Angry Anvil Ranch Fried Chicken

The Angry Anvil

The Angry Anvil

I always appreciate a restaurant that has a sense of place.

There are many restaurants that have a concept first, then force fit that concept into a location. But there are others that naturally flow with their environment and their location.

The Angry Anvil, which opened in Birdsboro at the end of 2018, certainly fits the town.

The Angry Anvil

It’s not just the historic photos and portraits on the wall or cleverly named menu items like the Birdsburger.

The restaurant sits at the end of a strip mall, overlooking the town from a slope on the south side. The spacious dining room – larger than it looks from the outside – features high- and low-top tables made of metal, an homage to the steel industry that once thrived in Birdsboro.

The Angry Anvil

Serving American pub fusion food with American craft beers – with a few imports – the menu isn’t small, but it is focused.

Dinner options include sandwiches and burgers, wraps, flatbreads and salads, with a range of appetizers that includes four kinds of specialty fries. It’s blue-collar food for a blue-collar town, just elevated.

Angry Anvil Ranch Fried Chicken

Looking over the menu, I was drawn to the ranch fried chicken sandwich: topped with bacon, spring mix, bruschetta and sweet corn ranch, and served with a side of beer-battered fries.

There was a lot to love about this sandwich. The fried chicken was flavorful on its own. The bruschetta, which seemed to be featured on half of the menu items, was fresh and bright. But what really separated this was the sweet corn ranch.

I’ve had ranch on corn before but never corn infused into the dressing. It’s a great flavor combination that led to a little sweeter dressing, one that paired perfectly with the rest of the sandwich ingredients.

The sandwich was served with a half-pound of beer-battered fries. Battered fries always seem to go down easier, even after I am already full. There wasn’t a piece left by the time I had finished.

The Angry Anvil Balsamic Bleu Burger

Julie opted for one of the Angry Anvil’s burgers – the balsamic bleu burger. It came topped with bruschetta, spring mix, balsamic reduction and bleu cheese spread.

It was another hit. The balsamic was strong without being overpowering and played really nicely with the bleu cheese. If anything was lacking it would be a little crunch from the toppings. But there were zero complaints about the flavor.

On the side, Julie swapped out her fries for an order of the Angry Anvil’s homemade chips. They were very good – crispy and lightly seasoned – in line with what we’ve found of similar offerings elsewhere.

The Angry Anvil

Along with a glass of wine and an iced tea, our total for the night was $33. When the highest-priced food item is $14, it’s easy to splurge on drinks without breaking the bank.

As we were getting ready to leave, the Angry Anvil’s owner stopped by our table (I recognized him from a photo from when the place opened) as he made his rounds. He was surprised that Julie and I had made the trip from Wyomissing to Birdsboro (it’s 15 minutes) but was glad to hear we enjoyed our meal.

We were glad, too. Glad to know that the Angry Anvil has added another quality option to Birdsboro and Berks County, and one that we will happily return to again.

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

The Angry Anvil
200 W. 1st St
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Park Road Cafe Sleasy Caprese

Park Road Cafe – MOVED

Editor’s Note: Park Road Cafe has moved to 550 Penn Avenue in West Reading, opening in their new location in July 2020.

The Park Road Cafe is one of Berks County’s newest restaurants. Named for the Wyomissing street where it sits in a shopping center, the restaurant took over the former Green Bean Cafe (later, Meat Up Delicatessen)

Both of its predecessors were short-lived. The former – an all-organic cafe – lasted about nine months. The latter – a New York-style deli – made it two more.

By mid-summer, the space was vacant and the transformation into the Park Road Cafe began. And you wouldn’t recognize the space from the inside. The new look is clean and bold. (The murals of vegetables had already been removed with the changeover to the deli).

The only “problem” we had with the change is the lack of seating. There are only about eight tables plus a small loveseat and matching chair in the corner. And to be fair, there wasn’t a lot of seating before, either.

Another couple claimed the couch and Julie took the chair – the last seat available in the room. That left me sitting on the window ledge. (There are more tables outside, but winter has arrived early so they’re not getting much use).

The menu isn’t large, but that’s not a bad thing. I’ll take quality over quantity any day. And the food at the Park Road Cafe is definitely quality.

With only seven sandwich options to choose from at lunch, our decisions were easy. For me, it was the Sleasy Caprese. It’s a dirty-sounding name, but a delicious sandwich with grilled chicken, basil pesto, mozzarella, tomato, balsamic glaze and rosemary butter served on wheatberry oat bread.

