Editor’s Note: The 3rd & Spruce Cafe is now 3rd & Spruce Drafthaus. The restaurant was sold, remodeled and rebranded in 2021.
The 3rd and Spruce Cafe doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s easy to miss the small sign hanging along 3rd Avenue. Only the sidewalk seating hints at what lies inside the utilitarian-looking building on the corner.
But hungry patrons have been finding the Cafe for seven decades since it opened on a corner in the middle of a West Reading residential neighborhood.
Though the restaurant may be old, its owners keep it feeling fresh. The deep red walls are complemented by the red cushions on the stainless steel chairs. Flat screen TVs fill the spaces that aren’t lit by the large picture windows.
Third and Spruce packs a lot of seating into a small area. A large number of high-top tables surround the bar and a second floor loft waits for overflow traffic when it’s not booked for private events.
The menu is mostly suited toward lunch and light fare, with sandwiches and salads dominating the menu. Dinner entrees, which are available only after 4 p.m., may be limited, but they are all quality. Three different cuts of steak and a variety of seafood and chicken dishes make up the single page of entrees.
We started our meal with an order of vegetable pot-stickers, the day’s appetizer special. These bite-sized dumplings packed quite a punch, especially when dipped in the sweet chili dipping sauce. As good as the crispy, golden dumplings were, the sauce made them that much better, first acting as a sweet glaze, then coming back with some heat afterward.
For my dinner, I decided to go with the Pasta Primavera, garden vegetables and linguini tossed in pesto sauce. The bright green snap peas and broccoli were cooked to a perfect al dente.
Pesto is one of my favorite sauces, and this did not disappoint. Thick and creamy, the pesto clung to the vegetables and pasta, ensuring a flavorful bite every time.
As good as my dinner was, I was envious of the plate across from me. My wife’s southwest chicken and tortellini looked amazing, and it was.
The cheese tortellini were tossed with black beans, corn and chunks of white meat chicken in a cheddar cream sauce. The sauce, like the pesto, was thick and creamy, and though you could taste the cheddar, it was not overly cheesy, and instead held a nice balance of flavors.
I felt so good about my healthy entree choices that I decided to ruin it by getting dessert, a slice of chocolate bourbon pecan pie. As if a slice of pecan pie was not delicious enough, 3rd and Spruce’s version featured a brownie baked on top. It was then served with cinnamon ice cream, two dollops of whipped cream, sprinkled with brown sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup. It was every bit as good as it looks and sounds.
Our delicious three-course meal cost about $35. Entrees range from $10-20, with burgers and sandwiches running a little less. The menu also includes fresh dough pizza and a five-item kids menu.
Though the exterior may be drab, what’s happening inside the 3rd and Spruce Cafe is anything but. It’s a chic neighborhood bar serving some fine original foods.
And thanks to the name, it’s really easy to find.
3rd and Spruce Cafe
238 S. Third Ave
West Reading, PA 19611