Lo mein from San's Asian Food

San’s Asian Food

A row of chairs from San's Asian Food

In 2017, I got my first taste of 1 Potato Two and their signature spudwich. It was so unique – and delicious – that I named it one of my five favorite entrees of 2017.

The stand was still brand new at the Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market when I visited. Now, about two-and-a-half years later, 1 Potato Two is gone.

But the space has already been filled by San’s Asian Food.

San’s opened in August in the already crowded market, taking over the former site of 1 Potato Two at the Mall end of the Market. Unlike their predecessor, San’s has taken full advantage of a less-than-desirable space. A warming table and sushi cooler faces the main aisle. In the space between San’s and the next stand, they have added a pair of two-seat tables to complement the counter seating.

Warming tables filled with Chinese food entrees and sides from San's Asian Food

The new stand has a little bit of everything: a warming table with your standard Chinese food fare and rotating specials, a cooler filled with sushi (for those looking for a sushi review, I’m sorry. I am not a seafood fan so you would not want to hear from me), and a full menu to order from if you don’t mind waiting.

I made two visits to San’s – both for lunch – so I could get a better taste for their food.

Sesame Chicken and rice from San's Asian Food

On my first visit, I wanted to try the classics. Among the limited selections waiting on the warming table were General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken, two of my favorites. I got the two-entree lunch combo with a side of fried rice.

The General’s chicken was interesting. Usually it’s a sweet and spicy dish, but this had more of a tangy flavor to it. It wasn’t bad – I actually did enjoy it – but it wasn’t what I was anticipating. Unfortunately the sesame chicken was a let down for me. There wasn’t much of a sauce, and what little I had didn’t have a whole lot of flavor. It wasn’t bad tasting, it just didn’t have much of a taste.

Sesame Chicken and rice from San's Asian Food

I did enjoy the rice, which had what seemed to be fresh vegetables in the form of carrots, peas and onions (there was also just a little bit of meat). It wasn’t flashy, but it was a good side.

Both entrees used real white meat chicken, which is something I really appreciated. I’ve cut into too many pieces of General’s chicken only to find a mix of processed white and dark meat. That was not the case at San’s, which set it apart.  

On my second trip, I changed it up and ordered teriyaki chicken and lo-mein.

Teriyaki chicken from San's Asian Food

All around, it was a better meal than my first visit. The chicken had a very good flavor to it – salty and a little sweet as expected from a teriyaki base. The actual meat, though, was the stereotypical “pieces” that you find most often with the dish. It brought it down a little bit for me, but again, the flavor was really strong – probably the best of the three chicken dishes that I tried at San’s.

Lo mein from San's Asian Food

I also enjoyed the lo mein. It was tossed with broccoli, cabbage and other vegetables. The noodles were good and I enjoyed all of the vegetables. It was simple, but good.

In addition to the warming table, San’s does have a full menu so you can order your meal fresh. With limited time on my lunch, I appreciated the ready-made meals. If I had more time – say at dinner – I would love to go back and see how much better the food would be if it was made fresh.

Also, the small prices are a big plus. The two-meat combo is less than $10 (the single is $7).

San’s may not have jumped to the top of my list for Asian food in Berks County, but that’s ok. It has some good offerings at a very good price. It’s also really convenient.

That’s the makings of a farmers market stand built to last.  

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Very Reasonable

San’s Asian Food
Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2934 N. 5th Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Asian & Pacific Islands Farmers Market Meals Lunch & Dinner Reviews
el jefe taco with steak, onion and chorizo from Comalli Taqueria

Comalli Taqueria

Looking at the blue front door of Comalli Taqueria

The transition from food truck to brick-and-mortar restaurant is something we’ve seen before in Berks County. Two notables come to mind: Gourmand and Sweet Ride. Gourmand now operates two locations in addition to the food truck, while Sweet Ride has it’s ice cream parlor in West Reading (where they are now making their own ice cream) to go along with a truck and the original ice cream cart.

With its recent opening in West Reading, you can now add Comalli Taqueria to that list.

The spacious interior of Comalli Taqueria

It was last fall that Comalli Taqueria debuted its food truck, crisscrossing the county and the region serving artisan tacos. We first gave them a try early this summer at the inaugural Berks County Taco Fest.

We enjoyed everything that we tried so when it was announced that Comalli would be opening a small restaurant in West Reading, it got us excited.

A skull and other sculptures sit on the counter at Comalli Taqueria

The restaurant celebrated a grand opening on November 2, and one week later, we were stopping by to get take-out for the first time.

Comalli offers online ordering so I took advantage of that, placing an order for pick-up “ASAP.” Originally, I was given an estimate of 35 minutes. I got a text message that it was ready less than 20 minutes later (thankfully, I was actually pulling into a parking space in front of the building at the time, taking a chance that it would be ready a little early).

A Coke cooler in an otherwise empty part of the dining area of Comalli Taqueria

While we weren’t dining inside, there was a couple sitting at one of the four tables in the dining room. It’s a nice space, if not a little understated. A few decorations hang on the walls and from the ceilings, but along with blue accent walls, they provide the only real bursts of color in an otherwise monotone space. I think it’s more pronounced because there was actually a large empty space in the room that could hold a few more tables and chairs.

My food was being packed up when I arrived, and a minute or so later I was back out the door and headed home with six tacos – one of each variety offered – and a quesadilla for our toddler. (Comalli also offers a limited selection of sides, including chips with guacamole, rice and beans).

Julie and I each chose three tacos.  For me, it was the al pastor, el Nopal, and el Brulee.

el nopal taco with grilled cactus, avocado and pico de gallo from Comalli Taqueria

The el Nopal was the first one that I had tried at the Taco Fest. It features grilled cactus with pico de gallo and avocado. The cactus has a little bit of a kick to it, which I remembered from before. I like the flavor, but I have to admit, I still haven’t quite gotten used to the texture of the plant. It’s a little gummy, but once you get past that, it’s very good.

Al Pastor Taco topped with pork pineapple, cilantro and onion from Comalli Taqueria

Julie had the al pastor at the festival so I gave it a try this time. The corn tortillas (all of the tacos were served on grilled corn tortillas) were filled with marinated pork and pineapple with cilantro and onion. I really enjoyed the tender meat, and I am always a fan of pairing pork and pineapple. The simple onion and cilantro were understated additions to the sweet and savory tacos.

el brulee taco topped with chicken, rice, queso fresco, mole poblano sauce and bananas from Comalli Taqueria

I do love the combination of sweet and savory, and that’s why I was really excited to try the el brulee. The el brulee is topped with pulled chicken, rice, mole poblano, double cream queso fresco and – here’s the kicker – brulle bananas.

After eating it, I may have a new favorite taco. All of the ingredients were loaded with flavor. The mole poblano (my favorite sauce) had a nice sweet heat which contrasted beautifully with the cool, creamy queso fresco. The pulled chicken and rice both were well-seasoned. And then there were those bananas. They added so much flavor and there were enough that I found some in every bite. It was a great taco.

As I was savoring my three tacos, Julie was tasting the other half of Comalli’s menu.

el jefe taco with steak, onion and chorizo from Comalli Taqueria

The el jefe featured steak with onion and cilantro. It’s the simplest taco on the menu, but when you’re dealing with quality steak meat, you don’t want to hide that flavor. And this was quality, the base of a very good taco.

Chicken tinga taco (topped with chicken, cilantro and onion) from Comalli Taqueria

Her chicken tinga taco was another that we had tried at the food truck. The tinga features chicken that has been slow-cooked in a chipotle, onion and tomato sauce topped with onion and cilantro. The marinade for the chicken is, as I described it before, perfect.

For both of these, Julie added a little bit of the mild avocado salsa (not to be confused with guacamole – the salsa was much more sauce-like) that Comalli offers. It was a little spicier than she expected, but very good and a nice change of pace from the standard tomato salsa.

el gallo taco topped with chorizo, avocado, queso fresco and pico de gallo from Comalli Taqueria

But Julie’s favorite was the el gallo. It had a lot of flavors with chorizo sausage in whipped eggs with pico de gallo, queso fresco and avocado. The creamy cheese and the avocado paired well with the mildly spicy chorizo. It was delicious.

A plain quesadill and a taco at Comalli Taqueria

For Jakob, we had ordered a plain quesadilla. The cheese came packed in between two of Comalli’s signature corn tortillas. Julie and I really enjoyed them. Jakob, however, didn’t care for them, but he opened up the quesadilla and ate all of the cheese. That’s a two-year-old for you.

At least Julie and I really enjoyed our meal. And not only was it convenient, but it was reasonably priced, too. For six tacos and a quesadilla, it cost us $25. Most of the tacos (and the quesadilla) were $3 apiece. The more “premium” tacos like the el gallo and el brulee were $4. That’s not a bad price to pay for quality.

With the food truck, we probably would have visited again if the line wasn’t too long. With the restaurant, we will definitely be back again soon.

Comalli Taqueria is just that good.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Service: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Comalli Taqueria
701 Court St
West Reading, PA 19611

Mexican Reviews
Close-up of red cabbage and sauerbraten from Barrel & Ale

Barrel & Ale

Barrel & Ale logo on exterior wall

When you look at the best downtown dining in Berks County, there is no doubt that Boyertown is an up-and-coming destination. Between Philadelphia and Reading Avenues, you’ll find diners, a brewery, sandwich shops, bars and even a vegan cafe. New restaurants have opened and more are on the way.  

And that momentum has continued outside the downtown, as well. The new Barrel & Ale is a great example. On a recent Saturday afternoon, I met my friend and former colleague Joe for lunch and lots of catching up.

Looking at the front of Barrel & Ale restaurant from Reading Road

Barrel & Ale opened in August, taking over the former Pit Stop Tavern, a mainstay since the 1950s just east of town. Now the restaurant is owned by the same group behind  Iezzi’s on Third (a mainstay in downtown for even longer). Much like they did with Iezzi’s, the ownership group completely renovated the tavern – which had just been converted earlier this year from the racing-themed Pit Stop to the short-lived, prohibition-themed Decades Speakeasy.

Black chairs with wooden tabletops on the hardwood floor in the dining room.

Now the building has a rustic chic feel to it from the clapboard exterior to the hardwood floor in the dining room. Black chairs and accents add a modern touch (along with the flat screen TVs, of course).

Barrel-shaped lights hang from the ceiling in the barroom at Barrel & Ale

I also appreciated the barrel-shaped lights hanging in the bar room and the extra-tall menu that features a barrel on the front and back covers.

Beyond the design, one of the things that appealed most to me about the menu was the array of German entrees. Pork schnitzel, wurst and sauerbraten shared the page with steaks, seafood and pasta. And the sauerbraten sounded too good to pass up.

Sauerbraten topped with gravy; spaetzle; and red cabbage from Barrel & Ale

Sauerbraten is a traditional German roast beef that has been heavily marinated in herbs and spices, giving it a slightly soured, pickled taste. It’s a unique flavor combination and Barrel & Ale captured it well in their version of the dish. The light gravy on top enhanced, rather than hid, the flavors of the dish.

Close-up of red cabbage and sauerbraten from Barrel & Ale

The dish was served with a pair of colorful sides: spaetzle (small German noodles) and braised red cabbage. The spaetzle was bright yellow and looked like corn at first glance. The red cabbage had a much deeper, almost wine color to it.

Of the two, the cabbage was my favorite – and probably my favorite thing on the plate. It had bits of beef throughout that added unexpected, but welcomed, savory notes that broke up the vinegary flavor of the braised cabbage. The spaetzle was fine but didn’t have much flavor on its own, but paired well with the sauerbraten.

Grilled chicken sandwich with chips and pickle from Barrel & Ale

Across the table, Joe ordered from the sandwich side of the menu, opting for the grilled chicken. The grilled chicken breast was topped with roasted peppers, mozzarella and pesto aioli. Joe found it to be a really good sandwich that was highlighted by the aioli, the primary source of flavor.

The sandwich was served with housemade chips and a pickle. The chips were good, though some of them were a little soft, a little under-done. But they were well-seasoned and had good flavor.

Grilled chicken sandwich with chips and pickle from Barrel & Ale

The pickle, Joe said, was obviously not store-bought. (A Facebook post from when Barrel & Ale first opened showed craft pickles from Tennessee). It was an added touch that didn’t go unnoticed.

At the end of the meal, our total bill was around $35, my meal making up more than half it. (Really, the sauerbraten is a dinner entree, not a lunch, and it’s priced accordingly at $17.95).

We weren’t the only ones in the restaurant, but it wasn’t full by any means. Lunch doesn’t seem to have taken off yet at the Barrel & Ale, though their Facebook page has been promoting that an expanded lunch menu is coming soon so that could change.

And I would go back to try something new, for sure. It was a good first impression and between the flavorful foods and enjoyable ambiance, Barrel & Ale has the makings of a new long-lasting restaurant.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Barrel & Ale
961 N. Reading Ave
Boyertown, PA 19512

Bars & Pubs Reviews

What’s New at Berks County Eats?

It’s hard to believe, but Berks County Eats is almost six years old. What began as a college project turned into a real website in January 2014 when we reviewed the TomCat Cafe. That kicked off the weekly reviews – 280 and counting.

For the first five-and-a-half years, BerksCountyEats.com remained relatively unchanged. We had a simple blogroll where all the new posts showed up on the homepage, in order.

That’s all it had to be, at first. If I’m being honest, Berks County Eats outgrew that design a couple years ago, but I was too lazy to redesign the site. Building and maintaining websites has been a big part of my day job for years so rebuilding my own site after work was the last thing I wanted to do.

I finally resolved to make the change this summer and on Labor Day weekend, I launched the new BerksCountyEats.com. Since then, I’ve been working to fine-tune it into the website of my dreams – or as close to it as I can manage. I’m proud of the end result, which has taken Berks County Eats and turned it from a blog into a real resource.


Blog Archive

A screenshot of the blog archive page showing the search bar and six category links
BerksCountyEats.com now has a categorized blog archive with a search feature for easier navigation.

This was the most necessary addition: an organized repository of all blog posts. You can find previous reviews based on cuisine (Italian, Latin American) or by restaurant type (Drive-Ins, Finer Dining). There is also a search bar that makes it easy to find a review by keyword or restaurant name. Visit the Blog Archive


Restaurant Directory

A screenshot of the directory, including search bar and three listings with photos, titles, addresses and phone numbers
The new directory includes more than 530 restaurants and eateries in Berks County.

I have dreamed for years of creating a directory of Berks County restaurants. Before launching the new website, it existed only as a very rough Excel spreadsheet where I would add checkboxes next to the restaurants I had visited. Now, it’s an integral part of BerksCountyEats.com.

With the goal of being the ultimate dining resource for Berks County, I have loaded in more than 530 restaurants into the directory. This is only the locally owned, non-national chains (sorry McDonald’s and Red Lobster). I have done my best to add filters based on cuisine and/or restaurant type while also breaking the county down into regions for easier navigation.

The directory is not meant to be an endorsement of any restaurant, but it’s a good place to start. Every listing is linked to the restaurant’s website and social media, when available, and includes their address and phone number. For restaurants we have visited, it also includes our ratings for the food, service and ambiance, as well as photos taken during our visit.

The goal is to keep the information as up-to-date and accurate as possible, but to do that, I’m going to need help from the Berks County Eats community. First, I know there are restaurants out there that are missing (and probably a few listed that have closed). So please, let us know of any restaurants that need to be added or removed.

Going forward, if a new restaurant opens near you – or you know one is on the way – let me know. If a place closes, shoot me an email or send me a message on Facebook. If I don’t see/know about it, I can’t update it. And while I try to be on top of all the news, not everything finds its way into my news feed. Visit the Directory


Restaurant News

A screenshot of the food news page on the website showing links for now open, coming soon and recently closed pages
The Food News page is a repository of restaurant openings, closings and coming soon.

Early in the life of Berks County Eats, I was putting out weekly Food News posts that covered openings, closings and any other news items that I felt warranted mention. I had to stop that several years ago because a) Facebook changed its algorithm and the news wasn’t showing up in my feed anymore and b) it was clogging up an already crowded feed on the BerksCountyEats.com homepage.

As I was building out the new site, I realized that I needed to streamline things so I created a news page with links to three new pages: Now Open, Coming Soon and Recently Closed restaurants. These pages are updated as often as needed and include all of the restaurants I have information on.

While I will continue to share updates on Facebook whenever possible, this is the place to find all the latest news. Again, if you hear about an opening or closing, drop us a line so we can keep these pages as robust and accurate as possible. Visit the Food News Page


Calendar of Events

A screenshot of the Events page, including search bar and two event listings
Currently, the Calendar of Events features larger events and festivals – at least the ones I know about.

This was also something that was very important to me as I started rebuilding the site. Berks County is rich, not only in its diversity of restaurants, but in its diverse events. Since starting Berks County Eats, I have been to countless festivals and events from Womelsdorf in the west to Boyertown in the east and all points in between. With the calendar, we can now put a stronger focus on these events and promote them as they get closer.

At this point, I’ve only added major events – food truck fairs, apple festivals, Oktoberfest, etc. That could evolve moving forward – it all depends on what you want to know about moving forward. Do we stick to fairs and festivals? Do they need to be food-themed or just have good food (those Oley Fair French fries…)? If a restaurant is hosting an event, should that be included? If so, what constitutes an event worthy of posting?

This is one section of the site that will continue to evolve. View Calendar of Events


No, I’m Still Not Getting Paid for Reviews

Reviews are not for sale. Everything I write is an honest assessment about the restaurants I’m visiting. I do my best to accentuate the positives, not because restaurants are paying me, but because the rest of the world is writing 1-star reviews on Yelp.

That said, advertisements may become a bigger part of the site moving forward. If you saw ads on the old version of the site, they were placed by WordPress.com. I recently upgraded my hosting plan, which removes the ads but also costs me more money (did I mention I’m not getting paid for reviews?).

I am going to be actively seeking advertisers for the website. That may include restaurants, but I’m hoping the wider Berks County business community sees the value in a website that is hyper-targeted to their customers.

When it comes to future advertisements, I will make two promises: First, the ads will not be obnoxiously placed in the middle of articles (that’s just rude). Second, reviews are still not for sale.


In Other News…

Jakob at Breakfast
Reviews have certainly been different since this little guy came along almost two years ago.

The last year has been a professional challenge, but a personal blessing. In August 2018, I made a career decision that, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have. I was very stressed and it took a toll on me in many ways. Remember Food Blogger vs. Fat? I lost 30 pounds in 2017 and have regained 20 since then – mostly stress-eating my way through work.

In May of this year, I switched jobs again, this time for the better. I’m closer to home, working better hours and feel like I am back in a good place. I’m also restarting my diet to get my blood pressure back under control; I’m just not going to be posting about it every single week (if at all). And it’s not going to affect my reviews – heck, I’ve been celebrating National Pizza Month every week in October. I’m just making better decisions in the 20 meals a week that I’m not blogging about.

On a personal note, parenthood is amazing. My son turns two years old in November and watching him grow has been the most rewarding experience of my life. He is a true blessing to Julie and I, and I am ever thankful to be able to call him my son.

The reason I have been able to re-devote my time to Berks County Eats is because I am in such a good place right now, personally and professionally. I am so happy to sit down at the keyboard every week and write about food. I love doing this, and I love sharing this adventure with all of you.

I hope you enjoy the changes – upgrades, I believe – to Berks County Eats. And I’m not done yet. I am hoping to have another exciting announcement for you before the end of the year.

Until then, there’s only one question left: where should I eat next?

Your feedback is always welcomed! Email Zach at berkscountyeats@gmail.com

Features Stories
A slice of Frank white pizza, topped with ricotta, tomato and spinach

TommyBoy’s Pizza and Cafe

Main Street Kutztown featuring TommyBoy's Pizza and Cafe

Every October, Berks County Eats marks National Pizza Month by visiting pizza places across Berks County. October also is when Julie and my alma mater, Kutztown University, hosts homecoming weekend.

So what better way to celebrate both than with a visit to one of the college town’s pizza places?

TommyBoy’s Pizza and Cafe opened in the fall of 2014, taking over a space that I remembered from my time in Kutztown as the Main Street Cafe.

A Coca-Cola case behind the counter at TommyBoy's

It’s not much to look at inside. TommyBoy’s is your basic take-out place with a few tables in the front of the counter (there are two counters, actually, one that holds the pizzas for slices and one for placing orders.

We arrived around 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon and found a group of students sitting at a table for four. By the time we left a little after 1, it was full with more people calling in and picking up orders. If I remember correctly, 1 p.m. on a Sunday is breakfast for most KU students, especially on homecoming weekend.

Display pizzas behind glass at TommyBoy's

TommyBoy’s distinguishes itself from other Kutztown pizza places – and all others in the county, for that matter – with its slices. Like everyone else, slices are cut from the display pies and reheated in the oven.

Unlike everywhere else, those display pies are 30 inches around.

I may not have been a math major at Kutztown, but that means every slice is 15 inches. The slices are so large that it takes two plates to serve them.

A slice of Frank white pizza, topped with ricotta, tomato and spinach

We decided to order three slices: one for me, one for Julie, and one for us to share with Jakob. It may seem like he has an insatiable appetite sometimes, but there was no way our toddler was going to be able to finish a slice by himself.

For my slice, I ordered the Frank White, a white pizza topped with ricotta, tomatoes, spinach and garlic. It’s one of my favorite styles of pizza because I love ricotta. This was a really good version of it, if a little heavy on the garlic powder. The crust was done well – not burnt, but plenty crispy that I could actually pick up the slice and eat it like normal.

A slice of chicken bacon ranch pizza atop two plates

Julie could not say the same for her chicken bacon ranch slice, which she had to cut into smaller pieces to manage (maybe it was the extra weight of the toppings?).

It was a typical chicken bacon ranch pizza, just a lot more of it, with ranch in every bite. “Hearty,” is the word Julie used to describe it.

Of course the day that we order him a giant slice of pizza is the day that Jakob decided he wasn’t going to eat for us. Julie and I ended up eating about half of his slice of margherita pizza (they were out of plain cheese at the time we ordered and this was the next best thing).

A slice of margherita pizza cut into smaller pieces

From what I tasted, it was very good. The basil was very fragrant and was the dominant flavor, followed closely by the lightly sweet tomato sauce. I liked my own slice a little more, but that’s mostly personal preference as both were done right.

Because the slices are bigger than other pizza places, the prices are a little higher. Prices ranged from about $4 to $6 per slice. With a bottle of water and an iced tea, that brought our total to about $18. That’s still a good price for a lunch anywhere, and we certainly didn’t leave hungry.

If you’re wondering, TommyBoy’s does make normal size pizzas (14- and 16-inch round pies, 16-inch Sicilians and personal-sized gluten free pies). They also offer Stromboli, wraps, sandwiches, wings and one-third pound burgers.

TommyBoy’s wasn’t a part of our college days, but the mega slices are certainly going to be a big part – pun intended – for today’s students and the whole Kutztown community. And we were glad to get a taste.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Very Reasonable

TommyBoy’s Pizza & Cafe
313 W. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530

Pizzerias Reviews
A wooden sign advertising Heirloom restaurant in Hereford Township

5 Former Berks County Restaurants We Miss

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:

A rack of lamb with potatoes, garnished with parsley.

Heirloom
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.


A styrofoam container with pulled pork, French fries, a cup of baked beans and two pieces of white bread

Muddy’s BBQ
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).


Schnitz und Knepp - apples and dumplings topped with ham

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.


Wood-fired pizza topped with hot sopressata and a drizzle of hot honey

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 earned the title of Best Burger

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

Features Stories
Oliverio's house special pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onion and peppers

Oliviero’s Pizzeria & Restaurant

A view of the brick facade at Oliverio's Pizzeria in Douglassville

In the first five years of Berks County Eats, we’ve seen a number of restaurants come and go, and more than once we’ve revisited old locations that now have new restaurants.

That was the case on our recent visit to Oliviero’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in Amity Township.

Oliviero’s is located in a strip mall along Route 422 just west of Douglassville. The location is a challenge for two reasons. One, it’s located along a part of 422 that is a divided highway. Two, the strip sits perpendicular to the highway with the restaurant at the far end.

Pizzas, pepperoni bites, and sweets behind the counter at Oliviero's in Douglassville

The last time I was at the location, it was Kathryn’s Grille, a short-lived BYOB that we visited in late 2017. Kathryn’s closed in early 2018. Oliviero’s debuted a few months later in July with a menu that features pizza shop standards with a few additions including a selection of Chicago deep dish pies and artisan pan pizzas. They also offer a selection of pastas, including weekly specials.

In the summer, Oliviero’s satisfies everyone’s sweet tooth with an outdoor ice cream shack and year-round with tiramisu, cannoli, cheesecake, and other sweets available in the restaurant.

Booths and tables in Oliviero's dining room

The dining area has been updated to add color. Yellow booths with wood-grain seats have replaced the dark wooden tables and vibrant posters pop against the gray walls. The space feels brighter and more inviting than it felt before.

But on this visit, I didn’t get to enjoy a sit-down meal. Instead, I was grabbing our dinner and taking it back home to Wyomissing.

It’s about a 20 minute drive (because when you have pizza in the car, you trigger every red light on 422), but the food traveled well. As hungry as Julie and I were until I got home, neither of us was as excited as our toddler who could barely contain his excitement at the sight of the pizza box.

Oliverio's house special pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onion and peppers

We ordered a medium house special pizza. It comes topped with pepperoni, sausage, onion, mushrooms and peppers. All three of us really enjoyed it.

The sauce was on the sweet side, and the use of red onions added to the overall sweetness of the dish while the pepperoni and sausage provided the savory side. I appreciated the use of thin-sliced sausage which I prefer to the ground topping at other places. The cheese was pretty standard as was the crust, but overall it was enjoyable.

A box loaded with Oliverio's French fries

We really didn’t need the fries – we had two slices of pizza left after dinner – but we couldn’t help ourselves. They were pretty good, more of the battered style fries than the fresh-cut style, and made a nice complement to the pizza.

As is the case with most pizza places, the price was right. The pizza and fries came in just under $20. It was also ready for me less than 20 minutes of calling in the order, but we had ordered a little after 4 p.m. so not their busiest time. I imagine if I had waited an hour or two, the wait would have been longer.

Oliviero’s made a very good first impression on us, and it has passed the one-year mark at this point, a milestone always worth celebrating for a restaurant.

Here’s hoping that it will anchor the strip mall for many years to come.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Very Reasonable

Oliviero’s Pizzeria & Restaurant
101 Park Ln
Douglassville, PA 19518

Pizzerias Reviews
A personal, 10-inch pepperoni lovers pizza from Pizza Como in Hamburg

Pizza Como

Looking at the outside Pizza Como from 5th Street in Hamburg

One of the things that I love about pizza places is that, more than any other type of restaurant, they are neighborhood places. Every town has a pizza place (or two, or three).

Hamburg has a couple places of its own, and one of those is Pizza Como.

Pizza Como can be found a block away from the downtown business district at the corner of State and 5th Streets. It’s a part of town Julie and I may have never discovered if not for a visit to the Weis Markets across the street a year ago.

(Also, don’t confuse this Pizza Como with Pizza Como on 5th Street Highway in Muhlenberg).

Booths line the sunroom at Pizza Como in Hamburg

The restaurant has a cool vintage look with a sun room dining area facing 5th Street. The wine-colored booths and hexagon floor tiles are definitely from another era (and the tiles are getting a little worn in places). There’s a small, but nice bar that was full with five customers. There were more tables and booths in between.

While there were a decent number of families dining in during our visit, there were a lot more coming and going to pick up their take-out orders. From our spot we watched a constant stream of customers entering through the front door.

A view of the dining room at Pizza Como in Hamburg

Unfortunately the restaurant seemed a little understaffed for the amount of customers. Our server was handling most (maybe all) of the tables as well as tending the bar. I also saw her answer the phone at least once. She was as attentive as she could be under the circumstances, but it took a few minutes before she stopped by to greet us and ask for our drinks.

The good thing about a pizza shop is that it doesn’t take very long to get your food, no matter what you order. We had ordered barbecue wings for an appetizer and they were out a short time later.

A plate of six barbecue wings from Pizza Como in Hamburg

The wings were cooked well but had much less sauce than most wings. It allowed the flavor of the meat to come out more (and I wasn’t quite as sticky as usual), but I did find myself wanting a little more ‘cue. Also, we weren’t offered any ranch or bleu cheese. It didn’t really bother me, and we didn’t need it, either. I just can’t remember the last time we had wings where it wasn’t offered.

We had polished off the wings fairly quickly, but we didn’t have to wait much longer for our pizzas to arrive.

Pizza Como offers individual 10-inch pizzas which was perfect because we could try two very different pies and have enough to share with our toddler as well.

A personal, 10-inch pepperoni lovers pizza from Pizza Como in Hamburg

I had ordered the pepperoni lovers pizza. Surprise, it was loaded with pepperoni so there was at least once piece in every bite. The crust was cooked perfectly – crispy, but not burnt – so that it never sagged when you picked up a piece. And despite having nearly 30 pieces of pepperoni crammed on to the pie, it didn’t feel greasy.

Overall, it was a very good, and very enjoyable pizza.

A personal, 10-inch pesto pizza from Pizza Como in Hamburg

As I mentioned, Julie and I ordered two very different pizzas. She chose the pesto pizza, which had a familiar green tint from the basil. And like a good pesto sauce, it had nice hints of garlic throughout. Like mine, the crust was done very well, exactly how it should be. Even Jakob, our almost two-year-old, approved.

We didn’t need to eat all of it, but we did. It was too good that we didn’t want to let any of it go to waste – or our fridge.

After we were finished, we had another wait, this time to get our check. I peeked around the corner and saw our server taking orders from the four guys who had just sat down at the bar. A few minutes later, she was still there, this time jotting down a phone order. Thankfully, once we had the check, I just had to pay at the counter because when a toddler is done eating, he is really done and ready to go, and I don’t know how long it would have taken to get change.

All things considered, she did an excellent job (and was great with our son), she was just stuck juggling too many tasks, which I can’t blame her for.

Our total bill, by the way, was just $21 for two pizzas and a half-dozen wings. That’s a bargain compared to a lot of places that we’ve visited.

Aside from the waiting, we had a very good experience – and some very good pizza. If we lived closer, I could see us getting take-out from Pizza Como often. And even with a little slower service, we would still dine in again if we’re in the area.

Judging by the foot traffic, a lot of locals keep coming back for more.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Fair
Ambiance: Good
Price: Very Reasonable

Pizza Como
501 State St
Hamburg, PA 19526

Pizzerias Reviews
A half cheese, half pepperoni pizza from Fratello's in Reading

Fratello’s Bar & Restaurant

A view of the brick facade at the entrance to Fratello's in Reading

Back in 2014 when I started Berks County Eats, the Reading Eagle ran a story about the upcoming renovation of the Big Mill, one of the buildings that made up the former Reading outlets. I was excited for the project, mostly because it was to include a new restaurant: Fratello’s Bar & Restaurant.

Then a fire broke out in October of that year and everything was put on hold. The apartments would open in 2016 with no restaurant – and honestly, I had assumed the restaurant portion of the project was dead.

Then earlier this year, Fratello’s arrived, celebrating a grand opening in April. Half a year later, and I finally had a chance to make my first visit as my friend Dennis and I headed into the city on a recent Friday night.

Fratello’s address is North 8th Street, but the main entrance – and off-street parking – is located along Nicolls Street.

Booths and tables are laid out among exposed beams inside the brick walls of Fratello's in Reading

Walking through the front door, I felt a little lost. To our left was the bar with seating for about 20. Straight ahead was the take-out counter. Hidden behind the counter was the deceptively large dining area. Booths line the walls, accompanied by a handful of tables in the center of the room.

The whole place has an industrial feel to it with brick walls and exposed beams. When we arrived, the lone TV in the room was set to cable news. After stopping by our table, our server changed the channel and turned on a video DJ station that was playing Latin pop. At some point, the music switched over to Frank Sinatra and Elvis.

Our server was attentive throughout the meal, but we were the only patrons in the dining room when we sat down. A young family came in while we were eating. Our server spoke with them in Spanish as easily as she spoke to us in English.

The restaurant has a fairly robust menu with pasta dishes, but we were there for wings and pizza.

Ten BBQ wings piled high at Fratello's in Reading

Our 10 barbecue wings were out first. The sauce was good and sweet, though nothing remarkable. The wings were meaty, well-cooked, and well-sauced. It was exactly what we were hoping for.

We hadn’t quite finished our wings before the pizza arrived. Originally I had been thinking about an individual pizza, but Dennis and I decided to split a medium – plain cheese on his half, pepperoni on mine.

A half cheese, half pepperoni pizza from Fratello's in Reading

The pizza was very good, though a little greasy. The cheese and sauce were both good. And I enjoyed the dough, which was cooked just right.

I was glad to see that even for a half pie, they didn’t skimp on the pepperoni. There wasn’t a bite without some of the salty, savory slices.

No one would mistake it for an artisan pizza like you’d find at a place like Nonno Alby’s, but it was enjoyable for what it was.

Our final total for the meal – which included my usual glass of unsweetened iced tea – was $32. It’s certainly not the cheapest pizza and wings around, but it felt right for the amount of food and was a little less than what we would have paid had we each ordered an individual pizza.

The most important thing, though, was that we enjoyed our meal.

Hopefully the good food and friendly service will keep Fratello’s in business for a lot longer than the five years they waited to open.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Fratello’s Bar & Restaurant
702 N. 8th St
Reading, PA 19604

Pizzerias Reviews
Beer Wall on Penn Brisket Mac-n-Cheese

Beer Wall on Penn

Beer Wall on Penn

Oftentimes, a bar is just a bar. It’s a place to get a drink, eat some fried food and watch a game.

But sometimes, a bar isn’t just a bar. West Reading’s Beer Wall on Penn is not just a bar. In fact, it’s one of the few places in Berks County that can truly be called, “unique.”

Beer Wall on Penn Dining Room

Sure, there’s a bar. And dining room seating. And table service. But then there are the 38 self-serve taps where anyone (over the age of 21) can pour their own beer. Each beer is priced per ounce and customers are in complete control over how much beer they pour. A card is swiped at the tap, adding up your tab as you go.

Beer Wall on Penn Wall of Taps

The taps are a sight to behold – all of them in a single row along a wall (except for a few stragglers located on the top floor – more on that later). I don’t drink, but I brought along my buddy Josh to test out the taps. He lives in D.C. but was back in the area for the week (and who enjoys a good beer or two on his cheat days).

Beer Wall on Penn Taps

“This is cool,” he said. “I can’t believe they don’t have one of these in D.C. yet. It would do really well.” It is a cool concept, and one that actually puts Berks County on the cutting edge.

But the Beer Wall isn’t just about the booze – the restaurant is serving up a unique food menu that includes tacos, burgers, sandwiches, fried appetizers and a handful of large plate entrees.

Beer Wall on Penn Duck Fat Fries

Josh and I both opted for appetizers. For me, it was the duck fat fries.

For the duck fat fries, Beer Wall takes its thick-cut fries and cooks them in duck fat, topping them with truffle zest, shaved Parmesan and scallions. It also comes with a side of roasted garlic aioli for dipping.

Beer Wall on Penn Duck Fat Fries

I love the richness of duck and it definitely adds another layer of flavor to fries. I also appreciated the large parmesan shavings. But for me, it was the scallions that really took everything to the next level. That strong, concentrated onion flavor was the perfect addition and paired nicely with the fries and the tangy aioli.

Beer Wall on Penn

Across the table, Josh was enjoying an order of pretzel nuggets. He graciously allowed me to try one of the parmesan and parsley-coated pretzels, and it was delicious. But what really surprised me was the lager mustard dip. I don’t like mustard and I don’t drink beer, but somehow this combination worked so well and made for a perfect complement to the pretzels.

Both our appetizers left a great first impression.

Beer Wall on Penn Brisket Mac-n-Cheese

I passed on the tacos and burgers in favor of one of Beer Wall’s entree plates, the brisket mac-n-cheese. It featured braised brisket, sautéed onions and cavatappi pasta in a white cream sauce, all topped with bread crumbs, chives and parmesan cheese.

This is a case where I thought the individual ingredients were better than the dish as a whole. I really liked the brisket. It had a nice, smoky flavor, but I thought it was masked by the cheese sauce.

Beer Wall on Penn Brisket Mac-N-Cheese

On the flip side, I thought the bread crumb mixture was a welcome addition and brought out the best flavors of the cheese. It was a good meal, but personally, I would have enjoyed everything just a little bit more if the brisket had been served on top of, or beside the mac. (It was also a lot of food, especially after finishing off the duck fat fries. I took half of it home in a box at the end of the meal).

Josh had decided to go with one of the burger options, the banh mi. It featured an eight-ounce patty of beef and pork (Beer Wall’s standard burger base) topped with pickled vegetables, fried pork belly, seared tomato, cilantro, a fried egg and balsamic reduction.

Beer Wall on Penn Banh Mi Burger

He and I argued over whether pork belly belongs on a banh mi (in my world, it certainly does), but there was no arguing about the beauty of the burger in front of him. Unfortunately Josh is one of the unfortunate souls who suffers from an aversion to cilantro and somehow forgets until he tastes it. That kind of marred what was a good burger.

The prices for food at the Beer Wall are pretty reasonable for the amount and quality of the food. I spent about $25 for my entree, fries and an unsweetened iced tea. For those who enjoy craft beer, you can expect to add 50 to 70 cents per ounce to your tab at the end of the night.

Beer Wall on Penn Arcade

When our meal was finished, we ventured upstairs where Beer Wall not only has additional taps, but also vintage arcade games that you can play for free. Mortal Kombat and the Simpsons are among the machines you’ll find. Before we left, I schooled Josh in a game of NBA Jam, dropping 3s from the corner with Scottie Pippin.

Maybe the novelty of pouring your own beer will wear off. Then again, maybe not.

Either way, Beer Wall on Penn is not just another bar. It’s something different, and different is a good thing for Berks County.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Price: Reasonable

Beer Wall on Penn
619 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Bars & Pubs Reviews