The Shillington Farmers Market is home to some amazing vendors. I’ve enjoyed some great meals from Eve’s Thai Kitchen and the Market Café (and Brocmar Smokehouse and Mi Casa Su Casa when they were still open), but one of the great things about all of Berks County’s farmers markets is that there is always more to try.
Recently, I stopped at the market for lunch to try out one of those newer stands – Matt’s Chicken.
Matt’s opened in the fall of 2021 and focuses on – you guessed it – chicken dishes. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a menu so focused. While there are weekly specials, the core menu on the board when I visited was pretty simple: chicken sandwiches (classic or spicy), chicken nuggets and the fried chicken Caesar salad. The only two sides on the menu board were fries and fried Brussels sprouts.
I’ve had many Caesar salads with grilled chicken, but never with fried chicken so I was anxious to give the dish a try. I ordered at the counter and waited about 10 minutes until it was ready before carrying it to the market’s upstairs seating area.
Opening the box, I found quite the salad in front of me with a sliced chicken breast, big romaine leaves and oversized croutons with a cup of dressing.
For a takeout salad, it looked fine. But the flavor was way beyond what I expected. Specifically, the chicken breast had just the right amount of seasoning in the breading and was cooked perfectly so it was still juicy. And it just went so well with the dressing that I could have skipped the salad and just dipped the chicken in the dressing for lunch.
Wanting to give more of the menu a try, I also grabbed a cup of fries and unsurprisingly they were also delicious. They were well-salted, not too much to make me overly thirsty but enough that I wanted to keep shoveling them down.
Overall, I was impressed. For a small stand, the food packed some big flavor. And it was pretty reasonably priced at less than $15 for my lunch.
Matt’s is definitely a place that I will return to. I’m sure I will enjoy the sandwiches just as much. And when I do, I’ll let everyone know.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Service: Good Ambiance: Good Price: Reasonable
Matt’s Chicken Shillington Farmers Market 10 S. Summit Ave Shillington, PA 19607
Since starting Berks County Eats, I’ve learned a lot – about food and about the food business.
I’ve also learned that when a new restaurant opens, you have to accept that some things aren’t going to be perfect, but what matters is how you feel when you leave the restaurant.
One new restaurant that had us feeling good when we left after our first visit was the Berkshire Family Restaurant.
The Berkshire opened in August, starting with takeout only before quickly expanding into table service that includes breakfast (served all day), lunch and dinner.
Its location has been a Berks County favorite for years. Set along State Hill Road in Wyomissing, just across from the Berkshire Mall, the building is still remembered as the former Arner’s, though it was most recently Giannotti’s Berkshire, which closed in 2018.
We made a visit to the restaurant on a recent Friday evening – Julie, her mother (Peggy), Jakob and I arrived a little after 5 p.m. for dinner and were told there was a 15- to 20-minute wait. The benches were full in the main waiting area so Peggy grabbed a seat in the spacious entryway while Julie and I took Jakob for a walk around the building.
After a short walk, we headed inside. I went to the counter to see where we were in line only to see our name had been crossed off the list. The hostess was not at the stand at the time so I mentioned something when she returned and we had a table in short order.
We were seated at a table in the middle of the main dining room, near what would be the salad bar (at the time of our visit, it was decorated with pumpkins and other fall décor).
Our waitress was very nice and remained attentive throughout our visit, though there was a slight mix-up early on.
Peggy ordered a soup and salad combo with a chicken pasta soup and a Cobb salad with ranch dressing. When the soups arrived – Julie had also ordered a soup – so too, did a house salad with ranch. It was returned to the kitchen, and after this hiccup, the meal was about as good as we could have hoped for.
The chicken pasta soup was very good with large bowtie pasta pieces and plenty of chicken and vegetables.
I needed something a little more substantial than soup and salad so I opted for one of the seven burgers on the menu – The Frenchy.
The Frenchy is described on the menu as “French onion soup meets the burger.” When it arrived, I could see the melted Swiss cheese on top, just like a crock of French onion soup. With my first bite, the onion and broth started to seep out.
It really was a delicious burger. The flavor of the soup penetrated into the burger patty and throughout the toppings. French onion soup is on the main menu, and I would definitely order it by itself sometime.
All burgers are served with fries with upgrades available. One of those upgrades is Greek fries. For an extra $2, my fries were topped with feta cheese and oregano. Feta doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor on its own, but the oregano added a lot to it and made the upgrade worthwhile.
Julie had plain fries with her basket of shrimp – 21 shrimp basket to exact. Though she doesn’t order it often, fried shrimp is one of her favorites. The Berkshire’s version filled her fried food craving and her stomach.
Peggy’s meal – the Cobb salad – was the most healthful of all of our orders. She opted for grilled chicken on top which she enjoyed along with hearty portions of avocado, onion, egg, tomatoes and lettuce. They certainly didn’t skimp on the portions for this salad.
For Jakob, we ordered the grilled cheese (almost three years old, he is now old enough to tell us what he wants when we read the menu to him). We were happy to see him eat his sandwich – all of it except the crust as toddlers will do – and he seemed to really like it.
Jakob’s meal also came with a scoop of ice cream (not pictured). For whatever reason, he wouldn’t eat it. So, daddy got to enjoy some chocolate ice cream for dessert.
Peggy and Julie both ordered dessert – rice pudding – to go. It’s their go-to diner dessert, and a little bit of a splurge that Julie savored in small portions throughout the week.
For all of our food, it was only around $50, in line with what you would expect from a diner.
There were a couple hiccups early on, but those will go away as the staff gains more experience. But we had no complaints about the food. To the contrary, we all left talking about how good our meals were.
And that’s the most important thing for any meal.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Service: Good Ambiance: Good Price: Very Reasonable
Sometimes it feels like there is an Italian restaurant on just about every corner.
While that is an exaggeration, there is no question that you can find good Italian food wherever you go in Berks County.
Like at Piero’s Pizzeria.
Piero’s is wedged in on the corner of Route 183 and Upper Van Reed Road in Leinbachs, just a short drive north of the Reading Airport and Route 222.
The location has limited parking in the front and on the side of the building, more than enough especially if you’re just stopping in to grab takeout (though Piero’s does have a decent size dining area for those who would prefer to dine-in.)
Our order was prepared quick and was ready to go by the time we made our way from Wyomissing to pick it up.
Piero’s, like many Italian family restaurants, offers a little bit of everything on their menu, including pizza, subs, salads, fried appetizers, burgers and Italian dinners.
I was in the mood for pizza but didn’t want a whole pie so I opted instead for a calzone.
All of Piero’s calzones are stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella and served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. I decided to add meatballs to mine, creating something between a pizza and a meatball sandwich.
I was not disappointed. It was really the ricotta that sets the calzone apart. The lighter and creamier cheese adds a different element than just mozzarella (as would have been in a Stromboli).
The calzone was also the perfect size for one, though I couldn’t help but order a side of fries. They were the battered kind, fried to a golden crisp and perfect for eating one after another without thinking about it.
Julie, meanwhile, had a tuna melt – her favorite sandwich order. The sandwich was stuffed with tuna and overflowing with lettuce and tomato. The roll was toasted perfectly. It was a very good sandwich, and Julie gave it her stamp of approval.
And our toddler approved of his slice of pizza. Jakob enjoyed his pepperoni pizza. The thin crust pie was a solid offering, and Jakob even ate the pepperoni slices. (He has been known, in the past, to not eat his pepperoni because it is “too spicy”).
We also couldn’t help but order a half dozen of Piero’s ham puffs. Ham puffs are basically pepperoni rolls – rolls of dough filled with cheese and meat – but with slices of ham instead of pepperoni inside. Piero’s uses a very good dough for all of their items and it was just as good in the ham puffs.
Our meal was enjoyable across the board. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but Piero’s delivered on everything that we tried.
For everything we got, it was right around $30, not a bad price at all for so much food.
And good food, at that.
BCE Rating Food: Good Service: Very Good Ambiance: Good Price: Reasonable
Now that Berks County has entered the green phase of reopening, restrictions are starting to be lessened for area restaurants and eateries, but restrictions remain in place.
The new rules and regulations have forced businesses to adapt and innovate, from the way the food gets from kitchen to consumer (contactless delivery, curbside pickup) to how seats are arranged – inside and out.
One of the innovations that has come out of the restrictions on dining is Truck N Brew, a weekly event at Willow Glen Park in Sinking Spring.
Willow Glen is best known as the site of Shocktoberfest, the Apple Dumpling Festival, weekly outdoor flea markets and countless other events throughout the year. But on Friday and Saturday nights, Willow Glen is now home to Truck N Brew, an outdoor dining and entertainment venue with food trucks and concessions.
Not being ready for a dine-in experience quite yet, Truck N Brew seemed like a great alternative for a Saturday night dinner.
We arrive at 5 p.m. just as the stands were opening. We weren’t the first ones there, but there weren’t too many others around as we bounced from food truck to food truck and stand to stand in search of our meals.
The lineup of food trucks changes every week – this week featured wood-fired pizza, tacos, Cuban sandwiches, barbecue and more – but the venue is owned and operated by Konopelski Katering, and their concession stands are the anchors of the event.
One of those stands is Fat Jack’s, which operates out of a large kitchen at the end of the row of eateries. The menu was also the most varied of all the options with burgers, sandwiches, fried foods and more.
We both opted for burgers – Julie got the guac and bacon burger while I went with the fajita burger.
For Jakob, we stopped at a food truck called The Biggest Cheese where mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches dominate the menu. Actually, there’s mac and cheese in the grilled cheese sandwiches, but they were accommodating and made a plain old grilled cheese for our toddler to enjoy.
Seating was plentiful. There is a large pavilion with picnic tables spread out (it’s also where the bar is set up – the brew in Truck N Brew). And many more tables surrounding the pavilion. There’s also some wooden counters set up along the lawn’s edge, a place to stand and enjoy your drinks.
We snagged one of the tables outside the pavilion. Despite our car’s thermometer reading 90 degrees, the shaded picnic area felt very comfortable. And we were well-distanced from the nearest occupied table, making it easy to enjoy our delicious burgers.
My fajita burger came topped with grilled peppers, grilled onions lettuce, tomato and jalapeno cheese.
I personally love grilled peppers and onions on my burgers (they are among my go-to toppings at Five Guys), but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the jalapeno cheese. It added only a little heat to the dish, but it certainly added some flavor.
Overall, it was a very satisfying burger.
Julie was also satisfied with her guac and bacon burger. As you might guess, the featured toppings were guacamole and bacon (with lettuce and tomato). You can’t really go wrong with either of those on a burger.
Both of us got a side of fries with our burgers. The small, fresh-cut fries were very good though a little on the salty side (not too salty to stop me from eating them).
Meanwhile Jakob seemed to enjoy his grilled cheese (Julie tried some and said it was good. The bread was toasted well – not burnt – and was nice and buttery). However he was a little distracted because from his seat, he was looking directly at the Sweet Ride Ice Cream truck.
I ventured over and grabbed us some dessert, a cup of vanilla ice cream for Jakob, a cup of banana peanut butter chip ice cream for Julie and an orange cream float with chocolate ice cream for me.
Sweet Ride has always been good, but we’ve enjoyed them even more since they started making (most) of their own ice cream. Julie loves their banana peanut butter chip with the creamy banana base so there was never a doubt as to which flavor she would get.
My float was also very good. The chocolate ice cream was rich and I always enjoy the mix of chocolate and orange. It was definitely worth the extra calories.
It wasn’t the cheapest night out we’ve had but it was still pretty reasonable. Our burgers and fries were less than $25. Jakob’s grilled cheese and bottle of water were around $7. And the ice cream added another $12, bringing our total for the night to right around $45. That’s not bad for three meals and three desserts.
We kept our expectations low going into the evening, but were pleasantly surprised all around. There was more than enough seating to spread out (even at 6 p.m. when we left). There was a great variety of food, and what we had was very good. While I would say the majority of the other patrons weren’t wearing masks, a few were. And all of those working, at least the ones I could see that were interacting with customers, were wearing masks and gloves.
Really, it’s a great idea, one that was obviously fueled by the restrictions of the yellow phase of reopening. But it’s an idea we hope keeps going because we enjoyed it and would definitely go back.
Truck N Brew 94 Park Rd Sinking Spring, PA 19608
BCE Rating Food: Good Service: Very Good Ambiance: Good Price: Reasonable
When I was working in King of Prussia, there were options when I wanted Mediterranean food – schwarma, falafel, kebabs, etc. In Berks County, those are rarities on our restaurant menus.
But I did find all of those and more at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant in West Reading.
Aladdin has been around since 2009 when the restaurant renovated a former gas station adjacent to the West Reading Diner (now Americana Diner). More than 10 years later, Aladdin is still going strong, as we found out on a recent Saturday night.
We arrived around 5:30, a little early for dinner, and found just a couple other tables taken in the dining room. Aladdin offers two dining areas. We were seated in a booth by the window in the standard dining room. It featured a large fireplace at one side with photos of beautiful coastal towns, musical instruments and other keepsakes from the old country adorning the walls.
The second room (on the right-hand side when entering the restaurant) has a completely different feel to it. Red curtains cover the windows behind a long row of cushioned bench seats with red and black throw pillows to support diners.
I didn’t remember until I did a little research that the building that currently houses the restaurant was formerly a Getty gas station. It certainly shows no signs of that today.
At our table, I was struggling to make a decision as I looked over the menu. Aladdin promotes itself as offering the “best quality Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes,” and there are a lot to choose from. The one easy decision was choosing an appetizer – Julie and I agreed on stuffed grape leaves.
I first discovered stuffed grape leaves at the annual Greek Food Festival. I really enjoyed them there. And I enjoyed them even more at Aladdin.
The stuffed leaves were shaped – and sized – like cigars and filled with rice and seasoned ground beef (a vegetarian option is available). The filling was very good; the beef had hints of many different seasonings and spices that I couldn’t immediately identify. The tangy leaves were done well, and it was a great beginning to the meal. Even Jakob, our often fussy two-year-old, ate his (the filling, at least).
Deciding on the main course was more difficult. Entrees at Aladdin include kebabs; schwarma; rack of lamb and lamb chops; various sautes and a range of vegetarian options. I settled on the chicken saute.
Though it sounds boring, it was anything but. The chicken breast was sauteed with green peppers, onion and tomato in a garlic sauce. I really enjoyed the olive oil-based sauce. It had enough garlic to really pop without overpowering the flavors on the plate. The tomatoes really stood out for me, too. They were diced and cooked so tender that they practically melted away. The tomatoes were like little bites of marinara sauce throughout the dish.
Many of the entrees, including both mine and Julie’s, are served with rice pilaf. The pilaf was lightly seasoned, but good. I did enjoy using it to soak up some more of the garlic sauce at the end.
Because that wasn’t enough food, the meal also came with a side: your choice of hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh or fattoush.
I love baba ghannouj and was excited to try Aladdin’s version. I didn’t have to wait long as it was actually served as an appetizer along with a basket of pitas. Baba ghannouj, if you’re not familiar, it is basically hummus but it’s made with pureed eggplant as the base instead of chickpeas. It’s more moist than hummus, a texture I like better. I also prefer the flavor as it’s less nutty.
Aladdin’s version was everything I wanted it to be.
While this was my first visit to Aladdin, Julie has actually been there twice for business lunches. And she has had the same thing on each visit: lamb kebabs.
The skewers feature large chunks of lamb mixed with onions, served over rice pilaf and choice of two sides. Lamb meat is so rich; I always enjoy it. But while it was grilled, it picked up this nice char that trapped in even more flavor. It was very good, and I understand why Julie loves it so much.
For her two sides, Julie ordered tabbouleh and hummus. The hummus came on the plate with the kebabs. It’s a very good hummus, but I still prefer the baba ghannouj (that’s just me, though).
The tabbouleh actually arrived early as an appetizer. Tabbouleh is a Mediterranean salad that uses parsley as the base green. Aladdin makes theirs with cracked wheat, tomato, oil and lemon juice (with some lettuce thrown in).
It’s really flavorful. I think the lemon juice shines nicely giving the whole salad a bright citrus flavor. I would order the salad as an entree on a return visit.
Not knowing how Jakob would take to the cuisine, we played it safe and ordered him chicken fingers and fries off the kids menu. We hadn’t anticipated that he would fill up on grape leaves and tabbouleh before it even arrived. Though he did eat some, we brought most of it home for him to have later in the week.
We were all stuffed by the end of the meal and didn’t have room for the baklava sundae that we really wanted. We did splurge a little when we ordered rose tea for our drinks. The iced tea was given a little rose flavoring (I believe it was from a syrup). It was almost like sweet tea but with a little extra herbal flavor that we found refreshing.
I have to admit that the meal was more expensive than we had anticipated at $78. Part of that was our rose tea ($4 each) and also the fact that we ordered an appetizer ($12). The entrees were $22 and $25, respectively. When you look at the portion sizes, though, I didn’t feel cheated at all.
Aladdin’s food is serving a niche here in Berks County, and I’m glad for it. The next time I have a craving for baba ghannouj, I know where to turn.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Service: Very Good Ambiance: Very Good Price: A Little Pricey
Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant 401 Penn Ave West Reading, PA 19611
Who wants ice cream in the cold of winter? This guy.
I’ve never believed ice cream to be a summer-only treat.
It’s year-round goodness. Especially on special occasions – like when mommy has
to go away for work and leaves daddy home alone with a two-year-old.
But where to get ice cream – and a meal – in January? One
option is Pop’s Malt Shoppe in Kutztown.
Pop’s Malt Shoppe takes on the look and feel of a 50s/60s
diner and soda fountain: the checker board floor, the red tables with stainless
steel accents, the Elvis music playing through the speakers.
It’s not a unique concept in Berks County – Bel-Air in
Bechtelsville and Scoupe DeVille in Birdsboro both have similar concepts. But
unlike those, Pop’s is open year-round. So even when there’s snow on the ground
and the temperatures are below freezing, Pop’s is open.
That was one of the reasons I decided to stop in on a Sunday
night in January – that and the fact that they had recently posted about their
newly renovated dining area. It was just Jakob and I, and it took him a few
minutes to realize where we were. “Ice cream shop?” he asked. My
two-year-old is obsessed with our collection of Curious George books, including
Curious George Goes to the Ice Cream Shop. I guess Pop’s has a look that’s
Julie and I had actually never visited Pop’s while we were
students at Kutztown. But we did stop in for ice cream a few years ago.
We were only in the take-out area, but it still had the same
vibe as the dining room with pink walls covered in retro signs.
On that visit, we both ordered sundaes: a brownie sundae and
a cookie monster sundae. The latter featured Pop’s fresh-baked cookies with
choice of ice cream. Photos of fresh-baked cookies have been a staple on Pop’s
social media accounts and taste as good as they look – especially with ice cream.
Similarly, the soft, chocolatey brownies were baked in-house
as well. It’s a nice touch that helps to set Pop’s apart from other places.
For Jakob and I, ice cream would have to wait until after
Pop’s food menu is what you would expect – burgers, dogs, a
handful of sandwich options, lots of fried foods and salad, in case you want to
feel a little less guilty about that ice cream afterward.
I decided to order Pop’s homemade barbecue sandwich with
fries. It was a standard sloppy Joe – ground beef with onion and tomato mixed
in with a little barbecue sauce. The roll was smaller than I was expecting,
though that could have just been from its obvious trip to the panini press. It
was good, but nothing to write home about. The meat was falling out of the bun
so it was still a hearty meal, too.
The fries were good, as well. They were crinkle-cut and done
well, though I needed to add a little salt for some extra flavor.
One cool thing that I only picked up on because I heard
another table mention it is that the food is served on plates made of melted
vinyl records (or at least are made to look that way).
Jakob’s meal also arrived in style. Kids meals are served in
paper models of classic cars, and Jakob’s grilled cheese and mac and cheese
bites cruised in on a Ford Fairlane.
He enjoyed the grilled cheese. The kids meal is actually a
half sandwich using a single slice of bread which actually works out well
because it means less crust, which Jakob is currently rejecting.
But he certainly didn’t reject the mac and cheese bites. The
meal came with four of them, and he happily finished them off without leaving a
trace. They were a simple, kid-friendly side not unlike anywhere else, but
Jakob enjoyed them, and that’s all that mattered to me in the moment.
With our meals finished, I couldn’t resist ordering us a
treat (this is what happens when dad is left in charge for the night). We got a
soft-serve sundae with Oreo cookies, strawberries and chocolate syrup (plus the
obligatory whipped cream and cherry on top).
It was wonderful. The vanilla soft serve was nice on its
own, but the toppings are what made it. There were 22 toppings to choose from
so narrowing it to three (the first topping is free, the rest are 50 cents
each) wasn’t easy, but they were all good decisions.
There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of any single
topping. The Oreos were concentrated on
one side and the strawberries on the other so every bite was a little
different, but no less enjoyable. The ice cream was easily the best part of the
During our visit, the dining room was filled mostly with
college students (a few had family members with them) returning for the spring
semester, but Pop’s is certainly a family friendly destination in the college
town. The price is right for a family meal as well. With dessert, it was about
Our service was good as well. Two different waitresses
helped us at different times as they worked as a team to cover a fairly busy
dining room. At one point one of them apologized for the wait and said there
was a mix-up with my meal. I honestly would not have even known because it was
only about 15 minutes from the time we ordered until the food arrived.
It wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it didn’t need to be. We were there for the ice cream, and that didn’t disappoint.
BCE Rating Food: Fair Ice Cream: Very Good Service: Very Good Ambiance: Very Good Price: Reasonable
Pop’s Malt Shoppe 208 W. Main St Kutztown, PA 19530
Good diners can be found everywhere. What I have come to realize is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Not every diner “looks” like a diner with stainless steel inside and out. Sure, there are many of those in Berks County, but there’s also diners in strip malls and in farmers markets, diners that look like ranches and even one shaped like a cup.
The Pied Piper Diner just outside Bally also would fall into
the “unique” category.
Outside, the Pied Piper looks like no other diner in Berks
County with its copula in the center and turrets flanking either end of the
building. Inside, though, it’s all diner. There’s the tile floor, counter
seating for faster service, extensive salad bar and an expansive menu .
The menu is 10 pages and includes everything you would
expect: comfort foods, pastas and stir-fries, soups and sandwiches, and
breakfast served all day.
It can be hard to decide with so many choices, but I found
the one word that makes a dish standout above all others: “homemade.”
As in the homemade beef stew.
The oversized bowl was filled with large chunks of beef,
carrots, celery, onions and potatoes. I definitely made a good decision. It was
so hearty and the beef was perfectly tender and flavorful. But what really set
it apart was the broth which was perfectly seasoned and soaked in to every
One thing you can be sure of when you visit a diner: if you
go home hungry, it’s your own fault. Entrees are served with your choice of
side, a trip to the salad bar, choice of soup and homemade breads.
The two soup choices during our visit were split pea and Italian
wedding. I went with the split pea because Italian wedding seemed too close to
the beef stew I would be enjoying. Split pea isn’t much to look at, and it’s
not the most flavorful soup to begin with. But it was fine and along with the
bread, it held me over until dinner.
Not wanting to fill up too quickly, I skipped the salad bar,
though it looked impressive enough. I did enjoy both the cornbread and dinner
roll that I was served. Our waitress actually said she doesn’t care for the
cornbread because there’s vanilla in it. I actually enjoyed the hint of
vanilla. The roll was also very good, and neither was too big to spoil my
For my side, I kept it very plain with the mixed vegetables.
It was a mix of corn, lima beans, peas, green beans and carrots. It was what it
was, but that’s all I expected. (Seriously, though, what do you get for a side
when your entree includes potatoes, carrots and celery)?
Julie went with one of the diner’s sandwich options: the
Monte Cristo (turkey, ham and Swiss on French toast). It was served with a cup
of Smucker’s pancake syrup for dipping. The syrup definitely helped. The
sweetness was needed to cut through the savory meats. And it had just a touch
of sweet-and-salty with the ham.
I really liked the fries on the side. They were the battered
kind, fried to a golden brown. They are the kind of fries you start eating and
keeping eating long after you’re full.
What I really loved about the meal was the (small) size of
the check. We paid about $17 for our dinners. There aren’t many places where
you can get that much food (served to your table) for under $20.
The Pied Piper may not have the stainless steel diner car
look, but it is all diner, and a good one at that.
Price: Very Reasonable
In the first five years of Berks County Eats, we’ve seen a
number of restaurants come and go, and more than once we’ve revisited old
locations that now have new restaurants.
That was the case on our recent visit to Oliviero’s Pizzeria
and Restaurant in Amity Township.
Oliviero’s is located in a strip mall along Route 422 just
west of Douglassville. The location is a challenge for two reasons. One, it’s
located along a part of 422 that is a divided highway. Two, the strip sits
perpendicular to the highway with the restaurant at the far end.
The last time I was at the location, it was Kathryn’s Grille, a short-lived BYOB that we visited in late 2017. Kathryn’s closed in early 2018. Oliviero’s debuted a few months later in July with a menu that features pizza shop standards with a few additions including a selection of Chicago deep dish pies and artisan pan pizzas. They also offer a selection of pastas, including weekly specials.
In the summer, Oliviero’s satisfies everyone’s sweet tooth with
an outdoor ice cream shack and year-round with tiramisu, cannoli, cheesecake,
and other sweets available in the restaurant.
The dining area has been updated to add color. Yellow booths
with wood-grain seats have replaced the dark wooden tables and vibrant posters
pop against the gray walls. The space feels brighter and more inviting than it
But on this visit, I didn’t get to enjoy a sit-down meal.
Instead, I was grabbing our dinner and taking it back home to Wyomissing.
It’s about a 20 minute drive (because when you have pizza in
the car, you trigger every red light on 422), but the food traveled well. As
hungry as Julie and I were until I got home, neither of us was as excited as
our toddler who could barely contain his excitement at the sight of the pizza
We ordered a medium house special pizza. It comes topped
with pepperoni, sausage, onion, mushrooms and peppers. All three of us really
The sauce was on the sweet side, and the use of red onions
added to the overall sweetness of the dish while the pepperoni and sausage
provided the savory side. I appreciated the use of thin-sliced sausage which I
prefer to the ground topping at other places. The cheese was pretty standard as
was the crust, but overall it was enjoyable.
We really didn’t need the fries – we had two slices of pizza
left after dinner – but we couldn’t help ourselves. They were pretty good, more
of the battered style fries than the fresh-cut style, and made a nice
complement to the pizza.
As is the case with most pizza places, the price was right.
The pizza and fries came in just under $20. It was also ready for me less than
20 minutes of calling in the order, but we had ordered a little after 4 p.m. so
not their busiest time. I imagine if I had waited an hour or two, the wait
would have been longer.
Oliviero’s made a very good first impression on us, and it
has passed the one-year mark at this point, a milestone always worth
celebrating for a restaurant.
Here’s hoping that it will anchor the strip mall for many
years to come.
BCE Rating Food: Good Service: Very Good Ambiance: Good Price: Very Reasonable
Oliviero’s Pizzeria & Restaurant 101 Park Ln Douglassville, PA 19518
Oftentimes, a bar is just a bar. It’s a place to get a
drink, eat some fried food and watch a game.
But sometimes, a bar isn’t just a bar. West Reading’s Beer
Wall on Penn is not just a bar. In fact, it’s one of the few places in Berks
County that can truly be called, “unique.”
Sure, there’s a bar. And dining room seating. And table
service. But then there are the 38 self-serve taps where anyone (over the age
of 21) can pour their own beer. Each beer is priced per ounce and customers are
in complete control over how much beer they pour. A card is swiped at the tap,
adding up your tab as you go.
The taps are a sight to behold – all of them in a single row along a wall (except for a few stragglers located on the top floor – more on that later). I don’t drink, but I brought along my buddy Josh to test out the taps. He lives in D.C. but was back in the area for the week (and who enjoys a good beer or two on his cheat days).
“This is cool,” he said. “I can’t believe they don’t have one of these in D.C. yet. It would do really well.” It is a cool concept, and one that actually puts Berks County on the cutting edge.
But the Beer Wall isn’t just about the booze – the
restaurant is serving up a unique food menu that includes tacos, burgers,
sandwiches, fried appetizers and a handful of large plate entrees.
Josh and I both opted for appetizers. For me, it was the
duck fat fries.
For the duck fat fries, Beer Wall takes its thick-cut fries
and cooks them in duck fat, topping them with truffle zest, shaved Parmesan and
scallions. It also comes with a side of roasted garlic aioli for dipping.
I love the richness of duck and it definitely adds another
layer of flavor to fries. I also appreciated the large parmesan shavings. But
for me, it was the scallions that really took everything to the next level.
That strong, concentrated onion flavor was the perfect addition and paired
nicely with the fries and the tangy aioli.
Across the table, Josh was enjoying an order of pretzel
nuggets. He graciously allowed me to try one of the parmesan and parsley-coated
pretzels, and it was delicious. But what really surprised me was the lager
mustard dip. I don’t like mustard and I don’t drink beer, but somehow this
combination worked so well and made for a perfect complement to the pretzels.
Both our appetizers left a great first impression.
I passed on the tacos and burgers in favor of one of Beer
Wall’s entree plates, the brisket mac-n-cheese. It featured braised brisket, sautéed
onions and cavatappi pasta in a white cream sauce, all topped with bread
crumbs, chives and parmesan cheese.
This is a case where I thought the individual ingredients
were better than the dish as a whole. I really liked the brisket. It had a
nice, smoky flavor, but I thought it was masked by the cheese sauce.
On the flip side, I thought the bread crumb mixture was a
welcome addition and brought out the best flavors of the cheese. It was a good
meal, but personally, I would have enjoyed everything just a little bit more if
the brisket had been served on top of, or beside the mac. (It was also a lot of
food, especially after finishing off the duck fat fries. I took half of it home
in a box at the end of the meal).
Josh had decided to go with one of the burger options, the banh
mi. It featured an eight-ounce patty of beef and pork (Beer Wall’s standard
burger base) topped with pickled vegetables, fried pork belly, seared tomato,
cilantro, a fried egg and balsamic reduction.
He and I argued over whether pork belly belongs on a banh mi
(in my world, it certainly does), but there was no arguing about the beauty of
the burger in front of him. Unfortunately Josh is one of the unfortunate souls
who suffers from an aversion to cilantro and somehow forgets until he tastes
it. That kind of marred what was a good burger.
The prices for food at the Beer Wall are pretty reasonable
for the amount and quality of the food. I spent about $25 for my entree, fries
and an unsweetened iced tea. For those who enjoy craft beer, you can expect to
add 50 to 70 cents per ounce to your tab at the end of the night.
When our meal was finished, we ventured upstairs where Beer
Wall not only has additional taps, but also vintage arcade games that you can
play for free. Mortal Kombat and the Simpsons are among the machines you’ll
find. Before we left, I schooled Josh in a game of NBA Jam, dropping 3s from
the corner with Scottie Pippin.
Maybe the novelty of pouring your own beer will wear off. Then
again, maybe not.
Either way, Beer Wall on Penn is not just another bar. It’s
something different, and different is a good thing for Berks County.
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Beer Wall on Penn
619 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611
One of the most exciting developments in Downtown Reading in
recent memory is the reimagining of Franklin Street Station as a brewpub.
Saucony Creek Brewing Company’s Franklin Station Brewpub opened in July to much fanfare. Plans for the restaurant had been revealed in early 2018 but the project was delayed until the proper permits and zoning were in place. Other than a brief stint as an inter-city bus terminal in 2013 and an interactive art installation in 2017, it’s the first life this former passenger rail station has seen since the last SEPTA train rolled out 38 years ago.
We made our first visit on a Saturday afternoon in September,
arriving before 5 p.m. for an early dinner. We got the last parking space on
the restaurant’s parking lot (there is plenty of additional parking in the
adjacent garage – and it’s free if you spend more than $10) and were seated
The building is impressive inside. It retains the feel of a
classic train station with high ceilings and large windows. Rows of benches –
like the ones that would have been used by waiting passengers 90 years ago –
are the anchors of the dining area. The tables and chairs are arranged to
utilize the long benches, creating wide aisles for the wait staff and patrons.
