Assorted foods in takeout containers spread on a granite countertop

Delicioso Tour

On Friday, August 14, Barrio Alegría hosted its annual Delicioso Tour, a culinary tour that highlights some of downtown Reading’s best food businesses.

Normally, the Delicioso Tour is an actual tour with guests walking from restaurant to restaurant in the City of Reading to sample the cuisine of a diverse population and learn the stories behind the food and those who make it.

Rather than canceling the 2020 event, the tour went virtual. Instead of going from site to site, the food was delivered right to your door. And because we couldn’t meet the owners face-to-face, video introductions were included from each of the five restaurateurs giving tour-goers insight into their heritage and their food.

Two chocolate milkshakes in clear plastic cups with still wrapped straws sitting on a countertop

Stop #1 – Franklyn’s Breakfast, Burgers, and Shakes

The first “stop” on the tour was Franklyn’s (1007 Penn Street), one of downtown’s newer restaurants. Franklyn’s opened at the end of 2019, Franklyn’s has a simple menu that, as the name suggests, focuses on scratch-made breakfasts and lunch.

We were treated to our choice of milkshake from the diner. I chose strawberry-banana while Julie chose the Oreo shake.

This is one time when I was more than happy to eat dessert first. The shakes were amazing. Drinking my strawberry-banana shake was like drinking a banana split.

close-up photo of two tacos in corn tortillas covered with onions and cilantro

Stop #2 – Loncheria y Panaderia Doña Tere

Doña Tere is located across from Reading High School (800 N. 13th Street), and as we found out with our second course, it is home to some of the best tacos anywhere.

Photo of two tacos, both with corn tortillas but one with shredded beef and the other with marinated pork filling.

We each had two tacos – one of our choice and one of their speciality taco, suadero. Suadero is a slow roasted or stewed beef that is then shredded similar to a pork carnitas. It had a similar flavor, too, but was just a little richer. For my other taco, I tried the adobada.

Photo of two tacos on corn tortillas. One is topped with beef and chorizo, the other is topped with shredded beef.

All of our tacos were served with a side of traditional toppings – cilantro and onion. I wouldn’t want them any other way because the meat was perfect and flavorful all on its own.

The tacos also came with a green salsa and a red salsa – both of them were a little too hot for our tastes. The flavors were great, but a little bit went a long way.

Photo of a takeout container filled with rice and beans and pork ribs

Stop #3 – El Tronco de Lily

El Tronco de Lily (101 S. 6th Street) was the “main course” of the meal. Julie had their rice and peas with ribs while I had the white rice with chicken.

Photo of takeout container with white rice and a half breast of chicken.

I was not expecting to enjoy my chicken as much as I did. It had a nice flavor, almost like a barbecue chicken but with a Latin twist. And the spices seeped in so it was good all the way to the last bite.

Photo of Spanish beans in tomato sauce.

While Julie’s yellow rice had the “peas” cooked with it, my white rice came with a dish of beans in a tomato sauce to pour over top. It was all very good, but way too much food for a five-course meal (we both saved about half of our rice for later).

The ribs were good, too. They weren’t the fall-off-the-bone ribs like you would find at a barbecue joint. They were a little tougher but still with plenty of flavor.

Photo of a plastic takeout container filled with assorted fried foods.

Stop #4 – Antojitos y Algo Mas

The dishes from Antojitos y Algo Mas (154 Walnut Street) were practically a meal of themselves. We knew were were getting chicharrón (pork rinds) and arepas (ground maize/corn, kind of like a fluffy corn tortilla) but the box also included some fried plantains, ribs and chorizo.

The latter were actually my favorites. Because of how they were fried, they almost had the texture of jerky which I enjoyed, especially as a change of pace to the other dishes we had tried.

close-up photo of a tres leche cake in a plastic takeout container topped with a cherry.

Stop #5 – Homemade Cravings

Just when we thought the meal couldn’t get any better, Homemade Cravings (50 N. 5th Street) had tres leches cake. The milky cake was so rich and sweet, but neither of us had enough room to finish it.

That was OK though, because after a couple nights in the refrigerator, the cake had soaked in even more flavor from the creamy mixture it was sitting in.

And it also helped extend the tour for a couple days, which was great because we didn’t want it to end.

The food throughout was outstanding and it was great to experience so many new places – some that I was vaguely familiar with and others that I had never heard of.

I really hope that the tour happens in person next year because the only thing better than eating the amazing food would be to dine alongside others who are discovering new dishes and new restaurants, too.

But whether the next tour is in-person or virtual, you can count us in.

Caribbean & Latin American Dessert Lunch & Dinner Uncategorized
Wagyu Steak with chimichurri sauce

The Heritage Restaurant

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.

Walking into the simply appointed dining room

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.

The private dining room is filled with historic photos of Morgantown

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 in Morgantown.

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 hand.

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.

Corn soup topped with pico de gallo, pork belly and avocado crema

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.

Strawberry salad with dragon fruit, candied pecans and a goat cheese croquette

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 is trying.

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.

Pan-seared scallops with yellow, red and green sauces

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 an entree.

Wagyu Steak with chimichurri sauce

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.

Chef Brandon Pennypacker
Chef Brandon tell us a little more about the course we’re about to eat.

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.

Strawberry Sponge Cake
Photo Credit: Cathy Cuff-Coffman

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 meal.

Owner Tamara King and Chef Brandon Pennypacker
Owner Tamara King with Chef Brandon

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 attendance.

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

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

5 Favorite Desserts of 2018

Our annual end-of-year tradition continues as we take a look back on the best things we tried this year. Today: our five favorite desserts of 2018.

Fried Ice Cream – Castaneda’s

Fried ice cream is a personal favorite of Julie’s so when we saw it on Castaneda’s menu, we had to try it. It was totally worth the extra Calories (I don’t want to know how many were in it). I especially loved the addition of the cinnamon-dusted tortilla chips. Read Full Review

Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart – Savory Grille

Julie’s birthday dinner at Savory Grille was from start to finish one of the best meals we have ever had. And the finish was incredible: a tart filled with chocolate ganache, topped with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh mint and a sugar cookie, and garnished with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar. It was an unforgettable indulgence and a great ending to a perfect night out. Read Full Review

Lemon berry cake from Franklin House Tavern

Lemon Berry Cake – Franklin House

In 2018, Berks County Eats made only a couple road trips outside the county, one of those was to the Franklin House Tavern in Schaefferstown, Lebanon County. We splurged on dessert – a deliciously decadent lemon berry cake with layers of Mascarpone cheese and a concentrated raspberry sauce. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale Butterscotch Lava Cake

Butterscotch Lava Cake – Fork & Ale

Butterscotch does not rank high on my list of favorite sweets, but the butterscotch lava cake from our visit to Fork & Ale was perfect. Not too buttery, not too sweet with a perfectly prepared cake “shell,” this dessert capped off an incredible date night dinner. Read Full Review

Plum Creek Farm Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake – Plum Creek

The Creamery at Plum Creek Farm Market has become an incredibly popular destination along Route 183 and it is thanks to their delicious homemade soft ice cream and indulgent sundaes like this. The vanilla soft serve stands on its own, but the strawberry shortcake sundae came topped with bits of shortcake, fresh strawberries and a mound of whipped cream. It’s a satisfying meal on its own. Read Full Review

 

Best of Berks County Eats Desserts
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
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
Carrot cake for dessert.

4 Favorite Desserts of 2017

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. This time, we’re talking sweets. Here are our four favorite desserts we tried in 2017.

Editor’s Note: There are only four desserts on this list because we only splurged on dessert four times in 2017. For more information on why, check out my Food Blogger vs. Fat series.

Willoughby’s on Park – Carrot Cake

Neither of us had any room for dessert after finishing our steaks at Willoughby’s. But it was our anniversary, and we couldn’t help ourselves. The giant slice of cake was drizzled with caramel and garnished with whipped cream and strawberries. I’m a real sucker for carrot cake, and this was a good one. Read Full Review

Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery – Baklava

Julie’s birthday dinner ended with one of her favorite desserts: baklava. The layered pastry was served warm and the filling oozed out with the first forkful. The dark chocolate shavings added a bittersweet flavor to counteract the sweetness of the honey, and everything just came together beautifully. Read Full Review

Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy – Vanilla Milkshake

No road trip to this Schuylkill County institution is complete without Heisler’s famous ice cream, and I enjoyed mine in the form of a milkshake. There’s something about drinking a shake after enjoying a burger and fries that just feels right, and Heisler’s makes a mean milkshake. Read Full Review

Reading Hospital – Chocolate Trilogy Cake

Julie and I celebrated the birth of our first son on November 17, and we ended our hospital stay with a surf and turf dinner for two. And that dinner ended with a slice of chocolate trilogy cake – three layers of chocolate mousse that were absolutely decadent. The cake isn’t worth a two-night stay in the hospital, but baby Jakob was. And his arrival made the entire meal more memorable. Read Full Review

Best of Berks County Eats Desserts
The 20-ounce dry-aged ribeye at Willoughby's on Park

Willoughby’s on Park

Willoughby's on Park, a high-end steakhouse in Wyomissing

If you’re a long-time follower of the blog, you may remember our visit to Willoughby’s Bar & Grill.

It was three years ago that we enjoyed our first dinner at the Wyomissing restaurant. Living nearby, Julie and I had passed by the restaurant on our walks, watching the former T.G.I. Friday’s completely transformed.

When the restaurant closed for renovations in 2015, we couldn’t understand. It had just been completely redone and it didn’t make any sense to us.

Again we watched as construction workers descended on the building, filling and refilling the dumpster outside until the restaurant was once again ready for business.

This time, the transformation was from Willoughby’s Bar & Grill to Willoughby’s on Park, a high-end steakhouse that was going to have to wait for a special occasion for us to visit.

The remodeled dining room at Willoughby's on Park

That special occasion finally came this August as Julie and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary.

We arrived on a Sunday evening without a reservation, but it was no problem to get in and get a table. The dining room is still very large and with the additional outdoor seating, there was no danger of it filling up. Even on Fridays and Saturdays, the parking lot never seems full enough to equal a full dining room.

The renovated restaurant looks nothing like it did before. Previously, the center of the dining room featured a sports bar lined with flat screens. The TVs are now gone, and the bar is much more stately. The room is dimly lit by chandeliers with votive candles creating a soft glow on the back wall.

Romantically elegant is the best way I can describe it.

Votive candles line the wall at Willoughby's on Park

As for the menu, it is distinctly a high-end steakhouse, with 10 different steak cuts highlighting the entree selections. Additional choices include seared duck, rack of lamb and six seafood offerings.

There is also a range of salads, appetizers and cold bar options for starters, but we passed on those knowing we would be enjoying dessert at the end of the night.

Warm bread is a great way to start any meal.

Instead, we whet our appetite with the complimentary bread and butter – a pair of fresh-baked rolls that were soft, warm and enjoyable.

What else do you need when there’s a 20-ounce dry-aged ribeye on its way to the table?

This is hands-down among the best steaks that I have ever eaten. It was cooked perfectly to my liking (medium well) with just the right amount of pink in the middle. It lost none of the juiciness in cooking and had beautiful char marks on the outside. It was an all-around winner.

The 20-ounce dry-aged ribeye at Willoughby's on Park

Guests can add on one of six “enhancements” to any steak, an assortment of sauces and rubs to suit many tastes. I decided to try the mission fig cabernet reduction and was not disappointed.

It was more jelly than sauce, with the mission fig giving it sweetness and the cabernet adding depth of flavor and strong overtones. With the steak, it played on the sweet and savory while also having a built-in wine pairing to enhance the flavor of the steak.

The steak was so good that it almost made me forget about the sides – a few carrots and a dollop of whipped potatoes. They both served their purpose, but let’s face it, we weren’t there for the sides.

An eight-ounce filet topped with gorgonzola gratin

Julie went with the smallest item on the menu, the eight-ounce filet Mignon, with a gorgonzola gratin for her enhancement.

Her steak was also cooked perfectly and would have stood on its own without any additional enhancements, but the gorgonzola gratin gave it a very different flavor profile. It was heavy and rich with the distinct deep flavor that the cheese brings to every dish.

Neither of us really had room left after our steaks, but it was our anniversary so dessert was a must.

Our waitress brought out the dessert tray highlighting a range of offerings that all sounded amazing. We settled on the carrot cake and were not disappointed.

Carrot cake for dessert.

The slice was gigantic and was served with whipped cream, strawberries and a caramel drizzle. Could we get carrot cake anywhere? Yes. Would it have been this good? Maybe. Did we care? Nope. We were just happy to finish off our romantic evening by sharing a lovely dessert.

Going into the evening we knew two things: one, that we were going to have a romantic dinner; two, that it wouldn’t be cheap.

When we visited three years ago, we spent $40. This time, it was more than double that as our total bill was just shy of $100. Willoughby’s on Park is not priced for everyday dining, but it’s not everyday that you get to enjoy a perfectly cooked steak.

With that in mind, I can say with certainty that we will be back. But we’ll save our next visit for another special occasion.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: A Little Pricey

Willoughby’s on Park
305 N. Park Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Willoughby's on Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Billy Burger earned the title of Best Burger

Billy Burger & Bakery – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Billy Burger & Bakery is now closed. The restaurant closed in February 2019 after initially announcing that they were going to make changes, but not close.

Morgantown is an area that I have not explored nearly enough on Berks County Eats.

Every day, I get on and off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Morgantown exit, but my destination is always in the opposite direction.

So I decided to do something about it. And while browsing ideas for dinner in the area, one restaurant stood out: Billy Burger and Bakery.

Billy Burger is located along Route 23 heading east from Morgantown toward Elverson, Chester County, in the Morgantown Crossings shopping center.

The building is distinctly fast food, a former Dairy Queen that still maintains the profile of its former tenant.

Inside, you would never recognize it. The DQ menu boards have been replaced by handwritten chalk boards. At the counter, a display case of tantalizing baked goods beckons.

Desserts include black cherry blondies, carrot cake sandwich cookies and an assortment of gourmet cupcakes: peach cobbler, chocolate mountain, Boston cream and cookie dough to name a few.

But bakery is just part of the name. You can’t overlook the burgers.

Billy Burger offers four burger choices: the Billy with ketchup, mustard and pickle; the Truck Stop, with coleslaw and waffle fries on the burger; the Twin Valley, featuring pepper jack, lettuce, tomato and horseradish; and my choice, the Ranch Burger.

The Ranch Burger starts with mesquite seasoning on the patty and the standard lettuce and tomato. Then it gets crazy with the addition of a grilled poblano pepper and buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing.

I was expecting spicy, but was pleasantly surprised to find that, while flavorful, the poblano pepper was not mouth-burning hot. Instead, the de-seeding and grill had made it quite pleasant with all of the flavor and just a hint of the heat.

The ranch dressing and veggies were cool and refreshing providing depth of flavor and texture. Overall, it was a great burger that I would be happy to enjoy again.

I would also enjoy the fries again. They were fresh-cut, served fresh out of the fryer and easy to eat.

Julie went with the build-your-own option for her burger, topping it with lettuce, tomato, American cheese and bacon. The bacon was well-done, and the American cheese was melted nicely onto the patty.

And her waffle fries were delicious as well. There was a hint of extra seasoning added to the golden brown fries making them quite addictive.

Not wanting leave without the full experience, we needed to take at least one baked good home with us to try. Our cashier talked us into the freshly made strawberry shortcake.

What sold it for us was that it was truly a “from-scratch” dish. Not only was the cake baked onsite, but the whipped cream is also made in-house at Billy Burger.

Tasting it for the first time the next day, I was a fan. The shortcake was light and airy. The whipped cream was fluffy and sweet, but not too sweet.

I will definitely be back to try more from the bakery.

For dinner and dessert, our total was about $30. I thought that was very reasonable for the amount and quality of food that we got.

One thing to note, while Billy Burger is located in a former fast food restaurant, it is not fast food. Everything is cooked to order so there is a wait until it is delivered to your table, inside or out on the patio.

Billy Burger is a new addition to my short list of favorite burger places in Berks, one that I’m excited to visit again.

All I have to do is go the extra mile – literally – into Morgantown.

Billy Burger and Bakery
650 Crossings Blvd
Elverson, PA 19520

Billy Burger & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Windsor Inn at Shillington

windsor-inn-sign

The best meals are always the unexpected ones.

I had zero idea of what I was going to get last week when Julie and I visited the Windsor Inn at Shillington.

The only thing that I knew was that the owner’s daughter, Rachel, reached out to me over a year ago to come in and review the restaurant.

Fifteen months later, we were finally there. Better late than never.

windsor-inn-interior-2

I’m not going to lie. The inside is a little dive-y. We walked through the bar to a tired looking dining room. On the yellow walls were photographs from when the building was a doctor’s office in the 1950s. Behind me was a fireplace, it’s mantle lined with vintage cameras.

windsor-inn-interior-1

It wasn’t a busy night; there was only one other couple in the dining room and a handful of customers sitting at the bar when we arrived. Our waitress was doing double-duty, handling orders in both rooms with help from an assistant.

The waitress also happened to be Rachel, and she was more than happy to talk to us about the food: how it’s locally sourced whenever possible, how they make a different pasta in-house every day, and how they had in-season peaches for their martinis and margaritas.

windsor-inn-peach-margarita

The last one caught Julie’s attention. She nursed her peach margarita throughout the meal, leaving nothing but a little peach pulp at the end.

The name “Windsor Inn” certainly doesn’t scream Italian the way others do, but the menu certainly gave it away. Cioppino (mixed seafood simmered with tomato and wine) and carciofi (veal sautéed with artichokes, dried tomatoes, dill and cream) were among the unpronounceable dishes for a man with Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.

I also found out I have been pronouncing gnocchi wrong all my life. Apparently it’s not NOH-chee, it’s NYOK-ee. Who knew?

windsor-inn-meatballs

We started our meal with something easy to pronounce: gigantic Windsor meatballs.

They were certainly big — gigantic is stretching it a little — but they were delicious. There is nothing like a homemade meatball from a real Italian kitchen. The hand-formed meatballs had plenty of nooks and crannies to grab the sauce that was just as good. What little sauce was left, I made sure to soak up with some bread so it didn’t go to waste.

windsor-inn-pepper-parmesan

Along with the meatballs came the optional Parmesan cheese and red pepper, the latter being made in-house. Our waitress warned me that because it was freshly made, it would be stronger than a typical red pepper. I ignored her warning and quickly found out she was right. Tread lightly with the pepper. It’s fantastic, but it is hot.

We were happy to have ordered the meatballs because the courses were slower to arrive because so many things were made from scratch and everything was beautifully prepared. Even the salads were crafted, not made.

Salads usually don’t make it into my reviews because more often than not, it’s nothing more than mixed greens with a cup of Kraft dressing. That’s not the case here. The restaurant was serving three homemade salad dressings so Julie and I each got to try a different one. I chose raspberry herb for mine; Julie chose garlic dill for hers.

windsor-inn-salad-garlic-dill-dressing

I really like creamy salad dressings. The garlic dill was certainly that, having the consistency of a good ranch dressing but with the very distinct flavors of garlic and dill mixing together beautifully.

windsor-inn-salad-raspberry-vinaigrette

My raspberry herb was also very enjoyable: a little puckery and a little sweet with fresh raspberries scattered throughout.

By this point, we were very excited to see our main courses, both of which were daily specials and highly recommended by our waitress and rightly so.

windsor-inn-stuffed-eggplant

The stuffed eggplant, my choice for the night, was a beauty of a dish. It was almost a shame that I had to ruin it by digging in. The eggplant was stuffed with ricotta and peppers and topped with prosciutto. On the side was fresh made pasta with the house tomato sauce.

I absolutely loved it. The eggplant was cooked so it was perfectly tender. The ricotta and the prosciutto played extremely well together. And the pasta was delicious. Even the portion was perfect. While it looked small on the plate, it was just the right amount to be filling.

windsor-inn-shrimp-gnocchi

Julie’s bowl wasn’t quite as nice to look at, but it sure tasted good. She went with the shrimp and gnocchi. Julie likened it more to a gumbo than your expected pasta dish, with everything tossed in a nice broth-like sauce. It was a heartier meal than my own, but Julie managed to finish it.

Neither of us were really hungry for dessert, but I had overheard the dessert options when they were read to the other table and upon hearing the words “flaming peaches” I knew we would be getting dessert no matter what.

windsor-inn-flaming-peaches

It was a few minutes before the dish arrive: pound cake topped with mascarpone cheese and fresh peaches in Bacardi rum (with whipped cream and a cherry on top, of course), aflame upon delivery to our table.

Like two kids with trick candles on their birthday cake, we struggled to blow out the flames and dig in. Once we did get to it, it was good to the last drop. The pound cake had absorbed the melting cheese (and a lot of rum). The peaches were warm, sweet and melt-in-your-mouth good. I have absolutely no regrets about ordering it.

Even our final bill didn’t leave us with any regrets. It was about $65 for the two of us, three courses with two drinks (one non-alcoholic). I’ll gladly pay that for quality food.

The Windsor Inn at Shillington provided one of the most memorable meals of the past year for me. Before we left, we got a frequent customer card.

For every $15 you spend, you get a stamp. Five stamps equals $10 off your next meal. We’re three-fifths of the way there.

I plan to fill out that card sooner than later.

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

Windsor Inn at Shillington
38 W. Lancaster Ave
Shillington, PA 19607

Dessert Finer Dining Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Cafe Sweet Street

cafe-sweet-street-from-street

If you live in Berks County, chances are you’ve indulged in a Sweet Street dessert at least once.

Sweet Street’s cheesecakes, pies, cakes and other tasty treats are well-known around here, and with distribution in more than 60 countries, it’s safe to say that they’re known worldwide.

But what is less well known is Cafe Sweet Street.

cafe-sweet-street-from-parking-lot

The Cafe is attached to Sweet Street’s corporate office building on Hiesters Lane. While the parent company is all about the sweets, the cafe is more in-tune with savory foods, offering a range of hearty options for breakfast and lunch.

That doesn’t mean it escapes its roots altogether. Just inside the front door, you are bombarded with the desserts that have made Sweet Street famous. In addition to serving fresh-prepared meals, the cafe serves as a retail store, with tables full of temptations.

We saw dozens of customers come through the door while we were there, and the vast majority of them were passing through simply for the desserts.

But we were there for something more, and when it comes to lunch, there are plenty of options to choose from.

cafe-sweet-street-dessert-case-and-menu

The menu is scrolled across the entire wall, only broken up by a tall TV screen that displays the weekly specials. The wall was filled with burgers, sandwiches and salads, each one sounding more tempting than the next.

It was hard to know where to begin until we saw a sign on the counter telling of the in-house flavored sodas. The first decision was made.

While Julie grabbed a high-top table by the window, I watched as our cashier became a barista of sorts. Our drinks were not pre-made but mixed on the spot. After scooping a full cup (16 oz.) of ice, she poured in the flavored syrup. Then she sprayed in the unflavored soda and stirred it with our straws.

cafe-sweet-street-sodas

I was a little put off when I saw the cups full of ice, especially after paying $3.00 ea. for the sodas, but I was actually glad to have it once I started drinking. The sodas were a little too syrupy at first, but once the ice began to melt, it helped tone it down. By the end, the flavors were just right and only a few ice cubes were left sitting at the bottom of my cup.

After a short wait, my food was the first to arrive. I had decided on the lamb gyro with a side of fries. It was something completely different for me—I had never so much as thought about eating a gyro before—but yet it seemed like the right thing to order on this day.

cafe-sweet-street-lamb-gyro

The pita was packed with grilled lamb, tomatoes, and a mound of onions. And the whole thing was oozing with tzatziki, the white Greek sauce that I mistakenly took to be melted cheese when I first saw it.

cafe-sweet-street-lamb-gyro-2

Instead I found that tzatziki is actually a yogurt-based sauce that is quite refreshing, especially given the hints of mint that work so well with lamb. It was a messy meal for sure, but one that I happily devoured.

The fries were much more familiar, but Cafe Sweet Street put a unique twist on it. The menu touted them as world famous, hand-cut, double-fried and seasoned to perfection. While I don’t know about “world famous” (I had never heard about them), they were certainly seasoned to perfection and quite addicting.

As much as I loved eating them, I was still happy that I only got a “baby” order because the regular order is a full fryer basket.

Julie munched on a few of my fries while we waited for her Caprese salad. After a few minutes, she went back to the cashier to check on it and was told “they are still working on it.” That’s restaurant code for, “sorry, we forgot to make it.”

cafe-sweet-street-caprese-salad

When it arrived, it looked beautiful: red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices and a balsamic drip. There’s no denying that it was delicious, but we were both expecting something a little bit more for the money ($9.00).

The one saving grace about having such a light lunch was that she had more than enough room for dessert.

Ordering dessert was another cause for confusion as there was a dessert counter (sparsley filled) with individual servings plus all of the aforementioned desserts at the entrance: the whole pies, cakes and sheets. In between is the cash register which had a list of the week’s featured desserts.

As it turns out, the featured desserts are the latter, not the ones meant for consumption at the table (though it would have been quite entertaining to watch us open an 8-inch square box of the salted caramel stack and dig in).

cafe-sweet-street-turtle-bundt-cake

Once we got this figured out, we ordered a turtle Bundt cake to share. All previous grievances disappeared with the first bite.

The cake was topped with pecans and caramel and drizzled with chocolate sauce. The molten center was rich and gooey. In a word, it was divine.

Cafe Sweet Street, like the desserts they serve, is an indulgence. Our lunch was more than $30.00, certainly not a bargain by Berks County standards.

But there’s no denying the quality of the cafe, the same quality that goes into every goodie that rolls off the assembly line next door.

Besides, it’s good to indulge sometimes.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: A Little Pricey

Cafe Sweet Street
722 Hiesters Ln
Reading, PA 19605

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Cafes & Coffeeshops Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews