A plate with a filet Mignon, serving of mushroom risotto, seafood cake topped with lime ailoi, green beans and a purple flower from the Inn at Centre Park

The Inn at Centre Park

The exterior of the Inn at Centre Park at twilight

Valentine’s Day has always been a big deal for Julie and I. With our anniversary being in mid-August, Valentine’s always marks the halfway point in another year for us. 

It’s also a great excuse to find a new place around the county for a romantic dinner.

A wooden staircase in front of art glass windows at the Inn at Centre Park

This year was a little different for us. Yes, we stayed in Berks County – the city of Reading, to be precise – but we didn’t go to a restaurant. Instead, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with dinner at the Inn at Centre Park, a bed and breakfast and event space in the Centre Park Historic District.

A table for two is set up in a corner room with large picture window and greenery at the Inn at Centre Park

Each month, the Inn at Centre Park opens for dinner – usually on the third Friday. In February, the monthly dinner was moved up a week in honor of Valentine’s Day (and Saturday dinner service was added). The meals are all prix fixe; in this case, it was a four-course meal with appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. 

A private dining room with a table for 10 is set up in front of a fireplace at the Inn at Centre Park

There was only one seating for the meal – 6:30 p.m. We were among the first to arrive which gave us a chance to look around at the elegantly appointed rooms throughout the first floor of the inn. 

An archway leads into a white-painted room with a chandelier at the Inn at Centre Park

Known as the Wilhelm Mansion, the building that now houses the Inn at Centre Park was the home of Charles Wilhelm for more than 50 years. However, it was originally built and occupied by Reverend Mark Anthony DeWolfe Howe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese. Our table for two was nestled at a door that featured original stained glass windows that depict two angels, one blowing a horn, the other singing.

Every nook and cranny of the house is filled with incredible detail, from the tall archways to the intricate moulding. This was certainly the lap of luxury in the late 19th Century and remains so today. 

A plate with three medallions of fried goat cheese with pear jam in the center and a balsamic drizzle from the Inn at Centre Park

After satisfying our curiosity, we settled in for the first course: fried goat cheese with crispy prosciutto and pear jam. 

It was a perfect beginning to the meal with a variety of flavors and textures. The soft, creamy goat cheese was countered by the crunchy, salty prosciutto. The pear jam sweetened the whole plate. The balsamic drizzle added another layer of sweet and sour. 

The first course really blew us away and set the stage for a great meal. 

A single roll on a plate with a butter knife at the Inn at Centre Park

In between courses, we were served fresh-baked rolls to enjoy with our salad. Homemade honey butter was already waiting on the table. Ours didn’t last that long. The soft, pillowy rolls were too good. With the sweet butter, they just melted in your mouth. 

Leaves of Bibb lettuce topped with apples, walnuts, celery and grapes from the Inn at Centre Park

Our second course was a Waldorf salad, and while it wasn’t a revelation the way the fried goat cheese was, it was still delicious. 

It was a traditional Waldorf with apples, grapes, celery and walnuts, but it was just done very well. And it was served atop large leafs of Bibb lettuce which was a nice choice for the greens.

A plate with a filet Mignon, serving of mushroom risotto, seafood cake topped with lime ailoi, green beans and a purple flower from the Inn at Centre Park

The entree course was a surf-and-turf plate with filet Mignon and seafood cake served with green beans and mushroom risotto. 

The filet was served with a simple herb butter, and it was good, but it didn’t really stand out compared to the rest of the meal. It was cooked well, but there wasn’t a “wow” to it like there was to the other three courses. 

I would say the same for the risotto and the green beans. (I am not a seafood fan so I have to take Julie’s word for the seafood cake, which she felt the same about). Filet Mignon is always good, and I will never complain about eating it. It just felt “safe” compared to the other courses. That’s the best way I can describe it. 

A plate with a chocolate dome sprinkled with red raspberry sea salt from the Inn at Centre Park

Dessert, though, was definitely a highlight. The fourth course consisted of chocolate “domes” with a ganache and raspberry center. The heaping dessert was sinful and delicious from the first bite to the last.

What really set the dish apart was the dusting of raspberry salt. Sweet and salty always works for me, and the concentrated raspberry flavor really added to the chocolate base. 

Really, I can’t think of a better way to finish the meal. 

A husband and wife sitting at a table in front of a stained glass window at the Inn at Centre Park

The four-course meal cost $60 per person, which seemed like a very good price for the amount and quality of the food that we had. Non-alcoholic beverages were included in the price (for those looking for a little something more, the dinners are BYOB). Also, there is very limited space so reservations are must for the Inn’s public dinners.

I’m sure the Inn does a good amount of catering events throughout the year because the staff seemed very much on top of their game. Everyone’s food arrived within minutes of each other and always tasted freshly prepared. The servers worked as a team and were very attentive throughout the meal. 

And, of course, the venue was amazing. It’s an ambiance you can’t get anywhere else in the county. 

Everything combined to make this one of the most special Valentine’s Day dinners yet. 

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Excellent
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: A little pricey (but worth it)

The Inn at Centre Park
730 Centre Ave
Reading, PA 19601

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
A tray of freshly rolled potato gnocchi

The Culinary Classroom

Teams of people working in a kitchen

For years – long before I started this blog – my wife Julie and I have been wanting to take a cooking class together. We both love the time we get to spend in the kitchen (though now that we have a two-year-old running around the house, we don’t really have the option to be in the kitchen together). 

I finally resolved to make the class happen. For Christmas, I bought Julie and I two spots for a lesson called “Italian Comfort – Gnocchi” at the Culinary Classroom in Reading. The class cost $85 each, but I will tell you up front, it was worth every penny.

 A sign highlighting the menu we would be preparing

The Culinary Classroom is hosted by Chef Linda Bell, who holds classes in her home, which includes a spacious kitchen with two separate cooking areas – perfect for intimate classes of 6-8 people (we had 10 in our class and though it was a little snug, there was still enough space and food).  

Chef Linda runs the classroom with her husband – and sous chef – Mike. She is a retired educator who has combined her passion for teaching and cooking into a business where she imparts that same love of cooking onto her students.

Chef Linda Bell (foreground) and her husband Mike lead the classes at the Culinary Classroom.

The evening began at 6 p.m. with an introduction to basic kitchen rules: never hand someone a knife, always set it down for them to pick up; always announce when you are walking behind someone else; and always gather your ingredients before you begin cooking. 

Mise en place is the proper term for the latter. It’s French for “everything in its place,” and it’s a lesson I needed to hear. In my own kitchen, I have been guilty of making several trips to the pantry for ingredients that I should have had in front of me the whole time. 

After learning the rules of the kitchen, we talked gnocchi. The Italian pasta is most commonly made from potatoes and rolled into oblong dough balls. But really, gnocchi can be made with just about anything and can be shaped in multiple ways.

A hand whisks a cheese sauce for the gnocchi

Our first gnocchi, the gnocchi alla Romana, was made with semolina flour. For this, we mostly watched as Linda went over the basics. Instead of rolling the gnocchi right away, this particular recipe called for spreading the mixture onto a buttered parchment-lined tray then cooling it in a refrigerator or freezer. The pasta would later be cut into rounds and layered to be baked into more of a casserole-type dish. 

The gnocchi di zucca con salvia e Parmigiano was our second dish to cook. We first had to make butternut squash gnocchi; then we made the sage butter sauce. With this, we got a few takeaways to use in our everyday cooking. 

a stainless steel pan of sage brown butter

First, always save a cup of starchy water after you drain your pasta. You can use it to thicken your sauce. 

Second, always use kosher salt, not iodized salt. It has better texture and ensures you don’t over-salt your dish (also, when the recipe says “add salt to taste,” make sure you taste it so you know how much salt you are adding). 

Third, stainless steel pans are better than black-bottomed pans because you can see your butter brown a lot better. 

Two trays of riced potatoes in the center of a wooden table

For the second half of our lesson, we needed the more traditional potato gnocchi. Russet potatoes were baking in the oven while we worked on our other two varieties. This creates a drier gnocchi than boiling the potato. It also meant that the potatoes were very hot as we peeled the skins off. 

The next step was to rice the potatoes. This makes the starchy tuber a lot easier to work with when combined with the other ingredients. 

Eggs are dropped into the center of the flour and potato mixture

Linda combined the ingredients using the traditional method of gathering the potatoes and flour, then putting eggs in the middle, slowly incorporating the ingredients together into a dough ball (helpful hint: never add all of the flour the recipe calls for at the beginning – add it as needed because you may need more or less depending on the size of the eggs and how starchy the potatoes are). 

A tray of freshly rolled potato gnocchi

Then we got to roll the gnocchi. You can buy a gnocchi roller – a small board that will add grooves to the dough – or you can use a fork for the same effect. Either way, the grooves and ridges are key to allowing the sauce to stick to the pasta. 

A sauce pan filled with a reddish-orange fennel sausage and porcini cream sauce

From here, we split into teams to work on our sauces. One team was tasked with creating a fennel sausage and porcini cream sauce (with homemade marinara sauce as a base).  Our team was in charge of the gnocchi alla bava, literally translated as “drooling gnocchi.” It’s not the most appealing name, but it is a delicious cream sauce that includes Parmigiano-Reggiano and Fontina cheeses. 

Fontina cheese, I found out, is very soft and very difficult to shred, but I managed. And everything managed to come together nicely and almost at the same time. 

It was about 9 p.m. when all of the meals were done. Though the time had gone by very quickly, we were more than a little hungry by this point and couldn’t wait to taste-test all of our dishes. 

Maybe it was because I was so hungry, but I think these were the four best gnocchi dishes that I have ever tried. 

Plates of prepared gnocchi waiting to be served

The semolina gnocchi is one that Linda recommends being served as an appetizer. Because it is baked with cheese and not sauced, it is an easy snack that can be eaten like finger food. 

A plate with three kinds of gnocchi and a small side salad

Julie and I both love butternut squash gnocchi (and ravioli) and sage butter sauce. We are so glad that we now know how to make it ourselves because this was better than any store-bought variety and the butter sauce turned out perfect (in a way I have never been able to pull off). 

A large blue bowl filled with potato gnocchi topped with the fennel sausage and porcini cream sauce

The fennel sausage and porcini cream sauce was amazing. We were all invited to taste the marinara sauce before it was added to the cream and that on its own was amazing (the key is using real San Marzano tomatoes). With the cream and the slightly spicy sausage, it was perfect.

A plate of gnocchi alla bava - drooling pasta

My favorite, though, was the alla bava. Maybe it’s because I helped make the sauce. Or maybe because it was so rich and creamy that I could eat it as dessert. Either way, I loved it. 

One other thing I should note: the class was listed as running from 6 to 9 p.m. but we were there until almost 10. The food was worth the wait, though.

We learned a lot more during the class than will fit into this column. But beyond that, we also had a great time with the other eight people that were in the class with us (and Linda and her husband). Everyone else in the class was either a repeat student or came with someone who had taken a class before. The Culinary Classroom is certainly creating a loyal following, and it’s easy to see why. 

Linda was an excellent teacher and there were plenty of laughs to go with plenty of delicious food. 

Julie and I were both very glad to have taken the class. And I’m sure someday we, too, will be repeat students. 

Italian Reviews
Limoncello chicken - a plate of capellini pasta topped with a chicken breast covered in a yellow safron aioli from Judy's on Cherry

Judy’s on Cherry

A view of Judy's on Cherry, looking from across Cherry Street at the exterior of the large stone building

Every year between January and February, I am challenged to find some date-night worthy restaurants for Julie and I to visit. Her birthday falls at the end of January, and Valentine’s Day follows closely behind.

These special occasions have provided us with some of our best meals in six year of Berks County Eats reviews.

Our expectations were high for another memorable meal when Julie and I made our first trip to Judy’s on Cherry for this year’s birthday date night dinner.

The entryway at Judy's on Cherry includes a staircase lined with paintings and sculptures from local artists

Judy’s has been on our list of places to try since the blog began. We did visit Judy’s seasonal restaurant, Plein Air, in 2014 and loved it, but had never dined inside the Cherry Street restaurant.

We made a last-minute decision to go to Judy’s on a Saturday night. Luckily, we called in the afternoon before service started and were able to secure a reservation for 6 p.m. We parked in the lot across the street – free parking after 5 p.m. – and headed inside.

A look at the vaulted wood ceilings inside Judy's on Cherry

It’s hard not to be impressed when walking into the second-floor dining room. The brick walls. The vaulted ceilings. They don’t build them like this anymore.

A lamp with a white base and blue shade on a table at Judy's on Cherry

At our booth along the wall, the lighting was dimmed, limited to a single table lamp. The dim lights didn’t bother us though (except when I was trying to take pictures of the food). From our table, we had a great view of the kitchen, which sits right in the center in the dining area. Some lucky guests were sitting at the bar seats surrounding the kitchen, giving them an even more up-close-and-personal look at everything.

We were greeted quickly by our waitress who went off to grab a basket of bread to accompany our meal.

A basket of bread cut into large points from Judy's on Cherry

The bread basket turned out to be eight pieces of what appeared to be pizza crust or flatbread. A small plate of oil was preset at the table for dipping. The bread was very good with just enough herbs to give it a nice earthy flavor and set it apart from a more traditional bread basket.

The building was once a farmers market – among other things during its history – so it’s only appropriate that the menu includes a variety of fresh ingredients. We tasted the freshness right away with our appetizer: browned Brussels sprouts with truffle cream.

A plate of Brussels sprouts in a white truffle cream sauce from Judy's on Cherry

Judy’s menu included several small plates that we were interested in, including stuffed figs, lamb meatballs and pumpkin ravioli, but the Brussels sprouts won out, and we were not disappointed.

The plate of Brussels were nicely charred – not burnt – to bring out a little bit of a smokiness. The sprouts were slightly bitter which we thought contrasted nicely to the bright, rich cream sauce. And the addition of fresh sage was welcomed throughout the dish.

A Caesar salad with cheese and croutons from Judy's on Cherry

We had ordered our appetizer not realizing that our meals also included starter salads. In addition to Caesar salads, Judy’s offers mixed green salads with a variety of vinaigrettes and other dressings. Julie stuck with the Caesar while I tried the ranch dressing with basil.

Julie’s Caesar salad was very nicely prepared with plenty of dressing, cheese and croutons. We both remarked about the size of the salads being just right.

Mixed green salad with a cup of ranch dressing from Judy's on Cherry

My salad was also excellently done. The addition of the basil to the ranch dressing was perfect and was a nice differentiator. I also appreciated that there were plenty of red onions, my favorite.

The entree menu was extensive and included several dishes that I wanted to try, like the duck confit cassoulet (a bean casserole with duck confit, sausage, ham and braised pork), winter root vegetable curry and black pepper rubbed duck.

Limoncello chicken - a plate of capellini pasta topped with a chicken breast covered in a yellow safron aioli from Judy's on Cherry

But the limoncello chicken with saffron aioli was my choice. The chicken was baked in lemon basil broth and served over capellini, a spaghetti-like pasta that was incredibly thin.

Everything about the dish was mouthwatering. The chicken had a nice crust on it and was cooked beautifully. I enjoyed the aioli, but it was the lemon basil broth that was the real star. The sweet basil worked beautifully against the lemon. Sun-dried tomatoes added a little more sweetness to the dish.

It came together as a single, composed, delicious dish.

A Frenched pork chop atop a bed of mashed potatoes, topped with mushrooms and crispy prosciutto from Judy's on Cherry

Julie’s Frenched pork chop was another great choice. Served over a bed of mashed potatoes, it was topped with mushrooms, truffle cream and crispy prosciutto.

It, too, was a wonderfully composed dish. First, the pork chops were done perfectly, still very juicy. (For those who don’t know – like me – “Frenched” is the style where the rib bone is exposed). The mushrooms had a nice earthiness to them. The prosciutto was crispy which gave it a feel almost like bacon. And the potatoes were present in almost every bite, bringing everything together.

Like my meal, it was an excellent dish, and one that Julie thoroughly enjoyed.

A view of the open kitchen, surrounded by a bar with stools at Judy's on Cherry

Unfortunately as we polished off our entrees, we both realized that we weren’t going to have room for dessert. “That’s OK,” our waitress assured us. “You can come in again and just have dessert.”

It’s a nice thought, but our meals were so good, I’m not sure we would want to skip out on the main course. The price wasn’t bad either. For our two meals, appetizer and my unsweetened iced tea, our total was $66. We’ve paid more for similar portions before.

Our service was very good, too. We had a seasoned server with a dry sense of humor that we both appreciated. She was attentive throughout the night refilling our drinks and checking in on us while other members of the team brought our meals.

It was one of our best meals we have had overall; it certainly lived up to our high expectations.

We are already looking forward to our next visit.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: Reasonable for Finer Dining

Finer Dining Reviews
A plate with three enchiladas - one each with red, white and green sauce, with refried beans and rice from Norte Sur

Norte Sur Mexican Restaurant

A view of the exterior of Norte Sur, featuring a brick and stone facade with large picture windows

First impressions for a business are everything. I think they are even more important for a restaurant because when you think about it, your first visit to a restaurant is multiple first impressions.

What does the building look like? What does the dining room look like? How were you greeted when you walked in? How is the service? How long does it take to get your food or your check? And of course, what does that first bite taste like?

Wooden tables and benches beneath colorful strings of banners at Norte Sur

One of Berks County’s newest restaurants, Norte Sur Mexican Restaurant, checks a lot of boxes.

Norte Sur opened in a former Turkey Hill Minit Market along Kutztown Road in Muhlenberg Township, right across the street from the former Freymoyer’s Restaurant.

The amount of work that was put in to transform the building shows that Norte Sur is serious about their business. The exterior has been given a touch of class thanks to the addition of a brick and stone facade.

Wooden tables and benches beneath colorful strings of banners at Norte Sur

That same motif carries inside to the dining room where brick arches set it apart from the take-out and kitchen areas. Otherwise, the decor is subdued compared to other Mexican restaurants in the area. Strings of small, colorful banners hang from the ceiling while the walls are decorated with paintings along with a few traditional men’s and women’s outfits. The seating is comprised entirely of booths made of high-backed wooden benches.

We were greeted and seated by a friendly hostess who also served us throughout our visit. We – Julie, Jakob and I – had arrived around 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon and were the only ones dining in at the time. Two other couples were seated before we left at 6 while we heard several phone orders coming through during that same time.

Norte Sur’s menu is pretty simple: tacos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and a handful of additional entrees and appetizers.

A bowl of green poblano soup drizzled with sour cream and cheese and topped with red, green and yellow tortilla strips from Norte Sur

One appetizer that caught my eye was the crema de poblano, a creamy soup that started with a mix of chicken broth and poblano pepper. It was topped with tortilla strips, cheese and sour cream.

I had poblano soup once before, about a year ago at Alebrije in Wyomissing. I enjoyed this one just as much, though they had very different flavor profiles. Norte Sur’s version wasn’t as creamy, but I found it to be just as flavorful with a little more spicy heat throughout. I enjoyed the addition of the tortilla chips which added some texture. The shredded cheese was also a nice touch, helping to thicken the broth as it melted.

It was definitely something that I would order again. The same can be said for my tacos Norte Sur.

Three soft-shell tacos with steak, pico de gallo, cabbage and pickled red onion from Norte Sur.

The tacos Norte Sur are, as the name implies, a signature item for the restaurant. The three soft-shell tacos are filled with grilled steak, cabbage, pickled red onions, chipotle sauce, pico de gallo and cheese. It was a delicious combination.

The steak was nicely done in small-ish strips with a hint of seasoning, but the flavor of the toppings was outstanding. The pico was bright and fresh. The pickled onions added a vinegary note that paired well with the citrusy tones of lime juice which could be tasted throughout. I was very happy with my decision.

A bowl of refried beans with yellow rice on a plate from Norte Sur

Most entrees at Norte Sur are served with a side of rice and refried beans. Refried beans are not my favorite, but these weren’t bad. The yellow rice was also good. It had peas and a few bits of carrot throughout. I knew I couldn’t finish all of the food that I had ordered so I sacrificed some of my rice and beans in favor of the tacos and soup.

Julie and Jakob both had rice and beans with their meals as well. Julie always gravitates to enchiladas, and in this case, it was the enchiladas Norte Sur.

A plate with three enchiladas - one each with red, white and green sauce, with refried beans and rice from Norte Sur

The meal included three distinct enchiladas: one beef, one chicken, and one cheese, each topped with a different sauce. The beef was topped with a traditional red enchilada sauce that had more of a kick to it than the other two. The chicken enchilada was topped with a creamy white sauce that provided a cooling contrast. And the cheese was topped with green tomatillo sauce that was somewhere in the middle.

All three were very good, but Julie’s favorite was the cheese enchilada (it usually is).

A large soft shell taco on a plate with refried beans and yellow rice from Norte Sur

Jakob’s favorite thing on his plate was the rice. Our two-year-old can sometimes be adventurous with his meals and sometimes not. We knew he would eat the rice – and he did, happily. We had hoped he would eat his beef taco, but after a couple bites he gave up on that.

We had the choice of soft shell or hard shell for his taco, and chose soft. It seemed like he was having difficulty holding it together which may have been why he stuck with the rice.

A basket of tortilla chips with a bowl of red salsa from Norte Sur

I should also mention that we had chips and salsa at our seat before we had even ordered our meal. The chips were served warm – always a nice touch. And the salsa was very good, and like much of our meal, had a kick to it.

The service and price both left good impressions as well. The two servers covering the dining room were attentive throughout, and our meals and my bowl of soup cost about $35.

After we left, Julie and I were both remarking about how good the food was and how impressed we were with what they did to turn a mini market into a real restaurant.

Our first impressions of Norte Sur Mexican Restaurant were very good all around.

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

Norte Sur Mexican Restaurant
2610 Kutztown Rd
Reading, PA 19606

Lunch & Dinner Mexican Reviews
A kids meal featuring Half a grilled cheese sandwich served in a 3D cardboard paper Ford Fairlane classic car

Pop’s Malt Shoppe

The stone exterior of Pop's Malt Shoppe in Kutztown

Who wants ice cream in the cold of winter? This guy.

I’ve never believed ice cream to be a summer-only treat. It’s year-round goodness. Especially on special occasions – like when mommy has to go away for work and leaves daddy home alone with a two-year-old.

But where to get ice cream – and a meal – in January? One option is Pop’s Malt Shoppe in Kutztown.

Red and white leather booths against a pink wall covered in retro signs in Pop's Malt Shoppe's dining room

Pop’s Malt Shoppe takes on the look and feel of a 50s/60s diner and soda fountain: the checker board floor, the red tables with stainless steel accents, the Elvis music playing through the speakers.

It’s not a unique concept in Berks County – Bel-Air in Bechtelsville and Scoupe DeVille in Birdsboro both have similar concepts. But unlike those, Pop’s is open year-round. So even when there’s snow on the ground and the temperatures are below freezing, Pop’s is open.

A close-up of the retro signs and a mirror on a pink wall in Pop's Malt Shoppe

That was one of the reasons I decided to stop in on a Sunday night in January – that and the fact that they had recently posted about their newly renovated dining area. It was just Jakob and I, and it took him a few minutes to realize where we were. “Ice cream shop?” he asked. My two-year-old is obsessed with our collection of Curious George books, including Curious George Goes to the Ice Cream Shop. I guess Pop’s has a look that’s easily recognizable.

Julie and I had actually never visited Pop’s while we were students at Kutztown. But we did stop in for ice cream a few years ago.

Jars of ice cream toppings in front of a chalkboard with toppings listed on it
Photo from 2016 visit to Pop’s

We were only in the take-out area, but it still had the same vibe as the dining room with pink walls covered in retro signs.

The cookie monster sundae featuring chocolate chip cookies, whipped cream and a cherry in a to-go cup
Photo from 2016 visit to Pop’s

On that visit, we both ordered sundaes: a brownie sundae and a cookie monster sundae. The latter featured Pop’s fresh-baked cookies with choice of ice cream. Photos of fresh-baked cookies have been a staple on Pop’s social media accounts and taste as good as they look – especially with ice cream.

A brownie sundae featuring brownie bites, whipped cream and a cherry in a to-go cup
Photo from 2016 visit to Pop’s

Similarly, the soft, chocolatey brownies were baked in-house as well. It’s a nice touch that helps to set Pop’s apart from other places.

For Jakob and I, ice cream would have to wait until after dinner.

Pop’s food menu is what you would expect – burgers, dogs, a handful of sandwich options, lots of fried foods and salad, in case you want to feel a little less guilty about that ice cream afterward.

A sloppy Joe sandwich, pile of fries and a cup of ketchup on checkered paper

I decided to order Pop’s homemade barbecue sandwich with fries. It was a standard sloppy Joe – ground beef with onion and tomato mixed in with a little barbecue sauce. The roll was smaller than I was expecting, though that could have just been from its obvious trip to the panini press. It was good, but nothing to write home about. The meat was falling out of the bun so it was still a hearty meal, too.

The fries were good, as well. They were crinkle-cut and done well, though I needed to add a little salt for some extra flavor.

A sloppy Joe and fries with a cup of ketchup served on checkered paper atop a melted vinyl record plate

One cool thing that I only picked up on because I heard another table mention it is that the food is served on plates made of melted vinyl records (or at least are made to look that way).

A kids meal featuring Half a grilled cheese sandwich served in a 3D cardboard paper Ford Fairlane classic car

Jakob’s meal also arrived in style. Kids meals are served in paper models of classic cars, and Jakob’s grilled cheese and mac and cheese bites cruised in on a Ford Fairlane.

Close-up of Half a grilled cheese sandwich served in a 3D cardboard paper Ford Fairlane classic car

He enjoyed the grilled cheese. The kids meal is actually a half sandwich using a single slice of bread which actually works out well because it means less crust, which Jakob is currently rejecting.

Four fried mac and cheese triangles on checkered paper

But he certainly didn’t reject the mac and cheese bites. The meal came with four of them, and he happily finished them off without leaving a trace. They were a simple, kid-friendly side not unlike anywhere else, but Jakob enjoyed them, and that’s all that mattered to me in the moment.

With our meals finished, I couldn’t resist ordering us a treat (this is what happens when dad is left in charge for the night). We got a soft-serve sundae with Oreo cookies, strawberries and chocolate syrup (plus the obligatory whipped cream and cherry on top).

An ice cream sundae with vanilla soft-serve ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, strawberries, Oreo cookie crumbles, whipped cream and a cherry

It was wonderful. The vanilla soft serve was nice on its own, but the toppings are what made it. There were 22 toppings to choose from so narrowing it to three (the first topping is free, the rest are 50 cents each) wasn’t easy, but they were all good decisions.

There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of any single topping.  The Oreos were concentrated on one side and the strawberries on the other so every bite was a little different, but no less enjoyable. The ice cream was easily the best part of the meal.

During our visit, the dining room was filled mostly with college students (a few had family members with them) returning for the spring semester, but Pop’s is certainly a family friendly destination in the college town. The price is right for a family meal as well. With dessert, it was about $25.

Our service was good as well. Two different waitresses helped us at different times as they worked as a team to cover a fairly busy dining room. At one point one of them apologized for the wait and said there was a mix-up with my meal. I honestly would not have even known because it was only about 15 minutes from the time we ordered until the food arrived.

It wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it didn’t need to be. We were there for the ice cream, and that didn’t disappoint.

BCE Rating
Food: Fair
Ice Cream: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Pop’s Malt Shoppe
208 W. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530

Dessert Diners