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
Overhead view of paper plate with pulled pork and yellow rice from Latin Taste

Latin Taste

Latin Taste occupies a corner space in the Berkshire Mall food court

In the last few years, all the news around the Berkshire Mall has been the negative – the closings of Sears and Bon-Ton at the top of the list.

But even with their loss, the Mall remains the largest shopping center in Berks County. And with the holidays approaching, the crowds have returned once again.

A look behind the counter at Latin Taste

We were among the crowds that headed to the mall on a Sunday afternoon in early December. We were there to shop, but we were also there to get a taste – at Latin Taste.

Latin Taste is one of seven options – the others are Chick Fil-A, China Max, Lola’s Ice, Ray’s #1 Pizza, Subway and Taco Casa – in the Berkshire Mall’s food court. It’s also the newest, having opened a little more than a year ago in November 2018 (Lola’s Ice having opened the month prior).

Latin Taste features warming tables for most of its foods

The stand features warming tables with most of the dishes ready-made for eating in or taking home. And before you scoff at the idea of someone going to the mall for take-out, consider that the Grub Hub delivery driver picked up a large order while we were there.

We looked at everything on display, but in the end both Julie and I went with our favorites: pollo al horno (baked chicken) for her, and pernil (Spanish pulled pork) for me.

Overhead view of paper plate with pulled pork and yellow rice from Latin Taste

This was a very good version of my favorite Latin American dish. The flavors from the seasoning and marinade were very strong and the fatty parts were melt-in-you-mouth.

A close-up picture of pulled pork and yellow rice from Latin Taste

One thing I have always found with pernil is that it is richer than an American barbecue pulled pork. This was no exception. As much as I enjoyed it, I had to leave a little on my plate because it was just too much for me.

Same with the rice. There was no skimping on the portions as half the plate was covered in the yellow rice. I liked it, just as I like almost all Spanish rice. It was just a lot.

A close-up of baked chicken with macaroni salad and yellow rice in the background, from Latin Taste

Julie’s baked chicken, like my pernil, was very well seasoned, with the flavors soaking through the skin into the meat. I’m not normally a fan of baked chicken, but I found this to be flavorful and anything but dry – always my biggest concern.

In addition to rice, Julie had a side of macaroni salad, which actually was a macaroni and tuna salad. It was creamy and very good. The tuna was just a little unexpected. (Even Jakob, our two-year-old, didn’t mind the tuna as he ate almost all of the salad that Julie shared with him).

A bowl of fried plantains from Latin Taste

Unable to resist, we had also ordered a side of sweet plantains. There were none ready on the warming table so this was one item that was made fresh for us. They were also very good, but you don’t have to do a whole lot to plantains (other than cook them) to make a delicious side.

Overall, we were more than satisfied with everything that we ordered. The price was right, too. Our bill was $25, but we had a coupon for $7 off a $25 order so we got everything for $18. (Next time you get the Valpak coupons in the mail, at least pull out the one for Latin Taste. It’s a great deal).

While the Berkshire Mall may not draw the crowds it did when it opened, and there are two very noticeable empty spaces, the mall still has a lot to offer. Especially if what you’re looking for is good Latin food.

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

Latin Taste
Berkshire Mall
1665 State Hill Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner
el jefe taco with steak, onion and chorizo from Comalli Taqueria

Comalli Taqueria

Looking at the blue front door of Comalli Taqueria

The transition from food truck to brick-and-mortar restaurant is something we’ve seen before in Berks County. Two notables come to mind: Gourmand and Sweet Ride. Gourmand now operates two locations in addition to the food truck, while Sweet Ride has it’s ice cream parlor in West Reading (where they are now making their own ice cream) to go along with a truck and the original ice cream cart.

With its recent opening in West Reading, you can now add Comalli Taqueria to that list.

The spacious interior of Comalli Taqueria

It was last fall that Comalli Taqueria debuted its food truck, crisscrossing the county and the region serving artisan tacos. We first gave them a try early this summer at the inaugural Berks County Taco Fest.

