Driving along Route 100 near Bechtelsville, it’s hard not to notice the bright blue Chevy Bel-Air on the rooftop of the namesake Bel-Air Ice Cream, Burgers & More.
I don’t drive that way often, but I happened to drive past it twice in one week, and the new restaurant caught my eye and had me intrigued. And neither Julie nor I can’t resist burgers and ice cream.
The restaurant opened in late May in the former Woodside Family Restaurant. It’s one of a handful of restaurants that fall within Berks County along the Route 100 corridor. We pulled in on a Saturday night, and while the parking lot wasn’t packed, the restaurant was clearly busy.
Between the checkerboard floor, the stainless-steel accents and the tabletop jukeboxes, the Bel-Air is a callback to the 1950s and proud of it. Mini collections of retro collectibles line the walls, including a parade of Bel-Air die-casts and a shelf full of Coca-Cola merchandise.
Based on reviews we saw – and based on what we witnessed at the restaurant – customer are confused about how it works. Unlike the Woodside which formally occupied the space, Bel-Air is not a full-service restaurant. Instead, customers are directed to grab a menu, order at the counter and seat themselves. The food will be delivered the table, but no one is going to come to the table to take an order.
So while Julie took Jakob out of his car seat to feed, I placed our order.
The dinner menu at Bel-Air is primarily made up of burgers and hot dogs with a few other sandwiches and some fried appetizers thrown in. But that’s not to say there aren’t options. There are 15 different burgers and 10 hot dog creations on the menu plus build-your-own options for both. Both Julie and I went with burgers – the Hot Rod for me and the Billy the Kid for her.
The Hot Rod burger is topped with chili and Provolone cheese. The melted cheese actually did a reasonable job of sealing in the chili – a pretty good, mostly bean-filled sauce. I don’t know that Provolone was the best cheese to go with the burger (when I think chili, I think cheddar) but it worked. I thought the burger itself was very good and cooked perfectly. And the toasted roll was a great addition.
Julie’s burger came topped with onion rings, barbecue sauce and Swiss cheese. It was good combination, though in the bite that Julie gave me I thought the sauce was a little too sweet for the burger. But the onion rings were good and like mine, the burger was really well cooked.
Chips are the default side for all burgers, but both Julie and I spent the extra $1.50 for a French fry upgrade. And we were glad we did.
The fries were the fresh-cut variety, skins on and easily snackable (don’t be thrown off by the stock photo of chicken fingers and steak fries that appears on the menu). I thought they were very good, though I had to throw some salt and pepper on them for just a little added flavor.
After we finished, it was my turn to take care of our seven-month-old while Julie ordered our dessert. She came back to me for cash because, despite having an obviously full cash drawer, they wouldn’t break the $50 bill that she had in her purse. Thankfully I had a $10 so we avoided having to add $8 to our credit card.
Her frustration continued as she had ordered her ice cream in a pretzel cone, but instead saw it being dipped into a dish. But the situation was quickly fixed and she got her cone of Hershey’s chocolate moose tracks.
Hershey’s is the brand of choice in the ice cream freezer, though there was a Turkey Hill ice cream sign in one of the windows as well. Bel-Air also offers soft serve, which is what I chose as the base for my Kit Kat Delight sundae.
The vanilla soft serve was topped with a whole Kit Kat bar, caramel sauce, hot fudge, whipped cream and the obligatory cherry on top. I was actually surprised by how many bits of Kit Kat were broken up in the sundae – it was hard to see what I was getting underneath the mountain of whipped cream.
In the end, we were both happy with our choices and left the restaurant very full.
Between dinner, dessert and our drinks, we spent about $30. That’s not a bad price at all for dinner for two.
Bel-Air’s closest comparison in Berks is probably Billy Burger and Bakery on the opposite end of the county. Both restaurants specialize in burgers and fries, but don’t mistake them for fast food. The burgers are made to order, and at Bel-Air, they are cooked to your specification.
I don’t think Bel-Air is on the level of Billy Burger – the food isn’t quite up to that standard and the staff, mostly teenagers on summer break, could be a little friendlier and more polished. The restaurant management could also do a better job explaining to first-time customers that orders are to be placed at the counter. We saw many confused customers mistakenly waiting to be seated or questioning the process.
That said, the food was good. It was reasonably priced. They have great ice cream. And quite frankly, it’s a really cool place.
All those things make it worth the visit if you’re in the area.
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Very Reasonable
Bel-Air Ice Cream, Burgers & More
913 Route 100
Bechtelsville, PA 19505