Cheers American Bistro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it will bring me back to try dinner.

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

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

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

Brunch Buffets Finer Dining Reviews

CD’s Place – CLOSED

cd-s-place-exterior

Editor’s Note: CD’s Place closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business continues on with catering and occasional pop-up dinners, but the restaurant is no longer open for regular dine-in or takeout meals.

Waiting is the hardest part of every meal. The long wait I had for my meal at CD’s Place had nothing to do with service.

Allow me to explain.

The restaurant prioritizes its catering business, closing the Boyertown restaurant whenever they have a catering engagement.

It must be working for them because there have been many Saturdays that I have wanted to visit, only to see on Facebook that they are closed for catering.

Good for them. Bad for this food blogger.

Finally, the stars aligned and I saw the following post on Wednesday: “HEY! We’re actually gonna be open our regular hours this week!!”

I knew where we were going to lunch.

cd-s-place-interior

Julie and I arrived in Boyertown a little before noon and pulled in behind the distinctive cup-shaped building.

The building is a real throwback, an example of roadside architecture that you just don’t see anymore. But it also has its drawbacks, including an awkwardly small seating area with tables for two and the longest counter seating area that I have ever seen.

Somehow it all just adds to the charm of the place.

Now that I was finally there, there was really only one question remaining: what the heck was I going to eat?

cd-s-place-jamaican-omelet

It was lunch time, but breakfast is served all day. I think I found the perfect way to do both: the Jamaican omelet. It’s a hearty omelet filled with jerk chicken and fried onions, served with a side of homefries.

First surprise, the chicken was chunked, not shredded or pulled. I’ve never had jerk chicken that was cubed before. Second surprise, it was really good jerk chicken.

Not too spicy, not too salty, it was the right blend of spice to fill an omelet. And fried onions, as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, make everything better for me.

The homefries were simple, just fried red-skinned potatoes. Nothing fancy, but it doesn’t need to be when you use the more flavorful potato variety.

cd-s-place-two-eggs-over-baked-corn-andouille-hash

Julie, meanwhile, couldn’t stop raving about her meal of two eggs over baked corn andouille hash.

Eggs are eggs, but the hash was definitely worth talking about. She only allowed me one bite, but it was a great bite.

The hash is an original, unlike anything I’ve found anywhere else. The sausage was tasty choice, but what really stood out was the corn that added an unexpected sweetness to the dish. It was a delicious, hearty breakfast that made for a great lunch, too.

In true diner fashion, the food was fast and reasonably priced. Our two meals were just $17 (full disclosure, we only had water to drink).

Finally, I have tasted CD’s Place and it is everything I had hoped for and more. It’s one of the most unique, funkiest joints (sorry, I’m watching Guy Fieri as I write this) in Berks County.

Just be sure to check ahead to make sure they’re open.

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

CD’s Place
237 N Reading Ave.
Boyertown, PA 19512

C D's Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast & Brunch Cafes & Coffeeshops Diners Reviews

Letterman’s Diner

small building with a blue sign with orange letters that reads "Letterman's Diner"

“Feeding the world, 23 seats at a time.”

That’s the slogan written on the shirt of a waitress at Letterman’s Diner in Kutztown. The busy breakfast and lunch spot is made busier by the fact that it only seats 23, most of them at the counter.

The seats go quickly, but the wait is never long. Service is quick, and in the time that we were there, only one group (a party of 7) actually left because of a lack of seating.

The cozy pre-fabricated diner that sits in the heart of downtown has been serving customers for more than 70 years. Since 1998, the restaurant has been known as Letterman’s and has been serving big flavor in big portions.

In the middle of a college town, it’s a place that caters more to the locals, the year-round residents who keep the restaurant jammed every morning even after the semesters end.

As we waited for our food, a couple came in, and I heard the young woman exclaim, “Look, I made the board!” This was Abby, for whom one of the daily specials, the Abby omelette, was named.

This is the type of thing that you will only find from a true neighborhood joint. I don’t know how many Abby omelettes (Swiss cheese, onions and potatoes) were sold, but I know at least one person who bought one.

Julie had her eye on one of the other daily specials, the porky omelette. As the name implies, the omelette was loaded with pork: smoked sausage, bacon and pulled pork with onions and cheddar cheese.

omelet with sausage and pulled pork overflowing on a plate with hash browns and toast

From our counter seats, we watched as all of the food was prepared on the small grill top. We watched as the eggs were cracked, as the massive sausage link hit the griddle, followed by the wad of pulled pork and four foot-long strips of bacon.

