Wide shot of food trucks in a picnic grove

Truck N Brew

Now that Berks County has entered the green phase of reopening, restrictions are starting to be lessened for area restaurants and eateries, but restrictions remain in place.

The new rules and regulations have forced businesses to adapt and innovate, from the way the food gets from kitchen to consumer (contactless delivery, curbside pickup) to how seats are arranged – inside and out.

Food trucks parked on gravel with picnic tables in the foreground

One of the innovations that has come out of the restrictions on dining is Truck N Brew, a weekly event at Willow Glen Park in Sinking Spring.

Photo of a food truck called Uncle Buck's that's shaped liked a retro camper

Willow Glen is best known as the site of Shocktoberfest, the Apple Dumpling Festival, weekly outdoor flea markets and countless other events throughout the year. But on Friday and Saturday nights, Willow Glen is now home to Truck N Brew, an outdoor dining and entertainment venue with food trucks and concessions.

Food trucks parked on a lawn with cars in the background

Not being ready for a dine-in experience quite yet, Truck N Brew seemed like a great alternative for a Saturday night dinner.

Picture of a food stand under a pavilion with a sign advertising Spanish food

We arrive at 5 p.m. just as the stands were opening. We weren’t the first ones there, but there weren’t too many others around as we bounced from food truck to food truck and stand to stand in search of our meals.

The lineup of food trucks changes every week – this week featured wood-fired pizza, tacos, Cuban sandwiches, barbecue and more – but the venue is owned and operated by Konopelski Katering, and their concession stands are the anchors of the event.

A photo of a tent set up in front of a building for Fat Jack's at Truck N Brew in Sinking Spring

One of those stands is Fat Jack’s, which operates out of a large kitchen at the end of the row of eateries. The menu was also the most varied of all the options with burgers, sandwiches, fried foods and more.

We both opted for burgers – Julie got the guac and bacon burger while I went with the fajita burger.

Photo of a big yellow food truck called the Biggest Cheese next to a tree

For Jakob, we stopped at a food truck called The Biggest Cheese where mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches dominate the menu. Actually, there’s mac and cheese in the grilled cheese sandwiches, but they were accommodating and made a plain old grilled cheese for our toddler to enjoy.

Seating was plentiful. There is a large pavilion with picnic tables spread out (it’s also where the bar is set up – the brew in Truck N Brew). And many more tables surrounding the pavilion. There’s also some wooden counters set up along the lawn’s edge, a place to stand and enjoy your drinks.

We snagged one of the tables outside the pavilion. Despite our car’s thermometer reading 90 degrees, the shaded picnic area felt very comfortable. And we were well-distanced from the nearest occupied table, making it easy to enjoy our delicious burgers.

Close up of a burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato and a side of fries in a to-go boat

My fajita burger came topped with grilled peppers, grilled onions lettuce, tomato and jalapeno cheese.

I personally love grilled peppers and onions on my burgers (they are among my go-to toppings at Five Guys), but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the jalapeno cheese. It added only a little heat to the dish, but it certainly added some flavor.

Overall, it was a very satisfying burger.

Photo of a burger topped with guacamole and bacon in a to-go boat with french fries

Julie was also satisfied with her guac and bacon burger. As you might guess, the featured toppings were guacamole and bacon (with lettuce and tomato). You can’t really go wrong with either of those on a burger.

Both of us got a side of fries with our burgers. The small, fresh-cut fries were very good though a little on the salty side (not too salty to stop me from eating them).

Toddler eating a grilled cheese sandwich at a picnic table

Meanwhile Jakob seemed to enjoy his grilled cheese (Julie tried some and said it was good. The bread was toasted well – not burnt – and was nice and buttery). However he was a little distracted because from his seat, he was looking directly at the Sweet Ride Ice Cream truck.

Photo of the Sweet Ride Ice Cream food truck under a tree

I ventured over and grabbed us some dessert, a cup of vanilla ice cream for Jakob, a cup of banana peanut butter chip ice cream for Julie and an orange cream float with chocolate ice cream for me.

Sweet Ride has always been good, but we’ve enjoyed them even more since they started making (most) of their own ice cream. Julie loves their banana peanut butter chip with the creamy banana base so there was never a doubt as to which flavor she would get.

Close up of two cups of ice cream and one large cup with orange soda

My float was also very good. The chocolate ice cream was rich and I always enjoy the mix of chocolate and orange. It was definitely worth the extra calories.

It wasn’t the cheapest night out we’ve had but it was still pretty reasonable. Our burgers and fries were less than $25. Jakob’s grilled cheese and bottle of water were around $7. And the ice cream added another $12, bringing our total for the night to right around $45. That’s not bad for three meals and three desserts.

We kept our expectations low going into the evening, but were pleasantly surprised all around. There was more than enough seating to spread out (even at 6 p.m. when we left). There was a great variety of food, and what we had was very good. While I would say the majority of the other patrons weren’t wearing masks, a few were. And all of those working, at least the ones I could see that were interacting with customers, were wearing masks and gloves.

Really, it’s a great idea, one that was obviously fueled by the restrictions of the yellow phase of reopening. But it’s an idea we hope keeps going because we enjoyed it and would definitely go back.

Truck N Brew
94 Park Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

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

Dessert Food Trucks
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

PA Ice Cream Trail – Patches Family Creamery

Ice cream cone-shaped stone welcomes customers to Patches Family Creamery

When it was announced in May that Visit PA was bringing back the Pursue Your Scoops Ice Cream trail – a program that highlights cow-to-cone creameries throughout the state – I was thrilled. Last year, Julie and I had started on the trail but life got in the way and we never finished. This year, we are determined to get the free t-shirt that comes with five stamps on our passport.

The trail celebrates cow-to-cone creameries across the state, there are two Berks County creameries on the list – Way-Har Farms in Bernville and the Nesting Box in Kempton. While we will visit them later, we wanted to start with a bit of a road trip.

Our first stop this year was Patches Family Creamery. Located just south of Lebanon, Patches is about an hour’s drive from our house. We had found it as part of last year’s tour and couldn’t wait to go back and blog about it this year.

Patches Family Creamery Front Porch

The wooden building that houses the creamery and farm market still looks new. It features a small number of tables inside with larger picnic tables and benches on the shaded front porch.

In addition to ice cream, Patches offers a variety of dairy products and some baked goods.

Inside Patches', the menu shows 20 flavors of ice cream available.

Patches had more than 20 flavors of ice cream available when we visited including all of the standards: vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, etc. – and a few originals like the candy scramble (think a candy store in an ice cream tub) and cow tracks, their version of moose tracks.

They also offer an assortment of sundaes. Rhubarb was in season so I decided to give a rhubarb sundae a try.

A pair of ice cream sundaes

It was one of the best ice cream treats I’ve had in a long time. The sweet vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement to the tart rhubarb while the granola/oatmeal crumble added crunch and flavor to every bite. The ice cream itself is rich and creamy. Really, it was a perfect blend.

Julie also went with a sundae. Her fruit of choice was strawberry, but she went with chocolate ice cream for a delicious combination. The bowl was filled with fresh strawberries. The fruit and ice cream combined for a decadent chocolate-covered strawberry flavor – sweet, indulgent and delicious.

Tables inside Patches

We also ordered a kiddie cup of ice cream for Jakob. For whatever reason, our son is not a big ice cream fan and only ate a couple tiny scoops. I ended up finishing it in about three bites. His loss is my gain.

I was surprised that our two sundaes and kiddie cup was less than $10. It felt like a very good deal for quality all the way around.

Patches' playground features a tire climb, swings and two large slides.

Not only does Patches serve great ice cream, it’s also a great place for young kids to get out and play on a playground that caters to kids big and small. There’s also a petting zoo with goats and other farm animals (fun for most kids, scary for ours).

Patches is a great little spot out in the country that’s worth a visit if you’re in the Lebanon area or worth a drive if you are trying to earn a free t-shirt.

BCE Rating
Ice Cream: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: Very Reasonable

Patches Family Creamery
201 Fonderwhite Rd
Lebanon, PA 17042

To learn more about the Pursue Your Scoops Ice Cream Trail, check out VisitPA.com

Dessert Reviews
The Bull Dog sundae from the Ranch House: Three large scoops of ice cream topped with strawberries, cherries, peanuts, pretzels and whipped cream.

Circle S Ranch House

The Ranch House is recognizable for its A-frame roof, faux fencing and neon orange sign.

