Gourmand Cafe Veggie Panini

Gourmand Cafe – West Reading – CLOSED

Gourmand Cafe West Reading Exterior

Editor’s Note July 2020: The West Reading location for Gourmand Cafe is now closed. The cafe closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and will not reopen. Gourmand continues to operate its Wyomissing location and its food truck.

By now, most Berks County residents know the name Gourmand. It started with the food truck that introduced the county to “artisan street food.” That was followed by multiple brick-and-mortar locations (some that have already come and gone).

The Gourmand brand has truly been everywhere around Berks County.

In March, Gourmand expanded their empire again, this time opening a cafe amid the busy dining scene in West Reading.

Gourmand Cafe Interior 2

The Gourmand Cafe sits on the 700 block of Penn Avenue in the former Relish, a cafe and coffee shop that operated for about two years.

I visited on a Friday afternoon in July and found a much quieter place than I was expecting. Only one other table was filled  as a mother and daughter enjoyed lunch by the front window.

Gourmand Cafe Interior 1

The menu written on the chalkboard behind the counter didn’t match the printed one. The burgers advertised on the chalkboard, I was told, were no longer available. Unfortunately a chalkboard artist had not been brought in yet to scroll the new menu.

What was left on the menu was mostly light fare like avocado toast, bagels, breakfast sandwiches and salads. A few sandwiches were available and ultimately I settled on a veggie panini.

It was a surprisingly hearty vegetarian entree consisting of (as listed on the menu) pressed sourdough with hummus, cucumber, mushroom pate, avocado, arugula and balsamic reduction.

Gourmand Cafe Veggie Panini

The hummus was easily my favorite part. It has a great flavor (read Julie’s review of the other Gourmand Cafe for more on their hummus) and it is an excellent base to start a sandwich. The cucumber, especially, mixed really well with it, and avocado is always a hit with me. It’s not the gut-busting Berks sandwich, but it was very good.

With no fryer, there are no fries. Instead, all sandwiches are served with Gourmand’s seasoned pretzels. The broken hard pretzels are coated with ranch flavoring for a simple, but good side.

On a whim, I also ordered a strawberry bubble tea to accompany my meal. It was refreshing and a nice change of pace from my usual unsweetened iced tea.

Gourmand Cafe Strawberry Bubble Tea

I certainly enjoyed my meal, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Gourmand’s West Reading location doesn’t really fit with the brand. My past Gourmand experiences have included a fried sweet bologna sandwich, pastrami and cheese-topped fries, and an Italian steak sandwich. The West Reading menu is the complete opposite.

It doesn’t help that the updated menu (sans burgers) isn’t available online. The only menu posted on Gourmand’s Facebook page is from the restaurant’s opening and includes four burger options. Gourmand’s website only features the menu for the Berkshire Cafe with items like truffled goat cheese fries and ahi ceviche fish tacos. 

The food was very good. The cafe had a nice vibe to it. Even with the bubble tea my meal was less than $15. And I can’t complain about the service, but I still felt a little disappointed.

As I finished up my meal, I heard the manager tell someone that the Cafe is Gourmand’s healthy alternative.

I guess I’m just more of an “artisan street food” kind of guy.

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

Gourmand Cafe
715 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Cafes & Coffeeshops Closed Reviews Vegan & Vegetarian

Brocmar Smokehouse – West Reading – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Brocmar Smokehouse’s West Reading location is now closed as of October 10, 2019. Brocmar continues to operate at the Shillington Farmers Market, its arena and stadium locations, and its mobile food truck and catering business. B2 Bistro, which Brocmar shared the space with, is continuing to offer barbecue with the newly opened BBQ Smokehouse at B2.

In January 2018, we made our first visit to Brocmar Smokehouse at the Shillington Farmers Market. By this time, the local barbecue company was already running a stand at the Santander Arena.

The Farmers Market was their second location and featured an expanded menu that included the Brocmar Taco – the dish of smoked meat, coleslaw and barbecue sauce atop a corn cake that made our list of Favorite Entrees for 2018.

And Brocmar’s stand at FirstEnergy Stadium, which opened for the 2018 season, has become my go-to for ballpark foods.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2019 and Brocmar Smokehouse is now four locations strong with the opening of their first full-service restaurant at the Lofts at Narrows in West Reading. The new Brocmar shares a space with the B2 Cafe – the grab-and-go breakfast side of B2 Bistro. Under the partnership, B2 continues serving coffee and breakfast while Brocmar takes over for lunch and dinner service.

Two weeks ago,  I was invited to the friends and family opening. So Julie, Jakob and I stopped in last Friday evening for a first taste of the new Brocmar.

