Cheers American Bistro

There are many great reasons to visit downtown Reading, but none are as high profile as the 18-month old DoubleTree Hotel.

The DoubleTree is a big deal. The hotel brings meetings, conventions and visitors that would otherwise be staying outside the city. And it also brought a highly regarded restaurant.

I have eaten in a lot of hotel restaurants, very few of them offering anything remarkable, but Cheers American Bistro gets high marks across all of the major review sites (4.5 stars out of 5 on both Yelp and TripAdvisor).

While I have wanted to go in for dinner, my first opportunity to try Cheers was a Sunday brunch with Julie and 10 members of our church congregation.

Because of our large numbers, we were seated in the Boscov Executive Board Room, a private space normally reserved for small meetings.

It was a different experience from the dining room – private and quiet with desk chairs around a boardroom table.

The brunch buffet was on the other side of two small sets of stairs. On my two trips to the buffet, I peeked into the dining room – lots of tables for two, a combination of booths and tables (and some seats that were a mix of both). If not for our large numbers, we wouldn’t have needed reservations as there were plenty of seats available.

The buffet was fairly standard. It was dominated by breakfast foods, the lone exception was the tray of meatballs in marinara sauce. After surveying the landscape, I went to the made-to-order omelet station.

Mine was stuffed with onions, red bell peppers, spinach, tomato and cheese. On the side, I had a dollop of fresh made tomatillo salsa (the three salsas were labeled – hot, hot and very hot).

The omelet was very good. The ingredients were fresh and vibrant. But the hot salsa made it memorable. It had heat but also a great flavor that accentuated the vegetables instead of hiding them.

On my second trip, I loaded up on breakfast buffet staples: French toast, home fries and a biscuit with cream chipped beef.

The French toast was just a small piece, but it was rich and tasty, if a little crispy from sitting in the warming dish. The home fries were well-seasoned and enjoyable.

But the most remarkable item on the plate was the cream chipped beef. It was very rich with a buttery note. On the buffet, it seemed runny, but it thickened up nicely atop the biscuit and I found myself really enjoying it. The biscuit, like the French toast, had been on the hot bar for a little while, but it wasn’t bad.

If I have one regret, it’s that I did not have room to indulge in any of the dessert pastries. The strudel bites, cinnamon rolls, Danishes, muffins and assorted breads all looked delicious.

Overall, everyone was very happy with the experience and food at Cheers. It wasn’t the variety that Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery offers, but it was enough to please everyone at the table.

And the $14 per person price tag was in line with what I would expect to pay for a good breakfast buffet. (And you don’t have to pay to park because the restaurant will validate the parking for you, as long as you use the DoubleTree’s lot).

The DoubleTree Hotel will continue to bring thousands of people to downtown Reading year after year. Those people will come to stay, to explore and to eat.

And it will bring me back to try dinner.

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

Cheers American Bistro
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
701 Penn Street
Reading, PA 19601

Cheers American Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brunch Buffets Finer Dining Reviews
Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery won best breakfast

Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery

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“Shady Maple north east.”

Those are the words of Hamid Chaudhry as he described his vision for the Wyomissing Family Restaurant to the Reading Eagle in December, shortly after he became the new owner.

Lofty goals, indeed for a restaurant that had fallen on hard times in the years before. On our walks and drives through town, we could see the number of cars in the parking lot slowly start to shrink.

But new ownership has breathed new life into the location, and spawned a new name, the Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery.

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When Julie and I visited for Sunday brunch a few weeks ago, the parking lot was fuller than we could remember seeing in a long time. Thankfully, despite the crowd, there was no wait for a table for those of us doing the brunch buffet.

We were seated with all of the other buffet-goers in what would be the banquet room. With no large groups closing off the space, it was the closest seating to the all-you-can-eat  smorgasbord.

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Five stations of varying size waited for me and my fellow eaters. On the left sat a small table where I found my orange juice and assorted breads for toasting.

Against the back wall was the griddle, where pancakes, French toast and omelets were made to order. A hot bar in the middle featured breakfast favorites: scrambled eggs, ham, bacon and three kinds of potatoes, as well as a couple lunch options like mac and cheese.

I started among these three stations, choosing cream chipped beef over toast, homefries and French toast for plate number one.

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I was expecting one slice of French toast with my order. I got three, and loved them. The powdered sugar was there for you to sprinkle on yourself so I added just the right amount of sweetness for myself.

The chipped beef was also very good (had I known I was getting three slices of French toast, I probably would have skipped it, though). It was rich, but not too much. The homefries were good, though I had to add a little salt and pepper to them.

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Julie’s seasoned potatoes were quite the opposite. If anything, they were a little oversalted. She enjoyed her French toast as well (throwing a few chocolate chips on for good measure). The bite-sized sausage links were very flavorful, and the eggs were also nicely done.

Not a bad first plate for either of us.

With plate two, we both migrated to the middle island and lunch. The full salad bar was open with two kinds of soup and two pasta options (the soup, salad and pasta buffet station is available for lunch every day).

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I had a bowl of cream of broccoli soup with a helping each of vegetable lasagna and penne pasta with clam sauce.

The vegetable lasagna was delicious, with layers of pasta, cheese and plenty of veggies (broccoli, carrots, and more). The cream of broccoli soup was good, too, though if I wasn’t blogging, I probably wouldn’t have needed both the soup and the lasagna. I’m also not a fan of clams, but I tried the pasta and actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t too clammy, though you could definitely taste it.

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Julie’s second plate was a little lighter as she went for the more traditional salad options. She was happy to see that her favorite item from the old salad bar was still there: Jell-O. The options were actually very impressive, with a wide variety to build a nice side salad or even make it an entree.

The final station was serving up sweets: waffles and soft ice cream. For research purposes, Julie and I both made mini sundaes to cap off our brunch.

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For $15 per person (discounts for seniors and children), the brunch buffet is definitely priced right. The buffet definitely seems like the way to go, with reasonable prices for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week.

While we were at the ice cream station, we had a chance to chat with Hamid Chaudhry. In between hosting duties, he was greeting regulars and striking up conversation with newcomers.

“What do you think of the changes?” he asked.

Julie and I both agreed, the changes are positives.

It’s not Shady Maple, but as long as the restaurant holds on to those aspirations, it will be a great buffet.

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

Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery
1245 Penn Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Wyomissing Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast & Brunch Buffets Dessert Diners Reviews

Infinito’s

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I love a good buffet.

There’s nothing like having everything laid out in front of you, ready to grab and go. No ordering. No waiting.

That’s a big part of the draw for a place like Infinito’s.

Tucked away near the Kmart in a shopping plaza along the 5th Street Highway, Infinito’s is an unassuming place.

It’s one of seven locations for the locally owned chain of pizza, pasta and salad buffets, and the only one in Berks County.

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Infinito’s offers 20 varieties of pizza, pasta with three sauce selections and a build-your-own salad bar. The salad bar is where Julie and I started our journey.

Options are limited: lettuce or baby spinach for the base. Then there’s your traditional toppings: cheese, onions, peppers, croutons and more with half a dozen varieties of Hidden Valley dressings.

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We both had basic salads, just to add some nutritional value to our meal without filling ourselves.

The best way to judge a pizza place is with a plain cheese slice, so my first trip to the buffet line included cheese and pepperoni.

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Infinito’s pizza features a very thin, crisp crust. The cheese was nice and bubbly. All in all, it was a good looking slice.

And it tasted pretty good, too. There’s nothing remarkable about it, but I enjoyed it. The pepperoni piece had plenty of slices on it to enjoy.

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Julie’s first plate included pepperoni, bacon and buffalo chicken slices, all good choices. The crumbled bacon was lumped on the slice, and the buffalo chicken had just the right amount of kick.

Full pies are roughly the size of a medium pizza at most restaurants, and with the pies cut into eights, it makes it easy to go for seconds, thirds and fourths.

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My second plate included two slices (margherita and barbecue chicken) and a scoop of pasta with Bolognese sauce.

The margherita was my favorite slice that I tried. The fresh basil leaves that were layered in with the cheese and tomatoes were perfect. The barbecue chicken wasn’t bad, but it didn’t stand out.

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The pasta bar has three sauce choices: marinara, Bolognese and alfredo. I went with the Bolognese, the only meat sauce option. The pasta was generic rotini, and while it was OK, I probably should have skipped it for another slice instead.

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Julie got the same thing with her second plate, which also included a slice of the margherita and a Hawaiian. The Hawaiian was fresh out of the oven, the cheese still hot and gooey, just the way Julie likes it.

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I was going to go for dessert but stopped when I saw a fresh rosé pie on the counter. I grabbed a slice and a breadstick. The rosé featured its namesake creamy tomato sauce with lots of oregano. It was right behind the margherita for me in terms of favorites.

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We each had one final trip to make to the buffet for our choice of three dessert pies and cinnamon rolls.

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I went with a slice of apple, a sliver of Oreo and a cinnamon roll. The cinnamon roll wasn’t bad, though it would have been better if it were fresher (it was stuck to the pan when I tried to pick it up from the buffet). The apple was delicious, with a sugary crumb on top. And the Oreo was exactly what I had hoped, though it left me longing for a glass of milk.

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The other dessert option was S’mores Pizza, Julie’s choice (along with a cinnamon roll). Marshmallow, melted chocolate and graham cracker crumble. It’s not exactly like eating it around a campfire, but if you like marshmallow, you should enjoy this.

Our final tally for the day: 13 slices of pizza, two salads, two helpings of pasta, two cinnamon rolls, one breadstick and five drink refills. Not a bad haul for $18.

If you’re going to go to Infinito’s (or any other buffet, for that matter), you’re best bet is to go during peak hours, when the pies are changing quickly. Be sure to grab a seat near the buffet, too, so you can hear the announcement every time a new pie arrives.

Does Infinito’s have the best pizza in Berks? No. I don’t think there are many people that would argue that. But what they offer is an incredible variety and the opportunity to please everyone.

That’s why I love a good buffet.

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

Infinito’s Pizza
3025 N. 5th Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Infinito's Pizza Buffet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Buffets Dessert Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews

Jumbo China Buffet

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We all have our guilty pleasures in life. As a food blogger, my guilty pleasures revolve around meals that most food bloggers would be ashamed to eat.

One of my guilty pleasures is the Jumbo China Buffet along the 5th Street Highway near Fairgrounds Square Mall.

The buffet is the largest buffet of any kind in Berks County with 10 stations to navigate and what looks like enough seating for a few hundred people.

Buffets of any kind are hit or miss. If you go when it’s not busy, you risk food that sits for a while. So unlike a sit-down restaurant where the service should be better during off-peak hours, you want to visit a buffet at its busiest.

I went with a friend of mine on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, and it was definitely busy.

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Jumbo Buffet tries to be everything to everyone. In addition to the Asian staples, they offer a wide range of American comfort food. There’s a carving station with fresh-cooked sausage and ham. And plenty of hot bar items including fried chicken, pizza, and fries. I’ve never tried any of these items myself, but I always see people filling their plates with them.

in the back of the buffet area is the hibachi, where you can create your own stir-fry from a selection of seafood, meats, vegetables and lo mein.

I have a system when I go to Jumbo: three trips to the buffet, twice for dinner and once for dessert. And I always end up with similar plates from one trip to the next.

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Fried rice and chicken with broccoli are my two staples for the first plate. These are two items that are always done right when I go. The rice is always bright yellow and has just enough vegetables (a few peas and some onions) that I can convince myself that it’s good for me. Same with the chicken and broccoli. While it’s doused in a tasty soy sauce that has no nutritional value, it has white meat and vegetables so it can’t be all bad.

From there, I’ll build out with whatever looks interesting. On this trip, that was a pork dumpling and a little chicken in garlic sauce. The dumplings are always their best when they are first delivered. With no sauce to soak in, they don’t hold as well on the hot bar as other items. But when they’re fresh, they are delicious, especially with a little drizzle of ginger sauce to help them go down.

The chicken in garlic sauce is very much like the chicken and broccoli but with the addition of more vegetables (the occasional carrot or onion) and a stronger taste of garlic. And I can never have enough garlic.

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Plate number two begins with the classic General Tso’s chicken. Jumbo’s version is a little hotter than others, but it’s not overbearing. There’s plenty of sweetness to help cut through the heat. And it’s always a popular item so you know it will be fresh every time.

Adding to my second plate, I opted for sweet and sour chicken, a vegetable egg roll and the very non-Chinese dish of fried plantains.

The sweet and sour chicken is always good, but not much different than any others you’ll find throughout the county. It’s the same lightly breaded, fried chicken pieces and the same red sauce. Similarly, the egg roll isn’t much different than anywhere else. Like the dumplings, it’s always better when it’s fresh out of the kitchen.

The plantains don’t fit with the rest of the meal, but I didn’t care. I love plantains and I’ll grab some off any buffet that has them.

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After two trips to the hot bar, I venture up for dessert. I tend to connect with my inner child when I go to Jumbo because dessert always includes soft serve ice cream. It’s always vanilla and chocolate mix for me.  I also found banana with strawberry syrup on the dessert bar so I added that to my plate. It’s not fancy, but I like bananas and I like strawberry syrup so I went for it.

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Dessert includes one last item, the guiltiest of pleasures, the fried donut. The fried piece of dough, rolled in sugar, is something I look forward to on every trip. These treats just melt in your mouth. I always make sure it’s the last thing I taste before I walk out the door.

The great thing about the buffet is that it’s quick and cheap. We were in and out of the restaurant in about a half-hour, spending $15 per person for a hefty meal.

It’s not glamorous or fancy, but Jumbo China Buffet will always be one of my favorites, even if I feel a little guilty about it.

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

Jumbo China Buffet
3252 N. 5th Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Jumbo China Buffet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Buffets Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Shady Maple Smorgasbord

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Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 23 miles southwest of Reading to East Earl, PA.

I think everyone has a birthday tradition.

For myself, and many people who live within driving distance of Lancaster County, that tradition includes a birthday feast at one of the best buffets in the entire country.

Every year on May 30, my wife and I make the short drive south to East Earl to join the throngs of thousands that pour into Shady Maple Smorgasbord daily.

East Earl, a community of just over 1,000 people, doubles in size during the evening dinner rush. That’s the way it has been since Shady Maple expanded its smorgasbord more than a decade ago to create the glorious food paradise it is today.

The only exceptions are on holidays and every Sunday when the restaurant is closed, perhaps so we can all atone for committing the deadly sin of gluttony during our visit.

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It’s easy to get lost among the food, which is why signs point the way to both the east and west buffet. Combined, there are 10 islands, four carving stations and three drink stations. A pair of dessert stands bookend the room. Walking from one end to the other is nearly impossible as you bob and weave your way around a hundred other people, all seemingly waiting in line for the same thing you are.

But with limited stomach to work with, scoping out the entire buffet is a must. Otherwise you may miss the carved-to-order prime rib or the ICEE machine.

As much as I appreciate a good salad, the two stations full of greens are off-limits during my visits. I can get a free salad with a meal anywhere.

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Instead, my first plate included a cup of tomato basil soup, broccoli, a pierogi and a sweet and sour meatball. The soup was a beautiful shade of light orange, a result of the added cream that gave it its rich flavor. A heaping helping of peppers and onions came along with the pierogi, but it could easily stand on its own. And the meatball was more like a miniature meatloaf, packed with spices in a ketchup-based barbecue sauce. I also added on an onion biscuit, just for good measure.

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Plate number two was all about the meat as I took a slab of beef brisket and a heaping helping of roast beef. A fistful of carrots and a drop of bread filling helped balance out the plate. The brisket was a featured meat at one of the carving stations. Unfortunately the heat lamps at carving stations rarely keep meats hot, and this was no exception. It was lukewarm, and the fact that it was oven-roasted made it taste more like an ordinary slice of beef. The actual roast beef, however, was amazing. It was tender and moist, everything the brisket was not.

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My third plate was my “healthy” vegetable plate. It featured baked lima beans, which were done in a very nice, thick barbecue sauce (I wish I that for the brisket); mashed potatoes; mashed sweet potatoes, which were topped with raisins and nuts; and some of the best (and wettest) dried corn I have ever tried. All the juice you see on the plate was from the dried corn, and it was excellent.

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Dessert was a (small) slice of shoofly pie and a dish of raspberry and vanilla soft serve. The wet-bottom pie was alright, but it had obviously been chilled which hurt the filling a little bit.

After dinner, Shady Maple encourages their guests to work off their dinners and shop off some dollars in the expansive gift shop, located beneath the smorgasbord. The store is as large as the buffet, filled to the brim with everything from wind chimes and bird houses to Elvis collectibles and Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks.

If you’re looking for a little taste of Shady Maple to take home, the farmer’s market offers a large selection of fresh produce and many of the smorgasbord’s famous desserts.

Even if you don’t have a birthday coming up, Shady Maple is worth the price of admission. Dinner buffets vary depending on the featured entrees, but average around $20.00 per person. If you do happen to be celebrating, all you need is your ID and a paying guest and you’ve got your very own birthday feast on the house.

Shady Maple Farm Market & Smorgasbord on Urbanspoon

Buffets Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 37 miles southwest of Reading to Lancaster, PA.

Dinner and a show. It is the quintessential night out, a perfect evening of food and fun for couples and large groups alike. Somewhere along the way, a genius decided to combine the two and the dinner theater was born.

Some dinner theaters offer superior acting with subpar food. Others offer great food with mediocre acting.

The Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre has amazing food.

The Dutch Apple is one of a pair of dinner theaters in Lancaster. The nearby Rainbow Dinner Theater specializes in comedies while the Dutch Apple stage is home to musicals.

Theater-goers gather in the lobby until 90 minutes before showtime when the floodgates open and patrons are led to their seats. The two-tiered seating area is deceptively large, holding nearly 400 people on a busy night.

With that many people crowded in, it can create quite a traffic jam at the twin buffets, but it is well worth the wait.

I am sure there are some delicious greens on the salad bar, but I have never wasted a trip on salad when there are so many entree options waiting on the hot bar.

The choices remain fairly consistent between visits, with a trio of entrees (usually beef, a poultry and seafood), a fourth meat at the carving station, at least one potato dish and several vegetables.

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My first trip through the line, I loaded up on sides while getting a few slices of ham from the carving station. The vegetables, a mix of carrots, squash, broccoli and snap peas, were cooked to a perfect t al dente. The corn casserole is creamy and delicious. The pot roast, complete with red skin potatoes and pearl onions, was juicy and tender. The ham was good, but the only bad part about carving stations is that the meat rarely stays hot under the heat lamp, and that was the case with the ham.

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Trip number two featured a second helping of vegetables. The thick slab of turkey was moist and flavorful. The addition of mini marshmallows to the sweet potato casserole gave added texture to the side dish while also adding an extra layer of sweetness. The stuffing was also quite good (though as a Dutchman, I will always pine for potato filling over bread stuffing).

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After a third trip for more pot roast and corn casserole (and a dollop of mashed potatoes), I had my fill of the main course and ventured to the dessert tables.

A server stands guard over the ice cream freezer at the front of the room. The tables next to him is loaded with toppings, as well as wide array of pies and cakes.

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Not wanting to miss out, I took a scoop of ice cream to go with my slice of pecan pie.

Pecan pie is a favorite of mine, and I enjoy Dutch Apple’s. The crust is flakey, the filling is gooey and the pecans are crisped perfectly. I only wish there were a few more pecans and a little less of the filling.

The buffet closes down a few minutes before showtime, ensuring clean up is finished before the curtain rises. If you are still hungry (you shouldn’t be), you can place an order for appetizers to be delivered to your table during intermission. But beware, there is an extra cost involved. And with tickets prices at about $50 per person, I wouldn’t spend the extra money when there is so much good food included.

I won’t pretend to be a theater critic. My area of expertise is the 90 minutes before the actors take the stage. Just know going in that you may be seeing a hit Broadway musical, but Centerville Road is a long way from Broadway.

Enjoy it for what it is, a really good dinner with a show, and you won’t be disappointed.

Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre on Urbanspoon

Buffets Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews