Pretzel Rev opening on Route 12; Outside In takes Wing Fling title

Pretzel Revolution opening new restaurant


Pretzel Revolution, the Kutztown-based stuffed pretzel chain, is opening a new location in the former Donuts Divine on Route 12. The new restaurant, located across the street from Blind Hartman’s Tavern, is set to open today, according to a sign in the front window. In addition to the namesake pretzels, the restaurant will also be offering ice cream from the Penn State Berkey Creamery. Pretzel Revolution has a close relationship with Penn State, operating a stand in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.

Outside In takes top honors in inaugural Wing Fling


The Outside In took home the top prize in the inaugural Wing Fling at the Santander Arena on Saturday. The Reading restaurant picked up the most votes from attendees thanks to their three wing flavors: Bourbon Street, Internal Combustion and Chipotle Jack. Second place went to Mi Casa Su Casa. Third place went to the Peanut Bar. A full photo blog from the event will be published later this week.

“The Jester” wins wing eating contest


“The Jester” Justin Vernon earned the championship belt in the Wing Fling wing-eating contest. Vernon bested eight other eaters in the two-minute competition, earned $500 and an entry into next year’s contest.

Food News

Blind Hartman’s Tavern


For as long as I can remember, our Tuesday night tradition has been trivia night at the Works at Wyomissing.

Over the years, our team has undergone a lot of changes as old friends drift away and new ones arrive.

With all of the changes that our team has been going through, it seemed like the right time to change up our Tuesday night routine and try something new.

My friend Matt had suggested we check out Blind Hartman’s Tavern, where they host a Name That Tune trivia contest on Tuesday nights.

If someone were to choose the location today, I doubt that it would be approved for a restaurant. Blind Hartman’s sits on a busy stretch of Route 12, just north of the city line. When traffic lines up, it’s hard to make the left into the parking lot.

The lot only has about 20 spaces. Overflow parking is across the street. As hard as it is to turn left across Route 12 in a car, it’s even harder to walk across.

But Blind Hartman’s wasn’t built yesterday. A tavern was built on the spot in 1823 by a man named Joseph Hartman, who had been blinded in a childhood accident, giving the tavern its name.

I really didn’t know what to expect going in, but I certainly didn’t expect the mustached mannequin looking out over the bar from the second floor. I also didn’t expect such an expansive bar room, with a large center bar stocked with bottles of every spirit you could name.

The menu was also bigger than expected with nearly 20 different appetizers — double that if you count each of the 18 wing flavors. But what intrigued me was one of Blind Hartman’s “home-style favorites,” the chicken and gravy.


As it turns out, the portions were just as big as everything else. My plate was filled with four breaded chicken breasts (and the obligatory vegetable medley so I could feel better about myself).

The chicken breasts had a nice, golden-brown breading and plenty of white gravy to go with every bite. It was heavy and hearty, so much so that half of it went home with me.


Part of the reason for my full stomach was the side of fries, so many that they came on the side in a large bowl. The fries were my favorite part of the meal, thin and fresh-cut with just a little too much salt. My chicken went home with me because I wasn’t leaving any fries behind.

Julie went with a salad, but it was no less hearty than my own meal. The full title of her choice was the “bacon balsamic bleu spinach and steak salad.”


As the name suggests, her salad was topped with strips of steak and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. The bleu cheese, served on the side, is expected with a steak salad. But the balsamic was a nice addition, giving it more of the feel of a salad.

Tuesday night is also “Frankenburger” night at the Tavern. For $7.99, you can build-your-own burger, starting with a half-pound patty. Matt seemed to enjoy his creation, but I’ll have to wait for another night, myself.

The fourth member of trivia team, Christina, is a vegetarian. For her, the options were much more limited. She opted for the Caesar salad and left a little disappointed by the dressing, which wasn’t laid on as thick as she had hoped.

Overall, it was a good night out, and a great change of pace. We even finished second in one of the two rounds (the $5 gift card was a nice bonus). And for Julie and I, we spent about $37 for our food — a lot of food.

Though I wouldn’t say we are going to make Blind Hartman’s our new Tuesday night home, I’m sure we will be back.

And when we return, we’ll be sure to bring our appetites.

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

Blind Hartman’s Tavern
2910 Pricetown Rd
Temple, PA 19560

Blind Hartman's Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Two new restaurants coming; a Bechtelsville restaurant closes; and Queen City readies for renovations

Blue Star Diner coming to Stouchsburg

A Stouchsburg landmark is coming back with new owners and an old name. The Blue Star Diner is set to open in the former Risser’s Family Restaurant along Route 422, according to an article in the September 16 Reading Eagle. The restaurant, which was called the Blue Star Diner when it originally opened in 1954, was owned by Ernie Risser for 35 years before closing shortly after his death one year ago.

Woodside Family Restaurant closes

The Woodside Family Restaurant in Bechtelsville has closed. The restaurant shut its doors sometime in late August and last week both its Facebook page and website were taken offline. The cached version of the Facebook page, which hadn’t been updated since May, had a message from a user dated August 30, asking if and when the restaurant would re-open. Woodside had apparently undergone a management change a few months before the closing.

Queen City set for renovations

The Queen City Family Restaurant is getting a makeover. The restaurant is getting an all-new interior, according to its official Facebook page. Queen City opened a Craigslist ad for all of its current furniture, saying it would go up for sale in 3-6 weeks when the renovations are scheduled to begin. No exact date or timeframe has been given for the renovation process.

Let’s TACO Bout It coming to West Reading


One more new restaurant is coming soon to West Reading. A sign on the former Caggs Cafe announces that a new restaurant called Let’s TACO Bout It is coming soon to the location at 616 Penn Ave. Caggs Cafe, which was formerly known as Cafe Harmony, closed earlier this summer. Work has already begun on the building, including the removal of the awning and stripping of exterior paint.


Food News

Greshville Inn


It’s a rare occasion when I don’t have a restaurant in mind for the weekly review. Usually it’s planned out days, if not more than a week, ahead of time.

But this week was different. We were headed to Boyertown to the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. The town’s Oktoberfest celebration was being held on the same day, and many of the town’s restaurants were closing their doors to participate.

We went to Boyertown with no plan, driving out St. Lawrence Avenue and continuing along the Boyertown Pike (Route 562). I made note of all the restaurants we passed on our way, just in case we couldn’t find something downtown.

As much as I wanted to try all of the stands at Oktoberfest, I really wanted a sit-down meal for my review. So after walking out empty-handed, we hopped back in the car, headed about a mile west of town and pulled into the parking lot at the Greshville Inn.

TripAdvisor had listed the Greshville Inn as the No. 2 restaurant in the Boyertown area. The parking lot was mostly empty. Inside, there were two ladies sitting at a booth and guy at the bar. The rest of the dining area was empty.

But the Greshville Inn is more of a dinner and drinks place than a lunch stop so we were not all that surprised.

We were led into the dining room to a table for two that sat next to a large aquarium, with two oversized goldfish and one silvery fish whose scales were losing their luster.


The trio provided our entertainment during the meal, especially the larger of the goldfish who spent the entire time digging around the bottom of the tank, sucking stones and spitting them back out against the glass.

On its website, the Greshville Inn says that it is “proud to offer the largest American home cooked cuisine selection available in the greater Boyertown, PA region.”

It’s a mouthful, and a little deceiving. The dinner menu isn’t very large at all: two chicken dinners, three steaks, a veal Oscar, four seafood dishes and an array of appetizers and sandwiches. The lunch menu added another handful of options though three of them were crossed out.

One of the sandwich selections was the hard-carved roast beef. It sounded too good to pass up.


The toasted roll was overstuffed with meat and sliced in half. A small cup of au jus was set in the center for dipping, and the plate was flanked by a pile of fries.

It was excellently done. The beef was cooked perfectly. The au jus gave it a softer texture that made it easier to put down. And the fries were great as well.


Julie’s meal didn’t stray far from me as she opted for the prime rib French dip. Served on an Italian roll, the meat wasn’t packed in as tight. The addition of melted Swiss cheese gave it a richer flavor and the use of prime rib meat gave the sandwich a richer flavor.  It was an excellent—and filling—sandwich in its own right.

It took a little while for our bill to arrive. The only waitress on staff was doubling as the bartender. And while no one else came into the dining room while we were there, the stools had begun filling up for the college football games.

Our total was only $22 for two sandwiches that were hearty enough to hold us over for the rest of the day.

The Greshville Inn may not have been my first choice on this day, but it ended up being a great meal. Sometimes your second choice turns out pretty good.

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

Greshville Inn
1013 Reading Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512

Greshville Inn Incorporated Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Bloomin' Lotus West Reading

Three new restaurants open, and another is on the way

Bloomin’ Lotus celebrates grand opening

Bloomin' Lotus West Reading

The Bloomin’ Lotus Cafe and Deli is now open in West Reading. The restaurant celebrated its grand opening today, according to a Facebook post from Love West Reading. The new restaurant is located at 426 Penn Ave, which most recently housed Dessert Dreamz, a bakery that operated in the property in 2013.

La Abuela opens in West Reading

A second new restaurant is now open in West Reading. La Abuela Mexican Restaurant opened on September 4, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page. La Abuela is located in the former Van’s Cafe at 448 Penn Ave. Van’s is in the process of renovating another storefront in town where they plan to open later this year.

Back Forty Bar and Grill opens in former Black Dog Cafe

The former Black Dog Cafe in Stouchsburg has new life with a new restaurant. The Back Forty Bar and Grill opened last month and was featured in an article in today’s Lebanon Daily News. The restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients in its menu, which includes soups, salads, burgers and steaks.

Kenhorst Pizza and Subs opening soon


Kenhorst will have a new restaurant soon when Kenhorst Pizza & Subs opens in the former Talarico’s Pizzeria on New Holland Road. Kenhorst Pizza & Subs already has coupons circulating through Val Pak.

Food News

Road Trip: Empanada Mama

Empanada Mama in Doylestown

Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 90 minutes east of Reading to Doylestown, PA.

Sometimes simple is better.

The old saying is especially true when it comes to restaurants. Some places try to be everything to everyone. Their menus become too large and too diverse to deliver consistent meals.

I think that’s one of the reasons why restaurants with a single-focus have remained so popular. Places like Taste of Crepes and Steak Shack have limited menus that all revolve around one item. The Crystal Palace was one of Reading’s most beloved restaurants, and its business was built entirely around hot dogs.

These kinds of restaurants are certainly not exclusive to Berks County. A few weeks ago, Julie and I had a weekend getaway planned that started with an afternoon Doylestown. I reached out to my friends at Visit Bucks County for suggestions, hoping for something new and different.

They told me if we are going to Doylestown, I had to check out Empanada Mama.


As the name suggests, Empanada Mama specializes in the stuffed Spanish pastries. With the exception for some pre-made salads, that’s all they do.

In a town that is known for its restaurants, Empanada Mama is more of an in-and-out lunch counter. The daily menu consists of 13 flavors that guests can mix and match in quantities of a full dozen, half-dozen or lunch box (three).

The choices were overwhelming: pulled pork, buffalo chicken, peperoni and mozzarella, and sweet onion were among the ones I had to pass over.

I settled on two Korean beef and one chicken salsa verde. Julie opted for one bacon and date, one summer squash and sweet corn, and one Caprese.


We were lucky that no one had yet claimed one of just four seats (not a problem on a nice day as Doylestown has plenty of park benches to go around) so we were able to sit down and enjoy them.

First up was the Korean beef. Filled with a mixture of ground beef, hoisin sauce, sesame, ginger, garlic and scallions, it packed quite a punch. It was perfectly seasoned with just a little bit of burn. Mixed with the thick Asian dipping sauce, it was perfect.

The chicken salsa verde was just as delicious in its own right. It had the longest ingredient list of all of the day’s offerings: shredded chicken, tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, onions, jalapeno, lime juice and mozzarella.

All of the flavors blended beautifully. The mozzarella helped balance out the heat from jalapenos. And the lime juice was the perfect finishing touch.


Julie couldn’t wait to dig into her bacon and date empanada. It was filled with maple-smoked bacon, organic dates and goat cheese for the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. The rich sweetness from the goat cheese mixed with the dates made it feel almost like dessert.

Her other two empanadas at least felt a little lighter. The summer squash and sweet corn had a little lemon zest mixed in that added to the bright tones of the vegetables and ricotta. The Caprese was like a salad in a puff pastry. The ingredients in both tasted fresh and refreshing.

Not only were all of the empanadas delicious, they were massive. We could have probably shared a $10 lunch box and been just fine. With each of us eating our own, we were stuffed.

Empanada Mama is doing empanadas different than anyone else and better than anyone else. But saying that Empanada Mama only does one thing is a disservice to them.

In reality, Empanada Mama is making an incredible variety of delicious meals. It just so happens that they stuff them into a pastry and fry them.

And they are so much better that way.

Empanada Mama Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Taste of Hamburg-er 2015


Of all the food festivals in Berks County, none are bigger than the Taste of Hamburg-er.

Every September, tens of thousands of hungry people descend upon Hamburg for a taste of its namesake dish. But the timing was never right for me, and for 11 years, life got in the way of my attending.

I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from attending this year. September 5 had been circled on my calendar since last fall, and I was going no matter what.

The festival opened at 10 a.m., but we decided to take our chances and wait out the lunchtime rush. At about 1:30, we pulled into the parking lot of Hamburg High School and waited for our shuttle bus to carry us to the festival in the town below.

After a quick stop at the Hamburg Field House, we were delivered to the festival and the throngs of people who packed the streets.

I did a little research ahead of time, but I was no closer to making a decision as we started our walk along Fourth Street.

We passed the deep-fried burgers at Ray’s Catering, the bacon cheeseburgers from Scout Troop #184 and incredible selection from the Penn Werner Hotel (Oscar burgers, Baja burgers,  mac and cheese burgers, to name a few). I was surprised to also see CC’s Wooden Grill, the former Kutztown restaurant that closed more than a year ago, set up as well.

Making a left onto State Street, we saw the Weis Markets stand. Nothing against Weis Markets—we do most of our grocery shopping there—but there was no way that I would choose them over the 33 other stands.

We continued along State passed the Hometown Restaurant and Catering stand with half-pound burgers on pretzel rolls. We also passed Hecky’s Sub Shop, which was business as usual, attracting patrons with the promise of air conditioning.

After skipping the Leesport Lodge and the Inn of Orwigsburg, I found the burger of my dreams.


Smokey Bear BBQ was set up on the corner of State and Third Streets. I had vaguely remembered reading about them before we left the house, and my memory was quickly jogged when I saw the sign for “The Grizzly.”


The Grizzly is aptly named because it would comfortably feed a bear. They take a one-third pound beef patty and throw a quarter-pound of brisket on top and serve it on a Kaiser roll. It’s simple, but it works. The brisket was perfectly tender. The burger was juicy. Both had that great smoky flavor I love in my barbecue, and together they made a perfect lunch.

We hung a right on Third Street to find something for Julie. The line for the Deitsch Eck was a little too long (with options like The Luther—a bacon cheeseburger on a glazed donut—I’m not surprised) so we continued on past Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzels to the Chowhound Wagon.


The Chowhound Wagon comes all the way from the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore to the event. In the Reading Eagle’s Festival Guide, the description merely said, “Serving burgers, fries, and soda.”

I don’t know if this was left intentionally vague, but those five words don’t do justice to what the Chowhound had to offer.


The food truck had six gourmet burgers, all made with Angus beef, or a build-your-own option with your choice of beef, turkey, veggie, bison, Wagyu or lamb. Julie played it safe with the “Elvis Got the Blues” burger, topped with Maytag blue cheese and apple-smoked bacon. After one bite, Julie was hooked.


As for the fries, Chowhound offered four options: French fries, sweet potato fries, fifty-fifty fries (half regular, half sweet potato) and truffle fries. It didn’t take much convincing by me to talk her into an order of the truffle fries.


They were delicious. Truffle oil makes everything better, but I absolutely love it on French fries. But the addition of the garlic and parsley just made these perfect. We both left with garlic breath, but it was well-worth it.

Somehow after all of that, we still had room for dessert. We had hoped to grab a seat at the soda fountain at Adams and Bright Drugs on State Street, but everyone else seemed to have the same idea.


Thankfully, one of our favorite mobile stands, the Perk Up Truck, was there to provide cool relief from the 90-degree heat. We each grabbed a smoothie: fresh peach for me, frozen strawberry hot chocolate for Julie.

The only problem with the festival is also it’s greatest strength. All of the participants are bringing their biggest, most creative burgers to the event. Even without the fries and smoothie, I would not have been able to force a second burger. That meant passing on things like Gourmand’s Berks Burgers (with Lebanon bologna, cream cheese, apple butter and Good’s potato chips), Smokin’ Bull Shack’s loaded burger (cheese, pulled pork, BBQ sauce, pastrami, baked beans, coleslaw and onion rings) and Spuds‘ surf and turf burger (crab meat, lettuce, tomato and Chesapeake mayo).

If only I had three stomachs and a full day to try all of them. Still, I left with no regrets about my choices. And after trekking back up the hill to my car, I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about my choices.

2015 Taste of Hamburg-er Contest Winners

Best Burger-Restaurant

Grand Prize: Kooper’s Chowhound
Appearance: Kooper’s Chowhound
Taste: Kooper’s Chowhound
Originality: Deitsch Eck
Best Value: Weis Markets

Best Burger-Organization

Grand Prize: Salem EC Church
Appearance: Salem EC Church
Taste: Salem EC Church & Boy Scout #184
Originality: Salem EC Church
Best Value: Salem EC Church

Best Burger-Mobile Unit

Grand Prize: Ray’s Catering
Appearance: Ray’s Catering
Taste: Pop’s Original Screamer Sauce
Originality: Ray’s Catering
Best Value: The Hawg House

People’s Choice Award

1st Place: Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzels
2nd Place: Deitsch Eck
3rd Place: Smokey Bear BBQ

Food Festivals & Events

Willoughby’s closes for renovations; two new restaurants open

Willoughby’s closes for renovations


Willoughby’s Bar and Grill in Wyomissing is starting a renovation project that will have it closed for an unknown length of time. The announcement was made on the restaurant’s Facebook page on September 7. Willoughby’s was closed for the Labor Day weekend, and was originally scheduled to reopen today. Instead, the restaurant will remain closed for the renovations. No timetable has been given for it to reopen.

Screpesi’s South opens in Knaurs

Screpesi’s Sandwich Shop has opened a second location in Brecknock Township. According to an article in the September 5 Reading Eagle, the new location, called Screpesi’s South, opened in August. The original Screpesi’s opened on Lancaster Avenue in 1949. This is the first time that the business has expanded to a second location. Screpesi’s South at the intersection of Routes 625 and 568 in the village of Knauers.

DiCarlo’s opens in Wernersville

A new Italian restaurant and pizzeria has opened in Wernersville. DiCarlo’s opened last month in the former freight station along Penn Avenue. The building has served as pizza and sandwich shop for more than 20 years, formerly housing A&M Pizza, the Trolley Shop, and most recently, Feliciano’s.


Food News

The Westy Bar & Grill


It’s always hard to compare one restaurant to another. I get a lot of questions like, “what’s your favorite?” or “which one’s better?”

But for me, it’s never been about picking sides. It’s about finding something to like about every restaurant I go to.

This week, I found more than a little something to like at the Westy Bar & Grill in Hamburg.

The Westy is actually located in West Hamburg, across the river from the downtown. It had been years since I was there, and I forgot just how big it was. The building is three floors tall (apartments, I assume, fill up the top two floors) and there are three separate dining spaces.


We were seated in the largest room, at a small table near the bar. The current draft list was artfully written on a chalkboard above the bar stools—about 20 of them, and nearly all filled. Despite the bar, the restaurant feels more like a diner, with number cards on every table and an expansive menu that includes fried apps, burgers, salads, subs, entrees and more.

One of the things that came highly recommended to us was the Westy’s wings.

The Westy has more than 20 flavors to choose from. Most of them are standards like mild, BBQ, ranch and honey mustard. But there are a few that are a little different. Sriracha, red chili and something called “boom boom” sounded a little too intense for us, but the kickin’ bourbon molasses sounded perfect.


Dripping in reddish brown sauce, the wings looked amazing when our waiter set them in front of us. The first bite confirmed that they tasted as good as they looked.

Each bite took me on a mini flavor journey. First came the sweetness of the molasses, then the unmistakable hint of bourbon, finished with a mild after burn.


The heat wasn’t overbearing, but I was still glad to have a cup of ranch dressing with my salad for a little cool relief when I was done.

Earlier in the day, I mentioned to a co-worker that I was going to the Westy. His response sold me on my decision. “The chicken parm!” he said, “It’s just…they cover the whole plate in sauce and cheese.”


It was not an exaggeration. If anything, he undersold it because beneath the pool of red and white was not one, but two six-inch chicken breasts fried to a golden brown, waiting to be uncovered.

I knew I was never going to be able to finish both, especially with a plate of spaghetti waiting on the side.


While I was eating an Italian dinner, the Westy is not an Italian restaurant. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The fried chicken was delicious, the bright red sauce was beautiful, though it was a little runnier than an Italian restaurant. And the cheese—so much cheese—covered everything, ensuring it was in every bite.

Just as the Westy is not an Italian restaurant, it’s also not a Mexican restaurant. But that didn’t make Julie’s Cuban quesadilla any less enjoyable either.


The half moon on her plate was filled with pulled pork, ham, honey mustard and Swiss cheese. The quesadilla was a little inconsistent as some slices had more ham, some had more pulled pork. But the honey mustard was consistent, adding a sweetness throughout.


Even with a full chicken breast set aside to take home, there was no way either of us could force any dessert.

Our final total came in at $32, nearly exactly what we spent at Cafe Sweet Street. But it’s impossible to compare the two meals: one was a gourmet lunch with dessert, the other a hearty dinner with an appetizer.

When it comes to any restaurant, it’s best to let it stand on its own merits. The Westy provided very good food, and a lot of it.

And with a large menu to choose from, it won’t be hard to find something to like.

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

The Westy Bar & Grill
279 W. State St
Hamburg, PA 19526

Westy Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Another restaurant coming to West Reading; Chatty Monks expanding big; and more food news

Mexican restaurant coming to West Reading

Another new restaurant is coming soon to West Reading. A sign in the window of 448 Penn Ave announces that La Abuela Mexican Restaurant is coming soon. The location is the former home of Van’s Cafe, which is in the process of moving to a new location one block west. No other information about La Abuela is available at this time.

Chatty Monks expanding with second location

Chatty Monks Brewing Co. is expanding in a big way. According to an article in the September 1 Reading Eagle, the West Reading brewpub is working to open a second location in Phoenixville by next spring. The new location, formerly the home of Superior Beverage Company, will be significantly larger (200 seats to 49 seats) with a larger brewing system (15-barrel to 3-barrel).

Reading Food Express now Delivery Dudes

Reading Food Express is now Delivery Dudes. The change was made official on the business’ Facebook page on August 30. Reading Food Express began last year as an independent company that offers delivery service for multiple area restaurants. Delivery service is currently available for more than 20 Reading-area restaurants.

Food News