One of the bigger stories in Berks County’s food scene last year was the sale of the Shillington Farmers Market.
Julie and I had visited the market about three years ago and were so disappointed in the offerings that we never went back.
But there’s a renewed energy around the market. New stands are opening, and old favorites like Betty’s Salads are returning.
Among the new stands to arrive is Brocmar Smokehouse. The barbecue business opened in the market in December after spending the summer building its brand at events around Berks County.
Reading Royals fans may already be familiar with the Brocmar name. Before opening their Shillington location, Brocmar got a head start, operating a small stand at the Santander Arena during Royals home games.
But the Farmers Market takes the business to another level, giving the business a physical location, regular hours and a greater potential reach.
The Farmers Market hours make it difficult for us to get there for dinner, but an underwhelming snowstorm was enough to close my office and allow us to make it to Brocmar long before the market’s 6 p.m. closing time.
While the Farmers Market is certainly a step forward for the business, it doesn’t allow for much of a dine-in experience. There are only two round tables – enough to seat eight at the most.
As Julie and I looked over the menu board, a woman sitting at one of the tables said “everything here is good.” She was waiting for a take-out order, her third in three weeks from the Smokehouse, she said.
A father and son stood in front of us in line, a written order in hand that seemed to include one of everything on the menu. That was fine with us as it gave us plenty of time to settle on our choices.
Julie and I pulled up chairs at one of the tables with Jakob in the stroller next to us. Fifteen minutes or so passed before our food was delivered and we got our first taste of Brocmar.
Passing on turkey, sausage, chicken and ribs, I instead went with my favorite barbecued meat – pulled pork – topping it with the Cripple Creek sauce, one of Brocmar’s six housemade options.
The sauce is a bourbon and brown sugar that’s bold and sweet, but not spicy. It really brought out the best in the pulled pork, which was tender with crispy charred ends that gave it a slightly crunchy texture.
It was a beautiful blend, and together the meat and sauce were a great combo.
On the side, I enjoyed an order of hush puppies and a cup of slaw.
While we were waiting for our food, we saw an order of hush puppies being carried across the market and back. I asked about it later. “The number one question we got when we opened was, ‘What are hushpuppies?’ but we now we sell them every day.” It turns out, Brocmar doesn’t have a fryer. Instead, they fry up the hush puppies at the cafe across the market.
That’s only part of the work that goes into one order of hush puppies. The deep-fried corn fritters are hand-rolled with fresh green onion. It’s all worth it though for what is a perfect accompaniment to the main course.
The coleslaw was also very good, but it was even better as part of the Brocmar taco, Julie’s entree choice for the evening.
Barbecue is one of those foods that just seems to work well as part of a more comprised dish. The Brocmar Taco is one of those dishes. It starts with a cornbread cake, then it’s topped with your choice of meat (brisket, for Julie), slaw and sauce.
There were a lot of flavors coming together. The cornbread – the taco “shell” – had a rich corn flavor. The brisket was tender and juicy. And the creaminess of the coleslaw soaked into every layer.
To top it off, Julie added the honey bee barbecue sauce, which added a sweetness and mild spice throughout. It all came together to create an excellent dish.
It was also a hearty dish that we were both surprised that Julie was able to finish. But for a reasonable $23, we weren’t too upset that there were no leftovers for later.
As a whole, Brocmar Smokehouse delivered. It was some very good barbecue that left us wanting to try even more.
And because of Brocmar, we will be back to the Shillington Farmers Market soon.
Service: Very Good
Price: Very Reasonable
The Shillington Farmers Market
10 S. Summit Ave
Shillington, PA 19607
*The rating system is new for 2018. Food, Service and Ambiance are graded on the following scale: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor, Bad. Price is graded on the following scale: Bargain, Very Reasonable, Reasonable, Overpriced, Expensive