Our meal: Steak Sandwich, Chicken Steak Sandwich and Fries.

Intel’s Pennside Drive-In

Intel's Pennside Drive-In

Some weeks, doing this blog is easy. Other weeks, getting out and doing a review seems next to impossible.

This was one of those weeks.

The thing is, we actually had a plan. We knew where we were going, and I even had a good idea of what I was going to get when we got there. What we hadn’t anticipated was arriving at our desired restaurant only to find the parking lot completely full. (We’ll save that story for another review).

So we found ourselves on the east side of Reading. Our plans were thrown out the window, and we were hungry.

We needed a place that was fast so we headed out Carsonia Avenue to Intel’s Pennside Drive-In.

Intel's Pennside Drive-In has a familiar interior.

It was my first visit to the Pennside, but stepping inside, it felt like a place I had been before. From the checkered floor tiles that harkened back to D&J Sandwich Shop to the retro booths that could have been plucked from Schell’s, CeGee’s or any other similar restaurant that pre-dates the term “fast-casual.”

There’s two parts to Intel’s – the dinner and the dessert. While Julie and I would have loved a cone of soft serve, a towering sundae or a fresh-made milkshake, we needed to get through dinner first.

Pennside’s dinner menu is more robust than many similar restaurants. In addition to burgers and hot dogs, there are also hot and cold subs, including tuna burgers, chipped sausage sandwiches and a variety of steak sandwiches.

Our meal: Steak Sandwich, Chicken Steak Sandwich and Fries.

Julie decided to go with a traditional Berks County-style cheesesteak with meat sauce and onions while I went with the chicken steak, a lighter version of the same thing.

The small hoagie rolls were packed to capacity with the finely chopped steak. We had seen the steaks go on the flattop grill. They looked like Steak-umms or something similar, and we weren’t mad about that because the sandwiches tasted great.

The closest comparison we could make was to V&S. They were meaty and just a little greasy with just enough marinara sauce and onions to pop every few bites with flavor.

We split a small order of French fries as well. They were your average thick-cut fast food fries. Nothing special, but a good go-with for the steak sandwiches.

One of the big pluses for the Pennside is value. For our two sandwiches, fries and two bottled drinks, we spent just $18.

Unfortunately, we didn’t save room for dessert. Next time, I think we’ll skip the fries in favor of ice cream. That seems like a fair trade.

Next time, we’ll plan our trip better. And I’m sure there will be a next time.

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

Intel’s Pennside Drive-In
916 Carsonia Ave
Reading, PA 19606

Pennside Drive In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Drive-Ins Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 17

Welcome to my week 17 update. My bike got another heavy workout this week, but so did my stomach. Read all about my trials and triumphs from the last seven days:

The Successes

Last week, I talked about my weekend of bike riding (and ‘racing’) – a full 22 miles across two days.

I beat that on Saturday with a 24-mile ride through the Lehigh Gorge with my friends, the Heffelfinger family.

Out on the trail with Matt Heffelfinger.

We were taking the bike train, a special offering by the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railroad in Jim Thorpe. At the station, we loaded our bikes onto one of two flatbed cars, then grabbed seats on one of five passenger cars at the back of the train.

Reading and Northern 2582

Engine #2532 waiting to carry us from Jim Thorpe to White Haven.

The train departed Jim Thorpe at 9:30 a.m., pulling us 25 miles north to the town of White Haven and the entrance to the Lehigh Gorge State Park.

The trail running through the park is part of the larger Delaware & Lehigh Trail network that extends from Wilkes-Barre in the north to Bristol, Bucks County, in the south. There are still a few on-road sections, but when completed, it will be a continuous 165 miles.

In White Haven, hundreds of riders funneled off the train and onto the trail.

Our ride was on the longest continuous section of trail along the route, and one of great contrasts.

As we began our ride, we were crowded together with the seemingly hundreds of other riders who debarked from the train in White Haven. And for the first five miles or so, we remained in close proximity.

Peeking out at the Lehigh River.

Throughout the ride, our trail hugged the Lehigh River, the second-most popular place to be as we passed kayakers, whitewater rafters and fishermen throughout our ride.

One of three noteworthy waterfalls along the ride.

Along this northern section of the ride are several waterfalls where riders and other trail-goers gathered for photos. Water streamed into the gorge from the cliffs on our right, passing under the trail to empty into the river.

The Lehigh River from our final bridge along the trail.

As we approached Jim Thorpe, we emerged from the tree cover and railroad tracks of the Reading and Northern and Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway replaced the cliffs on our right.

#2532 again, this time carrying the riders on the 12:30 train.

The second bike train of the day left the station at 12:30 and we were just three miles away from our destination when it came rumbling past us.

This section of the trail terminates in the public parking lot for the town of Jim Thorpe. I pulled up to my car after completing 24.2 miles in 1:54, burning approximately 1,000 calories in the process. The ride was almost entirely downhill so we were able to make great time, and I spent much of the ride in high gear on my 27-speed hybrid bike.

I felt great after the ride and felt like I could have kept going.

Not bad for a morning’s work.

Earlier in the week I had spent two evenings pulling weeds (about 283 calories burned each time) and two hours of my Sunday was spent cleaning the house (372 calories burned). Neither are as exciting as a 24-mile bike ride, but it all adds up.

The Challenges

Already building that 1,000-calorie bike ride into my daily allotment, I knew that I would need a hearty breakfast. There are not a lot of places to grab breakfast closer to Jim Thorpe so I decided to stop at Hamburg at the good old Cracker Barrel.

I’m not mad about starting my day with Cracker Barrel French toast.

French toast and hash brown casserole amounted to as many calories as I would burn, but that was perfectly alright with me because it left me with a full day’s worth of calories to play with for lunch and dinner.

Believe it or not, I played twice. I left two pegs the first time and only one on my second try.

What didn’t work out so well for me was finding a place to get lunch on the way home. I ended up in Tamaqua at a Burger King eating a 600-calorie chicken sandwich. I regretted it almost immediately, but my options were few.

This was my second fast food of the week as I had already had some Chicken McNuggets and fries from McDonald’s on Friday night (though, at 573 calories, it was actually less than the sandwich from BK).

Another cookout at Normandy Farm. I couldn’t resist…

And Thursday night was a little bit of an indulgence for me as well. You may remember a month ago my visit to Normandy Farm in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, for their Crab Fest. I was back again this week for the Summer Luau, enjoying pulled pork from the whole pig roast, pulled pork sweet chili, sausage, a cornbread biscuit and coleslaw.

I really couldn’t resist the dessert.

And of course, I had to have dessert. There was a make-your-own s’mores bar, ice cream samples from Whole Foods, dessert shooters and a variety of fresh-made cakes.

I had two slivers – chocolate and raspberry – and they were incredible. Each had a hard chocolate outer shell and were layered with cake and filling. It put me over my calorie limit for the day, but I did not care at all.

The Results

Current Weight: 168.6
Weekly Weight Loss: -1.2
Total Weight Loss: 20.8

It’s another milestone this week as I broke the 20-pound barrier and almost made up for my stagnant week last week. Going over my calorie intake a couple times didn’t hurt because I had three strong days. I actually finished the week more than 1,000 calories under my target so I was almost surprised that I didn’t see a greater loss at the end. Still, nothing to complain about here.

The Week Ahead

If you’re tired of reading about my bike rides, I apologize in advance. This weekend, I’m taking my bike (and my dad) to our hunting cabin upstate. We’re already planning out our ride.

I’ll also have my fishing gear in tow which should be an adventure all its own.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Pho House

Berks County has seen its restaurant scene grow by leaps and bounds over the past three-and-a-half years since I started doing regular reviews on this blog.

In that time, I have tried to visit as many of the new restaurants as I can, but some have just slipped through.

One of those restaurants that I had missed, the Pho House in Wyomissing, I can now cross off my list.

It’s been two years since the Pho House opened in the former Alebrije, in a strip mall that also houses Laxmi’s Indian Grille and one of two locations for the Original Mama’s Pizza. Of the three, the Pho House occupies the largest space spanning multiple storefronts on the far right side of the strip.

There are booths on either side of the spacious dining room with tables throughout the center. Paintings hang on the walls on either side, but there’s nothing truly remarkable about the decor – that is to say that the Pho House is decidedly non-stereotypical in the decor.

When it comes to the menu, it is distinctly Vietnamese – 19 different varieties of pho, eight rice platters, 10 vermicelli bowls and an assortment of noodle dishes.

Of course, when you visit a restaurant called the Pho House, the only real question is “what kind of pho do I want?”

Five different cuts of beef – eye-round, brisket, flank steak, meatballs and tendon – are available as add-ins for the pho. Choose one or mix-and-match. (Chicken, shrimp and tofu are also available).

All pho dishes are also serve with a mound of bean sprouts to add to the dish. These were delivered to the table first, awaiting their brothy bath.

For my protein, I chose flank steak and brisket. I grabbed a healthy handful of bean sprouts and tossed them in to the mix before taking my first bite.

The thin slices of flank and brisket was almost interchangeable – the brisket having just a little more fat around the edges. Otherwise, they had much the same flavor when mixed with the broth.

Pho is traditionally served with rice noodles, and the Pho House certainly does not skimp. There had to be three or four servings of noodles bundled at the bottom of the bowl so there were plenty of noodles in every bite.

It was definitely a hearty dish and very enjoyable. Scallions, salt and pepper provided much of the flavor for the dish, and the noodles soaked up every bit.

Julie’s combination of eye-round and tendon was also good, though her meat was a lot fattier than my own. Otherwise, it was the same dish as my own (though she didn’t add any bean sprouts).

We had also ordered some Vietnamese eggrolls as an appetizer, but the service was so fast that everything came out together.

I don’t know that there was anything distinctly Vietnamese about them, but they were different from other eggrolls, mostly thanks for a thinner, crispier outer shell. The dipping sauce they were served with made all the difference. It was like a duck sauce but with some additional spices thrown in. If only we had ordered a few more.

I mentioned the speed with which our food was delivered. We were finished with our meals, check in hand and asking for two to-go containers within a half-hour of our arrival.

Pho is a great comfort dish that I do not get to eat often enough. Two years was way too long to wait for a visit to the Pho House.

And I still have a lot more catching up to do. I wonder what else I have been missing?

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Excellent
Ambiance: Good
Price: reasonable

Pho House
1816 State Hill Road
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Pho House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 16

We’ve crossed the halfway point in my journey to better health and it’s all downhill from here.

Yeah right. It only gets harder from here to continue the momentum and reach my goal. Here’s my latest update:

The Successes

This weekend belonged to me and my bicycle.

As I mentioned last week, I was going to be joining three of my colleagues to compete in the corporate challenge at the annual Pottstown Bike Race. The race was scheduled for Sunday afternoon so I figured I should get a warm-up ride in on Saturday.

I wasn’t entirely happy with my pace, but it was better than my last trip on the SRT.

On Saturday morning, I towed my bike to Hamburg for the 12-mile trip along the Schuylkill River Trail. It was my second visit of the summer, and I definitely felt better this time, completing the ride in 56 minutes.

That’s worth 519 calories, according to Lose It.

Sunday was the real adventure.

The real racers at the Pottstown Bike Race were flying around the one-mile course.

Attending the Pottstown Bike Race for the first time, I was blown away by the skill of the competitors in the actual races. In races that were 20-, 30- or 40-laps, they were turning lap times of less than 3:00 around the one-mile course. My average from the previous day was 4:40.

Of course, this was just the corporate challenge so no big deal, right?

We weren’t the fastest team – we weren’t even fast – but we had team spirit!

Wrong. The other teams were serious about this race with some of the riders actually competing in the pro races throughout the day. In a four-lap relay, we were lapped. It would have been twice if not for the race director sending us early.

As the closer for our team, I was still waiting at the start line when the top two finishers crossed the line. Out of six teams, we were sixth, though I’m pretty sure there were a few spectators who walked the course faster than us.

Not satisfied with my lap around Pottstown, I decided a ride on the Perk Trail was needed to complete the day.

But we had a good time, and I was motivated for riding at a more leisurely pace so after the race, I drove east to Graterford, just a few miles north of Collegeville, for a ride on the Perkiomen Trail.

The trail follows the Perkiomen Creek from Green Lane to Valley Forge.

The trail follows the Perkiomen Creek as it flows from Green Lane in the north to Valley Forge in the south, a 22-mile ride one-way. I was content with a shorter loop from Graterford north to Schwenksville.

I took a little detour to check out the Skippack Trail before returning to the Perk.

Officially, it’s a rail trail that traces the path of the old Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. But in practice, it’s more complicated than that as the trail takes several detours – around homes and buildings. Sometimes it doubles as a sidewalk.

But it’s a fun ride nonetheless. In the five miles that I rode (10-mile round trip), the trail crosses over the Creek three times and alternates between crushed gravel and pavement more than I could count.

Welcome to Schwenksville.

The town of Schwenksville is a little oasis for riders along the trail. It’s about three miles north of the halfway point of the ride, a community that offers both a small restaurant and a bike shop abutting the trail.

Perkiomen Bicycles is one of several bike shops along the trail.

A few miles farther south is the Central Perkiomen Valley Park. It’s your typical community park, but it also has a few perks for trail riders, including a repair station and restrooms.

The Pennsylvania Live Steamers keep the area’s railroad history alive.

One of the coolest sites on the trail though is right at the Graterford Trailhead. The parking lot connects with that of the Pennsylvania Live Steamers – a club for miniature steam engineers that operate in various scales. The trains weren’t running, but the site of the replica station and full-size caboose harkened back to the days when locomotives traversed this same route.

The Challenges

Thursday and Friday were not good days for me. There were bagels from Panera in our breakroom at work so my snack was heavier than usual, leading to me finishing the day 116 calories over my budget.

Kale guacamole was just the start of my lunch at True Food Kitchen.

Friday was worse. I had a large lunch at the new True Food Kitchen in King of Prussia. While the foods served there were developed by a nutritionist, it was a lot of food (more than I would normally order because it was free as part of their preview days).

If you’d like to read about my meal, you can check it out on the Crave Montco website.

Don’t judge me.

And on Sunday, after a weekend of pedaling away the calories, I treated myself to a waffle cone sundae from Sonic. I’m still not sure how I ate it without making a mess in the car, but I was proud of myself for not.

The Results

Current Weight: 169.8
Weekly Weight Loss: -0.0
Total Weight Loss: -19.6

Well, it seems like my old pattern is back. One week on, one week off. Two weeks ago, I recorded no weight loss. Last week it was close to two pounds. Now it’s back to another wash.

I’m confident that next week will show the fruits of my labors.

The Week Ahead

It’s hot outside. Very hot. But work doesn’t stop because of the heat. Julie is away in New York City for a few days and I am tasked with weeding our vegetable garden so I’ll record some exercise in the evenings.

Then on Saturday, I will be again taking my bicycle for a spin, this time with my friends the Heffelfinger family as we head to Jim Thorpe a ride on the Lehigh Gorge trail.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Road Trip: Revere Tavern

Revere Tavern, a historic restaurant attached to the Best Western in Paradise, Pa.

Berks County Eats takes a road trip to Lancaster County this week for a meal at the historic Revere Tavern in Paradise.

Lancaster County is teeming with great restaurants. The problem is getting to those restaurants – especially during the height of summer tourist season.

A drive on Route 30 is more like a crawl with out-of-state license plates parading along the highway on their way to catch a glimpse of the Amish at work in the field.

So finding a place for dinner on a Saturday night in Lancaster is tricky, unless you venture a little farther outside the city limits.

The entrance to the historic Revere Tavern

That’s where we found the Revere Tavern.

The address is Paradise, an ambitious name for a settlement that never really grew beyond a village.

We had driven past the tavern and the adjacent Best Western hotel many times, mostly to visit Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse, a dinner theater set a few hundred yards behind the historic building.

But in need of a quiet place away from the rush of the city, we found exactly that at the Revere.

Historic Revere Tavern in Paradise was once owned by President James Buchanan.

The tavern is steeped in history, serving as a roadside inn since before the 1800s. At one time, it was owned by President James Buchanan. How it got the name the Revere Tavern, I’m still not sure.

It’s exactly the restaurant you expect when you hear the name. A stone hearth still protrudes from the wall of the King George dining room. Along the tops of the walls is a display of century-old China, decorative plates adorned with floral patterns, portraits and country scenes.

There are two other spaces as well – a smaller dining room and a bar, both located across the hallway from the table of four where Julie and I sat with her parents.

A table for six in front of the fireplace at Revere Tavern

We had come from a matinee at Sight & Sound Theatre and were ready for a hearty meal.

The menu features a selection of about 10 entrees – classic meals like scallops, prime rib, chicken breast and lamb chops that are expected fare at a restaurant like the Revere.

Revere Tavern Rolls and Butter

Before the meal, a basket of warm rolls were delivered to the table along with tiny cups of whipped cinnamon butter. It was a nice little start to the meal. Warm bread is always a nice touch and the little extra effort with the butter was appreciated.

Revere Tavern Salad

Our salads were next – each entree coming with a choice of Caesar or field green salad. We all opted for the field greens – romaine lettuce, red onion, carrots, cucumber and cherry tomato.

It was your basic starter salad, nothing more and nothing less. It served its purpose of holding us over until the main course arrived.

My entree choice was the wild mushroom ravioli with grilled chicken breast.

Revere Tavern Wild Mushroom Ravioli

The ravioli was served in a madeira wine sauce with caramelized onions, spinach, chopped walnut and more mushrooms.

It was a heavy sauce, creamy and thick, that made the ravioli feel a lot more dense. The grilled chicken breast on top was a perfect addition (it’s optional for those who prefer a meat-free meal). I found it cooked perfectly, lightly seasoned to add flavor that worked well with the sauce.

The spinach and walnut were both nice touches, especially the walnut which added much-needed texture to the dish while also giving a pop of flavor every few bites.

What I could have done without was the additional mushrooms. I would not have minded a few on the side, but I felt overwhelmed by the tiny white fungi that were swimming on my plate.

I left a lot of them sitting, but I happily finished off the remainder of the dish.

Revere Tavern Crab Cakes

Julie’s entree was a crab cake (she opted for one instead of two). She definitely didn’t get cheated on her one as the six-ounce cake looked to be about the size of a baseball on her plate.

The crab cakes were meaty and satisfying – not the best that Julie has ever had, but certainly not the worst. The lemon aioli was a great complement, elevating the dish.

It was served with a vegetable medley of corn, potatoes and tomato with a bed of arugula, all sitting in the lemon aioli. The potatoes were diced like breakfast hash. None of the three items truly stood out, but they were enjoyable together for a nice side.

Amazingly, neither of us had anything left that was worth bringing home. It wasn’t that the portions weren’t generous – they were – but we were both looking forward to finishing everything on our plates.

When the final bill was tallied, it was about $45 for the two of us (that included my glass of unsweetened iced tea). We’ve certainly paid more than that for history so I don’t think we were cheated at all.

The Revere Tavern may not be the most recognized name in the Lancaster food scene, nor the most sought-out, but the quiet little restaurant delivered a nice meal during our visit.

And that’s all we were really hoping for.

Revere Tavern
3063 Lincoln Highway
Paradise, PA 17562

Revere Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 15

It’s Week 15, halfway through my 30-week journey to better health. The goal has been, and still is, 30 pounds in 30 days. Here’s my midpoint update:

The Successes

My biggest success came on Wednesday when a combination of light meals and an hour of walking left me more than 500 calories under budget (even after treating myself to a chocolate banana smoothie).

548 Calories under with three full meals.

I didn’t record any more exercise until Saturday when Julie and I spent most of the day walking. First, at the PA BBQ Fest, then at the Kutztown Folk Festival.

The Folk Festival is one of our favorite events, though we don’t make it every year. For me, it’s a chance to reconnect with my Pennsylvania German roots. For Julie, it’s an opportunity to see amazing crafts, and her favorite, quilts. And for both of us, it’s usually a chance to try some amazing food.

Julie and I spent the day with our friend Kristi (front left) and her family at the Kutztown Folk Festival.

But this year was different. Having just eaten barbecue all morning, we skipped the wurst, the grilled sweet bologna, the Dutch fries and the funnel cake. Though toward the end of our day, Julie did splurge on strawberry shortcake and ice cream. It was too much for one person so I had to help her with it.

Sunday was a day of celebration for my brother Matt and his wife Lauren. We spent the afternoon at their baby shower (the little one is due September 2).

Normally, baby showers are more challenge than success, but this was unique and my brother and I spent about an hour playing quoits against some of Lauren’s relatives (we split our two games).

Later I got even more exercise, albeit less exciting, when I mowed our lawn (a little more than an hour of mowing is worth 404 calories).

The Challenges

The challenges were real this week. Thursday and Friday I had to really watch what I ate because there was no opportunity to record any exercise.

Pulled pork on top of seasoned corn is always a good idea.

And Saturday, while I did get a lot of walking in, I also ate a lot. If you haven’t read my recap of the PA BBQ Fest yet, it’s available here.

Then at the party on Sunday, I grazed on snacks most of the afternoon – mostly enjoying Philly Pretzel Factory rivets plus a slice of chocolate cake.

The Results

Current Weight: 169.8
Weely Weight Loss: -1.4
Total Weight Loss: -19.6

After a stagnant week last week, the results are back this week. And I can mark another milestone off the list as I have broken the 170-pound barrier.

This is the lightest that I have been – and I feel the fittest that I have been – in more than 10 years. And that only lasted for one summer before I started to gain it back. This time, I have no plans to put the weight back on once it’s off.

The Week Ahead

It’s a slow week, but a hot week. With temperatures in the high-90s and unbarable humidity, it’s going to be hard to get exercise.

At least until Sunday. On Sunday, I will be joining several of my colleagues at the Pottstown Bike Race where we will compete in the corporate team event. It’s a four-person, four-mile relay race so I only have to actually race for one mile.

But I’m not going to take my bike all the way to Pottstown to ride just one mile. After the race, I’m planning to hit the trail for an hour or two.

Or until I need to stop for dinner.

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

PA BBQ Fest 2017

One of my favorite events of the year, the PA BBQ Fest in Leesport offers a chance to sample some of the finest barbecue restaurants, vendors and food trucks from Berks County and beyond.

Now in its third year, the festival is an annual tradition for Julie and I. We have had this year’s edition marked on our calendars since the date was announced and while we weren’t the first people in line when the gates opened at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, we were there by 11 for an early lunch.

This year there was a $3 cover charge to enter the event. I don’t mind paying because I know that in addition to the barbecue there is live entertainment throughout the day, and those bands aren’t showing up for free.

Festival goers can order from their favorite barbecue stands ala carte, or for $10, they can pick up a Pit Master sample card. The sample card includes six tear-off tabs that can be redeemed at one of about a dozen stands for two-ounce samples.

Our first stop was to Backwoods Brothers Authentic Texas Cuisine. I’m sorry to say that they had the most disappointing sample of the six we tried.

Now, I love Backwoods Brothers (you can read about our visit to the restaurant here), but the sample cup they gave us had a half-bite of smoked sausage. And it was cold. At $10 per sample card, that means Julie and I each paid $1.67 for that.

After that, we were a little more selective.

Our second stop was Fire and Spice Competition BBQ and Catering, a Fleetwood based company that we have only ever experienced at the PA BBQ Fest.

They were serving up pulled pork – the go-to sample for most restaurants – with your choice of sauce. Julie went sweet, I went bold. Both were excellent, but I especially liked the bold sauce and its molasses base. It gives it a sweetness but with bigger flavor and thicker texture that I love.

Stop #3 was certainly unique among the festival’s offerings. Ziggy’s Roasters, a food truck based in Harleysville, Montgomery County, was serving samples of their “Krazy Korn.”

Normally served on the cob, Krazy Korn is corn smothered in mayo, parmesan and Cajun seasoning. For their samples, it was taken off the cob and topped with pulled pork in barbecue sauce.

It was like nothing that I have ever tried before. I won’t say that it was the best barbecue that I had all day, but the corn was so different. It was creamy with a little bit of heat. And with the sweet and savory mix of the pulled pork, it just worked. There was a lot of flavor packed in that little sample cup.

Both of our next two stops were offering barbecue that went beyond pulled pork.

First up was Jake’s Place, a Hamburg restaurant that was offering pit beef. I have never had the opportunity to visit Jake’s Place nor had I encountered them at other festivals before.

I was pleasantly surprised by the pit beef. It was cooked perfectly – tender, juicy and all of the other adjectives that you use to describe well-crafted beef. I will definitely have to pay a visit to the restaurant sometime.

The next stop was another restaurant that I had never visited before, the K’Town Pub Taphouse & BBQ.

When I was a student at Kutztown University, the Pub wasn’t much to speak of. At best, it was a dive. But the restaurant is all-new from the place I remember and now barbecue is the focus of the food menu.

Their offering at the PA BBQ Fest was a barbecue meatball. It’s not on the regular menu (according to their website), but it should be. It was a delightful mix of meats, including beef and pulled pork. Topped with a shot of barbecue sauce, it was stellar. I would eat this as a sandwich any day.

Our sixth and final stop for our Pit Master card was an old favorite, It’s Just Barbecue (aka the Pink Pig). We got a sample of their pulled pork, something that we have tasted many times before at similar events.

After we finished with our Pit Master cards, it was time to find one more thing for lunch. Julie loves the Pink Pig so much that she jumped into their regular line to order a beef brisket sandwich.

The brisket is thick, not thin sliced, making the sandwich feel more hearty. She layered on plenty of sweet barbecue sauce for a deliciously satisfying sandwich.

For my course, I had to go back to Ziggy’s for more of their corn. When I got there, I saw that I could order either corn on the cob or a cup o corn that could be topped with pulled pork. There was never any doubt that I would get the option with the barbecue.

I also got to choose my add-ons for the corn. Instead of the Krazy Korn standards, I went with one of my favorite flavor combinations: garlic and Parmesan (with butter, of course). Both the corn and the pork were great, though I think I should have stuck with what I had previously because it didn’t quite have the same affect when it was mixed together.

Still, I didn’t regret my decision and I will definitely seek out Ziggy’s in the future.

And there is no doubt that we will be back next July for the fourth annual PA BBQ Fest. We’re already looking forward to it.

The PA BBQ Fest is held annually at the Leesport Farmers Market in conjunction with the Mid-Summer Craft Fair in early July.

Food Festivals & Events

Food Blogger vs. Fat: Week 14

It’s Week 14 of Food Blogger vs. Fat (where does the time go?) and it’s update time. This week we celebrate a milestone while also celebrating the Fourth of July.

The Successes

In my open, I mentioned a milestone. That came on Sunday when I recorded my 100th consecutive of tracking my weight loss on the Lose It! app.

100 Days!

Lose It! has played a key role in my weight loss so far, helping to hold me accountable for everything that I eat.

Everything gets recorded in the app from a single teaspoon of ginger (two calories) to the regrettable McDonald’s milkshake (610 calories).

Many sources have cited the benefits of keeping a food diary – it makes you aware of how much food you’re actually eating, it makes you realize what exactly is going into your body and it makes you feel guilty about eating that extra snack.

All of those are true for me. I read nutritional labels a lot more closely than I should, and I spend way too much time researching restaurant meals before I go.

Without Lose It!, I would not have made it this far.

The Challenges

Recording everything has its downfalls, including knowing exactly where I went wrong in my dieting. This week was easy to find. It was the Fourth of July holiday weekend so Julie and I decided to take advantage of it (we each had off Saturday, July 1 through Tuesday, July 4) with several day trips.

Saturday we visited Harrisburg and the Pennsylvania State Museum. It’s a great museum – extremely family friendly – and I highly suggest it for anyone interested in their home state.

The Broad Street Market is a landmark in Harrisburg.

Before the museum, we made a stop at Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market.

Broad Street Market is one of the larger farmers’ markets that I have seen in the area. The market spans two buildings with several vendors set up in the open space in between.

One of the buildings is completely devoted to dine-in and takeout restaurants, and they cover the globe from Asia to the Caribbean and all places in between.

Tasty Dishes is one of many globally inspired restaurants in the Broad Street Market.

I couldn’t resist trying the market’s African kitchen – Tasty Dishes – and some jollof rice.

Jollof rice is yellow rice with a little bit of seasoning. It was served with stewed chicken legs and fried plantains.

Jollof rice with stewed chicken and fried plantains.

The best part was the chicken. It was a little sweet, not barbecue chicken but similar. It also went great with the rice.

The woman behind the counter asked me if I liked spicy and being the manly man that I am, I said yes. So she also gave me a dollop of spicy paste that consisted of ginger, garlic and jalapenos.

I didn’t feel so manly after I got my first taste. Julie said she could see my eyes light up when it hit my tongue. It was the last bite that was intentionally ingested.

Later that day we stopped at A&M Pizza in Lebanon for sandwiches. The rolls at A&M are some of the best around (I’ll be visiting the recently re-opened Wernersville location for a blog soon) and it’s a favorite stop of ours when we’re in the area.

I can’t get enough of A&M’s rolls.

I had the chicken parmesan sandwich and we shared my side of fries. It’s a lot of food, but I didn’t feel like I had overdone it on this day.

Sunday felt more like overdoing it when Julie and I made a late afternoon visit to Knoebels Grove.

As someone who doesn’t do roller coasters, Knoebels is my favorite amusement park (no entry fee means I don’t feel guilty watching other people riding the Phoenix). Knoebels also has great food – the best amusement park food in the country according to many surveys.

While we both enjoy the grab-and-go snacks throughout the park, Julie and I are big fans of Knoebels’ sit-down restaurant, the Alamo.

Don’t let the name fool you, there’s nothing southwestern about the Alamo. Instead, it’s a family restaurant with classic American diner food.

The roast beef dinner at the Alamo, featuring my favorite restaurant applesauce.

I had the roast beef with mashed potatoes and applesauce (if you read my blog from Sunday, you know why I was inspired to order it). It was served with a personal gravy boat to pour as I chose.

The roast beef is more of a pot roast-style with tender chunks that pull apart easily. The mashed potatoes are like homemade.

The applesauce deserves a paragraph of its own. It’s my favorite applesauce that I have eaten anywhere, a one-of-a-kind dish that is sweeter and packed with more flavor than any other version. It’s almost like eating a caramel apple that has been crushed into sauce. I love it.

The Gorgonzola cream sauce at Paganini in Doylestown was one my favorite dishes of the holiday weekend.

Monday was a day trip to Doylestown (I think we’ve about covered all points of the compass over the weekend) which included a heavy lunch at Paganini Ristorante. We both ordered ravioli – Julie with gorgonzola sauce, me with tomato sauce. She definitely had the better of the two, but mine was lighter.

And Tuesday was, of course, the Fourth of July and picnics. And a cup of ice cream from Sweet Ride at the West Reading fireworks.

The Results

Current Weight: 171.2
Weekly Weight Loss: -0.0
Total Weight Loss: -18.2

It was a wash this week, but that wasn’t surprising with my weigh-in coming after a heavy eating weekend (I weighed in Monday morning so Monday and Tuesday will affect this week’s weight).

The Week Ahead

There’s no rest for this weary food blogger this week. The holiday is behind me but on the horizon is the PA BBQ Fest at the Leesport Farmers Market. It’s one of my favorite events of the year because I get to try a lot of barbecue all in one place.

This Saturday and Sunday also marks the last weekend of this year’s Kutztown Folk Festival. Sure, there’s lots of great entertainment and history on display at the Folk Festival, but I’m in it for the food.

One thing about Pennsylvania Dutch food though: it’s not exactly low-cal. Neither is barbecue, come to think of it. Should be an interesting week (and a heck of recap next week).

Food Blogger Vs. Fat

Leesport Diner

Diners hold a special place in the hearts of many. They’re comfort food destinations that in many ways harken back to a bygone era.

And you certainly can’t mistake a great diner when you see one.

Leesport Diner shines brightly at the corner of Routes 61 and 73 just south of the Leesport borough line.

It replaced the Leesport Family Restaurant, a tired, worn down building that never seemed to have any cars outside. Toward the end, the former 24-hour diner had a plywood board out front with hours painted on it.

The only thing the restaurant had going for it was a great location. So it was no surprise that after the restaurant closed, a buyer stepped up and started over.

Everything about the new Leesport Diner looks clean and new, even though it is now more than a year old. The stainless steel still shines. The blue and white decor brightens the interior.

Leesport Diner is a stereotypical diner in many ways. There’s the obvious aesthetics. Then there’s the menu – a seemingly endless array of options including all-day breakfast. And what diner is complete without a soup and salad bar?

It may not be the largest salad bar in Berks County, but it is certainly one of the best that I have found. It has a range of ingredients with the most popular dressings. There are three made-fresh soups available. And for grain lovers, there is a case full of warm breads and rolls to choose from.

I loaded my plate – plates to be more specific – with all of the above. I built a salad with my favorite ingredients: lettuce, red onion, cucumber and ranch dressing. For my soup, I chose chicken orzo. And for my grain, a plump dinner roll that was calling my name.

All was good. The soup was a little salty, but was definitely hearty. The greens on the salad bar all tasted fresh. The warm roll was a good addition to my appetizer ensemble.

It wasn’t long after I finished my salad that my entree arrived. I looked through the entire menu at least twice before finally deciding on one of the weekend specials: chicken and spinach.

The Italian-inspired dish featured white meat chicken with spinach and red peppers in a white wine sauce – one of those dishes that fits for a diner but you would never see on an authentic Italian restaurant menu.

I enjoyed the flavors of the dish. The sauce was heavy and a little creamy, and it complemented all of the ingredients well. What I didn’t enjoy was the chicken. It was the processed chicken breast strips that felt artificially inflated, and it has that texture that just isn’t pleasant.

It’s really a shame because the flavor was very good. I just may have enjoyed it more without any meat.

Julie went with a meal that is on every diner menu in the country – roast beef and mashed potatoes.

There are two kinds of roast beef that you get at diners: the thin slice that’s closer to deli meat and the thick slice that feels more like a pot roast. This was the former.

Roast beef and mashed potatoes is an old favorite of mine from my trips to Risser’s Family Restaurant as a kid. Leesport Diner’s version is very much a comfort dish because it has that familiarity. The flavors are familiar and enjoyable.

As someone who has tried dishes from around the world and eaten at the highest quality restaurants, I still have a soft place in my heart for a good roast beef dinner. This was a good roast beef dinner.

And the food at Leesport Diner comes at reasonable prices as well. Our bill for the two dinners plus a glass of iced tea was right around $25, which is pretty standard for a diner today.

The Leesport Diner may not have the best food in Berks County, but it serves a niche and serves it well. It’s a nostalgia, but it’s also more than that.

A diner meal isn’t going to compare to a high-end steakhouse, but it’s enjoyable in its own way. That’s the legacy that Leesport Diner carries on.

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

Leesport Diner
5407 Pottsville Pk
Leesport, PA 19533

Leesport Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Diners Lunch & Dinner Reviews