Cinnamon Roll Pancakes from Wild Sage Coffee and Kitchen

Berks County’s Best Instagram Feeds

Instagram has become my social media site of choice. There is nothing better than scrolling through beautiful photos and videos – especially of food. Many of my favorite #BerksCounty eateries are doing Instagram right. Here’s just a few of my favorite feeds right now:

Benchwarmers Coffee | @benchwarmerscoffee

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S’more Feed Break

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When I’m scrolling through Instagram, nothing makes me hungrier than a photo of donuts and the simple caption, “feed break.” @benchwarmerscoffee


Four Twelve | @FourTwelveCo

Four Twelve specializes in three things: coffee, waffles and posting pictures of coffee and waffles. Actually, Four Twelve does everything well, including Instagram.


G.N.A. Ristorante | @g.n.a.ristorante

If you follow G.N.A., don’t be surprised if you see four posts in one day and then don’t see anything from them for three weeks. They may not be the most consistent when it comes to posting on IG, but everything they post looks outstanding.


Heritage Restaurant | @morgantownheritage

Whoever is behind the Instagram account at the Heritage Restaurant in Morgantown just knows how to take food pictures (and it helps to have a great chef who not only knows how to cook, but how to plate).


Mom Chaffe’s Cellarette | @momchaffescellarette

Mom Chaffe’s is about as old school a restaurant as you will find anywhere. They don’t have a website. They don’t have a Facebook page. But last February they started an Instagram account, and it is easily one of the best restaurant accounts to follow. The dishes are works of art and the captions straddle the line between witty and corny.


Morgantown Coffee House | @m_coffeehouse

Morgantown Coffee House’s Instagram account, like their food, is all about quality over quantity. The food is always beautifully plated and makes you hungry, which is exactly what it should do.


Park Road Cafe | @park_road_cafe

Yes, there are pictures of hearts in the coffee, but Park Road Cafe’s Instagram is worth a follow to get a little glimpse behind the scenes at what it takes to actually run a successful coffee shop.


Pop’s Malt Shoppe | @popsmaltshoppe

There’s just something whimsicle about Pop’s Malt Shoppe, and it plays really well on Instagram, especially when customers and staff dress in their leather jackets and poodle skirts.


Savory Grille | @savorygrillepa

Food is a multi-sensory experience. What a dish looks like is almost as important as how it tastes. Savory Grille creates works of art on every plate. 


Say Cheese | @saycheeserestaurant

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The Cheese Chronicles: Sriracha Gouda by Roth Kase! This cheese is every bit as good as it sounds – a creamy-tasting, gouda-style cheese jazzed up with Sriracha! Perfectly balanced and extremely addictive. Sriracha Gouda is made with fresh milk from local Wisconsin dairy farms and cured for at least 30 days in Roth’s aging cellars in Monroe, Wisconsin. Before the curing process, Sriracha Gouda wheels are speckled with red pepper flakes and hand painted. Sriracha Gouda’s sweet and spicy flavor pairs well with apple and berry ciders, rose and Sauvignon Blanc, Pale Ales and IPA’s. It’s also perfect for topping chili, tomato soup, tacos, nachos and more. Try some today at our Marketplace! #artisan #sriracha #gouda #shoplocal #pennave #meetgreaterrdg

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Say Cheese makes some incredible food, but it’s rarely seen on the restaurant’s Instagram account. Instead, Say Cheese’s IG account is filled pictures of cheese. Beautiful blocks of cheese. I never knew that I needed pictures of aged cheddar and Sriracha Gouda in my feed, but I do.


Have a favorite #BerksCounty Instagram feed? Tell us in the comments below or email us at berkscountyeats@gmail.com.

Features Stories

What’s New at Berks County Eats?

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

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

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

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


Blog Archive

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

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


Restaurant Directory

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

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

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

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

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

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


Restaurant News

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

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

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

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


Calendar of Events

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

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

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

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


No, I’m Still Not Getting Paid for Reviews

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

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

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

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


In Other News…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features Stories
A wooden sign advertising Heirloom restaurant in Hereford Township

5 Former Berks County Restaurants We Miss

Last week, I was a little bummed to hear about the closing of Brocmar Smokehouse in West Reading. I’m glad that the Shillington Farmers Market stand is still going strong, but I liked having one of my favorites within walking distance, even if I couldn’t get there as often as I would have liked.

