Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Avocado Tacos

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub

Saucony Creek Franklin Street Brewpub Exterior

One of the most exciting developments in Downtown Reading in recent memory is the reimagining of Franklin Street Station as a brewpub.

Saucony Creek Brewing Company’s Franklin Station Brewpub opened in July to much fanfare. Plans for the restaurant had been revealed in early 2018 but the project was delayed until the proper permits and zoning were in place. Other than a brief stint as an inter-city bus terminal in 2013 and an interactive art installation in 2017, it’s the first life this former passenger rail station has seen since the last SEPTA train rolled out 38 years ago.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Interior

We made our first visit on a Saturday afternoon in September, arriving before 5 p.m. for an early dinner. We got the last parking space on the restaurant’s parking lot (there is plenty of additional parking in the adjacent garage – and it’s free if you spend more than $10) and were seated right away.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Interior

The building is impressive inside. It retains the feel of a classic train station with high ceilings and large windows. Rows of benches – like the ones that would have been used by waiting passengers 90 years ago – are the anchors of the dining area. The tables and chairs are arranged to utilize the long benches, creating wide aisles for the wait staff and patrons. In the far end of the room near the kitchen is a small display case filled with model trains, Monopoly game pieces (for the Reading Railroad, of course) and other railroad memorabilia.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Interior

We had plenty of time to admire the building, too, because though we were seated promptly, no server stopped by for more than 15 minutes to even bring water. Our toddler was ready to eat so the wait was not very welcomed at our table.

The restaurant seemed to have both not enough and too much help simultaneously. While we were waiting, servers continued to congregate near the host stand (including our eventually server).

Once we ordered, it only took about 10 minutes for our appetizer and Jakob’s kids’ meal to arrive. From there, the meal was much easier.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Avocado Tacos

For our appetizer, we ordered the avocado tacos. The order consisted of two tacos: corn tortillas topped with beer-battered avocado slices, roasted corn, tomato, onion and cilantro. On the side was a cup of thick salsa that was very good and had a spicy after-taste. The tacos, by themselves, were a little bland compared to a Mexican restaurant, but with the spicy salsa, it was much better. It needed that little kick to bring everything together.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Kids Quesadilla

Jakob certainly enjoyed his food. Their kids menu isn’t huge, but it does have a decent variety. In the end, though, we went with Jakob’s favorites – a quesadilla with corn on the cob. The corn lasted all of about five minutes (at least it felt that way) as he ate through it in a hurry. The quesadilla was a little more work for him but he managed to eat about half of it at the restaurant with us taking the rest home.

Our dinners arrived just a short time later. The menu of large plates – “Masters” as they are called on the menu – features a diverse selection that leaned toward higher-end dishes. For example: my coconut braised beef cheek.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Coconut Braised Beef Cheek

Beef cheek is not found on a lot of menus, probably because it is a tougher cut of meat that has to be slow-cooked. It’s also very rich, as I discovered with my first taste. It reminded me a little of duck – not in flavor – but in the richness. The flavor, though, was very good. It was braised in one of Saucony Creek’s signatures beers so it picked up some of those flavor notes with subtle hints of coconut.

It came served in a bowl of sweet potato puree that added a sweet and savory contrast to the dish. It was also topped with a watermelon radish that served more for garnish than flavor. As I look back on the menu, it also said it was to be served with creamy blue cheese. There was definitely no blue cheese on the plate. I’m not sure how it would have changed what was a very good dish, but now I’m curious.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Franklin Street Burger

Nothing was missing from Julie’s plate. She ordered the Franklin Station Burger which came topped with bourbon bacon jam, Boston Bibb lettuce and Swiss cheese.

It was an awesome burger where the bacon jam really shined. The salty, savory and slightly sweet spread is always a great burger topper. This version had a deeper flavor thanks to the bourbon, and it really shone through on the burger.

The burger was served with fries on the side. As our server described them, they are boardwalk-style fries: skin-on and well-seasoned. They were a little peppery at times, but very enjoyable, especially paired with the homemade ketchup. The ketchup was not as sweet or as thick as the store-bought variety, but it perfectly complemented the already flavorful fries.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Ice Cream

While Julie and I did not save room for dessert, Jakob’s kids meal came with a scoop of ice cream. His generous scoop of peanut butter ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry cheesecake were the other flavor choices) was topped with a mound of whipped cream and a cherry that elicited a loud, “ooooh,” from our son when he saw it.

I think Jakob ate most of the whipped cream while Julie took care of the ice cream that he didn’t finish. It was around this time that we heard the unmistakable air horn of a freight train approaching.

Norfolk Southern trains frequently use the former Reading Railroad tracks and a train’s arrival is a big deal at the bar. Upon hearing the horn, doors were opened and everyone cheered loudly until the engines passed. Jakob, like all young boys, loves trains. He joined in with a loud, “Choo Choo!” as the train rolled past.

If there’s a downside to the building, it’s that the cavernous dining room echoes. It can get loud quickly. That’s a good thing when cheering on a passing train, but it can be a little distracting if you’re trying to have some quiet conversation.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Exterior

We paid our bill – $61.01 – and went outside to watch the tail end of the train from the old station platform. The scene would have looked a lot different 90 years ago when a steam engine would puff into the station to pick up and drop off passengers.

While the hungry diners aren’t at the Franklin Street Station to grab a train to Philly, the historic building is once again bustling with people.

Sure, there are some issues to work out as there are with all new restaurants. But Saucony Creek could keep the passenger benches full at Franklin Street Station for a long time to come.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: A Little Pricey

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub
690 Chestnut St
Reading, PA 19602

Bars & Pubs Breweries & Wineries Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

The Other Farm & Forge

I love walking through Berks County’s downtowns.

Julie, Jakob and I are fortunate to live within walking distance of West Reading and the shopping and dining district that is Penn Avenue.

But venture to the county’s eastern edge and you’ll find a downtown on the rise. Boyertown is anchored by incredible attractions in the Colebrookdale Railroad and the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. The latter was our destination on an early spring day.

With time to spare and empty stomachs, we decided to take a walk through town and find a new place to try for lunch. It was early – only 11:30 a.m. – but lunch service had begun at most places, including The Other Farm Brewing Company

Farm & Forge is the brand used by the brewery for its restaurant and bar along Philadelphia Avenue. The tagline is “Food. Drink. Music. Community.” The first part was really the only one we cared about it.

Sure, we were a little early, but it was obvious that the Other Farm is not a lunch spot. There were only a handful of others in the restaurant – and that number only grew slightly during our visit. The impressive stage in the back of the dining room says that this a place for nightlife, not mid-day.

The food menu isn’t huge but there is decent variety among the salads, wood-fired pizza, “smaller plates” and “bigger plates.”

Among the bigger plates was a lamb burger that sounded too good to pass up. It was topped with roasted tomato chutney, sautéed spinach, fontina cheese and roasted garlic aioli.

It was an excellent burger. First, ground lamb makes an excellent base – it’s more flavorful and richer than beef. And the toppings were perfect – especially the tomato chutney which was sweet and a little tangy and made with cherry tomatoes so the big flavor came in big bites.

Of course any great burger must be served with great fries, and I can say the truffle Parmesan fries (an upgrade I couldn’t pass up) were truly great. They were loaded with shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley for an herby finish that was made a perfect partner for the burger.

Across the table, Julie ordered a chicken bacon ranch pizza, one of her favorite specialty flavors. It was topped with cheddar and fontina cheeses, red onion, and of course grilled chicken and ranch dressing.

It feels like every restaurant in Berks County now offers wood-fired pizza, but that’s not a bad thing. I much prefer the crisp crust produced by the wood-fired oven. It provides a much sturdier, and oftentimes, more flavorful base for the toppings.

