I have explored many of Berks County’s culinary hot spots: places like West Reading, Wyomissing and Kutztown have been good to me since starting this blog.
But there is one place in the county that has a higher concentration of restaurants than anywhere else. No, it’s not a town. It’s the Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market.
The 60 stands at the market feature fresh produce, butchered meats and bulk foods. But among the poultry and vegetable stands are more than a dozen places to enjoy a hot meal on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
One of those stands is located right inside the front door, and is the place I was eyeing up for my first market meal: Jambalaya J’s.
Jambalaya J’s is one of 60 stands inside the market. Opened in 2000, the stand has been offering Cajun fare for 15 years.
The menu is narrowly focused with only a few options every week. The constants are jambalaya and crab cakes, two items that appear weekly on the menu board. The rest of the offerings are constantly changing. A range of po’ boy sandwiches, soups, sides and barbecue are offered each week.
We placed our order at the counter and the food was ready in a snap. The challenge was finding a pair of seats. The stand, itself, only offers a couple counter seats and a two-seat table that felt like it was a mile long. Thankfully there was a small table open in the seating area across the aisle.
I pulled up a chair and dug into my meal: a pulled pork sandwich combo with jambalaya and cole slaw.
The sandwich was gargantuan, served on an oversized, dusted kaiser roll. The sauce, sweet and rich, made a mess of my hands as it dripped out of the bun. The pork didn’t need much help as it was very flavorful on its own. With the sauce, it was up there with some of the best pulled pork I have tried.
With a name like Jambalaya J’s, the jambalaya has to be good. And this did not disappoint. While the Andouille sausage added some kick, it was not overly spicy. Instead, the thick rice creation was a little sweet. It was only when I got a little piece of dried chile pepper that I really got hit with the heat. That’s when the cooling, creamy cole slaw came in handy.
Julie’s Blue Plate Special was also covered in jambalaya, but with the addition of a pair of crab cakes topped with remoulade sauce. The remoulade really made the dish, adding a sweet and spicy element to the perfectly fried cakes.
The Cajun cuisine was not only delicious, but nicely priced as we only spent $20 for what was a very filling meal.
My first meal at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market did not disappoint. It was a delicious, filling meal that I would definitely order again.
But it might be a while until I get to try it again. After all, I still have dozens of other stands to visit.