The second annual West Reading French Fry Festival was held on August 12, and Berks County Eats was there to taste test some unique takes on the traditional French fry.
This was our first time attending the festival after missing last year’s event. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, but I knew enough that Julie and I needed to get there early to avoid the crowds.
So we were there right at 12 noon when the festival opened — some of the restaurants were still getting ready when we walked past the barricade on South Sixth Avenue.
More than a dozen restaurants, food trucks and vendors were in attendance, including eight from West Reading, and that made the decision of where to eat even tougher.
Some of the offerings were very familiar to us.
Philly Fry brought one of its two food trucks to the festival. Just two months ago, Julie and I got to taste their hearty French fry creations at The Truck Stops Here food truck festival at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.
Gourmand, a more local food truck, was also there serving their signature truffle goat cheese fries. These have become favorites of us, and our first taste of them came just a few years ago at the West Reading Farmers Market.
Other restaurants in attendance included Nonno Alby’s, which was still preparing the chili for its chili cheese fries when we arrived; Go Fish!, who had fries with crabmeat; and Relish, the West Reading hot dog restaurant, was offering a hot dog topped with yucca fries and avocado aioli.
Unfortunately, they were still waiting for a power hookup for their deep fryer when we arrived, though plain hot dogs were still available.
Julie and I walked up and down the block several times before finally deciding what to get. I went for the West Reading Tavern and their duck fat fries.
As the name implies, the potatoes were deep-fried in duck fat oil, giving them a much richer flavor than a traditional vegetable oil fry. The thicker cut fries were served with choice of aioli: malt vinegar or garlic. I, of course, went for garlic.
It was the right decision. the aioli was both cooling and kicking at the same time. It wasn’t a hot spicy, but it definitely had bite to it. Mixed with the heavy fry, it was a delicious dish.
Best of all, it was served in a to-go cup with a handy compartment for my aioli so I could eat and walk without worry.
Julie’s choice was among the most creative dishes in the entire festival – the strawberry fries from Say Cheese.
These were fresh-cut style fries topped with provel cheese sauce, basil crystals and fresh strawberries, all finished with a balsamic drizzle.
It was a perfect execution of a sweet and savory dish. Provel cheese isn’t as exotic as it sounds, actually coming not from the far reaches of Europe, but St. Louis. It’s a mixture of cheddar, Swiss and provolone that combine into a completely unique cheese.
In this sauce, it was a perfectly creamy topping that mixed well with the fruit to create a faux strawberries-and-cream feel. The balsamic added hits of intense flavor to every bite. All of that combined with some excellent fries made it a satisfying dish all around.
We had a great time tasting some of the best French fries in Berks County, but it wasn’t easy. The space was very tight. Some restaurants were sharing tents, and with vendors lining both sides of the street, lines were running into each other, making it nearly impossible to walk around.
And we were there early so I am sure it was only made worse when more people were standing in more lines.
The event definitely has potential to be a signature event for the region in years to come, but it has already outgrown Sixth Avenue. Hopefully next year, we continue to see it grow with more restaurants offering more dishes in a more spacious area.