The toppings on this pie were strewn about while the ranch was drizzled on in a spiral. Each bite was different, but all were very enjoyable.

Even our toddler enjoyed the slice that his mommy shared with him.

One other thing that I enjoyed was my soup. I had ordered the soup of the day as an appetizer, and it came served with delicious pita chips. The soup was creamy and a little nutty – unfortunately I never wrote down the exact description and because it was the soup of the day, I couldn’t find a description anywhere.

(I did send a Facebook message to Other Farm a week after our visit but only received an auto-response. Though I can’t blame them for not answering a crazy person asking about their soup).

Everything we had was very good, and it was pretty reasonably priced at around $40 for the whole meal.

Boyertown is home to many great restaurants (some we’ve visited include Firefly Cafe, CD’s Place and Jukebox Cafe) and you can count the Other Farm among those.

At this point, Boyertown’s dining scene may be an attraction in and of itself.

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

The Other Farm & Forge
128 E. Philadelphia Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512

Breweries & Wineries Reviews
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

Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery

folino-estate-exterior

The end of January is a time of celebration in our house.

Every January 27, Julie knows I’m going to take her out for her birthday dinner. Each year I try to find a new place for my wife and I to enjoy a romantic evening in her honor.

This year, that place was the Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery.

Folino Estate opened in the fall of 2015 on a sprawling tract along Old Route 22, just off the Krumsville exit of Interstate 78 in northern Berks County.

Pulling up to the building for the first time, you would never know that it is just a little more than a year old. It was built to resemble a historic estate in Tuscany, and it accomplishes that.

folino-estate-interior-1

Even the lobby, the Piazza Folino, feels like something out of an Italian street scene, complete with sidewalk-style tables and chairs.

The restaurant, though, feels exceptionally modern. From the large fireplace in the middle of the dining room to the open kitchen, Folino Estate does well to avoid clichés.

The menu is distinctly Italian, but it is definitely not clichĂ©d either. Folino Estate features some wholly unique offerings that you won’t find on the menus at Berks County’s other Italian restaurants.

folino-estate-italian-onion-souop

Italian onion soup is just one example. I’ve enjoyed many a cup of French onion soup, covered in melted gruyere cheese. But this was different.

For one, there was no melted cheese on top. Instead, mozzarella and fontina cheeses were melted on toasted Italian bread pieces that took the place of croutons in the soup.

Did it remind me of French onion? Of course. But it was different, and I enjoyed this Italian twist. The soup, itself, was a little salty, but I enjoyed it, especially the addition of the mozzarella.

folino-estate-mozzarella-and-tomato

Julie’s appetizer was the tomato and fresh mozzarella, a typical caprese salad with the unexpected addition of a mass of olives.

For most guests, pairing dinner with a glass of Folino’s own wine is a highlight. For me, a non-drinker, I decided to take my wine in my food.

folino-estate-drunken-pasta

Drunken pasta sounded like nothing that I have ever tried. The tagliatelle pasta was infused with red wine, giving it a purple hue. It was also cooked in red wine, with olive oil and roasted garlic. Our waitress made sure to ask, “Do you like red wine?” because the flavor was going to be ever-present in this dish.

And it was. The pasta was delicious, holding the distinct flavors of red wine throughout. I also especially enjoyed the shaved pecorino Romano cheese that topped the dish, adding a sharp, salty note to the dish.

I added chicken to the dish only so that I would have a protein. It didn’t add much except to make it a little more filling.

folino-estate-italian-soda-and-wine

Julie is not one for wine pairings, either. She orders whatever wine she likes, and she really liked her glass of moscato, fruity but slightly dry so it wasn’t too sweet.

folino-estate-crab-cakes

Her meal was a pair of crab cakes with Brussels sprouts and red potatoes.

The crab cakes were almost all meat with just enough filler to hold them together. The red wine dijonaise sauce perfectly complimented the fresh cakes, one of which she saved for later.

In my opinion, the best thing on her plate was the Brussels sprouts in pancetta jam. They featured big chunks of salty pancetta (almost bacon) and a sweet jam that was just perfect.

folino-estate-baklava

We couldn’t stop there – we were celebrating, after all – so we took a look at the dessert menu. Our waitress suggested to order off the specials because they are always incredible. Among the specials was baklava, Julie’s favorite. So there was no doubt what we were getting.

The baklava was served warm and the nuts and honey filling oozed out from the start. Dark chocolate shavings were a nice addition to the dish, melting in your mouth with the flaky pastry.

It was a memorable ending to a memorable birthday meal.

At the end of the evening, our final total was $70, a very reasonable price for three courses and a glass of wine.

Folino Estate provided quite an experience, exactly what we were hoping for on this special occasion.

Happy birthday, Julie.

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

Folino Estate Winery & Vineyard
340 Old U.S. 22
Kutztown, PA 19530

Breweries & Wineries Dessert Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Kutztown Tavern

kutztown-tavern

Kutztown’s Main Street is one of the busiest in Berks County. An array of storefronts: shopping, services and restaurants (with a few residences thrown in) line the blocks from the edge of Kutztown University’s campus to the railroad tracks that bisect the town.

The more than a dozen eateries along Main Street cover just about every type of cuisine you could want: Chinese, Italian, sushi, barbecue, sandwiches, salads: you name it, and you’re likely to find it.

One of the most popular restaurants downtown, the Kutztown Tavern offers one of the most diverse menus in town.

Known simply as “The Tavern” to residents and students, alike, the Kutztown Tavern is housed in one of the largest buildings on Main Street. With a seemingly endless bar, a nice sized dining room and large upstairs event space, the restaurant is expansive. In addition, the building (which is actually two connected buildings) includes Shorty’s Bar, the Tavern Take-Out counter service and the Golden Avalanche Brewing Company.

Brewery equipment becomes part of the decor in the bar area as the system of vats and pipes that create the signature brew are in plain view just inside the front door.

kutztown-tavern-cream-soda

Not being a fan of beer, myself, I was pleased to see Kutztown Red Cream Soda—a personal favorite of mine—on the beverage list.

A deep menu provides a wide range of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees. Everything from soft pretzels and 10 flavors of wings to Black Diamond steaks and seafood scampi. For me, a 9-ounce burger topped with Avalanche chili sounded like a winning combination.

kutztown-tavern-burger

The burger arrived on a toasted sesame seed bun. Chili poured over the edges and onto the plate below. All tavern burgers are served with lettuce, tomato and onion on the side, and I was more than happy to pile them on.

The burger was cooked perfectly with a nice little char around the outside. The mild chili added more flavor without being overwhelming (messy, yes; overpowering, no). And I certainly did not regret the curly fries, perfectly crisped, zesty additions to an already full plate.

Among the multitude of menu options are the “house smoked” offerings, three barbecue selections that are smoked in-house at the tavern. One of those—the brisket, cheddar and onion—caught Julie’s eye immediately.

kutztown-tavern-brisket

Meat and cheese more than filled the toasted ciabatta roll. The brisket was flavorful, with a fair amount of fat left on for extra flavor. The sharp cheddar worked well with the sweet barbecue sauce and grilled onions to create a delicious sandwich.

The only part of our meal that I thought could have been better was the price. The $2.89 charge for fries (instead of the standard potato chips) brought our total bill up to $35.00 for the two of us. I guess that is the cost of quality, however, as we were treated to excellent food and surprisingly speedy service.

For the past 15 years, the Tavern has been a popular go-to spot along Main Street. After our visit, it was easy to see why. When food, location, ambiance and service come together all come together, it makes for a great restaurant.

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

Kutztown Tavern
272 W. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530

Kutztown Tavern on Urbanspoon

Bars & Pubs Breweries & Wineries Lunch & Dinner Reviews