A plate of schnitzel topped with red peppers and onions with a side of red cabbage and German potato salad from the Reading Liederkranz

The Reading Liederkranz

Tables and chairs at the Reading Liederkranz with an Alpine mural in the background

Guten tag, Berks County.

I, like a lot of Berks Countians, can trace my family history back to Germany. And I also happen to love German food, like what can be found at the Reading Liederkranz, a private club that bills itself as a “German Singing and Sport Society.”

I have been to the Liederkranz many times, but it was always for events (Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt) and never for a sit-down meal in the dining room.

Not being a member, that was never really an option until Julie and I were invited by our friends (and members) Jerry and Lisa to join them for dinner recently.

A view of two rows of tables at the Reading Liederkranz

I don’t know what I was expecting to find inside the clubhouse, but this wasn’t it. For the most part, there’s nothing remarkable about the dining area. The diner chairs and vinyl tablecloths are a dark maroon while the walls are off-white with wood around the bottom. It’s all set against a drab gray carpet. The old-fashioned numbers on the tables made it feel even more like a diner in need of an upgrade. The bar area, as well, just felt like a bar when I walked past.

The only real distinguishing feature is the wooden dance floor which is set in front of a wall painted with a beautiful Alpine scene.

A basket with four rolls and butter at the Reading Liederkranz

One thing that was clear from the start: if you’re in a hurry, this is not the club for you. There were a few tables taken in the large dining area (it was about 6:30 on a Thursday when we arrived). After being told to sit anywhere, it was a good 10 minutes before our server came to our table with menus.

As a German club, it’s not surprising that the menu at the Liederkranz is filled with a variety of traditional German meals. But there are other additions like burgers and sandwiches. Thursday is also wing night, but we decided to pass.

A large salad with jumbo shrimp and four lemon wedges from the Reading Liederkranz

Julie, along with our friends Jerry and Lisa, decided to get the weekly special – a three-course meal that started with jumbo shrimp and a salad.

It was an interesting first course, jumbo shrimp being the least German item on our table throughout the night. The salad was good if you like lemon vinaigrette because it was strong and puckery. I happened to enjoy the bite I had, but I don’t think I could have handled the whole salad.

The entree for the three-course special was sauerbraten with a side of spätzle and red cabbage. Sauerbraten is a German pot roast that has been heavily marinated with pickling spices, making it slightly sour but also very tender.

A square black plate with an order of sauerbraten, spaetzle and red cabbage from the Reading Liederkranz

The roasted beef is almost always served with gravy, but this version was different. The gravy was thick and had raisins throughout. The sweetness from the dried fruit gave the whole dish a sweet-and-sour spin that is very pleasant and helped it stand out from similar dishes.

The spätzle (German pasta) were very finely cut noodles. They were a little crispy in some bites – so small that they seared quickly in the pan. Still, they were enjoyable as was the red cabbage – a personal favorite of mine from our visits to the Oktoberfest celebration.

Red cabbage was also one of my choices for a side to go with my schnitzel.

A plate of schnitzel topped with red peppers and onions with a side of red cabbage and German potato salad from the Reading Liederkranz

The menu includes the “Schnitzel Ecke” (schnitzel corner) where you can choose from three styles of schnitzel and two cuts of meat – pork or chicken. I went with the “gypsy style.” The fried chicken cutlet came topped with pan-fried onions, peppers and paprika.

I’ve had plain schnitzel at Oktoberfest and enjoyed it each time. This was better. The paprika gave it just a hint of heat while the onions and peppers popped in every bite. It was just what I was hoping for.

The other item on my plate was the German potato salad. It’s a cold potato salad that features large chunks of potato with herbs and vinegar. It’s slightly sour – like a lot of German foods – but so good. I won’t eat the Pennsylvania Dutch version of potato salad, but I love this.

A plate with two slices of apple strudel, a pool of custard and four dollops of whipped cream from the Reading Liederkranz.

When she came to clear our plates, our waitress asked if I wanted to order anything for dessert since everyone else would be getting it with their meals. Julie was gracious enough to share her apple strudel with me so I didn’t have to order one of my own.

The plate had two slivers of strudel with a pool of custard and four dollops of whipped cream. Another favorite of ours from our Oktoberfest visits, the strudel is delicious. The apple and pastry crust melt in your mouth while the custard is rich and sweet. It doesn’t get much better than this.

It was a little while again before our checks arrived. Our server was very nice but it was a good thing we weren’t in a hurry. Our final tally for the night was $40 which seems like a fair price for quality food.

The waiting aside, it was an enjoyable evening with friends and good food. I would consider a membership in the future, but with 300 restaurants in Berks County left to explore, I don’t think I would get my money’s worth out of it right now. But we definitely got our money’s worth for this meal.

Danke schön, Liederkranz.

