Five years ago, our family made the drive to the Oley Turnpike Dairy for the first time. The out-of-the-way diner was okay, but nothing special (the ice cream was great, though). The combination restaurant and ice cream parlor was open for 52 years before closing in August 2022.
But the space didn’t remain empty for long as the new Redvo Restaurant opened in February 2023. The restaurant is a new venture from the owners of Penn Steak & Fries, which operated in the Coventry Mall in Pottstown from 1989 until it closed prior to Redvo’s opening.
The space has certainly received an upgrade since our visit in 2018. The wood paneling has been painted a light gray and the dining area is much brighter. The wood-top tables are a big improvement over the vinyl tablecloths that I remember from our first visit.
On the other side of the building, what was once the ice cream parlor is now empty. But when I stopped in for lunch on a Tuesday afternoon, quite a few tables were full in the dining area.
The sign said “seat yourself” so I grabbed a booth at the far end of the room and was quickly greeted and offered a menu. A minute later she was back with my drink and my order was in.
With Redvo’s predecessor being Penn Steak & Fries, I was always going to order a cheesesteak. In addition to creative sandwiches like the pepperoni cheesesteak, spicy pesto chicken cheesesteak and chipotle chicken cheesesteak, Redvo has a build-your-own option with a dozen toppings, an equal number of sauces and three different cheeses.
Though I really wanted to try the spicy pesto, I decided to stick with a more traditional “Berks County” style cheesesteak with Provolone cheese, onions and marinara sauce.
After one bite, I was hooked. The sandwich was packed with perfectly prepared steak. The sauce was on the sweeter side which balanced nicely with the savory meat. And rather than a cold slice of cheese sitting on the bun, the Provolone was melted throughout so every taste was as good as the last.
The best part was that the fries were just as good. The fresh-cut style fries were crispy and flavorful – never once did I have to reach for the salt and pepper shaker. And they made for a great utensil to pick up the excess meat and onions that had fallen onto the plate.
Overall, I was really impressed by both the food and service – and the price was right at about $15 for my sandwich, fries and drink.
While the menu does offer more than just cheesesteaks (they even serve breakfast from 6 a.m. to 12 noon every day), there’s too many cheesesteak options to explore before I branch out from there.
And I can’t wait to try them all.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Service: Excellent Ambiance: Good Price: $
Redvo Restaurant 6213 Oley Turnpike Road Oley, PA 19547
Long-time followers of Berks County Eats know how much we have enjoyed our visits to Klinger’s pubs across the county over the years.
While I will always love the original Klinger’s on Carsonia, Klinger’s at the Airport has recently become our family’s go-to for both the food and the look on our son’s face when he sees a plane takeoff outside the window.
We stopped in on a Friday night around 5:30. The bar was full and the restaurant was bustling but there was still plenty of seating in the dining area and we were lucky enough to get a table by the window.
Even though it was already dark outside, the lights of the planes illuminated them just enough so that Jakob could watch them take off while we waited for our food to arrive.
For my meal, I ordered Klinger’s boneless wings – half Parmesan peppercorn and half Jameson Whiskey BBQ. The boneless wings were always a favorite of mine at the Carsonia location and they did not disappoint. Klinger’s BBQ sauce is one of my favorite wing sauces I’ve found – smokey and sweet. And the Parmesan peppercorn was creamy and mild.
The best part, I ordered 10 wings and got a full baker’s dozen in my basket.
Julie had the Cadillac quesadilla. The name is an homage to Klinger’s former location in Fleetwood and is a delicious take on a cheesesteak. In addition to the steak, cheese and grilled onions, the quesadilla is drizzled with barbecue sauce.
Though it comes served with salsa and sour cream on the side, the barbecue sauce adds a sweetness to the dish that makes the other sauces almost unnecessary.
For Jakob’s meal, we got him pasta and tater tots. The pasta was curly noodles that he didn’t need to cut which made it easy for him to clear his bowl. He did the same with his tots, leaving just three left when he declared “I’m full” at the end of the meal.