We enjoyed everything that we tried so when it was announced that Comalli would be opening a small restaurant in West Reading, it got us excited.

A skull and other sculptures sit on the counter at Comalli Taqueria

The restaurant celebrated a grand opening on November 2, and one week later, we were stopping by to get take-out for the first time.

Comalli offers online ordering so I took advantage of that, placing an order for pick-up “ASAP.” Originally, I was given an estimate of 35 minutes. I got a text message that it was ready less than 20 minutes later (thankfully, I was actually pulling into a parking space in front of the building at the time, taking a chance that it would be ready a little early).

A Coke cooler in an otherwise empty part of the dining area of Comalli Taqueria

While we weren’t dining inside, there was a couple sitting at one of the four tables in the dining room. It’s a nice space, if not a little understated. A few decorations hang on the walls and from the ceilings, but along with blue accent walls, they provide the only real bursts of color in an otherwise monotone space. I think it’s more pronounced because there was actually a large empty space in the room that could hold a few more tables and chairs.

My food was being packed up when I arrived, and a minute or so later I was back out the door and headed home with six tacos – one of each variety offered – and a quesadilla for our toddler. (Comalli also offers a limited selection of sides, including chips with guacamole, rice and beans).

Julie and I each chose three tacos.  For me, it was the al pastor, el Nopal, and el Brulee.

el nopal taco with grilled cactus, avocado and pico de gallo from Comalli Taqueria

The el Nopal was the first one that I had tried at the Taco Fest. It features grilled cactus with pico de gallo and avocado. The cactus has a little bit of a kick to it, which I remembered from before. I like the flavor, but I have to admit, I still haven’t quite gotten used to the texture of the plant. It’s a little gummy, but once you get past that, it’s very good.

Al Pastor Taco topped with pork pineapple, cilantro and onion from Comalli Taqueria

Julie had the al pastor at the festival so I gave it a try this time. The corn tortillas (all of the tacos were served on grilled corn tortillas) were filled with marinated pork and pineapple with cilantro and onion. I really enjoyed the tender meat, and I am always a fan of pairing pork and pineapple. The simple onion and cilantro were understated additions to the sweet and savory tacos.

el brulee taco topped with chicken, rice, queso fresco, mole poblano sauce and bananas from Comalli Taqueria

I do love the combination of sweet and savory, and that’s why I was really excited to try the el brulee. The el brulee is topped with pulled chicken, rice, mole poblano, double cream queso fresco and – here’s the kicker – brulle bananas.

After eating it, I may have a new favorite taco. All of the ingredients were loaded with flavor. The mole poblano (my favorite sauce) had a nice sweet heat which contrasted beautifully with the cool, creamy queso fresco. The pulled chicken and rice both were well-seasoned. And then there were those bananas. They added so much flavor and there were enough that I found some in every bite. It was a great taco.

As I was savoring my three tacos, Julie was tasting the other half of Comalli’s menu.

el jefe taco with steak, onion and chorizo from Comalli Taqueria

The el jefe featured steak with onion and cilantro. It’s the simplest taco on the menu, but when you’re dealing with quality steak meat, you don’t want to hide that flavor. And this was quality, the base of a very good taco.

Chicken tinga taco (topped with chicken, cilantro and onion) from Comalli Taqueria

Her chicken tinga taco was another that we had tried at the food truck. The tinga features chicken that has been slow-cooked in a chipotle, onion and tomato sauce topped with onion and cilantro. The marinade for the chicken is, as I described it before, perfect.

For both of these, Julie added a little bit of the mild avocado salsa (not to be confused with guacamole – the salsa was much more sauce-like) that Comalli offers. It was a little spicier than she expected, but very good and a nice change of pace from the standard tomato salsa.

el gallo taco topped with chorizo, avocado, queso fresco and pico de gallo from Comalli Taqueria

But Julie’s favorite was the el gallo. It had a lot of flavors with chorizo sausage in whipped eggs with pico de gallo, queso fresco and avocado. The creamy cheese and the avocado paired well with the mildly spicy chorizo. It was delicious.

A plain quesadill and a taco at Comalli Taqueria

For Jakob, we had ordered a plain quesadilla. The cheese came packed in between two of Comalli’s signature corn tortillas. Julie and I really enjoyed them. Jakob, however, didn’t care for them, but he opened up the quesadilla and ate all of the cheese. That’s a two-year-old for you.

At least Julie and I really enjoyed our meal. And not only was it convenient, but it was reasonably priced, too. For six tacos and a quesadilla, it cost us $25. Most of the tacos (and the quesadilla) were $3 apiece. The more “premium” tacos like the el gallo and el brulee were $4. That’s not a bad price to pay for quality.

With the food truck, we probably would have visited again if the line wasn’t too long. With the restaurant, we will definitely be back again soon.

Comalli Taqueria is just that good.

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

Comalli Taqueria
701 Court St
West Reading, PA 19611

Mexican Reviews
Savory Grille Chicken Risotto

Savory Grille

Savory Grille Entrance

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

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

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

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

Savory Grille Interior

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

Savory Grille Drinks

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

Savory Grille Chicken Risotto

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

Savory Grille Breads

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

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

Savory Grille Steak Grilled Flatbread

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

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

Savory Grille Salad

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

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

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

“I guess it has to be,” I replied.

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

Savory Grille Five Spice Duck Breast

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

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

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

Savory Grille Pork Tenderloin

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

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

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

Savory Grille Chocolate Tart

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savory Grille
2934 Seisholtzville Rd
Macungie, PA 18062

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

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Indian Fort Inn Jagerschnitzel

Indian Fort Inn

Indian Fort Inn, Hamburg, PA

Editor’s Note: The Indian Fort Inn underwent a renovation and management change during the summer of 2019. The restaurant and bar now has a new menu and a new country western theme.

Most weeks on Berks County Eats, you’ll read about the culinary adventures of my wife (Julie) and I. But from time-to-time, other family members and friends will make cameo appearances, depending on the occasion and location.

Recently, I got together with my brother Matt, his wife Lauren and my friend Dennis for a night out in the Hamburg area.

We made the short drive west of town along Old Route 22 to the Indian Fort Inn.

Dennis and I had never visited before, but my brother and Lauren had been there often as my brother shot pool in the bar room regularly.

Indian Fort Inn

In just a few years, he said, the restaurant had been greatly improved. The food had always been good, but the dining room was always empty while everyone was in the bar.

Outside, it looks like a large stone house with a giant parking lot. There’s a patio out front that looked jam-packed during our visit. Inside, the wood walls, wooden tables and chairs, and dim lighting give the feel of an upgraded hunting cabin.

The meal did not start out well. First, they were out of the meal I really wanted to try: the German lasagna (which was made up of kielbasa, sauerkraut and other German favorites in a mushroom cream sauce).

Then, the salad was a swing-and-a-miss. I was the only person at the table to order an entree and the only person to get a starter salad.

Indian Fort Inn Salad...except they forgot the dressing.

It arrived quick enough, but without the salad dressing. Our waiter disappeared into the back before I realized the mistake so I had wait patiently for him to return to the dining room to wait on our neighboring table to flag him down, then wait for him to reemerge with my cup of ranch dressing.  He may or may not have brought me blue cheese instead.

Otherwise, the salad was unremarkable, standard greens with cherry tomatoes and croutons.

I was already in a slightly sour mood because I couldn’t try the German lasagna; this wasn’t helping things. For my entree, I settled on the Jagerschntizel.

Lucky for me, it redeemed the meal.

Indian Fort Inn Jagerschnitzel

The jagerschnitzel was a weekend special and included two deep fried pork cutlets smothered in mushroom gravy.

It was excellent. The cutlets were fried to a perfect golden brown that peeked out ever so slightly from beneath the mushroom cream sauce. The breading was fantastic and amplified the flavor of the pork. The cream sauce was very good as well, making the dish go down easily.

