1787 Brewing Company Vegan Black Bean Burger

1787 Brewing Company

1787 Brewing Company

I’m sure I’ve said this before on the blog, but one thing everyone should know about me is that I love bar food. The only problem is, I don’t drink beer.

Because of that, I always feel a little awkward going to bars, especially microbreweries where most of the people coming in are coming for the craft brews.

1787 Brewing Company

Oftentimes, my love of food wins out, which is what happened on a recent visit to 1787 Brewing Company in Hamburg.

1787 opened in May 2018 in the former Miller’s 5 & 10 in downtown Hamburg. The old-time general store was a fixture along Fourth Street in the borough’s business district until it closed in 2015.

1787 Brewing Company

The name 1787 Brewing Company comes from the year the borough was founded, so it’s only right that it now takes up a historic building in the heart of town.

1787 Brewing Company

Julie and I were amazed by how deep the building actually is. The front bar is fairly large, but it opens into a larger dining room overlooking the brewing vats. Throughout the dining room there were nods to Hamburg’s history, including old signs from local businesses new and old, including Spokes Bike Shop, Schlenger Motors and the Windsor Press.

The food menu is certainly not robust, but it is well-curated, featuring a mix of burgers, sandwiches and flatbreads.

In addition, 1787 Brewing Company offers weekly specials. That’s where I found the honey ham flatbread.

1787 Brewing Company Honey Ham Flatbread

It was topped with ricotta, shaved ham, fig puree and cranberries, and it looked beautiful when it arrived with bubbly, slightly darkened cheese.

1787 Brewing Company Honey Ham Flatbread

And it tasted as good as I had imagined – a wonderful sweet and salty blend that was hearty and savory. The ham was (mostly) under the cheese which kept it from getting burnt. The fig puree ensured every bite had a note of sweetness, but the bites with the cranberries were the best. I look forward to trying more flatbreads from 1787 in the future.

Among the main menu selections are two “dietary accommodations.” One veggie burger with cheese and one vegan black bean burger. The latter was Julie’s selection.

1787 Brewing Company Vegan Black Bean Burger

The black bean burger was topped with guacamole, salsa, romaine and red onion on a sweet potato bun.

Black bean burgers are a mixed bag. They are flavorful in a very different way from meat, but they don’t hold their shape very well. The patty was definitely soft and started to fall apart, but it had a great flavor, especially with the salsa and guac to complement it. The sweet potato bun was also very good and would be a great addition to any burger.

1787 Brewing Company Vegan Black Bean Burger

Neither of us are vegans, but we would definitely order it again.

On the side, Julie upgraded her chips to fries. They were thin-cut and fried to a dark brown, but not burnt. They were a nice side to complete a good meal.

Looking at the restaurant’s website, I knew 1787 had a kids menu, but I had no idea how accommodating they would be. Not only did they have ample high chairs, they offered us a choice of crayons or Play-Doh for our little 15-month-old.

1787 Brewing Company Chicken Fingers

Unfortunately Jakob was more interested in eating the crayons than the chicken fingers from his kids meal. I ended up eating some while we were there – not bad, but they were pretty basic (they are all-natural from Bell and Evans so that’s a definite plus). We took most of it home and Jakob did enjoy the leftovers, without the distractions of the restaurant.

We didn’t order beer – trust me, you wouldn’t want me reviewing beer anyway – but we did order a couple drinks: iced tea for me, soda for Julie. Along with our food, that brought our total bill to a little more than $35.

Truth be told, if Jakob had been more settled, we would have splurged on dessert. Lava cake, specifically.

But that will have to wait for another time. And there will be another time because at 1787 Brewing Company, the food is definitely worth it, whether you are a beer drinker or not.

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

1787 Brewing Company
43 S. Fourth St
Hamburg, PA 19526

Bars & Pubs Breweries & Wineries Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Angry Anvil Ranch Fried Chicken

The Angry Anvil

The Angry Anvil

I always appreciate a restaurant that has a sense of place.

There are many restaurants that have a concept first, then force fit that concept into a location. But there are others that naturally flow with their environment and their location.

The Angry Anvil, which opened in Birdsboro at the end of 2018, certainly fits the town.

The Angry Anvil

It’s not just the historic photos and portraits on the wall or cleverly named menu items like the Birdsburger.

The restaurant sits at the end of a strip mall, overlooking the town from a slope on the south side. The spacious dining room – larger than it looks from the outside – features high- and low-top tables made of metal, an homage to the steel industry that once thrived in Birdsboro.

The Angry Anvil

Serving American pub fusion food with American craft beers – with a few imports – the menu isn’t small, but it is focused.

Dinner options include sandwiches and burgers, wraps, flatbreads and salads, with a range of appetizers that includes four kinds of specialty fries. It’s blue-collar food for a blue-collar town, just elevated.

Angry Anvil Ranch Fried Chicken

Looking over the menu, I was drawn to the ranch fried chicken sandwich: topped with bacon, spring mix, bruschetta and sweet corn ranch, and served with a side of beer-battered fries.

There was a lot to love about this sandwich. The fried chicken was flavorful on its own. The bruschetta, which seemed to be featured on half of the menu items, was fresh and bright. But what really separated this was the sweet corn ranch.

I’ve had ranch on corn before but never corn infused into the dressing. It’s a great flavor combination that led to a little sweeter dressing, one that paired perfectly with the rest of the sandwich ingredients.

The sandwich was served with a half-pound of beer-battered fries. Battered fries always seem to go down easier, even after I am already full. There wasn’t a piece left by the time I had finished.

The Angry Anvil Balsamic Bleu Burger

Julie opted for one of the Angry Anvil’s burgers – the balsamic bleu burger. It came topped with bruschetta, spring mix, balsamic reduction and bleu cheese spread.

It was another hit. The balsamic was strong without being overpowering and played really nicely with the bleu cheese. If anything was lacking it would be a little crunch from the toppings. But there were zero complaints about the flavor.

On the side, Julie swapped out her fries for an order of the Angry Anvil’s homemade chips. They were very good – crispy and lightly seasoned – in line with what we’ve found of similar offerings elsewhere.

The Angry Anvil

Along with a glass of wine and an iced tea, our total for the night was $33. When the highest-priced food item is $14, it’s easy to splurge on drinks without breaking the bank.

As we were getting ready to leave, the Angry Anvil’s owner stopped by our table (I recognized him from a photo from when the place opened) as he made his rounds. He was surprised that Julie and I had made the trip from Wyomissing to Birdsboro (it’s 15 minutes) but was glad to hear we enjoyed our meal.

We were glad, too. Glad to know that the Angry Anvil has added another quality option to Birdsboro and Berks County, and one that we will happily return to again.

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

The Angry Anvil
200 W. 1st St
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Liberty Ale House G.O.A.T. Burger

Liberty Ale House

Liberty Ale House Exterior

Recently, I wrote about our second blog visit to an Alebrije restaurant and how it compared to our initial visit five years earlier.

Unintentionally, history repeats itself this week. You see, in 2016, Julie and I visited the Liberty Taproom in Exeter Township. We loved everything about our meal there and we were very excited when plans were announced for a sister restaurant, the Liberty Ale House, to be opened later that year.

Liberty Ale House Interior

The Liberty Ale House sits in a small building along Lancaster Avenue in Reading (the restaurant is within the city limits, but barely). From the outside, it looks more like a house than a restaurant, except for the enclosed porch filled with chairs and the string lights above the outdoor seating area.

When Julie and I visted in December, we were on our own (Jakob was spending some quality time with his  grandparents). We were seated at a high-top table for two just inside the door on what was a quiet Friday evening.

Liberty Ale House Interior 2

The menus at the Ale House and the Tap Room are similar. Both offer a selection of tacos, burgers and sandwiches, but there are noticeable differences. The Ale House menu is a little smaller with no pizza or Stromboli like the sister restaurant has.

One thing both offer is wings, but there are even differences here. During our visit to the Taproom, the standout of the night were the wings. Coated in Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, they are among the best around.

Liberty Ale House Jerk BBQ Wings

The only BBQ options at the Ale House were sweet jerk BBQ and pineapple Siracha BBQ (there is also a Memphis dry rub, for those who like their barbecue without sauce).

We ordered five of the sweet jerk BBQ wings,  and I have say that I was a little disappointed. That’s not to say that they weren’t good – they were – but they weren’t as good as the Taproom, in my opinion. The sauce was fine, a little less thick, with a little sweet and spicy profile. They were good wings, but I was hoping for great.

Thinking back on our visit to the Taproom, I remembered how much I enjoyed the burger. So when I saw something on the ale house menu called the G.O.A.T. burger, how could I resist.

Liberty Ale House G.O.A.T. Burger

The Angus beef burger was topped with bacon, goat cheese, red onion and cranberry aioli.

It’s definitely not the “greatest of all time” but it’s a good burger. I love goat cheese on a burger – it adds a creamy element that you don’t get from sliced cheese and the tang works well, epsecially with bacon. I was a little let down by the cranberry aioli. It wasn’t bad, but I just didn’t feel like it added as much flavor as it could have.

Overall, though, I was happy with my selection – and with my decision to upgrade to fries. Sure, they are a little greasy, but they are good.