While the restaurant is attached to B2, Brocmar has fully taken over the space. From the Brocmar sign painted on the brick outside to the high-top tables made out of barrels in the dining room. Honestly, it feels more at home with the industrial salvage motif than B2 does.

This was only the second night of table service for a business that has never done it before so there were hiccups to work out. We were seated promptly and we put in our drink order quickly but were told that Jamie would be taking care of us after that. Jamie never came so it was obvious that they’re still learning who is responsible for which tables, but things were smooth after that.

For the friends and family event, we were encouraged to order a lot of food and to try some of the new offerings along with the old. After we ordered, it wasn’t long before a large tray filled with sample dishes arrived at our table.

The friends and family preview menu was “limited.” About the only thing that wasn’t available was my beloved Brocmar taco. But that just meant an opportunity to broaden my horizons – appropriate since that’s exactly what Brocmar was doing as well.

(Gary, the owner and pitmaster, offered to have one delivered to us anyway, but we declined. If you want to read about the Brocmar taco, click here).

Brocmar offers eight different sauces, and I’ve tried just about all of them now. Preview night was my first exposure to the Mississippi Comeback sauce – listed as a “classic southern dipping sauce for fried foods.” Appropriately, it was drizzled atop my order of fried catfish.

Long time readers know that I am not a fan of seafood but I was pressured into trying the catfish. I have to say, I actually enjoyed it. There wasn’t much of a fishy taste to speak of. Instead, most of the flavor came from the combination of the breading and the sauce. The comeback definitely had a kick to it – not as much as the cayenne-based Moonshine sauce – but enough to get your attention. And both Julie and I really enjoyed it. I would actually order it again sometime.

My favorite among Brocmar’s sauces is still the Cripple Creek. Made with bourbon and brown sugar, the Cripple Creek sauce is a dark, thick sauce with deep flavor and just enough sweetness. It works on everything, but I especially enjoyed it on our loaded tots.

The golden brown tots come topped with cheese sauce (we had it on the side) and choice of meat – for us, brisket. All of the ingredients are good, but it was the addition of the sauce that made it great for me. Adding that rich, smokey flavor to the tots and brisket was perfect.

Among the other samplers we got were the smoked wings. Unlike the fried version, these had a nice char around the outside. Julie found it to be a little too well done, but I thought the char from the smoker added some excellent flavor.

I thought the same about the ribs. They were charred on the outside but the meat still came off the bone easily. And with a few drops of sauce, they were very enjoyable.

Both Julie and I also ordered sandwiches (to be fair, we thought we were getting half-sandwiches, not whole sandwiches cut in half) with our favorite barbecue meats – brisket for Julie, pulled pork for me.

There’s nothing I can say about Brocmar’s smoked meats that I haven’t already said. They know what they are doing, and they are doing it right.

I did, however, use the opportunity to try out a couple new sauces. The Moonshine sauce – Brocmar’s hot sauce – was way hotter than I expected. I was a much bigger fan of the Red Dirt Road sauce, a black pepper-based sauce that went really well with the pulled pork. I also found the Hokey Pokey sauce to be a good pairing too. It’s described as “mild and sweet with a little twang.” It’s a classic ‘cue sauce that I enjoyed, for sure.

Like his parents, Jakob is also a big fan of Brocmar. Our 19-month-old loves Brocmar’s mac and cheese. We knew that going in to the meal. What we didn’t know was how much he loves Brocmar’s baked beans.

I don’t blame him either. The baked beans are unique in that it’s a blend of black and red beans. The sauce is just sweet enough.

None of us needed anything else, but there was “Nanner Pudding” waiting.

Thankfully it was a small sample, but it was more than enough to get a taste of the delicious dessert – sweet pudding topped with fresh cut bananas. The only problem is that I have never had room for dessert after a Brocmar taco.

But maybe the opening of the new location will get us to broaden our horizons a little more when it comes to Brocmar Smokehouse. We certainly tried more on this night than in all of our previous trips to the Shillington Farmers Market combined.

And all of it was delicious. If they can nail the service – again, this was their second night of running a full-service restaurant – the new location will become a mainstay in the crowded West Reading dining scene.

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

Brocmar Smokehouse – West Reading
10 S. Summit Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Closed

Signatures by Angell Cafe – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: The Morgantown Farmers Marketplace closed at the end of March 2019, just a few months after opening. Signatures by Angell continues to operate as a catering and meal prep business in Delaware.

In early November, a newspaper story caught my attention. It wasn’t in the Reading Eagle, but in LNP, Lancaster’s local paper.

The article announced the arrival of the Morgantown Farmers Marketplace, a 25-vendor market located behind the Dollar General and Kog Hill Winery – just over the border in Lancaster County.

What caught my attention more than anything wasn’t the farmers market, itself, but the paper’s mention of a stand selling Southern comfort food.

A couple months later in early January, Julie, Jakob and I made the drive down I-176 and the Morgantown Expressway to check it out.

The Marketplace is an eclectic group of vendors. There were hemp products, sports figures, soaps and vintage arcade games, all under one roof. It’s not much of a farmers market, though.

There’s a small produce stand and a deli. And then there’s Signatures by Angell Cafe.

Chef Angell is a celebrity chef from the Greater Philadelphia area, teaching classes and hosting cooking demonstrations around southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware – where her catering business is based.

The Morgantown cafe is an extension of the catering, a place to get her “signature” soul food every Thursday through Sunday. It features a limited menu that rotates weekly, but two items that seem to be on the menu every week are fried chicken and southern smothered chicken.

Smothered chicken is slow-cooked chicken served in sausage gravy. It’s a simple dish, but Angell does it very well. It’s fresh chicken, not processed strips, and there was plenty of it. The sausage gravy was heavy but good. I was surprised by how well the sausage and chicken worked together. And the potato roll hiding underneath the gravy – while a small touch -added a mild sweetness to the dish.

I would definitely order it again.

For my two sides, I ordered the braised collard greens and sweet potato soufflé. The collards were tossed with smoked turkey, giving it a savory and salty flavor to go with the bitter greens. The soufflé was excellent: sweet and hearty.

Julie was really hoping to try an order of fried chicken, but they were sold out for the day by the time we arrived. (When she didn’t see a fryer in the open kitchen, she was ok with not having any).

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your point of view – Julie also ordered the smothered chicken. She also doubled on the sweet potatoes (the cafe has a very limited menu of three entrees and three to four sides each week) but for her second side chose the macaroni and cheese.

The idea was to share the mac and cheese with our one-year-old son Jakob, but he was too busy watching everything going on around him to eat. The Hunger Games  was playing on the TV behind us, just what we wanted him to watch.

Julie enjoyed it, though. Because mac and cheese is one of Jakob’s favorite dishes, Julie has also eaten a lot of macaroni lately. This was one of the better ones that she has had recently.

The only real negative we had about our meal is that we had to hold Jakob throughout the meal. There was plenty of seating – picnic tables and cafe seats – but no high chairs and no chairs with backs where we could secure his portable chair we carry with us. That’s on the market, though, not the cafe.

Everything about the Cafe was very good – even the $35 price tag felt reasonable for the quality of the food that we received.

The Morgantown Farmers Marketplace could use a little work yet, but Signatures by Angell Cafe is a great anchor to have. Our meal certainly makes me want to go back.

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

Closed Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Park Road Cafe Sleasy Caprese

Park Road Cafe – MOVED

Editor’s Note: Park Road Cafe has moved to 550 Penn Avenue in West Reading, opening in their new location in July 2020.

The Park Road Cafe is one of Berks County’s newest restaurants. Named for the Wyomissing street where it sits in a shopping center, the restaurant took over the former Green Bean Cafe (later, Meat Up Delicatessen)

Both of its predecessors were short-lived. The former – an all-organic cafe – lasted about nine months. The latter – a New York-style deli – made it two more.

By mid-summer, the space was vacant and the transformation into the Park Road Cafe began. And you wouldn’t recognize the space from the inside. The new look is clean and bold. (The murals of vegetables had already been removed with the changeover to the deli).

The only “problem” we had with the change is the lack of seating. There are only about eight tables plus a small loveseat and matching chair in the corner. And to be fair, there wasn’t a lot of seating before, either.

Another couple claimed the couch and Julie took the chair – the last seat available in the room. That left me sitting on the window ledge. (There are more tables outside, but winter has arrived early so they’re not getting much use).

The menu isn’t large, but that’s not a bad thing. I’ll take quality over quantity any day. And the food at the Park Road Cafe is definitely quality.

With only seven sandwich options to choose from at lunch, our decisions were easy. For me, it was the Sleasy Caprese. It’s a dirty-sounding name, but a delicious sandwich with grilled chicken, basil pesto, mozzarella, tomato, balsamic glaze and rosemary butter served on wheatberry oat bread.

I didn’t get much of a taste for the rosemary butter, but I loved everything else. The ingredients tasted fresh and vibrant and there was just enough balsamic to give it the distinct flavor without overpowering everything. And the bread held up nicely and never got soggy, always a bonus.

