Works at Wyomissing

The Works at Wyomissing isn't just a restaurant, it's an entertainment destination that also includes a ball pit, go-karts, trampoline park and arcade (pictured).

When we were still in college, Julie and I started going regularly to the Works at Wyomissing for their Tuesday night trivia games. For years, it was our place. The service could be hit or miss, but the food was good and it was always a great time with friends.

One by one, our friends started moving away, or having kids, or both. The routine got monotonous, and it was harder to find players. Eventually we stopped going altogether. It had been at least two years since our last visit to the dining and entertainment destination, but now that we have our own toddler, it seemed like the right time to go back for some food and fun.

It was a Thursday night around 5 p.m. when we arrived. The hostess was on her phone and seemed inconvenienced to have to take us to our table. She never smiled and barely said a word as she took us to our table. We weren’t even sure she was going to bring the high chair because instead of saying “I’ll be right back with your high chair,” she said, “enjoy your meal” as she walked off. (She did bring it).

Our waitress was much more pleasant with us and our little Jakob, who always seems to bring out a smile from our servers.

The spacious dining room - highlighted by this large stone fireplace - was mostly empty during our visit.

There weren’t many people in the dining room – a few families, one couple and a group of college students were all that were found in the spacious dining room.

Our orders were taken quickly, which was good because Jakob was hungry and restless. We wouldn’t have felt as awkward about him acting up if there had been more people, but in the near-empty cavern of the dining area, every little noise echoed louder around the room.

Caesar salad from the Works at Wyomissing.

Thankfully my Caesar salad arrived quickly and Jakob was occupied with a couple croutons. The salad was pretty hefty for a starter, but it was good, your typical Caesar.

A cup of French onion soup from the Works at Wyomissing.

Julie had ordered a cup of French onion soup for an appetizer. It was always a favorite of our friend Mike during our trivia days, and it was still good. Ordering a cup meant that it wasn’t the typical presentation – cheese covering the top of a crock. But the smaller portion was still good with plenty of gruyere on top and a nice amount of onions inside.

Because we were also tending to Jakob, it took us a little longer to finish our appetizers, and our food arrived while I was still finishing up my salad.

Steak frites with French fries and asparagus from the Works at Wyomissing.

For my entree, I ordered the steak frites. The 10-ounce sirloin was sliced thin and served atop a bed of crispy Parmesan fries. The steak was good but didn’t have a whole lot of flavor to it.

As I write the blog, I’m looking back at the menu and realize that it was supposed to be served with garlic butter and a spicy aioli. I had neither, which probably explains why the steak was a little underwhelming. It was still a good cut of meat, but the garlic butter would have been nice.

The fries were very good. They were thick-cut and tossed with plenty of Parmesan cheese. There was just a lot of them, especially considering the entrees are also served with two sides. I ended up eating only a small portion of the fries and taking the rest home.

Corn on the cob from the Works at Wyomissing.

Not wanting to be a complete pig, I ordered asparagus and corn on the cob for my sides. The asparagus was fine, but they were cooked a little past al dente and were a little softer than I normally like.

The corn on the cob was good, but I was honestly expecting it to be cut in half like I see at many restaurants. Instead, it was a full cob. Thankfully, Jakob has all of his front teeth that he needs to bite into, and enjoy, corn on the cob so he helped me with it. It was good and tasted fresh so I had no complaints there.

The barbecue chopped salad from the Works at Wyomissing.

Because she really wanted the soup, Julie decided to get an entree salad for her main meal. The barbecue chopped salad featured chicken, chopped lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, avocado, corn, tortilla strips, black beans and ranch dressing.

The grilled chicken was tossed in barbecue sauce. We’ve always been fans of the Works’ barbecue sauce and it was good on the salad. The avocado was a nice touch and the ranch dressing went well with the mix – just like eating it with barbecue wings.

Like all things at the Works, the portions are huge and was stacked high on the plate. It’s definitely a filling salad.

From the Works at Wyomissing's kids menu: chicken fingers and mandarin oranges.

With the Works being such a kid-friendly place, the children’s menu is large – both in the amount of food and the physical size – four pages that kids can color with a four-pack of crayons that are provided.

We went with a safe bet: chicken fingers with Jakob’s favorite fruit, mandarin oranges. The orange slices were gone in what seemed like seconds. He was a little slower with the chicken, but then he dipped it in Julie’s ranch dressing and it went a lot faster.

All three of us left the table full after a $50 meal. It wasn’t the cheapest meal we’ve ever had, but it also isn’t bad given the portions.  (We also had a $30 gift card, which is always helpful).

Ballocity - located upstairs at the Works at Wyomissing - is like a cross between a ball pit and a giant obstacle course.

The real fun began after the meal. While I waited to take care of the bill, Julie and Jakob went off to the game area where she won him a new bouncy ball from the claw machine. From there, we headed upstairs to Ballocity, the Works’ indoor ball pit.

When it first opened, we were very disappointed to find out that adults could only enter if accompanied by a child. Having Jakob along meant it was our first time to experience the attraction. Toddlers are free with paying adults – $3.95 after using the $1 off coupon that was on the kids menu.

Jakob and Julie had a great time while I waited outside. They played for about a half-hour before we headed home.

While the service could have been better – and that has always been the case at the Works – it was still a great night out. And for $65, we had three meals, played games and took a turn through Ballocity. It sure beat a rainy night at home.

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

The Works at Wyomissing
1109 Bern Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

The Other Farm & Forge

I love walking through Berks County’s downtowns.

Julie, Jakob and I are fortunate to live within walking distance of West Reading and the shopping and dining district that is Penn Avenue.

But venture to the county’s eastern edge and you’ll find a downtown on the rise. Boyertown is anchored by incredible attractions in the Colebrookdale Railroad and the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. The latter was our destination on an early spring day.

With time to spare and empty stomachs, we decided to take a walk through town and find a new place to try for lunch. It was early – only 11:30 a.m. – but lunch service had begun at most places, including The Other Farm Brewing Company

Farm & Forge is the brand used by the brewery for its restaurant and bar along Philadelphia Avenue. The tagline is “Food. Drink. Music. Community.” The first part was really the only one we cared about it.

Sure, we were a little early, but it was obvious that the Other Farm is not a lunch spot. There were only a handful of others in the restaurant – and that number only grew slightly during our visit. The impressive stage in the back of the dining room says that this a place for nightlife, not mid-day.

The food menu isn’t huge but there is decent variety among the salads, wood-fired pizza, “smaller plates” and “bigger plates.”

Among the bigger plates was a lamb burger that sounded too good to pass up. It was topped with roasted tomato chutney, sautéed spinach, fontina cheese and roasted garlic aioli.

It was an excellent burger. First, ground lamb makes an excellent base – it’s more flavorful and richer than beef. And the toppings were perfect – especially the tomato chutney which was sweet and a little tangy and made with cherry tomatoes so the big flavor came in big bites.

Of course any great burger must be served with great fries, and I can say the truffle Parmesan fries (an upgrade I couldn’t pass up) were truly great. They were loaded with shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley for an herby finish that was made a perfect partner for the burger.

Across the table, Julie ordered a chicken bacon ranch pizza, one of her favorite specialty flavors. It was topped with cheddar and fontina cheeses, red onion, and of course grilled chicken and ranch dressing.

It feels like every restaurant in Berks County now offers wood-fired pizza, but that’s not a bad thing. I much prefer the crisp crust produced by the wood-fired oven. It provides a much sturdier, and oftentimes, more flavorful base for the toppings.

The toppings on this pie were strewn about while the ranch was drizzled on in a spiral. Each bite was different, but all were very enjoyable.

Even our toddler enjoyed the slice that his mommy shared with him.

One other thing that I enjoyed was my soup. I had ordered the soup of the day as an appetizer, and it came served with delicious pita chips. The soup was creamy and a little nutty – unfortunately I never wrote down the exact description and because it was the soup of the day, I couldn’t find a description anywhere.

(I did send a Facebook message to Other Farm a week after our visit but only received an auto-response. Though I can’t blame them for not answering a crazy person asking about their soup).

Everything we had was very good, and it was pretty reasonably priced at around $40 for the whole meal.

Boyertown is home to many great restaurants (some we’ve visited include Firefly Cafe, CD’s Place and Jukebox Cafe) and you can count the Other Farm among those.

At this point, Boyertown’s dining scene may be an attraction in and of itself.

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

The Other Farm & Forge
128 E. Philadelphia Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512

Breweries & Wineries Reviews
Cinnamon Roll Pancakes from Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen

Wild Sage Coffee & Kitchen

Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen Exterior

When it opened in Spring 2017, Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen brought a unique vibe and menu to downtown Reading.

For the first year and a half after it opened, the cafe’s hours were limited to weekday breakfast and lunch: great for those who live and work and downtown Reading but not great for people like me with a long commute.

Inside Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen

Then last fall, Wild Sage introduced weekend hours, serving brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Now two years after Wild Sage opened for business, Julie and I finally had an opportunity to visit the little cafe on Washington Street.

The location is convenient to the downtown business district along the 700 block of Washington. We arrived to find the block parked full. Thankfully the Poplar and Walnut garage is right around the corner (the charge for up to an hour is $2 but we actually didn’t have to pay anything when we put the ticket in the machine).

Looking out the front window of Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen

Before Wild Sage took over, the stone town home housed a doctor’s office. The decor inside is simple with gray walls and a hardwood floor. The walls featured paintings and drawings from local artists. The bells on the door jangled with every passing car. “Our ghost,” one employee joked as the sound caught my attention.

On weekends, the full menu – both breakfast and lunch – are available along with a select few brunch-only specials. The menu changes seasonally but always features soups, salads, sandwiches and grain bowls for lunch with sandwiches, toast, fruit bowls and select sweets at breakfast.

Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen Teas

And of course they have a full menu of specialty drinks that includes coffee, tea, smoothies and more. I decided to try the iced chai tea while Julie went with a cold brewed tea.

Chai lattes are a favorite of mine, but not everyone offers a cold version of the spiced tea so I was excited to see it on Wild Sage’s menu. It did not disappoint. It had the right blend of chai spice and creamy milk to make for a refreshing mid-morning drink. Julie also enjoyed her lavender lemon tea – unsweetened but with a strong, relaxing lavender flavor.

For our meals, I stuck with the breakfast side of the menu while Julie went with lunch.

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes from Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen

My sweet tooth told me to order the cinnamon roll pancakes: two pancakes topped with a cream cheese glaze and candied walnuts with cinnamon sugar. They were a true indulgence.

The cream cheese glaze was  delicious and the walnuts added some nice texture. But it was the cinnamon sugar, which had been nicely caramelized, that really hit on the perfect flavor combination.

I had also ordered a hash brown waffle, one of the sides listed on the brunch-only menu. Unfortunately I was told that it was no longer being offered. Instead of replacing it with bacon or a fried egg (the only other sides listed) I stuck with just the pancakes. I probably could have eaten something else but I really didn’t need to so in the end I didn’t miss it.

Wild Sage Red Pepper Soup

For her lunch, Julie went with a soup and sandwich combo. For the soup, she opted for their roasted red pepper soup. It was topped with feta cheese and balsamic drizzle, the former added a tang and a little creaminess.

The only complaint was that it could have been hotter. It was warm, but it wasn’t the steaming cup of hot soup that would be expected.

Wild Sage Maple Bacon Sandwich

Her maple bacon sandwich was also a winner in her book. It featured turkey, apple, cheddar cheese, bacon and a maple spread on thick-cut white toast.

Turkey, bacon and cheddar always go well together, and Julie enjoyed the addition of the maple spread -a sweet sauce – and the apples which gave the sandwich a crunchy texture.

Our meal was very good all around. And even with our two drinks, we spent less than $30 so I’d say it was a good deal as well.

I’m glad that Wild Sage added weekend hours so those of us outside the city can enjoy this great little cafe downtown. Hopefully more guests will take advantage of it because it seemed like a relatively slow day during what would be considered the lunch rush.

At least I can say that we will be back.

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

Wild Sage Coffee & Kitchen
731 Washington St
Reading, PA 19601

Brunch Cafes & Coffeeshops Reviews
Wagyu Steak with chimichurri sauce

The Heritage Restaurant

I will admit that before last week, the Heritage Restaurant in Morgantown was not high on my list of places to visit.

I’ve passed the Heritage Restaurant many times and have never felt the urge to stop. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, a relic from the times when I-176 and the Turnpike didn’t connect and drivers were funneled along Route 10. The motel behind the restaurant certainly doesn’t make it look any more appealing.

But, as they say, never judge a book by its cover.

Walking into the simply appointed dining room

The restaurant has clearly been updated inside with simple decor in the dining room. The walls are painted gray and are adorned with photography while the seating is made up of wooden tables with darker wooden chairs. While there were only a handful of tables occupied in the dining room, the bar area – which has a separate entrance – was full, which explained the jammed parking lot.

I was invited by fellow writer (and Heritage regular) Cathy Cuff-Coffman to a prix fixe dinner at the Heritage, a new concept for the restaurant but one that they were excited to try out and potentially make a part of the regular offerings.

The private dining room is filled with historic photos of Morgantown

Our meal was being hosted in their new private dining area. What was formerly the billiards room has been redone to host private functions. One wall features exposed stones while the other three are decorated simply with historic photos that capture the construction of the highways that connect in Morgantown.

A single long table was set with six chairs on each side. Five couples had won their seats through drawings in the restaurant and on social media, having their names drawn from more than 166 entrants. And then there were the two writers at the end of the table, reporter’s notebooks in hand.

Before our meal service began, we were introduced to owner Tamara King. King has owned the restaurant since December 2017 and during that time has made several upgrades to the dining area and hired Chef Brandon Pennypacker to update the menu. The idea for the prix fixe meal is to give Chef Brandon an opportunity to flex his creative muscle and put together a five-course meal with a cohesive theme. For this meal, the theme was spring: spring flavors, spring colors and spring-inspired foods.

Chef Brandon introduced each course as it was presented, and spring colors were on full display with the arrival of our first dish – a corn soup with fresh pico de gallo, pork belly and avocado crema with lime.

Corn soup topped with pico de gallo, pork belly and avocado crema

What a great way to start the meal. The corn was reduced down to form a base that was creamy but textured. The mix-ins took it to another level. The fresh pico was my favorite part – especially the bits of tomato that burst with a perfect sweet flavor. The salty, crunchy pork added a completely different, but no less enjoyable, flavor and texture to the meal. Throughout the dish, the avocado crema added a sweet and creamy flavor, with a little sour lime thrown in.

It was a very impressive start and just a preview of the great food still to come.

Strawberry salad with dragon fruit, candied pecans and a goat cheese croquette

Our second course was a strawberry salad. It featured spinach and kale topped with a basil poppy seed dressing, fresh strawberries, dragon fruit and candied pecans, served with fried goat cheese.

The salad was excellent. I loved the addition of the mildly sweet dragon fruit and the earthy indulgence of the candied pecans. The goat cheese croquette was also good, but I didn’t care for it as much as part of the salad. I didn’t care for how the molten cheese blended with the chilled greens. Separately though, it was good and something that no one else in Berks County is trying.

Chef Brandon has a diverse culinary background. Since graduating from the Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts, he has worked in 17 restaurants in greater Reading and Lancaster city. Stops have included the Hitching Post, Virginville Hotel, Blackjax and Billy Burger. For the last 10 months, he has been the lead at the Heritage Restaurant and has worked to remove canned and prepacked items in favor of creating more in-house.

All five courses highlighted what can be done when a talented chef is given an opportunity to experiment with different styles, techniques and ingredients. Nowhere was that more evident than our third course: three scallops each served with its own unique accompaniment.

Pan-seared scallops with yellow, red and green sauces

Chef Brandon introduced them from right to left. First, the mint pea was a thick puree that was reminiscent of the best pea soup with just a touch of mint to add a little brightness. In the middle was a sun-dried tomato pesto (more on this in a moment). And on the left, a saffron orange aioli. I appreciated the tanginess but I have never been a big fan of aioli.

But the sun-dried tomato pesto may have been the best thing I have tasted in a long time. Instead of pistachio, it featured crushed almonds. It had a wonderful smoky flavor throughout, and it worked so perfectly with the buttery scallop (which were all cooked perfectly, nicely seared without being burnt). I have never been a fan of seafood of any kind, but I would gladly order scallops every day if they came with that pesto.

Tamara had told us that in his quest to put together the perfect menu, Chef Brandon had gone through 15 iterations of the menu and tried many different items. One of those, a blueberry venison sausage sounded amazing but was “awful.” Thankfully, that didn’t make it onto our plates as an entree.

Wagyu Steak with chimichurri sauce

Instead, we were treated to wagyu  steak with lemon-lime finishing salt and chimichurri sauce, served with a couscous and quinoa mixture that was also topped with lemon-lime seasoning.

Wagyu beef, as Chef Brandon pointed out, is a type of beef from Japan known for its high marbling and richness. A meat with high marbling has more fat in the lean cuts, creating a more flavorful meat. It was clear from the first bite that the meat was high quality. I would normally order my food a little less pink than what was presented, but it was so good that I didn’t mind at all.

What really set the dish apart was the lemon-lime finishing salt. There was enough on the meat to give a taste, but there was even more dusted in the corners of the plate. And adding that little bit of extra salt turned this into an A-plus dish. It managed to bring out even more flavors from the meat and was the perfect compliment.

I enjoyed the chimichurri sauce with the beef as well. It added a tangy layer to the dish. But honestly, I would have been content with just the sweet salt.

Chef Brandon Pennypacker
Chef Brandon tell us a little more about the course we’re about to eat.

When there is so much flavor on the plate, the quinoa and couscous just couldn’t compare. It had a light seasoning, but the grains felt boring compared to the other items on the plate and those we had already tried.

Four courses in and we were anxious to see what would be coming for dessert. We had tried a lot of food, but the portions had been perfect so there was still just enough room for the special treat that would complete the meal.

The dessert course was a sight to behold. Each plate featured a sponge cake topped with fresh strawberries, chocolate mousse, chipotle raspberry sea salt, another layer of sponge cake, banana whipped cream and a strawberry sugar dust.

Strawberry Sponge Cake
Photo Credit: Cathy Cuff-Coffman

I don’t think there was anyone in the room that didn’t love this. With just the chocolate mousse and perfectly baked sponge cake, the dish would have been a winner. But the addition of the sea salt and the sugar put it over the top.

First, the chipotle raspberry sea salt hit in so many ways. The added salt enhanced all of the sweet flavors while the chipotle gave it just the slightest bit of heat that was surprising and wonderful.

Then there was the strawberry sugar dust. Chef Brandon described it as a homemade Pixie Stick. He took dehydrated strawberries and ran them through a food processor before blending them with sugar. It really did taste like a candy topping, a concentrated sweetness that helped highlight the natural sweetness from the fresh fruit.

I don’t think there could have been a better way to end the meal.

Owner Tamara King and Chef Brandon Pennypacker
Owner Tamara King with Chef Brandon

The prix fixe dinners are a new concept for the Heritage. Everyone received comment cards and were asked to rate every part of the meal – but from the table talk, it sounded like rave reviews from all those in attendance.

Now that I have experienced the Heritage for the first time, I am looking forward to returning and bringing Julie and Jakob along. I’m sure I won’t be getting wagyu steak or a strawberry salad, but I’m confident that I will love the burgers, sandwiches and entrees found on the regular menu.

After my meal, the Heritage is now at the top of my list of places to re-visit.

BCE Rating
Food: Excellent
Service: Excellent
Ambiance: Good
Value: N/A

Heritage Restaurant
6016 Morgantown Rd (Route 10)
Morgantown, PA 19543

Dessert Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner 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
Alebrije Spinach Enchiladas

Alebrije – Wyomissing

Five years ago, in January 2014, Berks County Eats as we know it truly began. It’s incredible to look back to see how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same since then.

Amazingly, it’s been five years since we last blogged about Alebrije. That visit was to the Exeter Township location and while it was a very good meal, we never made it back to either of Alebrije’s other two locations in Wyomissing or 5th Street Highway.

On a Sunday afternoon in December, we finally decided to pay another visit – this time to the Wyomissing location.

Even this location has changed since Berks County Eats began. Five years ago, Alebrije’s Wyomissing restaurant was still located in a strip mall near the Berkshire Mall. In 2015, it moved to a stand-alone building, the former Ciabatta restaurant along State Hill Road.

The menu has been updated since our visit and I was glad for this because I got to enjoy the poblano soup – an item that was added when the menu was updated.

Alebrije Poblano Soup

I didn’t know what to expect beyond what the description in the menu said: “smooth, slightly spicy and creamy.” I’ve had peppers in soup but never a cream of pepper soup. But after trying it, I would eat this soup again and again.

The soup was definitely creamy and I always tasted the distinct flavor of poblano pepper throughout. I didn’t find it spicy at all – flavorful, yes, but not spicy – so it was easy to eat and enjoy. And the sour cream was a perfect complement.

I can’t imagine a better start to the meal than this.

Alebrije Spinach Enchiladas

For my entree, I decided to try the spinach enchiladas – another item that was listed as “new” on the menu.

The plate was beautiful when it arrived (it’s amazing how a little sour cream can liven up a plate). The primary topping for the spinach-filled corn tortillas was a creamy chipotle sauce. It featured a mild spice, nothing overpowering. It worked well with the spinach though and was enjoyable enough, but I would probably go back to the enchiladas poblanos (and the mole sauce) in the future.

Alebrije Steak and Chorizo Tacos

Julie enjoyed her chorizo and steak tacos. The tacos come topped with Chihuahua cheese with cilantro, onion and spicy tomatillo sauce on the side to build to your own taste.

She skipped the tomatillo sauce – the chorizo was enough spice for her taste – but she took advantage of the cilantro and onion. Both helped to enhance, not mask, the flavor of the meat. And the mix of steak and chorizo ensured that the flavors of both shined through in every bite.

Both Julie and I had sides of refried beans with our meals (mine also came with rice). I’m not a huge fan of refried beans but these were good enough.

Kids eat free on Sundays at Alebrije, which had two advantages for us. One, we could order a kids meal for Jakob and not feel guilty about him not eating the whole thing (we did take his leftovers home) and two, we knew there would be other families, most likely with small children, so Jakob wouldn’t be a distraction.

Alebrije Kids Quesadilla and Chicken Nuggets

For his meal, we ordered a combo that included two of his favorite foods: quesadilla and chicken nuggets.

The plate came with one kid-sized quesadilla and five nuggets. The quesadilla was a little simpler than one that you would order off the menu while the nuggets were pretty generic. I certainly wouldn’t order it for myself, but Jakob seemed to enjoy them so I have no complaints.

Alebrije Chips and Salsa

One other thing to mention: like all good Mexican restaurants we had chips and salsa at the table almost immediately. I’m a fan of Alebrije’s salsa. It’s somehow both thin and chunky with just enough heat to have me going back to my water.

Alebrije has always been reasonably priced, and with the kids eat free deal, it makes it even better. For our three meals, bowl of soup and an iced tea, we spent around $35 (kids meals are normally priced at $5.99). Our meal was certainly a good one and for me, the soup was well worth the additional $6.50.

I still can’t believe it’s been five years since our first visit to Alebrije, but I can say this after our latest meal: we won’t be waiting five years to visit the 5th Street Highway location.

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

Alebrije
2224 State Hill Road
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Lunch & Dinner Mexican Reviews
Juliana's Ricotta Balls

5 Favorite Appetizers of 2018

Our annual end-of-year tradition continues as we take a look back on the best things we tried this year. Today: our five favorite appetizers of 2018.

Savory Grille Steak Grilled Flatbread

Flatbread – Savory Grille

Savory Grille’s menu is constantly evolving and that means new appetizers, entrees and desserts on every meal. During our first visit to northeastern Berks’ fine dining destination in January, the appetizers included an incredible flatbread topped with steak, fennel frond pesto, shaved manchego and fig compote. It was sweet, savory, salty, creamy, earthy and all around delicious. Read Full Review

Shredded Pork Rolls - Lang Restaurant

Shredded Pork Roll – Lang

The former Hong Thanh is back in its original downtown Reading location with a new name but the same amazing food. On our first visit to the Sixth Street location, we were extremely impressed with everything – my vermicelli bowl and Julie’s crispy lo mein included – but it’s the shredded pork rolls, served with the house Lang sauce, that make our best-of list for 2018. Read Full Review

Juliana's Ricotta Balls

Ricotta Balls – Juliana’s

Juliana’s ricotta balls looked like a pair of snowballs sitting on top of a bed of red sauce. The mounds of cheese were rolled and baked to a crisp, but with a melt-in-your-mouth creaminess that made for an excellent first impression. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale Uovo da Raviolo

Uova De Raviolo – Fork & Ale

Everything that we tasted on our return visit to Fork & Ale was creative and flavorful. The uova de raviolo – or egg yolk ravioli – was no exception. As soon as I pierced the pasta with my fork, the egg yolk began pouring out, mixing on the plate with the sage butter sauce to add more depth to the sauce. With creamy ricotta inside the pasta and salty, savory bacon and bitter chard on top, it was an incredible mix of texture and taste. Read Full Review

Coconut Chicken Soup – Masa

Masa – the hibachi and sushi bar that replaced Hong Thanh in the Target shopping center in Wyomissing – had some very impressive dishes, first among those for me was the coconut chicken soup. It featured a creamy, flavorful broth, but the addition of cherry tomatoes set it apart from other versions of the same dish. Read Full Review

Appetizers Best of Berks County Eats

Way-Har Farms

Earlier this month, Visit PA (the official tourism agency for Pennsylvania) announced the PA Ice Cream Trail – a list of 12 “farm-to-scoop” creameries in the state. Each location offers passports to the Ice Cream Trail that can be stamped at the participating locations. Visit six creameries and win a t-shirt. Visit all 12 to earn a #PursueYourScoops ice cream scoop.

Two Berks County locations made the list: Twilight Acres Creamery & Bakery in Stouchsburg and Way-Har Farms in Bernville.

Way-Har is the older, more recognized name. Located along Route 183 between Bernville and Strausstown in the northwest reaches of the county, Way-Har has long been known for its milk, dairy and desserts – both baked and frozen.

The store also offers a variety of bulk foods and candies, jams and jellies, and country primitives. There is also a small deli section featuring a limited menu of hoagies and hot meals for dine-in or take-out.

We – Julie, Jakob and I – arrived for an early dinner on a rainy Sunday evening. The ice cream counter was already bustling, but our ice cream would have to wait until we had some real food in us. Among the hot food items are pork BBQ – my choice – and hamburger BBQ – Julie’s choice. I also ordered a cup of sausage stew, one of two soups of the day.

The woman who waited on us was very kind and told us to grab a table and she would bring our food out. There are only eight or so tables, each seating between two and eight people.

When she brought out the food a short time later, our server was nervous that she had made our sandwiches too hot and my stew not hot enough. We had seen her bring the crock-pot out of the back with the stew so it was clear that the microwave got a lot of use for us.

Given the setup, I wasn’t expecting much so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pork BBQ was actually pretty good. The hamburger BBQ was as well. Both were like something you would expect to find a church potluck – surprisingly satisfying but not anything we would go out of our way to order again.

The sausage stew, however, was very good, and it was all because of the sausage. Way-Har sells Peter Bros. Meats (locally made in Lenhartsville, Berks County) and I assume the smokey, flavorful sausage was one of theirs.

If it’s on the menu again, I would definitely get a quart to take home (but my own microwave would suffice for reheating).

Of course the soup and sandwich was just a precursor. We were there for the ice cream. I had seen a sign on the door advertising peach as the flavor of the week. That had me sold instantly.

Peach ice cream was my absolute favorite growing up so there was a little nostalgia at play. But I thought it was absolutely delicious. There were no large chunks of fruit, but with more, smaller pieces it added flavor throughout.

Julie found an ice cream flavor that she had never tried before – tandy cake. It was vanilla peanut butter ice cream with the addition of pieces of tandy cake (think Tastykake’s Kandy Kake) and chocolate chips.

In this case, there were larger chunks of cake mixed in, and Julie absolutely loved it. Tandy cakes are one of her favorite desserts, and mixing it into an already creamy vanilla peanut butter ice cream made her day.

As Julie paid our roughly $25 tab, we got our first stamp on our passport. Our goal is to find a way to visit all 12 between now and when the promotion ends on October 31.

Way-Har Farms was certainly a great place to start. One down. Eleven to go.

BCE Rating

Food: Fair
Ice Cream: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Way-Har Farms

7701 Bernville Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

PA Ice Cream Trail

Twilight Acres Creamery & Bakery
Stouchsburg, Berks County

Way-Har Farms
Bernville, Berks County

Coventry Parlor at Laurel Locks
Pottstown, Chester County

Chester Springs Creamery at Milky Way Farm
Chester Springs, Chester County

Fox Meadows Creamery
Ephrata, Lancaster County

Lapp Valley Farms
New Holland, Lancaster County

The Milkhouse at Oregon Dairy
Lititz, Lancaster County

Patches Family Creamery
Lebanon, Lebanon County

Crystal Spring Farm
Schnecksville, Lehigh County

Freddy Hill Farms
Lansdale, Montgomery County

Merrymead Farm
Lansdale, Montgomery County

Perrydell Farm and DairyYork, York County

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Ganly's Bangers and Mash

Ganly’s Pub & Deli

Ganly's Pub & Deli

Editor’s note: this post was updated to correct an error regarding one of the menu items.

County Eats is not a one-man operation. If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know that my wife Julie – and lately, our son Jakob – has been along for nearly every blog (she even wrote a couple herself recently).

Most times, our experiences are the same. If one of us is happy, the other is happy. If one of us has a good time, the other has a good time.

Sometimes, though, things go a little differently. That’s what happened on a recent trip to Ganly’s Pub & Deli.

Ganly's Pub and Deli

Ganly’s sits at the end of State Hill Road, where it meets Brownsville Road and Reber’s Bridge Road in Lower Heidelberg Township. It’s a beautiful building in a location that’s out of the way for many.

The restaurant had fallen off of my radar for a while, but this year’s Wilson Iron Chef brought it back to the forefront. Not only did Ganly’s impress in the People’s Choice competition with its apple, brie and bacon crisps, Chef Ben Hinkel put in a great effort in the Iron Chef competition, itself.

A few weeks later, we paid the restaurant a visit. It wasn’t our first time dining there, but it was our first time in years and the first time for the blog.

Ganly's Pub and Deli

Ganly’s doesn’t offer reserved seating on the weekends, but Julie was able to call ahead and add our name to the wait list – a 30-minute wait on this Friday evening.

We arrived early, hoping they were overestimating, and were told it would still be 20-30 minutes. It ended up being a full half hour until we were seated in the main dining room – additional seating can be found in the bar area on the opposite side of the building.

Jakob had napped through most of our wait so he was wide awake by the time we sat down for dinner. So even though we had his car seat in a high chair, Julie and I took turns holding him through the duration of our meal.

Ganly's Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup

Both Julie and I started with a cup of soup. For Julie, it was French onion. For me, it was fire roasted tomato – the daily special.

The tomato soup was different from any other that I have tried. It was a chunky soup – not with tomato chunks, but with carrots, onions and other vegetables. It was well-seasoned and enjoyable, a good start to the meal.

Ganly's French Onion Soup

Julie’s French onion soup was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. A solid start, but it was after this that her meal went sideways.

The appetizer special of the day was a smoked salmon BLT. When asked, our waitress told Julie that it would be enough for a meal.

Ganly's Smoked Salmon BLT

And it was. The BLT looked beautiful when it arrived, a focaccia roll loaded with smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, housemade mayo and smoked salmon.

After her first bite, Julie realized that while she loves grilled salmon, smoked salmon is not her thing. She tried some more but she just did not care for it. It wasn’t Ganly’s fault, but and we were more than happy to pay for the dish, but Julie knew she wasn’t going to eat it and placed an order for another dish.

Ganly's Bangers and Mash

So while she waited for her next meal, I worked on my bangers and mash. Americans would call it sausages and mashed potatoes.

The bangers had a crispy outside and a great flavor that was spiced more like a German wurst than an American-style country sausage. The mash was actually colcannon. Colcannon is mashed potatoes with the addition of cabbage. It was a subtle difference, but it was very good, especially with the gravy.

I really enjoyed everything, but could only finish half of it, partially because my meal also came with a salad that arrived just moments before the bangers and mash.

Ganly's Salad

The salad was your basic mixed greens and choice of dressing. It wasn’t anything special, but it was a hefty salad. Had I known that my entree came with a salad, I may have skipped the soup, but I had already ordered the tomato soup when the waitress asked me what dressing I would like.

Julie handed Jakob off to me once her replacement meal arrived. It was the chicken and smoked gouda sandwich.

Ganly's Chicken and Gouda Sandwich

The gouda was a nice change of pace, and the roll was very good. The house chips on the side was okay, but could have used a little more salt and other seasonings.

By this point, we had been at the restaurant for nearly an hour-and-a-half and all Julie cared about was the eating, not the reviewing, so she hurriedly ate her sandwich.

We received our bill and the BLT had been removed. It wasn’t necessary as they restaurant had done nothing wrong. In total, our bill was a little over $40.

It was a mixed bag for us. For me, it was a great meal. Though the wait was a little frustrating. For Julie, it was a bit disappointing as she really wanted the smoked salmon BLT, but it just wasn’t what she thought it was going to be. And her wait was even longer. If she hadn’t had that soup, I don’t know if she could have lasted until her sandwich arrived.

But I have to give credit to our waitress who handled it well, despite having to work too many tables (she was also serving in the other dining area) and not being at fault at all.

Hopefully next time is a better experience, one that we can both enjoy.

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

Ganly’s Pub
500 Brownsville Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Masa Sushi & Hibachi

One of the cool things about this blog is I have the opportunity to watch a space evolve as old restaurants move on and new restaurants arrive.

A perfect example of that sits in the center of a strip mall in the Broadcasting Square Shopping Center in Wyomissing.

The space was original home to Super King Buffet – a rather ordinary Chinese buffet. More recently, it was home to Hong Thanh, an inspired Vietnamese restaurant that left the city of Reading only to return to its original location last year (under the new name Lang Restaurant).

Now, the space is home to Masa Hibachi and Sushi. It’s the third Asian restaurant at the location, but that’s where the similarities end.

 

Masa opened at the end of 2017 after a renovation that completely transformed the space. Gone is the booth seating that ran the length of the dining room. Instead, the dining area has been broken up. There are tables for two and four by the window. Beyond that are two hibachi grills, a sushi bar, another bar and more tables.

The hibachi grills were fired up – two young children sat with parents and grandparents, mesmerized at the show of fire and cooking skills – but we skipped the performance to try some of Masa’s other menu items.

Julie’s meal came with a house salad, served with ginger dressing. At first glance, it looked like honey mustard, but looks can be deceiving. The ginger was ever-present in this citrusy dressing. It had a nice tang to it and was very easy on the palate. The dressing really made the difference for what was otherwise a standard bowl of lettuce garnished with a cucumber slice and a pair of cherry tomatoes.

My meal did not come with salad so I ordered a cup of coconut chicken soup. Unfortunately my soup didn’t arrive as an appetizer and instead showed up with our entrees.

I had coconut chicken soup once before, in February 2015 at China Penn in Exeter Township. The two dishes were similar but with some key differences. At China Penn, there was one large piece of chicken and the broth was filled with carrots and herbs.

Masa’s version featured bite size pieces of chicken – as a soup should. There were no carrots, but there were pieces of hard-boiled egg and cherry tomatoes, the latter adding a pleasant flavor burst in those bites. The broth itself was very good, if a little sweet. I only wish that I wasn’t eating it with my main course.

That main course was a yaki udon stir fry. Yaki literally means grilled or fried in Japanese. Udon noodles are thicker, white colored noodles. The sauce for yaki udon is soy-based, but this was not soy sauce. It was light sauce that was much less salty than I was expecting from an Asian stir-fry.

Noodle dishes at Masa are served with the choice of vegetable, chicken, beef, shrimp, seafood, or “house.” I went with the beef, which was cooked in the sauce with the noodles, greens and carrots. It was a nice dish, but the size of the udon noodles made it almost impossible to get anything else on the fork.

Some of it – a little less than half – went home with me for lunch the next day.

Julie, on the other hand, left none of her sesame chicken and rice when she was finished.

Sesame chicken is a staple of Americanized Chinese food menus. There is something about getting sesame chicken served on a plate instead of in a box that seems to add flavor. Or maybe this was just a better version of the dish. But it still felt familiar like the comfort food that it is.

The meal may have been slightly more expensive than a Chinese take-out restaurant, but the $30 price tag was certainly a modest cost for a sit-down meal for two that included a bowl of soup and two soft drinks.

I wouldn’t put it among the best meals that I have had on Berks County Eats, but overall, I was impressed – both by the changes made to the space and with the dining experience at Masa. It was a good meal in a cool atmosphere.

But in this case, good is good enough.

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

Masa Hibachi & Sushi
2733 Papermill Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Masa Hibachi and Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews