Five years ago, I posted about La Cantina Restaurant, an Italian restaurant and bar along New Holland Road that I was frequenting during my poker-playing days. Fast-forward to July 2021 and La Cantina closed its doors.
A year later, Doc & Bubba’s has risen in its place.
While the barroom at La Cantina was very much of a dive, Doc & Bubba’s is anything but. The new restaurant is gorgeous and gives off a finer dining ambiance with dark wood tabletops and gray metal chairs with a modern flair.
The bar, itself, has been set apart. Assorted bottles peek out from windows above the bar, watching over customers and the high-top tables that flank the bar area. (Our visit came in October so the bar was also adorned with ghosts that hung from the overhead liquor cabinets).
The outside patio – open year-round thanks to heat lamps – is the more casual space with a mix of standard dining tables along with Adirondacks and more relaxing seats. A second bar serves those sitting outside.
Julie and I visited for lunch and were among the first to arrive after it opened at 11, allowing us our choice of seats. We settled in at a table in the back of the dining room where we could look out the large picture windows and admire the back patio.
The lunch menu at Doc & Bubba’s consists of sandwiches, burgers, salads and pizza (with a few shareables). The menu is seasonal so items rotate on and off. During our visit, the sandwich calling my name was the South Philly roast pork – a traditional roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, Sharp provolone, but with the addition of pizzaioli sauce and roasted garlic aioli.
It was good and hearty. Roast pork sandwiches typically aren’t served with sauce, but I liked the addition of the pizzaioli sauce on this. I actually wished there was a little more of it spread throughout so I could have gotten the flavor in every bite.
Julie really enjoyed her salmon BLT. Served on perfectly toasted bread, the salmon blended well with the traditional BLT. And it was perfectly portioned for lunch – not too light to leave her hungry, but not too heavy either.
We both enjoyed the fries which were served in their own little fryer basket along with an individual sized bottle of ketchup – a nice little added touch. The fries were topped with sea salt and pepper, but I found myself adding just a pinch more salt to them. Otherwise, they were nearly perfect.
At $40, our lunch was on the expensive side (I did also have an iced tea), but it didn’t feel like we had overpaid because the food was definitely a higher quality than we would get at many other lunch spots.
The dinner prices are a little higher, but most entrees fall in the $20-$30 range with steaks and select seafood dishes coming in higher.
Doc & Bubba’s may not be weekly stop for me like La Cantina was at one time, but it’s we will definitely return – whether for an elevated lunch or a nice dinner.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Ambiance: Excellent Service: Good Price: A Little Pricey
Doc & Bubba’s 4312 New Holland Rd Mohnton, PA 19540
Valentine’s Day has always been a big deal for Julie and I. With our anniversary being in mid-August, Valentine’s always marks the halfway point in another year for us.
It’s also a great excuse to find a new place around the county for a romantic dinner.
This year was a little different for us. Yes, we stayed in Berks County – the city of Reading, to be precise – but we didn’t go to a restaurant. Instead, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with dinner at the Inn at Centre Park, a bed and breakfast and event space in the Centre Park Historic District.
Each month, the Inn at Centre Park opens for dinner – usually on the third Friday. In February, the monthly dinner was moved up a week in honor of Valentine’s Day (and Saturday dinner service was added). The meals are all prix fixe; in this case, it was a four-course meal with appetizer, salad, entree and dessert.
There was only one seating for the meal – 6:30 p.m. We were among the first to arrive which gave us a chance to look around at the elegantly appointed rooms throughout the first floor of the inn.
Known as the Wilhelm Mansion, the building that now houses the Inn at Centre Park was the home of Charles Wilhelm for more than 50 years. However, it was originally built and occupied by Reverend Mark Anthony DeWolfe Howe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese. Our table for two was nestled at a door that featured original stained glass windows that depict two angels, one blowing a horn, the other singing.
Every nook and cranny of the house is filled with incredible detail, from the tall archways to the intricate moulding. This was certainly the lap of luxury in the late 19th Century and remains so today.
After satisfying our curiosity, we settled in for the first course: fried goat cheese with crispy prosciutto and pear jam.
It was a perfect beginning to the meal with a variety of flavors and textures. The soft, creamy goat cheese was countered by the crunchy, salty prosciutto. The pear jam sweetened the whole plate. The balsamic drizzle added another layer of sweet and sour.
The first course really blew us away and set the stage for a great meal.
In between courses, we were served fresh-baked rolls to enjoy with our salad. Homemade honey butter was already waiting on the table. Ours didn’t last that long. The soft, pillowy rolls were too good. With the sweet butter, they just melted in your mouth.
Our second course was a Waldorf salad, and while it wasn’t a revelation the way the fried goat cheese was, it was still delicious.
It was a traditional Waldorf with apples, grapes, celery and walnuts, but it was just done very well. And it was served atop large leafs of Bibb lettuce which was a nice choice for the greens.
The entree course was a surf-and-turf plate with filet Mignon and seafood cake served with green beans and mushroom risotto.
The filet was served with a simple herb butter, and it was good, but it didn’t really stand out compared to the rest of the meal. It was cooked well, but there wasn’t a “wow” to it like there was to the other three courses.
I would say the same for the risotto and the green beans. (I am not a seafood fan so I have to take Julie’s word for the seafood cake, which she felt the same about). Filet Mignon is always good, and I will never complain about eating it. It just felt “safe” compared to the other courses. That’s the best way I can describe it.
Dessert, though, was definitely a highlight. The fourth course consisted of chocolate “domes” with a ganache and raspberry center. The heaping dessert was sinful and delicious from the first bite to the last.
What really set the dish apart was the dusting of raspberry salt. Sweet and salty always works for me, and the concentrated raspberry flavor really added to the chocolate base.
Really, I can’t think of a better way to finish the meal.
The four-course meal cost $60 per person, which seemed like a very good price for the amount and quality of the food that we had. Non-alcoholic beverages were included in the price (for those looking for a little something more, the dinners are BYOB). Also, there is very limited space so reservations are must for the Inn’s public dinners.
I’m sure the Inn does a good amount of catering events throughout the year because the staff seemed very much on top of their game. Everyone’s food arrived within minutes of each other and always tasted freshly prepared. The servers worked as a team and were very attentive throughout the meal.
And, of course, the venue was amazing. It’s an ambiance you can’t get anywhere else in the county.
Everything combined to make this one of the most special Valentine’s Day dinners yet.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Service: Excellent Ambiance: Excellent Price: A little pricey (but worth it)
The Inn at Centre Park 730 Centre Ave Reading, PA 19601
Every year between January and February, I am challenged to
find some date-night worthy restaurants for Julie and I to visit. Her birthday
falls at the end of January, and Valentine’s Day follows closely behind.
These special occasions have provided us with some of our
best meals in six year of Berks County Eats reviews.
Our expectations were high for another memorable meal when
Julie and I made our first trip to Judy’s on Cherry for this year’s birthday
date night dinner.
Judy’s has been on our list of places to try since the blog
began. We did visit Judy’s seasonal restaurant, Plein Air, in 2014 and loved
it, but had never dined inside the Cherry Street restaurant.
We made a last-minute decision to go to Judy’s on a Saturday
night. Luckily, we called in the afternoon before service started and were able
to secure a reservation for 6 p.m. We parked in the lot across the street –
free parking after 5 p.m. – and headed inside.
It’s hard not to be impressed when walking into the
second-floor dining room. The brick walls. The vaulted ceilings. They don’t
build them like this anymore.
At our booth along the wall, the lighting was dimmed,
limited to a single table lamp. The dim lights didn’t bother us though (except
when I was trying to take pictures of the food). From our table, we had a great
view of the kitchen, which sits right in the center in the dining area. Some
lucky guests were sitting at the bar seats surrounding the kitchen, giving them
an even more up-close-and-personal look at everything.
We were greeted quickly by our waitress who went off to grab
a basket of bread to accompany our meal.
The bread basket turned out to be eight pieces of what
appeared to be pizza crust or flatbread. A small plate of oil was preset at the
table for dipping. The bread was very good with just enough herbs to give it a
nice earthy flavor and set it apart from a more traditional bread basket.
The building was once a farmers market – among other things
during its history – so it’s only appropriate that the menu includes a variety
of fresh ingredients. We tasted the freshness right away with our appetizer: browned
Brussels sprouts with truffle cream.
Judy’s menu included several small plates that we were
interested in, including stuffed figs, lamb meatballs and pumpkin ravioli, but
the Brussels sprouts won out, and we were not disappointed.
The plate of Brussels were nicely charred – not burnt – to
bring out a little bit of a smokiness. The sprouts were slightly bitter which
we thought contrasted nicely to the bright, rich cream sauce. And the addition
of fresh sage was welcomed throughout the dish.
We had ordered our appetizer not realizing that our meals
also included starter salads. In addition to Caesar salads, Judy’s offers mixed
green salads with a variety of vinaigrettes and other dressings. Julie stuck
with the Caesar while I tried the ranch dressing with basil.
Julie’s Caesar salad was very nicely prepared with plenty of
dressing, cheese and croutons. We both remarked about the size of the salads
being just right.
My salad was also excellently done. The addition of the
basil to the ranch dressing was perfect and was a nice differentiator. I also
appreciated that there were plenty of red onions, my favorite.
The entree menu was extensive and included several dishes
that I wanted to try, like the duck confit cassoulet (a bean casserole with
duck confit, sausage, ham and braised pork), winter root vegetable curry and
black pepper rubbed duck.
But the limoncello chicken with saffron aioli was my choice.
The chicken was baked in lemon basil broth and served over capellini, a
spaghetti-like pasta that was incredibly thin.
Everything about the dish was mouthwatering. The chicken had
a nice crust on it and was cooked beautifully. I enjoyed the aioli, but it was
the lemon basil broth that was the real star. The sweet basil worked
beautifully against the lemon. Sun-dried tomatoes added a little more sweetness
to the dish.
It came together as a single, composed, delicious dish.
Julie’s Frenched pork chop was another great choice. Served over a bed of mashed potatoes, it was topped with mushrooms, truffle cream and crispy prosciutto.
It, too, was a wonderfully composed dish. First, the pork
chops were done perfectly, still very juicy. (For those who don’t know – like
me – “Frenched” is the style where the rib bone is exposed). The
mushrooms had a nice earthiness to them. The prosciutto was crispy which gave
it a feel almost like bacon. And the potatoes were present in almost every
bite, bringing everything together.
Like my meal, it was an excellent dish, and one that Julie
Unfortunately as we polished off our entrees, we both
realized that we weren’t going to have room for dessert. “That’s OK,”
our waitress assured us. “You can come in again and just have
It’s a nice thought, but our meals were so good, I’m not
sure we would want to skip out on the main course. The price wasn’t bad either.
For our two meals, appetizer and my unsweetened iced tea, our total was $66.
We’ve paid more for similar portions before.
Our service was very good, too. We had a seasoned server
with a dry sense of humor that we both appreciated. She was attentive
throughout the night refilling our drinks and checking in on us while other
members of the team brought our meals.
It was one of our best meals we have had overall; it
certainly lived up to our high expectations.
We are already looking forward to our next visit.
Service: Very Good
Price: Reasonable for Finer Dining
In March 2018, a fire tore through the former Go Fish Seafood in West Reading. Instead of staying and rebuilding, the restaurant took the opportunity to make a move.
Eighteen months later, in September 2019, the new Go Fish
Seafood & Sushi Bar finally opened in Sinking Spring.
Go Fish is tucked away along Hull Avenue, several blocks
removed from the Penn Avenue traffic. Kline Building & Design Group were
the most recent occupants of the site. To make the building restaurant-ready, a
ramp entrance was added along with a sidewalk that runs from the parking lot to
the front door. A single handprint can be found in the corner of the sidewalk,
the words “Go Fish 2019” etched beneath it.
The ramp is a necessity not only for wheelchairs but for
anyone who struggles with stairs as the front entrance features a tall, steep
staircase. Stepping through the front door, you would never know that this was
anything other than a restaurant. After checking in at the desk, we were led
through the waiting room, complete with sitting chairs and a fireplace, into
the dining area.
Exposed brick walls and pillars, Edison bulbs hanging from
the ceiling and hardwood floors combine to give it the restaurant an upscale
feel. The gorgeous bar is separated from the dining area by a half-wall. In the
middle, above the TV displaying the night’s drink specials, “Go Fish”
was lit in blue lights.
And at our tables, the black napkins were neatly folded in
the shape of a fish.
With our toddler at his grandparents’ house for the evening,
Julie and I were on our own for a Friday night date night. There was a decent
crowd when we arrived at 5:30, and it only got busier in the restaurant while
we were there.
Our server was attentive throughout the night and was with
us quickly to take our drink order. Julie ordered the “Pear Fizz,” a
mocktail with pear nectar, lemon, honey ginger simple syrup, Jamaican ginger
beer and seared thyme.
We could smell the thyme before the drink was even on the
table, and the aroma of the herbs in the glass continued to waft throughout. It
was certainly fizzy – a product of the ginger beer – and a little sweet but the
ginger helped to balance it out.
In addition, we also ordered water and were given the choice
of spring, seltzer or chilled. Note: chilled means tap water. Spring is $4 a
bottle, as we found out at the end of our meal.
The restaurant menu is carefully curated with only a few
selections for entrees. Though it leans heavily toward seafood, the choices
include chicken, steak, pork chop and gnocchi (also available with shrimp or
salads). Sushi lovers probably already know this, but the sushi selection is
the largest part of the menu.
I’m not a sushi fan – I’m not even that big of a seafood fan
– but the one seafood item I have learned to like is scallops, and Go Fish’s
version sounded too good to pass up.
The three seared scallops were served with lemon mascarpone
risotto, baby spinach, garlic confit and lemon brulee.
The scallops were cooked very well, but what I enjoyed most
were the bites with the garlic confit. I absolutely loved the garlicky sauce; I
only wish there had been more of it. There were a couple small dollops on the
plate, but I thought it was the perfect complement to the buttery scallops.
I was also a fan of the risotto. I was expecting it to have
a little more sweetness to it with the mascarpone, but it was more of a hint
than an in-your-face flavor.
Julie opted for the Go Fish and chips, a more casual
offering of battered cod, rosemary frites (French fries) and sides of gribiche
and cocktail sauce for dipping.
The cod was a very mild fish, and it was tossed in a light
batter. I really enjoyed my taste with the gribiche sauce – think of it as the
French version of tartar sauce. It was cooling and a little tangy and was a
nice addition. It also went well with the fries, which we both enjoyed.
Neither of us really needed dessert, but it was a date night
and the food had arrived so quickly that we felt obligated to stay a little
longer and enjoy a post-dinner treat.
Our dessert of choice was the lemongrass crème brulee. We
were not disappointed by the decadent creamy dessert. The lemongrass was a nice
touch, adding just a hint of tang.
It was served in a very short Mason jar, which looked really
cool but added a level of difficulty when trying to get to the cream at the
With dessert added onto our bill, we ended up paying around
$75. That’s a little more than we usually pay for a meal but a little less than
we have paid at other finer dining restaurants around Berks County. And to us,
it was well-worth it (though, maybe not the $4 spring water).
Go Fish is what the name implies – a place for seafood
lovers. And it’s a great date night spot that has a finer dining feel to it.
It’s a place I would definitely recommend.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Service: Excellent Ambiance: Excellent Price: A Little Pricey
Go Fish! Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar 301 Hull St` Sinking Spring, PA 19608
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
I will admit that before last week, the Heritage Restaurant
in Morgantown was not high on my list of places to visit.
I’ve passed the Heritage Restaurant many times and have
never felt the urge to stop. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, a
relic from the times when I-176 and the Turnpike didn’t connect and drivers
were funneled along Route 10. The motel behind the restaurant certainly doesn’t
make it look any more appealing.
But, as they say, never judge a book by its cover.
The restaurant has clearly been updated inside with simple
decor in the dining room. The walls are painted gray and are adorned with
photography while the seating is made up of wooden tables with darker wooden
chairs. While there were only a handful of tables occupied in the dining room,
the bar area – which has a separate entrance – was full, which explained the
jammed parking lot.
I was invited by fellow writer (and Heritage regular) Cathy
Cuff-Coffman to a prix fixe dinner at the Heritage, a new concept for the
restaurant but one that they were excited to try out and potentially make a
part of the regular offerings.
Our meal was being hosted in their new private dining area.
What was formerly the billiards room has been redone to host private functions.
One wall features exposed stones while the other three are decorated simply
with historic photos that capture the construction of the highways that connect
A single long table was set with six chairs on each side.
