Every major city has a food that it is famous for. Buffalo has wings. Kansas City and Memphis have barbecue. New York has pizza. New Orleans has po’ boys. Even Reading, the Pretzel City, has its own.
In nearby Philadelphia, it’s all about the cheesesteaks. Ask 500 Philadelphians where to find the best steaks in town and you’re likely to get 500 different answers (none of them being Pat’s or Geno’s).
If you live in Berks County, you already know that you don’t have to drive an hour away for a mouthwatering cheesesteak. I’m admittedly biased, but I would put Berks County’s offerings up against Philadelphia’s anytime.
And there is no more appropriate place in Greater Reading to get a taste of Philly than Mike’s Taste of Philly in West Reading.
Mike’s began serving Philly favorites in 2012, taking over the former Yellow Submarine restaurant along 5th Avenue, just off Delaney Circle.
Jerseys and memorabilia from all of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams adorn the walls of the shop, and if there’s a game happening, you can bet it’s on in the small dining area. Even though there was plenty of seating the two of us, we opted to take our meals home on this day.
The menu includes favorites from Philadelphia and beyond including pizza, hoagies, smoked wings and Zeps—Norristown’s answer to the hoagie featuring a single meat, cheese, onions, sweet peppers and oil, but no lettuce. There’s also Mike’s “Conshy” line of sandwiches served on grilled flatbread.
And of course, there are the Philly Cheesesteaks.
All of Mike’s Philly Cheesesteaks are served on 9-inch rolls from the Conshohocken Italian Bakery. For those with a bigger appetite, Mike’s also offers an 18-inch in all of its sandwiches (stood on end, that’s about one-quarter the height of an average person).
Like any true Philly steak, you have the option to get it “wit” or “wit-out” onions, along with other standard and not-so-standard toppings like hot peppers, tomatoes, pepperoni or bacon.
In my opinion, any kind of sandwich is better “wit” so I went with onions and sweet peppers on mine. Julie’s sandwich was identical to my own except hers was slathered in melted American cheese.
While some restaurants use thin sliced meat on their sandwiches, the ribeye on Mike’s Philly Steaks are cut thick so you can actually taste the flavorful meat. The steak was moist, but there was no pile of grease when it was finished. The sweet peppers and onions gave a little jolt of flavor while the gooey cheese found its way into all of the cracks.
For the frugal foodie, there’s no better day than Thursday to try Mike’s. Every Thursday, you receive a free order of fries with a sandwich purchase. And Mike’s fries are among the best around. The fresh-cut, golden brown spuds have a crispy outside and a great flavor. If you want more than the standard, you can also try pizza fries, loaded fries, gravy fries and wiz fries wit or without.
The Philadelphia influence also stretches into dessert as Mike’s carries a full line of Philadelphia Water Ice in a range of flavors that include cherry, root beer, blueberry and mango. Even though baseball season is still four months away, we went with the Phillies Swirl, a blend of cherry and lemon that is mostly sweet but will make you pucker just a little.
Not only is Mike’s food as good as any sandwich shop in Philadelphia, the prices can’t be beat. With the free-fry special, our bill came in at $20, at least $10 less than what you’d pay for the same thing in Center City.
With places like Mike’s Taste of Philly, along with other Berks County restaurants like the Steak Shack and V&S Sandwiches, there’s no need to sit in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway. True Philadelphia flavor can be find right here at home.