Kutztown will always have a special place in my heart.
I don’t make it back there as often as I would like since graduating from KU in 2013. When it’s time for blogging, I try to time my visits so school’s not in session.
It’s not that I have anything against college students, but the summer months (and winter break) are slower times for many of the local restaurants. That means less crowds, shorter waits, and better service.
That’s why Julie and I waited until a Thursday night in June to pay a visit to the Basin Street Hotel. Two months from now, when class is back in session, I wouldn’t suggest going anywhere in town on a Thirsty Thursday night.
But the Hotel was calm and quiet when we arrived. Only one other booth was taken, though there were a few people hanging at the bar and a couple enjoying dinner outside on the cloudy evening.
During my time in Kutztown, I had never visited Basin Street. It’s almost on the wrong side of the tracks for college students, facing out to the train station and the Allentown and Auburn Railroad line.
Restaurants and inns have been operating on the location at the corner of Main and Willow Streets (ironically, there is no Basin Street) for more than 100 years, and the hotel maintains a certain old-time charm inside with high wooden booths, decorative ceiling tiles and historic photos of Basin Street and the town.
The only thing I really knew about Basin Street before arriving is that they are known for their wings, or at least, that’s what they tout on Twitter and Facebook so I knew where our meal was starting.
There are 22 flavors to choose from on the menu ranging from standard hot, mild and BBQ to original creations like the red pepper parm and drunken varieties.
We went with two of the more original flavors: enchilada and spicy lime.
The enchilada wings were tossed in oil and taco seasoning. Unfortunately, much of it ran off the wings so I had to continually dip it in the run-off on the plate to get that Mexican flavor I was looking for. It took some work, but I got. I just wish it had been stronger.
On the spicy lime, I got spice and very little lime. It was basically Buffalo sauce with a little after taste of citrus. (Unless I was accidently given hot wings and just imagined the lime). For Buffalo wings, they were really good.
The wings were also very meaty and filling, definitely more than we needed when we saw the size of our dinner.
Basin Street’s menu is all pub food: apps, salads, burgers and sandwiches. There are no entrees, no meals. But that’s OK. There are more than 40 burgers, wraps and sandwiches to choose from on the robust menu.
On the “Collegiate Corner” part of the menu, all of the sandwiches were given KU-themed names, like the Golden Bear.
The Golden Bear is Basin Street’s take on a Primanti Brothers sandwich – roast beef with coleslaw and French fries served on top of the meat.
This is a sandwich that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Separately, it’s average fries, good roast beef and tasty slaw, but together, it was a hearty, enjoyable sandwich.
From being between the hot roast beef and fries, the coleslaw warmed up quick so there was never a cold bite. The fries got a little soggy, but the thick French bread roll held up deliciously well. I probably shouldn’t have finished the whole thing, but I did anyway.
Julie went with something a little bit different as well, the turkey French dip.
French dip sandwiches, as you probably know, are generally made with roast beef and served with a cup of au jus (light gravy) on the side. The turkey French dip just substituted the meat on the sandwich and in the gravy.
It was a nice change of pace. Julie especially enjoyed it with the Provolone cheese she ordered on top. She also finished off everything on her plate, except a few chips that she left in the bag to take home.
The only downside to visiting Kutztown in the summer months is that a lot of the restaurants are running with short staffs. There was only one guy working as both server and bartender, and while he did well at taking our orders and bringing our food, we had to go up to the bar to get and pay our $30 check.
I’m sure there aren’t many nights when the Basin Street Hotel is as quiet as it was for our visit. But that’s why we went when we did.
I like to enjoy Kutztown – and its restaurants – at its best.