There is always a buzz around a new restaurant when it opens. The trick, however, is keeping the buzz going weeks and months after the opening.
We have seen a lot of new restaurants open in Berks County in the past few years, but none have been able to sustain the buzz quite like Sinking Spring’s Crave Cafe.
Crave Cafe opened at Green Valley Nursery last September, in the strip of stores off Route 422 behind the Charlotte Shoppe. It’s nearly invisible from the road, but that doesn’t stop the dining room from filling up every day at lunch.
The ambiance is truly unique. In fact, every table is unique. Each one has its own set of chairs, different styles, different colors and different sizes.
A pair of parlor chairs sit in front of a large stone fireplace. Highly sought-after, they are, at the same time, the most appropriate and most out-of-place chairs in the cafe.
Orders are placed at the counter where the cashier is set up with an iPad that’s connected to a cash drawer and credit card machine. We took our number and retreated to our little table for two (we made sure to save one before ordering, just in case).
It wasn’t long before our drinks arrived. Normally I don’t spend the money (or the calories) for a drink, but being at a cafe, I felt obligated.
But instead of coffee or tea, Julie and I both went for frozen: a mango smoothie for me and a frozen hot chocolate for her.
Mine was good, but I was a little disappointed to see the syrup flavor going in when I was hoping for fresh fruit. Julie’s frozen hot chocolate did not disappoint, however. She happily slurped it down and was nearly finished by the time that our food arrived.
Both of us opted for the soup and sandwich combo. For me, it was a bowl of chili and an Italian chicken panini.
The chili thickened as the shredded cheese on top started melting. It had a good balance of flavors: not too spicy, a little sweet and plenty meaty. A bowl of it with some bread would probably make a nice meal on its own.
My sandwich was excellent. The Italian chicken came with grilled chicken breast, spinach, sun-dried tomato, mozzarella and basil pesto aioli.
Chicken and spinach poked out the sides of the sandwich along with the mozzarella that melted mozzarella that was oozing onto the plate.
The meat wasn’t the most flavorful I have had, but it didn’t need to be with the strong flavors it was paired with. I love pesto anything, especially when paired with sun-dried tomatoes. The mozzarella did well to keep everything together and hold most of the sandwich inside the grilled pita.
Julie’s chicken and basil soup was the soup of the day for our visit. With little pastas and chunks of tomato, it looked like a pasta e fagioli, but there were no beans. Instead, the brothy soup was lighter with the basil providing light notes to go with the chunky ingredients.
For her sandwich, Julie went with the turkey bacon avocado. Turkey doesn’t have a lot of flavor to start which allowed the bacon, tomatoes and chipotle aioli to shine through. Likewise, the avocado took a back seat to the stronger flavors it was paired with. Overall, everything blended well together for a hearty and filling sandwich.
The soup and half-sandwich combos are very reasonably priced, but with the addition of our frozen drinks, our total came out much higher than it normally would for lunch at about $25.
Crave Cafe continues to generate buzz more than a year after it first opened. The relaxed atmosphere helps set it apart from other go-to lunch spots in the Sinking Spring area.
But it’s the food that keeps filling the tables at lunchtime.