In the far end of the room near the kitchen is a small display case filled with
model trains, Monopoly game pieces (for the Reading Railroad, of course) and
other railroad memorabilia.
We had plenty of time to admire the building, too, because
though we were seated promptly, no server stopped by for more than 15 minutes
to even bring water. Our toddler was ready to eat so the wait was not very welcomed
at our table.
The restaurant seemed to have both not enough and too much
help simultaneously. While we were waiting, servers continued to congregate
near the host stand (including our eventually server).
Once we ordered, it only took about 10 minutes for our
appetizer and Jakob’s kids’ meal to arrive. From there, the meal was much
For our appetizer, we ordered the avocado tacos. The order
consisted of two tacos: corn tortillas topped with beer-battered avocado
slices, roasted corn, tomato, onion and cilantro. On the side was a cup of
thick salsa that was very good and had a spicy after-taste. The tacos, by
themselves, were a little bland compared to a Mexican restaurant, but with the
spicy salsa, it was much better. It needed that little kick to bring everything
Jakob certainly enjoyed his food. Their kids menu isn’t
huge, but it does have a decent variety. In the end, though, we went with
Jakob’s favorites – a quesadilla with corn on the cob. The corn lasted all of
about five minutes (at least it felt that way) as he ate through it in a hurry.
The quesadilla was a little more work for him but he managed to eat about half
of it at the restaurant with us taking the rest home.
Our dinners arrived just a short time later. The menu of large
plates – “Masters” as they are called on the menu – features a
diverse selection that leaned toward higher-end dishes. For example: my coconut
braised beef cheek.
Beef cheek is not found on a lot of menus, probably because
it is a tougher cut of meat that has to be slow-cooked. It’s also very rich, as
I discovered with my first taste. It reminded me a little of duck – not in
flavor – but in the richness. The flavor, though, was very good. It was braised
in one of Saucony Creek’s signatures beers so it picked up some of those flavor
notes with subtle hints of coconut.
It came served in a bowl of sweet potato puree that added a
sweet and savory contrast to the dish. It was also topped with a watermelon
radish that served more for garnish than flavor. As I look back on the menu, it
also said it was to be served with creamy blue cheese. There was definitely no
blue cheese on the plate. I’m not sure how it would have changed what was a
very good dish, but now I’m curious.
Nothing was missing from Julie’s plate. She ordered the Franklin
Station Burger which came topped with bourbon bacon jam, Boston Bibb lettuce
and Swiss cheese.
It was an awesome burger where the bacon jam really shined.
The salty, savory and slightly sweet spread is always a great burger topper.
This version had a deeper flavor thanks to the bourbon, and it really shone
through on the burger.
The burger was served with fries on the side. As our server
described them, they are boardwalk-style fries: skin-on and well-seasoned. They
were a little peppery at times, but very enjoyable, especially paired with the
homemade ketchup. The ketchup was not as sweet or as thick as the store-bought
variety, but it perfectly complemented the already flavorful fries.
While Julie and I did not save room for dessert, Jakob’s
kids meal came with a scoop of ice cream. His generous scoop of peanut butter
ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry cheesecake were the other flavor
choices) was topped with a mound of whipped cream and a cherry that elicited a
loud, “ooooh,” from our son when he saw it.
I think Jakob ate most of the whipped cream while Julie took care of the ice cream that he didn’t finish. It was around this time that we heard the unmistakable air horn of a freight train approaching.
Norfolk Southern trains frequently use the former Reading
Railroad tracks and a train’s arrival is a big deal at the bar. Upon hearing
the horn, doors were opened and everyone cheered loudly until the engines
passed. Jakob, like all young boys, loves trains. He joined in with a loud, “Choo
Choo!” as the train rolled past.
If there’s a downside to the building, it’s that the
cavernous dining room echoes. It can get loud quickly. That’s a good thing when
cheering on a passing train, but it can be a little distracting if you’re
trying to have some quiet conversation.
We paid our bill – $61.01 – and went outside to watch the
tail end of the train from the old station platform. The scene would have
looked a lot different 90 years ago when a steam engine would puff into the
station to pick up and drop off passengers.
While the hungry diners aren’t at the Franklin Street
Station to grab a train to Philly, the historic building is once again bustling
Sure, there are some issues to work out as there are with
all new restaurants. But Saucony Creek could keep the passenger benches full at
Franklin Street Station for a long time to come.
BCE Rating Food: Very Good Service: Fair Ambiance: Very Good Price: A Little Pricey
Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub 690 Chestnut St Reading, PA 19602