Belvedere Inn Short Ribs

Road Trip: The Belvedere Inn

Belvedere Inn

In the first five years of Berks County Eats, we have taken 19 road trips to select restaurants around Pennsylvania – some near, some far; some good, some bad – but all of them notable.

We’ve done less road trips recently – only two in 2018 – but there are a select number of noteworthy restaurants still worth traveling for and writing about.

One of those is Lancaster’s Belvedere Inn.

Belvedere Inn

The Belvedere was recently ranked as one of the Top 100 most romantic restaurants in the country by users of OpenTable so it seemed like the perfect place for a pre-Valentine’s Day dinner.

Among the growing downtown dining scene in downtown Lancaster, The Belvedere is the elder statesman. The Victorian-style mansion was converted to a restaurant in 1998, long before the city’s recent restaurant Renaissance.

The restaurant sits on the corner of Queen and Lemon Streets, and while it doesn’t offer private off-street parking, there’s a public garage right behind the restaurant (we spent $4 to park).

Belvedere Inn

Candlelight and mirrors add glow to the dining areas. Highlights of the dining room – really two or three rooms that have been opened up to create a space that spans the depth of the building – include a stunning chandelier, a large fireplace and the leopard print carpet (still trying to understand that one).

The Belvedere’s menu is fitting of a romantic restaurant: higher end entrees with a range of appetizers and desserts and a robust drink list.

Belvedere Inn Roasted Vanilla Pear

As we were celebrating, Julie ordered a roasted vanilla pear. The mixed drink was made with vanilla vodka, St. Germaine, roasted pear puree, pineapple and citrus soda with a ring of sugar around the glass for even more sweetness, which is what she was looking for.

I had been to the Belvedere once for a business meeting so I knew all about their famous grilled Caesar salad, and I was thrilled to see that they had a petite version on the dinner menu so we could both order it as an appetizer.

Belvedere Inn Grilled Caesar

Caesar salads are always enjoyable, but the Belvedere’s grilled Caesar is on another level. First, grilling the Romaine just adds such a different feel to it and somehow enhances the flavor that’s already there. The dressing is excellent, and it’s topped with plenty of croutons and cheese.

On my first visit six months ago, I had the full version as a lunch entree (with grilled chicken). I thought I had overhyped it for Julie, but she was not disappointed. It’s an excellent start to a meal – or a meal in and of itself.

Belvedere Inn Short Ribs

Getting it as an appetizer allowed us to try some of their other entrees. I decided on the four-hour braised short ribs, served with red wine demi, green beans and three cheese macaroni gratin.

The meat was excellent with enough fat to make it flavorful but not too much to take away from the meat. The demi was semi-sweet and really helped highlight the flavors of the meat. It was very well done and very satisfying.

I enjoyed the macaroni gratin – a grown-up mac and cheese with a flavorful crust on top. The green beans were fine and made better by the fact that they were also sitting in the red wine demi. Overall, I was very happy with my choice.

Belvedere Inn Stuffed Lobster Tail

Julie was also happy with her decision to order the crab-stuffed lobster tail, a special of the day.

It was one of the best lobsters she has ever had. The crab and lobster were both very good and neither overpowered the other. And she was thrilled to not find any crab shell in the filling.

It was served with fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Both were simple but enjoyable.

Belvedere Inn Chocolate Mousse

As is usually the case when we enjoy a romantic night out, we couldn’t leave without sharing dessert. All of the options sounded decadent, but we decided on the layered chocolate mousse.

It featured chocolate mousse, vanilla cake, Grand Marnier, orange zest and raspberries. It was sweet and satisfying. The mousse was chilled, making it much denser and more solid. The cake was nice, but my favorite part were the bites with raspberry. The fresh berries just added a nice flavor note.

Belvedere Inn Rolls

The meal was close to perfect. The only real hiccup was that the assistant server didn’t bring the rolls and butter around until after our entrees. Honestly, though, we could have done without the rolls. It’s not that they weren’t good, but we had more than enough food with what we had ordered.

On special occasions like Valentine’s Day, we always expect to spend more than we would for almost any other meal, and that was the case here. Our final total was $120, and while we won’t go out of our way to spend that on a meal, we don’t mind it once or twice a year.

Between the food and ambiance, it is easy to see how a restaurant like the Belvedere could make it onto anyone’s list of most romantic restaurants.

After our visit, it certainly makes our list.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Ambiance: Excellent
Service: Very Good
Price: Expensive

The Belvedere Inn
402 N. Queen St
Lancaster, PA 17603

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Say Cheese Restaurant & Cheese

say-cheese-exterior

The great thing about living in Wyomissing is the amazing selection of restaurants we have between our town and neighboring West Reading.

The downside about having a food blog is that I have to spread out my visits to the closest places in order to cover the entire county.

I hadn’t visited a West Reading restaurant since October and our National Pizza Month visit to Georgio’s.

Three months is about as long as I can stay away, especially with a gift card to Say Cheese burning a hole in my pocket.

Of West Reading’s abundance of restaurants, Say Cheese has one of the most desirable locations, sitting on the corner of Penn and Sixth Avenues. In the summer, outdoor seating adds to the ambiance, but that feels like an eternity away.

say-cheese-interior

Five years ago, if you would have told Julie that I wanted to go to a cheese-themed restaurant, she would have laughed in your face.

At the time, I thought I hated cheese. As it turns out, I don’t hate cheese. I just hate American cheese, and anything made by Kraft.

There’s definitely no Kraft Singles at Say Cheese.

In addition to the restaurant, Say Cheese serves as a fine cheese shop, with a wide selection of artisan cheese from around the world to take home with you.

This allows for creative cuisine, and, with the marketplace right inside the door, a unique set up to the dining area. Our table was at the very front of the building in what would have once been the window display for a retail store.

say-cheese-reading-draft-soda

For those who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, Say Cheese has plenty of options to pair with your meal. For those, like me, who prefer something a little softer, they have Reading Draft Soda.

The closest I got to ordering alcohol was my cup of cheddar beer soup, the day’s special.

say-cheese-cheddar-beer-soup

It was simple but good, with the namesake ingredients shining through. Thick croutons and bacon were added to the creamy soup, adding much-welcomed texture and a little bit of salt. All in all, it was a great first impression.

Our entrees arrived shortly after I finished my soup. For me, it was braised short ribs and hominy grits.

say-cheese-braised-short-ribs-hominy-grits

The boneless short ribs were pull-apart tender (no knife needed) and the demi glace wasn’t bad, but what really made the dish was the herb mascarpone chevre (goat’s cheese). It was creamy and sweet and really complemented the demi very well.

Hominy grits aren’t my favorite side, and these were ok, a little buttery for my taste, but I enjoyed the vegetables – Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and tomatoes.

say-cheese-salmon-mac-and-cheese

Julie was a fan of her smoked salmon mac n’ cheese. According to the description, it was a six-cheese blend with smoked salmon, white wine and chives topped with asiago bread crumbs.

We both expected to taste the salmon more than we did, but instead what we got was the nice smoky flavor of the meat, always a great addition to mac and cheese. And the bread crumbs added a much needed crisp texture to the creamy dish.

A small portion of the mac and cheese came home with us. I left nothing on the table.

Our final total was just under $50. I had a $30 gift card to help (otherwise, I probably would have let the Pennsylvania Dutch in me come out and not ordered the soda or the soup).

Say Cheese is certainly among the best that West Reading has to offer. It was a very good meal. I just wish I could have gone sooner.

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

Say Cheese Restaurant & Cheese
600 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Say Cheese! Restaurant & Cheese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finer Dining Reviews