Liberty Ale House Thai Chicken Tacos (w/ Lettuce Wrap)

While my meal packed on the Calories, Julie went the other direction, ordering Thai chicken tacos while opting for the lettuce wrap instead of a tortilla.

The tacos featured tempura fried chicken, sweet Thai chili, shiso cucumber slaw, avocado and cilantro. We were both impressed. The Thai chili sauce was flavorful and it had some heat, but not too much. The slaw was very good. And the lettuce wraps actually added to the flavor in a way that a flour tortilla wouldn’t have. They also made the the order of the three tacos less heavy and more manageable.

In all, we spent about $35 on the night. It was a good meal, though I would add that our server was less than attentive considering how early we were and how few tables she was handling at the time.

Three years ago, our meal at Liberty Taproom set the bar high. My meal at the Ale House didn’t quite reach that bar, but I would definitely go back.

And I’m sure I would enjoy my meal even more the second time.

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

Liberty Ale House
1501 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19607

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Fork & Ale Moroccan Chicken

Fork & Ale – Return

Editor’s Note: Chef Seth Arnold left Fork & Ale in July 2019 for a position at Terrain Cafe in Devon.

One of the hardest things about doing weekly Berks County Eats blogs is not being able to return to the restaurants that we have enjoyed.

In March 2017, we made our first visit to Fork & Ale – the new gastropub that had opened in the former Tim’s Ugly Mug outside Douglassville just a few months before. We had enjoyed everything we had, especially their take on poutine, but we had no real motivation to return with so many restaurants left to visit.

Then a new chef arrived on the scene.

Chef Seth Arnold started at Fork & Ale at the end of May. By mid-summer, he was tagging @BerksCountyEats on every Instagram post. At the end of July, he sent me a direct message, introducing himself and inviting me out to the restaurant for a visit.

Fork & Ale Menu

Over the next weeks and months, Fork & Ale was always in the back of my mind and at the top of my Instagram feed. Finally, Julie and I made plans for a date night. We found a babysitter for Jakob and headed east for dinner on a Saturday evening in early December.

We arrived around 5 p.m., beating the dinner crowd and taking a table for two. Fork & Ale does not take reservations so we wanted to make sure we had a seat, not knowing how full it would get by night’s end. The dining room looks exactly as we remembered with painted brick walls, Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling and reclaimed wood furniture.

Fork & Ale Uovo da Raviolo

One thing I learned through Instagram is that the chef loves introducing creative specials every night. On the specials menu during our visit was an appetizer we had to try – uova da raviolo – egg yolk ravioli.

The pasta pouches were filled with herbed ricotta and egg yolk, topped with smoked bacon, rainbow chard, purple cauliflower and a sage butter sauce.

Fork & Ale Uovo da Raviolo

Eating it was quite the experience. Pressing into the ravioli, the egg yolk began pouring out, mixing with the sage butter sauce on the plate. It added a completely different dimension to the dish that I enjoyed. And with the savory bacon and slightly bitter chard, it was full of flavor.

Fork & Ale Moroccan Chicken

The main menu has completely evolved in the 20 months since our last visit (no more poutine). The only common item between the two menus being the Fork & Ale Burger. One new dish that caught my attention was the Moroccan chicken.

The dish featured confit chicken served over house-made Fettuccini with golden raisins, bell pepper, arugula, crispy chickpeas, Marcona almonds and a Moroccan-spiced butter sauce.

Fork & Ale Moroccan Chicken

I absolutely loved it. It was one of the most flavorful dishes that I have had in a long time. The sauce was incredible (for the record, I still have no idea what spices constitute “Moroccan spice”), and there were little surprises throughout. The chickpeas added needed crunch to the plate while the raisins were little bursts of sweetness throughout. I can’t say enough good things about it, and neither could Julie when she had the leftovers a few days later.

For her meal, she went with the warm Brussels sprouts salad. The waitress recommended adding the grilled shrimp (grilled chicken was also an option) and Julie was glad for it.

Fork & Ale Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

The composition was interesting – the sprouts were shaved like cabbage and drizzled with balsamic, always a good pairing. The fatty pork belly was a great addition and made it a truly savory dish. All in all, it was well done.

Being a date night, dessert was almost mandatory. There were two dessert options the night of our visit, a crème brulee that sounded delightful and our selection, the butterscotch lava cake.

Many places will do a chocolate lava cake – chocolate cake with a melted chocolate center. The butterscotch version was similar with a melted butterscotch center that was topped with housemade whipped cream.

Fork & Ale Butterscotch Lava Cake

Neither of us are big butterscotch fans but it sounded too good to pass up, and it more than lived up to our expectations. The cake was dense but flavorful and the filling was perfect. It was sweet but not too sweet, buttery but not overpowering. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal, one of the best meals we have had in many months.

Our total bill for the evening (one unsweetened iced tea included) was around $60. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but with both an appetizer and dessert, it felt like a fair price for an exceptional dinner.

If you haven’t been to Fork & Ale in the two years since it’s been open, or if you haven’t been there since Chef Arnold arrived in May, do yourself a favor and make the trip.

I know we will be back sooner than later.

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

Fork & Ale
1281 E. Main St
Douglassville, PA 19518

Bars & Pubs Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Ganly's Bangers and Mash

Ganly’s Pub & Deli

Ganly's Pub & Deli

Editor’s note: this post was updated to correct an error regarding one of the menu items.

County Eats is not a one-man operation. If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know that my wife Julie – and lately, our son Jakob – has been along for nearly every blog (she even wrote a couple herself recently).

Most times, our experiences are the same. If one of us is happy, the other is happy. If one of us has a good time, the other has a good time.

Sometimes, though, things go a little differently. That’s what happened on a recent trip to Ganly’s Pub & Deli.

Ganly's Pub and Deli

Ganly’s sits at the end of State Hill Road, where it meets Brownsville Road and Reber’s Bridge Road in Lower Heidelberg Township. It’s a beautiful building in a location that’s out of the way for many.

The restaurant had fallen off of my radar for a while, but this year’s Wilson Iron Chef brought it back to the forefront. Not only did Ganly’s impress in the People’s Choice competition with its apple, brie and bacon crisps, Chef Ben Hinkel put in a great effort in the Iron Chef competition, itself.

A few weeks later, we paid the restaurant a visit. It wasn’t our first time dining there, but it was our first time in years and the first time for the blog.

Ganly's Pub and Deli

Ganly’s doesn’t offer reserved seating on the weekends, but Julie was able to call ahead and add our name to the wait list – a 30-minute wait on this Friday evening.

We arrived early, hoping they were overestimating, and were told it would still be 20-30 minutes. It ended up being a full half hour until we were seated in the main dining room – additional seating can be found in the bar area on the opposite side of the building.

Jakob had napped through most of our wait so he was wide awake by the time we sat down for dinner. So even though we had his car seat in a high chair, Julie and I took turns holding him through the duration of our meal.

Ganly's Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup

Both Julie and I started with a cup of soup. For Julie, it was French onion. For me, it was fire roasted tomato – the daily special.

The tomato soup was different from any other that I have tried. It was a chunky soup – not with tomato chunks, but with carrots, onions and other vegetables. It was well-seasoned and enjoyable, a good start to the meal.

Ganly's French Onion Soup

Julie’s French onion soup was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. A solid start, but it was after this that her meal went sideways.

The appetizer special of the day was a smoked salmon BLT. When asked, our waitress told Julie that it would be enough for a meal.

Ganly's Smoked Salmon BLT

And it was. The BLT looked beautiful when it arrived, a focaccia roll loaded with smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, housemade mayo and smoked salmon.

After her first bite, Julie realized that while she loves grilled salmon, smoked salmon is not her thing. She tried some more but she just did not care for it. It wasn’t Ganly’s fault, but and we were more than happy to pay for the dish, but Julie knew she wasn’t going to eat it and placed an order for another dish.

Ganly's Bangers and Mash

So while she waited for her next meal, I worked on my bangers and mash. Americans would call it sausages and mashed potatoes.

The bangers had a crispy outside and a great flavor that was spiced more like a German wurst than an American-style country sausage. The mash was actually colcannon. Colcannon is mashed potatoes with the addition of cabbage. It was a subtle difference, but it was very good, especially with the gravy.

I really enjoyed everything, but could only finish half of it, partially because my meal also came with a salad that arrived just moments before the bangers and mash.

Ganly's Salad

The salad was your basic mixed greens and choice of dressing. It wasn’t anything special, but it was a hefty salad. Had I known that my entree came with a salad, I may have skipped the soup, but I had already ordered the tomato soup when the waitress asked me what dressing I would like.

Julie handed Jakob off to me once her replacement meal arrived. It was the chicken and smoked gouda sandwich.

Ganly's Chicken and Gouda Sandwich

The gouda was a nice change of pace, and the roll was very good. The house chips on the side was okay, but could have used a little more salt and other seasonings.

By this point, we had been at the restaurant for nearly an hour-and-a-half and all Julie cared about was the eating, not the reviewing, so she hurriedly ate her sandwich.

We received our bill and the BLT had been removed. It wasn’t necessary as they restaurant had done nothing wrong. In total, our bill was a little over $40.

It was a mixed bag for us. For me, it was a great meal. Though the wait was a little frustrating. For Julie, it was a bit disappointing as she really wanted the smoked salmon BLT, but it just wasn’t what she thought it was going to be. And her wait was even longer. If she hadn’t had that soup, I don’t know if she could have lasted until her sandwich arrived.

But I have to give credit to our waitress who handled it well, despite having to work too many tables (she was also serving in the other dining area) and not being at fault at all.

Hopefully next time is a better experience, one that we can both enjoy.

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

Ganly’s Pub
500 Brownsville Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Ozgood’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar – Kutztown

Our drive to Kutztown wasn’t planned. Our original destination was Muddy’s Smokehouse BBQ in Oley. But this was the day when we first found out that Muddy’s was closed, at least temporarily according to the handwritten sign on the door.

So we took Route 662 north to Route 222, and grabbed the first exit for Kutztown where Ozgood’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar stands.

It had been more than three years since our visit to Ozgood’s in Robesonia, the first of the two locations for the restaurant. The Kutztown location opened in 2015, occupying the space vacated by TC’s Food and Spirits.

During my college years, I was a regular at TC’s and the Monday night poker games it hosted. It was a dive, but the food was good.

Ozgood’s made a few upgrades. The wrap-around front porch looks much nicer than it used to (it’s enclosed so it can be used year-round). And the overflow dining rooms look much nicer.

The bar still looks great and the main dining room is mostly unchanged – wood booths atop hardwood floors.

We were seated in one of the overflow rooms, off the right side of the dining room, at a table for two with more comfortable, cushioned chairs.

Some restaurants offer a bread basket as a prelude to the meal. Ozgood’s offers veggies and dip. It’s not a lot – a couple pickles, celery stalks and carrot slices – but it’s a nice touch and a welcome change of pace.

Both locations share a menu. It’s mostly bar food fare with burgers, sandwiches, steaks and other comfort food, with nightly specials throughout the week.

We happened to be there on a Sunday – rib night. I was already in the mood for barbecue so I couldn’t pass up a deal on babyback ribs.

The ribs were slathered in Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, the star of the dish. It was sweet and smoky with a distinct aftertaste of the whiskey. It took what were average ribs – not much flavor in the way of a dry rub – and made them something more memorable.

Ribs are one of Ozgood’s “Neighborhood Specialties.” These entrees are all served with two sides. For mine, I chose shoestring fries and the Brutus salad.

The fries were good. I would say they were more of a fast food fry in thickness. I dipped them in the barbecue sauce as best as I could, and that made them even better.

The Brutus salad is Ozgood’s version of the classic Caesar.

I ate mine as an appetizer, and I found it enjoyable. Romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese and dressing. I can’t tell you how the Brutus dressing differs from Caesar dressing, but it hit the spot and that’s all that really matters.

Our visit was late in Julie’s pregnancy, and she was having a mini-craving. She wanted the cobb salad, but she was hungry for steak. Thankfully, the Ozgood’s kitchen was more than happy to customize, swapping out the grilled chicken for grilled steak (for a slight upcharge).

Her cravings were well-satisfied. The steak was grilled to well-done (doctor’s orders during pregnancy) but still flavorful and juicy. The salad itself was fine enough. And she left full, with a little bit of salad to go.

Some of my fries went home with us as well. After adding on my iced tea, our final total was around $35. That felt about right for the amount of food.

And even though it wasn’t our first choice, Ozgood’s felt right, too.

Even if it wasn’t our first choice for dinner on this night.

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

Ozgood’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
4 Lincoln Rd
Kutztown, PA 19530

Ozgoods Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Indian Fort Inn Jagerschnitzel

Indian Fort Inn

Indian Fort Inn, Hamburg, PA

Most weeks on Berks County Eats, you’ll read about the culinary adventures of my wife (Julie) and I. But from time-to-time, other family members and friends will make cameo appearances, depending on the occasion and location.

Recently, I got together with my brother Matt, his wife Lauren and my friend Dennis for a night out in the Hamburg area.

We made the short drive west of town along Old Route 22 to the Indian Fort Inn.

Dennis and I had never visited before, but my brother and Lauren had been there often as my brother shot pool in the bar room regularly.

Indian Fort Inn

In just a few years, he said, the restaurant had been greatly improved. The food had always been good, but the dining room was always empty while everyone was in the bar.

Outside, it looks like a large stone house with a giant parking lot. There’s a patio out front that looked jam-packed during our visit. Inside, the wood walls, wooden tables and chairs, and dim lighting give the feel of an upgraded hunting cabin.

The meal did not start out well. First, they were out of the meal I really wanted to try: the German lasagna (which was made up of kielbasa, sauerkraut and other German favorites in a mushroom cream sauce).

Then, the salad was a swing-and-a-miss. I was the only person at the table to order an entree and the only person to get a starter salad.

Indian Fort Inn Salad...except they forgot the dressing.

It arrived quick enough, but without the salad dressing. Our waiter disappeared into the back before I realized the mistake so I had wait patiently for him to return to the dining room to wait on our neighboring table to flag him down, then wait for him to reemerge with my cup of ranch dressing.  He may or may not have brought me blue cheese instead.

Otherwise, the salad was unremarkable, standard greens with cherry tomatoes and croutons.

I was already in a slightly sour mood because I couldn’t try the German lasagna; this wasn’t helping things. For my entree, I settled on the Jagerschntizel.

Lucky for me, it redeemed the meal.

Indian Fort Inn Jagerschnitzel

The jagerschnitzel was a weekend special and included two deep fried pork cutlets smothered in mushroom gravy.

It was excellent. The cutlets were fried to a perfect golden brown that peeked out ever so slightly from beneath the mushroom cream sauce. The breading was fantastic and amplified the flavor of the pork. The cream sauce was very good as well, making the dish go down easily.

On the side were “Saratoga chips” and mixed vegetables. Real Saratoga chips are basically potato chips served warm (think Dutch fries, for anyone who visits the Kutztown Fairgrounds), but these were thick cut potato cubes, deep-fried and salted. I have zero complaints about them,  but they weren’t anything noteworthy.

Indian Fort Inn Bacon Bleu Cheeseburger

To my right, Dennis was enjoying his bacon and bleu cheese burger. It was topped with a roasted red pepper aioli that he thought played well with the bleu cheese crumble. Overall, he found it to be a very good burger.

Indian Fort Inn Bacon Cheddar Chicken Sandwich

To my left, my brother was digging into to a chicken sandwich with melted cheddar and bacon. Instead of a sliced cheddar, it was a blend of shredded cheddar. It was a good sandwich, but I know my brother’s favorite thing on his plate was the coleslaw (and I would have to agree, it was a well-made slaw, though I would have a hard time picking out exactly what made it better than most).

While my Saratoga chips were okay, the French fries were exceptional. Both Dennis and Matt ordered a side of fries with their sandwiches. The side of fries was a full basket, one that Julie and I would have needed to split had we been out for a dinner-for-two.

Indian Fort Inn French Fries

The fries were the fresh-cut style with skins still on the edges, and they were cooked perfectly. I got to try one or two of my brother’s fries. Otherwise, he took down the whole basket himself (Dennis left just a few in the bottom of his).

Indian Fort Inn Loaded Fries

Lauren ordered a plate of loaded fries and made it her meal. It was your typical baked potato toppings – bacon, sour cream, chives. Her plate was even larger so she couldn’t finish all of hers, but she did enjoy them.

Our server was kind enough to split the checks for us. I spent about $16 for my meal and glass of iced tea. Most of the dinners were around the same price with some of the steak offerings reaching the low-to-mid-$20 range.

It was a good meal made better by good friends and conversation. And The Fort just seemed like the right place for that.

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

Indian Fort Inn
1343 Hex Highway
Hamburg, PA 19526

Indian Fort Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Bixler’s Lodge

When it comes to my reviews, the restaurants always fall into one of three categories.

There are the places that I have already visited – those are the easy ones.

There are the places that I have never been to, but I have researched so much ahead of time that I already know what I am going to order.

And then there are the places that we decide to go and have no idea what we are walking into.

This week, I gave the choice to Julie, and she took door number three: a visit to Bixler’s Lodge, a place neither of us had been and had done next to no research about.

We were flying blind. I knew very little about Bixler’s Lodge except that it sat at the base of Mount Penn. Google told me it was on Friedensburg Road in the village of Stony Creek, just north of Mount Penn borough.

Pulling up to the front of the building for the first time, it looked smaller than I imagined. Perhaps the awkwardly shaped parking lot that seemed to squeeze cars behind the restaurant just made it feel tiny.

Walking through the front door, I found a restaurant with character – part dive bar and part date night destination.

The single dining area featured a bar on the right. A couple flat screen TV’s were mounted on the wall above the taps.

On the left side of the room, tables set for two and four people. The stonework of the fireplace added a bit of historic charm.

What really surprised me though was the robust menu, filled with a mix of standard pub fare and inspired entrees.

Not sure what to order, I asked our waitress for a recommendation. She gave me a few of her favorites, and I chose one that intrigued me above the rest – the “Southwest Bixler Bistro Tender.”

The 10-ounce steak was rubbed in southwest seasoning, cooked to my preference and served with sautéed mushrooms atop a bed of roasted red pepper sauce. It was a unique combination, to say the least.

My favorite part of the dish was the red pepper sauce. The pairing of the sauce with beef was unexpectedly pleasant, though I would have liked just a little more sauce (but, then again, I’m a guy who loves to load up on A1 sauce when there is steak involved).

If I have one complaint, it’s with myself for ordering it well instead of medium-well. I don’t like pink beef. This is a meal that needed the steak to be a little more rare to soak up the seasoning and really bring it to life.

On the side, I had a very enjoyable pan of potatoes au gratin, the potato of the day. The cheese was nicely toasted on top, but smooth and creamy like an alfredo sauce on the inside. It was a very good addition to my meal.

Entrees at Bixler’s Lodge are served with a starter salad. It’s your typical mixed greens, Julienne carrots and cucumber (complete with the obligatory cherry tomato).

Not stopping there, I also ordered a cup of chicken, kale and white bean soup. I was expecting a thicker, hearty soup, but it was more of a chicken noodle soup without the noodles. And there were only a few beans. It was a good chicken soup, but I had my hopes up for more.

The starters we both enjoyed came in the bread basket. Julie tried one of the mini cornbread muffins and loved it. I enjoyed the dinner roll, myself.

Bixler’s has a surprisingly large selection of seafood, and that’s where Julie went for her entree as she opted to try “Bixler’s Big 100% Crab Cakes.”

The meaty crab cakes had very little filler (I guess that’s why they’re 100% crab cakes), just how Julie likes them. They were served with a side of cocktail sauce, and while Julie used it, the crab cakes stood out on their own.

Another standout was her French fries. The fries were a thicker fast food-style that were well-seasoned. I may have helped her clear them from her plate.

The vegetable of the day – peas with pearl onions – was a letdown from the rest of her meal. Peas are peas, and two or three pearl onions weren’t going to turn them into anything more.

Our final bill was reflective of our entree choices. At $18.99 and $16.99, they were two of the more expensive on the menu so I was not surprised when our total came to a little more than $40.

For the record, about half of my steak and potatoes came home with me for later.

I learned a lot about Bixler’s Lodge during my visit. I learned that red pepper sauce pairs well with beef. I learned that Bixler’s Lodge first opened as a restaurant in the 1930s.

But I think the most important thing that I learned is this: Bixler’s Lodge is very good.

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

Bixler’s Lodge
1456 Friedensburg Rd
Reading, PA 19606

Bixler's Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Snuzzles

Every time that I think I have seen all of Berks County, this blog takes me somewhere new.

One place that I had never thrown into my GPS before this week is Mertztown. It’s a small “census-designated place” in eastern Berks County near Topton, almost at the Lehigh County border.

And I would never have a reason to go if not for one restaurant: Snuzzles.

Snuzzles’ address is Mertztown, but it’s much closer to Lyons, Bowers and Dryville. If you have no idea where those places are, just throw it in the GPS like I did.

I knew we had arrived when I saw the crowded parking lot along Lyons Road. There is no sign because, as the website says, “if you’re here, this was your destination, its not like you were driving by.”

Valid point.

The dining room is one of the largest in Berks County. There are dozens of tables and booths spread out on the tile floor. Oh, and there’s a second level with even more seating.

And there was still a wait for a table when we arrived. We were lucky though, grabbing the only table for two that was left, jumping the line of parties of three, four or more that were sitting in the waiting area.

The decor is minimalistic, leaving customers to admire the wooden tables, wooden booths and wood paneled walls.

It’s a stark contrast to the colorful menu – a veritable rainbow of fonts and clip art that is both enduring and cheesy.

Cheesy isn’t a bad way to go for a restaurant that specializes in pizza, Stromboli and sandwiches.

And that’s really the entirety of the menu, but it doesn’t begin to describe it. There are croissant sandwiches (including shrimp salad, a creation I have not come across before). Stromboli stuffings include the South of the Border with refried beans, salsa and cheddar. Oh, and there’s a clams casino pizza.

We went for a Stromboli and an order of fries (as an appetizer).

The fries are thick, steak-cut fries. And for fifty cents, you can add a dipping sauce. That’s good because the fries aren’t much on their own. Really, they don’t taste much different than the Ore-Ida steak fries you would find in the freezer section.

Julie was extremely glad to have her cheese sauce for dipping.

We were also very glad to have ordered the fries as an appetizer because dinner took a long time to arrive. We had been seated at about 6 p.m. Our Stromboli arrived around 7. (It seemed to only be Strombolis that were taking so long as sandwiches were brought to other tables much faster).

I don’t know if this is a normal wait time, but on this busy Saturday evening, an appetizer was necessary.

That said, the Stromboli was worth the wait. We went with the chick-otta: chicken, mozzarella, provolone, tomato sauce and ricotta with an extra sauce for dipping.

First, it’s huge. I’ve never seen a Stromboli so puffed in the center. It was hard to cut into because it was so hot from the oven, but once we got in, the cheese just started oozing out.

What really brings it all together is Snuzzles’ super pizza sauce (their name, not mine). It’s sweet with a bright herby flavor that brings out the best in the remaining ingredients. The chicken, especially, came to life with a bath in the red sauce.

Half of it came home with us. For curiosity’s sake, I weighed the bag with the Stromboli half and extra sauce inside: two pounds of food still remained.

And we only paid $25 for everything. That’s $25 cash because Snuzzles does not accept credit cards. Judging by the crowd during our visit, they clearly don’t have to.

Snuzzles is what you would call destination dining. Because if you’re going to the Mertztown area, you are probably going to Snuzzles.

A lot of people are already going there. And now I understand why.

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

Snuzzles
145 Lyons Road
Mertztown, PA 19539

Snuzzle's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews

The Pike Cafe

We’ve spent a lot of 2017 visiting restaurants that are new to Reading and Berks County.

I couldn’t wait to visit highly anticipated restaurants like Gettin’ Crabby at the Crab Barn and Fork & Ale.

But sometimes, you have to also experience the classics that we’ve neglected, places like Reading’s Pike Cafe.

The “World Famous” Pike Cafe is a true gem in the city. The corner of Pike and Moss isn’t exactly in a part of the city that sees a lot of outside traffic – except for those coming to the Pike.

One of the best parts about the Pike is that it has one of the largest parking lots in the city. And it needs it. We arrived at about 5:15 p.m. on a Saturday night and got the last available table.

Take my advice and make a reservation, especially for the weekend dinner rush.

We were led around the U-shaped bar and into the back corner where they packed in the two-seat tables.

It was our first time at the Pike so we had to try the wings – a perennial contender in every “Best Of” competition.

After my first bite, I get it.

The wings are advertised as Bell & Evans organic wings. Anytime you are ordering an organic protein, you can expect it to be smaller – without the growth hormones, the animals are a more natural size.

But what the organic wings lacked in size, they made up for in flavor. It’s everything that chicken should taste like, and without the excess meat, there’s a crunch to every bite. The wings were also able to absorb more of the flavor from the Montreal dry rub we chose.

Sauces and dry rubs aside, these are the only wings in Berks County that I would order naked (the wings, not me).

I got another taste of Bell & Evans chicken with my entree, the chicken bruschetta sandwich.

The sandwich featured a grilled chicken breast with house-made bruschetta, asiago cheese, balsamic drizzle and a bun branded with the Pike logo, just so there are no doubts where the sandwich came from.

First, the chicken was excellent. It was juicy, flavorful and clearly not processed. The bruschetta was very good, though I would have preferred smaller pieces of tomato (the large chunks tended to fall out of the bun). The asiago cheese was the perfect choice for the sandwich, and it had just the right amount of balsamic.

Toasting the bun didn’t just add branding, it added a crunchy texture that the sandwich needed to make it truly feel like bruschetta.

I almost forgot to mention the fries. Hand-cut, skin-on, golden brown – this is how fries are supposed to be. I wouldn’t call them the best in town, but I definitely enjoyed them.

Julie went with another Pike Cafe original dish, the pepperoni cheesesteak supreme wrap.

Ribeye chipped steak, pepperoni, mushrooms, caramelized onion, marinara and Provolone were combined in a flour wrap.

It tasted exactly as I imagined it would. While the steak was the base, the pepperoni came through strong. In the one bite Julie allowed me to have, I could pick up the onion and mushrooms, and the melted Provolone helped pull everything together.

Skipping the fries, Julie opted instead for the potato chips – Sweet Maui onion flavored. If you like onions, you’ll appreciate this as a refreshing change from a typical kettle chip. If you don’t like onions, get the fries.

We were comfortably full after our entrees, but I couldn’t leave the Pike without dessert, or more specifically, the Pike Crème Cafe.

The crème cafe features deep-fried ice cream with whipped cream, honey and chocolate syrup served on a powdered sugar tortilla. Admit it, you couldn’t pass that up either.

We probably would have been more than satisfied with the fried ice cream. The addition of a crisp outer shell is always welcome with vanilla ice cream. The tortilla was good – a fried tortilla shell like you would get in a taco salad – but it was almost too much fried food for dessert.

Still, I didn’t regret it.

That was more than enough for us to leave the Pike Cafe satisfied. Our total was just shy of $40 (one iced tea was also included in that). All told, it felt like a reasonable price for everything that we had.

I don’t know if the Pike Cafe really is “World Famous,” but it’s definitely famous in Reading and Berks County for good reason.

Once you visit for the first time, you’ll get it, too.

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

Pike Cafe
930 Pike St
Reading, PA 19604

Pike Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews