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?

Maybe this post has you thinking about adding a website or rebuilding your current website. Berks County Eats can help. Just fill out this short form below for a free, no obligation quote.

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.

Uncategorized

COVID-19 Forces Restaurant Changes

Updated March 16, 2020 3:15 p.m.

Governor Tom Wolf has ordered all non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania to close for two weeks over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). As part of the announcement, restaurants are allowed to continue operating but as takeout only. The content below was last updated before the Governor’s announcement. Be sure to check with your favorite restaurant to see if they will continue to offer takeout during this time.

Amid the ever-changing situation regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Berks County restaurants are taking extra precautions to keep customers safe. Some have moved to takeout only; some have added curbside service; and others have made the hard decision to temporarily close. We’ve compiled a (partial) list of restaurants that have made these changes as precautionary measures.

Temporary Closings

CD’s Place
Boyertown

CD’s Place announced it will be closed starting March 12. The restaurant will remain closed as long as schools are closed. According to Facebook: “I’m going to be closed for as long as the schools are closed… It’s a better decision for my family to work their jobs and for me to watch my Granddaughter rather than vice versa…. At this point it’s more important to be Pop-Pop than to be CD… This isn’t done out of panic and hysteria. It’s the most logical thing at this time.”

Firefly Cafe
Boyertown

After switching to takeout only for the weekend, the Firefly Cafe in Boyertown will be closed for at least a week beginning Monday, March 16. From Facebook: “Michael and I have decided to take the week to regroup and have some family time. Never thought our first time off in years would be due to a global pandemic, but it seems like the right time to take a short breather. During this week we will be working on our online store to allow contactless buying from the Outpost, as well as a delivery service that will hopefully get our employees some income in the coming weeks.”

Good Life Organics
Shillington

Good Life Organics announced that they will be closed for two weeks beginning Monday, March 16. From their Facebook page: “Hello to all. Good Life Companies has made the decision to close for two weeks, and we have made the decision to follow their lead until further notice.”

Morgantown Coffee House
Morgantown

The Morgantown Coffee House has announced that will be closed until further notice. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, “We want to be in front of this pandemic and do our part by being responsible for those who work here and for our local community.”

New Jerusalem Inn
Fleetwood

The New Jerusalem Inn will be closed through April 1. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, “Due to the unfortunate circumstances our Nation is facing right now, NJI has decided to take the Governor’s recommendation and close starting today March 13, 2020 until April 1, 2020. Everyone stay healthy!”

Saville’s Diner
Boyertown

After previously announcing that the restaurant would continue to operate with reduced staff and a limited menu, Saville’s announced on Monday, March 16, that it would be closing through March 30. Despite its Boyertown address, Saville’s is technically in Montgomery County where the governor has issued stronger restrictions on dine-in restaurants.

Tom Cat Cafe
Sinking Spring

The Tom Cat Cafe is temporarily closed, beginning March 13. According to Facebook: “As a non-essential business, we feel like we can do more good by closing temporarily than by staying open. Several of our staff have family members who are high risk and ultimately this was too much risk for us to bare right now.”

Temporary Service Changes

Angry Anvil
Birdsboro

The Angry Anvil has announced that the restaurant will be moving to takeout only for the foreseeable future. Curbside pickup will be available.

Basin Street Hotel
Kutztown

Basin Street Hotel has added curbside pickup for to-go orders.

Beer Wall on Penn
West Reading

Beer Wall on Penn will operate as normal on Tuesday, March 17, but has indicated that changes to hours will be coming beginning on Wednesday, March 18.

Benchwarmers Coffee
West Reading

Benchwarmers Coffee will be moving to takeout only with call-ahead orders strongly encouraged. Additionally, the cafe will close at 4 p.m. each day.

Brakeman’s Cafe
Boyertown

Brakeman’s Cafe has instituted takeout and curbside only pickup beginning Monday, March 16.

Brooks Cafe
Douglassville

Brooks Cafe is offering their full menu for takeout and has added family meal deals for breakfast and lunch with no-contact options for customers.

Canal Street Pub
Reading

The Canal Street Pub has temporarily altered their hours for the restaurant. View the current hours on the Canal Street Facebook page.

Dan’s Deli
Boyertown

While Dan’s Deli is still offering dine-in, they are now offering car-side service for patrons who request it.

Firefly Cafe
Boyertown

Boyertown’s Firefly Cafe is currently taking phone orders and payment only. No in-person orders or payments will be accepted, and the Outpost – Firefly’s vegan market – is temporarily closed.

Go Fish! Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Sinking Spring

Go Fish! is continuing to operate as normal but they have added curbside pickup for takeout orders. The restaurant also offers free delivery to Sinking Spring borough.

Herman’s Drive-In
Topton

Herman’s Drive-In in Topton was scheduled to open for the season on March 19. The opening date has been pushed back by a week to March 26.

Klinger’s of Fleetwood
Fleetwood

Beginning Monday, March 16, Klinger’s of Fleetwood will be doing takeout only with the full menu available.

Longacre’s Modern Dairy
Barto

Longacre’s Modern Dairy continues to offer takeout for meals and ice cream; They are not currently offering dine-in services, and they have discontinued to the use of ice cream cones temporarily.

Mama’s Pizza
Reading, Kenhorst

Mama’s Pizza has announced that delivery drivers and cashiers will now be wearing gloves, along with increased disinfecting of their locations.

Mark’s Sandwich Shop
Kutztown

Beginning Monday, March 16, Mark’s Sandwich Shop in Kutztown has temporarily discontinued dine-in service. Delivery and modified pick-up will continue.

Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria
Fleetwood

Mazzola’s is operating as usual and has also added curbside service for takeout orders.

Nuse’s Deli
Morgantown

Now through March 30, Nuse’s Deli will be takeout only. They are also recommending – but not requiring – that customers call ahead for faster service. Curbside service will also be available.

Paolo’s Restaurant and Bar
Shillington

Paolo’s is continuing to offer full service in their restaurant, but they have temporarily closed the self-serve soup and salad bar.

Park Road Cafe
Wyomissing

Beginning Monday, March 16, customers will not be able to dine in at the Park Road Cafe. The restaurant will still offer takeout (with curbside service) and delivery through Delivery Dudes.

Sly Fox Wyomissing Taphouse
Wyomissing

Sly Fox’s Wyomissing location will continue to operate with its normal business hours, but special events have been cancelled. In addition, curbside takeout will be available.

Stony Run Inn
Kempton

The Stony Run Inn will be temporarily limiting seating, operating at 50% capacity to increase distance between tables.

The Market Cafe
Topton

The Market Cafe will continue to operate normal hours and menu, but with less items in the common area: coffee accessories, salt and pepper shakers and condiments will be behind the counter for the time being.

Tony’s al Taglio
West Reading

Tony’s al Taglio is temporarily closing its dining room. All orders must be placed online with a credit card. Deliveries will also be limited to the elderly and shut-ins.

Union Jack’s Olde Congo Hotel
Barto

The Olde Congo Hotel limited the bar menu and hours beginning Sunday, March 15.

Food News
A plate of schnitzel topped with red peppers and onions with a side of red cabbage and German potato salad from the Reading Liederkranz

The Reading Liederkranz

Tables and chairs at the Reading Liederkranz with an Alpine mural in the background

Guten tag, Berks County.

I, like a lot of Berks Countians, can trace my family history back to Germany. And I also happen to love German food, like what can be found at the Reading Liederkranz, a private club that bills itself as a “German Singing and Sport Society.”

I have been to the Liederkranz many times, but it was always for events (Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt) and never for a sit-down meal in the dining room.

Not being a member, that was never really an option until Julie and I were invited by our friends (and members) Jerry and Lisa to join them for dinner recently.

A view of two rows of tables at the Reading Liederkranz

I don’t know what I was expecting to find inside the clubhouse, but this wasn’t it. For the most part, there’s nothing remarkable about the dining area. The diner chairs and vinyl tablecloths are a dark maroon while the walls are off-white with wood around the bottom. It’s all set against a drab gray carpet. The old-fashioned numbers on the tables made it feel even more like a diner in need of an upgrade. The bar area, as well, just felt like a bar when I walked past.

The only real distinguishing feature is the wooden dance floor which is set in front of a wall painted with a beautiful Alpine scene.

A basket with four rolls and butter at the Reading Liederkranz

One thing that was clear from the start: if you’re in a hurry, this is not the club for you. There were a few tables taken in the large dining area (it was about 6:30 on a Thursday when we arrived). After being told to sit anywhere, it was a good 10 minutes before our server came to our table with menus.

As a German club, it’s not surprising that the menu at the Liederkranz is filled with a variety of traditional German meals. But there are other additions like burgers and sandwiches. Thursday is also wing night, but we decided to pass.

A large salad with jumbo shrimp and four lemon wedges from the Reading Liederkranz

Julie, along with our friends Jerry and Lisa, decided to get the weekly special – a three-course meal that started with jumbo shrimp and a salad.

It was an interesting first course, jumbo shrimp being the least German item on our table throughout the night. The salad was good if you like lemon vinaigrette because it was strong and puckery. I happened to enjoy the bite I had, but I don’t think I could have handled the whole salad.

The entree for the three-course special was sauerbraten with a side of spätzle and red cabbage. Sauerbraten is a German pot roast that has been heavily marinated with pickling spices, making it slightly sour but also very tender.

A square black plate with an order of sauerbraten, spaetzle and red cabbage from the Reading Liederkranz

The roasted beef is almost always served with gravy, but this version was different. The gravy was thick and had raisins throughout. The sweetness from the dried fruit gave the whole dish a sweet-and-sour spin that is very pleasant and helped it stand out from similar dishes.

The spätzle (German pasta) were very finely cut noodles. They were a little crispy in some bites – so small that they seared quickly in the pan. Still, they were enjoyable as was the red cabbage – a personal favorite of mine from our visits to the Oktoberfest celebration.

Red cabbage was also one of my choices for a side to go with my schnitzel.

A plate of schnitzel topped with red peppers and onions with a side of red cabbage and German potato salad from the Reading Liederkranz

The menu includes the “Schnitzel Ecke” (schnitzel corner) where you can choose from three styles of schnitzel and two cuts of meat – pork or chicken. I went with the “gypsy style.” The fried chicken cutlet came topped with pan-fried onions, peppers and paprika.

I’ve had plain schnitzel at Oktoberfest and enjoyed it each time. This was better. The paprika gave it just a hint of heat while the onions and peppers popped in every bite. It was just what I was hoping for.

The other item on my plate was the German potato salad. It’s a cold potato salad that features large chunks of potato with herbs and vinegar. It’s slightly sour – like a lot of German foods – but so good. I won’t eat the Pennsylvania Dutch version of potato salad, but I love this.

A plate with two slices of apple strudel, a pool of custard and four dollops of whipped cream from the Reading Liederkranz.

When she came to clear our plates, our waitress asked if I wanted to order anything for dessert since everyone else would be getting it with their meals. Julie was gracious enough to share her apple strudel with me so I didn’t have to order one of my own.

The plate had two slivers of strudel with a pool of custard and four dollops of whipped cream. Another favorite of ours from our Oktoberfest visits, the strudel is delicious. The apple and pastry crust melt in your mouth while the custard is rich and sweet. It doesn’t get much better than this.

It was a little while again before our checks arrived. Our server was very nice but it was a good thing we weren’t in a hurry. Our final tally for the night was $40 which seems like a fair price for quality food.

The waiting aside, it was an enjoyable evening with friends and good food. I would consider a membership in the future, but with 300 restaurants in Berks County left to explore, I don’t think I would get my money’s worth out of it right now. But we definitely got our money’s worth for this meal.

Danke schön, Liederkranz.

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

Reading Liederkranz (Members and Guests Only)
143 Spook Ln
Reading, PA 19606

Lunch & Dinner
A bowl of edamame, quinoa, chickpeas and cranberry from the Greenhouse Cafe

The Greenhouse Cafe

A view of the outside of the Greenhouse Cafe from the parking lot.

The arrival of a new restaurant to Berks County is always welcomed. But when that eatery offers something different – when it adds a little more variety to the dining scene – it’s a little more exciting.

A little something different is exactly what the Greenhouse Cafe promises as Berks County’s newest vegan spot.

The Cafe is located in an outbuilding on the property of the Bell Tower Salon & Spa in Wyomissing (just off of State Hill Road near the intersection with Penn Avenue). I have never had a reason to go to Bell Tower myself, but Julie tells me the space was at least partially a retail store previously.

The main dining area of the Greenhouse Cafe with silver tables and chairs and brown walls.

Walking in the door, you don’t get the Greenhouse feeling. It’s very minimalist with plain brown walls and simple silver-colored tables and chairs opposite the large windows. The dining room to the right is where you really feel the Greenhouse and feel at home. Natural light pours in from the sides and from above. The seating is varied with both high-tops and more relaxed sitting areas. We sat on cushioned benches around a low-top table. A faux fireplace was unlit on the wall next to us.

The interior of the sunroom dining area with high top tables and cushioned benches at the Greenhouse Cafe

With the opening of the Greenhouse Cafe, Berks County now has four fully dedicated vegan eateries with Chen Vegetarian House in West Reading, the Firefly Cafe in Boyertown and HIVE in Kutztown being the other three.

A look at the rear of the sun room at Greenhouse Cafe, including bench seats and a high-top table.

The Cafe opened at the end of November with just drinks and baked goods. They slowly expanded their food offerings to include hummus and soups. The full lunch menu debuted on February 15.

Small plates include hummus and bean dips. There are several homemade dressings for your salad or grain bowl (including lemon tahini and ginger sesame). And entrees include chickpea by the sea (mock tuna), an egg-less salad sandwich and hummus and veggie sandwich.  

A plate with a chana masala sandiwch on a hoagie roll and a small cucumber salad from the Greenhouse Cafe

When it came to deciding on an entree, I was torn between the hummus sandwich and the rotating special, a chana masala sandwich. The special sounded too good to pass up.

Masala is an Indian tomato sauce (chicken tikka masala is probably the most well-known version of the dish in America); chana masala features chickpeas as the primary “protein” in the dish. For the special, the chana masala came served on a hoagie roll topped with pickled cabbage.

A plate with a chana masala sandiwch on a hoagie roll and a small cucumber salad from the Greenhouse Cafe

It was an excellent entree. The masala sauce was very nice and the chickpeas were cooked well but still had texture to them. There were times while eating the dish where the sauce and the roll reminded me of a Berks County cheesesteak. (The roll was delicious, by the way).

The sandwich came served with a side of cucumber salad. It was good, but there wasn’t much to it.

Julie made a meal out of a small plate of hummus and a side grain bowl of edamame, chickpeas, cranberry and quinoa.

A bowl of edamame, quinoa, chickpeas and cranberry from the Greenhouse Cafe

The bowl came out first with my sandwich. The server then appeared with a hummus sandwich only to retreat back into the kitchen for the plate of hummus that Julie had ordered.

Julie started on the bowl, which was very good. We make a quinoa dish at home with dried cranberries that we really like and this was even better. The edamame was softened just enough that it wasn’t crunchy but was still a little firm. The cranberries and (surprise) golden raisins added the sweetness that it needed to tie everything together.

A plate of hummus and pita wedges with carrots and celery from the Greenhouse Cafe

When Julie’s hummus plate arrived a few minutes later, it was worth the wait. The hummus was much thicker and more textured than store-bought hummus. It was also more flavorful with a nice dusting of spices on top. Julie was excited to come back and buy some hummus to-go so she could enjoy it at home, too.

It wasn’t just the hummus, though. The pita it was served with was as good, if not better, than we have found elsewhere. It was more dense than others and was packed with flavors (of course neither of us could put our fingers on what those flavors were that were shining through). We loved everything about it.

The only thing that was a little confusing to me was the menu said it was topped with shawarma. I only know shawarma as the meat that is sliced from the spit. I can only assume that it was a shawarma spice that was on top.

A green mug filled with chai tea latte from the Greenhouse Cafe

Beyond the food, I was very excited to try their house blend chai tea.

I don’t drink coffee, but I love a good chai latte. The Greenhouse has their own special chai spice blend and they use oat milk to keep it vegan. It didn’t have a foamy head like a lot of chai that I’ve had, but it had a nice aroma and flavor from the spices. The oat milk even added a little bit of an earthy flavor as well that I really enjoyed.

The sizing of our drinks didn’t make much sense, though. Julie ordered a small while I ordered a large. They were served in the exact same size cups. Hers was just filled slightly less than my own.

Our lunch was a little on the pricey side at $37 (about $10 of that were the drinks), but we thought it was worth it. The service was definitely a little off. It wasn’t just the sandwich/hummus plate mix-up either. As we were leaving, a line was growing as two employees looked over the screen of their point-of-sale system trying to find the menu item the customer wanted to order.

Those hiccups will get better with more time and practice. The food is already on-point, and that’s the most important part.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent (in the Greenhouse Dining Area)
Service: Good
Price: A Little Pricey

The Greenhouse Cafe
18 State Hill Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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