The opening of Fork & Ale in December was a holiday gift to Berks County.
Reimagining the space that housed the popular Tim’s Ugly Mug took nearly two years, and the result isn’t just another bar. It’s a true gastropub.
Bars are places where you sit at the counter and order a Yuengling and some wings. Gastropubs are more than that. Gastropubs feature craft beers and cocktails with a more robust, chef-inspired dinner menu.
Fork & Ale definitely earns its place as a gastropub.
The dining area gives off the vibe of a modernized speakeasy. The Edison bulbs hung in strings above the booths and tables are both retro and contemporary. One wall is covered entirely with mirrors. The wood floor has been stained dark, the wood grains popping against the neutral colored walls.
And the menu is presented on a simple sheet of paper beneath Fork & Ale’s slogan: “Eat | Drink | Gather.”
It’s a limited menu, a characteristic shared by all of the best restaurants. Owing to the “gather” portion of the restaurant’s motto, much of the menu is made up of appetizers and shareable plates.
We started with one of the more unique shareables: poutine.
For those who have never ventured north of the border, poutine is a Canadian specialty consisting of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy.
At Fork and Ale, the dish gets a South Philly makeover as Italian sausage “gravy” replaces the brown gravy. And it works.
With mozzarella curd and a thick tomato gravy, the poutine becomes more like a pasta dish, the fries serving as a spaghetti stand-in. The sausage gave the gravy an enjoyable heat while also making it more filling.
My only complaint would be that the mozzarella curd melted into one large piece of cheese. And that piece ended up on Julie’s plate, not mine.
After we finished our appetizer, we had a long wait until the rest of our food arrived.
It wasn’t as long of a wait as we had at ViVA Castle Pub, but it was still a full 40 minutes between when the poutine arrived and when our entrees were delivered to the table.
My meal was simple enough: a cheesesteak and fries.
I wasn’t going to get the cheesesteak, but it was listed as a ribeye cheesesteak with sautéed onions, wild mushrooms and aged Provolone sauce.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the sandwich, but it felt like a bit of a letdown after the poutine. There were plenty of mushrooms but I tasted few onions.
But I think my biggest complaint would be the cheese sauce. Aged Provolone is one of my favorite sandwich additions. The sauce had none of the characteristics of Provolone, lacking both the sharpness and saltiness that I expected. Maybe it’s just me, but I would have much preferred a couple slices in place of the sauce.
Julie wholeheartedly disagrees. She thought the cheese sauce was the best part of the sandwich, and when I couldn’t finish it, she was more than happy to eat the second half for lunch the next day.
In my haste in ordering, I had failed to make a connection between the fact that my side would be yet more French fries. They were certainly good – though they were a little cold which tells me that the fries were done long before the rest of our food – but I had my fill already with the poutine.
If you follow along with Berks County Eats every week, you may have noticed that Julie is now a big fan of fish (I, on the other hand, still will not eat things that live underwater).
Her newfound dedication to fish continued with her order of grilled tuna with roasted carrot, spaetzle, broccoli rabe and mussel buerre blanc.
The tuna steak was grilled to a medium rare with a nice char on the outside. The buerre blanc – white butter sauce – was very good.
Having never had mussels before, it was hard for her to tell how much of the mussels flavor carried through, but she enjoyed it. And she loved the spaetzle.
Not to be forgotten were the vegetables. Both the broccoli rabe and the carrots were excellent. The carrots most closely resembled the barbecue carrots that we both love from the Farmers Market of Wyomissing. And the little bit of bitterness from broccoli rabe just added another dimension to the plate.
Because we couldn’t live without poutine, we had to live without dessert. That left us with a total bill of nearly $50.
Again, this isn’t bar food. Don’t expect 50-cent wings or $8 burgers.
It’s a gastropub. It’s finer food and drinks, and it’s going to keep bringing people to Fork & Ale.
Fork & Ale
1281 E. Main St
Douglassville, PA 19518