5 Favorite Entrees 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 entrees of 2018.

Brocmar Taco – Brocmar Smokehouse

When we visited Brocmar Smokehouse for our first blog of 2018, it was a relative newcomer to the Shillington Farmers Market. When we left, it was our new go-to spot for barbecue in Berks County thanks to the inventive Brocmar taco – a fried Johnny cake topped with choice of meat, coleslaw and barbecue sauce. Between return visits to the market and sandwiches at Brocmar’s Reading Fightin Phils stand, it was probably our most-visited restaurant of the year. Read Full Review

Savory Grille Five Spice Duck Breast

Five-Spice Duck Breast – Savory Grille

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that duck – when done right – is one of my absolute favorite foods. The five-spice duck breast from Savory Grille may be the best that I’ve tried. At the time, I described it as one of the best dishes I have ever tried – thanks to the addition of blueberry compote and sauce gastrique that gave it a complex sweet and sour flavor. It was an absolute highlight in one of the best meals we had all year. Read Full Review

Sal's Pizza Style Stromboli Pizza

Stromboli Pizza – Sal’s Pizza Style

I’m not going to go so far as to say this is my favorite pizza in Berks County (that honor still goes to the Chicago-style pie at Romano’s) but it is certainly the most original pizza – or Stromboli – in Berks, and that’s reason enough to make the list. Taking a traditional Stromboli and using the top fold as the base of a pizza is brilliant. It’s also very good and something that’s worth trying at least once. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale Moroccan Chicken

Moroccan Chicken – Fork  & Ale

Hands-down the best chicken dish that I have tasted on Berks County Eats. The Moroccan chicken from Fork & Ale featured confit chicken in an incredible spice blend, served over housemade pasta. The addition of sweet golden raisins and crunchy chickpeas gave it additional flavor bursts and needed texture and helped make it one of the most memorable dishes we have tried. Read Full Review

Kwik Shoppe Pulled Duck Sandwich

Pulled Duck – Kwik  Shoppe

This may not have been the gourmet-style duck described above from Savory Grille, but I have to give kudos to the Kwik Shoppe for creating a fast-food style pulled duck sandwich that exceeded my expectations. The subtle sweet and tangy sauce and the crispy onion ring on top were nice additions. Is it a five-star meal? Absolutely not. But it’s a unique only-in-Berks County dish and that’s reason enough to make this list. Read Full Review

Best of Berks County Eats Entrees
Kwik Shoppe Pulled Duck Sandwich

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Shoemakersville, PA

In October 2018, Arby’s tested a very unique sandwich at one of its Berks County locations. The Arby’s in Spring Township sold – and sold out of – the one-time-only duck sandwich.

It was a very different concept, especially for a national fast food chain. But it was met with positive reviews, and the line that morning when Arby’s opened up said there was a demand for it.

That’s where the Kwik Shoppe in Shoemakersville comes in. They saw opportunity and capitalized on it, introducing duck on their menu in November.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Shoemakersville, PA

While duck is normally found on finer dining menus – five-spice duck breast at Savory Grille and ravioli with duck ragu at Salute come to mind – it’s not the first time I’ve had it in a more casual setting.

At the Liberty Taproom, I enjoyed a duck confit burger topped with duck sausage. And my first real taste of duck came at the relaxed Canal Street Pub.

But fast food is a different story. Walking into the Kwik Shoppe – a quintessential drive-in with hexagonal tile floor, booth seating and a claw machine behind the door – duck just doesn’t seem to fit.

The Kwik Shoppe has three different duck items on their menu: the pulled duck sandwich, duck fries and a duck sausage sandwich. All of them sounded good, but a photo of the pulled duck sandwich on the restaurant’s Facebook page had me sold before I got there.

Kwik Shoppe Pulled Duck Sandwich

The sandwich was topped with an onion ring and pineapple papaya sauce (barbecue sauce was also an option).

Before diving into the sandwich, I tasted the meat on its own. It was similar to a pulled pork but fattier with a deeper flavor. I was impressed.

On the whole, the sandwich was very good. There wasn’t a lot of sauce, but there didn’t need to be. It added some sweet and tangy notes that came through after the meat. The onion ring was a reminder that I was eating fast food. It wasn’t necessary, but I certainly didn’t mind it either.

I would go back for another.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Cheeseburger

Julie went with the much less exciting cheeseburger. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not going to win any best burger contests. It was also around $2 so we’re not going to complain.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In French Fries

Both of us did enjoy our fries. They weren’t anything special, just a really good fast food-style French fry. They were cut small so you could pop several of them at a time. I think their small size allowed them to retain more flavor from the fryer. After adding a little salt and pepper, they were just what we hoped they would be.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Mac and Cheese Bites

Jakob, our now one-year-old son, is now at the point that he can have his own food when we go out. So we got him an order for mac and cheese bites. He enjoyed them, eating two out of the five in the order (along with some fries and some duck). Again, nothing special, just a typical fried fast food side.