Five couples had won their seats through drawings in the restaurant and on
social media, having their names drawn from more than 166 entrants. And then
there were the two writers at the end of the table, reporter’s notebooks in
Before our meal service began, we were introduced to owner
Tamara King. King has owned the restaurant since December 2017 and during that
time has made several upgrades to the dining area and hired Chef Brandon Pennypacker
to update the menu. The idea for the prix fixe meal is to give Chef Brandon an
opportunity to flex his creative muscle and put together a five-course meal
with a cohesive theme. For this meal, the theme was spring: spring flavors,
spring colors and spring-inspired foods.
Chef Brandon introduced each course as it was presented, and
spring colors were on full display with the arrival of our first dish – a corn
soup with fresh pico de gallo, pork belly and avocado crema with lime.
What a great way to start the meal. The corn was reduced down
to form a base that was creamy but textured. The mix-ins took it to another
level. The fresh pico was my favorite part – especially the bits of tomato that
burst with a perfect sweet flavor. The salty, crunchy pork added a completely
different, but no less enjoyable, flavor and texture to the meal. Throughout
the dish, the avocado crema added a sweet and creamy flavor, with a little sour
lime thrown in.
It was a very impressive start and just a preview of the
great food still to come.
Our second course was a strawberry salad. It featured
spinach and kale topped with a basil poppy seed dressing, fresh strawberries, dragon
fruit and candied pecans, served with fried goat cheese.
The salad was excellent. I loved the addition of the mildly
sweet dragon fruit and the earthy indulgence of the candied pecans. The goat
cheese croquette was also good, but I didn’t care for it as much as part of the
salad. I didn’t care for how the molten cheese blended with the chilled greens.
Separately though, it was good and something that no one else in Berks County
Chef Brandon has a diverse culinary background. Since
graduating from the Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts, he has worked in 17
restaurants in greater Reading and Lancaster city. Stops have included the
Hitching Post, Virginville Hotel, Blackjax and Billy Burger. For the last 10
months, he has been the lead at the Heritage Restaurant and has worked to remove
canned and prepacked items in favor of creating more in-house.
All five courses highlighted what can be done when a
talented chef is given an opportunity to experiment with different styles,
techniques and ingredients. Nowhere was that more evident than our third
course: three scallops each served with its own unique accompaniment.
Chef Brandon introduced them from right to left. First, the
mint pea was a thick puree that was reminiscent of the best pea soup with just
a touch of mint to add a little brightness. In the middle was a sun-dried
tomato pesto (more on this in a moment). And on the left, a saffron orange
aioli. I appreciated the tanginess but I have never been a big fan of aioli.
But the sun-dried tomato pesto may have been the best thing
I have tasted in a long time. Instead of pistachio, it featured crushed
almonds. It had a wonderful smoky flavor throughout, and it worked so perfectly
with the buttery scallop (which were all cooked perfectly, nicely seared
without being burnt). I have never been a fan of seafood of any kind, but I
would gladly order scallops every day if they came with that pesto.
Tamara had told us that in his quest to put together the
perfect menu, Chef Brandon had gone through 15 iterations of the menu and tried
many different items. One of those, a blueberry venison sausage sounded amazing
but was “awful.” Thankfully, that didn’t make it onto our plates as
Instead, we were treated to wagyu steak with lemon-lime finishing salt and chimichurri sauce, served with a couscous and quinoa mixture that was also topped with lemon-lime seasoning.
Wagyu beef, as Chef Brandon pointed out, is a type of beef
from Japan known for its high marbling and richness. A meat with high marbling
has more fat in the lean cuts, creating a more flavorful meat. It was clear
from the first bite that the meat was high quality. I would normally order my
food a little less pink than what was presented, but it was so good that I
didn’t mind at all.
What really set the dish apart was the lemon-lime finishing
salt. There was enough on the meat to give a taste, but there was even more
dusted in the corners of the plate. And adding that little bit of extra salt
turned this into an A-plus dish. It managed to bring out even more flavors from
the meat and was the perfect compliment.
I enjoyed the chimichurri sauce with the beef as well. It
added a tangy layer to the dish. But honestly, I would have been content with
just the sweet salt.
When there is so much flavor on the plate, the quinoa and
couscous just couldn’t compare. It had a light seasoning, but the grains felt
boring compared to the other items on the plate and those we had already tried.
Four courses in and we were anxious to see what would be
coming for dessert. We had tried a lot of food, but the portions had been
perfect so there was still just enough room for the special treat that would
complete the meal.
The dessert course was a sight to behold. Each plate
featured a sponge cake topped with fresh strawberries, chocolate mousse,
chipotle raspberry sea salt, another layer of sponge cake, banana whipped cream
and a strawberry sugar dust.
I don’t think there was anyone in the room that didn’t love
this. With just the chocolate mousse and perfectly baked sponge cake, the dish
would have been a winner. But the addition of the sea salt and the sugar put it
over the top.
First, the chipotle raspberry sea salt hit in so many ways.
The added salt enhanced all of the sweet flavors while the chipotle gave it
just the slightest bit of heat that was surprising and wonderful.
Then there was the strawberry sugar dust. Chef Brandon
described it as a homemade Pixie Stick. He took dehydrated strawberries and ran
them through a food processor before blending them with sugar. It really did
taste like a candy topping, a concentrated sweetness that helped highlight the
natural sweetness from the fresh fruit.
I don’t think there could have been a better way to end the
The prix fixe dinners are a new concept for the Heritage.
Everyone received comment cards and were asked to rate every part of the meal –
but from the table talk, it sounded like rave reviews from all those in
Now that I have experienced the Heritage for the first time,
I am looking forward to returning and bringing Julie and Jakob along. I’m sure
I won’t be getting wagyu steak or a strawberry salad, but I’m confident that I
will love the burgers, sandwiches and entrees found on the regular menu.
After my meal, the Heritage is now at the top of my list of
places to re-visit.
BCE Rating Food: Excellent Service: Excellent Ambiance: Good Value: N/A
Heritage Restaurant 6016 Morgantown Rd (Route 10) Morgantown, PA 19543
In more than five years of Berks County Eats, there have only been a handful of restaurants that arrived with the hype of B2 Bistro + Bar. Recently opened in the former Narrow Fabrics building in West Reading, the restaurant had been anticipated since the first tenants moved into the Lofts at Narrows, the luxury apartments on the upper floors.
The creative re-use of the building has led to a unique atmosphere. “Unfinished” paint and exposed beams – some still with original safety warning posters – can be seen throughout the space. A large rectangular bar is surrounded by high-top tables with a couple booths along the sides. A row of stools can be found in front of the open kitchen, providing a unique experience for diners wanting to watch their chef in action.
On the opposite side of the room, large garage bay doors open to create an outdoor feel during the warm weather months.
Another smaller dining room is located toward the back of the building and features low-top tables for those who prefer them.
The best way to describe the menu is eclectic. There are shareable small plates, pasta dinners, a raw bar, pizza and charcuterie. Other mains include everything from the 50 oz. bone-in ribeye (shareable for most) and roast suckling pig to burgers and chicken.
We decided to start off our meal with a couple small plate appetizers. I ordered the French onion soup, expecting a typical crock.
What I got was an enormous bowl about twice the size of what normally constitutes a “bowl” at most restaurants. It could have easily been a meal by itself, especially with how good it was. It was heavy with onion and thick chunks of bread. And there was more than enough cheese layered on top to go with every salty-sweet bite.
Julie also ordered an appetizer, the shrimp cocktail. As she told me, she was craving shrimp for a while and was not disappointed.
The six shrimp were presented beautifully, each one connected gracefully. While cold shrimp are cold shrimp, these were colossal in size and even better for scooping into the cocktail sauce. Julie’s craving was satisfied.
Deciding on a main course wasn’t easy but I eventually settled on the Bolognese pasta, one of five such pasta options on the menu. The pappardelle pasta was served with a sauce of Iberico pork (an imported meat from the Iberian peninsula of Europe), veal, tomato, cream and grana cheese.
It was a good meal – very hearty and more than enough food – but I had enjoyed the soup more. I have also had Bolognese pasta other places and I didn’t find that this version stood out among the others.
For her meal, Julie had opted for the steak frites – steak in demi glace, served with fries and Brussels sprouts. The steak was cooked beautifully and the semi-sweet demi glace paired beautifully with the savory cut of meat.
The fries were good – thick, fresh-cut fries and plenty of them. Brussels sprouts are a vegetable where you can only do so much to them. They were fine but better with a little of the demi glace.
Before our meals arrived, we were served a plate of thick focaccia bread, unique in that there were thin slices of tomato baked into the top. It was served with a cup of oil for dipping and was very good.
Take one look through the Yelp reviews and you’ll see a range of opinions, mostly centered on price and service.
As for price, our final total was around $80. It wasn’t a cheap night out, but with two appetizers, an iced tea and two entrees (both of which were enough that we took home leftovers), I can’t say we were cheated, but the price of every item was a couple dollars higher at B2 than other places. A margherita pizza, for example, costs $12 at B2; the same costs $9 at Nonno Alby’s a block away.
The service was fine during our visit. Our server was a little slow to take our food order and with our check at the end of the night, but we were still in-and-out in just under an hour so it wasn’t a long wait by any means. (And I didn’t mind that he called me “boss” throughout our visit).
Overall, I was impressed. It’s a cool spot and all of the food was good-to-great. Though I saw high chairs, it’s not a place we would take our little one (he spent the evening with his grandparents).
But for a date night or a night out with friends, B2 Bistro + Bar is a good choice.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Ambiance: Excellent Service: Good Price: A Little Pricey
B2 Bistro + Bar 701 Reading Ave West Reading, PA 19611
In the first five years of Berks County Eats, we have taken 19 road trips to select restaurants around Pennsylvania – some near, some far; some good, some bad – but all of them notable.
We’ve done less road trips recently – only two in 2018 – but there are a select number of noteworthy restaurants still worth traveling for and writing about.
One of those is Lancaster’s Belvedere Inn.
The Belvedere was recently ranked as one of the Top 100 most romantic restaurants in the country by users of OpenTable so it seemed like the perfect place for a pre-Valentine’s Day dinner.
Among the growing downtown dining scene in downtown Lancaster, The Belvedere is the elder statesman. The Victorian-style mansion was converted to a restaurant in 1998, long before the city’s recent restaurant Renaissance.
The restaurant sits on the corner of Queen and Lemon Streets, and while it doesn’t offer private off-street parking, there’s a public garage right behind the restaurant (we spent $4 to park).
Candlelight and mirrors add glow to the dining areas. Highlights of the dining room – really two or three rooms that have been opened up to create a space that spans the depth of the building – include a stunning chandelier, a large fireplace and the leopard print carpet (still trying to understand that one).
The Belvedere’s menu is fitting of a romantic restaurant: higher end entrees with a range of appetizers and desserts and a robust drink list.
As we were celebrating, Julie ordered a roasted vanilla pear. The mixed drink was made with vanilla vodka, St. Germaine, roasted pear puree, pineapple and citrus soda with a ring of sugar around the glass for even more sweetness, which is what she was looking for.
I had been to the Belvedere once for a business meeting so I knew all about their famous grilled Caesar salad, and I was thrilled to see that they had a petite version on the dinner menu so we could both order it as an appetizer.
Caesar salads are always enjoyable, but the Belvedere’s grilled Caesar is on another level. First, grilling the Romaine just adds such a different feel to it and somehow enhances the flavor that’s already there. The dressing is excellent, and it’s topped with plenty of croutons and cheese.
On my first visit six months ago, I had the full version as a lunch entree (with grilled chicken). I thought I had overhyped it for Julie, but she was not disappointed. It’s an excellent start to a meal – or a meal in and of itself.
Getting it as an appetizer allowed us to try some of their other entrees. I decided on the four-hour braised short ribs, served with red wine demi, green beans and three cheese macaroni gratin.
The meat was excellent with enough fat to make it flavorful but not too much to take away from the meat. The demi was semi-sweet and really helped highlight the flavors of the meat. It was very well done and very satisfying.
I enjoyed the macaroni gratin – a grown-up mac and cheese with a flavorful crust on top. The green beans were fine and made better by the fact that they were also sitting in the red wine demi. Overall, I was very happy with my choice.
Julie was also happy with her decision to order the crab-stuffed lobster tail, a special of the day.
It was one of the best lobsters she has ever had. The crab and lobster were both very good and neither overpowered the other. And she was thrilled to not find any crab shell in the filling.
It was served with fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Both were simple but enjoyable.
As is usually the case when we enjoy a romantic night out, we couldn’t leave without sharing dessert. All of the options sounded decadent, but we decided on the layered chocolate mousse.
It featured chocolate mousse, vanilla cake, Grand Marnier, orange zest and raspberries. It was sweet and satisfying. The mousse was chilled, making it much denser and more solid. The cake was nice, but my favorite part were the bites with raspberry. The fresh berries just added a nice flavor note.
The meal was close to perfect. The only real hiccup was that the assistant server didn’t bring the rolls and butter around until after our entrees. Honestly, though, we could have done without the rolls. It’s not that they weren’t good, but we had more than enough food with what we had ordered.
On special occasions like Valentine’s Day, we always expect to spend more than we would for almost any other meal, and that was the case here. Our final total was $120, and while we won’t go out of our way to spend that on a meal, we don’t mind it once or twice a year.
Between the food and ambiance, it is easy to see how a restaurant like the Belvedere could make it onto anyone’s list of most romantic restaurants.
After our visit, it certainly makes our list.
BCE Rating Food: Excellent Ambiance: Excellent Service: Very Good Price: Expensive
The Belvedere Inn 402 N. Queen St Lancaster, PA 17603
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Last summer, Salute Ristorante Italiano in Sinking Spring began advertising Dante’s 900, a new artisan pizza shop that would open in the space next door. It was at the top of our list to visit during our annual National Pizza Month celebration in October.
Unfortunately, “soon” was a little further off in the future as Dante’s didn’t open until after the new year.
So it was back on our list – at the very top of the list – of new pizza places to check out.
Dante’s website and PDF menu both tout the hours as 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
What neither mentions is that the dining room is only open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We didn’t find that out until we walked through the front door and saw the note where a “please wait to be seated” sign would be expected. Instead, the sign pointed us next door to Salute for the wood-fired pizza.
Salute is a very nice restaurant, a date night place that’s more upscale than most restaurants where we take Jakob. (In fact, Julie and I visited for Valentine’s Day in 2015). But we had to roll with it and after our second time asking for a high chair, we were all set in a corner booth, separated as far as possible from the rest of the dining room.
Our service wasn’t great on this night. The specials were not explained well to us (the explanation we received was different than what the table behind us received). And after Julie and I both ordered Caesar salads, we were given house salads with balsamic vinaigrette.
Not wanting to waste food, we ate them without complaining. I’m not big on balsamic, but the dressing was actually very good, much thicker than most vinaigrettes that I have tried.
But it wasn’t a Caesar salad.
Sitting down in the main dining room and looking at the full Salute menu, I couldn’t help but change my plans. The weekly specials were inspired by Tuscany (our waitress was able to explain that the chef is doing a taste of Italy, crafting menu items themed by region), and one of those specials was the tortelli alla Mugellana - potato filled ravioli with duck ragu.
I felt guilty for not ordering pizza, but I didn’t feel guilty after eating this. It was delicious. The filling was like a well-seasoned side of mashed potatoes. It was a perfect pairing with the duck ragu.
The dark duck meat was rich and done very well. The ragu itself was a little sweet. Together, it was beautifully cohesive dish, one that I would happily order again.
Julie stuck with the original plan and ordered one of the personal sized, wood-fired pizzas. Her choice: the pizza Montanara.
It featured mozzarella, mushrooms, sausage and white truffle Béchamel sauce.
After all the anticipation, we both had to admit that it fell a little flat. Or floppy, to be more accurate. The dough was not thick enough at the center to hold the heavy toppings. And, of course, all of the toppings slid to the center.
But the flavors were there. The Béchamel sauce was excellent, and gave it a creamier taste. It paired really well with the savory sausage. The mushrooms were just kind of there. If you absolutely love mushrooms, I suppose they were a good addition.
The pizza, and our visit, was certainly not what we expected. There were bright spots, for sure. But overall, the experience was not on the same level as our Valentine’s Day trip three years ago.
And I wouldn’t put it near the top of the list for celebrating #NationalPizzaMonth again.
BCE Rating Food: Good to Very Good Service: Poor Ambiance: Very Good Value: Reasonable
Salute Ristorante Italiano / Dante’s 900 4716 Penn Ave Sinking Spring, PA 19608
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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