The omelette was no match for the mound of meat, splitting open on the plate to reveal the delicious contents. By itself, the pulled pork would have made a great sandwich. The sausage, also, could have served as a dinner entree at any area restaurant.

Because that just wasn’t enough, the omelettes also come with toast and homefries. It’s almost a shame that they give you so much food because the homefries are really good, but completely unnecessary at that point. The omelette is just too big, and too delicious to sacrifice.

I was almost jealous looking over at Julie’s gorgeous plate of food. Almost.

two slices of French toast topped with strawberries and whipped cream

That’s because in front of me was my own scale-breaking plate of food: strawberry stuffed French toast. Three slices of French toast, layered with cream cheese and topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

Each bite was decadent. It probably didn’t need the cream cheese because there was enough sweets with the whipped cream and strawberries to cover every bite.

plate of sweet potato fries covered in maple syrup

And I managed to finish every bite, despite making the mistake of ordering a side of sweet potato homefries (which actually turned out to be regular sweet potato fries). I only finished half of those and should never have ordered them to start.

We did take home half of my sweet potato fries along with half of Julie’s omelette and homefries. There’s enough Letterman’s in our fridge for at least two meals, which makes the price tag of a little over $25 (we also had two glasses of juice) a little easier to take.

Letterman’s is a place you could only find in a small town, a greasy spoon that caters to the local community and its loyal customers.

It’s a place that makes sure you never go hungry, but always leaves you wanting more.

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

Letterman’s Diner
242 W. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530

Breakfast & Brunch Classics Diners Reviews

Jukebox Cafe

sign that reads "Jukebox Cafe" with a drawing of a jukebox

Growing up in the far western reaches of Berks County, Boyertown always felt like a world away. I only remember going there once when I was younger (for a double-digit loss in a Junior Legion baseball game). Even through more than a year of weekly reviews on Berks County Eats, the map of my visits had a noticeable gap in that part of the county.

It’s not for lack of wanting: a combination of bad timing and poor planning on my part had left the area as uncharted territory. I knew I had to make an extra effort to get there so my wife and I carved out time on a Saturday morning and headed east for a late morning visit to one of the more popular spots in town, the Jukebox Cafe.

The Jukebox Cafe sits along Reading Avenue to the south of downtown. The two-tiered parking lot was nearly full when we arrived, but we grabbed one of the few remaining spaces and took the stairs down to the front door.

The diner plays up on the jukebox theme with a decor reminiscent of a 1950s drive-in with a checkerboard trim, musical notes and records on every wall. Inside the front door was the namesake jukebox, though I have no idea if it actually works. With a number of groups waiting ahead of us for seats, no one would have been able to get to it if they wanted to.

We took a number and I grabbed a copy of the Boyertown Bulletin and passed the time reading about Amelia Earhart’s connection to Boyertown and brushing up on my Pennsylvania Dutch with an article on planting potatoes.

There is not a lot of seating in the dining area, but the tables were turned over quickly so we did not have to wait long before we were escorted to a corner booth.

Going in, I had every intention of ordering lunch; a burger and fries was sounding really good. I decided to take a look through the breakfast menu anyway (because like all great diners, they serve breakfast all day).

That’s when my eyes spotted four words I had never before seen together: cinnamon bun French toast. I realized then that my burger would have to wait another day.

cinnamon roll french toast topped with strawberry syrup and whipped cream

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting until the plate was laid in front of me. It turns out that it is exactly what it sounds like: two cinnamon rolls that have been put through an egg wash and grilled like French toast. A layer of whipped cream was sandwiched between the two rolls, and the whole thing was swimming in strawberry syrup with more whipped cream on the side.