Julie’s Aww Brie sandwich came served on an equally sturdy brioche bun. Sliced turkey, melted brie, garlic aioli, arugula and berry jam made for a unique flavor experience.

Sure, it was reminiscent of a Thanksgiving-inspired sandwich, but the garlic aioli added depth of flavor that made it different enough to stand out.

Both sandwiches were served with kettle chips, an expected but enjoyable side.

We cleared our plates but neither of us felt like we had been cheated – comfortably full is how we felt after we had finished.

And we didn’t feel cheated on the price either. At a little more than $20, it was a fair price to pay for a lunch. I will say that it is not the fastest lunch that you are going to find in Berks County – it was a solid 20 minutes from the time we arrived until our food was brought to our table.

But I will take that wait when the food is this good.

Hopefully Park Road Cafe has hit on the recipe for success that it’s predecessors couldn’t.

So far, so good.

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

Park Road Cafe
840 N. Park Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Closed Reviews

A&M Pizza and Grill – CLOSED

 

Update: A&M Pizza in Wernersville is now closed as of October 2018. No official word was given by A&M but the restaurant went dark starting in early October.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can never go back again?”

The idea is that no matter how good things were, you can’t replicate the success years later.

Ironically, this exact thing happened twice last year with Berks County restaurants. Dino’s Wings & Things reopened a second location in Birdsboro. And A&M Pizza returned to Berks County and to its former location in Wernersville.

Dino’s is closed less than a year after it reopened.  As for A&M? The Wernersville location is still going. Again.

A&M was a staple of my adolescence in western Berks County. I remember many stops at the old freight-station-turned-restaurant just off Penn Avenue in Wernersville.

All good things must come to an end, however. A&M moved out and the old station was home to a rotation of less-than-successful restaurants including The Trolley Stop, Feliciano’s, and DiCarlo’s.

The only way to satisfy a craving for A&M’s food was to make a road trip to Lebanon. The Cumberland Street location became a go-to for me, and eventually, Julie.

A highlight of every visit was listening to the owner mumble the order numbers over the restaurant’s PA system.

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But the other highlight was always the food – especially the sandwiches. A&M has a signature roll that’s flatter and more rectangular than a standard hoagie roll. The shape of the roll means that the sandwiches are almost always overflowing.

I love their meatball parm sandwiches. The meatballs and sauce are both very good (though I wouldn’t call them the best), but mixed with the roll, it is one of my favorite sandwiches.

As loyal A&M customers, you can imagine how excited we were when the Wernersville location reopened in 2017. An old favorite, back where it belonged.

It’s hard to remember what the restaurant used to look like inside, but the new incarnation of A&M is a cute little spot with a surprising amount of seating. There’s a TV on the back wall, a few assorted pictures and wall hangings, and a Coke dispenser with a sign asking to limit refills to one per customer.

We stopped in to pick up a couple pizzas to take to my parents’ house in Robesonia. And while take-out is probably the majority of the business at A&M, it’s certainly a place where you can sit down and enjoy a meal.

One pie was an old stand-by: pepperoni. The other was a little different, the Caprese.

The pepperoni pie was standard fare for a pizza place. The cheese was nearly covered with mild pepperoni. And it was greasy. This is what childhood dreams are made of.

As an adult, however, I much prefer the Caprese pizza. It most closely resembled a margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella instead of shredded cheese and fresh basil leafs on top. The biggest difference is the use of tomato sauce instead of fresh tomatoes that would be found on margherita pies.

The basil is what really makes this pizza. Bites that had leaves of the herb were sweeter and more rich in flavor than those that didn’t. More than anything, it accented the tomato sauce, making it taste sweeter than those bites without it.

Our two medium pies cost about $25. We didn’t place the most cost-effective order, but with six of us sharing the two pies, we had exactly enough slices for everyone. And $25 split six ways isn’t bad at all.

So, is the old adage true? Can you truly never go back again?

In our case, it’s not true. There’s no question that we will be going back to A&M again.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Fair
Value: Reasonable

A&M Pizza and Grill
10 W. Penn Ave
Wernersville, PA 19565

A & M Pizza and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Brocmar Smokehouse – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Brocmar Smokehouse closed its Shilington Farmers Market location in August 2020 after being unable to negotiate a new lease. Brocmar is now looking to sell their sauces and rubs in retail stores and are exploring options for a new location.

One of the bigger stories in Berks County’s food scene last year was the sale of the Shillington Farmers Market.

Julie and I had visited the market about three years ago and were so disappointed in the offerings that we never went back.

But there’s a renewed energy around the market. New stands are opening, and old favorites like Betty’s Salads are returning.

Among the new stands to arrive is Brocmar Smokehouse. The barbecue business opened in the market in December after spending the summer building its brand at events around Berks County.

Reading Royals fans may already be familiar with the Brocmar name. Before opening their Shillington location, Brocmar got a head start, operating a small stand at the Santander Arena during Royals home games.

But the Farmers Market takes the business to another level, giving the business a physical location, regular hours and a greater potential reach.

The Farmers Market hours make it difficult for us to get there for dinner, but an underwhelming snowstorm was enough to close my office and allow us to make it to Brocmar long before the market’s 6 p.m. closing time.

While the Farmers Market is certainly a step forward for the business, it doesn’t allow for much of a dine-in experience. There are only two round tables – enough to seat eight at the most.

As Julie and I looked over the menu board, a woman sitting at one of the tables said “everything here is good.” She was waiting for a take-out order, her third in three weeks from the Smokehouse, she said.

A father and son stood in front of us in line, a written order in hand that seemed to include one of everything on the menu. That was fine with us as it gave us plenty of time to settle on our choices.

Julie and I pulled up chairs at one of the tables with Jakob in the stroller next to us. Fifteen minutes or so passed before our food was delivered and we got our first taste of Brocmar.

Passing on turkey, sausage, chicken and ribs, I instead went with my favorite barbecued meat – pulled pork – topping it with the Cripple Creek sauce, one of Brocmar’s six housemade options.

The sauce is a bourbon and brown sugar that’s bold and sweet, but not spicy. It really brought out the best in the pulled pork, which was tender with crispy charred ends that gave it a slightly crunchy texture.

It was a beautiful blend, and together the meat and sauce were a great combo.

On the side, I enjoyed an order of hush puppies and a cup of slaw.

While we were waiting for our food, we saw an order of hush puppies being carried across the market and back. I asked about it later. “The number one question we got when we opened was, ‘What are hushpuppies?’ but we now we sell them every day.” It turns out, Brocmar doesn’t have a fryer. Instead, they fry up the hush puppies at the cafe across the market.

That’s only part of the work that goes into one order of hush puppies. The deep-fried corn fritters are hand-rolled with fresh green onion. It’s all worth it though for what is a perfect accompaniment to the main course.

The coleslaw was also very good, but it was even better as part of the Brocmar taco, Julie’s entree choice for the evening.

Barbecue is one of those foods that just seems to work well as part of a more comprised dish. The Brocmar Taco is one of those dishes. It starts with a cornbread cake, then it’s topped with your choice of meat (brisket, for Julie), slaw and sauce.

There were a lot of flavors coming together. The cornbread – the taco “shell” – had a rich corn flavor. The brisket was tender and juicy. And the creaminess of the coleslaw soaked into every layer.

To top it off, Julie added the honey bee barbecue sauce, which added a sweetness and mild spice throughout. It all came together to create an excellent dish.

It was also a hearty dish that we were both surprised that Julie was able to finish. But for a reasonable $23, we weren’t too upset that there were no leftovers for later.

As a whole, Brocmar Smokehouse delivered. It was some very good barbecue that left us wanting to try even more.

And because of Brocmar, we will be back to the Shillington Farmers Market soon.

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

Brocmar Smokehouse
The Shillington Farmers Market
10 S. Summit Ave
Shillington, PA 19607

Brocmar Smokehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Barbecue Closed Farmers Market Meals Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Kathryn’s Grille – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Kathryn’s Grille is now closed. The restaurant originally cut back its hours before closing in early 2018.

Great restaurants have an identity. That’s the case everywhere, including Berks County.

Willoughby’s on Park is a high-end steakhouse. Tomcat Cafe is creative breakfast. Nonno Alby’s Wood Oven Pizza is…wood oven pizza.

For all of these, you know what you’re getting before you go. But there are many restaurants where, at first glance, it’s a little harder.

Kathryn’s Grille, one of Berks County’s newest restaurants, falls into the latter category.

The Douglassville restaurant is located just off westbound Route 422 in a small shopping center formerly home to Amity Ice Cream and OVO BYOB.

It’s a cozy spot with mostly tables for two and a few four-seaters. It’s also one of the nicest dining rooms around: minimalistic in its decor with soft grays and blacks that give it a slightly upscale feel.

But something about the menu just doesn’t seem to fit. It features fried appetizers and wings (50 cents on Sunday), assorted burgers and sandwiches, and eight entree options.

The entrees themselves are an interesting mix. There’s a New York strip steak, seafood options including crab cakes and grilled salmon, and a couple Italian specialties (chicken Parmesan and chicken marsala).

Meanwhile, the sides – fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, apple sauce, etc. – scream diner.

