First impressions for a business are everything. I think they are even more important for a restaurant because when you think about it, your first visit to a restaurant is multiple first impressions.
What does the building look like? What does the dining room look like? How were you greeted when you walked in? How is the service? How long does it take to get your food or your check? And of course, what does that first bite taste like?
One of Berks County’s newest restaurants, Norte Sur Mexican Restaurant, checks a lot of boxes.
Norte Sur opened in a former Turkey Hill Minit Market along Kutztown Road in Muhlenberg Township, right across the street from the former Freymoyer’s Restaurant.
The amount of work that was put in to transform the building shows that Norte Sur is serious about their business. The exterior has been given a touch of class thanks to the addition of a brick and stone facade.
That same motif carries inside to the dining room where brick arches set it apart from the take-out and kitchen areas. Otherwise, the decor is subdued compared to other Mexican restaurants in the area. Strings of small, colorful banners hang from the ceiling while the walls are decorated with paintings along with a few traditional men’s and women’s outfits. The seating is comprised entirely of booths made of high-backed wooden benches.
We were greeted and seated by a friendly hostess who also served us throughout our visit. We – Julie, Jakob and I – had arrived around 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon and were the only ones dining in at the time. Two other couples were seated before we left at 6 while we heard several phone orders coming through during that same time.
Norte Sur’s menu is pretty simple: tacos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and a handful of additional entrees and appetizers.
One appetizer that caught my eye was the crema de poblano, a creamy soup that started with a mix of chicken broth and poblano pepper. It was topped with tortilla strips, cheese and sour cream.
I had poblano soup once before, about a year ago at Alebrije in Wyomissing. I enjoyed this one just as much, though they had very different flavor profiles. Norte Sur’s version wasn’t as creamy, but I found it to be just as flavorful with a little more spicy heat throughout. I enjoyed the addition of the tortilla chips which added some texture. The shredded cheese was also a nice touch, helping to thicken the broth as it melted.
It was definitely something that I would order again. The same can be said for my tacos Norte Sur.
The tacos Norte Sur are, as the name implies, a signature item for the restaurant. The three soft-shell tacos are filled with grilled steak, cabbage, pickled red onions, chipotle sauce, pico de gallo and cheese. It was a delicious combination.
The steak was nicely done in small-ish strips with a hint of seasoning, but the flavor of the toppings was outstanding. The pico was bright and fresh. The pickled onions added a vinegary note that paired well with the citrusy tones of lime juice which could be tasted throughout. I was very happy with my decision.
Most entrees at Norte Sur are served with a side of rice and refried beans. Refried beans are not my favorite, but these weren’t bad. The yellow rice was also good. It had peas and a few bits of carrot throughout. I knew I couldn’t finish all of the food that I had ordered so I sacrificed some of my rice and beans in favor of the tacos and soup.
Julie and Jakob both had rice and beans with their meals as well. Julie always gravitates to enchiladas, and in this case, it was the enchiladas Norte Sur.
The meal included three distinct enchiladas: one beef, one chicken, and one cheese, each topped with a different sauce. The beef was topped with a traditional red enchilada sauce that had more of a kick to it than the other two. The chicken enchilada was topped with a creamy white sauce that provided a cooling contrast. And the cheese was topped with green tomatillo sauce that was somewhere in the middle.
All three were very good, but Julie’s favorite was the cheese enchilada (it usually is).
Jakob’s favorite thing on his plate was the rice. Our two-year-old can sometimes be adventurous with his meals and sometimes not. We knew he would eat the rice – and he did, happily. We had hoped he would eat his beef taco, but after a couple bites he gave up on that.
We had the choice of soft shell or hard shell for his taco, and chose soft. It seemed like he was having difficulty holding it together which may have been why he stuck with the rice.
I should also mention that we had chips and salsa at our seat before we had even ordered our meal. The chips were served warm – always a nice touch. And the salsa was very good, and like much of our meal, had a kick to it.
The service and price both left good impressions as well. The two servers covering the dining room were attentive throughout, and our meals and my bowl of soup cost about $35.
After we left, Julie and I were both remarking about how good the food was and how impressed we were with what they did to turn a mini market into a real restaurant.
Our first impressions of Norte Sur Mexican Restaurant were very good all around.
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Norte Sur Mexican
2610 Kutztown Rd
Reading, PA 19606