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 thoroughly enjoyed.
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 dessert.”
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
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