My name’s Danny Palumbo, and I’m from Pennsylvania—home of Herr’s, Utz, Snyder’s, Wise, Middleswarth, Martin’s, Gibble’s, and many more. In short, this is where chips live, baby. And although I no longer live in the Keystone state, I still have a profound admiration for all things potato chips. In this column I will be reviewing some of the best the country has to offer. Welcome to Chip Country.
When it comes to Pennsylvania potato chips, Middleswarth is always in the conversation. I know this because some of you are in my DMs and in the comments telling me how it’s this huge oversight that I haven’t written about Middleswarth yet. Along with Herr’s, Wise, and Utz, I consider Middleswarth to be in the “big four” of chip brands Pennsylvania is known for. Anywhere outside of Pennsylvania, though, they’re very hard to get. Sure, you can order them online, but Middleswarth just hasn’t expanded to other markets the way Herr’s and Utz have. This brand is truly localized. Is that for good reason? Or is the rest of the country missing out?
Middleswarth is an aptly named company based in Middleburg, an aptly named place in the middle of Pennsylvania. The population is under 2,000 people, so it’s a real small town. There’s a Midd-West High School there, and also, you guessed it, a Midd-West Middle School in Middleburg. So, we get it. Everything there is mid. But are the chips? (I just got my Masters degree in segues).
What do Middleswarth chips taste like?
Middleswarth’s “The Weekender” Bar-B-Q Kettle Chips taste sweet, vaguely barbecue flavored, and overall not very special. There’s a specific sweetness to these chips that kind of robs you of any real barbecue flavor. The taste just leans too much in the direction of sugar. Also, while these are kettle cooked chips, they don’t have that distinct kettle crunch that I’m looking for. Rather than being crispy, they feel a little too soft for a true kettle chip.
There’s sediment at the bottom of the bag that reminds me of making fresh chip seasoning at home. Consequently, Middleswarth chips have a homemade vibe, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. With a coarse, overly sweet seasoning and none of barbecue’s signature smokiness to speak of, these are not at all in the realm of being anywhere near the best barbecue chips.
And while the ingredients do include tallow, it’s listed under the sub-header of “shortening,” which may also include canola oil, coconut oil, and soybean oil. So even that pales in comparison to the other lard-forward chips that I love. There just isn’t a good meaty flavor to Middleswarth like you get with a Grandma Utz potato chip.
I can appreciate a local product as much as anyone, but if I’m being brutally honest about this one, I just think there are plenty of brands that do it better than Middleswarth. These chips are, in fact, middling.