Road Trip: Hunt’s Battlefield Fries


Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 86 miles southwest of Reading to Gettysburg, PA.

As Independence Day approaches, plans are being made for parades, fireworks and family barbecues. It’s a day of celebration and revelry across America as we celebrate all of the freedoms we enjoy in this land.

But it is just as important to remember those who sacrificed everything so that we may continue to live free.

Nowhere in American does “freedom” take on such a somber meaning as it does in Gettysburg.

It was July 1, 1863, 151 years ago this week, that Union and Confederate soldiers engaged in the first of three days of fierce fighting in and around the county seat of Adams County, Pennsylvania.

Today, the battlefield stands a solemn reminder of ultimate price that was paid for independence. Devil’s Den. Little Round Top. The Peach Orchard. Cemetery Ridge. All places around town that have become etched in American history.

A century-and-a-half later, the Civil War is big business for the town, as millions pour in to Gettysburg each year to pay their respects. In town you’ll find museums, storefronts and restaurants that add “Lincoln” and “Union” to their names to attract visitors.


At first glance, Hunt’s Battlefield Fries is just another one of those businesses. Adding the word “battlefield” and hanging bunting from the front porch makes it seem like just another tourist trap at first glance, but we decided to give it a try anyway.

Inside, the decor is best described as busy. One wall appears plucked from a Nashville club circa 1998 as autographed photos of Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and other leading ladies of country music cover every inch. Opposite are a collection of faux tin signs.

And then there are the hats, hundreds of them. Each one bears the name of a U.S. Army brigade, Air Force squadron, Naval warship or other military unit. It’s a bizarre, yet touching tribute to all those who have defended America in the last 240 years.

But Hunt’s is a restaurant first, and it is the food that had customers lining up for a table in the sardine can that passed for a dining room. At least in the summer months the outdoor patio is a viable seating option, otherwise there would be room for no more than 20 diners at a time.


Upon seating, we were explained that all food is made to order so the wait would be about 40 minutes so we searched through the incredible collection of sodas before finding a pair of Berks County favorites and passing the time with a trivia booklet sitting on the table.


As the name implies, the Hunt’s offerings start with fries, with burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches filling out the remaining menu. I decided a chili burger would do well and was not disappointed. The burger was cooked perfectly and the chili was excellently seasoned, adding a little sweet and a little heat. The fries were fresh-cut, and I gave them a vinegar bath and tossed on a few sprinkles of Old Bay and Cajun seasoning from the toppings bar. A little crispy on the outside, but still a beautiful golden brown, the fries were made that much better by the add-ons.


On the other side of the table, my wife was enjoying an American classic of her own: grilled cheese with tomato and bacon (because a plain grilled cheese was just not enough). The bacon and tomato added more crunch, a little salt and a lot more flavor. And because she can’t get enough cheese, she also added a side of cheese sauce for her fries.

A burger, grilled cheese and fries in Gettysburg, our food at Hunt’s Battlefield Fries were about as American a meal as you can get, all for about the price of admission to the park’s museum and Cyclorama.

From Hunt’s, it is just a short drive to the actual battlefield, the place where freedom for all Americans was ensured 150 years ago. And this all-American meal feels right at home there.

Hunt's Battlefield Fries on Urbanspoon

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Berks Food News – 6/27/14

Muddy’s Opens Robesonia Location

Muddy’s BBQ’s original location in Alsace Township remains closed, but it has opened a brand new location in Robesonia. The location along Penn Avenue, the first of two planned locations, officially opened on June 27. A second location in Oley is still planned but no open date has been announced.

Fire Damages Bistro 614

Bistro 614 in West Reading is closed indefinitely after a fire ripped through the restaurant in the early morning hours on June 23. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page says their “hearts are broken as our restaurant is in shambles.” No timetable has been given for re-opening.

BBQ Comes to West Reading

Berks County’s BBQ boom continues as Johnny G’s Barbecue on the Avenue is set to open its doors in West Reading. No date has been set for the opening, but an article in Wednesday’s Reading Eagle said the restaurant expects to open before the end of June. Johnny G’s formerly operated as Johnny G’s Smokin’ Pig Shack in Royersford.

Busy Weekend for Berks Foodies

This Saturday and Sunday will be a busy weekend for foodies in Berks County as a number of events are on tap catering to every taste bud:

The VF Outlet Center is hosting its annual Food Truck Festival this Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Visitors can experience the flavors of some of the area’s best food truck vendors. There will also be a meatball cook-off where area cooks compete to see whose meatball recipe is king.

Northern Berks County will again take center stage for foodies as the Kempton Music Center hosts the annual Bacon Brew Fest this Saturday beginning at 12 p.m. Taste creative bacon dishes and sample craft brews and wines from local sellers. There will also be live musical entertainment all day. Admission is $10.

The Kutztown Folk Festival opens for its 65th year on Saturday. The annual celebration of Pennsylvania Dutch folklife offers a taste of traditional foods including chicken pot pie, ox roast and shoofly pie. The festival, which runs every day through July 6, is open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily, except the final day when it closes at 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors, $5 for students (age 13-17) and free for children 12 and under.

Food News

Food & Festivals: Centre Park Gourmet Garden Tour

Last Saturday, the owners of some of Reading’s most beautiful properties opened the gates for the Centre Park Gourmet Garden Tour.

The annual event showcases Reading’s Centre Park Historic District, and the unique landscaping found in the city’s hidden backyard getaways.

And while my wife was gathering ideas for our own gardens, I was enjoying free samples from some of the area’s best eateries as five Berks County food vendors were offering free samples to tour-goers.


We started our self-guided tour with a stop at the Feeney Funeral, which is actually a beautiful century-old mansion along North 4th Street. No restaurants were on site, but there were hamburgers on the grill and some excellent apple strudel for dessert.

Garden-tour-1 Aayshiyana

After a short walk to Oley Street, we encountered a low-maintenance lawn made up entirely of AstroTurf. As intriguing as the faux grass was, the samples from Reading’s Aashiyana Indian Cuisine were the real stars. Along with some very flavorful rice, Aashiyana brought along chicken makhan walla and khum matter paneer.

The former was a delicious chicken served in a soupy tomato gravy while the latter was a flavorful combination of cottage cheese, green peas and mushroom cooked in cashew sauce and tomato gravy. Both were loaded with traditional Indian spices, but the vegetable dish had a little more kick.


garden-tour-2 sofrito-pork-rice-guava-bbq

From India to the West Indies, our next tour stop featured the Latin flavors of Reading’s Sofrito Gastro Pub. The pulled pork was tender and moist, and topped with an unexpectedly sweet guava barbecue sauce. I only wish I could have had more than the small spoonful that was dripped atop.


The next stop offered a quaint backyard that was too small for a food tasting. Instead, West Reading’s Say Cheese! was set up in the next garden just a few doors down. Unfortunately, the restaurant brought only simple tortilla chips and Triscuit and a few cheese cubes. When asked what kind of cheese was on the table, the young man helping responded, “if Say Cheese! were here, they would probably have a fancy name for it, but I call it Swiss.”

garden-tour12 Vietnamese-Delights

Following the disappointment of the cheese, we wandered to Windsor Street to one of the larger gardens on the tour. It also happened to have one of the better food vendors as Vietnamese Delights, a stand at the Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmer’s Market, was handing out chicken cabbage salad and a vegetable spring roll. The spring roll was exceptionally good thanks to a generous portion of bean curd and a tasty peanut dipping sauce.

garden-tour-6 garden-tour-8

The last residential garden on the tour was the most unique, as we were carried away like Alice to Wonderland, complete with the full tea party and Cheshire Cat grin. The lemonade and Lorna Doones being served may not have been gourmet, but this was one stop where the garden was actually the star.


From here, there were two remaining stops, the Hendel House, a mansion owned and operated by the Berks County Historical Society, and the soon-to-open Inn at Centre Park. The two beautiful buildings along Centre Avenue were open for touring, with the Inn’s spacious backyard hosting the Terrapin Trio folk rock band, as well as samples from Food of the Mediterranean.

inn-at-centre-park Foods-of-the-Mediterranean

Mediterranean Delights, another Fairgrounds Farmers Market stand, served two hummus options, a mild and a spicy, as well as artichokes, chickpeas, and a feta and olive salad. The spicy hummus was a hit, especially with the artichokes, but after having that, the chickpeas seemed redundant.

The Centre Park Gourmet Garden Tour is one of my favorite events every year because the organizers are able to bring in a world of flavors from popular local eateries while showcasing a side of Reading that those of us in the suburbs rarely get to see. And the $25 for tickets ($23 if you order in advance) goes toward preserving this beautiful neighborhood.

Food Festivals & Events

Spuds – CLOSED


Editor’s Note: Spuds is now closed. The restaurant suffered a fire in the summer of 2019. Instead of reopening a brick-and-mortar store, Spuds will concentrate on catering and events moving forward.

Berks County is a land of extremes when it comes to food.

On one hand, you have the finest dining establishments, places with white table linens, strict dress codes and suits and ties.

On the other, you have the celebrated greasy spoons, locally renowned holes-in-the-wall serving great food without any of the frills.

There may be no better, or greasier, greasy spoon in Berks County than Spuds in Kutztown.

Spuds doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. There are no fancy decorations on the walls, only the photos of those brave souls who have conquered “The Beast,” the restaurant’s three-pound burger challenge (the current record holder finished it in a very impressive 13 minutes).

The menu, a single piece of paper printed front and back, is headed by the “Assembly Line,” where you build your own burger, hot dog, steak or chicken sandwich from a list of toppings and “over the top-pings” which include corned beef, ham, mozzarella sticks and onion rings.

A handful of salads appeal to those who want to trick themselves into thinking they are eating healthy, though I doubt the cheeseburger salad (which includes, you guessed it, a freshly grilled cheeseburger) or The Mob (topped with ham and pepperoni) have much redeeming nutritional value.

And then there are the famous fries from which Spuds takes its name. The original fries and curly fries are great, but why settle when there are 30 topping options, including Sweet Heat (Cajun seasoning, sweet chili sauce and mozzarella), San Antonio (ground beef, fried onions, cayenne ranch, mozzarella and bacon) and Lonely Hearts (mushrooms, peppers, onions, parmesan pepper sauce and mozzarella).


I decided to splurge on the burger, topping it with barbecue sauce, onions and pulled pork. The quarter-pound burger on its toasted bun would have been plenty filling, but not nearly as much fun. The pulled pork was tender and moist, and it would have made an excellent sandwich on its own. Together, it was a deliciously messy dish that no bun could contain.


Of course no meal at Spuds is complete without fries. The Chesapeake fries, which are tossed in Old Bay and olive oil, are one of the simpler creations available, but sometimes less is more. The thin-cut fries were dripping of oil and doused in seasoning. The cook could have probably held off on the extra salt, but the fries were as good as any that you are going to find.


Taking the opposite approach, my wife went with a simple cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise while loading up on the spuds, literally, with an order of loaded fries. The “gall bladder goodness,” as my wife calls it, is like eating a fried baked potato, with cheddar, ranch, bacon and chives.


A fork is a must as the cheese hardens atop the potatoes, but it is worth the extra effort it takes to eat the extra special fries.

Though reasonably priced (with drinks, our meals came in at under $25.00), don’t confuse Spuds with fast food. All of the burgers and fries are made to order, which can mean long waits during the dinner rush, especially when class is in session a Kutztown University. Of course, you can always call in your order (and probably should if you need more than two or three meals).

Spuds is a favorite of students, especially those looking for a late-night meal. But the food is too good to dismiss it as a college town dive.

So if you’re in the mood for a burger and fries, and if you have a few thousand calories to spare, skip the fast food and gorge on some greasy gourmet instead.

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

163 W. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530

Spuds on Urbanspoon

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Berks Food News 6/18

Muddy’s to reopen in new locations

Muddy’s Smokehouse BBQ, which has been embroiled in a legal battle with Alsace Township regarding its location along Route 12, has announced it is opening two new locations, one in Oley and one in Robesonia. Exact addresses for the locations have not been announced. In an article in the June 13 Reading Eagle, owner David Reynolds said both locations will have unique menus with seating for up to 30. Reynolds also said his goal remains to re-open the original location.

Boehringer’s targets mid-July re-opening

Boehringer’s Drive-In in Adamstown, Lancaster County, is projecting a mid-July re-opening of the restaurant, according to its official Facebook page. The restaurant has been closed since May 18 when a fire engulfed the kitchen. A faulty milkshake machine was determined to have caused the fire.

Annual Gourmet Garden Tour set for this Saturday

The 21st annual Gourmet Garden Tour is scheduled for this Saturday, June 21. The event, held in Reading’s Centre Park Historic District, combines a self-guided tour of neighborhood gardens with food from local restaurants and locally made beer and wine selections. Food vendors include Sofrito Gastro Pub, Say Cheese, Aashiyana Indian Cuisine, Foods of the Mediterranean and Vietnamese Delights. Tickets are $25 on the day of the event, $23 if purchased before Friday at noon. The event runs from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Apple Dumping Festival continues through Saturday

Willow Glen Park in Sinking Spring is playing host to the annual Apple Dumpling Festival through Saturday, June 21. As the name implies, the big draw for the festival is the fresh baked apple dumplings, but the festival also features rides, games, foods and the Miss Apple Dumpling Pageant. The festival is open Thursday from 5:30 until 10 p.m., Friday from 5:30 until 11 p.m. and Saturday from 2:00 p.m.

Food News

G.N.A. Ristorante


Location makes a big difference when it comes to the success of a restaurant. Finding a place that is in the right neighborhood, is the correct size or has the right ambiance can be difficult.

Sometimes you get it right the first time, but sometimes a restaurant has to adapt, and that can necessitate a change in location.

For G.N.A. Ristorante, West Reading was the right place, but it took a move of three blocks down the street before they found the perfect location in 2006.

I can remember the old restaurant – a pizza parlor that happened to sell great pastas. The room was simple, with a handful of Formica booths and some small tables. It was simple, but always packed with people, especially those standing in line for take-out.

G.N.A.’s current location is much more elegant. The walls, with their partially exposed bricks and simple painted vines, make the building look and feel much homier.

The take-out area has been partitioned off from the dining area, which is, itself, divided into four separate seating areas. To the left is the pizzeria, with high-cushioned booths to fit six and smaller tables in the center.

In the middle is the bar, with its high-top bistro tables and flat screen TV’s. To the right a more refined dining room. Floral centerpieces sit atop table linens in the light of the large picture windows. The seating continues outside where metal bistro tables are adorned with green, white and blue umbrellas.

The full menu is offered in all of the dining areas so we opted for comfort and took our seats in the pizzeria.

Much of the menu is standard Italian restaurant fare: hot and cold sandwiches, pizza and Stromboli, and all the familiar pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and baked ziti.

But they do offer many unique items like veal-stuffed tortelloni, salmon in a champagne, tomato and basil sauce, and homemade fettuccine and tagliatelle pasta.


Looking for something a little different, myself, I went with the Gamboncello D’ Agnello, lamb shank sautéed in olive oil and Chianti wine served with beef braised ravioli.

The lamb shank cast a large shadow as it more than filled the plate, the thick bone protruding off the side. Lamb shank can be a tough cut of me, especially if not cooked properly. But this was braised perfectly, creating a very tender, very moist dish. With the addition of the subtle sauce, which featured small bits of carrots and onion, the meat took on a flavor similar to a pot roast, but with richer flavor.

On the side were four of the beef braised raviolis, which had a complex flavor from a mix of herbs and a heavier presence from the Chianti. I wish this variation of raviolis was a menu item of its own so I could get a full order of them on my next visit.


The beauty of the G.N.A menu is that while I was enjoying a true culinary experience, my wife was sitting next to me with a tuna melt.

Dating back to the days at the old restaurant, G.N.A.’s tuna melt has been one of my wife’s favorite sandwiches. She has never been able to pinpoint an exact reason, but she has yet to find a tuna sandwich that can match it, with its warm, toasted roll, melted cheese and flavorful tuna mix.

With such a wide variety on the menu, G.N.A. also offers dinners in a wide range of prices. While my lamb shank was one of the higher priced items at just over $20.00, the small tuna melt came in under $5.00.

When a restaurant finds the right mix of great food with the perfect location, you get a place like G.N.A., a place that offers whatever dining experience you are looking for with an excellent food selection to suit every taste.

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

G.N.A. Ristorante
421 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

GNA Ristorante e Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews
The exterior of Canal Street Pub features a large sign with their logo: a bridge over the Schuylkill River

Canal Street Pub


More than a century ago, before it became synonymous with the railroad, Reading was a port city. Long before traffic snarled along Route 422, it was the Schuylkill Canal that carried the bulk of the traffic to and from the city.

The canal is long gone, but it’s memory lives on. The Schuylkill River Trail has taken much of the old towpath and repurposed it for recreation. And Canal Street continues to carry traffic along the river at the city’s southern end.

But Canal Street is much different today. The river still flows, but so too does the craft beer. And the barges have been replaced by burgers.

The Canal Street Pub sits in the former factory for Reading Hardware Company. The large brick building witnessed the decline of the canal first hand from its vantage point just across the street from the waterway.

Inside is a tale of two restaurants. Patrons walking through the front door are greeted by a traditional pub, complete with flat screen televisions, immense bar and an electronic dartboard that sat unplugged in the corner.

But through the open doorway, Canal Street expands into an elegant dining room, complete with white table linens and crystal stemware.

With two separate dining areas come two separate menus: the pub focusing on burgers and pizzas and the restaurant offering more upscale pastas and entrees. The extensive beer and wine menu is also a huge draw as beer aficionados can sample craft beers from across the country.

Both dinner menus are available to pub-goers during the dinner rush (at least they were on our visit), which greatly opens up the options.


I decided to take full advantage of this and started my meal with a cup of tomato dill soup. The dill, along with a heavy dose of cream, helped give this a very different flavor from most tomato soups. It was a little sweet and very delicious.

Having both menus at my disposal, I opted for the most intriguing option: fig balsamic duck.


I can count on one hand the number of times that I have eaten duck, and I have loved it every time. However I know little about the meat so when the waitress suggested ordering it cooked medium, I took her advice.

And I was very glad I did.

The meat came out looking beautiful, with an incredible black char around the edges of the white meat. The balsamic provided a nice base to the glaze, but the sweetness of the fig helped cut what would normally be an overpowering flavor.

The duck was served atop a bed of stir fried vegetables with a side of white rice. I expected the vegetables, a mix of cabbage, carrots and snap peas, to be tossed in the same sauce as the duck, but was pleasantly surprised to find it had charms all its own, mixed in a soy-based sauce that both countered and complimented the main dish.


On the other side of the table, my wife enjoyed Canal Street’s Mediterranean chicken. The chicken breast was topped with mozzarella and served over a bed of sun-dried tomatoes and olives to make a salsa-like base. The sauce was a mix of balsamic and pesto, but was also incredibly sweet because of the tomatoes.

It was served with what looked to be homemade pappardelle pasta which was tossed with spinach, which was delicious, but almost became an after thought because it wasn’t tossed with the chicken. Still, it was an excellent side dish.

My duck was the most expensive item on the menu so our bill was about as high as it could be without ordering from the drink menu at $55.00. Still, it was well-worth the price.

Following dinner, we took a quick walk across the street to Heritage Park, a small little green space along the river that was once canal lock #190. Today, it is home to one of the anchors for the famed “Swinging Bridge” that used to carry riders to Reading’s Outer Station.

The railroad, like the canal and Reading Hardware, is now just a distant memory.

But new memories are still being made in Reading, and if you’re looking for a memorable dining experience, Canal Street Pub might be your place.

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

Canal Street Pub & Restaurant
535 Canal St
Reading, PA 19602

Canal Street Pub & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Shady Maple Smorgasbord


Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 23 miles southwest of Reading to East Earl, PA.

I think everyone has a birthday tradition.

For myself, and many people who live within driving distance of Lancaster County, that tradition includes a birthday feast at one of the best buffets in the entire country.

Every year on May 30, my wife and I make the short drive south to East Earl to join the throngs of thousands that pour into Shady Maple Smorgasbord daily.

East Earl, a community of just over 1,000 people, doubles in size during the evening dinner rush. That’s the way it has been since Shady Maple expanded its smorgasbord more than a decade ago to create the glorious food paradise it is today.

The only exceptions are on holidays and every Sunday when the restaurant is closed, perhaps so we can all atone for committing the deadly sin of gluttony during our visit.


It’s easy to get lost among the food, which is why signs point the way to both the east and west buffet. Combined, there are 10 islands, four carving stations and three drink stations. A pair of dessert stands bookend the room. Walking from one end to the other is nearly impossible as you bob and weave your way around a hundred other people, all seemingly waiting in line for the same thing you are.

But with limited stomach to work with, scoping out the entire buffet is a must. Otherwise you may miss the carved-to-order prime rib or the ICEE machine.

As much as I appreciate a good salad, the two stations full of greens are off-limits during my visits. I can get a free salad with a meal anywhere.


Instead, my first plate included a cup of tomato basil soup, broccoli, a pierogi and a sweet and sour meatball. The soup was a beautiful shade of light orange, a result of the added cream that gave it its rich flavor. A heaping helping of peppers and onions came along with the pierogi, but it could easily stand on its own. And the meatball was more like a miniature meatloaf, packed with spices in a ketchup-based barbecue sauce. I also added on an onion biscuit, just for good measure.


Plate number two was all about the meat as I took a slab of beef brisket and a heaping helping of roast beef. A fistful of carrots and a drop of bread filling helped balance out the plate. The brisket was a featured meat at one of the carving stations. Unfortunately the heat lamps at carving stations rarely keep meats hot, and this was no exception. It was lukewarm, and the fact that it was oven-roasted made it taste more like an ordinary slice of beef. The actual roast beef, however, was amazing. It was tender and moist, everything the brisket was not.


My third plate was my “healthy” vegetable plate. It featured baked lima beans, which were done in a very nice, thick barbecue sauce (I wish I that for the brisket); mashed potatoes; mashed sweet potatoes, which were topped with raisins and nuts; and some of the best (and wettest) dried corn I have ever tried. All the juice you see on the plate was from the dried corn, and it was excellent.


Dessert was a (small) slice of shoofly pie and a dish of raspberry and vanilla soft serve. The wet-bottom pie was alright, but it had obviously been chilled which hurt the filling a little bit.

After dinner, Shady Maple encourages their guests to work off their dinners and shop off some dollars in the expansive gift shop, located beneath the smorgasbord. The store is as large as the buffet, filled to the brim with everything from wind chimes and bird houses to Elvis collectibles and Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks.

If you’re looking for a little taste of Shady Maple to take home, the farmer’s market offers a large selection of fresh produce and many of the smorgasbord’s famous desserts.

Even if you don’t have a birthday coming up, Shady Maple is worth the price of admission. Dinner buffets vary depending on the featured entrees, but average around $20.00 per person. If you do happen to be celebrating, all you need is your ID and a paying guest and you’ve got your very own birthday feast on the house.

Shady Maple Farm Market & Smorgasbord on Urbanspoon

Buffets Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews