When looking for a new place to try, there is no shortage of places to find information.
Sites like Urbanspoon, Yelp and Trip Advisor are invaluable when looking for a new place you may have overlooked.
On a recent Thursday night, I found myself searching Trip Advisor for ideas.
With 84 reviews and an average rating of 4.5, Frank and Diannah’s Arbor Inn is the No. 1 restaurant in Reading according to Trip Advisor. That’s against nearly 300 restaurants that have been rated.
That sounds like a place I need to try.
A full parking lot was just another hint that we were heading to a popular spot.
Through the doors, the Arbor Inn looked much smaller than it does from the outside. The entrance opened into the bar room, where about a dozen diners were lined up on stools with a handful of others shoehorned into tables along the wall.
On the wall were three framed articles – one of them was a recent review from the Berks Barrister, the official newsletter of the Berks County Bar Association. The writer raved about burger night, and it just so happened to be burger night tonight.
Frank, one of the two namesake owners, was doing the hosting duties, greeting customers at the door and stopping by their tables to chat during their meals.
A second couple entered behind us as we were waiting, and Frank came up to us and asked our permission to seat them first.
“We’re clearing a corner table for you, a little more romantic,” he said. “You’ll also have our best waitress. They’re all good, but she’s the best.”
How could we argue with that?
We couldn’t see the dining room from where we stood in the bar, so it almost felt like a big reveal when we were finally led through the small doorway and toward our seat.
The room was small, and I don’t think they could have squeezed in any more seats. Each of the tabletops, including our own, was adorned with a single red rose in a simple glass vase to add just a little extra touch to the ambiance.
The Arbor Inn’s menu is also not very large (one page, front and back), but there wasn’t a single item that did not sound appealing. Everything had an international flare, from the Asian-spiced duck breast, Middle Eastern-inspired chicken and schnitzel done four ways.
As much as I wanted to try everything, I decided to take advantage of burger night and order the week’s burger special: the Italiano, a burger topped with spicy capicola, roasted red peppers and provolone cheese.
At times, it was easy to forget that I was eating a hamburger as the combination of toppings were more akin to a pizza, or in the case of the red peppers, a meatball sandwich. But then I would take another big bite into the thick, meaty patty and quickly remember that this was no sandwich, but a burger. And an exceptional one at that.
Burgers are served with a side of fries, cooked to a beautiful golden hue and topped with coarse-ground salt. The Italiano was filling, but the fries were too good to stop eating, and I managed to force them all.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my burger, I couldn’t help but feel a little jealousy at the beautiful rib eye steak sitting across the table from me.
Larry’s Rasta Rib Eye Steak is rubbed in Caribbean jerk seasoning with a pepper and onion sofrito. My wife allowed me a bite, and my jealousy increased. The steak absorbed a lot of flavor, both from the spice rub and from the sofrito, the onion in the latter giving it a little extra sweetness, making it one of the best steaks I have tried in a long time.
The entrees all come with a starter salad with house-made Asian vinaigrette dressing. Though the flavor was very good, a little salty with a hint of sweet, I found myself puckering up from the strong vinegar flavor. But watching Julie finish off hers in half the time, I am going to say that I was just overly sensitive to it.
Dessert sounded delicious—semifreddo is one of my favorite words in the English language—but neither of us could handle any more food (half of the steak went home with us) so we got our check and called it a night.
Our bill was about $40, though it would have been a little higher had I ordered an entree instead of the lower priced burger option.
I would never be able to rank one restaurant ahead of all the others that I have visited during my time on Berks County Eats. But if Trip Advisor is going to rank the Arbor Inn No. 1, I’m certainly not going to argue.