Jumbo China Buffet

jumbo-buffet

We all have our guilty pleasures in life. As a food blogger, my guilty pleasures revolve around meals that most food bloggers would be ashamed to eat.

One of my guilty pleasures is the Jumbo China Buffet along the 5th Street Highway near Fairgrounds Square Mall.

The buffet is the largest buffet of any kind in Berks County with 10 stations to navigate and what looks like enough seating for a few hundred people.

Buffets of any kind are hit or miss. If you go when it’s not busy, you risk food that sits for a while. So unlike a sit-down restaurant where the service should be better during off-peak hours, you want to visit a buffet at its busiest.

I went with a friend of mine on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, and it was definitely busy.

jumbo-buffet-1

Jumbo Buffet tries to be everything to everyone. In addition to the Asian staples, they offer a wide range of American comfort food. There’s a carving station with fresh-cooked sausage and ham. And plenty of hot bar items including fried chicken, pizza, and fries. I’ve never tried any of these items myself, but I always see people filling their plates with them.

in the back of the buffet area is the hibachi, where you can create your own stir-fry from a selection of seafood, meats, vegetables and lo mein.

I have a system when I go to Jumbo: three trips to the buffet, twice for dinner and once for dessert. And I always end up with similar plates from one trip to the next.

jumbo-buffet-plate-1

Fried rice and chicken with broccoli are my two staples for the first plate. These are two items that are always done right when I go. The rice is always bright yellow and has just enough vegetables (a few peas and some onions) that I can convince myself that it’s good for me. Same with the chicken and broccoli. While it’s doused in a tasty soy sauce that has no nutritional value, it has white meat and vegetables so it can’t be all bad.

From there, I’ll build out with whatever looks interesting. On this trip, that was a pork dumpling and a little chicken in garlic sauce. The dumplings are always their best when they are first delivered. With no sauce to soak in, they don’t hold as well on the hot bar as other items. But when they’re fresh, they are delicious, especially with a little drizzle of ginger sauce to help them go down.

The chicken in garlic sauce is very much like the chicken and broccoli but with the addition of more vegetables (the occasional carrot or onion) and a stronger taste of garlic. And I can never have enough garlic.

jumbo-buffet-plate-2

Plate number two begins with the classic General Tso’s chicken. Jumbo’s version is a little hotter than others, but it’s not overbearing. There’s plenty of sweetness to help cut through the heat. And it’s always a popular item so you know it will be fresh every time.

Adding to my second plate, I opted for sweet and sour chicken, a vegetable egg roll and the very non-Chinese dish of fried plantains.

The sweet and sour chicken is always good, but not much different than any others you’ll find throughout the county. It’s the same lightly breaded, fried chicken pieces and the same red sauce. Similarly, the egg roll isn’t much different than anywhere else. Like the dumplings, it’s always better when it’s fresh out of the kitchen.

The plantains don’t fit with the rest of the meal, but I didn’t care. I love plantains and I’ll grab some off any buffet that has them.

jumbo-buffet-dessert

After two trips to the hot bar, I venture up for dessert. I tend to connect with my inner child when I go to Jumbo because dessert always includes soft serve ice cream. It’s always vanilla and chocolate mix for me.  I also found banana with strawberry syrup on the dessert bar so I added that to my plate. It’s not fancy, but I like bananas and I like strawberry syrup so I went for it.

jumbo-buffet-donut

Dessert includes one last item, the guiltiest of pleasures, the fried donut. The fried piece of dough, rolled in sugar, is something I look forward to on every trip. These treats just melt in your mouth. I always make sure it’s the last thing I taste before I walk out the door.

The great thing about the buffet is that it’s quick and cheap. We were in and out of the restaurant in about a half-hour, spending $15 per person for a hefty meal.

It’s not glamorous or fancy, but Jumbo China Buffet will always be one of my favorites, even if I feel a little guilty about it.

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

Jumbo China Buffet
3252 N. 5th Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Jumbo China Buffet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Buffets Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

New pizza shop coming to Sinking Spring area; Winners announced in Chili Cook Off; more food news

Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza coming to South Heidelberg

A new pizza place is scheduled to open in Sinking Spring. Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza is moving into a vacant space in the Sinking Spring Plaza near the former Shurfine grocery store. The restaurant’s website lists April as the opening date. No menu has been posted yet, but the restaurant is advertising as a BYOB.

Former Lubrano’s Restaurant to become vapor store

The former Lubrano’s Pizza restaurant along Route 422 in Amity Township is being renovated into a vapor shop, according to a sign in front of the building. A “For Lease” sign had been out front since the restaurant closed last spring. In late summer, Woogies Wood-Fired BBQ had announced that it was moving from Pottstown into the location, but those plans fell through. Woogies instead reopened as Smokehouse BBQ and Grille in Limerick Township, Montgomery County.

Winners announced for Kettles of Fire Chili Cook Off

The winners have been announced for the second annual Kettles of Fire Chili Cook Off. The event, part of the Reading + Ice Fest, handed out judged awards as well as People’s Choice awards. Here are the winners:

Judged
First Place: Kauffman family
Second Place: Klinger’s on Carsonia
Third Place: Conrad Weiser Cross Country Team

People’s Choice
First Place: Muddy’s Smokehouse BBQ
Second Place: DoubleTree by Hilton
Third Place: Conrad Weiser Cross Country Team

Food News

Van Reed Inn

van-reed-inn

When a restaurant closes, there’s always a question about what comes next.

If we are lucky, a new restaurant arrives, one that is better than the one that it has replaced. That’s what happened with the Van Reed Inn.

The new incarnation of the Van Reed Inn opened in December of 2014 after some much-needed renovations.

One year later, the restaurant along Route 183 north of the city still looks like new. The bar and dining area are enclosed in a single room with 10 tables — four of them two-seat high-tops — and sixteen stools on the bar.

A pool table sat idle at one end of the room. On the opposite wall was a menu board with the days specials that lit up in shades of yellow, green, red and blue. An adjacent room is used for take-out orders.

Julie and I arrived around 6:30. For a Thursday night, it seemed like a good crowd. Half of the tables were full. The same could be said about the stools. Both filled up more by the time we left.

We sat ourselves at one of the high-tops and waited a few minutes for the menus. The restaurant seemed to be a little short-staffed with only one waitress to take care of the tables and a bartender for those on the stools.

When our waitress did arrive, she was very pleasant and apologetic for not getting to us sooner. After that, she was extremely attentive for the rest of the night.

van-reed-inn-chipotle-ranch-wings

We were both getting a little hungry so Julie put in an order for wings to get us started. They have 15 different flavors on the menu. All of them sounded amazing, but we settled on the chipotle ranch.

Six meaty wings arrived coated in the creamy sauce. The wings are smoked, and the flavor from the smoker shines through it all. They had a nice crisp outer layer (from their trip through the fryer). The sauce was delicious, giving all of the flavors of ranch plus that added southwestern kick. It was a great start to the meal.

I had more wings yet to come as part of my BBQ platter.

van-reed-inn-barbecue-sampler

A sampling of Van Reed Inn’s smoked favorites, the platter included beef brisket, pulled pork, four wings and two sides.

The best thing on the plate had to be the wings. I was going to order the “Irish Pride” flavor (spicy garlic BBQ), but saw the daily special: lemon garlic. They were nearly perfect with great citrus flavor, slightly sour, and just enough garlic to give it a kick. Once again the smoke shone through and complemented the other flavors nicely.

Another stand-out from my plate was the beef brisket. Six slices with no sauce to hide the flavor. Instead, they were coated in a simple, but delicious dry rub. It had a little extra sugar for a sweet after-taste.

The pulled pork wasn’t bad either, though I wasn’t a big fan of the sauce. I would have liked it better if it had been served dry like the brisket, maybe with a little sauce on the side.

On the side, I ordered sweet potato fries and broccoli (which makes it a balanced meal, right?). The sweet potato fries were really good, fried to a golden brown.

van-reed-inn-pulled-pork-tacos

Across the table, Julie was enjoying her pulled pork in the form of tacos. The pulled pork was more enjoyable mixed with the cheese sauce and coleslaw.

The three tacos were filling, but not too heavy that she couldn’t finish her fries. The fresh-cut potatoes were very good and worth forcing every last bite.

When we were finished, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we had only spent a little more than $30 for our meals. I was expecting a bigger price tag for the amount of food that we ordered.

Not every restaurant revival works which is why we celebrate the successes.

Van Reed Inn is a certainly a success.

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

Van Reed Inn
2707 Bernville Rd
Reading, PA 19605

The Van Reed Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Barbecue Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Penn Grille ownership change; Woodside reopens; more food news

Penn Grille changes ownership

The Penn Grille in West Lawn is now under new ownership. The transition occurred over the New Year’s holiday without interrupting service. The Penn Grille, which now has a new logo and revived Facebook page, is attached to the Redner’s Quick Shoppe and Rite Aid Pharmacy at the corner of Penn Avenue and West Wyomissing Boulevard.

Woodside Family Restaurant reopens

Bechtelsville’s Woodside Family Restaurant has reopened, according to an article in the January 10 Reading Eagle. The restaurant, which has a long history spanning five decades, closed in September and sat idle for three months before being reopened.

Chili Cook-Off Returns to Fire + Ice Fest this weekend

The “Kettles of Fire” Chili Cook-Off will again be part of the Reading Fire + Ice Festival when it returns this weekend. The event is scheduled for this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel. The contest will offer two awards: a Judged Winner  and a People’s Choice Award. Boscov’s a La Carte Catering swept the awards in 2015.

Food News

6th Street Deli

sixth-street-deli

Most times, I only get to visit a restaurant once before writing a review. But in the past two months, I have had two meetings in downtown Reading — one over breakfast and one over lunch — and both were at the previously unknown-to-me 6th Street Deli.

You won’t find the 6th Street Deli on Yelp. Or TripAdvisor. Or Zomato. They have a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since 2012 and a website that isn’t much newer.

My first visit came on a Wednesday morning in early December. It was late in the breakfast service, about 9 a.m. Everyone was already at work leaving the restaurant mostly empty.

The hot bar was only about half-full and probably wouldn’t be restocked until lunch. I filled a Styrofoam clamshell with a little bit of everything. Meals are priced out by weight at the counter so I kept that in the back of my mind while dipping out my meal.

After paying a little more than $5 at the register (I also had a Clover Farms chocolate milk), I retreated to the back of the restaurant where most of the seating is located.

Six or seven round tables are set in the dining area (a handful of two-person tables are in the front as well). A TV on the wall was playing an old direct-to-video holiday special that I didn’t recognize.

sixth-street-deli-breakfast-2

My meal was a mix of familiar and unfamiliar breakfast foods. Nothing is labeled so I am still not exactly sure about everything that was on my plate.

What I did recognize were the breakfast potatoes, yucca and the sausage patty. The potatoes were good, diced and cooked like a typical American diner would do them.

The yucca was very different. It was cooked in the Dominican style with onions and vinegar that gives it a slightly sour taste. But it’s an enjoyable sour in the same way as sauerkraut. I also took a scoop of mashed yucca, which had pickled onions, but a little less pungent flavor.

Also on the plate was queso frito, a fried cheese dish that is another Dominican breakfast staple. It looks kind of like the insides of a mozzarella stick, but was surprisingly tasty. I wish I had gotten there when it was fresh out of the pan because it would probably would have been my favorite thing on the plate.

A month later and I returned to the 6th Street Deli for another meeting, this time over lunch. It was a rare opportunity for me to experience two meals at a restaurant before writing a review.

I’m glad I waited because lunch was delicious.

sixth-street-deli-lunch

It was about 1 p.m. when I arrived, and the lunch rush was still in full swing. The hot bar was fully stocked, as was the salad bar on the opposite wall which I hadn’t even noticed on my first visit.

Skipping the salad, I filled up on a variety of hot items including rice and beans, meatballs in marinara sauce, candied sweet potatoes, fried plantains, baked beans and more yucca.

The rice and beans were excellent, as was the soupy, baked-bean like dish that I found next to it. The candied sweet potatoes were very good as well (especially with the little bit of marshmallow I found with it). The yucca was just as good as I remembered. And the plantains were a sweet little ending to the meal.

sixth-street-deli-pineapple-bread-pudding

What I, and the other five people I was with, hadn’t counted on was being delivered a complimentary plate of pineapple bread pudding.

Cut up in bite size pieces for us to try, we all happily dug in. It was incredible. The pineapple filling oozed out from between the layers of bread. The whole thing just melted away in your mouth.

Like breakfast, my lunch was inexpensive, coming in at just over $7 (obligatory chocolate milk included).

The restaurant is one of many in the city that caters to those who work downtown, offering weekday-only breakfast and lunch service (though I did see them open in the evening prior to a concert at the Performing Arts Center). Because it’s a self-serve buffet, the wait is never very long so go during the busiest hours to ensure you’re getting the freshest food and the best experience.

There’s not much parking on 6th Street, but that’s OK. You don’t go into the city to visit the Deli; you go to the Deli because you’re in the city.

And while I probably won’t make a special trip downtown just to eat there, I’ll certainly eat there again when I find myself downtown.

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

6th Street Deli
34 N. 6th St
Reading, PA 19601

Breakfast & Brunch Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Sofrito coming to Mohnton; two restaurants close; more food news

Sofrito coming to Mohnton

Sofrito Gastro Pub is coming to Mohnton in 2016. The restaurant started a Sofrito Mohnton Facebook page last week announcing the new location. According to the page, Sofrito will open in February at the site of the former Maniaci’s Italian Bistro. The original Sofrito Gastro Pub has been operating in Reading’s Centre Park neighborhood since 2011.

New Muhlenberg Diner closes

The New Muhlenberg Diner has closed. According to neighbors, the restaurant’s last day in operation was New Year’s Eve. The restaurant has operated along the 5th Street Highway since 2011.

Fourth Street Cafe closing

Morgantown’s Fourth Street Cafe is closing. The restaurant’s last day will be January 16, according to its Facebook page. In the description for the restaurant’s farewell events, the owners cited the reason for the closing:

Lou & I have realized our limitations, the demands of our week day jobs and the toll that trying to keep up with a seven day work week has taken on our health. It’s time to pass the torch.

The business is for sale, and the owners hope to find a buyer willing to reopen.

Tavern on Penn to close for renovations

The Tavern on Penn in West Lawn will close for three days next week for kitchen renovations. According a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, the restaurant will be closed from January 11-13, reopening on January 14.

Food News

Potts’ U Hot Dogs – CLOSED

potts-u-sign

Potts’ U closed in late 2016. A new specialty hot dog restaurant, Mad Dogs, opened in the space in early 2017. 

Philadelphia has cheesesteaks. The Lehigh Valley has hot dogs.

And when it comes to the battle for supremacy, there are two names at the top of the list: Yocco’s and Potts’.

Yocco’s has been around longer, but the Potts family are no rookies. They opened their first location in 1971 and have expanded to include locations in Allentown, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Emmaus and Northampton.

In 2014, they arrived in Berks County, opening Potts’ U in the shadow of Kutztown University.

Potts’ U’s surroundings are very familiar. Until the summer of 2014, the building had been home to CC’s Wooden Grill, a place that I loved and blogged about two years ago.

Stepping back in, it was a bit surreal. Other than a fresh coat of yellow paint, the dining room hadn’t changed much.

I missed the smell of the wood chips from the smoker, but I appreciated the addition of the menu screen above the open kitchen.

One thing that you’ll find with Potts’ is that each location has its own unique menu, despite the fact that they are all still owned by the same family.

At Potts’ U in Kutztown, they decided to branch out. While hot dogs are still the star attraction, you’ll also find pulled pork barbecue, French fries, soup and the craziest addition of them all: empanadas.

potts-u-hot-dog-empanada-fries-1

I was so happy to see that Potts’ U offered a “sampler” special: one hot dog, one empanada, one side and a drink for less than $7.

If you order your hot dog with “The Works,” you get mustard, onions and chili sauce (ketchup, relish, sauerkraut and pickles are also available for free, with extra charges for cheese and bacon). I skipped on the mustard and just went with the onions and chili.

In 40 years of Potts’ restaurants, they have figured out how to make the perfect hot dog. It had that crispy outside that’s a sign of a well-done dog. The chili was delicious: meaty, a little salty and just a little sweet. And they put on just the right amount of raw onions to get that flavor I was looking for without overpowering the hot dog.

The real surprise was the empanada. They had two choices on the board for the day: taco and buffalo chicken. I went with the taco and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t overly stuffed with the ground beef, but it was  filled nicely with a little zest and a great flavor overall.

And the thin-cut, fast-food style fries were a perfect way to finish off the tray.

potts-u-hot-dog-empanada-fries-2

Julie had the same idea as me, but she opted for just ketchup on her hot dog. She also switched it up on the empanada, going with the buffalo chicken, instead.

The buffalo sauce was strong, but not overly hot (her tolerance for heat is lower than mine, but she handled hers well). The chicken was chopped up very fine in the sauce, mostly serving as substance for the sauce to stick to.

We had arrived in the middle of a mini-rush for lunch so our food took a few minutes to come out (only one person was working, taking orders and building the hot dogs), but for a delicious meal at a price tag of just $15, it was easily worth the wait.

Potts’ U does the Potts family proud, and it has been a great addition to Kutztown’s restaurants scene. It’s great food with better prices and a location that’s ideal for students and residents alike.

Hopefully it’s a recipe for a long-lasting restaurant.

Potts' U Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Reviews