains Funck. “We just have fun with it.”
The actual process of picking 115 beers isn’t as scientific as you might think, either.
“Pretty much, me and Alan go through things, based off of styles, what’s upcoming, what people like…we try to mix in a little bit of everything,” says Viozzi.
The pair first experimented with choosing beers at the Palmyra location, which was only graced with a liquor license two years ago (Funck says he’d been attempting to secure a liquor license in Fort Indiantown Gap for some time, but it’s been difficult). In Palmyra, Funck’s only has a paltry 56 beers on tap. The Leola restaurant has successfully partnered on various “tap takeover” events with breweries the likes of Victory, Bell’s and Alan’s favorite, Dogfish Head.
Funck is hoping to keep events like that going on a regular basis, and he’s especially excited for the upcoming “Pumpkin Wars” event on Sept. 15, which was a big hit last year in Palmyra. Featuring nearly 50 different kinds of pumpkin beers for the tasting, it’s just another example of the quantity and quality balance that Funck’s strikes. It’s not enough to just do it big, there has to be substance, as well. At Funck’s, the numbers don’t lie in any regard.