It also got me thinking about the other restaurants we have lost in the nearly six years of Berks County Eats. Some of them – if we are being honest – were not big losses. But there were many that we were really sad to see go. Here are five places we reviewed and wish we could still visit today:

A rack of lamb with potatoes, garnished with parsley.

Heirloom
Closed December 2016

After one visit in January 2015, Heirloom became my favorite restaurant in Berks County. The fine dining establishment was located along the Montco border in Hereford Township and used locally sourced ingredients to create its memorable meals. On our first visit, I had two of my favorite dishes that I’ve tried – the red quinoa salad (which I described as “Hands down…the best salad I have ever eaten.”) and the bison steak. Read Review

A year later, Julie and I returned to celebrate her birthday and were just as blown away with our meals. Unfortunately 2016 was the last year for the restaurant which closed just before ringing in the new year on December 31.


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

Muddy’s BBQ
Closed November 2017

When Muddy’s arrived on the scene in Berks County, it was a revelation. The original trailer along Pricetown Road showed Berks County what real barbecue is (no offense, Schell’s, I still love your hamburger BBQ!). We loved all of the smoked meats at Muddy’s – ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausage – along with their incredible sides like the Yukon gold mashed potatoes and baked beans loaded with brisket. Read Review

Zoning issues forced a move to Oley but that location ultimately closed in November 2017 with health issues being cited as the reason. At its peak, Muddy’s also had a second location in Robesonia (and a brief stint serving ‘cue at the All American Sports Pub at Colonial Berks Lanes).


Schnitz und Knepp - apples and dumplings topped with ham

Risser’s Family Restaurant
Closed September 2014

The loss of Risser’s Family Restaurant in Stouchsburg was the most personal loss for me. Growing up in western Berks County, Risser’s was a tradition. At one point we were visiting almost every Friday night. At that point I was hooked on their roast beef and roast turkey dinners (with their delicious potato filling). Later, I came to appreciate Pennsylvania Dutch meals like schnitz und knepp (apples and dumplings with ham). I also grew to love the robust soup and salad bar – though I always loved the soft-serve ice cream at the end of the meal. Read Review

Risser’s closed shortly after the passing of owner/founder Ernie Risser in 2014. Two restaurants followed – Blue Star Family Restaurant and Rocky Family Restaurant – with neither lasting for very long, and the future of the restaurant and its vintage dining car are now in question.


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

Rocco’s Wood-Fired Pizza
Closed Spring 2017

A short time after Nonno Alby’s brought artisan pizza to West Reading, Rocco’s Wood-Fired Pizza opened to less fanfare in a Sinking Spring strip mall. When my friend Josh and I visited, we had two great pies, but it was the “Bee Sting” that stood out. It was topped with hot soppressata, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, raw honey and red pepper oil. I can still taste the sweet-hot slices and wish I could recreate it. Read Review

Unfortunately Rocco’s did not enjoy the same success that Nonno Alby’s has had. The restaurant closed about a year after it opened in the spring of 2017. At the time, they had announced plans for a food truck to debut in 2018 but nothing ever came of it.


Billy Burger earned the title of Best Burger

Billy Burger & Bakery
Closed February 2019

Billy Burger was a pleasant surprise when we visited in 2017. The burgers were fantastic and so were the baked goods waiting at the end of the meal. I loved my “Ranch Burger” that came topped with a roasted poblano pepper and buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing. The strawberry shortcake was awesome, too. I had taken advantage of their drive-through take-out service a couple times afterward. Read Review

On my last visit in January 2019, everything I tried to order was “sold out.” It was an omen because just over a week later the restaurant announced they were going to be making changes. Those changes never happened, and instead the restaurant closed in February 2019.


Other Notable Restaurants

CC’s Wooden Grill – CC’s was Kutztown’s hidden gem and home to my favorite ribs in Berks County until it closed in the summer of 2014. Read Review

Good Eatz Green Cafe – A place that was ahead of its time with clean-eating options heavy on vegan and vegetarian meals, Good Eatz changed locations a couple times before closing 2015. Read Review

ViVA Bistro & Lounge – When ViVA was good, it was really good. The Wyomissing restaurant was one of the first finer dining options in the area and still popular before it closed at the end of 2018. Read Review

Virginville Hotel – We only visited the northern Berks landmark once, but it was a good meal, and it’s always sad to see a historic country inn close its doors as the Virginville Hotel did in 2017. Read Review

The Outside In – At one time, the Outside In was the place to go before Reading Royals games, but as competition in downtown Reading grew, the Outside In declined, closing in summer 2018. Read Review

Lavigna & Sons – Lavigna & Sons was the sandwich shop I didn’t know Berks County needed until I tried it for the first time in 2015. It remained popular until the owners sold the property to make room for a hardware store in 2018. Read Review

A&M Pizza and Grill – Another childhood favorite of mine, I was so excited when A&M announced it was reopening its Wernersville location. Unfortunately the revival didn’t last long, closing in 2018 after about a year. A&M’s Lebanon County locations are still going strong. Read Review

Features Stories

Restaurants We Lost in 2018

A new year is upon us, but Berks County Eats is taking one more look back at 2018, paying tribute to 17 restaurants that Berks County lost in 2018.

Note: This is not a complete list. If you have other restaurants that closed that you are sorry (or glad) to see go, let us know in the comments below.

A&M Pizza & Grill

There were high hopes across the board when A&M Pizza returned to its former location in Wernersville. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed less than a year after the Lebanon County-based restaurant made its return, with the lights going dark in late fall, the latest in a series of short-lived restaurants that have come and gone in that location in the past decade.

Relish

Named for the gourmet hot dogs that it served at lunchtime, Relish lasted for a year along Penn Avenue in West Reading before closing in 2018. The breakfast and lunch spot also served specialty coffees and baked goods. (Note, don’t confuse this for Relish the Deli-sh in Wyomissing, the local deli that’s still going strong).

Inside the Green Bean Cafe in Wyomissing, PA.

The Green Bean Cafe and The Meat-Up Delicatessin

It’s rare that the same restaurant closes twice in the same year, but that’s what happened with the Green Bean Cafe and The Meat-Up Delicatessin in Wyomissing. Originally opened in 2017 as an all-organic cafe, the Green Bean closed less than a year later when ownership transformed it into a New York deli. The new concept didn’t last long either. In the fall, Park Road Cafe opened in the location.

Bar-B-Q Delight

Bar-B-Q Delight took over the former Aashiyana Indian Cuisine on South Sixth Street in Reading early in 2018, but the restaurant unfortunately didn’t last through its first year.

Blue Star Family Restaurant

After the iconic Risser’s Family Restaurant closed in 2015, the Blue Star stepped in and was popular from the start. Unfortunately, things went downhill and the number of cars in the parking lot along Route 422 in Stouchsburg got smaller and smaller. The restaurant changed hands in 2018 with the new owners operating it as Blue Star for a short time before creating a new start under the name Rocky Family Restaurant.

Hamburg Diner

One of the longest-running restaurants to close in 2018, the Hamburg Diner had been serving customers in dowtown Hamburg for more than 50 years before closing in May.

The Outside In

A long-time favorite in downtown Reading, the Outside In closed its doors in August 2018 after 20 years in business. The restaurant served breakfast and lunch daily while also opening for dinner before hockey games and concerts at Santander Arena.

Dino’s Wings & Things – Birdsboro

The bad news: Dino’s Wings & Things’ second attempt to open a second location in Birdsboro didn’t work out with the location closing in the spring. The good news: Dino’s opened another location in Leesport shortly afterward and the flagship Temple location is still going strong.

Kathryn’s Grille

The short-lived Kathryn’s Grille opened in Amity Township in 2017 before closing in early 2018. The restaurant took the place of the former OVO BYOB. A new restaurant, Oliviero’s Pizzeria opened in the location in the summer.

Tiger Lily Cafe

Robesonia’s Tiger Lily Cafe was one of the first restaurants we lost in 2018, closing on January 6. A new restaurant called Whoo’s Cooking took over the space in 2018, moving from Wernersville.

Gourmand Cafe at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market

Gourmand is a brand born in Berks County that has enjoyed tremendous success and growth in the last five years. Unfortunately it has not come without growing pains. As the food truck start-up has expanded to brick-and-mortar locations, it has struggled to find the right balance, closing its stand at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market earlier this year in favor of a new location on Court Street in downtown Reading. (The food truck and the Wyomissing cafe also have continued to thrive).

Abe’s by Chef Alan

The conversion from hotel to apartments wasn’t the only change at the former Abraham Lincoln in downtown Reading. The building also lost its on-site restaurant, Abe’s by Chef Alan, in January.

Sofrito – Mohnton

This was one of the more interesting stories of 2018. In October, it was announced that Sofrito Gastro Pub – one of Reading’s most popular restaurants – was closing until further notice. Two months later, the Reading location is back serving the community as it always has while the Mohnton location – which was added in 2016 – is now closed. While we are sad that the expansion didn’t work out, we’re glad that the Reading location is the one that will go on and bear the flag for Sofrito moving forward.

Go Fish

In March, a fire destroyed the Go Fish seafood and sushi restaurant in West Reading. The business continued to operate its stand at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market. The West Reading location will not reopen, but they did open a cafe inside Body Zone in Spring Township and in October announced on Facebook they were renovating a building in Sinking Spring borough.

Lavigna & Sons

The Philadelphia-style hoagie shop Lavigna & Sons in Sinking Spring closed in July after the building and neighboring lawn and garden store were sold. The site is being redeveloped as an Ace Hardware.

Features Stories

17 Restaurants Berks County Lost in 2017

A new year is upon us, but Berks County Eats is taking one more look back at 2017, paying tribute to 17 restaurants that Berks County lost in 2017.

Note: This is not a complete list. If you have other restaurants that closed that you are sorry (or glad) to see go, let us know in the comments below.

Joey Peeps

Joey Peeps was located inside the T&C Gas Market at the corner of Route 183 and West Leesport Road. With the demolition of the market to make way for a Wawa, Joey Peeps was forced to close.

Basil by Chef Gianluca

Basil by Chef Gianluca closed in early 2017. We visited in 2015 and were very impressed. The space didn’t stay empty for long, though as Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant opened in the space just a few months later.

Rocco’s Wood-Fired Pizza

Of all the restaurants that closed in 2017, this one was the most disappointing. We tried Rocco’s shortly after it opened in 2016 and fell in love with the pizza (the bee sting, featuring raw honey and crushed red pepper was inventive and delicious).

Virginville Hotel

While Rocco’s was disappointing, the Virginville Hotel was just sad. A Reading Eagle interview with the owners cited a slowdown in business, but more than anything, a lack of available help in the northern Berks community as the reason for the closing. On our 2015 visit, we had enjoyed their mix of traditional and creative dishes.

East Wok

East Wok was located in Berkshire Square, the Wyomissing shopping center that is home to Wal-Mart, Redner’s, LA Fitness and more. We never ate at East Wok, but we did visit Nirvana Indian Bistro, the restaurant that opened in its place in May.

Gourmand Cafe at Body Zone

Gourmand closed its Body Zone location in early 2017, but the news isn’t all bad. You can still get all of your favorites from the mobile food truck, at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market or at the Wyomissing cafe. The latter is now open for dinner three nights a week.

Ronie’s Home of the Steak

Ronie’s was a Reading institution that I unfortunately never was able to visit. Ronie’s was one of those “Old Reading” favorites, neighborhood restaurants that are slowly fading away.

Back Forty Bar & Gril

Back Forty Bar & Grill was a standout restaurant in western Berks County, offering inspired and unique dishes that weren’t seen on other area menus. We visited in early 2016, and while the service was a little questionable (my chicken and pasta came out separately several minutes apart), the food was on-point.

Muddy’s Smokehouse BBQ

This is another former favorite of mine that I was sad to see go in 2017. Health was cited as a the reason for closing the Oley restaurant this fall, but truth be told, Muddy’s was just not the same after closing the original trailer along Route 12.

Speedy Sandwich Shop

This one was a bit of a surprise. Speedy didn’t really have much of an online presence, so there was never an outside indication that it was going to close, but that’s what the sign on the door says.

The Cafe at Maple Springs

We visited the Cafe at Maple Springs in 2015. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The biggest disappointment wasn’t the food, itself, but the fact that the cafe advertised a weekend dinner menu, but in reality, there was none. The stripmall storefront is now the second location for Dino’s Wings and Things, the second time Dino’s has opened in the same place.

Rocky’s Pizza

The Blandon restaurant got new owners and a new name – Hometown Pizza – in 2017. Rocky’s had mixed reviews during its run. As for Hometown, we visited in October and we liked it well enough, but it’s definitely a spot for take-out, not a place for a sit-down meal.

Fields Kitchen by ViVA

Fields Kitchen by ViVA, formerly known as ViVA Good Life Bar and Lounge, closed as a result of the Reading Country Club debacle (ViVA also ended its catering operation at Green Valley Country Club for the same reason). At the same time, the rebranding of the restaurant was a sign that things were not going well as ViVA had gone downhill since our visit in 2014 – a look through Yelp Reviews tells that story very plainly. But if you want to know what it was like at its best, read our review.

ViVA Castle Pub

This is one restaurant I am not sorry to see go. We spent our Valentine’s Day evening at the Pub. It was a long night with mediocre food that took way too long. ViVA was managing the restaurant until November when a legal dispute arose between the company and Exeter Township, who owns the Reading Country Club.

OVO Bistro

I never had a chance to eat at the restaurant in Amity Township before it closed, but I wish I had. The reviews were great, and it seemed like a great place. We visited the restaurant that replaced it, Kathryn’s Grille, in November. It has potential, but it’s not there yet.

Panevino

Panevino was one of the first restaurants that I visited as part of the blog so it holds a special place to me. I even returned for a second review in 2016. The restaurant continues – sort of – as a special event venue. It also still hosts dinners on select dates throughout the year, but it’s no longer open for daily dinner services.

Reggie’s Place

Downtown Reading saw a change in 2017 as Reggie’s Place, the cafe in the M&T Bank Building, closed in June. But the restaurant was quickly replaced by Rooster’s Deli and Bakery, which opened in August.

Features Stories
Texas tenders and fries from Austin's: delicious, but not fine dining

Reading Eagle Winner’s Choice Award Winners Announced

The Reading Eagle released its annual Reader’s Choice Award results on September 17. The people got a lot of things right, came close on a few more, and had a few whiffs. Here’s my take on this year’s winners:

The People Got It Right

Billy Burger earned the title of Best Burger

Best Burger: Billy Burger & Bakery

There are a lot of supporters for Frank & Diannah’s Arbor Inn – I’m one of them. On burger night, I agree. The rest of week, give me Billy Burger & Bakery in Morgantown.

Mikura was named Best Chinese in Berks.

Best Chinese: Mikura Asian Cuisine & Sushi Bar

I could make a case for Zhuang’s Garden or China Penn, but Mikura is excellent so I’m not going to argue this one.

Best Diner: Exeter Family Restaurant

Best Diner: Exeter Family Restaurant

It’s close between Exeter and Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery but Exeter gets the nod for two reasons: a larger menu and 24-hour service. Also, Wyomissing won Best Family Restaurant so both get credit in the end.

Best Italian: Mom Chaffe’s Cellarette

It’s the oldest Italian restaurant in Berks County and it’s still the best.

Crave Cafe gets my vote, partially because of the cool ambiance

Best Lunch: Crave Cafe

The only other place that comes close for me is Cafe Sweet Street. Sweet Street has the edge on flavor. Crave has the edge on ambiance, location and healthful options.

Best Outdoor Dining: Jimmy G’s Beverly Hills Tavern

It’s the best beach in Berks County.

Best Pizza: Nonno Alby's

Best Pizza: Nonno Alby’s

Rocco’s was better, but it closed earlier in the year. That puts Nonno Alby’s back on top until someone can knock them off.

Best Seafood Market: Adelphia
Best Seafood Restaurant: Coastal Grille
Best Sushi: Mikura Asian Cuisine & Sushi Bar

I don’t eat seafood so I’m going to assume the people got it right.

Good Choice, but Not Mine

Best BBQ: Mission BBQ

I like love Mission BBQ. It’s a great concept with great food. I’ve purchased two commemorative cups – one supporting local first responders and one for the USO. But I don’t think that it is the best in Berks. I would probably still give my vote to Muddy’s, though both of Hamburg’s offerings (Backwoods Brothers and Smokin’ Brays) are excellent, too.

Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery won best breakfast

Best Breakfast: Wyomissing Restaurant & Bakery

If you’re looking for a traditional breakfast or a good buffet, Wyomissing is the winner. I like it, but I love creativity. For me, Tom Cat Cafe in Sinking Spring or Letterman’s Diner in Kutztown rank higher.

Best Mexican: Plaza Azteca

Julie will tell you that her favorite item on any Mexican restaurant menu is the enchilladas rancheros from Plaza Azteca. I like it, but not as much as I like La Abuela or Alebrije.

PJ Whelihan's is Chickie's and Pete's kid brother

Best Sports Bar: P.J. Whelihan’s

The wings are fine. The fries are the kid brother of Chickie’s and Pete’s Crabfries. But P.J Whelihan’s does have lots of sports. The Pike Cafe was the runner-up, and it would have made a better winner.

Best Subs & Sandwiches: Screpesi’s Sandwich Shop

I still need to get to Screpesi’s. Not having been there yet, I can’t argue it. I do love Lavigna & Sons though.

Best Wings: The Pike Cafe

Close, but Dino’s Wings & Things still gets my nod. Too many great flavors to choose from.

What Were You Thinking?

Texas tenders and fries from Austin's: delicious, but not fine dining

Best Fine Dining: Austin’s

Austin’s is amazing. Their Texas tenders and shoestring fries are a guilty pleasure of mine. But any menu that includes chicken tenders and shoestring fries shouldn’t be considered fine dining. Dans at Green Hills deserved this one.

Best Ice Cream: Way-Har Farms

I’m not arguing that Way-Har Farms has good ice cream, but it’s not the best. I’m also admittedly biased toward Lori’s Candy Station.

Best College: Alvernia University

Go KU! #ItsGoodToBeGolden

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5 Favorite Entrees of 2016

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. This week, we’re ready for the main course. Here are our five favorite entrees we tried in 2016.

Andy Pepper’s – The “Thin Lizzy”

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Andy Pepper’s is among the top rated eateries in Berks County, and earlier this year, we found out why. My “Thin Lizzy” sandwich was easily among my favorite things of the year. It was simple: baby spinach, provolone, tomatoes, pesto and guacamole on a grilled flatbread. But it was fantastic. Read Review

Backwoods Brothers Authentic Texas Cuisine – Smoked Sausage

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When it opened in 2014, Backwoods Brothers was a welcome addition to Berks County. I’ve returned since our review, and still can’t get over how good the smoked sausage is. (Don’t forget the fried okra on the side). Read Review

Dans at Green Hills – New York Strip Steak

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Want the recipe for a great dinner? Perfectly cook a New York strip steak, then add truffle butter. “Savory and smooth” was how I described it in my blog, and I don’t think I could describe it any better. Read Review

Firefly Cafe – Vegan Pulled Pork

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Three words I never thought I’d use in the same sentence: vegan pulled pork. But then I tried it at Firefly Cafe, where they use jackfruit as the meat substitute, and it was every bit as good as the real thing, and better than at some barbecue places. Read Review

Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza – “Bee Sting” Pizza

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Opened in spring, Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza is one of Berks County’s newest pizza places, and after tasting two of their unique offerings, I’m ready to declare it among the best. The “Bee Sting,” featuring San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, hot sopresatta, raw honey (the bee) and crushed red pepper oil (the sting), it was absolutely delicious. Read Review

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5 Favorite Desserts of 2016

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. This week, we’re skipping dinner and going for dessert. Here are the five most decadent desserts we tried in 2016.

Back Forty Bar & Grill – Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tortes

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Our dinner at Back Forty Bar & Grill was OK, but our dessert was fantastic. The chocolate raspberry truffle tortes were amazing with layers of chocolate cake, mousse and ganache topped with raspberry puree and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Did we need it after a big meal? No. Were we glad we got it? Absolutely. Read Review

Dan’s at Green Hills – Chocolate Bread Pudding

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The chocolate bread pudding that Julie enjoyed during her birthday dinner at Dan’s at Green Hills was definitely a highlight. Start with a delicious bread pudding, add chunks of Godiva dark chocolate and a dollop of caramel ice cream and you’ve got a recipe for a memorable dessert. Read Review

Gatsby’s at Sunnybrook Ballroom – Tiramisu Crepe

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When your dessert menu is made up almost entirely of crepes, you better do them well. Gatsyb’s does them well. My tiramisu crepe was perfect. The crepe was filled with coffee mascarpone and topped with chocolate sauce and cocoa powder. I absolutely loved it. Read Review

Stony Run Inn – Apple Strudel

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When you eat at a restaurant that specializes in German cuisine, how can you pass on the apple strudel? You can’t. And at the Stony Run Inn, they do apple strudel right. The dough is so thin and flaky, the apples were seasoned to perfection and the whole dish was enjoyable from first bite to last. Read Review

Sweet Ride Ice Cream – Ice Cream Sandwich

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There’s nothing wrong with simple. Sweet Ride’s ice cream sandwich is as simple as it gets: two cookies and a big scoop of ice cream. But everything about it is great. The soft, fresh-baked cookies melt in your mouth just like the Nelson’s ice cream. It’s hard to go wrong with those ingredients. Read Review

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5 Favorite Appetizers of 2016

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. We’re starting off with our favorite starters. Here are our five favorite appetizers we tried in 2016.

Gatsby’s at Sunnybrook Ballroom – French Onion Soup

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On a roadtrip to Gatsby’s, there was much to enjoy, including the French onion soup. In my review, I called it some of the best French onion soup that I have ever tried. I still hold to that statement and have not found any better since. Read Review

Let’s Taco Bout It – Holy Guacamole and Cheeps

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I love guacamole. Julie loves guacamole. We all love guacamole. Especially the “Holy Guacamole and Cheeps” from Let’s Taco Bout It in West Reading. The perfect blend of avocado, cilantro, onion and red peppers, our only complaint was that we were left wanting more. Read Review

Liberty Taproom – Dr. Pepper Wings

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Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce is my weakness. OK, I have many weaknesses, but that doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely love Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce, especially on our wings at Liberty Taproom. It was a great start to a surprisingly good meal. Read Review

Van Reed Inn – Chipotle Ranch Wings

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Van Reed Inn touts some of the best wings in Berks County. They’re meaty and delicious, especially the chipotle ranch version that Julie and I tried on our visit earlier this year. For us, they struck the right balance between the heat of the chipotle and the creaminess of the ranch. Read Review

Windsor Inn at Shillington – Meatballs

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It wasn’t just that the meatballs were delicious (they were) or that the sauce was as good as any pasta sauce around (it was), but it was the addition of the fresh Parmesan cheese and housemade red pepper flakes that put this over the top. Read Review

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5 Favorite Entrees of 2015

December is a time to look back and reflect on the year that was. Berks County Eats is taking a look back at the best of the best from more than 50 restaurants that we visited in 2015. This week: Our Top Five Favorite Entrees. 

Appetizers and dessert are great, but there’s a reason the main course is called the main course. Here’s five entrees that stood out from 52 Berks County Eats meals this year:

Heirloom – Bison Steak

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Heirloom is the only restaurant to appear on all three of my “Best of 2015” lists, and it earned every spot. Because of the ever-evolving menu, you probably won’t find it on the menu when you go, but the bison steak was one of the best meals I have eaten anywhere. It was roasted like pot roast, easily pulling apart with my fork. Read Full Post

Jukebox Cafe – Cinnamon Roll French Toast

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I love cinnamon rolls. I love French toast. I am in love with the cinnamon roll French toast from Jukebox Cafe. Two cinnamon rolls grilled like French toast and topped with strawberry syrup: what’s not to love? While I don’t advise eating this for breakfast every day, I do advise trying it the next time you’re in Boyertown. Read Full Post

Chen Vegetarian House – Mango Chicken

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There is no chicken in Chen Vegetarian House’s mango chicken, but that’s not important. Replacing the tofu with real chicken couldn’t have made this dish any better. The fresh slices of mango, the citrus sauce that coated the whole dish and just the fact that it was served in a hollowed-out mango shell made this one of my most memorable meals of the year. Read Full Post

Basil – Spinach Ravioli

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Pasta is one of my favorite dishes for dinner. Basil’s spinach ravioli was my favorite pasta dish that I have tried in a long while. Mixing the spinach into the dough in addition to the filling was a great choice, and the red sauce, complete with plenty of basil, was perfect for the dish. Read Full Post

Romano’s  – Chicago Style Pizza

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Every year I celebrate National Pizza Month (October) by visiting as many pizza joints as possible. This year, I had four exceptional meals, but Romano’s was the best. I’ve been to Geno’s East in Chicago for authentic Chicago-style pizza; Romano’s doesn’t quite reach that level, but it is very close. Read Full Post

 

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