Screpesi's Ham on Roll

Screpesi’s Sandwich Shop

Screpesi's Sandwich Shop

Berks County has its share of old-school restaurants – especially in and around the city of Reading.

Screpesi’s Sandwich Shop is one of those places, serving customers since 1949 – just four years after World War II ended.

Screpesi's Sandwich Shop

If Screpesi’s doesn’t have the smallest menu in Berks County, it’s close. There are eight sandwiches: ham, Italian, tuna, turkey, roast beef, steak, meatball and sausage. And they have three sizes of cheese and one-topping pizza.

Deciding on a whim to get subs, I didn’t call ahead. Instead, I made the quick drive along Route 422 to Lancaster Avenue. Screpesi’s small storefront is on the corner opposite one of our favorites, Romano’s Chicago Style Pizza. Afghan Chicken & Gyro and a brand new Wawa fill the other two corners.

Screpesi's Sandwich Shop

But Screpesi’s is smallest of the storefronts, looking like an afterthought on a block full of townhomes. Two backlit signs face the streets – one promoting pizza and homemade meatball sandwiches; the other, more faded sign promotes ham on roll, Italian, tuna and steak.

If the wood paneled walls and green tiled floor aren’t original, they’ve been there for decades. There are no seats – it’s take-out only. On one wall is a portrait of the founders, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Screpesi, dated 1949.

Screpesi's Sandwich Shop

There were three young women – high school or college aged – working when I arrived. Two behind the counter and one who had just finished mopping. I know because she had the mop propped next to her as she restocked the potato chips. I had to climb over it to get my bottle of orange cream Kutztown Soda from the drink cooler.

Getting my food was a lot easier, and really quick. I was in and out of the shop in about five minutes, heading home with two sandwiches, two bags of chips, and the aforementioned Kutztown soda for $16.

Screpesi's Steak Sandwich

I ordered a steak sandwich and Screpesi’s does them Berks County style – chopped steak meat in sauce with onions (and served on a roll from Reading’s ATV bakery). I didn’t expect much when I saw them dish it out from the pot on the stove, but I have to say, it was much better than expected.

What I liked most about it was that the sauce wasn’t too heavy. Most of the flavor came from the meat (and a little grease). I was honestly amazed that the soft roll stood up to the filling, but it did. And I actually really enjoyed it.

Screpesi's Ham on Roll

Julie had me grab her a ham on roll after seeing it promoted as the “Best ham on roll in Berks County.” She had it topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato  and mayo.

Normally, she orders turkey or tuna when she gets a sub, but she thought the ham on roll was really good. The roll, itself, was very good. And all of the ingredients were good, which added up to an excellent sandwich.

It’s also worth mentioning the selection of Good’s and Dieffenbach’s snacks (I grabbed bags of Good’s chips – the red bag, of course) and local drinks that included Kutztown soda, Clover Farms teas and milk, and cans of A-Treat.

Yes, this old-school sandwich shop is about as Berks County as it gets.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Poor (For the Mop) | Excellent (for the sandwich making)
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Very Reasonable

Screpesi’s Sandwich Shop
500 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19611

Classics Lunch & Dinner Reviews Sandwich Shops

The Steak Shack

Some restaurants take a while to figure things out – they go through changes in management, update their menus, redesign the dining room.

On rare occasions, restaurants move, getting a fresh start in a new location. But I only know of one restaurant in Berks County that has made three moves in less than a decade.

Steak Shack is a well-traveled restaurant. The Lancaster Avenue location is the fourth where I have enjoyed their signature steak sandwiches.

The first was a small stand along Route 61 in Leesport – a frequent stop of mine during the four years I worked in the area. (The only other lunch options – and therefore the only others in my rotation – were Andali’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, Subway and Sheetz).

One of Steak Shack’s previous locations was inside Body Zone in Spring Township.

The second was inside Body Zone in Spring Township. I wrote about this experience in 2013, before Berks County Eats evolved into what it is today. The third was another roadside stand, this one in the parking lot of what is now Tractor Supply in Spring Township.

The inside of the new Steak Shack location

It’s new home may be the nicest of all four. Yes, it’s a gas station, but Steak Shack’s area is nicely carved out with plenty of seating – mostly mismatched tables for four with a counter overlooking the parking lot.

Steak Shack’s new location also has a larger kitchen, which has led to an expanded menu that includes salads, wraps, wings and New York thin crust pizza.

I stopped in on a Wednesday night on a whim. There was one gentleman sitting at a table when I got there and placed my order. By the time I left, a steady stream of phone-in orders had come and gone.

My wait was between 15 and 20 minutes (next time I’ll call ahead). From the restaurant, it’s just a short drive home so everything was still hot when I arrived.

I ordered a Shack Pack, Steak Shack’s meal deal that includes a cheese steak, fries and a soda for $8.75. I like my steaks the Berks County way with marinara sauce. It also was topped with mozzarella cheese and fried onions – pan fried, not deep fried.

This was everything that I remembered from my last Steak Shack visit. The meat was juicy and tender and the roll was perfectly suited to hold it. The right amount of cheese, sauce and onions made for an amazing sandwich.

One of the things that has changed as the restaurant has evolved is the fries. I can remember the “race track” fries at the original location. They were fresh-cut, short and thick. After a bath in the fryer, they were crispy, golden brown and as good as any around.

At the Body Zone location, the fries were still fresh-cut, but much thinner, more along the lines of a fast food restaurant. Good, but not the same.

Today, the fries are similar to the latter, but I found them to be a little less flavorful. Maybe they needed a few more seconds in the fryer. Maybe the oil has changed. But I felt a little let down because I can still taste those fries from nearly a decade ago.

Only nine more to go…

Still, less than $10 for a cheese steak, fries and a soda is a great price and Steak Shack is still delivering on the namesake steaks.

And even better than that, it feels like Steak Shack has finally found a home that will work out in the long term.

At least, I hope so.

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

The Steak Shack
1235 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19607

Steak Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews Sandwich Shops

Matt’s Steaks

Everyone wants things that are quick, convenient and quality. When you have a four-month old at home, convenience is everything.

Lining up someone to watch Jakob isn’t always easy. Even “spur-of-the-moment” decisions are not really spur-of-the-moment.

So when we decided to grab a quick bite after a recent trip to the grocery store, we had to find someplace close and fast.

That’s how we ended up at Matt’s Steaks in Spring Township.

A worn-out marquee on a home across the street pronounces “WELCOME 2 WHISKEY DITCH.” Long-time Berks Countians know the area across the railroad tracks from West Lawn as Whiskey Ditch. Today, most people know the area as “West Wyomissing.”

Matt’s is one of the few businesses left in the area. The sign out front also promotes two businesses that have long-since moved to more high-traffic locations along Penn Avenue: Sprecher’s Meats and Domino’s Pizza.

But Matt’s has survived – along with a hair dresser and auto shop – since 1991. On our visit, the staff were all wearing green football jerseys with “Matt’s” and the number 91 on the front. But don’t be mistaken, these were not in celebration of the Super Bowl champions. A Green Bay Packers hard hat hanging on a post in the kitchen says everything.

Matt’s is clearly popular. As we sat in our booth, we heard countless rings of the bell (it sounded like an old-school phone) as customers came through the door. Most of the business was takeout, but it’s a quiet spot to sit down and enjoy a meal.

Many of the customers that we saw during our visit were taking advantage of the Saturday specials: 70-cent hamburgers and 80-cent cheeseburgers. And at those prices, I can’t blame them.

But it is Matt’s Steaks, after all, so we were there for steak sandwiches.

I know it’s heresy but I’m not a cheesesteak guy. I much prefer my sandwiches with onions and sauce with no cheese.

Matt’s version is one of the best around. The soft roll was stuffed full with meat and topped with just the right amount of sauce. A base of sweet peppers (another add-on favorite of mine) made it feel like two different sandwiches – one with a little more bite than the other.

Of all of the ingredients, the one thing that made it stand out more than anything was the steak meat. It was juicy and somehow more flavorful on its own than similar sandwiches.

Julie ordered a chicken cheesesteak and when offered the choice of tomato sauce or ranch dressing, she couldn’t pass up the ranch. It was a great decision as the ranch created a very different sandwich from my own.

The chicken is a lighter meat and is generally more pre-seasoned than steak. But the addition of the ranch – messy as it was, added a creamy, herby flavor that was worth savoring.

Our side order of onion rings had actually arrived first, serving as more of an appetizer. I love onion rings but I don’t order them often because they just feel so much heavier than fries.

These were your typical fast food rings, lightly salted and exactly the what I was looking for.

With the addition of two bottles of water, our total bill was just shy of $20. I’m sure the table of four behind us, all of whom were enjoying the burger specials, had a tally even less than ours.

I also have to give credit to Matt’s for being baby-friendly. We had Jakob along on our outing and they had a high chair ready (his car seat didn’t quite fit correctly, but that wasn’t their fault) and the customer restroom had a changing table, an all-too-rare feature as we are starting to find.

Matt’s Steaks is a friendly place that’s great for our young family, and as Jakob grows up and learns to love hamburgers, I’m sure we will be visiting more often.

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

Matt’s Steaks
57 W. Wyomissing Blvd
Reading, PA 19609

Matt's Steaks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews Sandwich Shops
The Napoleon Dynamite at Mad Dogs

Mad Dogs

Mad Dogs

Editor’s Note: Julie took the lead on this blog, visiting Mad Dogs with her parents (leaving me behind, sadly).

One cold Friday in February, I was looking to get out of the house with Jakob. My parents are retired so I suggested that we go to Kutztown for old time’s sake. (Zach and I are both graduates of Kutztown University). I always enjoy driving down Main Street to see what is new and what has stayed the same.

Just off of Main Street on Constitution Boulevard sits a brick building with two parking lots on each side. There is an outside seating area shared with a cigar store. While it was too cold to eat outside, we walked in the large warehouse door that I had walked through many times before – but for the first time at Mad Dogs.

Mad Dogs Daily Specials

The building previously housed CC’s Wooden Grill, once one of my favorite BBQ joints in Berks County, and Potts U, a spinoff of the popular Lehigh Valley hot dog chain.

As we walked through the door, the space looked very familar. The order counter and tables were basically the same as the last time we had visited Potts nearly two years ago.

Inside Mad Dogs Kutztown

The only difference was a few drink coolers along one of the walls which held your typical soda products and my favorite: Pure Wild Tea. (Another Berks County business). There were hot dog signs leftover from Potts U and movie posters added to go along with Mad Dogs Hollywood-themed menu.

The Throwback Lounge at Mad Dogs

Through a doorway, in an area that was previously an office, is the Mad Dogs Throwback Lounge. It was pretty cool space that looked like a fun place to hang out. There were bean bag chairs, retro furniture and flat screen TVs.

We found a seat at one of the very familiar tables and browsed the extensive menu of 21 different specialty hot dogs. Mad Dogs’ menu also has a burger, pulled pork and various sides.

Plain Jane Hot Dog from Mad Dogs

The menu also includes combo specials, which my dad took advatange of. He’s not always the adventurous type when it comes to food, so he had one plain Jane hot dog with relish, ketchup and onions (toppings are 50 cents each), mac and cheese, and a drink. There isn’t much to say about the plain Jane hot dog, but he really enjoyed the mac and cheese.

Mad Dogs Mac and Cheese

It was a unique version of the dish with tri-color noodles that looked like carrots and peppers. But they were definitely noodles. There were also pieces of hamburger, onion and bacon mixed with what tasted like a Cheez Whiz sauce.

I really wanted to experience one of the specialty hot dogs so I got the Napoleon Dynamite. I have to be honest, I’m not a huge hot dog fan, but one of my favorite childhood food memories is of hot dogs stuffed with cheese and bacon wrapped around them. The Napoleon Dynamite was the closest to that memory.

The Napoleon Dynamite at Mad Dogs

It is a grilled dog with tater tots, bacon, cheese sauce and Mad Dog sauce. Overall it was a good hot dog. The bacon and hot dog rested in the roll with cheese sauce and three smashed tater tots drizzled with Mad Dog sauce. The Mad Dog sauce didn’t quite shine through with the other flavors on my dog so it is hard to say what that actually tasted like.

They have an interesting selection of sides including fried cauliflower and sweet potato fries. But I opted for basic fresh-cut Yukon Gold french fries. The menu says that they are tossed in a special seasoning, but I don’t remember tasting it. That aside, they were very good fries. I also ordered Maple Mayo dipping sauce (they have 9 different dipping sauces to choose from), but never received it and didn’t remember that I ordered it until I was in the car driving home.

Mad Dogs Hot Dog and Tater Tots

Lastly, my mom built her own plain Jane dog with bacon and baked beans on top with a side of tater tots. The bacon was chopped up and mixed with the baked beans. She liked all of her items as well.

My only complaint was the presentation, and it’s not something you will notice in my photos. The food was brought out in long wire baskets that looked really neat. The problem was they weren’t organized by meal. One basket had two dogs, another basket had a dog and side and the rest of the food came out without baskets. It would have been nice if my hot dog and fries would have been together, my dad’s hot dog and mac and cheese together, and my mom’s hot dog and tater tots together. It would have saved a lot of shuffling and confusion at the table.

Mad Dogs seems like it’s caught on in its first year – the restaurant celebrated its first anniversary in January – because as we were there I saw more people come through the front door than on any of our visits to CC’s or Potts.

They have a good product with interesting twists and customizable options fit for anyone looking for a good hot dog. And being that it is in a college town, I’d say it’s a good value for what you get (we spent about $25 for the three of us).

I hope the next time I make my way through the doors of this building that I am still eating at Mad Dogs.

Berks County Eats Rating:
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Service: Good
Value: Reasonable

Mad Dogs
100 N. Constitution Blvd
Kutztown, PA 19530

Lunch & Dinner Reviews Sandwich Shops

Monte Lauro European Gourmet

A trip to Fairgrounds Farmers Market can be overwhelming for the unprepared.

There are sixty stands inside the Fairgrounds Farmers Market and at least 20 of them offer dine-in meals or snacks.

Even for Julie and I, deciding where to grab our meal is a daunting task.

On a recent Friday evening, we arrived at the market not yet knowing where to go. We surveyed our options as we paced up and down all of the aisles, hoping that something would catch our eyes.

That something was Monte Lauro European Gourmet.

The flagship location for the deli is on Mount Laurel Road in Temple (Monte Lauro is Italian for Mount Laurel) and is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays while the Farmers Market is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

One of the advantages that Monte Lauro has over other dining options is the common dining area across the aisle. On a Friday evening, when things are a little slow, there are plenty of seats to be had (you just may need to take a napkin and clean it yourself).

The selection is both limited and expansive at the same time, with eight cold sandwiches and five hot sandwiches, many of which are also available as paninis. There are also select salad options both as entrees and sides. The only other side available is French fries.

We placed our order, took our number and grabbed a seat. It was a short wait – maybe 10 minutes – until our number was called and I retrieved the tray.

For food being served on a cafeteria tray, it looked beautiful, especially my chicken cutlet sandwich.

Sliced in half, you could see the bright colors of the roasted red peppers and spinach that the cutlet sat upon.

I enjoyed the sandwich – particularly the roasted reds – but I wanted something a little more. The cutlet was OK, but nothing special, and I would have loved another slice of sharp Provolone.

Also, the roll was very good. It was heavy enough to soak up the juice from the roasted reds, but not too heavy to overpower the rest of the ingredients.

Julie’s homemade meatball panini looked just as good with beautiful grill marks on top, a hint of red from the marinara sauce and meatballs sliced perfectly for the grill press.

It was a good sandwich. The meatballs were solid though we’ve tried better. And I would have liked a little more sauce.

With little other choices, we decided to split a side of French fries to go with our sandwiches.

The thin cut fries were in the traditional fast-food style: skins off, cooked to a shade of golden brown and served in a paper bag. They were good and certainly helped fill us up, which is all you can really ask for from an order of fries.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Monte Lauro. It was fast, it was tasty and it was right around the $20 mark for the two of us.

I’d like to go back again to try the homemade sausage or one of Monte Lauro’s take-and-make Italian specialties.

Of course, we have many other stands to try first.

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

Monte Lauro European Gourmet
Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2930 N. Fifth Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Farmers Market Meals Reviews Sandwich Shops

V&S Sandwiches

V&S Sandwich Shop

“u no u luv it. lol :-)”

That’s the tagline pasted on the homemade posters throughout V&S Sandwiches on Lancaster Avenue, one poster promoting the shop’s chili cheese fries, another advertising hamburger and chicken sliders, limit 125 per order.

There is a lot of love to go round at the many V&S locations scattered throughout Greater Reading. Hot and cold sandwiches, salads and pizzas that have made V&S one of the most popular restaurant chains in Berks County.

A neon sign hangs high in front of the Lancaster Avenue location, beckoning diners to try the shop’s Italians, steaks and pizzas. The retro-looking sign fits perfectly in front of a restaurant that is very much a time capsule, itself.

Red picnic benches sit atop sheets of Astroturf in front of the building. Inside, a large sign reminds patrons of the restaurant’s cash-only policy, another leftover from a bygone era of dining.

During peak hours, V&S operates more like a New York City deli, with customers taking a number and waiting to be called just to place their order. Be ready when your number is called as indecisiveness can back up the line quickly.

Though there are about two dozen sandwiches to choose from, my eyes never left the “specials” board. The steak special is a simple sandwich: steak, sauce, onions and peppers (the cheesesteak special is available for an extra $0.10).

V&S Steak Sandwich

Delivered on a cafeteria tray, the steak special looks less like a sandwich, and more like a pile of steak meat. The roll is stuffed so full that it is nearly impossible to close.

The onions and peppers are mixed in with the steak, but the thick sauce is heaped on afterward. Some bites are heavy on the sauce, others are lacking, but all are delicious.

The meat is very flavorful on its own, not like the frozen steaks you would pick up at the grocery store. I also caught the hint of a banana pepper or two mixed in, adding just a kick of sweet heat.

It was only after I finished that I noticed the puddle that had formed on the table, the combination of a soft roll and a thin paper plate having done very little to dam the flow of grease.

V&S Fries

Of course no sandwich lunch is complete without an order of fries. The small bag holds a deceptively large amount of the fast food staples.

Compared to a chain like Subway, V&S is a steal. The steak special costs right around $3.50—that for a sandwich that is longer than a standard six-inch with twice the meat. For our two sandwiches, a shared order of fries and two drinks, our bill was right around $13.00.

V&S Receipt

And there again, printed on my receipt: “u no u luv it. lol”

It’s true. I do love it.

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

V&S Sandwich Shop
1621 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19607

V & S Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Classics Lunch & Dinner Reviews Sandwich Shops