I didn’t get much of a taste for the rosemary butter, but I loved everything else. The ingredients tasted fresh and vibrant and there was just enough balsamic to give it the distinct flavor without overpowering everything. And the bread held up nicely and never got soggy, always a bonus.

Julie’s Aww Brie sandwich came served on an equally sturdy brioche bun. Sliced turkey, melted brie, garlic aioli, arugula and berry jam made for a unique flavor experience.

Sure, it was reminiscent of a Thanksgiving-inspired sandwich, but the garlic aioli added depth of flavor that made it different enough to stand out.

Both sandwiches were served with kettle chips, an expected but enjoyable side.

We cleared our plates but neither of us felt like we had been cheated – comfortably full is how we felt after we had finished.

And we didn’t feel cheated on the price either. At a little more than $20, it was a fair price to pay for a lunch. I will say that it is not the fastest lunch that you are going to find in Berks County – it was a solid 20 minutes from the time we arrived until our food was brought to our table.

But I will take that wait when the food is this good.

Hopefully Park Road Cafe has hit on the recipe for success that it’s predecessors couldn’t.

So far, so good.

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

Park Road Cafe
840 N. Park Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Closed Reviews
Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant Margherita Pizza

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant

When it comes to meals for Berks County Eats, I’ve found that some of best meals are the ones that are unplanned. They are the places we go on the spur of the moment or out of necessity.

Recently, we had to make a trip to the Berks County Recycling Center to drop off some old electronics. The Recycling Center is located near the new Reading Fairgrounds and Berks Heim. There are no restaurants in the immediate area, but there a few that are nearby on Route 183, including Plum Creek Farm (which we visited in July) and the Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant – formerly the Blue Marsh Canteen – is owned and operated by the same group as Gino’s Cafe and Gino’s Grille in Shillington.

Last year, we paid a visit to Gino’s Grille to try their new wood-fired pizza. It was a good, but slow meal. The menu at Blue Marsh had some similarities so it seemed like a good place to try, especially being just five minutes away.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant

We arrived around 11:30 a.m. for an early lunch. When Jakob is along, we try to eat early so he doesn’t become too much of a distraction (or nuisance) to other patrons. Having the dining room to ourselves is just fine with us.

Apparently we were the earliest Saturday customers ever for our server Kailey. She told us that she has never really had anyone before 2:30.

While there are a lot of Italian dinner options, the menu does lend itself well for lunch, especially with the sandwich selections.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant Chicken Caprese Sandwich

Julie ordered a small hot chicken Caprese sandwich. It came topped with mozzarella, tomato, chicken, basil and balsamic vinegar.

The sandwich was very good, from the toasted roll to the fresh basil leaves, it had good flavor throughout. It was exactly what she expected out of a Caprese salad-inspired sandwich.

And it was the perfect size for lunch. Served with chips, it was light but filling.

Craving a good pizza, I ordered a small (12-inch) margherita pizza, knowing that I wouldn’t finish the whole pie during lunch.

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant Margherita Pizza

Margherita pizza is a personal favorite of mine. The fresh mozzarella – not shredded – along with tomato and basil make a delicious combination. And the sparse toppings allow me to taste every ingredient for what it is.

I was very impressed. The sauce was delicious, a little on the sweet side. The mozzarella was nicely spread out on the pie. I was surprised by the sliced tomatoes. It’s not uncommon on margherita pizza, but I’ve found more crushed tomato on the pies I’ve tasted around Berks. I certainly didn’t mind it either.

I found the crust to be solid as well, crispy around the edges but not burnt. The slices did sag when picked up, though. But I have zero complaints about the flavor.

I also have no complaints about the price. For the pizza, sandwich and a glass of iced tea, it was only $20 and change. That’s not bad at all for what turned out to be a private dining experience.

And while no one else joined us in the dining room, there were plenty of takeout orders and even a few customers that made their way to the bar located on the other side of the building.

If we find ourselves in the area again, I could easily see us making another stop.

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

Blue Marsh Italian Restaurant
5035 Bernville Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

Italian Pizzerias Reviews
Ganly's Bangers and Mash

Ganly’s Pub & Deli

Ganly's Pub & Deli

Editor’s note: this post was updated to correct an error regarding one of the menu items.

County Eats is not a one-man operation. If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know that my wife Julie – and lately, our son Jakob – has been along for nearly every blog (she even wrote a couple herself recently).

Most times, our experiences are the same. If one of us is happy, the other is happy. If one of us has a good time, the other has a good time.

Sometimes, though, things go a little differently. That’s what happened on a recent trip to Ganly’s Pub & Deli.

Ganly's Pub and Deli

Ganly’s sits at the end of State Hill Road, where it meets Brownsville Road and Reber’s Bridge Road in Lower Heidelberg Township. It’s a beautiful building in a location that’s out of the way for many.

The restaurant had fallen off of my radar for a while, but this year’s Wilson Iron Chef brought it back to the forefront. Not only did Ganly’s impress in the People’s Choice competition with its apple, brie and bacon crisps, Chef Ben Hinkel put in a great effort in the Iron Chef competition, itself.

A few weeks later, we paid the restaurant a visit. It wasn’t our first time dining there, but it was our first time in years and the first time for the blog.

Ganly's Pub and Deli

Ganly’s doesn’t offer reserved seating on the weekends, but Julie was able to call ahead and add our name to the wait list – a 30-minute wait on this Friday evening.

We arrived early, hoping they were overestimating, and were told it would still be 20-30 minutes. It ended up being a full half hour until we were seated in the main dining room – additional seating can be found in the bar area on the opposite side of the building.

Jakob had napped through most of our wait so he was wide awake by the time we sat down for dinner. So even though we had his car seat in a high chair, Julie and I took turns holding him through the duration of our meal.

Ganly's Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup

Both Julie and I started with a cup of soup. For Julie, it was French onion. For me, it was fire roasted tomato – the daily special.

The tomato soup was different from any other that I have tried. It was a chunky soup – not with tomato chunks, but with carrots, onions and other vegetables. It was well-seasoned and enjoyable, a good start to the meal.

Ganly's French Onion Soup

Julie’s French onion soup was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. A solid start, but it was after this that her meal went sideways.

The appetizer special of the day was a smoked salmon BLT. When asked, our waitress told Julie that it would be enough for a meal.

Ganly's Smoked Salmon BLT

And it was. The BLT looked beautiful when it arrived, a focaccia roll loaded with smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, housemade mayo and smoked salmon.

After her first bite, Julie realized that while she loves grilled salmon, smoked salmon is not her thing. She tried some more but she just did not care for it. It wasn’t Ganly’s fault, but and we were more than happy to pay for the dish, but Julie knew she wasn’t going to eat it and placed an order for another dish.

Ganly's Bangers and Mash

So while she waited for her next meal, I worked on my bangers and mash. Americans would call it sausages and mashed potatoes.

The bangers had a crispy outside and a great flavor that was spiced more like a German wurst than an American-style country sausage. The mash was actually colcannon. Colcannon is mashed potatoes with the addition of cabbage. It was a subtle difference, but it was very good, especially with the gravy.

I really enjoyed everything, but could only finish half of it, partially because my meal also came with a salad that arrived just moments before the bangers and mash.

Ganly's Salad

The salad was your basic mixed greens and choice of dressing. It wasn’t anything special, but it was a hefty salad. Had I known that my entree came with a salad, I may have skipped the soup, but I had already ordered the tomato soup when the waitress asked me what dressing I would like.

Julie handed Jakob off to me once her replacement meal arrived. It was the chicken and smoked gouda sandwich.

Ganly's Chicken and Gouda Sandwich

The gouda was a nice change of pace, and the roll was very good. The house chips on the side was okay, but could have used a little more salt and other seasonings.

By this point, we had been at the restaurant for nearly an hour-and-a-half and all Julie cared about was the eating, not the reviewing, so she hurriedly ate her sandwich.

We received our bill and the BLT had been removed. It wasn’t necessary as they restaurant had done nothing wrong. In total, our bill was a little over $40.

It was a mixed bag for us. For me, it was a great meal. Though the wait was a little frustrating. For Julie, it was a bit disappointing as she really wanted the smoked salmon BLT, but it just wasn’t what she thought it was going to be. And her wait was even longer. If she hadn’t had that soup, I don’t know if she could have lasted until her sandwich arrived.

But I have to give credit to our waitress who handled it well, despite having to work too many tables (she was also serving in the other dining area) and not being at fault at all.

Hopefully next time is a better experience, one that we can both enjoy.

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

Ganly’s Pub
500 Brownsville Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Kathryn’s Grille – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Kathryn’s Grille is now closed. The restaurant originally cut back its hours before closing in early 2018.

Great restaurants have an identity. That’s the case everywhere, including Berks County.

Willoughby’s on Park is a high-end steakhouse. Tomcat Cafe is creative breakfast. Nonno Alby’s Wood Oven Pizza is…wood oven pizza.

For all of these, you know what you’re getting before you go. But there are many restaurants where, at first glance, it’s a little harder.

Kathryn’s Grille, one of Berks County’s newest restaurants, falls into the latter category.

The Douglassville restaurant is located just off westbound Route 422 in a small shopping center formerly home to Amity Ice Cream and OVO BYOB.

It’s a cozy spot with mostly tables for two and a few four-seaters. It’s also one of the nicest dining rooms around: minimalistic in its decor with soft grays and blacks that give it a slightly upscale feel.

But something about the menu just doesn’t seem to fit. It features fried appetizers and wings (50 cents on Sunday), assorted burgers and sandwiches, and eight entree options.

The entrees themselves are an interesting mix. There’s a New York strip steak, seafood options including crab cakes and grilled salmon, and a couple Italian specialties (chicken Parmesan and chicken marsala).

Meanwhile, the sides – fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, apple sauce, etc. – scream diner.

For my entree, I decided on the filet beef tips over egg noodles. They were tossed with a blend of mushrooms (cremini, shiitake and domestic, according to the menu) and caramelized onions.

At first, I wasn’t really into it. The noodles on top were very dry. But as I dug deeper, I found increasingly vibrant flavors as the onions and mushrooms soaked into the dish. The steak was fine, but it needed those other flavors to really elevate it.

On the menu, it listed that the meat and mushrooms were in a caramelized onion beef gravy. While the onions were present, there was no gravy. It wasn’t until I was writing this review and looked at the menu again that I realized that gravy was advertised. No wonder the noodles were dry.

None of the sides really paired well with the meal, but being forced to choose one, I went with the day’s special, a vegetable medley of roasted peppers and squash.

Even while we sat there, I joked with Julie that “vegetable medley” is code for vegetables that need to be used before they go bad. The peppers were actually very good, and it was certainly an interesting mix, but not something that I would order again.

I suppose I could have done a side salad, but then I would have preferred that as an appetizer, not a side.

Among the appetizers available is the French onion soup – the only soup with a permanent place on menu. It sounded like a good way to start the meal.

Our waitress asked if I would prefer it in a crock or a bread bowl. I had no choice but to go with the traditional crock.

The soup was topped with a combination of Swiss and Provolone cheeses. The soup itself was good if a little salty, but I thought the cheeses didn’t work as well with it as a more traditional gruyere. They didn’t melt very well and didn’t complement the flavors of soup in the same way.

Provolone cheese was a key ingredient in Julie’s entree, the “Dip It” prime rib sandwich. It was a typical French dip with a glass of au jus for dipping.

It was a good sandwich. The roll was excellent, soaking up the au jus well. I wouldn’t call it the best French dip around, but Julie enjoyed it.

Sandwiches are served with house-made chips. These were excellent. The small waffle-cut chips were well-salted, bite sized and perfect for snacking.

Toward the end of our meal, the owner (I assume) came around and stopped at every table to ask how their meals were. He then dimmed the lights slightly “I don’t want it to feel like a cafeteria.”

I guess “cafeteria” is one thing that Kathryn’s is not.

But I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

Here’s what I do know about Kathryn’s: The sandwich was good and so were the chips. The beef tips needed that gravy. The French onion soup left something to be desired. And it was $40 for our meal.

So where does that leave us? Conflicted. It’s a restaurant with potential, but it’s lacking something. Hopefully they can figure out what that is.

Kathryn’s Grille
1 Park Ln
Douglassville, PA 19518

Kathryn's Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Gourmand Cafe (Via Delivery Dudes)

As you might have already heard, there is a new addition to the Berks County Eats family – a baby boy! He’s due around Thanksgiving, but chances are he will make his grand entrance a little before that. (We’re just hoping he bakes a few more weeks!)

About a month ago, I was in the hospital and since then have basically been a home-body. The good thing is, I am pretty good at entertaining myself. The bad thing? I would love to be doing more active things! But I’m not, and this is just life’s way of telling me to take some time to relax before Baby B. arrives. (That’s the nickname for our little bundle.)

Thankfully, I’m still able to go out to eat so I can still be a part of the BCE experience. But when you’re stuck at home and kind of tired of leftovers and the same old stuff, you really want to have something yummy from outside the house.

Enter Delivery Dudes. Delivery service has been around for a long time. Think about all those pizza places delivering right to your door. Or even as far back as the milk man.

Delivery Dudes came into the Reading area in 2015. With so many independent restaurants popping up in Berks County, it is a much-needed service. It helps these businesses reach beyond the crowd that walks into their brick-and-mortars. And it helps busy customers that are looking for something other than their everyday lunch or dinner.

About a month ago, I was having a craving for Gourmand. I am not supposed to be driving, and without a ride to the Gourmand Café on Berkshire Blvd. in Wyomissing, I decided to order take-out through Delivery Dudes.

I ordered the tuna melt and their featured hummus.

The tuna melt arrived as an open-faced sandwich. I was pleasantly surprised because that also meant that I would be saving the second half for later. The melt is made with a house-made tuna salad, melted Swiss cheese and tomato on a toasted marble rye bread.  The salad was good and hearty, not runny at all. The rye bread was a nice addition and added a different kind of flavor to the sandwich. The sandwich is also served with their house-made potato chips which are always a favorite of mine.

The featured hummus looked amazing. I have to be honest though, as the baby is growing, it’s harder for me to eat a lot in one sitting without feeling REALLY uncomfortable. Pair that with the fact that I forgot that the sandwich comes with chips, I just couldn’t eat any more so I saved the hummus for a snack.

When I finally got around to the hummus, I loved it! The simple hummus was garnished with (I believe) roasted red peppers sautéed onions, and spring onions. The hummus came with house-made tortilla chips which were also amazing! The tortilla chips were fried and puffed up in the process, making them even more delightful.

So how does Delivery Dudes work? You’ll find a list of all participating restaurants on the website. Click on the restaurant you want to try and browse the menu. Add items to you cart and check out.

There is a $5.00 cash delivery charge per restaurant on all orders, no matter the size. If you choose to pay by CC, there is a $2 processing fee.

When I finished check-out, it gave me a delivery window of about 45 minutes. Boy, I was glad I was thinking ahead because when a pregnant woman is hungry, she wants it NOW!

Right on schedule about 45 minutes later, the delivery person pulled up in front of the house and brought the food right to the door. I added a tip to the total, which ended up being just under $25.

I have to admit, when I’m the only one ordering, $25 for lunch is kind of a lot, but it’s all about convenience.

It’s a great service if you’re ordering lunch for the office, a meal for the family, or dinner for you and your friends. But for one person, it’s not just practical.

That said, DD is providing a service and a great service at that. I’ll just make sure to order with Zach next time.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: N/A
Price: Reasonable (A Little Pricey w/ Delivery)

Gourmand Cafe
945 Berkshire Blvd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Delivery Dudes
deliverydudes.com/reading

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Gourmand Cafe at Fairgrounds Farmers Market – CLOSED

The Gourmand Cafe at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market is now closed. The location closed in late 2018.

It’s the last week in April, and that means this is our last stop (for now) on our tour of the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

We still had several places we wanted to visit, and the decision wasn’t easy, but we decided to go to someplace both familiar and new.

Gourmand has built a mini empire around its unique eats. It started with the Gourmand Artisan Street Food truck. That led to two cafes – one inside Body Zone and one in Wyomissing. In December, they added a third cafe, this one inside the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

It’s one of the larger food stands at the market today with counter seating for 20.

We stopped in on a Thursday evening just after 6 p.m. Many stands were closing up or already closed (the market officially closes at 7). Even at Gourmand, the clean-up process had already begun, but the lone employee behind the counter was more than happy to take care of us.

The menu features many of Gourmand’s greatest hits like the Berks (the grilled sweet bologna, cream cheese, apple butter and potato chip sandwich I tried at the food truck) and their signature loaded fries.

For my entree, I went with another Gourmand classic – the Burgh.

If you’ve ever been to Pittsburgh (and even if you haven’t), you most likely have heard of Primanti Brothers and their famous sandwich. The Burgh is Gourmand’s take on the classic.

The Burgh starts with pastrami and melted provolone. Like a Primanti Brothers sandwich, it’s topped with three things: tomatoes, coleslaw and French fries.

It’s an odd mix to be sure, but Pittsburgh is an odd city.

The contrast between the hot and cold elements is interesting. The fries cooled off with the tomatoes and coleslaw while the meat and cheese stayed warm.

My one wish for the dish would be to have the bread toasted. As it was, the bread got soggy from the greasy pastrami and the juice from the slaw.

If you’re into the Primanti Brothers, you’d probably be into the sandwich. I liked it, but I wouldn’t have to get it again.

Julie’s sandwich was more my speed.

The Chicago style Italian is reminiscent of a French dip – it’s served with a side of au jus – but does stray a little bit with the use of shaved Parmesan cheese and the addition of banana peppers.

It was a nice sandwich where the meat was able to really be the star. The au jus makes it go down a little easier and adds a little salt to the dish. I can’t speak to the banana peppers because Julie had already picked them off the sandwich by the time she offered me a bite (though I’m sure they add a pleasant kick to it).

I can’t talk about our meals without mentioning the potato chips.

Gourmand fries their own potato chips, and they are a highlight of any meal. Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, the chips are beautifully crunchy. I would have eaten any amount that they put in front of me. Thankfully, they portioned it well to save me from myself.

Our two sandwiches were less than $20 – a bargain in our estimation, especially given that Julie took half of hers home. That’s the great thing about the Fairgrounds Farmers Market. Everywhere you go, you can find a great meal at a great price.

And the Fairgrounds Farmers Market is the perfect fit for Gourmand’s quick and quirky food, the perfect place to continue to experiment with the menu on a weekly basis.

I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Gourmand Cafe
Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2934 N. Fifth Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Gourmand Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Reviews

Andy Pepper’s

andy-pepper-s-exterior

Berks County Eats has taken me to a lot of crazy places. I’ve been to castles, strip malls, diners, dinner theaters, farmers markets, fire companies and food trucks.

But never did I expect to find Julie and I eating lunch in a post office.

To be fair, Andy Pepper’s isn’t exactly in the Limekiln Post Office. The two share a building — USPS on the left, restaurant on the right — just off of Oley Turnpike Road in the tiny village of Limekiln.

It’s an interesting location on a number of levels. Forget the awkward roommate, Limekiln is as off the beaten path as you can get in Berks County.

Yet when we arrived around lunchtime, the parking lot was busy as customers were coming and going through the front door.

For a small place, there was more seating than I expected, mostly at long, high-top tables with white tiled counter tops and purple trim.

andy-pepper-s-chocolate-milk-cranberry-lemonade

Three black menu boards hang at the order counter. The first lists the drinks (including the homemade chocolate milk and the cranberry lemonade that we got); the second, breakfast; the third, sandwiches.

One of the great things about Andy Pepper’s, as a place that serves only breakfast and lunch, the entire menu is always available so I got lunch while Julie got breakfast.

Bonus points go to Andy Pepper’s for the creative names for the sandwiches (the Joanie loves Srirachi is easily the most clever). My healthful flatbread was aptly named the Thin Lizzy.

andy-pepper-s-thin-lizzy

The Thin Lizzy features baby spinach, provolone, tomatoes, pesto and guacamole on a grilled flatbread. I’m not normally one for meatless meals, but I absolutely loved this sandwich.

It was simple, but the spinach and tomatoes were bright and fresh. The provolone was sliced thin so it had a nice sharp bite without being overpowering. The pesto was flavorful, and the guacamole was piled on so that delicious avocado and cilantro flavor was in every bite.

andy-pepper-s-potato-chips

On the side, I ordered warm, seasoned potato chips. The bag behind the counter said they were from the Billy Goat Chip Company in St. Louis, one of the few things at Andy Pepper’s that wasn’t homemade.

They were good chips, but warming them made them even better. It was a light seasoning (onion, garlic, spices and sugar, according to the company website), but it added a unique flavor that I really enjoyed.

andy-pepper-s-lemon-poppy-pancake-and-bacon

Julie went with breakfast for lunch, unable to resist one of the seasonal pancake flavors: lemon poppy seed.

We were warned that the pancakes usually come in orders of two, plate-sized pancakes so she just had a half order, and it was plenty. It was as big as advertised, and really soaked up the syrup. The citrusy flavor of the lemon gave the hearty pancake a light, summery flavor.

And what breakfast would be complete without bacon? Julie asked for a side of it and received four crispy, delicious slices on top of her pancake.

andy-pepper-s-zucchini-cornbread

In addition to our meals, we grabbed a couple slices of locally baked zucchini cornbread and a homemade blueberry sage jam. I only got a hint of zucchini, but the cornbread was more moist than most. The jam was amazing. It was very sweet, and it didn’t take much of it to get a lot of flavor.

That brought our total bill up to about $25. It was a little higher than we like to pay for lunch, but worth every penny.

Everything we had was either homemade or made with the freshest ingredients, and that makes all of the difference.

We enjoyed everything that we had on our visit and look forward to going back again for another meal at the post office.

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

Andy Pepper’s
820 Limekiln Rd
Limekiln, PA 19535

Andy Pepper's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast & Brunch Cafes & Coffeeshops Lunch & Dinner Reviews

The Tavern on Penn

the-tavern-on-penn

There are so many places we drive by everyday without giving them a second thought.

My commute is the exception—45 minutes, all highways—but Julie’s is more typical. She travels less than five miles daily from Wyomissing to Sinking Spring, but she drives past more than 10 restaurants.

One of those along her route is the Tavern on Penn in West Lawn. But after three years of passing it by, Julie suggested we check it out.

The Tavern on Penn opened in February of 2012 in what was once the Penn Cecil Hotel.  The hotel had closed a decade before, but looking inside the restaurant, you’d never known it had sat vacant for more than 10 years.

The Tavern is split into three distinct areas: the dining room is a mostly sterile room with high ceilings a flat screen on one wall. The bar area pops with a beautiful wooden bar, large mirror along the wall and seating for 20. Finally there is the outdoor patio, where a handful of lucky diners can enjoy their meals in the open air.

We had hoped to sit outside, but everyone on the patio was enjoying the cool summer evening and in no hurry to leave. So Julie and I, along with our friend Nicole, grabbed a table at the far end of the dining room.

Every time I go to a place labeled a “tavern” or “bar,” I expect typical pub food, but they always seem to deliver so much more.

Creativity thrives in these joints, and the Tavern on Penn is no exception.

Take our appetizer, for example. Fried cheese curds is not something you see on many menus, and it’s even more rare with a roasted red pepper dipping sauce.

tavern-on-penn-fried-cheese-curds

Mozzarella sticks are expected. Fried cheese curds are pleasantly unexpected. Though similar in taste, cheese curds are much smaller, bite-sized pieces. And as a lover of roasted red peppers, I thought the sauce was outstanding. It was like marinara, but with a red pepper base instead of tomatoes, giving it a very different flavor.

Among the traditional bar food on the Tavern’s menu are burgers. A lot of restaurants offer a handful of burgers to choose from, but the Tavern on Penn just has two options. One is a build-your-own with 20 different toppings to choose from (all at additional cost). The other is the Penn Avenue Burger.

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The Penn Avenue Burger comes on a brioche bun and is topped with provolone, a mozzarella half-moon (a crescent-shaped, deep-fried mozzarella stick), roasted red pepper pesto (the same as our early dipping sauce), and balsamic reduction.

Burgers at the Tavern begin with a mix of ground chuck and beef brisket, and you can taste the difference immediately. It’s a much more flavorful meat to start. The red pepper pesto mixed with the mozzarella worked just as well on the burger as it did in the app.

Along with my burger, I upgraded to a side of beer-battered onion rings. There were only three of them, but it felt like seven or eight as two of them were big enough to encircle my burger. They were very good, a little wet from the fryer, and there was no mistaking that they were beer battered.

The sandwich board featured more typical offerings, but with a unique twist. Julie’s crispy chicken chipotle fell into this category.

tavern-on-penn-crispy-chicken-chipotle

Served as a wrap, it featured chicken fingers, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheddar jack and chipotle aioli. It was a little spicy, but not too much (the avocado helped cool it off a little). It wasn’t quite as crispy as expected, only because the tasty chipotle had made the breading a little wetter. Still, it was a great sandwich.

One disappointing thing was that Julie had upgraded to fries instead of the house made tortilla chips and salsa, which I wished I could have tried.

tavern-on-penn-buffalo-steak-wrap

Fortunately, we did get to taste the Tavern’s homemade potato chips, as Nicole got those with her buffalo steak wrap. The chips were served warm, fresh from the fryer. If they were sitting in front of me, I would have snacked on them all night.

The three of us polished off $51 worth of food (less than $15 per person, plus our $8 appetizer). I can speak for all of us when I say we could not have eaten another bite.

After passing it by for three years, our first trip to the Tavern on Penn did not disappoint. It delivered a memorable meal that ranks among the best that I’ve had this year.

I would say that it was certainly worth stopping.

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

The Tavern on Penn
2601 Penn Ave
West Lawn, PA 19609

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Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Coastal Grille

coastal-grille

As a general rule, I will never visit a restaurant during their first month in business.

It’s not that I’m not anxious to try new places. I am.

It’s not that I don’t want to give them business. I do.

It’s that I don’t want my opinion of a restaurant to be clouded by a bad experience early in its life. I hear stories all the time from people who go to a restaurant during its first two weeks, and all they talk about is how long the wait is, and how long it took to get drinks, and how long it took to get food.

So I wait. Not in an hour-long line to get in, but until the restaurant has had some practice. No amount of mock service days can prepare you for when the open sign comes on for the first time and you have customers waiting out the door.

That’s why I waited until recently to make my first trip to Coastal Grille.

Coastal Grille opened in late September in the Broadcasting Square Shopping Center, taking over a building that has seen Uno Chicago Grill, Mason’s Chophouse and, most recently, Seafood Shanty come and go.

Like Seafood Shanty before it, the new restaurant plays heavily toward the seafood lover. The connection to the ocean is apparent from the moment you walk through the door and see the large aquarium that separates the main dining room from the bar. Silver sculptures of deep sea fish hang on the wall, shimmering brilliantly between the windows.

More than a month removed from their opening, Coastal Grille was still packed on this Saturday night. Many more people streamed in behind us during our 30-minute wait until we were escorted to our table.

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The menu is heavily inspired by the sea, but it does borrow a few favorites from its sister restaurant, Austin’s, including baby back ribs and shoestring fries. And like Austin’s, you have the option to begin your meal with a loaf of bread. In this case, it’s a warm, fresh-baked ciabatta that required all the willpower we had not to devour before our food arrived.

As someone who prefers animals that graze to those that swim, I passed on the surf and opted instead for turf with the Reggae Ribeye.

coastal-grille-reggae-steak

The menu describes the Reggae Ribeye as a 12 oz. steak that was marinated and basted in a sweet and spicy sauce. I was expecting a typical steak that had maybe been brushed once or twice during cooking. What I got was a beautiful cut of meat, glistening from the reflection of the light on the sticky sauce.

A rush of flavors hit my tongue on the first bite. The sauce tasted like a mixture of teriyaki, barbecue and chili oil, a mild kick tempered by the cooling sweetness, with a hint of salt besides. Cooked medium well, with just a hint of pink in the middle,  it was one of the best restaurant steaks I have ordered.

All of their grilled specialties, and most of the entrees on the menu, are served with the vegetable of the day and a choice of side. While I love Austin’s shoestring fries, I knew I needed to change things up so I opted for house-made chips instead. The kettle-cooked chips were extra dark—not burnt—sealing in the flavors absorbed during the cooking process.

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While none of the entrees include a starter salad, you can substitute a salad as one of your sides. That’s exactly what Julie decided to do, opting for Caesar. The leafy greens were piled high on the plate and topped with deliciously flavorful croutons that were obviously homemade.

coastal-grille-baked-haddock

Deciding that at least one of us had to order seafood, she decided on the Boston baked haddock for her entree. The fish was topped with a garlic cream sauce with lumps of shrimp and crab. The dish offered a mix of flavors and textures, with the cream sauce bringing everything together in a coherent dish.

Sadly, dinner proved too much for me and dessert was not in the cards. It was especially disappointing after seeing a Chocolate Bag walk past me. The Chocolate Bag is a dessert unique to Coastal Grille: hardened chocolate in the shape of a small bag, filled to the brim with whipped cream and topped with cherries. I may or may not have let out an audible “oooh” when it came near.

Instead we called it quits after our entrees, our total bill coming out to about $45.

After waiting a month (and an extra 30 minutes) my first visit to Coastal Grille did not disappoint.

I’m happy we waited, and will be even happier when we go back again soon.

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

Coastal Grille
2713 N. Meridian Blvd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews