“Let’s go for a drive in the country.”
That was what Julie said to me on my first day back after a four-day business trip to Arizona. That’s how we found ourselves winding our way through northern Berks County on our way to Virginville.
There are few restaurants in Berks County that are as much in the country as the Virginville Hotel. About 300 people live in the tiny village between Kutztown and Lenhartsville. Thousands more pass through each year as they travel to the nearby Crystal Cave. That traffic has only helped drive customers through the door of the hotel since it opened in 1885 as the Mansion House.
Like the village itself, the Virginville Hotel is not very big, at least in the dining area. The taproom, which has its own entrance out front, feels like it takes up half of the building.
There is nothing small about the menu, however. The hotel’s offerings more closely resemble a diner with four pages of simple, homestyle entrees, pasta, burgers and sandwiches, plus daily an entire page of daily specials.
One of the appetizer specials during our visit was pork pot stickers. The deep-fried treats were served with a cup of sweet and sour sauce for dipping. Unlike their pan-fried counterparts you find at most Chinese restaurants, these pot stickers ate more like finger food, the crunchy outer shell making the delicious morsels even easier to dunk.
There were a number of menu items that caught my eye, including Pennsylvania Dutch baked ham, honey dipped fried chicken, and country sausage. But I decided instead for stroganoff pasta.
Beef stroganoff is a favorite of mine, but one that I rarely find on restaurant menus. The heavy cream sauce was loaded atop the pile of egg noodles, steak tips and sliced mushrooms. It was a big, meaty, filling dish with a flavorful sauce that brought it all together. And more than one-quarter of it came home with me for later.
Each pasta dish comes with a side salad (entrees came with a salad and a side, or three sides). The salad was basic, but I really appreciated the two different flavors of croutons in it.
Another special for the day was chicken lasagna, Julie’s entree of choice on our visit. It was certainly anything but traditional.
Instead of a slice from a large sheet, the lasagna was served in a bowl. To better compliment the chicken, the dish was topped with alfredo sauce instead of the standard tomato. The ricotta cheese helped the dish maintain its identity. The flavors were still very reminiscent of lasagna, just a little cheesier and heavier (thanks to the alfredo sauce).
Our two meals left no room for dessert so we finished up our meals with a total check around $30.
The trip to the Virginville Hotel took us on some of Berks County’s scenic back roads, a nice drive that led to a fine little restaurant in a quaint little village.
All in all, I would say it was a good trip.