Anyone who has driven along Penn Avenue in West Lawn has undoubtedly noticed the Ranch House.

At night, the neon sign beams in bright orange. During the day, the sign and the building itself, with faux fence posts on the roof and a giant wagon wheel on the wall, catch the eye of passersby.

Inside, the decor is wood-on-wood, like this wooden Ranch House sign with wooden adornments mounted on a wood-paneled wall.

I remember visiting the Ranch House as a kid with my parents and grandparents. Thirty years later, it still feels the same with an interior that is almost exclusively made of wood – wood-paneled walls, wooden booths, exposed wood beams and wooden ceilings. It’s a similar look to the Ranch House’s sister restaurant, Schell’s, the Muhlenberg Township drive-in.

The dining room looks tired and worn with green cushions and cream curtains accenting worn-out wooden booths

Green cushions and cream curtains are an interesting – and tired looking – accent. The dining room could probably use an update, but change isn’t really welcomed by the more mature crowd that frequents the Ranch House.

And it’s really not a surprise that their primary clientele skews older – the menu is simple and cheap. The most expensive item on the menu is an eight-ounce steak, served with two sides for less than $15. The cheapest is a two-ounce burger for $2.55.

The Wagon Wheel hamburger is served plain with no toppings (cheese optional) but does come with a boat load of fries.

My Wagon Wheel hamburger and fries was middle-of-the-road when it came to price at $5.59. For that price, the burger is Plain Jane – even more so than I realized. The only option for the Wagon Wheel is cheese or no cheese. For lettuce, tomato and onion, you need to order the Ranchburger, which also is served with their special ranch sauce. (Both burgers are also on the menu at Schell’s).

I probably should have remembered that , but I didn’t so I ended up with a plain hamburger. I have to say, though, their hamburger patties are pretty good. It reminds me of a Burger King patty, a similar flavor only thicker and served on a sesame seed bun. It was pretty good for what it was, but I do wish I had the LTO and understood the difference when I ordered it.

The fries were simple but good. They’re not fresh-cut or anything fancy, just thicker cut French fries that needed salt and pepper. But there was plenty of them for the money.

The grilled pretzel sandwich is the most expensive sandwich on the menu at $8.19. It's served with fries and coleslaw. (Cheese is a 75-cent up-charge).

Julie also had a plateful of fries on the side with her grilled pretzel bun sandwich. The sandwiches are prepared with a choice of turkey, ham or roast beef, with or without cheese. She opted for the turkey with cheese (at almost $9 with the 75-cent upcharge for cheese, it was the highest priced sandwich on the menu).

Pretzel buns are always good. This was no exception. Otherwise, it was your typical turkey melt.  Enjoyable, but unremarkable.

One of the positive things about the Ranch House for Julie and I – other than the price – is that it’s really kid-friendly.  They have a decent kids menu with 10 entrees and two kid-themed desserts – all with western-themed names – so we have no problem bringing our son Jakob, now 18 months old.

Whenever we can, we placed his order before our own so it arrives early and we can begin feeding him before our meals are served. It allows us to give him our full attention and get him busy eating before he gets impatient in his high chair.

We took this picture of Jakob's hot dog and baked beans halfway through his meal.
Jakbo’s half-eaten dinner.

On our recent visit, we ordered him “The Lone Ranger,” a hot dog served atop a plate of baked beans. It’s two things that Jakob loves and two things that heat up fairly well which is important because he can’t finish an entire meal yet.

Before we arrived, we had already decided that we were going to finish our meal with ice cream. After debating back-and-forth for a few minutes, we decided on one of the Ranch House’s signature ice cream treats – the Bull Dog.

The Bull Dog - a four-scoop ice cream sundae - is one of Ranch House's signature desserts and is only $5.

Named for the Wilson School District’s mascot, the Bull Dog is a beast of a sundae: four scoops of ice cream (vanilla and chocolate) with crushed peanuts, strawberries, peaches, pineapple and whipped cream – and a cherry on top, of course.

When it arrived at the table, our jaws dropped at the size of it. But it was actually much more manageable for the two of us than we original thought, working out to a two-scoop sundae each.

(Full disclosure: we thought Jakob would share some but he filled up on his hot dog and beans and actually refused ice cream).

There was no question that this was the best thing we ate during our meal. I especially loved the mix of chocolate ice cream with the fresh strawberries. But the pineapple topping  and the peaches were also very good with both the vanilla and chocolate.

It was a very satisfying end to our meal.

Even with the addition of the sundae, our total bill was only $28. You can’t argue with that price for a full-service restaurant.

The Ranch House may not be “cool.” At more than 40 years old, it’s not new either. But for a young family like ours, it’s not a bad choice.

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

Circle S Ranch House
2738 Penn Ave
West Lawn, PA 19609

Classics Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Just Mom’s Ice Cream, Deli and Grille – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Just Mom’s Elverson location is now closed. A new restaurant, Gux Deli, Grill, and Ice Cream Parlor took over the location in October 2019. Just Mom’s continues to operate their original location in nearby Honey Brook, Chester County.

Summer feels like it has arrived early in Pennsylvania. With sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s, it feels like the right time for summer foods and cool treats.

One place that offers a little of both is Just Mom’s Ice Cream, Deli and Grille.

Just Mom’s is located along Route 23, between Morgantown and Elverson (but still inside the border with Chester County) and is basically next door to one of our favorite finds on Berks County Eats – Morgantown Coffee House.

The restaurant sits in a strip mall where it takes up three storefronts – one for each of its primary businesses: restaurant, deli and ice cream parlor.

Opened in 2017, the Morgantown/Elverson location is the second for Just Mom’s. The original still operates a few miles south in Honey Brook, Chester County.

Julie, Jakob and I stopped in for an early dinner on a recent Saturday afternoon and placed our orders at the counter before grabbing a table near the deli stand. There are more than enough seats with a combination of booths and tables throughout the main dining room.

The ice cream parlor, which occupies the right hand side of the building, has its own unique vibe with a checkerboard floor and stainless steel tables and high-tops.

Just Mom’s menu doesn’t stray far from a typical pizza and sandwich shop, though they have a few items that you won’t find too many other places. Of course that’s what we were drawn to.

The sandwich that caught my eye was the “parmageddon,” breaded chicken, breaded eggplant, fried mushrooms and meatballs with marinara sauce and mozzarella. The sandwich, like many of their hot sandwiches, was toasted to melt the cheese and create a harder roll.

I liked many of the individual items that made up the sandwich but they didn’t go together very well. Only the chicken and eggplant were thin enough that you could reasonable get them together in the same bite. There was only one or two meatball halves in the sandwich. And the breaded mushrooms were a little much. The marinara was pretty good and there was just enough cheese, but they were both lost in the shuffle with so many strong flavors.

If I had to do it over again, I would have ordered an eggplant parm sandwich because the eggplant was my favorite part of the sandwich. Or I would have tried one of their cheesesteaks.

Julie opted for their unique French dip cheesesteak that was advertised on their dry-erase board at the counter. The beef steak meat was mixed with fried onions, French onion crisps, Provolone and Swiss. Instead of marinara, it featured a sweet French dip.

I actually enjoyed my taste of it. It wasn’t far off the flavor of a French dip sandwich, though both Julie and I were expecting – and probably would have preferred – to have a cup of au jus for dipping instead of having it mixed in with the sandwich. Still, it was a pretty good change of pace from a typical Berks County cheesesteak.

There’s a limited kids menu where your choice of chicken tenders, hot dog, cheeseburger or grilled cheese comes served with fries and a fountain soda. We decided to order a hot dog for our 18-month-old only to find out that they were out of regular hot dogs and only had quarter-pound dogs left. We decided to go with it, knowing that he would never finish.

It was a good hot dog, split open and grilled (the best way to make one in my opinion). Because of its size, it was served on a hoagie roll. We cut up both for Jakob and he enjoyed it with a little ketchup. The fries were battered and very good.

Normally, Julie and I would have split an order of fries, but we were saving room for dessert.

The ice cream parlor has both hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream and serves a variety of sundaes, twisters and other sweet treats. I went with one of my personal favorites, the black and white milkshake.

For me, it doesn’t get much better than a little vanilla and a little chocolate in the same shake. The soft serve shake was just what I needed to cap off my meal.

Julie tried one of the more unique hand-dipped ice cream flavors available: French toast. There’s not really a better way to describe it than to say it tasted like a really good French toast but sweeter. It even had actual pieces of French toast inside the ice cream. It’s a flavor that doesn’t seem like it should work, but it did.

Of course we had to get a little dish of soft serve for Jakob as well. He loves ice cream (we try not to give it to him often) but he had filled up by eating a good portion of his oversized hot dog so he was done after a few spoonfuls.

Our dinners cost around $25 while our dessert was about $10. For $35 total, we certainly didn’t feel cheated.

Really, we had no complaints about the meal and the service we received was excellent and accommodating. We had two servers – one behind the counter and one who brought us our food. They were both very nice and helpful, especially with our little guy. I don’t know if either one of them were the “mom” in Just Mom’s, but they made us feel at home during our visit.

With so many options closer to our home in Wyomissing, we probably wouldn’t make a special trip to Just Mom’s, but the next time we find ourselves at the southern tip of the county looking for a quick bite – and maybe a little treat – we would stop in again.

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

Just Mom’s
109 Darby Sq
Morgantown, PA 19543

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

5 Favorite Desserts of 2018

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

Fried Ice Cream – Castaneda’s

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

Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart – Savory Grille

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

Lemon berry cake from Franklin House Tavern

Lemon Berry Cake – Franklin House

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

Fork & Ale Butterscotch Lava Cake

Butterscotch Lava Cake – Fork & Ale

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

Plum Creek Farm Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake – Plum Creek

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

 

Best of Berks County Eats Desserts
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

Road Trip: Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant

Berks County Eats crosses the county line for a visit to Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, about 35 miles north of Reading.

Leiby’s is a familiar name around Berks County, even if you didn’t know the family had a restaurant.

The namesake ice cream can found at many of the area’s favorite cool-down spots, including Scoupe DeVille in Birdsboro.

But in Schuylkill County, Leiby’s was also synonymous with homestyle cooking, at least until the restaurant closed in 2007.

After a decade away, the Leiby family decided it was time to reopen, and the hotspot at the corner of Routes 443 and 309 sprang back to life in May 2017.

Officially known as Leiby’s Ice Cream House and Restaurant, the building is familiar to all those who drive past. Just as familiar is the sign on the corner, complete with an analog clock – or is a thermometer – that never actually displays any information.

The restaurant has two entrances, one for ice cream only and one for the dining room. Our hostess was nice but she really wasn’t much help with our questions as we waited a long time to be served. In the large dining room, waitresses were serving customers and busing tables. There was a decent crowd in the dining room for a Sunday afternoon, but certainly not large enough to have been slowing everyone down this much.

Leiby’s menu is very much influenced by diners – simple meals like meatloaf, roast beef, turkey, and spaghetti and meatballs made up the majority of the dinner menu (there were also sandwiches, burgers and a few appetizers).

It’s a relatively reasonably priced menu with dinners priced around $10. But apparently they make up for it in upcharges. Replacing one of my sides with a trip to salad bar cost an extra $5.50.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice little salad bar. The emphasis is on “little” as it certainly was not worth the upcharge. It had your standard lettuce and all the toppings with six squirt bottles full of dressing. But there was nothing that made it stand out.

But not wanting to add another real side, I was left with little options.

For my meal, I had gone very traditional, ordering the roast turkey with mashed potatoes. It was also served with cranberry sauce and was topped with gravy.

The turkey was okay but I was hoping for better. There wasn’t a lot of flavor to the thin slices of meat, and the gravy did little more than to make it wet. The cranberry sauce came in the tiniest little cup on the side. Honestly, I almost forgot to eat it because I didn’t see it sitting on the table.

The best thing on my plate was the mashed potatoes. They were very good, as I would expect from a good diner. They had a nice yellow color, always a good sign, and were well-seasoned. In my teenage years, I would have doubled up on the potatoes instead of getting a salad. I almost wished I had done that on this trip.

Julie’s open-face roast beef sandwich was another fair dish. I didn’t care for the bread that it was served on, but I liked the beef a little better than my turkey. I think she and I were both looking for more of a pot roast-style dish.

And her side of corn was fresh from the can.

On the bright side, Leiby’s serves Leiby’s ice cream so we had that to look forward throughout the meal. And the ice cream did not disappoint.

I had a waffle sundae with vanilla fudge ice cream, topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. The warm Belgian waffle and hot fudge melted the ice cream just enough to make it soft. The waffle itself was delicious and the ice cream was sweet, creamy and perfect.

And it cost less than my salad.

Julie had a more traditional dusty road sundae (her new favorite) with Tandy Kake ice cream (also her new favorite).

Dessert redeemed the meal, for the most part. But it couldn’t overcome the poor service we received.

Julie, Jakob and I were joined by her family. And while Julie and her mom both ordered lettuce with hot bacon dressing as sides, only Julie’s was delivered as an appetizer. And flagging down our waitress wasn’t easy as we went 10 minutes at a time without seeing her.

Worse yet, at the end of the meal when we asked for our bills to be split, I was given our half (about $38) but unknowingly my in-laws were given, and charged for, both of our meals. (Payments are made at a cash register near the exit). So we had to call a manager to do a refund. Then they had to enter each of the meals individually, but they didn’t even get that right. Eventually we each paid our fair share.

I expect this kind of service from a place that’s been open six weeks, not one that has been open for 16 months.

Needless to say, we won’t be making any Sunday drives to Leiby’s again any time soon.

BCE Rating:

Food: Fair
Service: Poor
Ambiance: Good
Value: Reasonable

Leiby’s Ice Cream House & Restaurant
848 W. Penn Pk
Tamaqua, PA 18252

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Scoupe DeVille

Driving along Route 724 near Birdsboro it’s hard to miss Scoupe Deville. The building, with its distinct half-car sticking out the front, was built in the 1950s as a service station.

First opening as an ice cream parlor in 2001, Scoupe DeVille’s current owners took over the space in 2017.

The 1950s has been brought back in all its kitschy glory inside Scoupe DeVille. Reproduction signs, old photographs, an old jukebox and a retro gas pump are among the hundreds of decorations found throughout the building.

Early rock ‘n’ roll played through speakers inside and outside the building. A small TV in one corner showed clips of the Three Stooges and I Love Lucy on rotation.

In addition to ice cream, Scoupe DeVille does offer a very limited food menu that includes burgers, hot dogs, fries and barbecue sandwiches.

I ordered a Coney burger with onions and no cheese. I was a little puzzled when the young lady behind the counter told me that the Coney burger came smothered in gravy, but I rolled with it. Just like I rolled with it when the burger came out with a slice of white American cheese on top.

It was an okay burger. There’s no grill (at least that I saw) so I’m sure it was a pre-done patty that was just reheated.

Julie’s hot dog was a little better, though it was absolutely loaded with cheese and chili – probably a little overstuffed. It was good enough, if a little messy.

One thing we really enjoyed was the use of potato rolls for the hamburger and the hot dog. It’s a small touch, but it does make a difference in flavor.

Another thing we enjoyed were the fries. The crinkle-cut fries were no different than you would find at similar places, but that didn’t make them any less enjoyable.

If I was going to grab dinner there again, I would either opt for a bowl of chili or a barbecue sandwich.

But we weren’t really there for the food. We were there for the ice cream.

The ice cream menu is vast, with hard and soft ice cream, four types of banana splits, milkshakes, sundaes, shimmies (kind of like a Blizzard but not copyrighted), and the Fat Elvis Ice Cream Challenge: a 10-scoop sundae (five scoops of banana ice cream, five scoops of peanut butter ice cream), seven toppings, whipped cream, a brownie, a banana and cherries. Eat it in 30 minutes, and you win.

I don’t know how long the challenge has been in place, but there was only one photo on the wall of fame.

Julie and I were only looking for one scoop each. Scoupe DeVille primarily serves Nelson’s Ice Cream (we most recently saw Nelson’s ice cream at Oley Turnpike Dairy), but they also offer select flavors from Schuylkill County favorite Leiby’s Dairy.

And it just happened that the flavors that caught our eyes were both from Leiby’s.

For me, it was cashew and raspberry. Not to be confused with black raspberry, the cashew and raspberry was a vanilla ice cream with raspberry swirl. No, this was better than any black raspberry. It was sweet and rich. If I had one criticism it would be that there weren’t enough cashews and I would have liked the nuts to have been salted. That would have put it over the top in my book.

Julie went with red velvet cheesecake, a new flavor (according to Scoupe DeVille’s Facebook page). The decadent ice cream featured chunks of red velvet with graham cracker crust. It was a unique flavor, and quickly became one of Julie’s favorites. She also splurged on a chocolate-covered waffle cone dipped in sprinkles. It’s hard not to love that.

Between dinner and ice cream, our total was just over $20. And while dinner certainly didn’t wow us, the ice cream had us leaving extremely satisfied.

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

Scoupe DeVille
3365 Main St
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Note: Scoupe DeVille is only open seasonally

Dessert Drive-Ins Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Way-Har Farms

Earlier this month, Visit PA (the official tourism agency for Pennsylvania) announced the PA Ice Cream Trail – a list of 12 “farm-to-scoop” creameries in the state. Each location offers passports to the Ice Cream Trail that can be stamped at the participating locations. Visit six creameries and win a t-shirt. Visit all 12 to earn a #PursueYourScoops ice cream scoop.

Two Berks County locations made the list: Twilight Acres Creamery & Bakery in Stouchsburg and Way-Har Farms in Bernville.

Way-Har is the older, more recognized name. Located along Route 183 between Bernville and Strausstown in the northwest reaches of the county, Way-Har has long been known for its milk, dairy and desserts – both baked and frozen.

The store also offers a variety of bulk foods and candies, jams and jellies, and country primitives. There is also a small deli section featuring a limited menu of hoagies and hot meals for dine-in or take-out.

We – Julie, Jakob and I – arrived for an early dinner on a rainy Sunday evening. The ice cream counter was already bustling, but our ice cream would have to wait until we had some real food in us. Among the hot food items are pork BBQ – my choice – and hamburger BBQ – Julie’s choice. I also ordered a cup of sausage stew, one of two soups of the day.

The woman who waited on us was very kind and told us to grab a table and she would bring our food out. There are only eight or so tables, each seating between two and eight people.

When she brought out the food a short time later, our server was nervous that she had made our sandwiches too hot and my stew not hot enough. We had seen her bring the crock-pot out of the back with the stew so it was clear that the microwave got a lot of use for us.

Given the setup, I wasn’t expecting much so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pork BBQ was actually pretty good. The hamburger BBQ was as well. Both were like something you would expect to find a church potluck – surprisingly satisfying but not anything we would go out of our way to order again.

The sausage stew, however, was very good, and it was all because of the sausage. Way-Har sells Peter Bros. Meats (locally made in Lenhartsville, Berks County) and I assume the smokey, flavorful sausage was one of theirs.

If it’s on the menu again, I would definitely get a quart to take home (but my own microwave would suffice for reheating).

Of course the soup and sandwich was just a precursor. We were there for the ice cream. I had seen a sign on the door advertising peach as the flavor of the week. That had me sold instantly.

Peach ice cream was my absolute favorite growing up so there was a little nostalgia at play. But I thought it was absolutely delicious. There were no large chunks of fruit, but with more, smaller pieces it added flavor throughout.

Julie found an ice cream flavor that she had never tried before – tandy cake. It was vanilla peanut butter ice cream with the addition of pieces of tandy cake (think Tastykake’s Kandy Kake) and chocolate chips.

In this case, there were larger chunks of cake mixed in, and Julie absolutely loved it. Tandy cakes are one of her favorite desserts, and mixing it into an already creamy vanilla peanut butter ice cream made her day.

As Julie paid our roughly $25 tab, we got our first stamp on our passport. Our goal is to find a way to visit all 12 between now and when the promotion ends on October 31.

Way-Har Farms was certainly a great place to start. One down. Eleven to go.

BCE Rating

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

Way-Har Farms

7701 Bernville Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

PA Ice Cream Trail

Twilight Acres Creamery & Bakery
Stouchsburg, Berks County

Way-Har Farms
Bernville, Berks County

Coventry Parlor at Laurel Locks
Pottstown, Chester County

Chester Springs Creamery at Milky Way Farm
Chester Springs, Chester County

Fox Meadows Creamery
Ephrata, Lancaster County

Lapp Valley Farms
New Holland, Lancaster County

The Milkhouse at Oregon Dairy
Lititz, Lancaster County

Patches Family Creamery
Lebanon, Lebanon County

Crystal Spring Farm
Schnecksville, Lehigh County

Freddy Hill Farms
Lansdale, Montgomery County

Merrymead Farm
Lansdale, Montgomery County

Perrydell Farm and DairyYork, York County

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews