Seven and a half years ago, in August 2011, Julie and I were married. And we celebrated with a reception at the Goggleworks. The downtown art center was the perfect venue for us.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, as Julie and I pulled into the parking lot, I realized that it had been seven and a half years since my last visit.
We were back, this time to check out Belly Kitchen & Drinkery, the on-site bar and restaurant that opened last year. Located just off the main entrance, Belly’s dining area blends into the galleries. Our high top table had fine crafted wooden stools. The table itself was filled with sawdust – presumably from the wood studio. Stark metal tables and chairs were spread throughout the rest of the space. A duo – guitar and keyboard – played from a spot along the wall.
I had heard good things about Belly’s Sunday Jazz Brunch. The weekly brunches started in December and feature a special menu with live local jazz musicians.
The rest of the week, Belly is open for lunch and dinner with a menu that includes salads, sandwiches and apps. On Sundays the offerings expand to include inspired breakfast entrees like blueberry cheesecake crepes and breakfast nachos and lunch items like the vegetarian roast beet. They also have a full bar with mixed drinks and Sly Fox beer on tap.
Meals are ordered at the bar/counter area. I noticed a large box full of novelty stress toys on the counter. These were handed out to customers in lieu of numbers.
I was handed a lightbulb. “I’ll give you this because you look bright.”
“Tell that to my wife,” I replied, getting the slightest obligatory laugh.
A day before our visit, I saw a Facebook post advertising the brunch. It featured a photo of the Brooklyn pan perdu. It was not a dish that I had heard of or seen on any other Berks County menu, but the moment I saw it, I knew I had to try it.
It looked like French toast, and it essentially is, but instead of a white bread, it’s made with Green’s chocolate babka, a sweet kosher bread. After an egg wash and some time on the grill, it was topped with a salted caramel maple drizzle and served with a yogurt “smear” with pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
While it may have looked like French toast, there was no mistaking this for any other dish I have ever tried. It was so rich and the chocolate flavor really shined through in every bite. The glaze melted away and made it perfectly sweet. I savored every bite of my two slices of babka. When I was done, I wished I had another order that I could dig into, not because I was hungry, but because they were that good.
Julie’s brunch was even more intricate. She had ordered the Durham plate, two stacks of breakfast goodness that started with a buttermilk biscuit. The biscuits were topped with fried green tomatoes, maple glazed sausage patties, pimento cheese, poached eggs and cornbread crumble.
Every ingredient was done to perfection and they came together so well. In the bite she let me try, the sausage shined through, but for Julie, the first thing she noticed was the fried green tomatoes. The egg ran into the nooks and crannies of the biscuit. Every bite was a little different, but all of them were delicious.
The plate was garnished with potato sticks, another classic snack from childhood that neither of us had tasted in a long time, but one that was definitely enjoyed.
Add on a strawberry lemonade and a bottle of water from the fridge and we spent around $30 for our meal.
And it was a memorable meal at that.
I won’t say that our visit to Belly Kitchen & Drinkery was as memorable as our wedding reception – that would be hard to top.
But when it comes to the food, Belly Kitchen wins, hands down. Our wedding made the Goggleworks a special place for us. Belly makes it a place we want to hang out all the time.
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Belly Kitchen & Drinkery
Goggleworks Center for the Arts
201 Washington St
Reading, PA 19601