With every forkful, the warm cinnamon filling oozed out of the center. Somehow it managed to taste both like a cinnamon roll and French toast without sacrificing either flavor. The strawberry topping was something I never tasted along side a cinnamon roll before, but those sweet, fruity notes were a perfect match. The whipped cream was just the icing on the cake (or cinnamon roll, as it were), adding one more layer to an already divine dish.

red skin potato homefries topped with fried onions

To temper the sweetness of the main course, I also ordered a side of home fries with onions. For its home fries, Jukebox Cafe uses red skins potatoes which are so much more flavorful than yellow potatoes to start. With the mound of fried onions on top, it was a delicious, though unnecessary add-on as the cinnamon roll French toast would have been more than satisfying on its own.

omelet with red peppers on a plate with red skin potatoes and wheat bread

Julie also opted for breakfast during our visit, ordering the Little Richard: an omelet filled with bacon, tomato and cheddar. The ingredients were finely chopped with a pool of cheddar inside to ensure a flavorful bite every time. Her meal also included home fries and toast for a hearty breakfast.

Everything we had was enjoyable and made the trip to Boyertown worthwhile. With a check totaling less than $20, the prices are pretty good too.

Whether the jukebox plays or not seems irrelevant because the real star at the Jukebox Cafe isn’t the jukebox, it’s the food.

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

Jukebox Cafe
535 S. Reading Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512

Breakfast & Brunch Diners Reviews

Chatty’s

two stripmall storefronts with the words "Shoppes at Woodside" in green script at the top and a smaller sign reading "Chatty's" underneath

In today’s world, it is very rare for any business, especially a restaurant, to not have a website. At the very least, one would expect a popular restaurant to at least have a Facebook page.

Sometimes I have been frustrated when I try to look up a restaurant only to find nothing but an automatically generated Google+ page.

One restaurant where I ran into this is Chatty’s, a breakfast and lunch spot that continually shows up at or near the top of review sites, but which has no web presence of its own.

Not wanting to miss out on a place that had received so many four- and five-star ratings, I decided to make a trip and accept whatever surprises awaited.

Chatty’s is the centerpiece of the Shoppes at Woodside strip mall along Pricetown Road. It’s a place I had passed by many times on my way to and from the old Muddy’s BBQ location.

On the outside, there is not much to distinguish Chatty’s from the custom kitchen store next door. Inside, the restaurant exudes a more vibrant atmosphere than the exterior lets on. The two long side walls are covered in bright murals, with unique art work, including a three-dimensional painting of a horse and a Rajah Shriner clown. The seating areas, including the counter, have a faux diner look, with the painted black and silver as if it were stainless steel.

The sign inside the door invited us to seat ourselves so we sat down at a table for two in the back corner and perused  the single-page menus that sat on the table.

Saturday and Sunday, Chatty’s serves breakfast only, serving from 7 to 11:45 a.m. That means it’s all breakfast: French toast, pancakes and omelets make up the bulk of the menu.

The day’s specials were listed out on a dry erase board at the entrance, and that was as far as I had to look for my choice: cranberry walnut pancakes.

fluffy pancake stuffed with cranberry and walnut

I normally gravitate toward French toast when I dine out for breakfast, but cranberry and walnut are two words that will always get my attention. My waitress warned me that because they were the daily special, the pancakes were only a stack of two. One would have been sufficient. Though not the largest I have ever seen, these were big enough: thick and fluffy, and as big as the plate. The walnuts added a crunchy texture that you normally don’t get in pancakes, while the cranberry provided a different kind of sweetness than syrup alone could provide. After spreading a pad of melted butter on top, my plate achieved pancake perfection.

closeup picture of corned beef hash

Not knowing how much food I was going to get with “just” an order of pancakes, I also committed to a side of corned beef hash. Though it was a little salty (then again, I think that’s a requirement), it was tasty enough that I cleaned the plate.

plate with an omelet and two slices of wheat toast

Once she took her first look at the menu, Julie had her heart set on an omelet, opting for a smoked sausage omelet with toast. It is safe to say that Chatty’s did not skimp on the sausage.

a deconstructed omelet filled with cheese and sliced sausage

Inside was a full sausage link (think Johnsonville-sized) sliced thick and spread throughout. It wasn’t quite as smokey as she was expecting, but it still made for quite a dish. She obviously still enjoyed it as there were no traces left when she was finished.

The diner vibe continued all the way through from fast service—we were in-and-out in less than 45 minutes—to the prices. For all of our food, plus a glass of orange juice for me, our total came in at under $15.

We went in to Chatty’s knowing almost nothing about it, ready for whatever experience was waiting for us. Sometimes a little surprise is a good thing.

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

Chatty’s
3130 Pricetown Rd
Fleetwood, PA 19522

Breakfast & Brunch Diners Reviews