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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But Julie’s favorite was the elgallo. 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.
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
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
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
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.
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).
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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…
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
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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).
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
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.
Service: Very Good
Price: Very Reasonable
& Cafe 313 W. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
We ordered a medium house special pizza. It comes topped
with pepperoni, sausage, onion, mushrooms and peppers. All three of us really
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.
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
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Fratello’s address is North 8th Street, but the main entrance
– and off-street parking – is located along Nicolls Street.
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.
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.
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
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
Hopefully the good food and friendly service will keep
Fratello’s in business for a lot longer than the five years they waited to
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Fratello’s Bar & Restaurant 702 N. 8th St Reading, PA 19604
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.”
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.
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).
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Beer Wall on Penn
619 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611