Today we are meeting friends that moved to the Philly suburbs from Charleston, WV. The designated location is Chef Alan’s American Bistro in Reading. I tried my best to talk everyone into Indian food, but no-go. (I have already found an Indian place in Mystic, on-line, so even if I have to go alone…I will have nan this week!)
Chef Alan’s list two Reading locations on the website, but it looks suspiciously like a chain. Ron is criticizing me as soon as we sit down at the large booth. “Why did you bring me to a place with a palm tree when we are in New England?” he whined. “I want to eat clam chowder.” I explained to him that we were not yet in New England, we were in Pennsylvania and that several places were not open for lunch on Saturdays. Oh yeah, and I asked him to shut up and eat.
Our friends were impresssed by the variety of the menu – salads, sandwiches (inlcuding an impressive array of burgers), pasta, and chicken. They both ordered cobb salads. Large cobb salads.
Ron chose the beer-battered burger from the list of weekend specials for $8.99. I had never heard of deep-frying a battered burger, but how can deep-frying be bad? Indeed it was coated with a thin, crispy outer shell of Yuengling beer- batter and then piled on the bun with the traditional toppings. He received a side of thick, crispy steak fries. Yes, these are frozen fries, but they were pretty darned good for frozen.
I attempted to order a half-portion of a chicken dish from the list of specials, but they were not offering it in the half size. (Even if the menu doesn’t specify half-portions, it never hurts to ask…sometimes they will accomodate you.) Instead, I chose a half-portion of Chicken Madeira for $10.99, substituting the mashed potatoes with steamed veggies. It came with another side so I asked for additional veggies. I was trying to atone for my carbohydrate sins from the day before.
I received one chicken breast topped with 4 thin asparagus spears and a layer of melted provolone. The chicken was accompanied by a dark Madeira wine sauce. This dish was average. The veggies were the standard broccoli, cauliflower, carrot blend with some zucchini thrown in for good measure. Although they were cooked properly, they were unexciting. Even the asparagus couldn’t put a twinkle in my eye on behalf of this meal. They didn’t snap the ends off, so some bites were thready and they were a bit overcooked.
Service at Chef Alan’s was polite and timely. The atmosphere was Shoney-ish, with a fake palm tree in the middle of the roomful of open seating.
The best part of the meal was visiting with friends I hadn’t seen in years. We sat there in the booth and talked for a couple hours before getting back into the car to travel the remaining distance to Mystic. I rate Chef Alan’s American Bistro TWO FORKS.
I don’t know whether the Food Gods were smiling down on me or the Carbohydrate Devil decided to tempt me beyond my ability for self-control… We stopped just before the New Jersey Turnpike at an Exxon for gas and a soda. I picked up a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, a favorite of mine but not always easy to come by. I was already smiling.
But as I wandered around the little store waiting on Ron, I noticed something very exciting – Drake’s Cakes. I quickly surveyed the offerings: coffee cakes – no, Yodel’s – no, where are they??? they don’t have them? Was I feeling relief or disappointment? I wasn’t sure. I kept looking and then I spied them. The greatest snack cake ever made and placed inside a plastic wrapper – The Funny Bone.
I could go on and on about how much I love Funny Bones and the weird things I have done to try to obtain them. Go ahead and exhale that sigh of relief because I will not go into it. At least not now.
Funny Bones are the snack cake equivalent of a Resee Cup. Resee Cups, obviously, are my favorite candy. Really, no other candy bar is even worth eating in my opinion. The Resee Cup Blizzard is the only worthy Blizzard. I am a huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter. Truly, they are two great tastes that taste great together.
Needless to say I purchased the Funny Bones and happily devoured them as we headed toward New York. A moist chocolate cake, filled with peanut butter cream and coated with a thin layer of chocolate, Funny Bones are yum-o. I only bought the one package, but I know I’ll see them again on this trip. I am in Drake’s Country now.
It was a rough driving day due to crappy weather. Even before sundown it was dark from heavy cloud cover. It rained most of the way with heavy bursts at times. The New Jersey Turnpike sure made us appreciate our West Virginia roads, too.
I experienced the small-town girl feeling as we crossed the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge – wow! I hope the weather is better on the return trip so I can snap some decent pictures. I was gawking like I’d never been out of the holler.
It was 9:00 when we finally arrived at our hotel and we were beat. And hungry. There were only a few restaurants around the hotel and we didn’t feel like trying to navigate anymore new territory so we opted for Jamm’s Restaurant and Bar just down the street.
Jamm’s was not jamming. Customers were sparse. The overpriced, lackluster menu contained many choices but resulted in a difficult decision for me. The only items that looked appealing were in the $18 and up price range and I had a strong suspicion that I would not receive $18 worth of quality. I knew we were in a tourist trap, “jammed” between the HIlton and the Holiday Inn Express.
Relying on the notion that nothing is that bad when it’s deep-fried, I asked for the kid’s meal of chicken tenders for a whopping $8.95. It was not a kid-size portion, though, at 4 of the usual chicken tender strips that arrive to the restaurant breaded and frozen in a plastic bag. They were just as I expected and filled me up.
I substituted veggies for fries and received a mix of thick chunks of zucchini and green beans. I ate all the green beans but discriminated against the zucchini, being very picky about how that particular veggie is cooked.
Ron ordered a bowl of clam chowder and the half-sandwich special, a BBQ chicken breast with bacon and cheese on French bread, costing a total of $9.45. Ron said it was “okay”.
We watched the Ohio State-Penn State game on a large television while we ate, but had to endure the vocal stylings of nSync and Whitney Houston as our dinner soundtrack. ugh. There are some aspects of the 80’s I do not want to relive.
What we really wanted was a cold beer, and we scored on that request. Michelob Ultra was $3 and the Sam Adams draft was $4.50.
I knew from my internet research that these prices are not indicative of the Mystic are – just this specific location, luring weary travelers in for overpriced, disappointing food. No photos, because the subject matter wasn’t worth the effort of bringing out the camera. I would not recommend Jamm’s unless you just want to wet your whistle. ONE FORK.
In our future for Sunday: peer at the Ocean, have a better meal, Ron begins his conference, and I will try to navigate the oppressive liquor laws of Connecticut to obtain cheaper beer for the remainder of our stay.