Two new restaurants opening; Food fundraiser set for Tuesday

Dino’s Wings & Things opens second location

DIno’s Wings & Things has officially expanded to a second location, opening the doors at its new Centre Avenue location on Monday. The restaurant is located in the former In Town Cafe, across the street from Olivet Reformed Church and just blocks away from the Reading Fightin Phils stadium. The new location offers delivery service throughout Reading. Dino’s will continue to operate its flagship location on the 5th Street Highway in front of Sam’s Club.

Gourmand opening soon in former Westside Cafe

The Gourmand Cafe is set to open soon in Wyomissing. The owners of Gourmand food truck are expanding to the former Westside Cafe on Berkshire Boulevard. Recent Facebook posts have shown the progress that has been made in the month since Gourmand announced it was taking over the space. Gourmand has yet to announce an official opening date. In addition to the new cafe and the food truck, Gourmand also operates a stand inside Body Zone in Spring Township.

A Good Thyme For Life fundraiser to take place next week

Next Tuesday, March 3, fourteen area restaurants will be taking part in the annual A Good Thyme For Life fundraiser to benefit Co-County Wellness Services. The participating restaurants will be donating a portion of their proceeds for the evening to Co-County Wellness Services. Each restaurant will be coordinating additional fundraising, including raffles, silent auctions, art auctions and other activities. In addition, tickets are being sold at all 14 restaurants for a grand raffle with a top prize worth $1,000. Here is the full list of participating restaurants:

201 West Food & Spirits
Jimmy G’s Beverly Hills Tavern
Blind Hartman’s Tavern
Dan’s at Green Hills
Emily’s
The Restaurant at Golden Oaks
Gracie’s 21st Century Cafe
The Hitching Post Restaurant & Bar
Hong Thanh Restaurant
Judy’s on Cherry
Landis Store Hotel
Panevino
The Stirling Guest House
The Suburban Tavern & Restaurant

Food News

Chatty’s

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In today’s world, it is very rare for any business, especially a restaurant, to not have a website. At the very least, one would expect a popular restaurant to at least have a Facebook page.

Sometimes I have been frustrated when I try to look up a restaurant only to find nothing but an automatically generated Google+ page.

One restaurant where I ran into this is Chatty’s, a breakfast and lunch spot that continually shows up at or near the top of review sites, but which has no web presence of its own.

Not wanting to miss out on a place that had received so many four- and five-star ratings, I decided to make a trip and accept whatever surprises awaited.

Chatty’s is the centerpiece of the Shoppes at Woodside strip mall along Pricetown Road. It’s a place I had passed by many times on my way to and from the old Muddy’s BBQ location.

On the outside, there is not much to distinguish Chatty’s from the custom kitchen store next door. Inside, the restaurant exudes a more vibrant atmosphere than the exterior lets on. The two long side walls are covered in bright murals, with unique art work, including a three-dimensional painting of a horse and a Rajah Shriner clown. The seating areas, including the counter, have a faux diner look, with the painted black and silver as if it were stainless steel.

The sign inside the door invited us to seat ourselves so we sat down at a table for two in the back corner and perused  the single-page menus that sat on the table.

Saturday and Sunday, Chatty’s serves breakfast only, serving from 7 to 11:45 a.m. That means it’s all breakfast: French toast, pancakes and omelets make up the bulk of the menu.

The day’s specials were listed out on a dry erase board at the entrance, and that was as far as I had to look for my choice: cranberry walnut pancakes.

chatty-s-cranberry-walnut-pancakes

I normally gravitate toward French toast when I dine out for breakfast, but cranberry and walnut are two words that will always get my attention. My waitress warned me that because they were the daily special, the pancakes were only a stack of two. One would have been sufficient. Though not the largest I have ever seen, these were big enough: thick and fluffy, and as big as the plate. The walnuts added a crunchy texture that you normally don’t get in pancakes, while the cranberry provided a different kind of sweetness than syrup alone could provide. After spreading a pad of melted butter on top, my plate achieved pancake perfection.

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Not knowing how much food I was going to get with “just” an order of pancakes, I also committed to a side of corned beef hash. Though it was a little salty (then again, I think that’s a requirement), it was tasty enough that I cleaned the plate.

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Once she took her first look at the menu, Julie had her heart set on an omelet, opting for a smoked sausage omelet with toast. It is safe to say that Chatty’s did not skimp on the sausage.

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Inside was a full sausage link (think Johnsonville-sized) sliced thick and spread throughout. It wasn’t quite as smokey as she was expecting, but it still made for quite a dish. She obviously still enjoyed it as there were no traces left when she was finished.

The diner vibe continued all the way through from fast service—we were in-and-out in less than 45 minutes—to the prices. For all of our food, plus a glass of orange juice for me, our total came in at under $15.

We went in to Chatty’s knowing almost nothing about it, ready for whatever experience was waiting for us. Sometimes a little surprise is a good thing.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Excellent
Ambiance: Good
Price: Bargain

Chatty’s
3130 Pricetown Rd
Fleetwood, PA 19522

Chatty's on Urbanspoon

Breakfast & Brunch Diners Reviews

Restaurant renovations and expansions on tap in Berks County

Gianotti’s Robesonia closed for renovations

Gianotti’s Family Restaurant in Robesonia is currently closed for renovations, according to the restaurant’s sign along Route 422. Contractor vans could also be seen in front of the building yesterday. The sign also announced the restaurant is now hiring so it does not appear to be a long-term closure, though no date for reopening was listed.

Windy Acres partnering with Pinnacle Ridge and Saucony Creek

Windy Acres Barbecue Restaurant has announced partnerships with two local businesses. According to a February 17 Facebook post, the restaurant is producing a BBQ sauce that features the winery’s Chambourcin wine, and should be available for sale at both businesses within one to two weeks. In the same post, Windy Acres announced that it will be providing food and appetizers at Saucony Creek Brewing Company’s Tap Room on Saturdays from 12 to 8 p.m.

Pretzel Revolution at Bryce Jordan Center

Kutztown-based Pretzel Revolution is continuing to expand with new locations. In a February 13 Facebook post, Pretzel Revolution announced it will be bringing its stuffed pretzel creations to Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center. The post originally said that the location would be open in time for THON, but the post now just says “New Pretzel Revolution Concession Stand” with a photo of the arena. This is the second sports venue that Pretzel Revolution has announced a partnership. One month ago, it was announced that Pretzel Revolution will also have a presence at FirstEnergy Stadium for 2015 Reading Fightin Phils season.

Food News

Salute Ristorante Italiano

salute

There’s something about a nice Italian restaurant on Valentine’s Day. The two just seem to go together, the perfect match for a romantic night out.

Last year for our romantic splurge, we visited Mom Chaffe’s Cellarette, one of the oldest restaurants in Berks County. This year, we visited Salute Ristorante Italiano, one of the county’s newest.

Salute opened in November, taking over the former Frank’s NY Pizza in Sinking Spring, and bringing fine dining to the former take-out counter.

The aesthetic improvement is evident immediately as the entrance to the strip mall spot has been given a stonework facade. Inside, the restaurant is much-improved as well. Tables and booths line two seating areas, one raised a step above the other. When we arrived, a heart was tied to the back of each chair with lacey ribbon; the napkins beautifully folded into fans.

For Valentine’s Day, Salute offered a pared down version of its dinner menu in prix-fixe form: for $50, each person received an appetizer, entree and dessert. A small welcome cocktail was also included in every dinner.

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The Love Potion was comprised of chocolate vodka, crème de cacao, fresh strawberry puree, and half and half, all topped with a chocolate covered strawberry.

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We put in our appetizer order while we pondered the entree choices. As our starters, we opted for the Carpese salad and bruschetta. The Carpese salad was good, with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, but it paled in comparison to the bruschetta which was some of the best I have had.

salute-bruschetta

The perfectly toasted bread was topped with mounds of diced tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese. It had just a hint of balsamic mixed with a very flavorful olive oil, and mixed with the tomatoes, it made for a sweet, tasty appetizer.

We were surprised to find that in addition to the appetizers, every entree also included a cup of soup or starter salad. We both opted for soup: I went with fava bean while Julie chose Italian wedding.

salute-fava-bean-soup

My fava bean soup was delicious. The consistency reminded me of a split pea where there is little broth to speak of and the flavor comes almost entirely from the vegetables. But the real highlight here was the homemade crouton: two pieces of fried bread. It was dark and crispy like melba toast, but absorbed a lot of flavor from the frying, giving it a unique flavor that was perfect for dipping.

salute-wedding-soup

Julie’s wedding soup was also interesting (and excellent) as it was more of a cream base than a broth base, which made it extra hearty.

salute-norcina-ravioli

My main course arrived with a special Valentine’s Day touch. I ordered the norcina ravioli¸ a potato and ricotta ravioli with sausage and mushrooms in a cream sauce, all topped with a heart-shaped piece of dough. For added style, the plate was brushed with blue and yellow coloring. I knew what the norcina ravioli would include, but I didn’t expect it to be constructed quite as it was. There were four small ravioli buried beneath a mound of mushrooms and ground sausage that provided most of the flavor. It was a much heartier dish than I was expecting.

salute-lobster-over-linguine

Across the table, Julie decided to spoil herself with lobster. The lobster half was served atop a bed of linguine in a light sauce with tomato slices, freshly chopped basil and minced garlic. Again, the chef +went the extra mile on presentation by painting the plate red and black. The linguini had a little extra texture which allowed the sauce to better stick to the pasta, making for a delectable dish.

salute-puff-pastry-with-custard-and-wild-berry-reduction

Of course you can’t take your sweetheart out to Valentine’s Day dinner without enjoying some sweets, and Salute did not disappoint. Our waitress brought out a plate with both of the night’s featured desserts: almond parfait and a puff pastry with custard and wild berry reduction.

salute-almond-parfait

The puff pastry was good though I would have liked just a little more custard to cut through the concentrated sweetness of the reduction. The almond parfait was on an entirely other level. Made from almond ice cream topped with chocolate and crushed almonds. The semi-bitter dark chocolate hardened atop the ice cream, creating a contrast in texture and flavor.

On a normal night, we would have never ordered so much food, and our bill would have probably been significantly less. But for our one-night-a-year splurge, it was well worth the $100 price tag.

It was a near-perfect night out: incredible food in a great atmosphere making for a memorable Valentine’s Day.

Here’s a salute to Salute, a great addition to the Berks County restaurant scene.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: A Little Pricey

Salute Ristorante Italiano
4718 Penn Ave
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Salute Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

Dessert Finer Dining Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Laxmi’s Indian Grille Opens; Frank & Diannah’s recognized; more Berks Food News

Laxmi’s Indian Grille opens Wyomissing location

Laxmi’s Indian Grille is now open in Wyomissing. The restaurant opened earlier this month, but officially announced it with an ad in Friday’s Reading Eagle Clip-It section. The Wyomissing location makes three for Laxmi’s, which also operates two restaurants in Philadelphia – one in Manyunk and one in East Falls. A fourth location in Ardmore closed earlier this year.

Frank & Diannah’s earns honors for burgers

Thrillist.com has named Frank & Diannah’s Arbor Inn on its list of the 16 Best Burgers in Pennsylvania. The restaurant’s “Wimpy Burger” – an 8-ounce burger with spinach, caramelized onions and Mornay sauce, was chosen for the honor. Elevation Burger, which operates a location at the Shoppes at Wyomissing, also made the list for its “Vertigo Burger,” though Thrillist specifically called out the Allentown location.

Folino building winery and restaurant

The Folino family, most known for building homes throughout Berks County, is adding a winery and restaurant to its portfolio, according to an article in the February 7 Reading Eagle. Folino Estate Winery is being built along Route 22 in Krumsville on a plot of land that the company was unable to develop. The winery will include an on-site restaurant, as well as a banquet facility for private events. There was no timetable given for the project.

Food News

Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe

mi-casa-su-casa

Downtown Reading is probably one of the most underrated food hubs in Berks County.

Penn Street alone offers a wonderful variety of options. Yet for those of us who don’t live or work downtown, making the trip into the city for a meal seems like a lot of work.

Sometimes all it takes is a little push to get us suburbanites to head into town. For me, that push came in the form of a half-price gift certificate for Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe.

While the Peanut Bar may be Penn Street’s most famous eatery, it is far from the only option. Just two doors down from the Reading landmark is a restaurant that has been building a legacy of its own for the better part of the last decade.

A display case just inside the front door of Mi Casa Su Casa shows off the accolades that the restaurant has earned in its first eight years of business. The restaurant’s success has led to a second location, as Mi Casa Su Casa also operates a cafe inside the Goggleworks.

Because of its location, Mi Casa Su Casa is perfect for breakfast and lunch for those working downtown. When we walked in, it was clear that Saturdays were a much slower time. But for a couple people sitting at the counter, we had the dining room to ourselves.

Mi Casa Su Casa’s menu isn’t very big, but it is varied, reflecting both American tastes and the Caribbean heritage of the owners.

Did you ever have one of those days when you just couldn’t make up your mind? That was us on this day. There were just too many delicious-sounding options that we decided to create our own mini-buffet by ordering four sides to split between the two of us.

Our waitress delivered our meal, one plate at a time until our table was no longer visible under a sea of white plates.

yuca-fries-mi-casa-su-casa

The first item set down in front of us was the yuca fries. Yuca is a distant relative of the potato, a starchy root vegetable native to South America and a staple food for millions of people. The thick-cut yuca were deep fried to a light yellow and served with two options for dipping: mayo ketchup and garlic butter.

Yuca is much starchier than a potato so the fries maintained a lot more substance through the frying process. But after a nice soak in the garlic butter (which I claimed for myself while Julie happily took the house-made mayo ketchup), the fries went down smooth. Though I have to say they were much more filling than I had expected.

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Our rice and beans were next to arrive. When it was presented, the rice was neatly piled on the plate with the beans in a small bowl. The use of red beans (I wrongly assumed black when I read ‘rice and beans’) made it look like a bowl of baked beans, but the flavor was altogether different. There was no brown sugar or bacon. Instead it used mild spices that let the natural flavor of the beans come through.

empanada-mi-casa-su-casa

A pair of beef empanadas served as a stand-in for our main course. The trip through the fryer made the outer pastry crispy and delicious. I was expecting cheese to come oozing out after my first bite, but was pleasantly surprised that the filling was mostly beef, with just enough cheese to hold it together. It was about as perfect as I could have hoped for.

plantains-mi-casa-su-casa

Completing our make-shift four-course meal was an order of tostones, fried plantains. Plantains contain more starch than a banana, making them perfect candidates to join the rest of our meal in the deep fryer (only now do I realize how much of our meal was actually fried). They were delicious, and despite having had more than my fair share of food already, I could not stop popping them in my mouth.

After adding on a couple bottles of soda to our final bill, our lunch was still just $17, a bargain for what appeared to be an endless amount of food. The best bargain Mi Casa Su Casa offers, however, may be the free parking in the lot behind the restaurant, which will save you a little money and a lot of hassle.

Our meal at Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe was well-worth the drive downtown. It was a great meal at a great price. You can’t ask for much more than that.

It took a little motivation to get there, but the food is more than enough motivation to go back.

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

Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe
320 Penn St
Reading, PA 19602

Mi Casa Su Casa on Urbanspoon

Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Berks Food News: Good Eatz Green Cafe closes

Good Eatz

Good Eatz Green Cafe Closes

The Good Eatz Green Cafe has closed its doors. The closure was announced on the company Facebook page on February 4:

I am very sorry to say that The Good Eatz Green Cafe is no longer in business. After many years and many attempts, we are closed.
I am blessed to have shared this experience with so many wonderful people. From great co-workers to loyal customers, it has been a pleasure.
Unfortunately at the end of the day, only so much can be done to rectify the finances. With the economy and sales, the end has come.
I am looking forward to write a new chapter in my book of life.
The equipment and recipes are available for someone with a similar vision or looking to set up a cafe or restaurant of their own liking.
Please let me know as there is a lot of varied equipment and I’d love to see it being used to share the joy of food and hospitality to others as I did.
And thank you all for an amazing journey..Rick Allebach”

The restaurant and bakery had been located inside the Fairgrounds Farmers Market since April of 2014. Previously it had been located inside the Designer’s Place building at the VF Outlet Center. Before that it was located along Penn Avenue in West Reading in what is now Nonno Alby’s.

Food News

Berks Food News: Wayback Burgers opens Wyomissing location

Wyomissing has gained another new restaurant with the opening of Wayback Burgers in the Berkshire Square Shopping Center on State Hill Road. The restaurant, which opened on Monday, is the second to open in the shopping center this year after Dickey’s Barbecue Pit arrived last month. Wayback Burgers is a fast casual chain specializing in burgers and shakes with locations in 22 states, including 17 in Pennsylvania.

Food News

China Penn

china-penn

On BerksCountyEats.com, we use multiple subcategories for our reviews, including fine dining, casual dining, Italian and Asian.

What I have found since starting this blog is that Asian is a very broad term that covers a wide variety of foods. There are vast differences between Chinese and Japanese cuisine. And both are widely different from Thai food. The only real similarity is the portion of the world from which they come.

But at China Penn, you can get a taste of three different cuisines in one place.

China Penn has been in Exeter Township for more than 30 years. It has undergone some changes in that time, including an ownership change a few years ago, but it continues to thrive today with a menu that would put many diners to shame.

The menu is actually three menus in one. There is a Chinese section, with favorites like General Tso’s chicken and chow mein; a Japanese section with sushi and sashimi; and a Thai section that included pad Thai, rice and noodles, and curry dishes. It was the Thai menu that most appealed to both of us on our visit.

china-penn-coconut-chicken-soup

My stomach was growling by the time I arrived at the restaurant so I knew I needed something to fill it sooner than later so I started off my night with a bowl of chicken coconut soup. Inside the coconut flavored broth was one large chunk of chicken breast, long slivers of carrots, and fresh herb leaves. It was a delicious combination—just enough coconut to add a note of sweetness without overpowering it. Having to cut the large piece of chicken with my spoon was more than a little frustrating, but well worth the extra effort.

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The main course was certainly one of the prettiest plates that I have received since doing Berks County Eats. Most of the plate was covered in my dinner, basil chicken. The rest was covered by a beautiful floral arrangement made out of pink cabbage and shredded carrots.

While I don’t recommend eating the flower, I highly recommend the basil chicken. The stir-fried dish featured white meat chicken tossed with basil leaves, green and red peppers, and red and yellow onions. It looked like a lot of food, it was a lot of food, but a lot of the plate was filled with vegetables so I convinced myself that I was actually eating light, despite cleaning my plate.

While I had never been to China Penn before, the restaurant was an old favorite for Julie and her family, at least while it operated a second location on State Hill Road in Wyomissing. Wanting to relive her past, she ordered one of her favorite menu items to start: egg drop soup.

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It’s a little weird to think that it’s basically just chicken broth and eggs, but it’s still really good, and it’s easy to taste why it’s a go-to dish for so many people.

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After our trip to Thaiwat last year, Julie developed a taste of Thai tea. And when she saw it on the China Penn menu, she could not resist the creamy, sweet drink.

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For the main course, Julie went back to the Thai menu at the Thai BBQ chicken. Instead of the chunks of white meat that were stir-fried in my dish, Julie’s meal was served with a whole sliced chicken breast plus dark meat, layered among vegetables like green peppers, cabbage, onions and carrots.

The name is deceiving because there really is no barbecue sauce to speak of. Instead, the dish is served with a bowl of peanut sauce for dipping. The thick sauce had a heavy peanut flavor, but more natural than peanut butter. It made the perfect accompaniment for the dish.

Our meals totaled about $35, a little more than we were expecting, but we also weren’t expecting to get two bowls of soup and a cup of tea. All-in-all, it felt like we got more than our money’s worth.

It’s cliché to say that China Penn offers a world of flavors, but with three distinct menus featuring three distinct cuisines, maybe in this case, the cliché fits.

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

China Penn
4203 Perkiomen Ave
Reading, PA 19606

China Penn on Urbanspoon

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews