In March of 2012, I made my first trip to Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar. From that visit, Berks County Eats was born.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two years since the blog began, and even harder to believe that it has been that long since I have returned to the place that started it all.
Since my last visit, the Peanut Bar went through a series of changes, first hiring, then firing executive chef Andrea Heinly, former contestant on the reality show Hell’s Kitchen.
But the 90-year-old bar showed no evidence of change as I found it much the way I had left it. The same strings of lights still snaked through branches suspended from the ceiling. The walls were still covered in an assortment of vintage photographs and brewery ephemera.
And the peanut shells still crunched beneath my feet.
We tip-toed to our table, careful not to take an embarrassing spill. We were seated much nearer the bar this time. An antique wooden phone, which could have been plucked from an episode of Lassie, hung on wall. Above the bar, a flat screen played a slideshow of images from Reading’s past.
All the while peanut shells were cracked and tossed about the floor. Lady luck proved in my favor as I found an elusive three-chambered peanut in our bucket.
The menu has also gone largely unchanged since our last visit, a testament to the restaurant’s enduring quality. Entrees range from fried chicken and burgers to oyster po’ boys and lobster tail risotto.
I decided to satisfy my German side with chicken schnitzel in leek and onion cream sauce. The presentation truly went above and beyond as it was topped with a bright pink flower and a small herb stem.
The schnitzel came served on a bed of spaetzle—small German egg noodles—and mushrooms. The chicken was lightly breaded, but still heavy enough to give it a nice golden crisp. I tried to get a bit of everything in every bite as the flavors mixed so well together, especially with the creamy sweetness of the sauce. Though the sauce was thick and rich, I would have loved just one more ladle of it to cover the rest of the plate.
Soft-shell crab was the dish that caught my wife’s eye. The crab was served topped with almonds and brown butter and served with broccoli and a side of French fries.
After frantically Googling whether it is safe to eat the soft shell (you can), then trying to decide whether she wanted to eat it (she didn’t). Somehow she managed to pick the shells clean of their meat. But much as it was the last time we went, the fries were her favorite part of the meal. The Peanut Bar’s fresh-cut fries are another thing that hasn’t changed, and I hope they never do.
Sadly, another thing that didn’t change is that we had no room for dessert when the meal was over (next time, I will try some of their pretzel pie, no matter what).
Our second trip to the Peanut Bar was as enjoyable as the first. For us, it brought back memories of just a few years ago, while for many, the institution along Penn Street brings back memories decades in the making.
And as long as the Peanut Bar is serving up great food, people will continue to make memories there for a long time.