Taste of Hamburg-er Festival 2019

The crowd packed the streets of Hamburger on August 31 for the annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival.

The borough of Hamburg played host to the 16th Annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival on Saturday, August 31. Record crowds estimated in excess of 40,000 packed the streets (according to the Reading Eagle) to taste some of the best, most creative hamburgers around.

As has been our custom for the last five years, we spent our Labor Day Saturday in search of a great burger.

Going into the event, we combed the list of vendors looking for new burgers to try. We kept coming back to places we have visited in the past – Hamburg’s own 1787 Brewing Company (which we reviewed earlier this year), Brocmar Smokehouse (another favorite of ours), Spuds (one of our early reviews) and Dawn’s Deli.

The Taste of Italy burger from Dawns Deli was topped with their homemade bruschetta and mozzarella cheese, served on garlic bread.

We discovered Dawn’s during a visit to the festival in 2016. Julie was the one who ordered the Taste of Italy Burger, that year’s Grand Champion for restaurants. It was so good we made the trip to Lenhartsville just a few weeks later for second helping of Dawn’s burgers. Here’s what I wrote about it the Taste of Italy Burger at the time:

The Taste of Italy burger featured mozzarella, pesto mayo and homemade bruschetta on a garlic bread bun.

Why was it so great? The homemade bruschetta, for starters. It was as good as any Italian restaurant, with just the right amount balsamic. I could have eaten just the bruschetta with the bun and been happy. But add the pesto and mozzarella, and it turned into a hamburger masterpiece.

It’s one of the best burgers that I have had anywhere.

Read Full Review Here

This year, we decided it was time to go back and try two more of Dawn’s festival creations.

The fastnacht burger from Dawns Deli - a burger served on a grilled fastnacht topped with cheese, Turkey Syrup and cheese.

The one that caught my eye was the Karen Haak Fastnacht Burger. The program described it as an “all-beef patty on a grilled fastnacht topped with cheese, Turkey Syrup and powdered sugar.” Yes, please.

It was a beautiful sight to behold – the powdered sugar giving it a little panache. Everything about it was good, but I was left wanting a little more meat. Fastnachts are heavier than the glazed doughnuts that have become popular replacements for hamburger buns (see the line annually for the Deitsch Eck’s Luther burgers at the festival) so it was a little overpowering. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great fastnacht, but I would have loved a bigger burger patty. It was good, but didn’t live up to the Taste of Italy.

The Dutchie Burger from Dawns Deli - topped with lettuce, hot bacon dressing, hard-boiled egg, red onion and smoked Gouda cheese.

The Dutchie burger, on the other hand, exceeded our expectations. Julie ordered this one because it featured lettuce and hot bacon dressing (it also included a hard-boiled egg, chopped red onion and smoked gouda on a traditional sesame seed bun).

I am not nearly the fan of lettuce and bacon dressing that Julie is, but this burger was a masterpiece. The bacon dressing added a little vinegar base that soaked into the patty and made it extra moist. The smoked gouda added even more depth to the dish.

I can’t say with conviction that it was better than the Taste of Italy burger, but it is definitely on its level and probably the best we’ve had at the festival since.

Drinking milkshakes at the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival 2019
Never ask a toddler to smile for the camera when he has hamburger in his mouth.

After weighing our options, Julie and I both decided that instead of another burger, we indulge in the perfect burger go-with, a milkshake. And not just any milkshake – the famous PA Farm Show milkshakes from the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association.

The soft ice cream-based shakes are always very good, but what I love is that you can order them “black-and-white” style with half vanilla and half chocolate. It’s like three milkshakes in one – the best part is halfway through when the vanilla and chocolate blend beautifully together.

Also while the burger lines were getting longer, the Dairymen have serving shakes down to a science so there was zero wait time.

Next year, we will spread the love, but this year was about rekindling our love of Dawn’s Deli.

Festival Results
*From Facebook.com/TasteofHamburger

Restaurant Best Burger
Overall Best Burger: Kooper’s Chowhound
Appearance: Spuds
Taste: Kooper’s Chowhound
Originality: Spuds

Organization Best Burger
Overall Best Burger: Salem Church
Appearance: Boy Scout Group #184
Taste: Leesport Odd Fellows
Originality: Salem Church

Mobile Food Trailer Best Burger
Overall Best Burger: Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzels
Appearance: Blazing Swine BBQ
Taste: Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzels
Originality: WOW Wagon

Newbie Best Burger
Lucky Penny Burger Co.

People’s Choice Best Burger
First Place: Deitsch Eck
Second Place: Dawn’s Deli
Third Place: Lucky Penny Burger Co.
Fourth Place: Christ Evangelical Free Church

Food Festivals & Events

Just Mom’s Ice Cream, Deli and Grille

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
Carrot cake for dessert.

4 Favorite Desserts of 2017

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. This time, we’re talking sweets. Here are our four favorite desserts we tried in 2017.

Editor’s Note: There are only four desserts on this list because we only splurged on dessert four times in 2017. For more information on why, check out my Food Blogger vs. Fat series.

Willoughby’s on Park – Carrot Cake

Neither of us had any room for dessert after finishing our steaks at Willoughby’s. But it was our anniversary, and we couldn’t help ourselves. The giant slice of cake was drizzled with caramel and garnished with whipped cream and strawberries. I’m a real sucker for carrot cake, and this was a good one. Read Full Review

Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery – Baklava

Julie’s birthday dinner ended with one of her favorite desserts: baklava. The layered pastry was served warm and the filling oozed out with the first forkful. The dark chocolate shavings added a bittersweet flavor to counteract the sweetness of the honey, and everything just came together beautifully. Read Full Review

Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy – Vanilla Milkshake

No road trip to this Schuylkill County institution is complete without Heisler’s famous ice cream, and I enjoyed mine in the form of a milkshake. There’s something about drinking a shake after enjoying a burger and fries that just feels right, and Heisler’s makes a mean milkshake. Read Full Review

Reading Hospital – Chocolate Trilogy Cake

Julie and I celebrated the birth of our first son on November 17, and we ended our hospital stay with a surf and turf dinner for two. And that dinner ended with a slice of chocolate trilogy cake – three layers of chocolate mousse that were absolutely decadent. The cake isn’t worth a two-night stay in the hospital, but baby Jakob was. And his arrival made the entire meal more memorable. Read Full Review

Best of Berks County Eats Desserts

Road Trip: Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy

Berks County is home to many retro drive-in restaurants.

Places like Schell’s, Cee-Gees, the Kwik Stoppe and Intel’s Pennside Drive-In are local favorites that continue to attract diners for classics like hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and, of course, ice cream.

Retro restaurants like these can be found everywhere from the biggest cities to rural backroads.

The latter is where you will find Schuylkill County’s favorite drive-in: Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy.

Heisler’s is like a mix of Schell’s, Boehringer’s and the Works. It’s a retro quick-service restaurant with homemade ice cream. It’s also a mini-golf mecca with two 18-hole courses. Add to that the driving range, arcade and gift shop, and Heisler’s has to be considered an entertainment destination.

Though only a 45-minute drive from Reading, Heisler’s feels like another world. The complex grew up around the original Heisler’s dairy farm, which explains why it feels like the middle of nowhere, three miles from the nearest numbered highway (Route 895) along a windy, two-lane road.

Yet when we pulled up, the parking lot was packed with customers from all over, including several from Berks County (the Fleetwood Tigers and SV Panthers shirts gave away their hometowns).

Despite the crowded parking lot, there wasn’t much of a line to order – most of the people seemed to already be on the golf course or eating – so we were helped quickly.

Our order was fairly simple: a cheeseburger for Julie, a hamburger for me, an order of fries to share and two bottles of water. And it was out in a hurry.

The burgers were fresh off the grill. I prefer the basics: LTO. I have no complaints about the burger. It’s fast food not gourmet. Don’t expect anything more and you won’t be disappointed.

The crinkle cut fries were a bit of a letdown though. I have to assume they had been sitting for a moment before being served because they warm, not hot, and a little hard as opposed to crispy.

I’ve had their fries when piping hot and they are very good. This was an off-day for them.

Between dinner and dessert, we took time to play 18. When I was a child, my parents had brought us to Heisler’s once or twice. The old miniature golf course (and tepee) is gone, replaced in 2003 by two more modern courses.

The Black Diamond Fairways features a coal mine theme, complete with a rock waterfall. It’s also the busier of the two (especially with kids). We decided for the faster, calmer round at Lewistown Fairways.

It’s a beautiful course that’s fun and challenging enough that Julie couldn’t luck into a win against my 3-under performance.

After working up our appetites again, we were at the dessert window (desserts are ordered at the front of the building, hot food at the side).

I went with a very…vanilla option, choosing a vanilla milkshake over more complicated desserts. I can’t help it; I love milkshakes. And Heisler’s milkshakes are not too runny, not too thick and sized just right. They work just as well for dessert as they do with your meal.

When it comes to desserts, Julie is more of a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl. She went with the peanut butter sundae with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter topping, whipped cream and a cherry on top.

It must have been good because she devoured it pretty fast. We had absolutely nothing to complain about at dinner.

For everything – dinner, miniature golf and dessert – we spent around $35. Not bad for an evening of food and entertainment.

A few other notes for those who have never been to Heisler’s or haven’t been there in a while:

  • Heisler’s is CASH ONLY. There’s an ATM on site if you forget, but who wants to pay those fees?
  • The Waffle Shop is still there, but it’s no longer serving waffles and ice cream. It has been converted into a private party area.
  • Most of the seating is located under a large pavilion. It can fill up at the dinner rush so be prepared to not get a table, just in case.

Heisler’s is a fun time with good food. Yes, there are plenty of places in Berks County to get similar food and a similar experience, but sometimes it’s nice to just go for a drive and explore something different.

And for us, Heisler’s is worth a drive, if only once a year.

Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy
743 Catawissa Rd
Tamaqua, PA 18252

Heisler Cloverleaf Dairy, Inc. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Drive-Ins Reviews