Last week, I was a little bummed to hear about the closing of Brocmar Smokehouse in West Reading. I’m glad that the Shillington Farmers Market stand is still going strong, but I liked having one of my favorites within walking distance, even if I couldn’t get there as often as I would have liked.
It also got me thinking about the other restaurants we have lost in the nearly six years of Berks County Eats. Some of them – if we are being honest – were not big losses. But there were many that we were really sad to see go. Here are five places we reviewed and wish we could still visit today:
Closed December 2016
After one visit in January 2015, Heirloom became my favorite restaurant in Berks County. The fine dining establishment was located along the Montco border in Hereford Township and used locally sourced ingredients to create its memorable meals. On our first visit, I had two of my favorite dishes that I’ve tried – the red quinoa salad (which I described as “Hands down…the best salad I have ever eaten.”) and the bison steak. Read Review
A year later, Julie and I returned to celebrate her birthday and were just as blown away with our meals. Unfortunately 2016 was the last year for the restaurant which closed just before ringing in the new year on December 31.
Closed November 2017
When Muddy’s arrived on the scene in Berks County, it was a revelation. The original trailer along Pricetown Road showed Berks County what real barbecue is (no offense, Schell’s, I still love your hamburger BBQ!). We loved all of the smoked meats at Muddy’s – ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausage – along with their incredible sides like the Yukon gold mashed potatoes and baked beans loaded with brisket. Read Review
Zoning issues forced a move to Oley but that location ultimately closed in November 2017 with health issues being cited as the reason. At its peak, Muddy’s also had a second location in Robesonia (and a brief stint serving ‘cue at the All American Sports Pub at Colonial Berks Lanes).
Risser’s Family Restaurant
Closed September 2014
The loss of Risser’s Family Restaurant in Stouchsburg was the most personal loss for me. Growing up in western Berks County, Risser’s was a tradition. At one point we were visiting almost every Friday night. At that point I was hooked on their roast beef and roast turkey dinners (with their delicious potato filling). Later, I came to appreciate Pennsylvania Dutch meals like schnitz und knepp (apples and dumplings with ham). I also grew to love the robust soup and salad bar – though I always loved the soft-serve ice cream at the end of the meal. Read Review
Risser’s closed shortly after the passing of owner/founder Ernie Risser in 2014. Two restaurants followed – Blue Star Family Restaurant and Rocky Family Restaurant – with neither lasting for very long, and the future of the restaurant and its vintage dining car are now in question.
Rocco’s Wood-Fired Pizza
Closed Spring 2017
A short time after Nonno Alby’s brought artisan pizza to West Reading, Rocco’s Wood-Fired Pizza opened to less fanfare in a Sinking Spring strip mall. When my friend Josh and I visited, we had two great pies, but it was the “Bee Sting” that stood out. It was topped with hot soppressata, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, raw honey and red pepper oil. I can still taste the sweet-hot slices and wish I could recreate it. Read Review
Unfortunately Rocco’s did not enjoy the same success that Nonno Alby’s has had. The restaurant closed about a year after it opened in the spring of 2017. At the time, they had announced plans for a food truck to debut in 2018 but nothing ever came of it.
Billy Burger & Bakery
Closed February 2019
Billy Burger was a pleasant surprise when we visited in 2017. The burgers were fantastic and so were the baked goods waiting at the end of the meal. I loved my “Ranch Burger” that came topped with a roasted poblano pepper and buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing. The strawberry shortcake was awesome, too. I had taken advantage of their drive-through take-out service a couple times afterward. Read Review
On my last visit in January 2019, everything I tried to order was “sold out.” It was an omen because just over a week later the restaurant announced they were going to be making changes. Those changes never happened, and instead the restaurant closed in February 2019.
Other Notable Restaurants
CC’s Wooden Grill – CC’s was Kutztown’s hidden gem and home to my favorite ribs in Berks County until it closed in the summer of 2014. Read Review
Good Eatz Green Cafe – A place that was ahead of its time with clean-eating options heavy on vegan and vegetarian meals, Good Eatz changed locations a couple times before closing 2015. Read Review
ViVA Bistro & Lounge – When ViVA was good, it was really good. The Wyomissing restaurant was one of the first finer dining options in the area and still popular before it closed at the end of 2018. Read Review
Virginville Hotel – We only visited the northern Berks landmark once, but it was a good meal, and it’s always sad to see a historic country inn close its doors as the Virginville Hotel did in 2017. Read Review
The Outside In – At one time, the Outside In was the place to go before Reading Royals games, but as competition in downtown Reading grew, the Outside In declined, closing in summer 2018. Read Review
Lavigna & Sons – Lavigna & Sons was the sandwich shop I didn’t know Berks County needed until I tried it for the first time in 2015. It remained popular until the owners sold the property to make room for a hardware store in 2018. Read Review
A&M Pizza and Grill – Another childhood favorite of mine, I was so excited when A&M announced it was reopening its Wernersville location. Unfortunately the revival didn’t last long, closing in 2018 after about a year. A&M’s Lebanon County locations are still going strong. Read Review