Taste of Hamburg-er Festival 2018

The 15th Annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival filled the streets of Hamburg on Saturday, September 1.

It was our fourth year attending the event (Jakob’s first time), and Julie and I have a strategy that works for us: get there early, scope out the burgers while browsing the crafters, then enjoy some of the unique burgers only available at the event.

Then we each pick a burger of own and split a third so we can get some variety.

Our plan worked out well as we avoided (most of) the lines and enjoyed some truly unique burgers.

Scott’s Gyro Box – The Greek Burger

Scott’s Gyro Box evolved from Scott’s Hot Spot, the longtime gyro stand at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market. Now a mobile food cart, you’ll find Scott’s Gyro Box at events around Berks County serving up gyros, spanakopita and other Greek favorites.

In a mashup of cultures, the stand was offering the Greek Burger at this year’s Taste of Hamburg-er Festival.

The Greek burger was essentially a gyro on a bun – a hamburger patty topped with feta cheese, roasted red peppers, grilled onions and tzatziki sauce.

I love gyros and I really wanted to love this burger but it came up short for me. It was still good, but there was just a little too much tzatziki sauce – or at least it wasn’t spread evenly enough. And the burger patty was too processed and had little flavor on its own.

Still, the ingredients were there and it wasn’t a bad burger by any means. I guess I just had my expectations too high.

WOW Wagon – Poutine Burger

The WOW Wagon’s poutine burger was the one that both Julie and I had circled when we saw the list.

Featuring French fries, cheese curds and brisket gravy, the burger was a solid take on the French Canadian specialty.

The gravy was the best part for me, but I have to say, biting into a burger with a cheese curd on top is a truly unique experience of taste and texture. The burger and gravy were hot (I never got both a fry and curd at the same time) but the cheese curd was cold and packed with flavor.

It was a little overwhelming for my tastes, but definitely a burger I was glad to try.

Video Burger – The Dandridge

The final stop on our tour wasn’t Julie’s first choice. She had wanted to visit Spuds, but the line was just too long by the time we completed our loop and arrived back at the corner of Fourth and Windsor Streets.

Instead, we trekked back down the hill to Video Burger, a mobile food truck specializing in the outrageous.

The Dandridge took a typical barbecue-style burger and gave it a twist. Applewood smoked bacon and apple barbecue sauce gave it a familiar flavor, but the sliced apples added enough sweet to the sweet-and-savory combination to make this a real standout burger.

It was also the best bun and burger patty out of the three that we tasted and those were definitely part of the appeal.

2018 Taste of Hamburg-er Festival Contest Winners

Best Burger – Restaurant

Grand Prize Winner:  Spuds

Appearance:      Spuds
Taste:                 Spuds
Originality:          Spuds

Best Burger – Organization

Grand Prize Winner:  Salem Church

Appearance:      Boy Scout Troop #184
Taste:                 Leesport Lodge #141 I.O.O.F
Originality:         Salem Church

Best Burger – Mobile Unit

Grand Prize Winner:   Blazing Swine BBQ

Appearance:      Blazing Swine BBQ
Taste:                 Blazing Swine BBQ
Originality:          Wow Foods, LLC

Best “Newbie” Burger

The Smith Homestead’s Kitchen

People’s Choice Award

1st Place:            Deitsch Eck Restaurant
2nd Place:           Dawn’s Deli
3rd Place:            Christ Evangelical Free Church
4th Place:            Salem Church

Food Festivals & Events

5 Favorite Appetizers of 2017

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. We’re starting off with our favorite starters. Here are our five favorite appetizers we tried in 2017.

Stonersville Hotel – Baked Tomato and Mushroom Soup

The Stonersville Hotel was a pleasant surprise, and it started with a cup of their baked tomato and mushroom soup. It was served like a French onion soup, in a crock covered with mozzarella cheese. The tomato and mozzarella came together nicely in one of the best soups that I have tried on my Berks County Eats journey. Read Full Review

Say Cheese – Cheddar Beer Soup

Speaking of delicious soups, Say Cheese had a fantastic offering with its cheddar beer soup. The two namesake ingredients were the obvious stars, and the flavors were only enhanced by the oversized croutons and the small, salty bits of bacon. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale – Poutine

In July, I attended a conference in Quebec City and tasted true French Canadian poutine. Four months earlier I had poutine at Fork & Ale. In this case, Berks County did it better. The “gravy” – a sausage tomato sauce – was amazing, and the fries made a perfect stand-in for spaghetti in the Italian-inspired take on the dish. Read Full Review

Pike Cafe – Wings

The Pike Cafe has won many “best of” awards for wings, and in our first visit, we got it. The Pike uses Bell & Evans organic wings so they are a little smaller than some other wings, but it also meant that they were crispier and more evenly seasoned throughout. We had Montreal seasoning on ours, and we loved every bite. Read Full Review

Nirvana Indian Bistro – Samosas

When Nirvana Indian Bistro opened in Wyomissing in spring, we wondered how it would be able to compete with the already established Laxmi’s right down the street. It turns out, they are just as good. Our first taste of Nirvana were the samosas, fried pastries filled with vegetables and potatoes. They were good, but when paired with the chutney selections – specifically the sweet and spicy onion chutney – they were delicious. Read Full Review

 

Appetizers Best of Berks County Eats

Fork & Ale

fork-and-ale

The opening of Fork & Ale in December was a holiday gift to Berks County.

Reimagining the space that housed the popular Tim’s Ugly Mug took nearly two years, and the result isn’t just another bar. It’s a true gastropub.

Bars are places where you sit at the counter and order a Yuengling and some wings. Gastropubs are more than that. Gastropubs feature craft beers and cocktails with a more robust, chef-inspired dinner menu.

Fork & Ale definitely earns its place as a gastropub.

The dining area gives off the vibe of a modernized speakeasy. The Edison bulbs hung in strings above the booths and tables are both retro and contemporary. One wall is covered entirely with mirrors. The wood floor has been stained dark, the wood grains popping against the neutral colored walls.

fork-and-ale-menu

And the menu is presented on a simple sheet of paper beneath Fork & Ale’s slogan: “Eat | Drink | Gather.”

It’s a limited menu, a characteristic shared by all of the best restaurants. Owing to the “gather” portion of the restaurant’s motto, much of the menu is made up of appetizers and shareable plates.

We started with one of the more unique shareables: poutine.

fork-and-ale-poutine

For those who have never ventured north of the border, poutine is a Canadian specialty consisting of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy.

At Fork and Ale, the dish gets a South Philly makeover as Italian sausage “gravy” replaces the brown gravy. And it works.

With mozzarella curd and a thick tomato gravy, the poutine becomes more like a pasta dish, the fries serving as a spaghetti stand-in. The sausage gave the gravy an enjoyable heat while also making it more filling.

fork-and-ale-poutine-deconstructed

My only complaint would be that the mozzarella curd melted into one large piece of cheese. And that piece ended up on Julie’s plate, not mine.

After we finished our appetizer, we had a long wait until the rest of our food arrived.

It wasn’t as long of a wait as we had at ViVA Castle Pub, but it was still a full 40 minutes between when the poutine arrived and when our entrees were delivered to the table.

My meal was simple enough: a cheesesteak and fries.

fork-and-ale-cheesesteak

I wasn’t going to get the cheesesteak, but it was listed as a ribeye cheesesteak with sautéed onions, wild mushrooms and aged Provolone sauce.

There wasn’t anything wrong with the sandwich, but it felt like a bit of a letdown after the poutine. There were plenty of mushrooms but I tasted few onions.

But I think my biggest complaint would be the cheese sauce. Aged Provolone is one of my favorite sandwich additions. The sauce had none of the characteristics of Provolone, lacking both the sharpness and saltiness that I expected. Maybe it’s just me, but I would have much preferred a couple slices in place of the sauce.

Julie wholeheartedly disagrees. She thought the cheese sauce was the best part of the sandwich, and when I couldn’t finish it, she was more than happy to eat the second half for lunch the next day.

In my haste in ordering, I had failed to make a connection between the fact that my side would be yet more French fries. They were certainly good – though they were a little cold which tells me that the fries were done long before the rest of our food – but I had my fill already with the poutine.

fork-and-ale-grilled-tuna

If you follow along with Berks County Eats every week, you may have noticed that Julie is now a big fan of fish (I, on the other hand, still will not eat things that live underwater).

Her newfound dedication to fish continued with her order of grilled tuna with roasted carrot, spaetzle, broccoli rabe and mussel buerre blanc.

The tuna steak was grilled to a medium rare with a nice char on the outside. The buerre blanc – white butter sauce – was very good.

Having never had mussels before, it was hard for her to tell how much of the mussels flavor carried through, but she enjoyed it. And she loved the spaetzle.

Not to be forgotten were the vegetables. Both the broccoli rabe and the carrots were excellent. The carrots most closely resembled the barbecue carrots that we both love from the Farmers Market of Wyomissing. And the little bit of bitterness from broccoli rabe just added another dimension to the plate.

Because we couldn’t live without poutine, we had to live without dessert. That left us with a total bill of nearly $50.

Again, this isn’t bar food. Don’t expect 50-cent wings or $8 burgers.

It’s a gastropub. It’s finer food and drinks, and it’s going to keep bringing people to Fork & Ale.

Fork & Ale
1281 E. Main St
Douglassville, PA 19518

Fork & Ale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews