Some restaurants take a while to figure things out – they go through changes in management, update their menus, redesign the dining room.
On rare occasions, restaurants move, getting a fresh start in a new location. But I only know of one restaurant in Berks County that has made three moves in less than a decade.
Steak Shack is a well-traveled restaurant. The Lancaster Avenue location is the fourth where I have enjoyed their signature steak sandwiches.
The first was a small stand along Route 61 in Leesport – a frequent stop of mine during the four years I worked in the area. (The only other lunch options – and therefore the only others in my rotation – were Andali’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, Subway and Sheetz).
The second was inside Body Zone in Spring Township. I wrote about this experience in 2013, before Berks County Eats evolved into what it is today. The third was another roadside stand, this one in the parking lot of what is now Tractor Supply in Spring Township.
It’s new home may be the nicest of all four. Yes, it’s a gas station, but Steak Shack’s area is nicely carved out with plenty of seating – mostly mismatched tables for four with a counter overlooking the parking lot.
Steak Shack’s new location also has a larger kitchen, which has led to an expanded menu that includes salads, wraps, wings and New York thin crust pizza.
I stopped in on a Wednesday night on a whim. There was one gentleman sitting at a table when I got there and placed my order. By the time I left, a steady stream of phone-in orders had come and gone.
My wait was between 15 and 20 minutes (next time I’ll call ahead). From the restaurant, it’s just a short drive home so everything was still hot when I arrived.
I ordered a Shack Pack, Steak Shack’s meal deal that includes a cheese steak, fries and a soda for $8.75. I like my steaks the Berks County way with marinara sauce. It also was topped with mozzarella cheese and fried onions – pan fried, not deep fried.
This was everything that I remembered from my last Steak Shack visit. The meat was juicy and tender and the roll was perfectly suited to hold it. The right amount of cheese, sauce and onions made for an amazing sandwich.
One of the things that has changed as the restaurant has evolved is the fries. I can remember the “race track” fries at the original location. They were fresh-cut, short and thick. After a bath in the fryer, they were crispy, golden brown and as good as any around.
At the Body Zone location, the fries were still fresh-cut, but much thinner, more along the lines of a fast food restaurant. Good, but not the same.
Today, the fries are similar to the latter, but I found them to be a little less flavorful. Maybe they needed a few more seconds in the fryer. Maybe the oil has changed. But I felt a little let down because I can still taste those fries from nearly a decade ago.
Still, less than $10 for a cheese steak, fries and a soda is a great price and Steak Shack is still delivering on the namesake steaks.
And even better than that, it feels like Steak Shack has finally found a home that will work out in the long term.
At least, I hope so.
Price: Very Reasonable
The Steak Shack
1235 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19607