An overhead photo of plate with a burger topped with cheese, the top bun next to it with lettuce and tomato, and a pile of fries.

The Berkshire Family Restaurant

A photo of the exterior of the Berkshire Restaurant in Wyomissing

Since starting Berks County Eats, I’ve learned a lot – about food and about the food business.

I’ve also learned that when a new restaurant opens, you have to accept that some things aren’t going to be perfect, but what matters is how you feel when you leave the restaurant.

A photo of the entryway of a diner with a hostess stand with painted black wood that matches the trim on the walls.

One new restaurant that had us feeling good when we left after our first visit was the Berkshire Family Restaurant.

The Berkshire opened in August, starting with takeout only before quickly expanding into table service that includes breakfast (served all day), lunch and dinner.

Its location has been a Berks County favorite for years. Set along State Hill Road in Wyomissing, just across from the Berkshire Mall, the building is still remembered as the former Arner’s, though it was most recently Giannotti’s Berkshire, which closed in 2018.

A counter at a diner with a dessert display case and the phrase "It was all a dream" on the wall.

We made a visit to the restaurant on a recent Friday evening – Julie, her mother (Peggy), Jakob and I arrived a little after 5 p.m. for dinner and were told there was a 15- to 20-minute wait. The benches were full in the main waiting area so Peggy grabbed a seat in the spacious entryway while Julie and I took Jakob for a walk around the building.

After a short walk, we headed inside. I went to the counter to see where we were in line only to see our name had been crossed off the list. The hostess was not at the stand at the time so I mentioned something when she returned and we had a table in short order.

Pumpkins, leaves and assorted fall decor sitting in a basket on an unused salad bar.

We were seated at a table in the middle of the main dining room, near what would be the salad bar (at the time of our visit, it was decorated with pumpkins and other fall décor).

Our waitress was very nice and remained attentive throughout our visit, though there was a slight mix-up early on.

Photo of a cup of soup with ravioli-like pasta floating on top.

Peggy ordered a soup and salad combo with a chicken pasta soup and a Cobb salad with ranch dressing. When the soups arrived – Julie had also ordered a soup – so too, did a house salad with ranch. It was returned to the kitchen, and after this hiccup, the meal was about as good as we could have hoped for.

The chicken pasta soup was very good with large bowtie pasta pieces and plenty of chicken and vegetables.

An overhead photo of plate with a burger topped with cheese, the top bun next to it with lettuce and tomato, and a pile of fries.

I needed something a little more substantial than soup and salad so I opted for one of the seven burgers on the menu – The Frenchy.

The Frenchy is described on the menu as “French onion soup meets the burger.” When it arrived, I could see the melted Swiss cheese on top, just like a crock of French onion soup. With my first bite, the onion and broth started to seep out.

A close-up photo of French fries covered in feta cheese and oregano with a burger in the background.

It really was a delicious burger. The flavor of the soup penetrated into the burger patty and throughout the toppings. French onion soup is on the main menu, and I would definitely order it by itself sometime.

All burgers are served with fries with upgrades available. One of those upgrades is Greek fries. For an extra $2, my fries were topped with feta cheese and oregano. Feta doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor on its own, but the oregano added a lot to it and made the upgrade worthwhile.

A pile of fried shrimp and French fries in a basket lined with red and white checkered paper

Julie had plain fries with her basket of shrimp – 21 shrimp basket to exact. Though she doesn’t order it often, fried shrimp is one of her favorites. The Berkshire’s version filled her fried food craving and her stomach.

Photo of a Cobb salad topped with grilled chicken. Piles of red onions, diced tomatoes and avocado can be seen.

Peggy’s meal – the Cobb salad – was the most healthful of all of our orders. She opted for grilled chicken on top which she enjoyed along with hearty portions of avocado, onion, egg, tomatoes and lettuce. They certainly didn’t skimp on the portions for this salad.

A white plate with two halves of a grilled cheese sandwich and a handful of French fries.

For Jakob, we ordered the grilled cheese (almost three years old, he is now old enough to tell us what he wants when we read the menu to him). We were happy to see him eat his sandwich – all of it except the crust as toddlers will do – and he seemed to really like it.

Jakob’s meal also came with a scoop of ice cream (not pictured). For whatever reason, he wouldn’t eat it. So, daddy got to enjoy some chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Peggy and Julie both ordered dessert – rice pudding – to go. It’s their go-to diner dessert, and a little bit of a splurge that Julie savored in small portions throughout the week.

For all of our food, it was only around $50, in line with what you would expect from a diner.

There were a couple hiccups early on, but those will go away as the staff gains more experience. But we had no complaints about the food. To the contrary, we all left talking about how good our meals were.

And that’s the most important thing for any meal.

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

Diners Lunch & Dinner
A photo of a calzone and French fries on a dark blue plate.

Piero’s Pizzeria

Photo of the exterior of Piero's Pizzeria in Reading, PA

Sometimes it feels like there is an Italian restaurant on just about every corner.

While that is an exaggeration, there is no question that you can find good Italian food wherever you go in Berks County.

Like at Piero’s Pizzeria.

Piero’s is wedged in on the corner of Route 183 and Upper Van Reed Road in Leinbachs, just a short drive north of the Reading Airport and Route 222.

Photo of an order counter in an Italian restaurant. Photos of food are on the wall above the counter while pizza is on display on the counter.

The location has limited parking in the front and on the side of the building, more than enough especially if you’re just stopping in to grab takeout (though Piero’s does have a decent size dining area for those who would prefer to dine-in.)

Our order was prepared quick and was ready to go by the time we made our way from Wyomissing to pick it up.

Piero’s, like many Italian family restaurants, offers a little bit of everything on their menu, including pizza, subs, salads, fried appetizers, burgers and Italian dinners.

I was in the mood for pizza but didn’t want a whole pie so I opted instead for a calzone.

A photo of a calzone and French fries on a dark blue plate.

All of Piero’s calzones are stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella and served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. I decided to add meatballs to mine, creating something between a pizza and a meatball sandwich.

I was not disappointed. It was really the ricotta that sets the calzone apart. The lighter and creamier cheese adds a different element than just mozzarella (as would have been in a Stromboli).

The calzone was also the perfect size for one, though I couldn’t help but order a side of fries. They were the battered kind, fried to a golden crisp and perfect for eating one after another without thinking about it.

A photo of a tuna sandwich, cut in half, with the cut side facing the camera.

Julie, meanwhile, had a tuna melt – her favorite sandwich order. The sandwich was stuffed with tuna and overflowing with lettuce and tomato. The roll was toasted perfectly. It was a very good sandwich, and Julie gave it her stamp of approval.

A close-up picture of a slice of pepperoni pizza.

And our toddler approved of his slice of pizza. Jakob enjoyed his pepperoni pizza. The thin crust pie was a solid offering, and Jakob even ate the pepperoni slices. (He has been known, in the past, to not eat his pepperoni because it is “too spicy”).

Photo of Piero's Pizzeria's ham puffs - rolled dough with ham and cheese.

We also couldn’t help but order a half dozen of Piero’s ham puffs. Ham puffs are basically pepperoni rolls – rolls of dough filled with cheese and meat – but with slices of ham instead of pepperoni inside. Piero’s uses a very good dough for all of their items and it was just as good in the ham puffs.

Our meal was enjoyable across the board. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but Piero’s delivered on everything that we tried.

For everything we got, it was right around $30, not a bad price at all for so much food.

And good food, at that.

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

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews Sandwich Shops
A round foil to-go container with baked ziti topped with cheese.

Nino’s Italian Ristorante of Wyomissing

For nine years, Julie and I lived in the Berkshire Heights neighborhood of Wyomissing. We loved the location – close to the highway and within walking distance of all the great restaurants in West Reading.

We also had some great restaurants closer to home. Willoughby’s on Park is one of our favorites for fine dining. Mikura always had delicious Asian-inspired meals. And I had many chai tea lattes from the Park Road Café.

But the one place we had never visited was the restaurant that had been there the longest: Nino’s Pizzeria.

A photo of a brick pizza oven with a door next to it.

Nino’s is in their 26th year of serving Wyomissing and Berks County. When we knew we were going to be moving, Julie and I made a promise that we had to have dinner from Nino’s at least once before we left.

One night after packing boxes all day, we called in an order, and I walked down the street to the little Italian restaurant in the strip mall. On many of our walks, we would see people sitting inside enjoying their meals, but the chairs were all up on the tables when I walked in, a symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic and the tight restrictions on dine-in.

A photo of a restaurant with chairs on top of tables and a picture of Italy hanging on the wall

Talking with the owners, it was easy to understand their decision to focus exclusively on takeout and delivery. With such a small space, 25% capacity would only allow them to seat about 12 people. And with the extra protocols around cleaning and sanitizing tables, it just didn’t make financial sense to offer table service.

But the phone-in orders seemed to be coming in at a steady pace. And I was anxious to get the food back to the house to finally try it.

Julie and I had both opted for one of their Italian dinners. Julie went with her personal favorite, baked ziti, while I ordered the homemade lasagna.

A round foil to-go container with a cheesey lasagna slice

Anytime I order from a restaurant that has a large menu – as Nino’s does – I am drawn to anything that says “homemade.” The connotation, at least, is that the dish takes time to make and it is one that the owners are proud to serve.

By the time I got home the lasagna was not much to look at – it shifted around in the foil packaging so it looked like a blob of cheese atop a blob of pasta and sauce – but it sure tasted good.

The menu describes the meat sauce as slightly sweet with a rich flavor, and I can’t describe it any better than that. The lasagna noodles weren’t the thinnest that I have seen, but they weren’t thick either. And there was plenty of cheese on top. It was definitely worthy of the “homemade” distinction.

A round foil to-go container with baked ziti topped with cheese.

Julie’s baked ziti was also very good (and also tasted much better than it looked in the to-go packaging). The tomato sauce was a little sweeter than the meat sauce on my lasagna, probably just because it didn’t have the extra savory element to it.

Both meals also came with a side salad and homemade bread. The side salads were pretty typical – lettuce with red onion, a slice of tomato and choice of dressing. But the bread was much more than typical.

A large loaf of Italian bread on a paper plate.

Normally when something comes with bread, I expect a slice or two. Both Julie and I got – essentially – a whole loaf of bread with our meals. We were happy to enjoy it with several more meals throughout the week.

I can say for sure that Nino’s didn’t skimp on quality or portions. And at around $35, we certainly got our money’s worth.

I’m really not sure why it took us so long to get to Nino’s – perhaps we just took for granted that it was there – but we wish we would have gone sooner.

The good news is, we didn’t move that far away so there’s nothing stopping us from going back again.

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

Italian Lunch & Dinner Uncategorized
A white bowl filled with orzo in tomato sauce with a large bone-in lamb shank in the center.

Mazi

Exterior view of a restaurant with colorful planters and seating outside

Though I have been doing this blog for more than six years, I still get excited about every new restaurant that opens up. Most times I wait a little bit before I visit, but every now and then there’s a place that I can’t wait to try.

That was the case with Mazi Greek Inspired, West Reading’s new fine dining destination.

Mazi opened in August in the former Bistro 614 along Penn Avenue. We never made it to Bistro 614 before it closed in 2019 so I can’t speak to what the space looked like before, but the new restaurant is beautiful.

Interior view of a restaurant with cream colored benches opposite wooden chairs at marble-topped tables

Creamy gold cushioned benches line the mirrored walls, filling the room with a golden hue. Beautiful stained glass sits above the large picture window, which accordions open to bring an alfresco feel to patrons inside.

It’s an impressive place, for sure, with an impressive menu to match.

Julie and I haven’t had a true date night since February so we came in prepared to splurge. It started with an appetizer: the sesame feta.

A white rectangular plate, half with pita points the other half with two crescent shaped slices of feta

On the plate were two wedges of feta cheese, lightly seared and topped with sesame seeds, a basil leaf and a drizzle of honey. With them were pita points – delicious on their own, but a perfect match for the soft cheese. I’ve found that feta can be overpowering at times, but here it was perfect. Between the sear and the sweet honey drizzle, the creamy cheese almost ate like a dessert.

Two small slices of olive bread next to a rectangular trough of olive oil for dipping

Along with the appetizer, we were also given two slices of olive bread with oil for dipping. The bread was very good, obviously freshly made. The slices were just big enough to give us a good taste without filling us up for our meals to come.

A white bowl filled with orzo in tomato sauce with a large bone-in lamb shank in the center.

For my meal, I ordered the lamb shank yvetsi, braised lamb shank served over a plate of tomato orzo. The lamb was delicious, but it was even better soaked in the juicy tomato sauce from the orzo. I did find it to be a little harder to cut and chew than I was expecting. Later I heard a waiter at another table describe it as fall-off-the-bone. It was delicious, but it certainly didn’t fall off the bone.

A white bowl filled with orzo in tomato sauce with a large bone-in lamb shank in the center.

It was also a lot of food and about half of the shank came home with me (the waitress took the plate, boxed and bagged it up for me, and sat it down between our table and the empty table next to ours to limit contact).

Normally Julie goes for spanakopita whenever she sees it on the menu, but she skipped it this time in favor of the Chilean sea bass. The fish was served over a red pepper feta coulis with a side of tri-color couscous.

A plate with a cut of fish atop a red pepper sauce with green, white and yellow quinoa on the side

I am not a big fan of fish, but I tried some of Julie’s and it was very good. The seabass didn’t have a whole lot of flavor of its own. Instead, it absorbed the flavors from the delicious red pepper sauce. The couscous was also very good, well-seasoned with added spinach leaves for more flavor.

While we both would have been satisfied had we left after our entrees, we had to hear what was on the dessert menu. And when we heard there was baklava ala mode, how could we refuse?

A slice of vanilla ice cream with round pastries on either side and honey drizzled on top

Our waitress dropped off a square-shaped bowl with a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and two mini rolls of baklava. And everything was drizzled with honey.

This was an indulgence, and a delicious one at that. The baklava was melt-in-your-mouth good with honey soaking through the layers of phyllo dough and just enough of the nutty flavor from the chopped walnuts (I’m pretty sure). We may have left feeling very full, but it was totally worth it.

Our meal wasn’t cheap – an appetizer, two entrees, dessert and a mixed drink for Julie totaled just over $100 – but it was totally worth it, too.

I don’t foresee us becoming regulars at Mazi but for a special occasion or date night, we would definitely visit again.

We were glad we didn’t wait any longer to enjoy a date night, and we were very glad that we chose Mazi.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Price: A Little Pricey

Dessert Finer Dining Greek Lunch & Dinner
A look at the exterior of Cherry's Jamaican Delight in West Reading

Cherry’s Jamaican Delight

A look at the exterior of Cherry's Jamaican Delight in West Reading

I was very excited when I heard Cherry’s Jamaican Delight was moving to West Reading at the beginning of the year. The new location would expose the restaurant – and the Jamaican culture that inspires the cuisine – to a whole new audience that otherwise may miss out.

Cherry’s shares a wall with Chen Vegetarian House in the 700 block of Penn Avenue. It’s a cozy location, one that previously housed small cafes. There’s limited inside seating – made more limited by current guidelines – with a few more yellow and green picnic tables set up out front.

For those not lucky enough to snag a table or those who prefer to eat at home, Cherry’s also offers takeout and delivery through GrubHub.

We decided to take advantage of the online ordering through the GrubHub app, but being just a short drive away, I opted for takeout and the opportunity to see one of West Reading’s newest restaurants.

I got a text notification that my order was ready for pickup early so I made the quick trip from our Wyomissing home into West Reading. Parking wasn’t an issue as I was able to snag a space right in front of the restaurant.

The restaurant’s renovation still feels fresh. Most of the walls are painted in a bright, vibrant yellow that is made more dramatic by the lack of tables.

My order was waiting behind the counter, and I was in-and-out and back home with my food in no time.

Cherry’s menu features Jamaican comfort food like Pepsi brown stew chicken, curried goat and several seafood options. But I had my sights on the brown oxtail stew.

A styrofoam container with stewed oxtails and rice covered in brown sauce

Oxtail is a unique cut of meat. As the name suggests, it comes from the tail of a cow. It’s a gelatinous meat. The slow-cooking in the stew helps cook it down a bit but it still has a slightly chewy consistency, especially around the bone. But the flavor is rich, and it was enhanced by the brown stew sauce.

The sauce was dark and flavorful. And it was spread across the side of rice and peas (which are actually red beans), as well, adding those deep tones to the whole plate.

A styrofoam container with chicken, rice and plantains

Arguably the most popular Jamaican dish in America – or at least the most familiar – is jerk chicken. And it’s also a favorite of my wife, Julie.

She was excited to try Cherry’s version of the dish and was not disappointed. The jerk spice, a little sweet and salty with a (very) mild heat, permeated through the perfectly cooked chicken.

Each of the meals also came with a nice little side of steamed cabbage and – my favorite – fried plantains.

A styrofoam cup with an orange drink and ice next to a styrofoam container with rice and stewed oxtails

And because every meal needs a little bit of sweet, we both decided to try the Calypso Mango, a delicious tropical lemonade that we haven’t seen anywhere else in our ventures.

In all, our dinners and drinks totaled a little less than $40, which isn’t a bad price when you consider we paid a premium for the convenience of online ordering.

Our first experience with Cherry’s Jamaican Delight definitely made us eager to try more. And hopefully others will be eager to give them a try, too.

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

Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner

Where to Get Your Burger Fix

Saturday, September 5 would have been the annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival in downtown Hamburg. While the event won’t take place in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s nothing that says you can’t celebrate in spirit by enjoying a good burger (and maybe some fries and a drink) in Berks County. Here are some places to get a great burger this weekend or any weekend.

Festival Favorites

Annual supporters of the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival who are well-worth a visit.

Deitsch Eck
Lenhartsville

The Deitsch Eck is an annual supporter of the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival, and the lines are long every year to taste their unique offerings. This year, the Deitsch Eck will be offering a menu of burgers from festivals past including the Luther (a bacon cheeseburger with a glazed donut bun), the Crunch Burger (topped with provolone, horseradish sauce, pickles and potato chips) and the Dee Snider Burger (topped with peanut butter, strawberry jelly, Sriracha and bacon). And $1 from each burger sold will benefit Hamburg’s Our Town Foundation. The menu is available through Sunday, September 6.


Dawn's Deli Funyun Burger

Dawn’s Deli
Lenhartsville

I first discovered Dawn’s Deli at the Taste of Hamburg-er Festival where I tried – and loved – their Taste of Italy burger. Dawn’s serves up delicious burgers in their Lenhartsville location, too, and is definitely worth a visit.


Backwoods Brothers Authentic Texas Cuisine
Hamburg

One of the best barbecue joints in Berks also knows how to do burgers. Backwoods Brothers are regular participants in the Festival, and they offer a range of specialty burgers on their main menu, including the brisket mac ‘n cheese burger and the burgerito (lettuce, tomato, bacon and fries topped with house dressing and wrapped in a tortilla and grilled).


1787 Brewing Company Vegan Black Bean Burger

1787 Brewing Company
Hamburg

Another Hamburg area restaurant that has participated in the Festival in the past, 1787 Brewing Company serves excellent pub food, including burgers like the Animal Burger (topped with onions, house pickles, lettuce, tomato, American cheese and Animal sauce) and the Drive Thru Classic Burger (topped with bacon, fried onion, BBQ sauce, pickles and American cheese).


Cousin’s Pub & Co
Shoemakersville

I have not yet tried Cousin’s Pub & Co, but their burgers at the Festival have always sounded good, and so do the burgers on their regular menu. Specialty burgers at the Shoemakersville restaurant include the Bradshaw Burger (topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms and A-1 Sauce), the TNT Burger (cayenne, pepper Jack cheese, fried jalapenos, Sriracha, lettuce and tomatoes) and the Heart Attack Burger (two eight-ounce patties topped with triple bacon, triple cheese, lettuce, onions, tomato and pickles).


More Great Burgers

A few of our favorite burgers around Berks County

Lamburger from Other Farm and Forge

The Other Farm and Forge
Boyertown

The Other Farm and Forge in Boyertown offers a lamb burger that I absolutely loved when I tried it. It’s topped with tomato chutney, sautéed spinach, fontina cheese and roasted garlic aioli.


Duck Confit Burger and Fries

Liberty Taproom
Reading

The Liberty Taproom has rotating offerings for craft burgers, and I have never been disappointed by any of them.


Burger and Fries from the Pike Cafe

The Pike Café
Reading

The “World Famous” Pike Café doesn’t just offer burgers, they offer a “pick-your-game” burger where you can substitute venison, wild boar or buffalo meat on one of their nine specialty burgers.


Café Sweet Street
Reading

One of my favorite lunch stops, Café Sweet Street’s burgers are on-point (and the fries are some of the best around).


Burger and fries

Klinger’s on Carsonia
Reading

You can’t go wrong with a burger from any of the three Klinger’s pubs. The Carsonia location offers nine signature styles, but I always go with the build-your-own option.


Frank & Diannah’s Arbor Inn
Reading

Burger Night at Frank & Diannah’s always delivers. Each Thursday the restaurant creates a different signature burger, or you can build-your-own with premium toppings that include a sunny side up egg, bacon and roasted red peppers.


Features Stories
Assorted foods in takeout containers spread on a granite countertop

Delicioso Tour

On Friday, August 14, Barrio Alegría hosted its annual Delicioso Tour, a culinary tour that highlights some of downtown Reading’s best food businesses.

Normally, the Delicioso Tour is an actual tour with guests walking from restaurant to restaurant in the City of Reading to sample the cuisine of a diverse population and learn the stories behind the food and those who make it.

Rather than canceling the 2020 event, the tour went virtual. Instead of going from site to site, the food was delivered right to your door. And because we couldn’t meet the owners face-to-face, video introductions were included from each of the five restaurateurs giving tour-goers insight into their heritage and their food.

Two chocolate milkshakes in clear plastic cups with still wrapped straws sitting on a countertop

Stop #1 – Franklyn’s Breakfast, Burgers, and Shakes

The first “stop” on the tour was Franklyn’s (1007 Penn Street), one of downtown’s newer restaurants. Franklyn’s opened at the end of 2019, Franklyn’s has a simple menu that, as the name suggests, focuses on scratch-made breakfasts and lunch.

We were treated to our choice of milkshake from the diner. I chose strawberry-banana while Julie chose the Oreo shake.

This is one time when I was more than happy to eat dessert first. The shakes were amazing. Drinking my strawberry-banana shake was like drinking a banana split.

close-up photo of two tacos in corn tortillas covered with onions and cilantro

Stop #2 – Loncheria y Panaderia Doña Tere

Doña Tere is located across from Reading High School (800 N. 13th Street), and as we found out with our second course, it is home to some of the best tacos anywhere.

Photo of two tacos, both with corn tortillas but one with shredded beef and the other with marinated pork filling.

We each had two tacos – one of our choice and one of their speciality taco, suadero. Suadero is a slow roasted or stewed beef that is then shredded similar to a pork carnitas. It had a similar flavor, too, but was just a little richer. For my other taco, I tried the adobada.

Photo of two tacos on corn tortillas. One is topped with beef and chorizo, the other is topped with shredded beef.

All of our tacos were served with a side of traditional toppings – cilantro and onion. I wouldn’t want them any other way because the meat was perfect and flavorful all on its own.

The tacos also came with a green salsa and a red salsa – both of them were a little too hot for our tastes. The flavors were great, but a little bit went a long way.

Photo of a takeout container filled with rice and beans and pork ribs

Stop #3 – El Tronco de Lily

El Tronco de Lily (101 S. 6th Street) was the “main course” of the meal. Julie had their rice and peas with ribs while I had the white rice with chicken.

Photo of takeout container with white rice and a half breast of chicken.

I was not expecting to enjoy my chicken as much as I did. It had a nice flavor, almost like a barbecue chicken but with a Latin twist. And the spices seeped in so it was good all the way to the last bite.

Photo of Spanish beans in tomato sauce.

While Julie’s yellow rice had the “peas” cooked with it, my white rice came with a dish of beans in a tomato sauce to pour over top. It was all very good, but way too much food for a five-course meal (we both saved about half of our rice for later).

The ribs were good, too. They weren’t the fall-off-the-bone ribs like you would find at a barbecue joint. They were a little tougher but still with plenty of flavor.

Photo of a plastic takeout container filled with assorted fried foods.

Stop #4 – Antojitos y Algo Mas

The dishes from Antojitos y Algo Mas (154 Walnut Street) were practically a meal of themselves. We knew were were getting chicharrón (pork rinds) and arepas (ground maize/corn, kind of like a fluffy corn tortilla) but the box also included some fried plantains, ribs and chorizo.

The latter were actually my favorites. Because of how they were fried, they almost had the texture of jerky which I enjoyed, especially as a change of pace to the other dishes we had tried.

close-up photo of a tres leche cake in a plastic takeout container topped with a cherry.

Stop #5 – Homemade Cravings

Just when we thought the meal couldn’t get any better, Homemade Cravings (50 N. 5th Street) had tres leches cake. The milky cake was so rich and sweet, but neither of us had enough room to finish it.

That was OK though, because after a couple nights in the refrigerator, the cake had soaked in even more flavor from the creamy mixture it was sitting in.

And it also helped extend the tour for a couple days, which was great because we didn’t want it to end.

The food throughout was outstanding and it was great to experience so many new places – some that I was vaguely familiar with and others that I had never heard of.

I really hope that the tour happens in person next year because the only thing better than eating the amazing food would be to dine alongside others who are discovering new dishes and new restaurants, too.

But whether the next tour is in-person or virtual, you can count us in.

Caribbean & Latin American Dessert Lunch & Dinner Uncategorized
Black chairs with wooden tabletops on the hardwood floor in the dining room.

3 Reasons Why Every Restaurant Needs a (Good) Website

In more than six years of Berks County Eats, I have seen a lot of restaurant websites. But it still amazes me how many restaurants either don’t have a website or have a website that they never update.

In the ultra-competitive food service industry, websites are a critical part of a business’s brand. They are a place to highlight what sets you apart, a place to tell your story. Most importantly, a website can be a key component to driving more customers through your front door.

A Good Website Gives You Control

A website isn’t just a marketing tool, it is your brand. Customers experience your brand in many ways – social media, review sites, Google – but the only place where you have 100% control of your messaging is on your website.

  • The photos are yours – show your food in your best light.
  • Testimonials can be hand-picked – highlight your best customers and why they keep coming back.
  • The story is yours – talk about what makes you unique and what sets you apart from your competition.

Social Media Cannot Replace Your Website

Some businesses believe that they don’t need a website if they are active on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat can all be great tools for telling your story and keeping your customers informed, but they shouldn’t replace your website.

Facebook is the world’s most popular social media channel, but even it doesn’t reach 100% of web users. In fact, younger generations are becoming less likely to use Facebook. According to Pew Research, only 51% of teenagers say they use Facebook. While your current customers are on Facebook, many of your future customers won’t be.

A well-built website serves all of your customers and potential customers.

A Good Website Answers Your Customer’s Questions

Most users who view your website are looking for answers to simple questions:

  • Where are you located?
  • What are your hours?
  • Can I see a menu?
  • Do you accept reservations?
  • Are you kid-friendly?

If your website answers these questions easily and accurately, the user is much more likely to become a customer. If a user visits your site and doesn’t find the answers, you may have just lost a potential customer.

What Do I Do Now?

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Industry
Wide shot of food trucks in a picnic grove

Truck N Brew

Now that Berks County has entered the green phase of reopening, restrictions are starting to be lessened for area restaurants and eateries, but restrictions remain in place.

The new rules and regulations have forced businesses to adapt and innovate, from the way the food gets from kitchen to consumer (contactless delivery, curbside pickup) to how seats are arranged – inside and out.

Food trucks parked on gravel with picnic tables in the foreground

One of the innovations that has come out of the restrictions on dining is Truck N Brew, a weekly event at Willow Glen Park in Sinking Spring.

Photo of a food truck called Uncle Buck's that's shaped liked a retro camper

Willow Glen is best known as the site of Shocktoberfest, the Apple Dumpling Festival, weekly outdoor flea markets and countless other events throughout the year. But on Friday and Saturday nights, Willow Glen is now home to Truck N Brew, an outdoor dining and entertainment venue with food trucks and concessions.

Food trucks parked on a lawn with cars in the background

Not being ready for a dine-in experience quite yet, Truck N Brew seemed like a great alternative for a Saturday night dinner.

Picture of a food stand under a pavilion with a sign advertising Spanish food

We arrive at 5 p.m. just as the stands were opening. We weren’t the first ones there, but there weren’t too many others around as we bounced from food truck to food truck and stand to stand in search of our meals.

The lineup of food trucks changes every week – this week featured wood-fired pizza, tacos, Cuban sandwiches, barbecue and more – but the venue is owned and operated by Konopelski Katering, and their concession stands are the anchors of the event.

A photo of a tent set up in front of a building for Fat Jack's at Truck N Brew in Sinking Spring

One of those stands is Fat Jack’s, which operates out of a large kitchen at the end of the row of eateries. The menu was also the most varied of all the options with burgers, sandwiches, fried foods and more.

We both opted for burgers – Julie got the guac and bacon burger while I went with the fajita burger.

Photo of a big yellow food truck called the Biggest Cheese next to a tree

For Jakob, we stopped at a food truck called The Biggest Cheese where mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches dominate the menu. Actually, there’s mac and cheese in the grilled cheese sandwiches, but they were accommodating and made a plain old grilled cheese for our toddler to enjoy.

Seating was plentiful. There is a large pavilion with picnic tables spread out (it’s also where the bar is set up – the brew in Truck N Brew). And many more tables surrounding the pavilion. There’s also some wooden counters set up along the lawn’s edge, a place to stand and enjoy your drinks.

We snagged one of the tables outside the pavilion. Despite our car’s thermometer reading 90 degrees, the shaded picnic area felt very comfortable. And we were well-distanced from the nearest occupied table, making it easy to enjoy our delicious burgers.

Close up of a burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato and a side of fries in a to-go boat

My fajita burger came topped with grilled peppers, grilled onions lettuce, tomato and jalapeno cheese.

I personally love grilled peppers and onions on my burgers (they are among my go-to toppings at Five Guys), but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the jalapeno cheese. It added only a little heat to the dish, but it certainly added some flavor.

Overall, it was a very satisfying burger.

Photo of a burger topped with guacamole and bacon in a to-go boat with french fries

Julie was also satisfied with her guac and bacon burger. As you might guess, the featured toppings were guacamole and bacon (with lettuce and tomato). You can’t really go wrong with either of those on a burger.

Both of us got a side of fries with our burgers. The small, fresh-cut fries were very good though a little on the salty side (not too salty to stop me from eating them).

Toddler eating a grilled cheese sandwich at a picnic table

Meanwhile Jakob seemed to enjoy his grilled cheese (Julie tried some and said it was good. The bread was toasted well – not burnt – and was nice and buttery). However he was a little distracted because from his seat, he was looking directly at the Sweet Ride Ice Cream truck.

Photo of the Sweet Ride Ice Cream food truck under a tree

I ventured over and grabbed us some dessert, a cup of vanilla ice cream for Jakob, a cup of banana peanut butter chip ice cream for Julie and an orange cream float with chocolate ice cream for me.

Sweet Ride has always been good, but we’ve enjoyed them even more since they started making (most) of their own ice cream. Julie loves their banana peanut butter chip with the creamy banana base so there was never a doubt as to which flavor she would get.

Close up of two cups of ice cream and one large cup with orange soda

My float was also very good. The chocolate ice cream was rich and I always enjoy the mix of chocolate and orange. It was definitely worth the extra calories.

It wasn’t the cheapest night out we’ve had but it was still pretty reasonable. Our burgers and fries were less than $25. Jakob’s grilled cheese and bottle of water were around $7. And the ice cream added another $12, bringing our total for the night to right around $45. That’s not bad for three meals and three desserts.

We kept our expectations low going into the evening, but were pleasantly surprised all around. There was more than enough seating to spread out (even at 6 p.m. when we left). There was a great variety of food, and what we had was very good. While I would say the majority of the other patrons weren’t wearing masks, a few were. And all of those working, at least the ones I could see that were interacting with customers, were wearing masks and gloves.

Really, it’s a great idea, one that was obviously fueled by the restrictions of the yellow phase of reopening. But it’s an idea we hope keeps going because we enjoyed it and would definitely go back.

Truck N Brew
94 Park Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

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

Dessert Food Trucks
Three-chambered Styrofoam takeout container with lamb kabobs over rice, a fattoush salad, and hummus

Berks County Eats Update

selfie of a man with glasses wearing a checkered flag mask

Three months. That’s how long it has been since my last post on Berks County Eats.

A lot has happened since the stay-at-home order was announced in March. What hasn’t happened in that time: restaurant reviews.

It’s not for a lack of caring. If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we have been continuing to support restaurants in Berks County through takeout and delivery – supporting old favorites and trying new places.

I was planning to do reviews throughout. The first weekend of the stay-at-home order, we ordered from Brewers Bar & Grill in West Reading and a couple burgers delivered to the house.

close-up photo of waffle fries and a burger in a styrofoam takeout container

They were very good, everything that you could want in a pub burger. But when I went to write about our meal, it didn’t feel right. There wasn’t enough meat on the bone, so to speak, to do a true review. Yes, the food was great, but that’s was all I could say.

I couldn’t write about the ambiance because I never stepped foot inside the restaurant.

I couldn’t write about the service because I never saw an employee from the restaurant (shout out to Delivery Dudes who has provided amazing service every time we’ve ordered delivery, though).

I couldn’t write about the presentation because there’s nothing appealing about clamshell packaging.

I couldn’t write about any of the other things I would write about either: Were they busy? What is parking like? Are they kid-friendly? What makes them unique?

The last question – what makes a restaurant unique – is really the hardest part. As a writer, I am drawn to the details. Food is always a full sensory experience, but when I’m eating my meal at the same dining room table I take every other meal, my senses aren’t being stimulated enough.

Without enough to write about, I turned to Instagram. At least I could show that I was supporting our local restaurants. And we have been supporting our local restaurants, ordering takeout or delivery at least once a week (admittedly some of the meals weren’t Instagram-worthy).

If I would have had any motivation to write a blog that first week, it was quickly lost when I spiked a fever for three days. I tested negative for the flu and strep and then had to go through the discomfort of a COVID-19 test. I tested negative for that, too, but the pandemic became very real for us during that time and we’ve proceeded with caution ever since.


On the Move

Before all of this, Julie and I were in the process of looking for a new house and selling our own. We love where we live, but there are days when it feels like our house is bursting at the seams. The real estate industry, like many others, came to a standstill during the stay-at-home order. As soon as it reopened in May, we were back on the hunt.

The housing market is crazy right now, which added quite a bit of stress to our lives. That stress increased after we lost out on a house that we loved even after making what we thought was a very generous offer.

Then we put our current house on the market, thinking it would take several weeks of showings before it would sell. Instead we had 20 showings in a weekend and had an offer at our asking price by Sunday evening.

The good news for us is that we found another house, one that we love. And the best news is we’re not going far. We’ll be staying in the Wyomissing area. Our new home will be a little bit larger with more rooms (I get my own office!).

My favorite part about the new house is that it has an incredible kitchen. Julie and I are both looking forward to having more space to be creative at mealtime. Maybe we’ll even be able to show off some of our work on the blog.

(There’s also a dishwasher, something we haven’t had in the nearly nine years that we’ve been in this house).

We settle on both houses in mid-August so we will be a little busy between now and then.


More Distractions

In the absence of Berks County Eats, I filled my time with more distractions, some productive, some not.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing more creative writing projects. I started a novel – the dream of every writer. We’ll see if I ever finish it or if it ever sees the light of day. Either way, it has felt good to broaden my horizons, and I would like to think that it has made me a better writer as a result.

During the pandemic, I have also taken full advantage of Penn State Extension’s free course offer. I completed a course in grant writing and am in the process of completing a course called Food for Profit, all about starting your own food business.

No, I’m not going to start a food business, but the course has given me a new perspective on many facets of the industry – health and safety regulations, start-up costs, pricing and more. It has been a bear of a course, but one that has been worth the time and energy.

Then there is the fact that I have a 2 1/2 year-old at home. A very active 2 1/2 year old. He spends his days with his grandmother where he is a perfect angel. Then he comes home and is a (sometimes uncontrollable) ball of energy for mommy and daddy. By the time we get him to bed around 8-8:30, neither of us have the energy to focus on much else.


Berks County Eats Moving Forward

Through the beginning of March, I was so excited about Berks County Eats.

Launching the new website last year gave me a renewed enthusiasm about the blog. Then we started this year with some really great meals at places like Judy’s on Cherry and Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant, the Greenhouse Cafe, and even a cooking class at the Culinary Kitchen.

2020 was going to be the best year ever for Berks County Eats. And then it all stopped. When the blogs stopped, I kept up with the news for another week or two, but then I stopped that as well. That’s my biggest regret throughout this – not keeping up with the industry like I had done for the last six years.

We lost some great restaurant as a result of the pandemic, including Winedown Cafe, but I know of only three such closures that can be attributed to the pandemic. Of course there are many more temporary closures, and the fallout is likely not over. But Berks County is resiliant. New restaurants opened before (and even during the pandemic).

Unfortunately I wasn’t there to share their stories. I had disconnected totally and while I can’t say I’m fully reconnected, I’m well on the way. Our news pages have been updated. Our directory now features tags on every post based on their current status: open for takeout, delivery available, outdoor dining, or temporarily closed (for those where the information can be confirmed).

I’m not going to promise weekly blogs anytime soon, but I will promise that Berks County Eats will once again be the resource I have promised it will be. We will once again be on top of all the news in the Berks County restaurant scene with updates on Facebook as we hear about them.

With outdoor dining already an option now and indoor dining (with restrictions) returning with the green phase, you will start seeing some blogs pop up here and there, but it won’t be weekly. Not yet, anyway.

We’ll definitely still be supporting our local restaurants, and we hope you will be, too. Takeout. Delivery. In-person dining. However you can support our restaurateurs, we hope you do.

And we promise to do the same.

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