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

Reading Liederkranz (Members and Guests Only)
143 Spook Ln
Reading, PA 19606

Lunch & Dinner
A styrofoam container with a stir-fry, including chicken, carrot, green beans, onion and red and green bell peppers from Eve's Thai Kitchen

Eve’s Thai Kitchen

A look at the owners working behind the counter at Eve's Thai Kitchen

In the last two years, I have found myself more and more at the Shillington Farmers Market. The Farmers Market of Wyomissing – just a few blocks from our house – is still our go-to for our fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy, but it just can’t compare with Shillington when it comes to take-out meals.

Brocmar Smokehouse has been one of my favorites since it opened. Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe is always good. And we even enjoyed our simple breakfast we tried at the Market Cafe.

Last year, the market added a new stand that brought even more variety to the market: Eve’s Thai Kitchen.

The Specials of the Day sign at Eve's Thai Kitchen with menu items written in colored chalk

Eve’s Thai Kitchen opened in May, offering a selection of made-to-order dishes from southeast Asia. The menu is limited but still offers variety with both noodle and rice dishes and appetizers that include spring rolls, cheese rolls, soup and chicken satay.

Like most farmers market stands, Eve’s has a pretty simple setup. Guests order at the counter and wait, either hanging out until the food is ready or making a couple stops around the market while the food is prepared. Eve’s does have the advantage of having two dedicated tables with six chairs across the aisle.

Pineapple fried rice with chicken, broccoli and carrot from Eve's Thai Kitchen

I made my first visit to Eve’s back in August and was very impressed with both the service and my order of pineapple fried rice with chicken.

The dish is a great blend of savory and sweet. The pineapple is wonderful and the fruit definitely stars in the dish. But there are more hits of sweetness from the dried cranberries that were mixed in. Cashews added some crunch while the addition of broccoli and carrots both added color and made me feel less guilty about finishing the whole thing.

My first impression made me want to come back and try even more, but it took several months before I found time to return. This time, I brought along Julie and our little man, Jakob.

A styrofoam container of pineappel fried rice with shrimp and vegetables from Eve's Thai Kitchen.

Like me, Julie couldn’t resist the pineapple fried rice. But instead of chicken, she ordered hers with shrimp. And she enjoyed it just as much as I had. She had enjoyed the addition of the shrimp.

She shared everything with Jakob. While he refused the shrimp, he loved the rice and kept asking for more. He also liked the baby corn, which I hadn’t remembered from my order of the pineapple rice. The baby corn is a favorite of mine as well and was a nice addition.

For my second visit, I decided to try something different. On the specials menu, I saw a basil stir-fry. It included your choice of meat (chicken, for me), green beans, onion, carrots and bell peppers over white rice.

A styrofoam container with a stir-fry, including chicken, carrot, green beans, onion and red and green bell peppers from Eve's Thai Kitchen

It was very good and used fresh basil that gave the deep brown sauce a nice herby flavor. I enjoyed everything about it. I especially liked that it was served over white rice instead of fried. While fried rice is good, I always prefer white rice because it soaks up the flavor of everything around it so well. It makes for a much more complete dish, in my opinion, and in this case it allowed the basil sauce, chicken and vegetables to really shine.

Also, I should mention that Eve’s allows you to choose your level of spice: none, mild, medium, hot or Thai hot. Julie went with “none” while I went with “mild.” I didn’t find mild to be very spicy at all, but that doesn’t mean I’m brave enough to raise my spice level next time.

Our food didn’t take long either. Though it was obviously made fresh, it wasn’t more than 15 minutes before it was ready for us. And the price was right as well. Adding on two bottles of water, it was less than $25 for our meals.

On both of my visits, Eve’s Thai Kitchen really delivered with impressive food done well – and done quickly – at a very reasonable price (as you would expect at a farmers market stand).

And it fits in well at the Shillington Farmers Market, which has become a destination for great food here in Berks.

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

Eve’s Thai Kitchen
10 S. Summit Ave
Shillington, PA 19607

Asian & Pacific Islands Farmers Market Meals Reviews
B2 Bistro's steak frites - steak with fries and Brussels sprouts

B2 Bistro + Bar

B2 Bistro is located in first floor of the former Narrow Fabrics factory.

In more than five years of Berks County Eats, there have only been a handful of restaurants that arrived with the hype of B2 Bistro + Bar. Recently opened in the former Narrow Fabrics building in West Reading, the restaurant had been anticipated since the first tenants moved into the Lofts at Narrows, the luxury apartments on the upper floors.

B2 Bistro has an unfinished look, including exposed beams and rough-hewn paint.

The creative re-use of the building has led to a unique atmosphere. “Unfinished” paint and exposed beams – some still with original safety warning posters – can be seen throughout the space. A large rectangular bar is surrounded by high-top tables with a couple booths along the sides. A row of stools can be found in front of the open kitchen, providing a unique experience for diners wanting to watch their chef in action.

Guests can sit at the chef's table and watch their meals being prepared.

On the opposite side of the room, large garage bay doors open to create an outdoor feel during the warm weather months.

Another smaller dining room is located toward the back of the building and features low-top tables for those who prefer them.

The best way to describe the menu is eclectic. There are shareable small plates, pasta dinners, a raw bar, pizza and charcuterie. Other mains include everything from the 50 oz. bone-in ribeye (shareable for most) and roast suckling pig to burgers and chicken.

B2 offers an oversized bowl of French onion soup

We decided to start off our meal with a couple small plate appetizers. I ordered the French onion soup, expecting a typical crock.

What I got was an enormous bowl about twice the size of what normally constitutes a “bowl” at most restaurants. It could have easily been a meal by itself, especially with how good it was. It was heavy with onion and thick chunks of bread. And there was more than enough cheese layered on top to go with every salty-sweet bite.

The beautifully presented shrimp cocktail with six interlocked pieces of shrimp.

Julie also ordered an appetizer, the shrimp cocktail. As she told me, she was craving shrimp for a while and was not disappointed.

The six shrimp were presented beautifully, each one connected gracefully. While cold shrimp are cold shrimp, these were colossal in size and even better for scooping into the cocktail sauce. Julie’s craving was satisfied.

A big bowl of pasta Bolognese from B2 Bistro.

Deciding on a main course wasn’t easy but I eventually settled on the Bolognese pasta, one of five such pasta options on the menu. The pappardelle pasta was served with a sauce of Iberico pork (an imported meat from the Iberian peninsula of Europe), veal, tomato, cream and grana cheese.

It was a good meal – very hearty and more than enough food – but I had enjoyed the soup more. I have also had Bolognese pasta other places and I didn’t find that this version stood out among the others.

B2 Bistro's steak frites - steak with fries and Brussels sprouts

For her meal, Julie had opted for the steak frites – steak in demi glace, served with fries and Brussels sprouts. The steak was cooked beautifully and the semi-sweet demi glace paired beautifully with the savory cut of meat.

The fries were good – thick, fresh-cut fries and plenty of them. Brussels sprouts are a vegetable where you can only do so much to them. They were fine but better with a little of the demi glace.

B2's focaccia bread featured thinly sliced tomato baked on top

Before our meals arrived, we were served a plate of thick focaccia bread, unique in that there were thin slices of tomato baked into the top. It was served with a cup of oil for dipping and was very good.

Take one look through the Yelp reviews and you’ll see a range of opinions, mostly centered on price and service.

A thread guide from Narrow Fabrics hangs on the wall in one of the private rooms.

As for price, our final total was around $80. It wasn’t a cheap night out, but with two appetizers, an iced tea and two entrees (both of which were enough that we took home leftovers), I can’t say we were cheated, but the price of every item was a couple dollars higher at B2 than other places. A margherita pizza, for example, costs $12 at B2; the same costs $9 at Nonno Alby’s a block away.

The service was fine during our visit. Our server was a little slow to take our food order and with our check at the end of the night, but we were still in-and-out in just under an hour so it wasn’t a long wait by any means. (And I didn’t mind that he called me “boss” throughout our visit).

Overall, I was impressed. It’s a cool spot and all of the food was good-to-great. Though I saw high chairs, it’s not a place we would take our little one (he spent the evening with his grandparents).

But for a date night or a night out with friends, B2 Bistro + Bar is a good choice.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Service: Good
Price: A Little Pricey

B2 Bistro + Bar
701 Reading Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Fork & Ale Moroccan Chicken

Fork & Ale – Return

Editor’s Note: Chef Seth Arnold left Fork & Ale in July 2019 for a position at Terrain Cafe in Devon.

One of the hardest things about doing weekly Berks County Eats blogs is not being able to return to the restaurants that we have enjoyed.

In March 2017, we made our first visit to Fork & Ale – the new gastropub that had opened in the former Tim’s Ugly Mug outside Douglassville just a few months before. We had enjoyed everything we had, especially their take on poutine, but we had no real motivation to return with so many restaurants left to visit.

Then a new chef arrived on the scene.

Chef Seth Arnold started at Fork & Ale at the end of May. By mid-summer, he was tagging @BerksCountyEats on every Instagram post. At the end of July, he sent me a direct message, introducing himself and inviting me out to the restaurant for a visit.

Fork & Ale Menu

Over the next weeks and months, Fork & Ale was always in the back of my mind and at the top of my Instagram feed. Finally, Julie and I made plans for a date night. We found a babysitter for Jakob and headed east for dinner on a Saturday evening in early December.

We arrived around 5 p.m., beating the dinner crowd and taking a table for two. Fork & Ale does not take reservations so we wanted to make sure we had a seat, not knowing how full it would get by night’s end. The dining room looks exactly as we remembered with painted brick walls, Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling and reclaimed wood furniture.

Fork & Ale Uovo da Raviolo

One thing I learned through Instagram is that the chef loves introducing creative specials every night. On the specials menu during our visit was an appetizer we had to try – uova da raviolo – egg yolk ravioli.

The pasta pouches were filled with herbed ricotta and egg yolk, topped with smoked bacon, rainbow chard, purple cauliflower and a sage butter sauce.

Fork & Ale Uovo da Raviolo

Eating it was quite the experience. Pressing into the ravioli, the egg yolk began pouring out, mixing with the sage butter sauce on the plate. It added a completely different dimension to the dish that I enjoyed. And with the savory bacon and slightly bitter chard, it was full of flavor.

Fork & Ale Moroccan Chicken

The main menu has completely evolved in the 20 months since our last visit (no more poutine). The only common item between the two menus being the Fork & Ale Burger. One new dish that caught my attention was the Moroccan chicken.

The dish featured confit chicken served over house-made Fettuccini with golden raisins, bell pepper, arugula, crispy chickpeas, Marcona almonds and a Moroccan-spiced butter sauce.

Fork & Ale Moroccan Chicken

I absolutely loved it. It was one of the most flavorful dishes that I have had in a long time. The sauce was incredible (for the record, I still have no idea what spices constitute “Moroccan spice”), and there were little surprises throughout. The chickpeas added needed crunch to the plate while the raisins were little bursts of sweetness throughout. I can’t say enough good things about it, and neither could Julie when she had the leftovers a few days later.

For her meal, she went with the warm Brussels sprouts salad. The waitress recommended adding the grilled shrimp (grilled chicken was also an option) and Julie was glad for it.

Fork & Ale Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

The composition was interesting – the sprouts were shaved like cabbage and drizzled with balsamic, always a good pairing. The fatty pork belly was a great addition and made it a truly savory dish. All in all, it was well done.

Being a date night, dessert was almost mandatory. There were two dessert options the night of our visit, a crème brulee that sounded delightful and our selection, the butterscotch lava cake.

Many places will do a chocolate lava cake – chocolate cake with a melted chocolate center. The butterscotch version was similar with a melted butterscotch center that was topped with housemade whipped cream.

Fork & Ale Butterscotch Lava Cake

Neither of us are big butterscotch fans but it sounded too good to pass up, and it more than lived up to our expectations. The cake was dense but flavorful and the filling was perfect. It was sweet but not too sweet, buttery but not overpowering. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal, one of the best meals we have had in many months.

Our total bill for the evening (one unsweetened iced tea included) was around $60. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but with both an appetizer and dessert, it felt like a fair price for an exceptional dinner.

If you haven’t been to Fork & Ale in the two years since it’s been open, or if you haven’t been there since Chef Arnold arrived in May, do yourself a favor and make the trip.

I know we will be back sooner than later.

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

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

Bars & Pubs Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Hawaii Kitchen

I can’t think of a place in America farther away from Berks County – both physically and culturally – than Hawaii.

Hawaii is a tropical paradise. Berks County sometimes gets hit with a tropical storm. Hawaii is a destination thanks to its pristine beaches. The “beaches” at Blue Marsh Lake just can’t compare.

So the last cuisine I expected to make its way to Berks County was poke bowls, the Hawaiian specialty dish usually consisting of seafood, rice, vegetables and sauce – think a deconstructed sushi roll.

But then Hawaii Kitchen opened in West Reading earlier this year and a piece of the islands arrived in Berks.

Hawaii Kitchen opened earlier this year in the former Petite Milan – a children’s clothing store – in the 500 block of Penn Avenue.

The restaurant is roomier than it looks from the outside. Despite the narrow footprint, Hawaii Kitchen packs in tables of two and four with an additional row of counter seats. It’s not the biggest dining room in West Reading, but it serves its purpose.

There were only a few others seated inside when we arrived on a recent Saturday night – Julie and I with little Jakob in tow. The restaurant’s owner fawned over Jakob when she saw him so I’ll give some bonus points there.

We ordered at the counter and grabbed a table for two at the front window.

The first item to arrive was my avocado salad. It was a simple salad with just three ingredients: mixed greens, avocado and sesame-ginger dressing. But it was absolutely delicious.

I loved the dressing. It was salty; it was a little sweet without the bitter aftertaste of a balsamic. And with the simplicity of the salad, it just worked. It was also more filling than I would have imagined for a side salad, mostly thanks to the avocado.

Our entrees arrived shortly thereafter. Julie was going to be the one to try a bowl, the avo-coco shrimp bowl, a summer special advertised on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

The bowl included mango, strawberry, pineapple, avocado and shrimp tossed in a coconut sauce. This is not a “traditional” poke, but Julie loved it.

Part fruit salad, part poke bowl, it was sweet and bright. Coconut and shrimp are always a winning combination, but the addition of the other fruits – including the avocado – added a little more flavor depth and really helped make it into a real meal. Julie was very surprised by how full she was after finishing it.

I skipped the bowl and went for the restaurant’s other specialty, the sushi burrito.

My first sushi burrito experience came courtesy of Hai Street Kitchen at the King of Prussia Mall. Hai Street has a few more than Hawaii Kitchen for its rolls, but the concept is the same: take sushi and supersize it to eat more like a burrito.

There are five sushi burritos on the menu – all but one of them are seafood based with shrimp, salmon, crab salad or a combination of the three. I skipped the fish and went with the vegetarian option instead.

My “burrito” included tofu, cucumber, avocado, spring mix and sweet chili sauce rolled in purple rice and seaweed wrap.

The purple rice made for great presentation but it was really just rice. And the first bite – mostly tofu and rice – was a bit disappointing. But the second bite hit home with the sweet chili sauce. Eventually all of the flavors started to mingle a little more and every bite was flavorful.

Tofu is mainly just filler, and that was fine with me. The other flavors – especially the delightful sweet chili sauce – were what really mattered.

Neither Julie nor I are experts in poke bowls, sushi or anything else on the menu at the Hawaii Kitchen, but we were both impressed with our meals. Though at $32 – with two bottles of iced tea included – I wouldn’t call it a bargain.

Still, we enjoyed it. And whether or not it was “authentic” doesn’t really matter to us. We liked it.

Also, it’s not like we’re going to Hawaii anytime soon so we’ll just enjoy what we have.

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

Hawaii Kitchen
510 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews Vegan & Vegetarian
Chicken and Vegetable Vermicelli Bowl - Lang Restaurant

Lang Restaurant

Lang Restaurant in Reading, PA

When I started the blog in 2014, my experience with Asian cuisine was limited to General Tso’s chicken and other Americanized Chinese foods.

That’s why my first trip to Hong Thanh in Wyomissing was so eye-opening. It was my first taste of Vietnamese cuisine and my first time enjoying an authentic, composed dish (read: something that wasn’t chicken in sauce over rice).

Lang Restaurant in Reading, PA

Hong Thanh was originally located in downtown Reading. Some Sundays after church, Julie and I would drive past the old restaurant. The Hong Thanh name was still written on the window. It looked untouched from the time the restaurant moved to Wyomissing until the day it was announced it was moving back into the city with a new name, Lang Restaurant.

Julie and I visited on a Wednesday evening (the restaurant is open evenings only, Wednesday through Sunday) and were one of just two couples in the restaurant. Two more groups and a few take-out customers came through during our time, but it was definitely a quiet night.

Lang Restaurant in Reading, PA

The dining room is beautiful – a little modern and a little classic, Asian-influenced without being kitschy. It felt like a downtown dining destination should feel like. Only a closer inspection, on the long walk to the men’s room, reveals the plywood wall behind the hostess counter that separates the finished dining area from the rest of the building.

We started our meal with the shredded pork roll – pork wrapped in rice paper with lettuce and peanuts served with Lang dipping sauce.

Shredded Pork Rolls - Lang Restaurant

These were a great start to the meal. The roll itself was very good, if a little chewy, but mixed with the Lang sauce, it took it to another level.

Lang sauce is the house fish sauce, a little spicy with sweet and salty notes. You can see the red pepper flakes, you can taste the ginger. It’s a simple sauce that made the rolls go down easy.

We hadn’t quite finished our appetizers when the entrees arrived. Giant entrees. Entrees big enough to be shared.

Chicken and Vegetable Vermicelli Bowl - Lang Restaurant

I had ordered the grilled chicken and rice vermicelli bowl. On top of the vermicelli noodles were piles of grilled chicken, carrots, snow peas, bean sprouts, broccoli, pickled carrot, and crushed peanuts.

The ingredients were fresh and well-prepared, but it was the Lang sauce that made it a meal. I dipped my fork in the sauce (sadly, I don’t think I will ever be able to properly use chopsticks) before picking up a forkful of the vegetables, chicken or rice noodles. I wanted to make sure that every bite had a little of that delicious sauce.

The meal was painstakingly slow to eat, not because of the dipping, but because all of the vegetables were cooked to al dante. That meant small bites and lots of chewing, but it was worth it to savor such a fine dish.

Crispy Noodle Stir Fry - Lang Restaurant

Julie had a very different noodle dish, the house special crispy lo mein.

Instead of the traditional boiled noodles, the dish featured deep-fried egg noodles with shrimp, chicken, pork and a vegetable medley (red onion, water chestnut, broccoli, green beans and more), stir fried in “brown sauce.”

Crispy Noodle Stir Fry - Lang Restaurant

Brown sauce is typically a combination of soy sauce, broth and other ingredients. It didn’t cover every noodle, but that was just fine as the noodles were very good on their own. Julie also appreciated the fact that the dish came with three different meats because it meant that she didn’t have to choose.

For both of us, more than half of our entrees went home with us for later. Julie was impressed that her noodles remained somewhat crispy even through the reheating process.

As tempting as Vietnamese banana cake and steamed coconut cups sounded, dessert was not in the cards.

Our total at the end of the meal was about $45, which also included a glass of fresh limeade for Julie.

We also spent $2 for parking at the Reed and Court Street Garage ($2 for one hour, and we made it from entry to exit in 58 minutes).

During our meal, we saw co-owner and restaurant namesake Lang Huynh come out and survey the room, the sign of someone dedicated to their craft.

He never approached our table, but if he had, I’d say the same thing I’m saying here. My compliments to the chef.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Ambiance: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Value: Reasonable

Lang Restaurant
22 N. Sixth Street
Reading, PA 19601

Lang Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Reading Hospital

If you’ve followed Berks County Eats, then you know that Julie and I have been expecting the arrival of our first child. Well, last Friday, he decided it was time.

On November 17, 2017, at 8:21 p.m., Jakob Laurence Brown was born at the Reading Hospital.

Mommy and baby came out of it happy and healthy, and we arrived home on Sunday evening, but not before Jakob joined us for his first Berks County Eats review.

After completing a three-week birthing class two months ago, Julie’s reward was a coupon for a celebratory dinner for two after the arrival of our baby.

On Sunday morning, just a few hours before we were scheduled to leave the hospital, a special menu was delivered to our room.

“You’re Expecting the Best. We Deliver.” When you’re delirious with joy at the birth of a child, you forgive menu puns, even bad ones.

The meal included a tomato mozzarella salad (also known as Caprese), choice of entree – either steak and shrimp or vegetarian stir-fry – and a three-layer chocolate mousse cake for dessert.

For the salad, our bowls were lined with thick-sliced mozzarella, which was then filled with cherry tomatoes, drizzled with a thick balsamic and topped with basil leaves for garnish.

The salad was very good, but way too much. We each only ate a very small amount so that we had room for our main course and dessert (we managed to sneak the rest home with us for later).

My diet had been thrown out the window over the previous two days, with meals that included:

  • Friday Lunch: McDonald’s chicken strips and fries
  • Friday Dinner: Famous Amos cookies and Icy Tea
  • Saturday Breakfast: French toast and home fries from Reading Hospital
  • Saturday Lunch: Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots from the PA Dutch Farmers Market of Wyomssing
  • Saturday Dinner: A giant chocolate chip cookie

So while steak and shrimp was appealing, I thought the hoisin vegetable stir-fry was a more sensible option.

It was actually really good, all things considered. It wasn’t anything special, but the sauce had a nice flavor – a typical sweet and salty Asian stir-fry. The menu listed soba noodles as part of the meal, but they were missing. So it was all vegetables – peppers, squash and onions. I certainly wasn’t going to send it back (it’s a one-hour wait from order to delivery).

Julie, on the other hand, did all the work so no one was going to deny her the surf and turf dinner that she earned.

It included a small filet and shrimp with a baked potato and mixed vegetables (the same medley that was used for my stir-fry.

The steak was topped with gravy (meh) but was fair. It certainly was nothing like eating in a steakhouse. The steamed shrimp was ok, too, but nothing outstanding.

The hardest part about the meal was having to stare at the chocolate trilogy cake. The best part of the meal was eating it.

It was fantastic. The layers of white, milk and dark chocolate mouse melted together. There was the thinnest layer of cake on the bottom to add a little texture. And the pieces of dark chocolate on the top were the icing on the cake, so to speak.

If only we didn’t have to be in the hospital to enjoy it.

For anyone out there looking to deliver in the Reading Hospital and unsure about whether to take the birthing class: take it. If only for the chocolate trilogy cake.

While we ate, Jakob lay in his crib – a clear, plastic tub that we had wheeled next to us. It was our first real sit-down meal as a family, and Jakob’s first official Berks County Eats review.

It wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had. But it is easily among the most memorable.

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Stonersville Hotel

If you follow my blog every week, you may remember reading in last week’s blog about visiting Intel’s Pennside Drive-In as a back-up plan.

Last week’s Plan A was the Stonersville Hotel, but after making the drive along Route 562 in Exeter Township, we had to keep moving because the entire parking lot was filled. And being in Stonersville, a village of a few dozen, there isn’t exactly an abundance of places to park.

So this week we went early, arriving around 5 p.m. for dinner in order to beat the crowd and get a seat.

The building may look big from the outside, but the restaurant takes up just two rooms – one for the bar, and one for the cozy dining room and its 12 tables.

A full parking lot is probably a good indicator that those tables are full.

The walls of the dining room were covered in original paintings, antique dinnerware and photographs. Above the doorway to the bar is a wooden, handmade Stonersville Hotel sign.

With a historic restaurant, diners expect old-fashioned comfort food. Stonersville’s menu is much more than that, though. Sure, there’s a variety of steaks and seafood options, but there’s also flatbread pizzas (including an intriguing lemon pizza), crab quesadilla, wings and wraps.

Our waitress tried to talk us into one of the restaurant’s never-frozen appetizers, like hot crab dip, breaded zucchini or fresh bruschetta. We saw an order of the bruschetta arrive at a nearby table – it looked tempting but was way too much to be split by two people.

Instead, we each started our meals with an order of soup. I went with the baked tomato and mushroom soup, one of two that are available daily on the menu.

The soup came topped with mozzarella cheese and was served in a crock ala French onion soup. It was a hearty and creamy soup with a few mushrooms – not enough to get them in every bite, but enough to get the flavor.

I thought it was excellent, one of the better and more original tomato soups that I have tried. The mozzarella was what really put it over the top for me. Tomato and mozzarella are such a superb combination, and especially so in this.

Julie’s soup came off the weekend specials. It was a peach and ginger gazpacho topped with slivered almonds. Chilled soups are always among our favorites – it’s like eating dessert first. The “soup” was smoother than a smoothie or milkshake, but just as sweet. And the hint of ginger was just enough to add flavor without taking over the whole dish. It was a pleasant surprise to find something like this at an old country inn.

For my entree, I went with some old-school comfort food and the shepherd’s pie.

When it arrived – and it arrived quick, just five minutes after our soup – it was already clear that some of it was going home in a box. The large casserole dish was packed with ground beef, corn, carrots and peas, and the whole thing was topped with a mountain of mashed potatoes.

The meat and vegetable mix was thickened with just a hint of gravy. I thought there was just the right amount of gravy to keep everything together without becoming overbearing as it may have been with gravy ladled on top.

As good as it was, I could only finish about two-thirds of it.

Just as I had too much food for one meal, Julie also couldn’t finish off her shrimp and crab pasta.

Served in a pesto cream sauce, the dish was one of three pasta choices on the menu. The crab was shredded up in the sauce and tossed with the spaghetti with a half-dozen shrimp on top.

The sauce was extremely rich, but enjoyable. It was one of the more expensive items on the menu, but Julie thought it was well-worth the splurge.

With us each having to take a box home with us, there was just no room left for dessert. It’s a good thing we weren’t looking forward to dessert, too, because our waitress told us that the only options were ice cream and a chocolate peanut butter cake.

In fact, there were also multiple menu items that were not available either because our timing was poor. The Stonersville Hotel is going to be closed between now and August 16 for vacation.

So instead of dessert, we paid our $45 bill and headed home, full and very satisfied having finally paid our first visit to Stonersville.

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

Stonersville Hotel
5701 Boyertown Pk
Birdsboro, PA 19508

Stonersville Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Zhuang’s Garden

If you drive through West Lawn regularly, you may have noticed the recent facelift for Zhuang’s Garden.

The restaurant along Penn Avenue has a brand new entrance and new signage above the door. It’s a more inviting look, one that looked inviting enough to go for dinner.

I had never been to Zhuang’s Garden. The first thing I noticed was that there was much more parking than I had expected along the side of the building. And upon arriving for an early dinner (just after 5 p.m.) I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of those spaces were taken.

We were seated right away in a four-person booth. Those booths made up most of the seating in the restaurant. The building looks narrow from the outside, but there is plenty of seating, mostly booths with a few tables.

The meal started with an unexpected appetizer of fried noodles and duck sauce.

I say unexpected because none of the other Asian restaurants we have visited on Berks County Eats has offered them to us.

And it was a pleasant surprise. We both love the addicting fried bites but never order them. It was certainly nice to have something to munch on until the food arrived.

Julie had her mind set before we arrived that she was going to have egg drop soup. It arrived in short order.

I have never been an egg drop soup fan, but it’s something that Julie has always liked. And she was a fan of this one – brothy with plenty of egg drops.

I skipped the appetizers and prepared myself for my main entree: banana chicken.

The banana chicken is one of the best Asian dishes that I have tried anywhere. The chicken was fried like a sweet-and-sour chicken would be. It was tossed with bananas, bell peppers, water chestnuts, snow peas and bamboo shoots in what was described on the menu as a “delicious brown sauce.”

I don’t know what constitutes brown sauce, but it was delicious. One thing the sauce did pick up was the flavor of the bananas. Every bite had that distinct sweetness. And unlike a standard orange chicken that is all glaze, this was true flavor.

I have zero complaints about the dish, but I have to say that it was such a complete dish that I mostly forgot about the cup of rice that was served on the side. And though I do enjoy rice with my stir-fry meals, I didn’t miss it at all.

Julie’s meal was more traditional – shrimp lo mein.

That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. It was. The lo mein noodles were cooked well and there were plenty of shrimp pieces to create a hearty dish.

It was too hearty to finish in one meal. About half of it came home with us for later.

Zhuang’s Garden was also a great value. With a $25 price tag, we both felt like we had more than our money’s worth.

It was a very good meal with great food and quick service.

And all it took to get me through the door was a little remodeling.

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

Zhuang’s Garden
2834 Penn Ave
West Lawn, PA 19609

Zhuang's Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Windsor Inn at Shillington

windsor-inn-sign

The best meals are always the unexpected ones.

I had zero idea of what I was going to get last week when Julie and I visited the Windsor Inn at Shillington.

The only thing that I knew was that the owner’s daughter, Rachel, reached out to me over a year ago to come in and review the restaurant.

Fifteen months later, we were finally there. Better late than never.

windsor-inn-interior-2

I’m not going to lie. The inside is a little dive-y. We walked through the bar to a tired looking dining room. On the yellow walls were photographs from when the building was a doctor’s office in the 1950s. Behind me was a fireplace, it’s mantle lined with vintage cameras.

windsor-inn-interior-1

It wasn’t a busy night; there was only one other couple in the dining room and a handful of customers sitting at the bar when we arrived. Our waitress was doing double-duty, handling orders in both rooms with help from an assistant.

The waitress also happened to be Rachel, and she was more than happy to talk to us about the food: how it’s locally sourced whenever possible, how they make a different pasta in-house every day, and how they had in-season peaches for their martinis and margaritas.

windsor-inn-peach-margarita

The last one caught Julie’s attention. She nursed her peach margarita throughout the meal, leaving nothing but a little peach pulp at the end.

The name “Windsor Inn” certainly doesn’t scream Italian the way others do, but the menu certainly gave it away. Cioppino (mixed seafood simmered with tomato and wine) and carciofi (veal sautéed with artichokes, dried tomatoes, dill and cream) were among the unpronounceable dishes for a man with Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.

I also found out I have been pronouncing gnocchi wrong all my life. Apparently it’s not NOH-chee, it’s NYOK-ee. Who knew?

windsor-inn-meatballs

We started our meal with something easy to pronounce: gigantic Windsor meatballs.

They were certainly big — gigantic is stretching it a little — but they were delicious. There is nothing like a homemade meatball from a real Italian kitchen. The hand-formed meatballs had plenty of nooks and crannies to grab the sauce that was just as good. What little sauce was left, I made sure to soak up with some bread so it didn’t go to waste.

windsor-inn-pepper-parmesan

Along with the meatballs came the optional Parmesan cheese and red pepper, the latter being made in-house. Our waitress warned me that because it was freshly made, it would be stronger than a typical red pepper. I ignored her warning and quickly found out she was right. Tread lightly with the pepper. It’s fantastic, but it is hot.

We were happy to have ordered the meatballs because the courses were slower to arrive because so many things were made from scratch and everything was beautifully prepared. Even the salads were crafted, not made.

Salads usually don’t make it into my reviews because more often than not, it’s nothing more than mixed greens with a cup of Kraft dressing. That’s not the case here. The restaurant was serving three homemade salad dressings so Julie and I each got to try a different one. I chose raspberry herb for mine; Julie chose garlic dill for hers.

windsor-inn-salad-garlic-dill-dressing

I really like creamy salad dressings. The garlic dill was certainly that, having the consistency of a good ranch dressing but with the very distinct flavors of garlic and dill mixing together beautifully.

windsor-inn-salad-raspberry-vinaigrette

My raspberry herb was also very enjoyable: a little puckery and a little sweet with fresh raspberries scattered throughout.

By this point, we were very excited to see our main courses, both of which were daily specials and highly recommended by our waitress and rightly so.

windsor-inn-stuffed-eggplant

The stuffed eggplant, my choice for the night, was a beauty of a dish. It was almost a shame that I had to ruin it by digging in. The eggplant was stuffed with ricotta and peppers and topped with prosciutto. On the side was fresh made pasta with the house tomato sauce.

I absolutely loved it. The eggplant was cooked so it was perfectly tender. The ricotta and the prosciutto played extremely well together. And the pasta was delicious. Even the portion was perfect. While it looked small on the plate, it was just the right amount to be filling.

windsor-inn-shrimp-gnocchi

Julie’s bowl wasn’t quite as nice to look at, but it sure tasted good. She went with the shrimp and gnocchi. Julie likened it more to a gumbo than your expected pasta dish, with everything tossed in a nice broth-like sauce. It was a heartier meal than my own, but Julie managed to finish it.

Neither of us were really hungry for dessert, but I had overheard the dessert options when they were read to the other table and upon hearing the words “flaming peaches” I knew we would be getting dessert no matter what.

windsor-inn-flaming-peaches

It was a few minutes before the dish arrive: pound cake topped with mascarpone cheese and fresh peaches in Bacardi rum (with whipped cream and a cherry on top, of course), aflame upon delivery to our table.

Like two kids with trick candles on their birthday cake, we struggled to blow out the flames and dig in. Once we did get to it, it was good to the last drop. The pound cake had absorbed the melting cheese (and a lot of rum). The peaches were warm, sweet and melt-in-your-mouth good. I have absolutely no regrets about ordering it.

Even our final bill didn’t leave us with any regrets. It was about $65 for the two of us, three courses with two drinks (one non-alcoholic). I’ll gladly pay that for quality food.

The Windsor Inn at Shillington provided one of the most memorable meals of the past year for me. Before we left, we got a frequent customer card.

For every $15 you spend, you get a stamp. Five stamps equals $10 off your next meal. We’re three-fifths of the way there.

I plan to fill out that card sooner than later.

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

Windsor Inn at Shillington
38 W. Lancaster Ave
Shillington, PA 19607

Dessert Finer Dining Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews