Berks County’s restaurant scene is constantly growing. New restaurants are opening all the time, and that’s a great thing. And while most of the restaurants are small, independent places, we have also seen an influx of chains in recent years. That trend is continuing with the recent opening of P.J. Whelihan’s and the anticipated arrival of Mission BBQ, Buffalo Wild Wings and others.
This got me thinking, what chain restaurants is Berks County still missing?
So I thought about all of the chains I have eaten at and researched a few that I haven’t. I excluded any chains that were here in gone (sorry Hooter’s and T.G.I. Friday’s). Also excluded were regional chains from other parts of the country (In-N-Out Burger), big city chains (Shake Shack), and higher end restaurants (Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse).
What I came up with was a list of five restaurants that I think could be great fits in Greater Reading.
Bryn & Dane’s
It’s likely that you have never heard of Bryn & Dane’s, and I can’t say that I blame you. Currently, it is a chain with just two locations, both of them located in Horsham, Montgomery County. Bryn & Dane’s is fast food, but healthy. And yes, that does exist. Entree options are wraps, salads, quesadillas or chicken strips. The only sides available are sweet potato fries, popcorn (popcorn!) and seasonal fruit. And instead of Coke or Pepsi, they have natural fountain sodas and organic iced teas. If you’re looking for something sweet, Bryn & Dane offers a variety of healthy smoothies.
Bryn & Dane’s is different. Bryn & Dane’s is local. Bryn & Dane’s would make a great addition to Berks County.
Chickie’s and Pete’s
The Chickie’s and Pete’s inside Santander Arena is just a tease. I don’t want to have to pay for event tickets and parking just to get my hands on an order of Crabfries. With P.J. Whelihan’s now open, Chickie’s is probably the most well-known regional chain without a permanent presence in Berks County. Chickie’s nearest location is in Audubon, Montgomery County, so there is still plenty of room for a westward expansion.
A Reading restaurant just makes sense for Chickie’s and Pete’s. If it plans on remaining a “Philly” chain, Berks, Lancaster, and possibly York, are probably as far west as it can go.
The largest of the chains on this list, Baja Fresh has more than 250 locations across the United States, including two in Montgomery County, the only two in Pennsylvania. The restaurant is similar to Chipotle and Moe’s Southwest Grille, two restaurant that already have a presence in Berks County, in that it is fast casual Mexican food. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas and all of your south-of-the-border favorites are on the menu, but Baja Fresh has a few different items including their Fresh Line Caught Wahoo Tacos and Diablo Burritos.
With only two Pennsylvania locations, there is plenty of room for Baja Fresh to expand, and Berks County has plenty of room for more quick service restaurants.
Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes
Berks Countians love a buffet, but I can tell you that nothing around here compares to a Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes buffet. There are no carving stations and no mashed potatoes . But there are plenty of leafy greens, scratch-made soup and homemade pasta. Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes has 128 locations across 15 states (including 78 in Florida and California, combined), but the closest one to us is in North Carolina. While I don’t expect one to open up any time soon, the chain’s expansion is continuing and should reach the northeast sometime in the coming years.
Again, Berks Countians love buffets. Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes is very different from an Old Country Buffet, but it’s a concept that could gain traction here, especially if it’s the only location in the region.
Dickey’s BBQ Pit
Ten years ago I ate at my first Dickey’s restaurant in North Carolina. The Texas-based chain of barbecue restaurants had just started its eastward expansion and plans were already in the works for locations in Bethlehem and King of Prussia. While the KOP location never came to fruition, Dickey’s did open in Bethlehem and has now expanded their Pennsylvania presence to include Lancaster and Collegeville. Unlike Smokey Bones or the incoming Mission BBQ, Dickey’s is more like an indoor BBQ trailer. You order at the counter from a menu that includes brisket, ribs, pulled pork and sausage. Dickey’s also offers some excellent sides, including waffle fries, BBQ baked beans, jalapeno beans and sweet potato casserole. And to top it all off, each meal comes with free soft serve ice cream if you are lucky enough to have saved room.
While there is clearly no shortage of barbecue in Berks County, there is still plenty of room for a restaurant like Dickey’s.