On the side were “Saratoga chips” and mixed vegetables. Real Saratoga chips are basically potato chips served warm (think Dutch fries, for anyone who visits the Kutztown Fairgrounds), but these were thick cut potato cubes, deep-fried and salted. I have zero complaints about them,  but they weren’t anything noteworthy.

Indian Fort Inn Bacon Bleu Cheeseburger

To my right, Dennis was enjoying his bacon and bleu cheese burger. It was topped with a roasted red pepper aioli that he thought played well with the bleu cheese crumble. Overall, he found it to be a very good burger.

Indian Fort Inn Bacon Cheddar Chicken Sandwich

To my left, my brother was digging into to a chicken sandwich with melted cheddar and bacon. Instead of a sliced cheddar, it was a blend of shredded cheddar. It was a good sandwich, but I know my brother’s favorite thing on his plate was the coleslaw (and I would have to agree, it was a well-made slaw, though I would have a hard time picking out exactly what made it better than most).

While my Saratoga chips were okay, the French fries were exceptional. Both Dennis and Matt ordered a side of fries with their sandwiches. The side of fries was a full basket, one that Julie and I would have needed to split had we been out for a dinner-for-two.

Indian Fort Inn French Fries

The fries were the fresh-cut style with skins still on the edges, and they were cooked perfectly. I got to try one or two of my brother’s fries. Otherwise, he took down the whole basket himself (Dennis left just a few in the bottom of his).

Indian Fort Inn Loaded Fries

Lauren ordered a plate of loaded fries and made it her meal. It was your typical baked potato toppings – bacon, sour cream, chives. Her plate was even larger so she couldn’t finish all of hers, but she did enjoy them.

Our server was kind enough to split the checks for us. I spent about $16 for my meal and glass of iced tea. Most of the dinners were around the same price with some of the steak offerings reaching the low-to-mid-$20 range.

It was a good meal made better by good friends and conversation. And The Fort just seemed like the right place for that.

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

Indian Fort Inn
1343 Hex Highway
Hamburg, PA 19526

Indian Fort Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Stony Run Inn

stony-run-inn

For an area that has such a long, proud German heritage, there aren’t many places to enjoy traditional German food.

Sure, you can find Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie and shoofly pie, but I’m talking about German food: schnitzel, wurst, sauerkraut, etc. With the exception of private clubs like the Reading Liederkranz and the Evergreen Club, there just aren’t places to find it around the city.

It’s here in Berks County, you just have to be willing to drive for it. And that’s just what we decided to do.

We drove north, north of Kutztown along Route 737. We drove past the I-78 construction and the abandoned Krumsville Diner. We drove past the Gunmakers’ Fair at Dixon’s Muzzleloading Shop, continuing north until we saw the German Bundesdienstflagge hanging from the front porch of the Stony Run Inn.

stony-run-inn-interior

The Stony Run Inn began as the Wessnersville Hotel in 1856, according to the history on the restaurant’s website. But it is only in past decade that it has been known for Old World specialties. After some down years, new owners stepped up in September to rejuvenate the restaurant.

Since then, the response has been overwhelmingly positive across all review sites. I couldn’t wait to see what the fuss is all about.

The dining room isn’t very large so we called ahead to make reservations, just in case. We had to wait in the bar area, only briefly, while they finished clearing and resetting our table. There was one other couple waiting with us — without reservations — who had to wait just a few minutes longer.

Once seated, we had another short wait until the waiter took our order, but he was quick and attentive thereafter, dropping off our bread and dipping oil just a few moments later.

stony-run-inn-bread-oil

I don’t normally comment on the dipping oil, but this was worth mentioning. The herbs and spices were unique. Salt, oregano, garlic and paprika combined for a salty dip with the mildest afterburn that we both really enjoyed.

The menu, like the dining area, is small. It’s a single sheet of paper, two-sided, with appetizers, salads and sides on the front, burgers, sandwiches and entrees on the back.

While some of the burgers did sound good (especially the Hunters: beef tenderloin tips in Burgundy sauce with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and bacon), I had my heart set on an Old World German-Austrian dish.

stony-run-inn-austrian-bauernschmaus

The Austrian Bauernschmaus was a mini smorgasbord. Four kinds of meats — bratwurst, smoked sausage, roast pork and smoked pork — served with mashed potatoes and a healthy portion of sauerkraut.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything on the plate, but my favorite was the smoked pork. The meat was tenderized and flattened like unbreaded schnitzel. Though it took only six bites to down, each one was heavenly.

The smoked sausage was cut like a bloomin’ onion, with four petals all connected at the base. It had a nice, mild heat, the spiciest of any of the four meats on the plate. The bratwurst was very good, and even the roast pork, which was basically ham, was enjoyable, especially with the light au jus-like sauce.

I really liked the sauerkraut. It was a little more sour than I usually prefer, but was great mixed in with the mashed potatoes.

All in all, I couldn’t complain about anything on my plate.

stony-run-inn-chicken-paprikash

Julie, meanwhile, was in love with her dish.

Her chicken paprikash included a chicken breast in a paprika roux, served with red cabbage and spätzle. The sauce was exceptional, with a truly unique flavor from anything else we have found.

The spätzle was a little al dente and very buttery. And the red cabbage was done just right, with maybe just a hint of vinegar.

After she finished, she called it one of the best meals that she has had in a long time.

stony-run-inn-apple-strudel

Of course, we couldn’t skip dessert once the waiter told us there was apple strudel.

It was definitely worth it. The filling was spot-on with the right amount of brown sugar to sweeten the apples further. Strudel dough is always thin, but this was flaky like filo, making it feel much lighter.

We were more than full by the time we finished the last bite. But we both agreed that it was $53 well-spent for one of the better meals in recent memory.

Stony Run is about a 40-minute drive for us from Wyomissing. That’s not exactly right around the corner.

But if you have a craving for good German food, it’s definitely worth the drive.

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

Stony Run Inn
2409 PA-737
Kempton, PA 19529

Stony Run Inn & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

El Morro Cafe

el-morro-cafe-exterior

In February, Julie and I had our first chance to visit Reading’s Old San Juan Cafe for a taste of Puerto Rico.

We loved the simple little counter-service restaurant in the old Outlet District.

So when, just a few weeks later, it was announced that Old San Juan would be expanding into West Reading, we got more than a little excited.

On our walks through town, we kept tabs on the progress at the corner of Sixth and Reading Avenues until the grand opening celebration in mid-May.

Two months later, we made our first visit to the brand new El Morro Cafe.

el-morro-cafe-interior

The setup is much the same with entrees and sides sitting in warming dishes at the order counter. Steph, El Morro’s manager, was more than happy to help us overcome our ignorance of the options.

We felt bad as a small line formed behind us, but we made our decisions and grabbed one of the handful of tables in the “dining room” off to the left side of the restaurant.

Our meals were delivered to our seats, with the plates looking very much the same as they did at the city location. Mine featured a mountain of rice — we both ordered yellow instead of white this time — and a pile of fried pork (chicharon).

el-morro-cafe-fried-pork

The tender meat was covered in a thick fried outer skin with excellent flavor and texture. Black beans were sprinkled in with the yellow rice, and while I enjoyed it, it was just too much for me to handle both the rice and the meat (and I wasn’t going to let any of the meat go to waste).

If I have one complaint, it’s that the plastic cutlery wasn’t strong enough to cut through the hard fried shell around the meat.

Julie enjoyed her stewed chicken from Old San Juan so much that she ordered the same thing at El Morro.

el-morro-cafe-stewed-chicken

The dark meat chicken (her request), along with the chunks of potatoes and carrots, absorbed a lot of flavor from the broth. It’s hard to pick out the spice(s) that make it so good, but it is definitely worth a try.

Each meal also includes a choice of salad. And, just like in the city, I went with a boring side salad while Julie had an excellent potato salad. It still had the bell peppers mixed in, but wasn’t as creamy. Instead, it ate almost like a mashed potato.

What’s most amazing about El Morro is that even with two drinks, our total bill was less than $20. I can’t remember the last time we ate dinner for less than that outside of a quick-service restaurant.

Not only is El Morro Cafe a great extension of Old San Juan Cafe, it fills a much-needed niche for Puerto Rican food in Reading’s western suburbs.

The fact that we can walk to it from our house is just an added bonus.

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

El Morro Cafe
36 N. Sixth Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

El Morro Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Yellow House Hotel

yellow-house-hotel

In August 2014, we made our first trip to Emily’s. We’ve been there twice more since then and never had a bad meal.

So when we had a chance to visit Emily’s sister restaurant, the Yellow House Hotel, we had high expectations.

Yellow House is a small village at the crossroads of Routes 562 (Boyertown Pike) and 662 just north of Douglassville. The hotel came first, built in 1801, and the community took its name from the distinctive yellow building.

yellow-house-hotel-menu-cover

The Yellow House Hotel doesn’t look very yellow anymore. In the fading afternoon sun, it looked cream or off-white. A painting inside the door showed the building with a more vibrant coat of paint.

Inside our dining room (there were at least three distinct rooms), the 215-year-old hotel has a distinct 18th century feel. Two large crystal chandeliers hung above the tables. Gold-framed mirrors hung on the white walls. And every table had a candle burning beneath a small beaded shade.

While the sun was still shining, the room was brightened by the light coming through the front windows. By the time dinner arrived, the sun had begun to fade, and the room held a more dim glow.

As we looked over the menu, both Julie and I were eyeing up the barbecued spare ribs. Lucky for us, Yellow House Hotel offers a rib sampler for an appetizer.

yellow-house-hotel-rib-sampler

The rack had six perfectly sized, fall-off-the-bone spare ribs glazed in a tangy barbecue sauce. Like the entree, the ribs were served with a side of sweet potato fries. I’m not sure how much more food comes with an entree, but if this were dinner, I would have left satisfied.

yellow-house-hotel-salad

After our ribs, we still had a starter salad to bridge the gap until our dinner arrived. It was a basic salad, though it was lacking onions, my favorite part of any starter salad.

yellow-house-hotel-rolls-and-muffins

While we were enjoying our starters, our waiter dropped off a basket with two rolls and two fresh muffins. The rolls were exceptionally soft, and the spiced miniature muffins were excellent.

Choosing an entree wasn’t easy. Yellow House had a robust menu with a lot of delicious-sounding options. In the end, I couldn’t resist the sound of the prime pork tenderloin.

yellow-house-hotel-pork-tenderloin

The pork was coated in jerk seasoning and served with mango chutney over a bed of rice pilaf.

The jerk seasoning was what sold me on the pork, and I wasn’t disappointed. The meat was tender with a flavorful crust of seasoned salt and spices.

I loved the pork, but the pilaf was a little boring until mixed with the mango chutney. Mango makes everything better, and the soft bites made for sweet flavor bursts.

A side of snap peas, the vegetable of the day, was also on the plate. There wasn’t much to them, but I really didn’t need much after the ribs and the pork.

The restaurant had two entree specials for the weekend, including the brie, asparagus and fig stuffed chicken.

yellow-house-hotel-stuffed-chicken

Served atop a bed of whipped potatoes (Julie’s choice of side), the plate was covered in spring onion cream sauce. The chicken was good, but it was the sauce that made this dish so enjoyable. It blended so well with everything on the plate, especially the sweet filling.

We would have loved to have tried to dessert (we heard our waiter run off the list to the table next to us, and everything sounded amazing), but we both were stuffed after finishing our plates.

Our total for the evening was $55, right in line with what we spent for our meal at Emily’s two years ago.

We had certain expectations going in to our meal at Yellow House Hotel, and we were not disappointed. The hotel has a different vibe than its sister restaurant — it felt a little older without the added ambiance of additional creekside outdoor seating.

But the food was everything that we had hoped it would be. And that’s what really matters.

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

Yellow House Hotel
6743 Boyertown Pk
Douglassville, PA 19518

Yellow House Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finer Dining Reviews

Old San Juan Cafe

old-san-juan-interior-2

Reading is a constantly changing city.

