Like any good Pennsylvania Dutchman, I love a good deal. The phrase “if it’s free, it’s for me” is one that I have come to rely on in all parts of life, but especially when it comes to food.
When you are doing a restaurant review every week, I try to save money wherever I can. And one of my favorite ways to pinch pennies is with half-off deals.
You see them all the time: Clipper Magazine’s Double Take Offers, Restaurant.com, or any number of other outlets.
The Penn Werner Hotel in Wernersville is a place I had been dying to try so when I saw I could get $30 worth of food for $15 through Reading Eagle Big Deals, it was a deal too good to pass up.
Unlike a lot of restaurants I go to, I was very familiar with the Penn Werner already. I tried the restaurant’s food at the Kempton Pepper Jam, the Hamburg Iron Chef and Wilson Iron Chef. I had also been there once before for their Sunday breakfast buffet.
But I had never actually sat down to dinner in the dining room, so this was something altogether new.
Set on the corner of Penn and Stitzer, the Hotel has a long history dating back to the late 19th Century when Wernersville and South Mountain were renowned for their resorts. While time has taken a toll on the exterior, the building still maintains a lot of its original charm.
Walking from the back parking lot to the front of the building, you pass by the bar room door to the main entrance which leads to two dining areas: straight back, a small room with free-standing tables; to the right, a larger room with tables and bench seating.
From their appearances at the Pepper Jam and Bowers Chile Festival, the Penn Werner has a reputation for their spicy dishes, but the menu is not exclusively hot. There are pastas, burgers, sandwiches and simple entrees. The “Grandma’s Best” section includes pot roast, meat loaf and a one-pound (yes, one-pound) ham slice.
But I came looking for some heat so I ordered a dish you won’t find anywhere else in Berks County: pastalaya.
As the name implies, pastalaya is an alternate take on the classic Creole dish, jambalaya. It featured sausage, shrimp, turkey, bacon, onions, peppers and tomatoes, but instead of rice, the ingredients are tossed with ziti.
I had originally planned on starting my meal with a cup of corn chowder, but after seeing my plate delivered, I was happy to have passed. There was a seemingly endless amount of pasta on the plate with two large pieces of garlic bread.
The dish was described as having “not too much heat” and that was accurate. It was a pleasant burn that was more flavor than fire. Rather than adding more spice to the dish with hot sausage, more flavor was added with smoked sausage. The bacon added salt and a little crunch and there was just enough shrimp that you didn’t forget it was there. I don’t know that it was better than jambalaya, but it was a great new take on a classic.
Looking for something a little spicy for herself, Julie went with the creamy Cajun chicken pasta bowl. The blackened chicken breast was served atop the same mountain of ziti, this time with a light cream sauce and plenty of zest. The pastalaya was a little hotter, but her chicken was just as flavorful.
Unfortunately the generous portions left us no room for dessert, but we did manage to hit our $30 mark ($33 to be exact). So with our special offer, that meant we got both of our meals (and a Pepsi) for $18.
If you’re ever looking to try a new place, or just looking to stretch your budget, look for deals and coupons because they are a great way to save some dollars.
And if you’re looking to add a little spice to dinner, make a trip to the Penn Werner Hotel.
Penn Werner Hotel
5 E. Penn Ave
Wernersville, PA 19565