For my entree, I decided on the filet beef tips over egg noodles. They were tossed with a blend of mushrooms (cremini, shiitake and domestic, according to the menu) and caramelized onions.

At first, I wasn’t really into it. The noodles on top were very dry. But as I dug deeper, I found increasingly vibrant flavors as the onions and mushrooms soaked into the dish. The steak was fine, but it needed those other flavors to really elevate it.

On the menu, it listed that the meat and mushrooms were in a caramelized onion beef gravy. While the onions were present, there was no gravy. It wasn’t until I was writing this review and looked at the menu again that I realized that gravy was advertised. No wonder the noodles were dry.

None of the sides really paired well with the meal, but being forced to choose one, I went with the day’s special, a vegetable medley of roasted peppers and squash.

Even while we sat there, I joked with Julie that “vegetable medley” is code for vegetables that need to be used before they go bad. The peppers were actually very good, and it was certainly an interesting mix, but not something that I would order again.

I suppose I could have done a side salad, but then I would have preferred that as an appetizer, not a side.

Among the appetizers available is the French onion soup – the only soup with a permanent place on menu. It sounded like a good way to start the meal.

Our waitress asked if I would prefer it in a crock or a bread bowl. I had no choice but to go with the traditional crock.

The soup was topped with a combination of Swiss and Provolone cheeses. The soup itself was good if a little salty, but I thought the cheeses didn’t work as well with it as a more traditional gruyere. They didn’t melt very well and didn’t complement the flavors of soup in the same way.

Provolone cheese was a key ingredient in Julie’s entree, the “Dip It” prime rib sandwich. It was a typical French dip with a glass of au jus for dipping.

It was a good sandwich. The roll was excellent, soaking up the au jus well. I wouldn’t call it the best French dip around, but Julie enjoyed it.

Sandwiches are served with house-made chips. These were excellent. The small waffle-cut chips were well-salted, bite sized and perfect for snacking.

Toward the end of our meal, the owner (I assume) came around and stopped at every table to ask how their meals were. He then dimmed the lights slightly “I don’t want it to feel like a cafeteria.”

I guess “cafeteria” is one thing that Kathryn’s is not.

But I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

Here’s what I do know about Kathryn’s: The sandwich was good and so were the chips. The beef tips needed that gravy. The French onion soup left something to be desired. And it was $40 for our meal.

So where does that leave us? Conflicted. It’s a restaurant with potential, but it’s lacking something. Hopefully they can figure out what that is.

Kathryn’s Grille
1 Park Ln
Douglassville, PA 19518

Kathryn's Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Cosa's ragu bolongese has layers of flavor from the sauce, homemade pasta and herbs

Cosa Pizzeria & Restaurant – CLOSED

Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant opened in May in the former Basil outside Sinking Spring.

Editor’s Note – Cosa Pizzeria & Restaurant closed in fall 2017 after less than a year operating in this location.

Restaurants close and restaurants open. There have been more than a few times on Berks County Eats where I have visited the same location more than once to try a new restaurant that has taken the place of one that went away.

Early in 2017, Basil Restaurant and Pizzeria outside Sinking Spring closed its doors for the last time. In stepped in Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant, giving us the opportunity to return to a familiar place for a new experience.

The dining areas look much the same as they did when Basil Restaurant and Pizzeria operated at the same location.

Cosa opened in the space on Fritztown Road in May, picking up where Basil had left off. And while the restaurant looks much the same as it did when it was Basil, subtle changes have already begun. Lunch service was ended and the restaurant now opens at 4 p.m. daily.

The menu is all-new. There’s a strong focus on pizza, but Cosa also offers 10 entree options and a selection of sandwiches.

Also new was the pairing for our complimentary bread. Along with the olive oil was a bowl with a mix of potatoes, tomatoes, herbs and oil.

Bread, olive oil, and a potato and tomato salad made for an interesting appetizer.

It was an interesting combination with the thick, airy slices of bread, but it worked. It felt like an Italian potato salad more than a bruschetta because there was no crunch of the crostini or strong balsamic overtones. The potatoes were soft and created a unique taste and texture. Julie and I both tried it and liked it, but left most of it because it was too heavy for us to finish without ruining our appetites.

Cosa offers the standard house salad with mixed greens, cucumbers, carrots, onions, cherry tomatoes and croutons.

Our house salads were next to arrive a short time later. It was your basic starter salad with mixed greens, sliced onions, cherry tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers, topped with a handful of croutons. It was presented beautifully, and everything was fresh. It was everything I look for in a salad, setting the tone for a good meal to come.

Both Julie and I picked from the selection of entrees. My choice was the ragu alla Bolognese.

Cosa's ragu bolongese has layers of flavor from the sauce, homemade pasta and herbs

It featured house-made pappardelle pasta and a traditional ragu with ground veal, sofrito, red wine, crushed tomato and cream.

Normally, I’m not a big fan of veal, but I was a big fan of this dish. The meat added a richness that was perfect for the slightly creamy tomato sauce. The sauce was thick enough and the pasta cooked well enough that that sauce stuck, never sliding off to pool at the bottom of the bowl.

There was a depth of flavor to the dish as well with just enough seasoning to bring out the best in the ingredients.

Cosa's ricotta gnocchi is served in brown butter with pancetta and parmigiano reggiano.

Julie’s ricotta gnocchi was another excellent dish.

We have had gnocchi served many different ways. This was our first taste of ricotta gnocchi, using the rich cheese as a base instead of potatoes. It was tossed in brown butter with pancetta, fresh sage and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Brown butter is a favorite of both of ours – a guilty pleasure because a big pool of butter is not the healthiest sauce – and it worked really well with the ricotta gnocchi here. The fresh sage mixed in really shined through and gave a bright, herby flavor to the whole dish. And the pancetta added salt to the dish while giving it a savory element.

Both of our meals were very well done, and we took half of each home for later meals.

Our total bill was about $35, but we only had to spend about $10 because Cosa accepts gift certificates from the former Basil, including our $25 gift certificate that had gone unused.

We certainly did not want to see Basil close, but Cosa is proving to be a worthy replacement, carrying the mantle and providing delicious Italian food to the Sinking Spring area.

Hopefully others enjoy it, too, so we won’t be returning to review another new restaurant anytime soon.

Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant
776 Fritztown Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Julie's blueberry-banana smoothie bowl with almond milk and granola.

The Green Bean Cafe – CLOSED

The Green Bean Cafe Wyomissing

Editor’s Note: The Green Bean Cafe is now closed. The owner reopened the location as a new concept, The Meat Up Delicatessen, in May 2018 before closing less than two months later.

I always get excited when a new restaurant opens up, but the Green Bean Cafe was a different level of excitement for me.

It’s not just that Berks County would be getting an all-organic cafe, but that the all-organic cafe would be just blocks away from my house.

Having walked past the Park Road strip mall that now houses the cafe (the same one where you will find Mikura Asian Bistro and Nino’s Italian Restaurant), we had peeked in at the renovations and watched as the mural came to life behind the counter.

Inside the Green Bean Cafe in Wyomissing, PA.

So we decided to make the short walk to the cafe for Saturday morning breakfast during its opening week.

It was a little before 9 a.m. when we arrived, and there was only one other customer – a lone woman seated at one of four tables on the sidewalk in front of the building.

Animated vegetables adorn the walls of the bathrooms at the Green Bean Cafe

We walked in and picked up a menu, browsing the list of breakfast bruschetta power toast – five different choices including the “Stress Buster” (hazelnut spread with bananas and coconut flakes) and the “Tummy Tower” (avocado, black pepper, sea salt and housemade hummus).

The owner, who was behind the counter to take our order, told us that it had been a good first week, but that lunch was definitely more popular than breakfast.

Lunch options at the cafe include salads, paninis and vegetable noodle dishes – spiralized sweet potato, butternut squash or zucchini roasted with olive oil, sea salt and pepper (additional proteins optional).

The dining area of the Green Bean Cafe

The cafe also offers waffles, egg sandwiches, and a dish called the sweet potato nest: sweet potato noodles filled with an egg, accompanied by sliced tomato, avocado and toast.

But both Julie and I were looking for a sweeter morning so we decided to create our own smoothie bowls.

Green Bean’s smoothie bowls are completely customizable with your choice of base – vanilla yogurt, milk, coconut milk or almond milk), fruit, vegetables, sweeteners (almond butter, peanut butter, honey or sugar) and toppings (like chia seeds, granola or coconut flakes).

A strawberry-orange smoothie bowl with almond milk and sliced almonds.

My bowl consisted of an almond milk base with strawberries and oranges. It was sweetened with honey and topped with sliced almonds.

While it is essentially a smoothie, it is served in a bowl like a chilled soup. It took about 10 minutes for our bowls to be delivered to the table, and they certainly looked every bit as appetizing as they sounded.

The strawberries gave my smoothie its distinct red speckled coloring, but the oranges definitely shone through in the flavor. There was just enough honey to add another layer of sweetness.

While the almonds were listed as a topping, many of them had sank into the smoothie so every bite also had a nutty crunch. The almonds also helped make it more hearty, adding healthful fats that were also filling.

Julie's blueberry-banana smoothie bowl with almond milk and granola.

Julie’s bowl, like mine, started with almond milk. But that’s where the similarities ended. she added blueberries and bananas as her fruits, a little almond butter to thicken it, and topped it off with granola.

The blueberries were front and center, but you could taste all of the ingredients – the bananas and the almond butter both came through. Like the almonds in my dish, the granola added some needed crunch to the dish.

Looking at our two bowls next to each other, Julie felt like I had a little bit more. And she unfortunately was still a little hungry at the end so she grabbed a muffin to go.

Julie taking her gluten free muffin to go.

The gluten free muffins, ironically enough, were also blueberry and banana flavored. They weren’t very large, but it was a needed addition to fill her up until lunch.

With the muffin added on (plus a bottle of water to drink), we spent a total of $25. Organic is not cheap, and the smoothie bowls at $9.95 each were actually among the most expensive items on the menu, breakfast or lunch.

Being so close to the cafe, Julie and I both agreed that we would go back, but we would definitely order differently. If we ordered the smoothie bowls, we would also get one of the power toasts or waffles to split. It would be a little more expensive, but it would be more filling. Or we would each get our own toast and split the smoothie bowl.

Either way, we will be back. It’s too close not to give it another try.

The Green Bean Cafe
840 N. Park Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

The Green Bean Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast & Brunch Closed Reviews
Billy Burger earned the title of Best Burger

Billy Burger & Bakery – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Billy Burger & Bakery is now closed. The restaurant closed in February 2019 after initially announcing that they were going to make changes, but not close.

Morgantown is an area that I have not explored nearly enough on Berks County Eats.

Every day, I get on and off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Morgantown exit, but my destination is always in the opposite direction.

So I decided to do something about it. And while browsing ideas for dinner in the area, one restaurant stood out: Billy Burger and Bakery.

Billy Burger is located along Route 23 heading east from Morgantown toward Elverson, Chester County, in the Morgantown Crossings shopping center.

The building is distinctly fast food, a former Dairy Queen that still maintains the profile of its former tenant.

Inside, you would never recognize it. The DQ menu boards have been replaced by handwritten chalk boards. At the counter, a display case of tantalizing baked goods beckons.

Desserts include black cherry blondies, carrot cake sandwich cookies and an assortment of gourmet cupcakes: peach cobbler, chocolate mountain, Boston cream and cookie dough to name a few.

But bakery is just part of the name. You can’t overlook the burgers.

Billy Burger offers four burger choices: the Billy with ketchup, mustard and pickle; the Truck Stop, with coleslaw and waffle fries on the burger; the Twin Valley, featuring pepper jack, lettuce, tomato and horseradish; and my choice, the Ranch Burger.

The Ranch Burger starts with mesquite seasoning on the patty and the standard lettuce and tomato. Then it gets crazy with the addition of a grilled poblano pepper and buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing.

I was expecting spicy, but was pleasantly surprised to find that, while flavorful, the poblano pepper was not mouth-burning hot. Instead, the de-seeding and grill had made it quite pleasant with all of the flavor and just a hint of the heat.

The ranch dressing and veggies were cool and refreshing providing depth of flavor and texture. Overall, it was a great burger that I would be happy to enjoy again.

I would also enjoy the fries again. They were fresh-cut, served fresh out of the fryer and easy to eat.

Julie went with the build-your-own option for her burger, topping it with lettuce, tomato, American cheese and bacon. The bacon was well-done, and the American cheese was melted nicely onto the patty.

And her waffle fries were delicious as well. There was a hint of extra seasoning added to the golden brown fries making them quite addictive.

Not wanting leave without the full experience, we needed to take at least one baked good home with us to try. Our cashier talked us into the freshly made strawberry shortcake.

What sold it for us was that it was truly a “from-scratch” dish. Not only was the cake baked onsite, but the whipped cream is also made in-house at Billy Burger.

Tasting it for the first time the next day, I was a fan. The shortcake was light and airy. The whipped cream was fluffy and sweet, but not too sweet.

I will definitely be back to try more from the bakery.

For dinner and dessert, our total was about $30. I thought that was very reasonable for the amount and quality of food that we got.

One thing to note, while Billy Burger is located in a former fast food restaurant, it is not fast food. Everything is cooked to order so there is a wait until it is delivered to your table, inside or out on the patio.

Billy Burger is a new addition to my short list of favorite burger places in Berks, one that I’m excited to visit again.

All I have to do is go the extra mile – literally – into Morgantown.

Billy Burger and Bakery
650 Crossings Blvd
Elverson, PA 19520

Billy Burger & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews