Stouch Tavern

Stouch-Tavern-Womelsdorf

(Editor’s Note: The Stouch Tavern has changed owners since this blog. The menu remains similar with a mix of Pennsylvania Dutch meals and steakhouse favorites, including their daily lunch buffet).

The business section of the Sunday Reading Eagle is not normally a place to look for inspiration – I spend less time looking through section D than I do catching up on the adventures of Prince Valiant and Hagar the Horrible – but inspiration can strike at any time.

As I leafed through the classifieds one week, one ad, in particular, stood out to me:

Historic
Stouch Tavern
Restaurant
Real Estate, Business Equipment
Liquor License, Living Quarters
Plenty of Parking
$295,000

I already knew the business was for sale before my last visit to the Womelsdorf establishment in February. Former owners William and Diane Crumrine passed away within a few months of each other last year, leaving the business in the hands of their children. To the family’s credit, the Stouch Tavern continues as it did in the years before, minus William playing the piano in the first floor bar room.

For more than 200 years, the building has served as an inn, restaurant and meeting place in Womelsdorf, a small town on the western edge of Berks County. Now the oldest tavern in the county, the historic inn played host to George Washington during a 1793 trip to Carlisle. Our first president now lends his name to the ghost that is said to inhabit the building’s upper floor.

From the moment you walk in, you can feel the building’s history. A steep staircase rises in front of guests at the main entrance. Portraits of former owners peer down on diners in every dining room.  The wooden floor creeks with every step.

Tables are shoehorned into the narrow rooms, fitting as many patrons as possible. It’s a lesson in how not to design a restaurant, but the building has lived through four centuries, and sometimes you just have to forgo modern luxury.

Cream-Of-Asparagus-Soup-Stouch-Tavern

Our waiter weaves between tables and the salad cart to deliver my first course, a bowl of cream of asparagus soup, the soup du jour for the night. I love asparagus so I loved the soup. Though it was a little thinner than most cream soups, and a little saltier than I would have preferred, I still lapped it up quickly.

Filet-Mignon-Stouch-Tavern

Then came the main course. a juicy filet mignon, cooked to my liking (always medium well), covered in mushrooms. There are no choices for the sides. Every entree is served with the fresh vegetables of the day. Our waiter used the back of two spoons to grab the potatoes, squash and carrots and place them, one at a time, on our plates. It’s an awkward process, but the vegetables are fresh and cooked to a perfect al dente.

Specialty-Of-The-House-Stouch-Tavern

As good as my food was, I suggest any first-time visitor try the Specialty of the House – beef medallions and a slice of ham, smothered in mushroom sauce and Monterey jack cheese, topped with a fried onion ring (a surprising addition considering it’s the only fried item on the menu). Everything melts together into one meaty, cheesy, salty dish. It’s a unique combination of flavors only available at the Tavern.

Bananas-Foster-Stouch-Tavern

No true Stouch Tavern experience is complete without dessert. More than just a sweet final course, dessert is a show. The bananas foster (as well as the cherries jubilee) is made tableside. Start with a heaping helping of butter, add brown sugar, bananas, rum and fire, and you get part dessert, part performance art. The gooey bananas mix is then poured over a giant bowl of ice cream. The sugar rush is worth the wait.

The late William Crumrine used to make the bananas himself. “I do the easy jobs,” he said. “I play the piano and make the bananas.” The Crumrines can never be replaced, but hopefully a willing buyer can be found, preferably one who is willing to make bananas foster.

The Stouch Tavern is open every day except Tuesday for dinner, and open for lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. In addition to its regular menu, the Tavern offers a buffet during lunch hours.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Stouch Tavern
138 W. High St
Womelsdorf, PA 19567

Stouch Tavern on Urbanspoon

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Panevino

Editor’s Note: Panevino is now only open for special events.
The Goggleworks has truly been a blessing to the City of Reading. Thanks to this community arts center, the neighborhood has truly blossomed into the city’s cultural district. Reading Area Community College opened the Miller Center for the Arts in 2007 and the IMAX theater opened a year later. 
What the area lacked was a signature restaurant, a place to go before or after the cinematic, musical and theatrical events taking place every night.
That changed in 2011 with the opening of Panevino.
The restaurant actually sits under the Washington Street parking garage, directly across the street from the IMAX theater. It’s nothing glamorous from the outside, but it’s beautiful on the inside with low lighting, fine china and glassware, and modern styling.
Self-described as “rustic Italian cuisine,” the menu mixes traditional favorites like rigatoni and thin crust pizza with Panevino’s unique dishes, like the straw and hay – spinach and egg fettuccini served with lamb meatballs, eggplant, tomato, raisins and pine nuts.
Panevino_2
Every meal is served with a unique appetizer I have never had anywhere else. It is served in two parts to eat together or separate. The first is a slice of bread – more closely resembling a thick pizza crust – topped with fresh tomatoes. The second, a wedge of polenta and a thin slice of roast beef, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. It seemed like an odd pairing, but somehow it worked. All of the flavors blended nicely together.
Pasta-Fagioli-Panevino
I started my meal with a bowl of pasta fagioli, a staple on any Italian menu, and a great indicator of the meal to come. The fagioli is served in a small crock, a paper doily resting underneath. It was very good, sweet and spicy, meaty with a hearty serving of beans. The dish was completed with thin cut slices of farfalle pasta, one of the many pastas Panevino makes from scratch.
Arugula-Panevino
Salads have never been my favorite, but I had to try the Arugula, a mixture of arugula leaves, pears, gorgonzola and leafy greens drizzled with white balsamic vinaigrette, and served in a parmesan bowl. Despite my general disdain for salad, I found myself enjoying this, especially the edible bowl. The parmesan flavor was strong and concentrated, much more so than the flavor of grated parmesan. The closest thing to compare it to is the pre-packaged breadsticks some restaurants serve, but with a better, fresher, stronger (sometimes a little too strong) flavor.
There was a long wait in between courses, not unexpected because every dish is prepared fresh. Panevino is not a diner. It’s dining – a living reminder of the old adage, “good things come to those who wait.”
Panevino_4
The main course was, by far, the best part of the meal. Thick, fresh cavatelli pasta with pork meatballs, peas and broccoli raub in a light cream sauce.
Everything worked well together. The pasta was cooked perfectly, starchy enough to absorb the sauce. It was a rich sauce that continued to thicken as I ate. The meatballs were tender and moist – with all the spices, they didn’t taste much different than traditional beef meatballs; the peas didn’t add much flavor, but the broccoli raub was delicious, with a hint of smokiness that I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately, there was no way to finish the meal so half of it had to come home with me.
Pecan-Pie-Panevino
That didn’t stop me from ordering dessert, a warm piece of pecan pie with caramel drizzle and vanilla ice cream – good, but nothing special as far as pies go. The crust was a little overcooked, but the ice cream hid it well.   
The wait staff worked as a team – at times this was helpful, and at times it wasn’t. At the end of the night, it took long time for us to get our bill, and two separate team members wanted to take our dessert order.
For all the food we got – two entrees, a cup of soup and dessert – the bill was surprisingly reasonable, about $25 per person. With the delicious food in a fine dining atmosphere, it was $50 well spent.  

Panevino on Urbanspoon

Finer Dining Italian Reviews