At the end of 2017, Berks County lost a mainstay of the finer dining scene when ViVA Good Life Bistro (then known as Fields Kitchen & Bar) closed its doors.
The Wyomissing restaurant had been ahead of its time – at least by Berks County standards – with a modern menu and a younger vibe.
When the restaurant closed, I had concerns about whether a replacement would appear. Sure, it had high visibility from Penn Avenue, a large parking lot and a hotel next door. But it was also one of the largest spaces in the county (that means a larger staff) and the construction (or is it deconstruction?) across the street at the former VF Outlet doesn’t help the ambiance.
But my fears were unfounded and a new restaurant has taken over the space: Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits.
Inside, it hasn’t changed much since the days of ViVA. From the main dining area to the bar and lounge, it feels very much like the former restaurant.
The menu is a great complement to Austin’s. There is some crossover, and the types of foods offered are similar, but Brickstone’s has built upon the familiar to create something new.
And the menu knows no cultural boundaries. Tikka masala, pad Thai, enchiladas and the South Philly spaghetti and meatballs can all be found in one place at Brickstone’s.
Julie and I started our meal with the Tex-Mex egg rolls, a delicious cultural mash-up with chicken, corn, black beans and cheese.
I’ve had similar before, but that didn’t make this any less appetizing. Everything about it worked, especially the avocado ranch dipping sauce. It added a nice, cooling touch to the mild spice.
For our main courses, we went in completely different directions.
I went Italian with the Tuscan pasta. It featured penne pasta with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a Parmesan cream sauce.
It felt like a dish I had before at Austin’s – maybe it was a special once, I’m not sure – but it was very good. I love sun-dried tomatoes, and Julie and I are always looking for recipes that use them. The sauce was rich and creamy. Even the spinach was a nice little throw-in.
All in all, it was one of the best pasta dishes that I have had outside of a traditional Italian restaurant. And it’s definitely one that I would order again (perhaps for Julie and I to split as half of it went home with us).
Julie’s dish was more reminiscent of south Asia. Her coconut curry bowl included chicken, carrots, broccoli, onions, green beans and zucchini in a Thai red curry sauce, served over rice.
The vegetables were fresh, the chicken was done well, but the real flavor in a dish like this comes from the sauce.
At first, she didn’t even notice the heat. But as the dish went along, her bites got more and more spicy. Now, neither of us will ever claim to have a high tolerance for spicy food so this may taste milder to others. The spice level was certainly high for Julie, but not high enough that it made the dish unenjoyable.
She brought some of her dish home, but not as much as I did.
Julie also added a drink (not pictured). This being a date night, and one of the few evenings where Jakob – now 10 months old – was not with us, it seemed the perfect opportunity for us to unwind a little.
With entrees, appetizer and drinks (I had an iced tea), our total was between $45 and $50. Our service throughout the night was very good, though it seemed to take a while for us to get our check (we were happy to savor the alone time so we didn’t mind).
It was a great night at what is surely to be another hit for the popular restaurant group.
And it certainly is a great fit for a location that could have easily fallen away with the closure of ViVA.
Food: Very Good
Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits
901 Hill Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610