Belly Kitchen Pan Perdu

Belly Kitchen & Drinkery

Goggleworks Center for the Arts

Seven and a half years ago, in August 2011, Julie and I were married. And we celebrated with a reception at the Goggleworks. The downtown art center was the perfect venue for us.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, as Julie and I pulled into the parking lot, I realized that it had been seven and a half years since my last visit.

Belly Kitchen & Drinkery

We were back, this time to check out Belly Kitchen & Drinkery, the on-site bar and restaurant that opened last year. Located just off the main entrance, Belly’s dining area blends into the galleries. Our high top table had fine crafted wooden stools. The table itself was filled with sawdust – presumably from the wood studio. Stark metal tables and chairs were spread throughout the rest of the space. A duo – guitar and keyboard – played from a spot along the wall.

Belly Kitchen & Drinkery

I had heard good things about Belly’s Sunday Jazz Brunch. The weekly brunches started in December and feature a special menu with live local jazz musicians.

Belly Kitchen & Drinkery

The rest of the week, Belly is open for lunch and dinner with a menu that includes salads, sandwiches and apps. On Sundays the offerings expand to include inspired breakfast entrees like blueberry cheesecake crepes and breakfast nachos and lunch items like the vegetarian roast beet. They also have a full bar with mixed drinks and Sly Fox beer on tap.

Goggleworks Center for the Arts

Meals are ordered at the bar/counter area. I noticed a large box full of novelty stress toys on the counter. These were handed out to customers in lieu of numbers.

I was handed a lightbulb. “I’ll give you this because you look bright.”

“Tell that to my wife,” I replied, getting the slightest obligatory laugh.

A day before our visit, I saw a Facebook post advertising the brunch. It featured a photo of the Brooklyn pan perdu. It was not a dish that I had heard of or seen on any other Berks County menu, but the moment I saw it, I knew I had to try it.

Belly Kitchen Pan Perdu

It looked like French toast, and it essentially is, but instead of a white bread, it’s made with Green’s chocolate babka, a sweet kosher bread. After an egg wash and some time on the grill, it was topped with a salted caramel maple drizzle and served with a yogurt “smear” with pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Belly Kitchen Brooklyn Pan Perdu

While it may have looked like French toast, there was no mistaking this for any other dish  I have ever tried. It was so rich and the chocolate flavor really shined through in every bite. The glaze melted away and made it perfectly sweet. I savored every bite of my two slices of babka. When I was done, I wished I had another order that I could dig into, not because I was hungry, but because they were that good.

Belly Kitchen Durham Plate

Julie’s brunch was even more intricate. She had ordered the Durham plate, two stacks of breakfast goodness that started with a buttermilk biscuit. The biscuits were topped with fried green tomatoes, maple glazed sausage patties, pimento cheese, poached eggs and cornbread crumble.

Every ingredient was done to perfection and they came together so well. In the bite she let me try, the sausage shined through, but for Julie, the first thing she noticed was the fried green tomatoes. The egg ran into the nooks and crannies of the biscuit. Every bite was a little different, but all of them were delicious.

Belly Kitchen Durham Plate

The plate was garnished with potato sticks, another classic snack from childhood that neither of us had tasted in a long time, but one that was definitely enjoyed.

Add on a strawberry lemonade and a bottle of water from the fridge and we spent around $30 for our meal.

And it was a memorable meal at that.

I won’t say that our visit to Belly Kitchen & Drinkery was as memorable as our wedding reception – that would be hard to top.

But when it comes to the food, Belly Kitchen wins, hands down. Our wedding made the Goggleworks a special place for us. Belly makes it a place we want to hang out all the time.

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

Belly Kitchen & Drinkery
Goggleworks Center for the Arts
201 Washington St
Reading, PA 19601

Breakfast & Brunch Reviews
Shillington Farmers Market Bacon Egg Cheese

Shillington Farmers Market Cafe

Shillington Farmers Market Cafe

In the past year, Berks County Eats has experienced the re-emergence of the Shillington Farmers Market through great meals. We’ve fallen in love with the Brocmar taco at Brocmar Smokehouse and rekindled our love of empanadas at Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe.

Among the dining options added to the market in past 12 months is the Shillington Farmers Market Cafe, a no-frills eatery tucked in a corner of the market behind Max Crema’s Coffee.

Shillington Farmers Market Cafe

The Cafe feels like a small diner. You can watch the meals being prepared in the tiny kitchen behind the counter as a wait staff of two takes care of the customers in front. It had a decent crowd during our visit, though there were tables available in the small dining room throughout our meal.

Julie, Jakob and I settled in at a table for four and menus were dropped off promptly and we were served soon after.

Shillington Farmers Market Cafe

I ordered three blueberry pancakes (the plan being that I would share my meal with Jakob, my nearly year-old son who recently discovered his love for pancakes).

Shillington Farmers Market Cafe Blueberry Pancakes

The pancakes were thick and fluffy with large whole blueberries inside. It was served with a cup of butter on the side (or on top, rather) and syrup. The pancakes were very good and there was plenty of fruit, but I did need the syrup. It was sweet enough without it, but a little dry. The syrup took care of that and the pancakes were a hit with both myself and Jakob.

Two-thirds of the way through, Jakob and I both had enough. It was then that our server said, “I’ve never seen anyone eat the whole thing.” I’m half-tempted to return now just to try to take on the three-pancake stack myself.

Shillington Farmers Market Bacon Egg Cheese

Julie was able to finish her fried egg, bacon and cheese on toast. From-scratch sandwiches like this are always better than the fast-food versions and Julie certainly enjoyed hers. She also was a fan of the hash browns which she said were done perfectly.

My corned beef hash – hash browns with sliced corned beef – were not cooked as perfectly. While I enjoyed the use of fresh sliced corned beef, the potatoes were burnt. Thankfully, I didn’t need it anyway.

Shillington Farmers Market Cafe Corned Beef Hash

Also, and I can’t believe this, but our meal was only $15. That was with an apple juice and an orange juice in addition to our food. That’s a good value, especially considering neither Julie nor I were hungry for lunch after such a robust breakfast.

The Cafe may not be the fanciest restaurant in Berks County, and it’s only open three days a week (Thursday through Saturday) with the Farmers Market, but it’s a good little spot for a no-fuss meal.

And with Brocmar Smokehouse and Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe, the Shillington Farmers Market is definitely worth a visit.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Fair
Value: Bargain

Shillington Farmers Market Cafe
10 S. Summit Ave
Shillington, PA 19607

Breakfast & Brunch Farmers Market Meals Reviews

Crossroads Family Restaurant

At the intersection of Routes 222 and 61 is one of Berks County’s busiest diners.

The stainless steel exterior of Crossroads Family Restaurant can’t be seen from 222, but driving north or south along Route 61, you can’t miss the shining building with the packed parking lot.

We visited on a recent Saturday morning and found the parking lot almost at capacity. Lucky for us there were a few select spaces left in the last row of the lot.

Crossroads is the quintessential diner. Rows of booths and tables span the large dining area. Two private rooms – one on either side of the building – are separated by glass windows. We watched as one of the rooms emptied out, and the windows were slid along a track in the ceiling to open up the space for more seating.

Despite its size, Crossroads had no problem filling the tables on this Saturday morning. We had a five minute wait when we arrived at 8:30, but as many people as were beginning to wait, just as many people were filing out to pay at the register, which was flanked on either side by cases full of tempting cakes, pies and baked goods. Behind the register, I was surprised to see a fully stocked bar.

After our brief wait, we were led into the main dining room where Julie and I sat at a booth with Jakob next to us, car seat atop a high chair. As usual, Jakob was the center of attention, with waitresses and other staff stopping by to take a peek at the four-month-old with us.

We perused the robust breakfast menu: skillets, French toast, pancakes, waffles, eggs and an array of sides. I joked about going big with my side and ordering the 14-ounce ham steak (no joke, this is a real side dish. As is the eight-ounce black diamond steak).

I still went big, opting for the L.A. cinnamon roll French toast with a side of corned beef hash.

You may remember my cinnamon roll French toast from Jukebox Cafe in Boyertown where I enjoyed an actual cinnamon roll that was made a la French toast. This was different: two thick slices of cinnamon swirl bread with a vanilla glaze.

The glaze was light – not a thick icing but a subtle glaze that provided enough sweetness that butter or syrup would have been overkill. The cinnamon toast itself was very good with big cinnamon swirls.

The L.A. cinnamon roll French toast is not one of the breakfast items that is available all day, which is a shame because it would make a great dessert.

On the side, my corned beef hash was more than I needed. The hash was tightly formed and cut in half. It was good if a little on the salty side (though in fairness, I think I’m much more sensitive to salt than most). I would have been satisfied with half the order, but I finished it anyway.

Julie went with a more traditional breakfast of eggs, potatoes, toast and bacon. While she enjoys all of the above, she ordered it specifically for the homefries, which she requested deep-fried.

After visiting Crossroads several times with some of the ladies from our church, Julie had learned of the deep-fried homefries and couldn’t wait to order them. The deep-fried potatoes were crispier and more flavorful than if they had been pan-fried.

The combo meal was only $5.95 so Julie didn’t feel so guilty about leaving a couple slices of toast.

Both of us ate enough at breakfast to skip lunch so I would say the $20 we paid (I had a $2 orange juice on the bill as well) was more than fair.

It was my first visit to the restaurant, and I left impressed and full. There’s no doubt that Berks County has no shortage of places to grab a good breakfast, and Crossroads is definitely among them.

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

Crossroad Family Restaurant
4643 Pottsville Pk
Reading, PA 19605

Crossroads Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast & Brunch Diners Reviews

The Farmhouse Kitchen

Let me paint a picture for you: there’s a newer restaurant nearby. Lots of people in your network have checked in there and posted photos of their meals. It sounds great and you finally go.

You go. It’s good, but there’s something about it that’s just not for you.

That’s the best way I can describe my recent visit to Farmhouse Kitchen, an organic cafe and juice bar in West Reading.

Farmhouse Kitchen is part of a recent trend of cafes offering wholesome breakfast and lunch options that use locally sourced and organic ingredients. Coffees, teas and juices are also offered.

Berks County has its share of similar spots, including the Green Bean Cafe in Wyomissing, Hive Local Food in Kutztown (which is also vegetarian), and Wild Sage Coffee & Kitchen in Reading.

Like many cafes, Farmhouse Kitchen is only open for breakfast and lunch (though they do offer extended hours for many West Reading community events). The menu consists mostly of items that work for both meals – like the seasonal brunch bowls and sandwiches that can be “brunched up” with your choice of egg.

We were visiting at lunchtime on a holiday Monday and the place was packed. Thankfully we saw someone that we knew – thank you, Brittni – and were able to grab two of the few seats available (Jakob and his car seat took their place atop the table).

I ordered at the counter while Julie guarded the coveted seats. A short time later our drinks arrived. For Julie, a pineapple ginger mocktail; for me, kombucha.

This was my first taste of kombucha, the fermented tea that is all the rage right now. If you believe the hype, kombucha is a superfood that can prevent disease and work to support a healthy digestive system, among other benefits.

All of these things may or may not be true, but as an actual drink, it’s an acquired taste that I clearly have not acquired yet. I love tea of all kinds – sweetened, Southern sweet, unsweetened, black, green – but to me, kombucha tasted nothing like tea. And the fermentation process gave it the texture of a sparkling cider.

I gave it a try, but kombucha is definitely not for me. Julie’s pineapple ginger juice cocktail was much more my speed. It was sweet, but not too sweet thanks to the addition of the ginger.

Lunch arrived a short time later.

I ordered the “Don’t Fly the Coop,” a chicken patty sandwich topped with garlic-herb jack cheese, maple-bacon aioli, crispy sweet potato bits, greens and tomato on sourdough.

There’s just something about even the best chicken patty that takes me back to elementary school lunches. Even when made with the best ingredients, the consistency and texture make the patty feel processed. I think I would have loved this sandwich if it had been a cut of chicken breast.

All of other components were very good, but I didn’t think the patty allowed them to shine.

Sandwiches are served with your choice of side – salad, house pickles or hummus with vegetables. Additional options – like the cornbread that I ordered – are availble for an added charge.

Though the portion was relatively small, the cornbread was excellent. It was obviously homemade – with whole kernels of corn and plenty of flavor.

Julie originally told me that she wanted the chorizo curtido burrito before changing her mind and opting for one of the Farmhouse Trough bowls, the #sweetpotatohashtag.

Unforuntately, I am a man so I don’t always remember – or listen – so she got the burrito. (Next time, I will sit with Jakob and she will order for me).

The breakfast burrito was stuffed with scrambled eggs, chorizo sausage, curtido cabbage slaw, lime aioli and pepper jack cheese.

Her order not withstanding, Julie loves chorizo sausage in any dish, and this was no exception. The eggs helped tone down the spice – chorizo is about as spicy as Julie cares to eat. The slaw was good, too, but I don’t know that I would want that with my breakfast. For lunch though, everything worked.

For her side, I ordered her the vegetables with hummus. It was a very good hummus – simple and somewhat more composed than other hummus that I have tried at other restaurants. We would have liked some more veggies for dipping. The two baby carrots and two slices of cucumber were just not enough.

Going into the meal, we knew that we would be paying a premium for organic ingredients so I wasn’t surprised when our bill for lunch and two drinks was $42. Still, I would have liked just a little larger portion size – at least as far as the sides – for the price.

All of that said, I can see why Farmhouse Kitchen Organics is a popular stop, especially given the location in West Reading where people are used to paying a little bit more than in other places of Berks County.

It’s a cool little place and it has plenty to offer, particularly for those who want to live and eat better (they even offer classes around those topics).

Maybe it’s just not my kind of place.

BCE Rating:
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Slightly Overpriced

The Farmhouse Kitchen
426 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

The Farmhouse Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafes & Coffeeshops Reviews

Cheers American Bistro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it will bring me back to try dinner.

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

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

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

Brunch Buffets Finer Dining Reviews

CD’s Place

cd-s-place-exterior

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

Allow me to explain.

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

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

Good for them. Bad for this food blogger.

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

I knew where we were going to lunch.

cd-s-place-interior

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

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

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

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

cd-s-place-jamaican-omelet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast & Brunch Cafes & Coffeeshops Diners Reviews
Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery won best breakfast

Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery

wyomissing-restaurant-and-bakery

“Shady Maple north east.”

Those are the words of Hamid Chaudhry as he described his vision for the Wyomissing Family Restaurant to the Reading Eagle in December, shortly after he became the new owner.

Lofty goals, indeed for a restaurant that had fallen on hard times in the years before. On our walks and drives through town, we could see the number of cars in the parking lot slowly start to shrink.

But new ownership has breathed new life into the location, and spawned a new name, the Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery.

wyomissing-restaurant-brunch-buffet-1

When Julie and I visited for Sunday brunch a few weeks ago, the parking lot was fuller than we could remember seeing in a long time. Thankfully, despite the crowd, there was no wait for a table for those of us doing the brunch buffet.

We were seated with all of the other buffet-goers in what would be the banquet room. With no large groups closing off the space, it was the closest seating to the all-you-can-eat  smorgasbord.

wyomissing-restaurant-brunch-buffet-2

Five stations of varying size waited for me and my fellow eaters. On the left sat a small table where I found my orange juice and assorted breads for toasting.

Against the back wall was the griddle, where pancakes, French toast and omelets were made to order. A hot bar in the middle featured breakfast favorites: scrambled eggs, ham, bacon and three kinds of potatoes, as well as a couple lunch options like mac and cheese.

I started among these three stations, choosing cream chipped beef over toast, homefries and French toast for plate number one.

wyomissing-restaurant-french-toast-cream-chipped-beef-potatoes

I was expecting one slice of French toast with my order. I got three, and loved them. The powdered sugar was there for you to sprinkle on yourself so I added just the right amount of sweetness for myself.

The chipped beef was also very good (had I known I was getting three slices of French toast, I probably would have skipped it, though). It was rich, but not too much. The homefries were good, though I had to add a little salt and pepper to them.

wyomissing-restaurant-french-toast-potatoes-scrambled-eggs-sausage

Julie’s seasoned potatoes were quite the opposite. If anything, they were a little oversalted. She enjoyed her French toast as well (throwing a few chocolate chips on for good measure). The bite-sized sausage links were very flavorful, and the eggs were also nicely done.

Not a bad first plate for either of us.

With plate two, we both migrated to the middle island and lunch. The full salad bar was open with two kinds of soup and two pasta options (the soup, salad and pasta buffet station is available for lunch every day).

wyomissing-restaurant-cream-of-broccoli-soup-crab-penne-vegetable-lasagna

I had a bowl of cream of broccoli soup with a helping each of vegetable lasagna and penne pasta with clam sauce.

The vegetable lasagna was delicious, with layers of pasta, cheese and plenty of veggies (broccoli, carrots, and more). The cream of broccoli soup was good, too, though if I wasn’t blogging, I probably wouldn’t have needed both the soup and the lasagna. I’m also not a fan of clams, but I tried the pasta and actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t too clammy, though you could definitely taste it.

wyomissing-restaurant-salad

Julie’s second plate was a little lighter as she went for the more traditional salad options. She was happy to see that her favorite item from the old salad bar was still there: Jell-O. The options were actually very impressive, with a wide variety to build a nice side salad or even make it an entree.

The final station was serving up sweets: waffles and soft ice cream. For research purposes, Julie and I both made mini sundaes to cap off our brunch.

wyomissing-restaurant-soft-ice-cream

For $15 per person (discounts for seniors and children), the brunch buffet is definitely priced right. The buffet definitely seems like the way to go, with reasonable prices for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week.

While we were at the ice cream station, we had a chance to chat with Hamid Chaudhry. In between hosting duties, he was greeting regulars and striking up conversation with newcomers.

“What do you think of the changes?” he asked.

Julie and I both agreed, the changes are positives.

It’s not Shady Maple, but as long as the restaurant holds on to those aspirations, it will be a great buffet.

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

Wyomissing Restaurant and Bakery
1245 Penn Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Wyomissing Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast & Brunch Buffets Dessert Diners Reviews