When Good Eatz Green Cafe opened its doors, it was an anomaly. Berks County is a meat-and-potatoes kind of place. I honestly never thought an organic cafe that specialized in vegan and vegetarian dishes could survive.
Five years later, Good Eatz is still going strong.
The cafe is tucked neatly at the entrance to Designer Place at the VF Outlet, having moved from its former home along Penn Avenue more than a year ago.
Brick walls with white and maroon tile floor harken back to the building’s industrial roots, but the stained glass sign at the entrance – Good Eatz set out in bright red set against blades of grass and a brightly colored ladybug – perfectly captures the Cafe’s chic vibe.
The menu is a lot larger than expected, with plenty of choices for the hungry meat-eater like the Andouille sausage burrito, grilled chicken wraps and Kobe beef sliders. But Good Eatz caters to those with special dietary needs like gluten free, vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free (many menu items fit all four categories).
Though Good Eatz is open for all three meals, lunch items dominate the menu. Soups, salads, sandwiches, paninis and wraps make up the bulk of the menu, but everything has its own twist. There are salmon burgers, gluten free pizza and my wife’s choice, the raspberry and brie grilled cheese (an interesting combination that worked surprisingly well together).
For me, this trip was all about stepping out of my comfort zone.
If you’re a follower of Berks County Eats, you know how much I love good meats. Whether it’s a tender steak, a perfectly smoked rack of ribs or a rotisserie chicken, I have spent many a meal satisfying my inner carnivore. It would have been easy to order up a burger or a stir-fry.
Instead my eyes locked in on the 11-item vegan menu, and I was surprised to see so many familiar dishes – sloppy joes, meatloaf, burgers and my choice, shepherd’s pie.
Traditional shepherd’s pie is my ideal dish – mashed potatoes loaded with meat and gravy. Vegan shepherd’s pie looked the same, but the flavors were very different.
And that’s not a bad thing.
“Textured vegetable protein” mimicked the look and feel of ground beef. The use of red-skinned mashed potatoes as a base was a great way to make up for the lost flavor from the missing meat. Mix in peas and carrots, and top it all with mushroom gravy, and you’ve got a dish that’s almost as good as the original.
To my surprise the food was not only delicious, but very reasonably priced. My shepherd’s pie, complete with side salad, cost just $10. In fact, the most expensive item on the menu, the seafood stir-fry, is only $16.
I won’t be giving up meat anytime soon, but going with a healthier alternative every now and then can’t be a bad thing, especially if it’s as good as my first trip to Good Eatz.
Update: As of April, 2014, The Good Eatz Green Cafe has moved to a new location inside the Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market.