It took him a little longer than the rest of us to finish his food because there were at least 10 planes landing or taking off while we were there, and for a five-year-old, each one is an event that can’t be missed.
Joining us on our visit was my mother-in-law, Peggy, who loves Klinger’s fries – beer-battered and crispy. She enjoyed them alongside her cheeseburger.
Overall, it was a great meal and a great experience – exactly what we were hoping for with this family meal. And for the four of us, our total was under $80 (and we had a $5 off coupon).
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Ambiance: Very Good Service: Very Good Price: $$
Klinger’s at the Airport 2385 Bernville Rd Reading, PA 19605
Original Post – February 13, 2017
Every great movie franchise is built on the trilogy. Think Lord of the Rings, the Dark Knight and Star Wars (the originals, obviously). That formula apparently works for restaurants, too.
With the opening of Klinger’s at the Airport at the end of 2016, the Klinger’s trilogy is now complete.
Berks County Eats has already visited the original Klinger’s on Carsonia, and last year, we visited the new Klinger’s of Fleetwood.
If I were starting a restaurant, the Reading Regional Airport would not be my ideal location. The airport hasn’t had regular passenger service since 2004.
But with the closing of Malibooz early last year, the space was open and Klinger’s stepped in.
The lights were mostly off in the terminal when we arrived, but Klinger’s was alive and well, tucked in a corner on the left side of the building.
It looks like a hole in the wall, but the dining area opens up from the entrance. To the right is a 360-degree bar. A large mural dedicated to aviation history decorates the wall behind it.
The rest of the dining room is filled with booths and tables, definitely the largest dining area of the three Klinger’s restaurants.
Our table was by one of the windows overlooking the airstrip. During our visit – a Tuesday night where we played Challenge the Pub trivia – we saw exactly one plane out the window, though whether it was coming or going, I couldn’t say.
Klinger’s is known for their bar food and for me, their wings are some of the best around. So we had to start our night with a basket – five Old Bay and five Jameson Whiskey BBQ.
Both flavors can be found at Klinger’s other restaurants, the Jameson Whiskey BBQ being the signature flavor. It’s sweet, and a little bitey. When I’ve had the wings at Carsonia, the sauce is laid on much thicker. This was lighter, but the flavor was still there. And the Old Bay is exactly what it sounds like, wings rubbed down in the classic seasoning, Julie’s favorite.
The menu looks similar to the other two locations, though each one has its own unique offerings. For instance, all three feature different varieties of chili. I had an opportunity to sample the habanero chili during the chili cook-off at this year’s Fire & Ice Festival and loved it. It was a little sweet with enough heat to make you take notice, but not enough to overpower everything else.
Another twist comes with the sandwiches. All three locations have a section for steak sandwiches, but only Fleetwood and the Airport have the Lone Star Style steak sandwich featuring sautéed onions, barbecue sauce, beer cheese and bacon.
It is a phenomenal mix of ingredients. The steak meat – real cuts of meat, not Steak-Ums – is a great base. The beer cheese and the barbecue sauce blend together really well for a sweet and smoky flavor. The thick-cut bacon adds a salty note and more smokiness. And the sautéed onions are the perfect finish.
This is no Philly cheesesteak, but it is one of the best sandwiches that I have tried in more than three years of Berks County Eats.
One of the only-at-the-airport menu additions is Stromboli – seven varieties made with beer dough. Julie decided to try the Classic – pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, mozzarella and marinara.
Klinger’s did a good job with this. The doughy shell is very good, though I couldn’t taste anything uniquely “beer dough” about it. What really stands out though is the sauce. It’s a thick, deep red sauce that is quite enjoyable for a place that doesn’t qualify as an “Italian restaurant.”
We were joined on our visit by our friends Matt and Hannah, who were very excited to see a cookie sundae on the dessert menu.
I have to say, after the meal, the sundae was a bit of a letdown. The chocolate chip cookie, though it looked cute with a faux face made of chocolate chunks – was disappointing. It was hard so it was difficult to cut and share. We finished off the ice cream and chocolate syrup but left some of the cookie behind.
For Julie and I, our total bill was around $30 (that included our two entrees, wings and an iced tea as Matt and Hannah picked up the tab for the cookie). Good luck coming in under $30 for dinner at PHL.
The new Klinger’s, despite its location, should prove successful. It follows a similar formula as its two sister restaurants: a cool atmosphere, rotating craft beers for the bar crowd, and great food.
Now that they have the three-peat, will Klinger’s try for four?
BCE Rating Food: Good Service: Good Ambiance: Very Good Price: Reasonable
Klinger’s at the Airport 2385 Bernville Rd Reading, PA 19605
Editor’s Note: Just Mom’s Elverson location is now closed. The space is now home to Cool Cats Cafe.
Summer feels like it has arrived early in Pennsylvania. With sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s, it feels like the right time for summer foods and cool treats.
One place that offers a little of both is Just Mom’s Ice
Cream, Deli and Grille.
Just Mom’s is located along Route 23, between Morgantown and Elverson (but still inside the border with Chester County) and is basically next door to one of our favorite finds on Berks County Eats – Morgantown Coffee House.
The restaurant sits in a strip mall where it takes up three
storefronts – one for each of its primary businesses: restaurant, deli and ice
Opened in 2017, the Morgantown/Elverson location is the
second for Just Mom’s. The original still operates a few miles south in Honey
Brook, Chester County.
Julie, Jakob and I stopped in for an early dinner on a
recent Saturday afternoon and placed our orders at the counter before grabbing
a table near the deli stand. There are more than enough seats with a
combination of booths and tables throughout the main dining room.
The ice cream parlor, which occupies the right hand side of
the building, has its own unique vibe with a checkerboard floor and stainless
steel tables and high-tops.
Just Mom’s menu doesn’t stray far from a typical pizza and
sandwich shop, though they have a few items that you won’t find too many other
places. Of course that’s what we were drawn to.
The sandwich that caught my eye was the
“parmageddon,” breaded chicken, breaded eggplant, fried mushrooms and
meatballs with marinara sauce and mozzarella. The sandwich, like many of their
hot sandwiches, was toasted to melt the cheese and create a harder roll.
I liked many of the individual items that made up the
sandwich but they didn’t go together very well. Only the chicken and eggplant
were thin enough that you could reasonable get them together in the same bite.
There was only one or two meatball halves in the sandwich. And the breaded
mushrooms were a little much. The marinara was pretty good and there was just
enough cheese, but they were both lost in the shuffle with so many strong
If I had to do it over again, I would have ordered an
eggplant parm sandwich because the eggplant was my favorite part of the
sandwich. Or I would have tried one of their cheesesteaks.
Julie opted for their unique French dip cheesesteak that was
advertised on their dry-erase board at the counter. The beef steak meat was
mixed with fried onions, French onion crisps, Provolone and Swiss. Instead of
marinara, it featured a sweet French dip.
I actually enjoyed my taste of it. It wasn’t far off the
flavor of a French dip sandwich, though both Julie and I were expecting – and probably
would have preferred – to have a cup of au jus for dipping instead of having it
mixed in with the sandwich. Still, it was a pretty good change of pace from a
typical Berks County cheesesteak.
There’s a limited kids menu where your choice of chicken
tenders, hot dog, cheeseburger or grilled cheese comes served with fries and a
fountain soda. We decided to order a hot dog for our 18-month-old only to find
out that they were out of regular hot dogs and only had quarter-pound dogs
left. We decided to go with it, knowing that he would never finish.
It was a good hot dog, split open and grilled (the best way
to make one in my opinion). Because of its size, it was served on a hoagie
roll. We cut up both for Jakob and he enjoyed it with a little ketchup. The
fries were battered and very good.
Normally, Julie and I would have split an order of fries,
but we were saving room for dessert.
The ice cream parlor has both hand-dipped and soft-serve ice
cream and serves a variety of sundaes, twisters and other sweet treats. I went
with one of my personal favorites, the black and white milkshake.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than a little vanilla and
a little chocolate in the same shake. The soft serve shake was just what I
needed to cap off my meal.
Julie tried one of the more unique hand-dipped ice cream
flavors available: French toast. There’s not really a better way to describe it
than to say it tasted like a really good French toast but sweeter. It even had
actual pieces of French toast inside the ice cream. It’s a flavor that doesn’t
seem like it should work, but it did.
Of course we had to get a little dish of soft serve for
Jakob as well. He loves ice cream (we try not to give it to him often) but he
had filled up by eating a good portion of his oversized hot dog so he was done
after a few spoonfuls.
Our dinners cost around $25 while our dessert was about $10.
For $35 total, we certainly didn’t feel cheated.
Really, we had no complaints about the meal and the service
we received was excellent and accommodating. We had two servers – one behind
the counter and one who brought us our food. They were both very nice and
helpful, especially with our little guy. I don’t know if either one of them
were the “mom” in Just Mom’s, but they made us feel at home during
With so many options closer to our home in Wyomissing, we
probably wouldn’t make a special trip to Just Mom’s, but the next time we find
ourselves at the southern tip of the county looking for a quick bite – and
maybe a little treat – we would stop in again.
Ambiance: Good to Very Good
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Editor’s Note: The Steak Shack closed in August 2021. At the time, it was said the owner was looking for a new location, but that has not materialized.
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).
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.
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.
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
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
Editor’s Note: Intel’s Pennside Drive-In is now closed. The last day for the restaurant was August 22, 2021. A new restaurant – GiGi’s Drive-In (from the owner of Gino’s Cafe) took over a few weeks later, bringing back most of the staff and menu from Intel’s.
Some weeks, doing this blog is easy. Other weeks, getting out and doing a review seems next to impossible.
This was one of those weeks.
The thing is, we actually had a plan. We knew where we were going, and I even had a good idea of what I was going to get when we got there. What we hadn’t anticipated was arriving at our desired restaurant only to find the parking lot completely full. (We’ll save that story for another review).
So we found ourselves on the east side of Reading. Our plans were thrown out the window, and we were hungry.
We needed a place that was fast so we headed out Carsonia Avenue to Intel’s Pennside Drive-In.
It was my first visit to the Pennside, but stepping inside, it felt like a place I had been before. From the checkered floor tiles that harkened back to D&J Sandwich Shop to the retro booths that could have been plucked from Schell’s, CeGee’s or any other similar restaurant that pre-dates the term “fast-casual.”
There’s two parts to Intel’s – the dinner and the dessert. While Julie and I would have loved a cone of soft serve, a towering sundae or a fresh-made milkshake, we needed to get through dinner first.
Pennside’s dinner menu is more robust than many similar restaurants. In addition to burgers and hot dogs, there are also hot and cold subs, including tuna burgers, chipped sausage sandwiches and a variety of steak sandwiches.
Julie decided to go with a traditional Berks County-style cheesesteak with meat sauce and onions while I went with the chicken steak, a lighter version of the same thing.
The small hoagie rolls were packed to capacity with the finely chopped steak. We had seen the steaks go on the flattop grill. They looked like Steak-umms or something similar, and we weren’t mad about that because the sandwiches tasted great.
The closest comparison we could make was to V&S. They were meaty and just a little greasy with just enough marinara sauce and onions to pop every few bites with flavor.
We split a small order of French fries as well. They were your average thick-cut fast food fries. Nothing special, but a good go-with for the steak sandwiches.
One of the big pluses for the Pennside is value. For our two sandwiches, fries and two bottled drinks, we spent just $18.
Unfortunately, we didn’t save room for dessert. Next time, I think we’ll skip the fries in favor of ice cream. That seems like a fair trade.
Next time, we’ll plan our trip better. And I’m sure there will be a next time.
BCE Rating Food: Good Service: Good Ambiance: Good Price: Very Reasonable
Intel’s Pennside Drive-In 916 Carsonia Ave Reading, PA 19606
The opening of Fork & Ale in December was a holiday gift to Berks County.
Reimagining the space that housed the popular Tim’s Ugly Mug took nearly two years, and the result isn’t just another bar. It’s a true gastropub.
Bars are places where you sit at the counter and order a Yuengling and some wings. Gastropubs are more than that. Gastropubs feature craft beers and cocktails with a more robust, chef-inspired dinner menu.
Fork & Ale definitely earns its place as a gastropub.
The dining area gives off the vibe of a modernized speakeasy. The Edison bulbs hung in strings above the booths and tables are both retro and contemporary. One wall is covered entirely with mirrors. The wood floor has been stained dark, the wood grains popping against the neutral colored walls.
And the menu is presented on a simple sheet of paper beneath Fork & Ale’s slogan: “Eat | Drink | Gather.”
It’s a limited menu, a characteristic shared by all of the best restaurants. Owing to the “gather” portion of the restaurant’s motto, much of the menu is made up of appetizers and shareable plates.
We started with one of the more unique shareables: poutine.
For those who have never ventured north of the border, poutine is a Canadian specialty consisting of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy.
At Fork and Ale, the dish gets a South Philly makeover as Italian sausage “gravy” replaces the brown gravy. And it works.
With mozzarella curd and a thick tomato gravy, the poutine becomes more like a pasta dish, the fries serving as a spaghetti stand-in. The sausage gave the gravy an enjoyable heat while also making it more filling.
My only complaint would be that the mozzarella curd melted into one large piece of cheese. And that piece ended up on Julie’s plate, not mine.
After we finished our appetizer, we had a long wait until the rest of our food arrived.
It wasn’t as long of a wait as we had at ViVA Castle Pub, but it was still a full 40 minutes between when the poutine arrived and when our entrees were delivered to the table.
My meal was simple enough: a cheesesteak and fries.
I wasn’t going to get the cheesesteak, but it was listed as a ribeye cheesesteak with sautéed onions, wild mushrooms and aged Provolone sauce.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the sandwich, but it felt like a bit of a letdown after the poutine. There were plenty of mushrooms but I tasted few onions.
But I think my biggest complaint would be the cheese sauce. Aged Provolone is one of my favorite sandwich additions. The sauce had none of the characteristics of Provolone, lacking both the sharpness and saltiness that I expected. Maybe it’s just me, but I would have much preferred a couple slices in place of the sauce.
Julie wholeheartedly disagrees. She thought the cheese sauce was the best part of the sandwich, and when I couldn’t finish it, she was more than happy to eat the second half for lunch the next day.
In my haste in ordering, I had failed to make a connection between the fact that my side would be yet more French fries. They were certainly good – though they were a little cold which tells me that the fries were done long before the rest of our food – but I had my fill already with the poutine.
If you follow along with Berks County Eats every week, you may have noticed that Julie is now a big fan of fish (I, on the other hand, still will not eat things that live underwater).
Her newfound dedication to fish continued with her order of grilled tuna with roasted carrot, spaetzle, broccoli rabe and mussel buerre blanc.
The tuna steak was grilled to a medium rare with a nice char on the outside. The buerre blanc – white butter sauce – was very good.
Having never had mussels before, it was hard for her to tell how much of the mussels flavor carried through, but she enjoyed it. And she loved the spaetzle.
Not to be forgotten were the vegetables. Both the broccoli rabe and the carrots were excellent. The carrots most closely resembled the barbecue carrots that we both love from the Farmers Market of Wyomissing. And the little bit of bitterness from broccoli rabe just added another dimension to the plate.
Because we couldn’t live without poutine, we had to live without dessert. That left us with a total bill of nearly $50.
Again, this isn’t bar food. Don’t expect 50-cent wings or $8 burgers.
It’s a gastropub. It’s finer food and drinks, and it’s going to keep bringing people to Fork & Ale.
Fork & Ale 1281 E. Main St Douglassville, PA 19518
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).
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.
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.
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