Abandoned factories tell the story of the once-thriving industrial era. Bumpy crossings serve as reminders of the days when railroads were king. And we’re just a generation removed from when Reading was the outlet capital of the world.

The brand names are gone, but the Outlet District continues to evolve, with small independent stores and restaurants to cater to locals, not out-of-state bus trips.

And among the empty buildings are thriving businesses, like the Old San Juan Cafe.

Old San Juan Cafe is located along North Ninth Street in the heart of the Outlet District. There is no off-street parking for the Cafe, so we grabbed a space across the street under the shadow of one of the old outlet buildings. Signs for long-forgotten stores like the Designer Bags Outlet and Cape Craftsmen still adorn the abandoned building.

Another sign advertised, “TOP OF THE ROC, An American Dining House.”

old-san-juan-exterior

Though the outlet is silent, the street still bustles with activity, highlighted by the seemingly endless stream of customers coming and going through Old San Juan.

Neither Julie nor I had any idea what to expect going into Old San Juan for the first time. The interior was bright, with simple, but beautiful murals covering the walls.

old-san-juan-interior-1

They depicted scenes from Puerto Rico — one side the vibrant beaches, the other a small hut in rural farmland.

In front of us was the order counter, where a steady line had developed and would remain throughout our dinner.

old-san-juan-1

Steam plates behind the counter were filled with delicious looking goods. Our biggest concern was a potential language barrier, with us not knowing what we were looking at on the other side of the glass.

We were thankful that the woman behind the counter not only spoke English, but was patient enough with us to give us the full rundown of everything available, from the tripe to the sonocho to beef stew.

old-san-juan-2

The two of us each picked out an entree and paid at the register before grabbing a table. I think we were both surprised to find so much seating inside the narrow building, ample room to have housed everyone who came in for takeout during our brief stay.

I have eaten at a number of Latin American restaurants for Berks County Eats, but never one that exclusively serves Puerto Rican dishes and was excited to try my roast pork (pernil).

old-san-juan-roast-pork

When we were at the counter, there was only a sliver of pork left so the woman who was helping us went back and grabbed a fresh batch from the kitchen. It was outstanding.

The meat was so tender, slow-cooked to fall off the bone (most of the meats appeared to be bone-in). It was hard to pinpoint exactly what made it so good. There was no sauce, and no one flavor that stood out. It seemed so simple, but it was among the best pork that I have tried.

All of the entrees are served with a side of rice and beans. The white rice is placed on the plate with the entree while the beans were served in a cup on the side.

old-san-juan-beans

I was surprised to find that potatoes are featured in Puerto Rican style beans. The small cubes had been sitting in the sauce for so long that they now looked like sweet potatoes, taking on the same orange hue as the sauce.

Mixed together with the rice, it was an excellent side. It wasn’t spicy as far as heat, but there was enough spices mixed in to give it a great flavor.

old-san-juan-stewed-chicken

Julie opted for one of the saucier entrees, the stewed chicken. The juice had soaked through the chicken skin to the bone, ensuring flavorful and tender bites throughout.

She had a thigh and a leg and cleaned the meat off of both, savoring every bite.

In addition to the meat and sides, our meals were served with a choice of salad. For me, it was a simple lettuce and tomato.

old-san-juan-potato-salad

For Julie, it was potato salad, one of the best that she has ever tried. It was extra creamy, with a flavorful potato (not a simple baking potato) as the base. She also enjoyed the addition of the green peppers to the mix, something she’s never found in any other potato salad.

old-san-juan-plantains

Though we really didn’t need any more food, both of us have a weakness for plantains so we got a small plate with five pieces of the fried fruit. Though they would have made a nice end to the meal, neither of us could wait to eat them so they were gone long before the rest of our food.

While we both finished off our meats, we ended up taking home quite a bit of rice and beans, as well as about half of her cup of potato salad.

One of the great things about a place like Old San Juan is that not having waiters and waitresses allows them to charge lower prices. Our total dinner bill was less than $20.

This trip was the first time that Julie had been to the Outlet District since she was a child, when her grandmother used to take her on shopping trips. It brought back a flood of memories for her.

old-san-juan-bienvenidos

Future memories in the neighborhood won’t be made in large shopping centers. They’ll be made in little places like Old San Juan Cafe.

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

Old San Juan Cafe
808 N. 9th St
Reading, PA 19604

Old San Juan Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Vietnamese Delights

vietnamese-delights

It had been nearly a year — nine months to be exact — since my last trip to the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

I love browsing the aisles of vendors and dine-in restaurants, but I never make it there as often as I would like. The Farmers Market of Wyomissing is just so convenient that a trip to Muhlenberg takes extra planning.

That planning came together, and last Friday when we made an evening drive to Fairgrounds with one stand in mind: Vietnamese Delights.

The Fairgrounds Farmers Market already offered a diverse selection of foods before Vietnamese Delights opened in 2013. Italian, Greek, German and Pennsylvania Dutch were all well-represented, but Vietnamese Delights brought an Asian flair that was missing from the global market.

Located in the southwest corner of the market, Vietnamese Delights offers its own little seating area. This makes it one of the few stands that will actually deliver your meal to your table (you still order at the counter so it’s not quite a full-service restaurant).

vietnamese-delights-honeydew-bubble-tea

First to arrive were our two bubble teas: mango flavored for Julie and honeydew for me. More smoothie than tea, the drinks are creamy with (optional) tapioca balls dropped in the bottom.

vietnamese-delights-mango-bubble-tea

As you would guess, the drinks are extremely refreshing. My honeydew had that light sweetness of the melon that makes it so enjoyable. The mango flavor was strong and very sweet to the point of being more like dessert.

vietnamese-delights-pho-add-ins

Next to arrive at the table were the add-ins for Julie’s pho, the brothy Vietnamese noodle soup. While the noodles and beef were cooked in the broth, a plate of bean shoots, basil, lime and jalapeno pepper were served separately.

The pho followed shortly behind. The large bowl was filled with hearty slices of beef, chopped shallots, onions and a heaping mound of rice noodles.

vietnamese-delights-beef-pho

Rice noodles are an acquired taste for a Dutchman raised on the thicker, heartier egg noodles. The advantage of thin strands is that they absorb flavors well, soaking up the broth in every bite. Julie managed to finish most of her soup, polishing off all of the meat and leaving just a little broth and some loose noodles at the bottom of the bowl.

My meal was the last to arrive being the most involved of the two. I ordered the broken rice platter: a plate of white rice with pork done three ways (steamed, grilled and shredded), a fried egg, a cucumber and lettuce salad, and a dish of garlic fish sauce.

vietnamese-delights-broken-rice-platter

The best part about the plate was the shredded pork. Even though it was served cold, it was easily the most enjoyable of the three. It just melts in your mouth with a sweet flavor that isn’t barbecue, but is close enough to be enjoyable.

The grilled and steamed pork were served atop the bed of white rice. They had a nice peppery flavor that I really enjoyed. The egg felt a little out of place — I’m used to it being fried with the rice, not on top — but once I opened it up and started eating with the rice and pork, it all came together nicely.

As much as I love garlic, I was not a fan of the fish sauce. I much preferred the chili sauce that was sitting on each of the tables.

vietnamese-delights-bubble-tea-empty

I was able to finish everything on plate (not counting the fish sauce), but what neither Julie nor I were able to finish were all of the tapioca balls in the bottom of our smoothies. With the consistency of gummies, they just got to be too much work after the bubble tea was gone. In hindsight, we would probably get it without tapioca next time.

All in all though, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. At $30 it was a little more expensive than we had originally planned, but a lot of that came down to the indulgence of our $5 bubble teas.

We were able to squeeze in a little shopping before closing time, but we really didn’t need much else at the market.

Vietnamese Delights was the real reason we went, and it was certainly worth the trip.

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

Vietnamese Delights
2934 N. 5th Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Vietnamese Delights Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Farmers Market Meals Lunch & Dinner Reviews