None of us really needed anything else to eat after our dinners, but the ice cream was right there, and we just couldn’t pass up the chance to indulge.

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In Ice Cream

I am a sucker for flurries so my go-to on this night was a brownie dough flurry. The flurry was actually mixed to the point that much of the brownie had broken off into small bits, making it look more like cookies and cream than brownie dough. But there were still some larger chunks that were definitely brownie. It was delicious, but a small was more than enough for me, especially after indulging at dinner.

Julie’s new favorite dessert is the dusty road sundae. Kwik Shoppe loaded theirs up with chocolate syrup, malt powder, whipped cream, crushed peanuts and the obligatory cherry on top. The soft-serve vanilla was very good and they didn’t skimp on the toppings. Julie couldn’t finish it, but made sure to eat “all the good stuff.”

We spent about $32 on our visit – $22 on dinner and $10 on dessert. The duck items are a little more expensive than the rest of the menu so we easily could have spent less and we easily could have spent more. But overall, it felt like a good value.

The service isn’t great (a little slow but not bad), but that’s to be expected when a group of four high school students are handling all of the orders behind the counter.

I went in to the meal with an open mind when it came to fast food duck. After eating the pulled duck sandwich, I think you can count me among the believers.

And I hope there are more believers out there because this was a sandwich I would like to have again.

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

Kwik Shoppe Drive-In
555 Shoemaker Ave
Shoemakersville, PA 19555

Dessert Drive-Ins Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Salute Pizza Montanara

Salute Ristorante Italiano / Dante’s 900

Salute Ristorante Italiano and Dante's 900

Last summer, Salute Ristorante Italiano in Sinking Spring began advertising Dante’s 900, a new artisan pizza shop that would open in the space next door. It was at the top of our list to visit during our annual National Pizza Month celebration in October.

Unfortunately, “soon” was a little further off in the future as Dante’s didn’t open until after the new year.

So it was back on our list – at the very top of the list – of new pizza places to check out.

Dante’s website and PDF menu both tout the hours as 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

What neither mentions is that the dining room is only open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We didn’t find that out until we walked through the front door and saw the note where a “please wait to be seated” sign would be expected. Instead, the sign pointed us next door to Salute for the wood-fired pizza.

Salute Ristorante Italiano

Salute is a very nice restaurant, a date night place that’s more upscale than most restaurants where we take Jakob. (In fact, Julie and I visited for Valentine’s Day in 2015). But we had to roll with it and after our second time asking for a high chair, we were all set in a corner booth, separated as far as possible from the rest of the dining room.

Our service wasn’t great on this night. The specials were not explained well to us (the explanation we received was different than what the table behind us received). And after Julie and I both ordered Caesar salads, we were given house salads with balsamic vinaigrette.

Salute House Salad

Not wanting to waste food, we ate them without complaining. I’m not big on balsamic, but the dressing was actually very good, much thicker than most vinaigrettes that I have tried.

But it wasn’t a Caesar salad.

Sitting down in the main dining room and looking at the full Salute menu, I couldn’t help but change my plans. The weekly specials were inspired by Tuscany (our waitress was able to explain that the chef is doing a taste of Italy, crafting menu items themed by region), and one of those specials was the tortelli alla Mugellana ­- potato filled ravioli with duck ragu.

Salute Tortelli alla Mugellana

I felt guilty for not ordering pizza, but I didn’t feel guilty after eating this. It was delicious. The filling was like a well-seasoned side of mashed potatoes. It was a perfect pairing with the duck ragu.

The dark duck meat was rich and done very well. The ragu itself was a little sweet. Together, it was beautifully cohesive dish, one that I would happily order again.

Julie stuck with the original plan and ordered one of the personal sized, wood-fired pizzas. Her choice: the pizza Montanara.

Salute Pizza Montanara

It featured mozzarella, mushrooms, sausage and white truffle Béchamel sauce.

After all the anticipation, we both had to admit that it fell a little flat. Or floppy, to be more accurate. The dough was not thick enough at the center to hold the heavy toppings. And, of course, all of the toppings slid to the center.

But the flavors were there. The Béchamel sauce was excellent, and gave it a creamier taste. It paired really well with the savory sausage. The mushrooms were just kind of there. If you absolutely love mushrooms, I suppose they were a good addition.

The pizza, and our visit, was certainly not what we expected. There were bright spots, for sure. But overall, the experience was not on the same level as our Valentine’s Day trip three years ago.

And I wouldn’t put it near the top of the list for celebrating #NationalPizzaMonth again.

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

Salute Ristorante Italiano / Dante’s 900
4716 Penn Ave
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Finer Dining Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Savory Grille Chicken Risotto

Savory Grille

Savory Grille Entrance

On November 17, Julie and I welcomed Jakob Laurence Brown to the world. The last two-and-a-half months have been the best of our lives, but one thing has been missing during that time. Julie and I haven’t had a night out to ourselves.

With Julie’s birthday falling at the end of January, we had the perfect excuse to change that. And we had the perfect place for our date night: Savory Grille in Seisholtzville.

Seisholtzville is about as far removed from Downtown Reading as it gets in Berks County. The tiny village sits in the shadow of Bear Creek Mountain Resort near the border of Berks and Lehigh Counties. (Despite being inside the Berks County line, it has a Macungie ZIP Code).

The drive wasn’t bad, though, as we drove about 40 minutes north from our Wyomissing home, driving Route 12 past Pricetown before taking a series of back roads that led to the small village.

Savory Grille Interior

Savory Grille, opened in 1997, sits at one of the two intersections in the village in the Seisholtzville Hotel, a stop for travelers since the 19th century. The restaurant has two dining areas – the main dining room with the bar where we checked in for our reservations and the Arbor Room, a modern attachment to the historic hotel where we were led to our seats. The two dining areas are connected by a window where the bartender hands out cocktails to the wait staff in the Arbor Room.

Savory Grille Drinks

Reading reviews on Yelp and other sites, the Arbor Room was listed as the place to be, and it was no wonder. While the main dining room was small and noisy – conversation seemed to echo off the walls and amplify – the Arbor Room was quiet, yet cozy. The original exterior wall makes it feel older, but the modern wood framing insulates the room enough to keep guests warm on a cold winter’s night.

Savory Grille Chicken Risotto

The first thing to arrive at our table was the amuse-bouche, an excellent grilled chicken risotto that set the tone for the meal to come. Though only large enough for one bite, it was perfectly prepared and bursting with flavor. The buttery rice and the spice-laden chicken worked so well together that if it were an entree option, I would have had our waitress change my order.

Savory Grille Breads

Next to arrive at the table was the bread. Normally, I don’t mention the complimentary bread, but the oatmeal stout bread was definitely worth mentioning. The slice was heavy and grainy, but with a deep flavor that was greatly enhanced by the alcohol infusion.

This being a special occasion, we decided to get the full experience and order one of the evening’s nine appetizer options – a grilled flatbread with sliced steak, fennel frond pesto, shaved manchego and fig compote.

Savory Grille Steak Grilled Flatbread

It was an outstanding starter that was at once sweet, salty, savory, creamy and earthy. The flatbread was light and airy. The steak – cooked rare, was the perfect pairing for the sweet figs. And every bite just melted away.

Next out was the salad, served with one of three house dressings. For mine, it was the blackberry yogurt.

Savory Grille Salad

This was the one and only part of the meal that let me down. The dressing was fine, a thick raspberry vinaigrette that was more sour than sweet. But there was just too much of it, my lips puckering more with every bite.

Julie’s orange-thyme dressing was lighter and more enjoyable with a sweeter taste that was easier to take.

After the salads, there was no more disappointment. For my entree, I ordered the five spiced duck breast. Our waitress wanted to be sure that I knew what I was getting. “That is served medium rare, is that ok?” she asked.

“I guess it has to be,” I replied.

Generally, I shy away from anything served less than medium-well, but the dish sounded too appetizing to pass up.

Savory Grille Five Spice Duck Breast

Let me tell you, this duck was cooked to perfection. The duck was served on a bed of mashed yams with blueberry compote and sauce gastrique.

With the spice rub, the duck breast could have held up on its own, but with the sauce – a sweet and sour blend – and the blueberries, it was hands-down one of the best dishes that I have tasted on my Berks County Eats journey. A blueberry would burst with nearly every bite, adding sweet and tart notes to the dish. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

The smashed yams and the vegetables on the plate were after thoughts. They were simply prepared with no frills or addition – though the green beans were tied with a sliver of onion in a beautiful presentation.

Savory Grille Pork Tenderloin

Julie’s dish was all about the sauce. Her pork tenderloin was served on a bed of toasted barley and butternut squash, but it was the caramelized onion sauce that really popped. Without it, the pork – though cooked tender and juicy – was rather plain. The onion sauce, though, added a little sweet and a strong flavor that carried through the dish.

The toasted barley added needed texture to the dish, counterbalancing the soft squash. The dish was also served with the same vegetable medley as mine, with green beans, carrots and broccolini.

When celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion, one thing is for sure: we order dessert. The list that our waitress read off was long and filled with tempting items – crème brulee and coffee cake were among the selections – but we went for something a little more chocolatey.

Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

The chocolate tart was a pastry filled with chocolate ganache and topped with caramel, vanilla bean ice cream, fresh mint and a sugar cookie, garnished with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar.

It was quite the indulgence, each layer seemingly sweeter than the next. As the ingredients slowly melted together, it was even better. Though not found in every bite, the mint really stood out and added a light refreshment to the otherwise heavy and decadent dessert.

On our celebration dinners, I always expect to spend around $100, and our total at the Savory Grille was just shy of that. But for what was a two-hour dining experience with excellent food and atmosphere, it was money well spent.

Savory Grille provided one of the most memorable meals that we have had on a Berks County Eats visit, and with a menu that changes almost daily, new experiences are waiting for us on every future visit.

And I have no doubt that there will be future visits.

BCE Rating:
Food: Excellent
Service: Good
Ambiance: Excellent (in the Arbor Room)
Price: Expensive, but Fair

Savory Grille
2934 Seisholtzville Rd
Macungie, PA 18062

Savory Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Canal Street Pub

Canal-Street-Pub

More than a century ago, before it became synonymous with the railroad, Reading was a port city. Long before traffic snarled along Route 422, it was the Schuylkill Canal that carried the bulk of the traffic to and from the city.

The canal is long gone, but it’s memory lives on. The Schuylkill River Trail has taken much of the old towpath and repurposed it for recreation. And Canal Street continues to carry traffic along the river at the city’s southern end.

But Canal Street is much different today. The river still flows, but so too does the craft beer. And the barges have been replaced by burgers.

The Canal Street Pub sits in the former factory for Reading Hardware Company. The large brick building witnessed the decline of the canal first hand from its vantage point just across the street from the waterway.

Inside is a tale of two restaurants. Patrons walking through the front door are greeted by a traditional pub, complete with flat screen televisions, immense bar and an electronic dartboard that sat unplugged in the corner.

But through the open doorway, Canal Street expands into an elegant dining room, complete with white table linens and crystal stemware.

With two separate dining areas come two separate menus: the pub focusing on burgers and pizzas and the restaurant offering more upscale pastas and entrees. The extensive beer and wine menu is also a huge draw as beer aficionados can sample craft beers from across the country.

Both dinner menus are available to pub-goers during the dinner rush (at least they were on our visit), which greatly opens up the options.

Canal-Street-Pub-Tomato-Dill-Soup

I decided to take full advantage of this and started my meal with a cup of tomato dill soup. The dill, along with a heavy dose of cream, helped give this a very different flavor from most tomato soups. It was a little sweet and very delicious.

Having both menus at my disposal, I opted for the most intriguing option: fig balsamic duck.

Canal-Street-Pub-Fig-Balsamic-Duck

I can count on one hand the number of times that I have eaten duck, and I have loved it every time. However I know little about the meat so when the waitress suggested ordering it cooked medium, I took her advice.

And I was very glad I did.

The meat came out looking beautiful, with an incredible black char around the edges of the white meat. The balsamic provided a nice base to the glaze, but the sweetness of the fig helped cut what would normally be an overpowering flavor.

The duck was served atop a bed of stir fried vegetables with a side of white rice. I expected the vegetables, a mix of cabbage, carrots and snap peas, to be tossed in the same sauce as the duck, but was pleasantly surprised to find it had charms all its own, mixed in a soy-based sauce that both countered and complimented the main dish.

Canal-Street-Pub-Mediterranean-Chicken

On the other side of the table, my wife enjoyed Canal Street’s Mediterranean chicken. The chicken breast was topped with mozzarella and served over a bed of sun-dried tomatoes and olives to make a salsa-like base. The sauce was a mix of balsamic and pesto, but was also incredibly sweet because of the tomatoes.

It was served with what looked to be homemade pappardelle pasta which was tossed with spinach, which was delicious, but almost became an after thought because it wasn’t tossed with the chicken. Still, it was an excellent side dish.

My duck was the most expensive item on the menu so our bill was about as high as it could be without ordering from the drink menu at $55.00. Still, it was well-worth the price.

Following dinner, we took a quick walk across the street to Heritage Park, a small little green space along the river that was once canal lock #190. Today, it is home to one of the anchors for the famed “Swinging Bridge” that used to carry riders to Reading’s Outer Station.

The railroad, like the canal and Reading Hardware, is now just a distant memory.

But new memories are still being made in Reading, and if you’re looking for a memorable dining experience, Canal Street Pub might be your place.

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

Canal Street Pub & Restaurant
535 Canal St
Reading, PA 19602

Canal Street Pub & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews