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
Kwik Shoppe Pulled Duck Sandwich

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Shoemakersville, PA

In October 2018, Arby’s tested a very unique sandwich at one of its Berks County locations. The Arby’s in Spring Township sold – and sold out of – the one-time-only duck sandwich.

It was a very different concept, especially for a national fast food chain. But it was met with positive reviews, and the line that morning when Arby’s opened up said there was a demand for it.

That’s where the Kwik Shoppe in Shoemakersville comes in. They saw opportunity and capitalized on it, introducing duck on their menu in November.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Shoemakersville, PA

While duck is normally found on finer dining menus – five-spice duck breast at Savory Grille and ravioli with duck ragu at Salute come to mind – it’s not the first time I’ve had it in a more casual setting.

At the Liberty Taproom, I enjoyed a duck confit burger topped with duck sausage. And my first real taste of duck came at the relaxed Canal Street Pub.

But fast food is a different story. Walking into the Kwik Shoppe – a quintessential drive-in with hexagonal tile floor, booth seating and a claw machine behind the door – duck just doesn’t seem to fit.

The Kwik Shoppe has three different duck items on their menu: the pulled duck sandwich, duck fries and a duck sausage sandwich. All of them sounded good, but a photo of the pulled duck sandwich on the restaurant’s Facebook page had me sold before I got there.

Kwik Shoppe Pulled Duck Sandwich

The sandwich was topped with an onion ring and pineapple papaya sauce (barbecue sauce was also an option).

Before diving into the sandwich, I tasted the meat on its own. It was similar to a pulled pork but fattier with a deeper flavor. I was impressed.

On the whole, the sandwich was very good. There wasn’t a lot of sauce, but there didn’t need to be. It added some sweet and tangy notes that came through after the meat. The onion ring was a reminder that I was eating fast food. It wasn’t necessary, but I certainly didn’t mind it either.

I would go back for another.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Cheeseburger

Julie went with the much less exciting cheeseburger. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not going to win any best burger contests. It was also around $2 so we’re not going to complain.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In French Fries

Both of us did enjoy our fries. They weren’t anything special, just a really good fast food-style French fry. They were cut small so you could pop several of them at a time. I think their small size allowed them to retain more flavor from the fryer. After adding a little salt and pepper, they were just what we hoped they would be.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Mac and Cheese Bites

Jakob, our now one-year-old son, is now at the point that he can have his own food when we go out. So we got him an order for mac and cheese bites. He enjoyed them, eating two out of the five in the order (along with some fries and some duck). Again, nothing special, just a typical fried fast food side.

None of us really needed anything else to eat after our dinners, but the ice cream was right there, and we just couldn’t pass up the chance to indulge.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Ice Cream

I am a sucker for flurries so my go-to on this night was a brownie dough flurry. The flurry was actually mixed to the point that much of the brownie had broken off into small bits, making it look more like cookies and cream than brownie dough. But there were still some larger chunks that were definitely brownie. It was delicious, but a small was more than enough for me, especially after indulging at dinner.

Julie’s new favorite dessert is the dusty road sundae. Kwik Shoppe loaded theirs up with chocolate syrup, malt powder, whipped cream, crushed peanuts and the obligatory cherry on top. The soft-serve vanilla was very good and they didn’t skimp on the toppings. Julie couldn’t finish it, but made sure to eat “all the good stuff.”

We spent about $32 on our visit – $22 on dinner and $10 on dessert. The duck items are a little more expensive than the rest of the menu so we easily could have spent less and we easily could have spent more. But overall, it felt like a good value.

The service isn’t great (a little slow but not bad), but that’s to be expected when a group of four high school students are handling all of the orders behind the counter.

I went in to the meal with an open mind when it came to fast food duck. After eating the pulled duck sandwich, I think you can count me among the believers.

And I hope there are more believers out there because this was a sandwich I would like to have again.

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

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In
555 Shoemaker Ave
Shoemakersville, PA 19555

Dessert Drive-Ins Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant

Berks County Eats crosses the county line for a visit to Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, about 35 miles north of Reading.

Leiby’s is a familiar name around Berks County, even if you didn’t know the family had a restaurant.

The namesake ice cream can found at many of the area’s favorite cool-down spots, including Scoupe DeVille in Birdsboro.

But in Schuylkill County, Leiby’s was also synonymous with homestyle cooking, at least until the restaurant closed in 2007.

After a decade away, the Leiby family decided it was time to reopen, and the hotspot at the corner of Routes 443 and 309 sprang back to life in May 2017.

Officially known as Leiby’s Ice Cream House and Restaurant, the building is familiar to all those who drive past. Just as familiar is the sign on the corner, complete with an analog clock – or is a thermometer – that never actually displays any information.

The restaurant has two entrances, one for ice cream only and one for the dining room. Our hostess was nice but she really wasn’t much help with our questions as we waited a long time to be served. In the large dining room, waitresses were serving customers and busing tables. There was a decent crowd in the dining room for a Sunday afternoon, but certainly not large enough to have been slowing everyone down this much.

Leiby’s menu is very much influenced by diners – simple meals like meatloaf, roast beef, turkey, and spaghetti and meatballs made up the majority of the dinner menu (there were also sandwiches, burgers and a few appetizers).

It’s a relatively reasonably priced menu with dinners priced around $10. But apparently they make up for it in upcharges. Replacing one of my sides with a trip to salad bar cost an extra $5.50.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice little salad bar. The emphasis is on “little” as it certainly was not worth the upcharge. It had your standard lettuce and all the toppings with six squirt bottles full of dressing. But there was nothing that made it stand out.

But not wanting to add another real side, I was left with little options.

For my meal, I had gone very traditional, ordering the roast turkey with mashed potatoes. It was also served with cranberry sauce and was topped with gravy.

The turkey was okay but I was hoping for better. There wasn’t a lot of flavor to the thin slices of meat, and the gravy did little more than to make it wet. The cranberry sauce came in the tiniest little cup on the side. Honestly, I almost forgot to eat it because I didn’t see it sitting on the table.

The best thing on my plate was the mashed potatoes. They were very good, as I would expect from a good diner. They had a nice yellow color, always a good sign, and were well-seasoned. In my teenage years, I would have doubled up on the potatoes instead of getting a salad. I almost wished I had done that on this trip.

Julie’s open-face roast beef sandwich was another fair dish. I didn’t care for the bread that it was served on, but I liked the beef a little better than my turkey. I think she and I were both looking for more of a pot roast-style dish.

And her side of corn was fresh from the can.

On the bright side, Leiby’s serves Leiby’s ice cream so we had that to look forward throughout the meal. And the ice cream did not disappoint.

I had a waffle sundae with vanilla fudge ice cream, topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. The warm Belgian waffle and hot fudge melted the ice cream just enough to make it soft. The waffle itself was delicious and the ice cream was sweet, creamy and perfect.

And it cost less than my salad.

Julie had a more traditional dusty road sundae (her new favorite) with Tandy Kake ice cream (also her new favorite).

Dessert redeemed the meal, for the most part. But it couldn’t overcome the poor service we received.

Julie, Jakob and I were joined by her family. And while Julie and her mom both ordered lettuce with hot bacon dressing as sides, only Julie’s was delivered as an appetizer. And flagging down our waitress wasn’t easy as we went 10 minutes at a time without seeing her.

Worse yet, at the end of the meal when we asked for our bills to be split, I was given our half (about $38) but unknowingly my in-laws were given, and charged for, both of our meals. (Payments are made at a cash register near the exit). So we had to call a manager to do a refund. Then they had to enter each of the meals individually, but they didn’t even get that right. Eventually we each paid our fair share.

I expect this kind of service from a place that’s been open six weeks, not one that has been open for 16 months.

Needless to say, we won’t be making any Sunday drives to Leiby’s again any time soon.

BCE Rating:

Food: Fair
Service: Poor
Ambiance: Good
Value: Reasonable

Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant
848 W. Penn Pk
Tamaqua, PA 18252

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Scoupe DeVille

Driving along Route 724 near Birdsboro it’s hard to miss Scoupe Deville. The building, with its distinct half-car sticking out the front, was built in the 1950s as a service station.

First opening as an ice cream parlor in 2001, Scoupe DeVille’s current owners took over the space in 2017.

The 1950s has been brought back in all its kitschy glory inside Scoupe DeVille. Reproduction signs, old photographs, an old jukebox and a retro gas pump are among the hundreds of decorations found throughout the building.

Early rock ‘n’ roll played through speakers inside and outside the building. A small TV in one corner showed clips of the Three Stooges and I Love Lucy on rotation.

In addition to ice cream, Scoupe DeVille does offer a very limited food menu that includes burgers, hot dogs, fries and barbecue sandwiches.

I ordered a Coney burger with onions and no cheese. I was a little puzzled when the young lady behind the counter told me that the Coney burger came smothered in gravy, but I rolled with it. Just like I rolled with it when the burger came out with a slice of white American cheese on top.

It was an okay burger. There’s no grill (at least that I saw) so I’m sure it was a pre-done patty that was just reheated.

Julie’s hot dog was a little better, though it was absolutely loaded with cheese and chili – probably a little overstuffed. It was good enough, if a little messy.

One thing we really enjoyed was the use of potato rolls for the hamburger and the hot dog. It’s a small touch, but it does make a difference in flavor.

Another thing we enjoyed were the fries. The crinkle-cut fries were no different than you would find at similar places, but that didn’t make them any less enjoyable.

If I was going to grab dinner there again, I would either opt for a bowl of chili or a barbecue sandwich.

But we weren’t really there for the food. We were there for the ice cream.

The ice cream menu is vast, with hard and soft ice cream, four types of banana splits, milkshakes, sundaes, shimmies (kind of like a Blizzard but not copyrighted), and the Fat Elvis Ice Cream Challenge: a 10-scoop sundae (five scoops of banana ice cream, five scoops of peanut butter ice cream), seven toppings, whipped cream, a brownie, a banana and cherries. Eat it in 30 minutes, and you win.

I don’t know how long the challenge has been in place, but there was only one photo on the wall of fame.

Julie and I were only looking for one scoop each. Scoupe DeVille primarily serves Nelson’s Ice Cream (we most recently saw Nelson’s ice cream at Oley Turnpike Dairy), but they also offer select flavors from Schuylkill County favorite Leiby’s Dairy.

And it just happened that the flavors that caught our eyes were both from Leiby’s.

For me, it was cashew and raspberry. Not to be confused with black raspberry, the cashew and raspberry was a vanilla ice cream with raspberry swirl. No, this was better than any black raspberry. It was sweet and rich. If I had one criticism it would be that there weren’t enough cashews and I would have liked the nuts to have been salted. That would have put it over the top in my book.

Julie went with red velvet cheesecake, a new flavor (according to Scoupe DeVille’s Facebook page). The decadent ice cream featured chunks of red velvet with graham cracker crust. It was a unique flavor, and quickly became one of Julie’s favorites. She also splurged on a chocolate-covered waffle cone dipped in sprinkles. It’s hard not to love that.

Between dinner and ice cream, our total was just over $20. And while dinner certainly didn’t wow us, the ice cream had us leaving extremely satisfied.

BCE Rating
Food: Fair
Ice Cream: Excellent
Ambiance: Very Good
Service: Good
Value: Very Reasonable

Scoupe DeVille
3365 Main St
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Note: Scoupe DeVille is only open seasonally

Dessert Drive-Ins Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Way-Har Farms

Earlier this month, Visit PA (the official tourism agency for Pennsylvania) announced the PA Ice Cream Trail – a list of 12 “farm-to-scoop” creameries in the state. Each location offers passports to the Ice Cream Trail that can be stamped at the participating locations. Visit six creameries and win a t-shirt. Visit all 12 to earn a #PursueYourScoops ice cream scoop.

Two Berks County locations made the list: Twilight Acres Creamery & Bakery in Stouchsburg and Way-Har Farms in Bernville.

Way-Har is the older, more recognized name. Located along Route 183 between Bernville and Strausstown in the northwest reaches of the county, Way-Har has long been known for its milk, dairy and desserts – both baked and frozen.

The store also offers a variety of bulk foods and candies, jams and jellies, and country primitives. There is also a small deli section featuring a limited menu of hoagies and hot meals for dine-in or take-out.

We – Julie, Jakob and I – arrived for an early dinner on a rainy Sunday evening. The ice cream counter was already bustling, but our ice cream would have to wait until we had some real food in us. Among the hot food items are pork BBQ – my choice – and hamburger BBQ – Julie’s choice. I also ordered a cup of sausage stew, one of two soups of the day.

The woman who waited on us was very kind and told us to grab a table and she would bring our food out. There are only eight or so tables, each seating between two and eight people.

When she brought out the food a short time later, our server was nervous that she had made our sandwiches too hot and my stew not hot enough. We had seen her bring the crock-pot out of the back with the stew so it was clear that the microwave got a lot of use for us.

Given the setup, I wasn’t expecting much so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pork BBQ was actually pretty good. The hamburger BBQ was as well. Both were like something you would expect to find a church potluck – surprisingly satisfying but not anything we would go out of our way to order again.

The sausage stew, however, was very good, and it was all because of the sausage. Way-Har sells Peter Bros. Meats (locally made in Lenhartsville, Berks County) and I assume the smokey, flavorful sausage was one of theirs.

If it’s on the menu again, I would definitely get a quart to take home (but my own microwave would suffice for reheating).

Of course the soup and sandwich was just a precursor. We were there for the ice cream. I had seen a sign on the door advertising peach as the flavor of the week. That had me sold instantly.

Peach ice cream was my absolute favorite growing up so there was a little nostalgia at play. But I thought it was absolutely delicious. There were no large chunks of fruit, but with more, smaller pieces it added flavor throughout.

Julie found an ice cream flavor that she had never tried before – tandy cake. It was vanilla peanut butter ice cream with the addition of pieces of tandy cake (think Tastykake’s Kandy Kake) and chocolate chips.

In this case, there were larger chunks of cake mixed in, and Julie absolutely loved it. Tandy cakes are one of her favorite desserts, and mixing it into an already creamy vanilla peanut butter ice cream made her day.

As Julie paid our roughly $25 tab, we got our first stamp on our passport. Our goal is to find a way to visit all 12 between now and when the promotion ends on October 31.

Way-Har Farms was certainly a great place to start. One down. Eleven to go.

BCE Rating

Food: Fair
Ice Cream: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Way-Har Farms

7701 Bernville Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

PA Ice Cream Trail

Twilight Acres Creamery & Bakery
Stouchsburg, Berks County

Way-Har Farms
Bernville, Berks County

Coventry Parlor at Laurel Locks
Pottstown, Chester County

Chester Springs Creamery at Milky Way Farm
Chester Springs, Chester County

Fox Meadows Creamery
Ephrata, Lancaster County

Lapp Valley Farms
New Holland, Lancaster County

The Milkhouse at Oregon Dairy
Lititz, Lancaster County

Patches Family Creamery
Lebanon, Lebanon County

Crystal Spring Farm
Schnecksville, Lehigh County

Freddy Hill Farms
Lansdale, Montgomery County

Merrymead Farm
Lansdale, Montgomery County

Perrydell Farm and DairyYork, York County

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner

Sometimes on Berks County Eats, I find a place that is just…unique. A place that has no real comparison in Berks County or elsewhere.

I found another one of those places when Julie, Jakob and I made our first visit to the Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner.

The Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner is about as old school as it gets. It’s a true diner in every sense – just with wood paneling where one would expect to find stainless steel. And there’s an ice cream parlor. And a small antiques store. And a petting zoo.

OK, so maybe it’s not the stereotypical diner, but I think Julie said it best when she said, “This is Berks County.”

We arrived for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. Though not full, there was a steady “post-church” crowd filing through while we were there. We sat ourselves at one of the booths – the slightly tattered black benches were wide enough for Jakob’s car seat – leaving the eight-person tables with the popsicle tablecloths for someone else.

The service was quick. We had our order placed and our drinks on the table in no time. It wasn’t long before our lunches arrived, either.

The menu included all of the comfort food classics you expect from a diner – burgers, sandwiches, $12 steaks, etc. I went with one of those only-at-a-diner meals: an open-faced meatloaf sandwich with mashed potatoes.

I’m not going to a diner expecting anything more than a satisfying, high-Calorie meal. And that’s what I got. The open-faced sandwich had four slices of white bread and two slabs of meatloaf loaded with beef gravy. I enjoyed it and thought the gravy and (surprisingly) the bread were very flavorful. Meatloaf is meatloaf, but the other elements added to it. The mashed potatoes were fine, though I found them to be a little dry, and there wasn’t quite enough gravy to make up for it.

Julie also went with a simple meal – an Italian wrap with a side of chips. The Italian wrap featured Capicola, cooked and hard salami, Provolone cheese, the option for LTO (Julie skipped the onion) and pickles on the side. It was a typical wrap on a larger flour tortilla. But it was done right, and Julie enjoyed it.

It was also served with a bag of Lay’s potato chips on the side that went unfinished.

We came to the Dairy not just for lunch but for dessert. And when we found out that they served Nelson’s Ice Cream – the same Royersford, Montgomery County, brand served at Sweet Ride in West Reading – we were excited. (Though we did find it ironic that a dairy had to bring in outside ice cream).

I can’t speak to whether there are more options at the ice cream counter, but in the diner, guests can enjoy cones or cups, milkshakes, floats, banana splits, sundaes and apple dumplings a la mode.

Both Julie and I decided on sundaes – hers was a dusty road sundae with chocolate raspberry chip ice cream, mine was a pineapple sundae with vanilla fudge.

The hallmark of a dusty road sundae is malted milk. The powder was dusted on top of the of the ice cream, which sat on a bed of chocolate syrup (with another helping on top). The chocolate raspberry chip is a delicious flavor on its own with black raspberry ice cream and chocolate chips. The syrup and whipped cream added more sweetness. The malted milk helped balance it out and add just a little bit of needed texture.

I haven’t had a pineapple sundae in a long time, but it seemed like a good fit for vanilla fudge ice cream. With the fudge already in the ice cream, there was no need to drench it in syrup. Instead, it played perfect with the pineapple. It was definitely a good fit and a great decision.

As an old-school diner, the Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner also offers all of this at great prices. For two lunches, two sundaes and an iced tea, our total was just $27. That’s hard to beat at a full-service restaurant.

Our only regret on the day was that Jakob was not cooperative enough for us to visit the petting zoo – another bargain with $1 admission and $1.50 feed. But knowing that we can enjoy a meal (and ice cream) at such a great price, there is no doubt that we will return when our little one’s attention span is a little longer.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Bargain

Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner
6213 Oley Turnpike Rd
Oley, PA 19547

 

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Bel-Air Ice Cream, Hamburgers & More

Driving along Route 100 near Bechtelsville, it’s hard not to notice the bright blue Chevy Bel-Air on the rooftop of the namesake Bel-Air Ice Cream, Burgers & More.

I don’t drive that way often, but I happened to drive past it twice in one week, and the new restaurant caught my eye and had me intrigued. And neither Julie nor I can’t resist burgers and ice cream.

The restaurant opened in late May in the former Woodside Family Restaurant. It’s one of a handful of restaurants that fall within Berks County along the Route 100 corridor. We pulled in on a Saturday night, and while the parking lot wasn’t packed, the restaurant was clearly busy.

Between the checkerboard floor, the stainless-steel accents and the tabletop jukeboxes, the Bel-Air is a callback to the 1950s and proud of it. Mini collections of retro collectibles line the walls, including a parade of Bel-Air die-casts and a shelf full of Coca-Cola merchandise.

Based on reviews we saw – and based on what we witnessed at the restaurant – customer are confused about how it works. Unlike the Woodside which formally occupied the space, Bel-Air is not a full-service restaurant. Instead, customers are directed to grab a menu, order at the counter and seat themselves. The food will be delivered the table, but no one is going to come to the table to take an order.

So while Julie took Jakob out of his car seat to feed, I placed our order.

The dinner menu at Bel-Air is primarily made up of burgers and hot dogs with a few other sandwiches and some fried appetizers thrown in. But that’s not to say there aren’t options. There are 15 different burgers and 10 hot dog creations on the menu plus build-your-own options for both. Both Julie and I went with burgers – the Hot Rod for me and the Billy the Kid for her.

The Hot Rod burger is topped with chili and Provolone cheese. The melted cheese actually did a reasonable job of sealing in the chili – a pretty good, mostly bean-filled sauce. I don’t know that Provolone was the best cheese to go with the burger (when I think chili, I think cheddar) but it worked. I thought the burger itself was very good and cooked perfectly. And the toasted roll was a great addition.

Julie’s burger came topped with onion rings, barbecue sauce and Swiss cheese. It was good combination, though in the bite that Julie gave me I thought the sauce was a little too sweet for the burger. But the onion rings were good and like mine, the burger was really well cooked.

Chips are the default side for all burgers, but both Julie and I spent the extra $1.50 for a French fry upgrade. And we were glad we did.

The fries were the fresh-cut variety, skins on and easily snackable (don’t be thrown off by the stock photo of chicken fingers and steak fries that appears on the menu). I thought they were very good, though I had to throw some salt and pepper on them for just a little added flavor.

After we finished, it was my turn to take care of our seven-month-old while Julie ordered our dessert. She came back to me for cash because, despite having an obviously full cash drawer, they wouldn’t break the $50 bill that she had in her purse. Thankfully I had a $10 so we avoided having to add $8 to our credit card.

Her frustration continued as she had ordered her ice cream in a pretzel cone, but instead saw it being dipped into a dish. But the situation was quickly fixed and she got her cone of Hershey’s chocolate moose tracks.

Hershey’s is the brand of choice in the ice cream freezer, though there was a Turkey Hill ice cream sign in one of the windows as well. Bel-Air also offers soft serve, which is what I chose as the base for my Kit Kat Delight sundae.

The vanilla soft serve was topped with a whole Kit Kat bar, caramel sauce, hot fudge, whipped cream and the obligatory cherry on top. I was actually surprised by how many bits of Kit Kat were broken up in the sundae – it was hard to see what I was getting underneath the mountain of whipped cream.

In the end, we were both happy with our choices and left the restaurant very full.

Between dinner, dessert and our drinks, we spent about $30. That’s not a bad price at all for dinner for two.

Bel-Air’s closest comparison in Berks is probably Billy Burger and Bakery on the opposite end of the county. Both restaurants specialize in burgers and fries, but don’t mistake them for fast food. The burgers are made to order, and at Bel-Air, they are cooked to your specification.

I don’t think Bel-Air is on the level of Billy Burger – the food isn’t quite up to that standard and the staff, mostly teenagers on summer break, could be a little friendlier and more polished. The restaurant management could also do a better job explaining to first-time customers that orders are to be placed at the counter. We saw many confused customers mistakenly waiting to be seated or questioning the process.

That said, the food was good. It was reasonably priced. They have great ice cream. And quite frankly, it’s a really cool place.

All those things make it worth the visit if you’re in the area.

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

Bel-Air Ice Cream, Burgers & More
913 Route 100
Bechtelsville, PA 19505

Dessert Diners Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Plum Creek Farm

Last summer, my brother clued me in to a new ice cream place called Plum Creek Farm.

The small place had recently opened, and they were serving homemade soft serve ice cream. We checked it out and quickly fell in love with both the ice cream and the small farm market store.

Plum Creek operates seasonally so we got our last taste of it in the fall and awaited its reopening in April. This year brought an expanded menu of hot food items, new hard ice cream (not homemade but locally made) and more treats.

The hot food menu was definitely something we wanted to try. Last year, it was an evolving menu but it finally seems to be set, with sandwiches that include pulled pork, smoked sausage, pit beef and hot dogs; fresh-cut fries; homemade soups; and soft pretzels. (There are also salads if you want to save Calories for dessert).

We stopped by on a weeknight in early June and the line to order showed that the word is definitely out about Plum Creek.

It was a long wait for our dinners. That wasn’t the case for ice cream cones as an efficient ordering system had cones delivered before the customers even had paid. But for hot food, and for specialty desserts, it took time.

I stood and watched as cone after cone was handed off. Then a cup of soup. Occasionally, a sandwich. Finally, after what seemed like hours (it was probably 20 minutes), my name was called and our sandwiches were ready.

We dined at one of many picnic tables that make up the “dining area.” There are also Adirondack chairs, benches, all outside.

Maybe I was just really hungry, but from the first bite, I really enjoyed my pulled pork sandwich.

Now, I fully recognize that this pulled pork will never win a barbecue competition. But it was still very good. The sauce was sweeter than most, almost a little too sweet, but I think what really made the sandwich was Plum Creek’s seasoning. It was sprinkled on as the sandwich was constructed. The basic salt and pepper were there with additional spices. It wasn’t spicy, but it added little hits of flavor to every bite.

The seasoning was even better, in my opinion, on Julie’s pit beef sandwich. She thought it was a little salty, but I thought it worked.

Her sandwich was served with cheese (that’s the standard at Plum Creek; I opted for mine without). It’s not the norm for barbecue, but Julie enjoyed this change of pace.

Both sandwiches were served on Kaiser rolls that served their purpose, holding in all of the meat and sauce without crumbling.

We both really enjoyed the side of fries that we shared. They most closely resembled the shoestring fries that you’ll find locally at Austin’s and Coastal Grille. The fries were cut very thin and short, making it easy to pick up a handful at once. And they came out piping hot – I can only assume this was what delayed our order.

Of course we couldn’t come to Plum Creek without getting ice cream. And even though we were comfortably full after dinner, we couldn’t resist trying some of their signature desserts.

My sweet of choice was the pie a la mode. I chose the shoo-fly pie (strawberry is also available) and have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the pie. It drier than it looked with a rather plain crust. But the homemade vanilla soft serve was excellent. It’s a heavy ice cream that is better and more flavorful than your typical soft serve mix.

I probably would have been happier – and certainly more comfortable – had I just settled for a cone of vanilla.

Julie was not disappointed with her strawberry shortcake, though she would also admit that she didn’t need that much food.

The shortcake was topped with strawberries (you can buy Plum Creek’s fresh-picked strawberries from their store), strawberry sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Everything about this was excellent, but there’s just nothing better than fresh strawberries and a homemade strawberry sauce on a shortcake.

One downside of the way we did things was that we had to go through the line a second time. While Julie stood in line for dessert, I gave Jakob a bottle so it worked out. But we spent a long evening – and around $35 – at Plum Creek.

Last year, I could have argued that Plum Creek Farm was a hidden gem. But with long lines on an ordinary weeknight, I’d say the word is already out.

But those crowds won’t scare us away this summer, and they shouldn’t scare you away either.

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

Plum Creek Farm
5035 Bernville Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

Dessert Farmers Market Meals Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Boursin fried chicken from Franklin House Tavern

Road Trip: Franklin House Tavern

Franklin House Tavern in Schaefferstown, PA

Berks County Eats takes a road trip to Lebanon County this week for a meal at the historic Franklin House Tavern in Schaefferstown.

It’s been a long time since we took a road trip for Berks County Eats. Our last stop outside the county was in July of last year, eight months ago when we visited the Revere Tavern in Lancaster.

Ironically enough, our next road trip takes us to another historic inn named after a famous figure from the past: the Franklin House Tavern in Schaefferstown.

I have a vague childhood memory of a family meal at the Franklin House. It had to have been 20 years ago when my grandparents still lived on a farm outside of Schaefferstown.

Franklin House Tavern in Schaefferstown, PA

In the years since, Julie and I have driven by the restaurant countless times. But it was never our destination. But the more we drove through Schaefferstown, the more we wanted to stop.

Our first visit finally happened in late February. We dropped Jakob off at my parents and continued on to the Lebanon County landmark for a Saturday evening dinner.

The historic inn is essentially divided into two sides – the restaurant and the tavern. We were on the restaurant side, the more refined, finer dining experience.

The Washington Room

We were led back into the Washington Room, a small-ish dining space with our table for two, three tables for four, a table for six, and a table for 10. In buildings this old – it was erected in 1746 – rooms are small and seating can be tight. But we were comfortable at our little table in the corner of the room.

Inside the Washington Room at the Franklin House Tavern

During our meal, there were only two other tables occupied in our dining room, but we saw at least five different servers and runners coming through. Our waitress was the second person we saw, after another waiter in the room breezed by after taking another order. “Be there in a sec,” was the gist of what he said. Thankfully, he wasn’t our server.

House Salad at the Franklin House TavernThe meal started with salads. I stuck with the house salad with ranch dressing while Julie upgraded to the Caesar.

The presentation on both was beautiful, and the house salad included one nice addition: fresh Parmesan cheese. It was a subtle enhancement.

Caesar salad from the Franklin House Tavern

Julie’s Caesar salad shined thanks to attention to detail. The lettuce was grilled, bringing out more flavor and making it feel special. A small crostini was served on the side and it was better than any crouton that would have been served on top. It was worth the $3.25 upgrade charge.

Dinner roll and oil from Franklin House Tavern

Between our salad and meal, we were served a pair of dinner rolls. Set on the table was an oil and balsamic blend for dipping. Oil is great. Balsamic is not. To me, it was an attempt to be too fancy. The rolls would have been better served with butter.

Next out were our entrees. For me, it was the “Jacked Mac.” The menu listed it as “cavatappi pasta, Parmesan cream, house smoked sweet Italian sausage, roasted cauliflower, rum raisins and sweet peas.”

The Jacked Mac from the Franklin House Tavern

I found it to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, I loved the additions to the dish – the sausage was very good, and the rum raisins provided sweet little flavor bursts.

On the other hand, I was really hoping for more of a cream sauce and less of a traditional mac-and-cheese. The Parmesan cream didn’t jump out. On the contrary, I didn’t taste much Parmesan. And I felt like my meal had been completed before Julie’s and was sitting for a few minutes. Not that it was cold, but I could tell that the cheese had cooled slightly.

Overall, it was still a good dish but it could have been great. Like the Boursin fried chicken. That was Julie’s meal, and it was a great dish.

Boursin fried chicken from Franklin House Tavern

The Boursin fried chicken was on the specials menu, and there wasn’t much description of it, other than that it would be served atop a waffle with prosciutto and a honey drizzle.

It was a beautiful presentation with a lightly breaded chicken breast topped with the cheese and a slice of prosciutto. The only thing better than how it looked was how it tasted.

Boursin cheese, as we would come to find out, most closely resembles cream cheese. It essentially took the place of a sauce, giving a sweet, creamy flavor that was in every bite. The prosciutto added another savory element while also giving salty notes to the dish. Even the waffle added additional depth to the dish.

I was in love Julie’s entree, and I definitely had food envy.

We weren’t celebrating a special occasion, but we decided to make it special by adding dessert. Of the four choices on the dessert tray, the one that appealed most was the lemon berry cake.

Lemon berry cake from Franklin House Tavern

The cake was layered with Mascarpone cheese and topped with raspberries and blueberries and a concentrated raspberry sauce. The cake reminded me of a lemon cream cookie, but the addition of the berries put it over the top. It was definitely worth saving room for this.

Even with dessert our night out didn’t break the bank. Our total bill was $55. While it’s a little more than we pay for everyday dining, I was expecting $60 or more for our meals. And we would probably spend that on our next visit because our entrees were at the low end of the price scale.

It wasn’t a perfect night, but the Franklin House Tavern really did impress in many ways. We enjoyed some exceptional dishes in an incredible historic setting.

And now I have another memory from the Franklin House that I’ll remember for a long time.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable (for finer dining)

Franklin House Tavern
101 N. Market St
Schaefferstown, PA 17088

Franklin House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Savory Grille Chicken Risotto

Savory Grille

Savory Grille Entrance

On November 17, Julie and I welcomed Jakob Laurence Brown to the world. The last two-and-a-half months have been the best of our lives, but one thing has been missing during that time. Julie and I haven’t had a night out to ourselves.

With Julie’s birthday falling at the end of January, we had the perfect excuse to change that. And we had the perfect place for our date night: Savory Grille in Seisholtzville.

Seisholtzville is about as far removed from Downtown Reading as it gets in Berks County. The tiny village sits in the shadow of Bear Creek Mountain Resort near the border of Berks and Lehigh Counties. (Despite being inside the Berks County line, it has a Macungie ZIP Code).

The drive wasn’t bad, though, as we drove about 40 minutes north from our Wyomissing home, driving Route 12 past Pricetown before taking a series of back roads that led to the small village.

Savory Grille Interior

Savory Grille, opened in 1997, sits at one of the two intersections in the village in the Seisholtzville Hotel, a stop for travelers since the 19th century. The restaurant has two dining areas – the main dining room with the bar where we checked in for our reservations and the Arbor Room, a modern attachment to the historic hotel where we were led to our seats. The two dining areas are connected by a window where the bartender hands out cocktails to the wait staff in the Arbor Room.

Savory Grille Drinks

Reading reviews on Yelp and other sites, the Arbor Room was listed as the place to be, and it was no wonder. While the main dining room was small and noisy – conversation seemed to echo off the walls and amplify – the Arbor Room was quiet, yet cozy. The original exterior wall makes it feel older, but the modern wood framing insulates the room enough to keep guests warm on a cold winter’s night.

Savory Grille Chicken Risotto

The first thing to arrive at our table was the amuse-bouche, an excellent grilled chicken risotto that set the tone for the meal to come. Though only large enough for one bite, it was perfectly prepared and bursting with flavor. The buttery rice and the spice-laden chicken worked so well together that if it were an entree option, I would have had our waitress change my order.

Savory Grille Breads

Next to arrive at the table was the bread. Normally, I don’t mention the complimentary bread, but the oatmeal stout bread was definitely worth mentioning. The slice was heavy and grainy, but with a deep flavor that was greatly enhanced by the alcohol infusion.

This being a special occasion, we decided to get the full experience and order one of the evening’s nine appetizer options – a grilled flatbread with sliced steak, fennel frond pesto, shaved manchego and fig compote.

Savory Grille Steak Grilled Flatbread

It was an outstanding starter that was at once sweet, salty, savory, creamy and earthy. The flatbread was light and airy. The steak – cooked rare, was the perfect pairing for the sweet figs. And every bite just melted away.

Next out was the salad, served with one of three house dressings. For mine, it was the blackberry yogurt.

Savory Grille Salad

This was the one and only part of the meal that let me down. The dressing was fine, a thick raspberry vinaigrette that was more sour than sweet. But there was just too much of it, my lips puckering more with every bite.

Julie’s orange-thyme dressing was lighter and more enjoyable with a sweeter taste that was easier to take.

After the salads, there was no more disappointment. For my entree, I ordered the five spiced duck breast. Our waitress wanted to be sure that I knew what I was getting. “That is served medium rare, is that ok?” she asked.

“I guess it has to be,” I replied.

Generally, I shy away from anything served less than medium-well, but the dish sounded too appetizing to pass up.

Savory Grille Five Spice Duck Breast

Let me tell you, this duck was cooked to perfection. The duck was served on a bed of mashed yams with blueberry compote and sauce gastrique.

With the spice rub, the duck breast could have held up on its own, but with the sauce – a sweet and sour blend – and the blueberries, it was hands-down one of the best dishes that I have tasted on my Berks County Eats journey. A blueberry would burst with nearly every bite, adding sweet and tart notes to the dish. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

The smashed yams and the vegetables on the plate were after thoughts. They were simply prepared with no frills or addition – though the green beans were tied with a sliver of onion in a beautiful presentation.

Savory Grille Pork Tenderloin

Julie’s dish was all about the sauce. Her pork tenderloin was served on a bed of toasted barley and butternut squash, but it was the caramelized onion sauce that really popped. Without it, the pork – though cooked tender and juicy – was rather plain. The onion sauce, though, added a little sweet and a strong flavor that carried through the dish.

The toasted barley added needed texture to the dish, counterbalancing the soft squash. The dish was also served with the same vegetable medley as mine, with green beans, carrots and broccolini.

When celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion, one thing is for sure: we order dessert. The list that our waitress read off was long and filled with tempting items – crème brulee and coffee cake were among the selections – but we went for something a little more chocolatey.

Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

The chocolate tart was a pastry filled with chocolate ganache and topped with caramel, vanilla bean ice cream, fresh mint and a sugar cookie, garnished with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar.

It was quite the indulgence, each layer seemingly sweeter than the next. As the ingredients slowly melted together, it was even better. Though not found in every bite, the mint really stood out and added a light refreshment to the otherwise heavy and decadent dessert.

On our celebration dinners, I always expect to spend around $100, and our total at the Savory Grille was just shy of that. But for what was a two-hour dining experience with excellent food and atmosphere, it was money well spent.

Savory Grille provided one of the most memorable meals that we have had on a Berks County Eats visit, and with a menu that changes almost daily, new experiences are waiting for us on every future visit.

And I have no doubt that there will be future visits.

BCE Rating:
Food: Excellent
Service: Good
Ambiance: Excellent (in the Arbor Room)
Price: Expensive, but Fair

Savory Grille
2934 Seisholtzville Rd
Macungie, PA 18062

Savory Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews