A look at the exterior of Cherry's Jamaican Delight in West Reading

Review: Cherry’s Jamaican Delight

A look at the exterior of Cherry's Jamaican Delight in West Reading

I was very excited when I heard Cherry’s Jamaican Delight was moving to West Reading at the beginning of the year. The new location would expose the restaurant – and the Jamaican culture that inspires the cuisine – to a whole new audience that otherwise may miss out.

Cherry’s shares a wall with Chen Vegetarian House in the 700 block of Penn Avenue. It’s a cozy location, one that previously housed small cafes. There’s limited inside seating – made more limited by current guidelines – with a few more yellow and green picnic tables set up out front.

For those not lucky enough to snag a table or those who prefer to eat at home, Cherry’s also offers takeout and delivery through GrubHub.

We decided to take advantage of the online ordering through the GrubHub app, but being just a short drive away, I opted for takeout and the opportunity to see one of West Reading’s newest restaurants.

I got a text notification that my order was ready for pickup early so I made the quick trip from our Wyomissing home into West Reading. Parking wasn’t an issue as I was able to snag a space right in front of the restaurant.

The restaurant’s renovation still feels fresh. Most of the walls are painted in a bright, vibrant yellow that is made more dramatic by the lack of tables.

My order was waiting behind the counter, and I was in-and-out and back home with my food in no time.

Cherry’s menu features Jamaican comfort food like Pepsi brown stew chicken, curried goat and several seafood options. But I had my sights on the brown oxtail stew.

A styrofoam container with stewed oxtails and rice covered in brown sauce

Oxtail is a unique cut of meat. As the name suggests, it comes from the tail of a cow. It’s a gelatinous meat. The slow-cooking in the stew helps cook it down a bit but it still has a slightly chewy consistency, especially around the bone. But the flavor is rich, and it was enhanced by the brown stew sauce.

The sauce was dark and flavorful. And it was spread across the side of rice and peas (which are actually red beans), as well, adding those deep tones to the whole plate.

A styrofoam container with chicken, rice and plantains

Arguably the most popular Jamaican dish in America – or at least the most familiar – is jerk chicken. And it’s also a favorite of my wife, Julie.

She was excited to try Cherry’s version of the dish and was not disappointed. The jerk spice, a little sweet and salty with a (very) mild heat, permeated through the perfectly cooked chicken.

Each of the meals also came with a nice little side of steamed cabbage and – my favorite – fried plantains.

A styrofoam cup with an orange drink and ice next to a styrofoam container with rice and stewed oxtails

And because every meal needs a little bit of sweet, we both decided to try the Calypso Mango, a delicious tropical lemonade that we haven’t seen anywhere else in our ventures.

In all, our dinners and drinks totaled a little less than $40, which isn’t a bad price when you consider we paid a premium for the convenience of online ordering.

Our first experience with Cherry’s Jamaican Delight definitely made us eager to try more. And hopefully others will be eager to give them a try, too.

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

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Review: Eve’s Thai Kitchen

A look at the owners working behind the counter at Eve's Thai Kitchen

In the last two years, I have found myself more and more at the Shillington Farmers Market. The Farmers Market of Wyomissing – just a few blocks from our house – is still our go-to for our fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy, but it just can’t compare with Shillington when it comes to take-out meals.

Brocmar Smokehouse has been one of my favorites since it opened. Mi Casa Su Casa Cafe is always good. And we even enjoyed our simple breakfast we tried at the Market Cafe.

Last year, the market added a new stand that brought even more variety to the market: Eve’s Thai Kitchen.

The Specials of the Day sign at Eve's Thai Kitchen with menu items written in colored chalk

Eve’s Thai Kitchen opened in May, offering a selection of made-to-order dishes from southeast Asia. The menu is limited but still offers variety with both noodle and rice dishes and appetizers that include spring rolls, cheese rolls, soup and chicken satay.

Like most farmers market stands, Eve’s has a pretty simple setup. Guests order at the counter and wait, either hanging out until the food is ready or making a couple stops around the market while the food is prepared. Eve’s does have the advantage of having two dedicated tables with six chairs across the aisle.

Pineapple fried rice with chicken, broccoli and carrot from Eve's Thai Kitchen

I made my first visit to Eve’s back in August and was very impressed with both the service and my order of pineapple fried rice with chicken.

The dish is a great blend of savory and sweet. The pineapple is wonderful and the fruit definitely stars in the dish. But there are more hits of sweetness from the dried cranberries that were mixed in. Cashews added some crunch while the addition of broccoli and carrots both added color and made me feel less guilty about finishing the whole thing.

My first impression made me want to come back and try even more, but it took several months before I found time to return. This time, I brought along Julie and our little man, Jakob.

A styrofoam container of pineappel fried rice with shrimp and vegetables from Eve's Thai Kitchen.

Like me, Julie couldn’t resist the pineapple fried rice. But instead of chicken, she ordered hers with shrimp. And she enjoyed it just as much as I had. She had enjoyed the addition of the shrimp.

She shared everything with Jakob. While he refused the shrimp, he loved the rice and kept asking for more. He also liked the baby corn, which I hadn’t remembered from my order of the pineapple rice. The baby corn is a favorite of mine as well and was a nice addition.

For my second visit, I decided to try something different. On the specials menu, I saw a basil stir-fry. It included your choice of meat (chicken, for me), green beans, onion, carrots and bell peppers over white rice.

A styrofoam container with a stir-fry, including chicken, carrot, green beans, onion and red and green bell peppers from Eve's Thai Kitchen

It was very good and used fresh basil that gave the deep brown sauce a nice herby flavor. I enjoyed everything about it. I especially liked that it was served over white rice instead of fried. While fried rice is good, I always prefer white rice because it soaks up the flavor of everything around it so well. It makes for a much more complete dish, in my opinion, and in this case it allowed the basil sauce, chicken and vegetables to really shine.

Also, I should mention that Eve’s allows you to choose your level of spice: none, mild, medium, hot or Thai hot. Julie went with “none” while I went with “mild.” I didn’t find mild to be very spicy at all, but that doesn’t mean I’m brave enough to raise my spice level next time.

Our food didn’t take long either. Though it was obviously made fresh, it wasn’t more than 15 minutes before it was ready for us. And the price was right as well. Adding on two bottles of water, it was less than $25 for our meals.

On both of my visits, Eve’s Thai Kitchen really delivered with impressive food done well – and done quickly – at a very reasonable price (as you would expect at a farmers market stand).

And it fits in well at the Shillington Farmers Market, which has become a destination for great food here in Berks.

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

Eve’s Thai Kitchen
10 S. Summit Ave
Shillington, PA 19607

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Overhead view of paper plate with pulled pork and yellow rice from Latin Taste

Review: Latin Taste at the Berkshire Mall

Latin Taste occupies a corner space in the Berkshire Mall food court

In the last few years, all the news around the Berkshire Mall has been the negative – the closings of Sears and Bon-Ton at the top of the list.

But even with their loss, the Mall remains the largest shopping center in Berks County. And with the holidays approaching, the crowds have returned once again.

A look behind the counter at Latin Taste

We were among the crowds that headed to the mall on a Sunday afternoon in early December. We were there to shop, but we were also there to get a taste – at Latin Taste.

Latin Taste is one of a handful of options in the Berkshire Mall’s food court. It’s also the newest, having opened a little more than a year ago in November 2018 (Lola’s Ice having opened the month prior).

Latin Taste features warming tables for most of its foods

The stand features warming tables with most of the dishes ready-made for eating in or taking home. And before you scoff at the idea of someone going to the mall for take-out, consider that the Grub Hub delivery driver picked up a large order while we were there.

We looked at everything on display, but in the end both Julie and I went with our favorites: pollo al horno (baked chicken) for her, and pernil (Spanish pulled pork) for me.

Overhead view of paper plate with pulled pork and yellow rice from Latin Taste

This was a very good version of my favorite Latin American dish. The flavors from the seasoning and marinade were very strong and the fatty parts were melt-in-you-mouth.

A close-up picture of pulled pork and yellow rice from Latin Taste

One thing I have always found with pernil is that it is richer than an American barbecue pulled pork. This was no exception. As much as I enjoyed it, I had to leave a little on my plate because it was just too much for me.

Same with the rice. There was no skimping on the portions as half the plate was covered in the yellow rice. I liked it, just as I like almost all Spanish rice. It was just a lot.

A close-up of baked chicken with macaroni salad and yellow rice in the background, from Latin Taste

Julie’s baked chicken, like my pernil, was very well seasoned, with the flavors soaking through the skin into the meat. I’m not normally a fan of baked chicken, but I found this to be flavorful and anything but dry – always my biggest concern.

In addition to rice, Julie had a side of macaroni salad, which actually was a macaroni and tuna salad. It was creamy and very good. The tuna was just a little unexpected. (Even Jakob, our two-year-old, didn’t mind the tuna as he ate almost all of the salad that Julie shared with him).

A bowl of fried plantains from Latin Taste

Unable to resist, we had also ordered a side of sweet plantains. There were none ready on the warming table so this was one item that was made fresh for us. They were also very good, but you don’t have to do a whole lot to plantains (other than cook them) to make a delicious side.

Overall, we were more than satisfied with everything that we ordered. The price was right, too. Our bill was $25, but we had a coupon for $7 off a $25 order so we got everything for $18. (Next time you get the Valpak coupons in the mail, at least pull out the one for Latin Taste. It’s a great deal).

While the Berkshire Mall may not draw the crowds it did when it opened, and there are two very noticeable empty spaces, the mall still has a lot to offer. Especially if what you’re looking for is good Latin food.

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

Latin Taste
Berkshire Mall
1665 State Hill Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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Lo mein from San's Asian Food

Review: San’s Asian Food

A row of chairs from San's Asian Food

In 2017, I got my first taste of 1 Potato Two and their signature spudwich. It was so unique – and delicious – that I named it one of my five favorite entrees of 2017.

The stand was still brand new at the Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market when I visited. Now, about two-and-a-half years later, 1 Potato Two is gone.

But the space has already been filled by San’s Asian Food.

San’s opened in August in the already crowded market, taking over the former site of 1 Potato Two at the Mall end of the Market. Unlike their predecessor, San’s has taken full advantage of a less-than-desirable space. A warming table and sushi cooler faces the main aisle. In the space between San’s and the next stand, they have added a pair of two-seat tables to complement the counter seating.

Warming tables filled with Chinese food entrees and sides from San's Asian Food

The new stand has a little bit of everything: a warming table with your standard Chinese food fare and rotating specials, a cooler filled with sushi (for those looking for a sushi review, I’m sorry. I am not a seafood fan so you would not want to hear from me), and a full menu to order from if you don’t mind waiting.

I made two visits to San’s – both for lunch – so I could get a better taste for their food.

Sesame Chicken and rice from San's Asian Food

On my first visit, I wanted to try the classics. Among the limited selections waiting on the warming table were General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken, two of my favorites. I got the two-entree lunch combo with a side of fried rice.

The General’s chicken was interesting. Usually it’s a sweet and spicy dish, but this had more of a tangy flavor to it. It wasn’t bad – I actually did enjoy it – but it wasn’t what I was anticipating. Unfortunately the sesame chicken was a let down for me. There wasn’t much of a sauce, and what little I had didn’t have a whole lot of flavor. It wasn’t bad tasting, it just didn’t have much of a taste.

Sesame Chicken and rice from San's Asian Food

I did enjoy the rice, which had what seemed to be fresh vegetables in the form of carrots, peas and onions (there was also just a little bit of meat). It wasn’t flashy, but it was a good side.

Both entrees used real white meat chicken, which is something I really appreciated. I’ve cut into too many pieces of General’s chicken only to find a mix of processed white and dark meat. That was not the case at San’s, which set it apart.  

On my second trip, I changed it up and ordered teriyaki chicken and lo-mein.

Teriyaki chicken from San's Asian Food

All around, it was a better meal than my first visit. The chicken had a very good flavor to it – salty and a little sweet as expected from a teriyaki base. The actual meat, though, was the stereotypical “pieces” that you find most often with the dish. It brought it down a little bit for me, but again, the flavor was really strong – probably the best of the three chicken dishes that I tried at San’s.

Lo mein from San's Asian Food

I also enjoyed the lo mein. It was tossed with broccoli, cabbage and other vegetables. The noodles were good and I enjoyed all of the vegetables. It was simple, but good.

In addition to the warming table, San’s does have a full menu so you can order your meal fresh. With limited time on my lunch, I appreciated the ready-made meals. If I had more time – say at dinner – I would love to go back and see how much better the food would be if it was made fresh.

Also, the small prices are a big plus. The two-meat combo is less than $10 (the single is $7).

San’s may not have jumped to the top of my list for Asian food in Berks County, but that’s ok. It has some good offerings at a very good price. It’s also really convenient.

That’s the makings of a farmers market stand built to last.  

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

San’s Asian Food
Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2934 N. 5th Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

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order counter at Afghan Chicken and Gyro

Afghan Chicken & Gyro – CLOSED

order counter at Afghan Chicken and Gyro

Editor’s Note: Afghan Chicken & Gyro is now closed. In late 2021, a new restaurant Fritura Kings opened in the location.

What’s in a name? Specifically, what’s in a restaurant name?

For some restaurants, the name is simple and direct. Chicken Supreme, Taste of Crepes and Spuds all come to mind as places that take their name from their signature dishes.

So when Afghan Chicken & Gyro opened in late 2017, we had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

booth in a restaurant with orange seats and a wood table

Afghan Chicken & Gyro is located along Lancaster Avenue in South Reading. The small storefront shares a building with the Smokes Outlet & Vapor Shop. It’s not the most attractive location, but it does have off-street parking, and that always helps.

Inside, the restaurant is clean, but it feels sterile. This is, first and foremost, a take-out space. There are some booths and a few tables, but it was clear that there is not a lot of sit-down meals taken here.

table and booths at Afghan Chicken & Gyro

Julie, Jakob and I arrived during what should have been the dinner rush and were the only customers (another person arrived later and sat at one of the tables while he waited for his take-out order). The television set in the corner was turned off, and the only ambient noise was from the kitchen where the staff had their own TV set turned up a little too loud.

We placed our order at the counter before grabbing a booth and waiting for the food to arrive. The good thing – and bad thing – about arriving on a dead night is that the warming table was empty so our food was prepared from scratch. That left us with a wait of about 15 to 20 minutes.

Everything was delivered on a bright red cafeteria tray, but conveyance aside, the food looked great.

lamb gryo and fries on a red and white checkered tray

I had ordered the lamb gyro. It was prepared with the traditional components – shaved gyro meat, lettuce, tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce.

There is no denying that this was a very good gyro. It was a little overfilled, but I’ll take that over one with a lack of filling. The lamb meat was flavorful. The pita was thick but airy. It all worked very well.

Guests can order just a gyro or make it a meal with fries and a can of soda. I made mine a meal, but I could have probably done without the fries. There was nothing special about them, just standard fast food fries. Yes, they filled me up, but I probably would have been full enough with the gyro.

The restaurant’s name, of course, is Afghan Chicken and Gyro. Julie has always been a fried chicken aficionado so that’s what she chose for her meal.

two pieces of fried chicken atop a bed of yellow rice

Her two-piece dinner was small – the drumstick didn’t have a lot of meat on it – and the flavor didn’t really stand out, but it was a solid fried chicken.

Chicken combos at the restaurant are served with a yellow rice. The rice was excellent with hints of multiple spices. If the chicken had been mixed in with the rice, Julie said she might have enjoyed everything even more.

I can’t help but feel that something was backward with their combinations. Rice feels like it would have worked well as a side for the gyro while the two fryer dishes could have been served together. Instead, things just felt a little mismatched.

The best part about a meal at Afghan Chicken & Gyro is the price. We got two meals for less than $15. It’s quite the steal for what was a very solid meal.

Afghan Chicken & Gyro certainly hit on the chicken and gyro, but I have to say that I would have liked to have seen a little more focus on the Afghan part. Yes, the meat is halal. But otherwise there’s no real connection to the middle east for the gyros, burgers and fried chicken.

If you’re looking for an alternative fast food take-out on your way home, then you should absolutely check out Afghan Chicken & Gyro.

But it’s not a place for your next date night and not a place to try a uniquely Afghan dish.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Poor
Price: Bargain

Afghan Chicken & Gyro
444 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19611

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Relish the Deli-sh – CLOSED

banner hanging on a stone wall. The banner reads "Relish the Deli-ish" with a phone number

Editor’s Note: Relish the Deli-sh is now closed. The location is currently home to Chef David’s Food & Friends.

On Berks County Eats, we are always looking for the best dining in Berks County – whether sit-down or take-out.

And as new parents, Julie and I are also looking for easy meals that we can make at home.

We found both at the Relish the Deli-sh.

Not to be confused with Relish, West Reading’s breakfast and lunch spot, Relish the Deli-sh is located in an otherwise residential section of Wyomissing.

chalkboard sign along the street advertising Asian chicken and beef over rice and lasagna

As the name suggests, it is, first and foremost, a deli. But for locals, it serves multiple roles. It’s a place to do light grocery shopping. In the summertime, it’s a spot for kids to grab a cone of ice cream. And it is also a place to get a quick a meal – either grab-and-go sandwiches or prepared meals that can be reheated at home.

We were interested in trying both of the meal options: fresh-made sandwiches and something to make for dinner the next day.

chalkboard menu board behind a deli counter

The meal menu is actually quite large, all things considered. It features nine cold sandwiches, eight hot sandwiches, two dinner salads and a range of side salads (pasta, potato, etc.).

One man was working both the cash register and deli station. He grilled my hamburger, built Julie’s sandwich, scooped out our prepared meal and rang us up. It took about 15 minutes – my burger was grilled to order – before we were on our way back home.

I had kept it simple by ordering a hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion. A half-pound patty, and all the fixings were stacked on an ATV Bakery roll.

burger topped with lettuce on a kaiser roll

The burger exceeded all expectations. Even after a ride home in a plastic clamshell, it was delicious. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful. The burger, itself, was high-quality. And the roll was just the right size so it didn’t get in the way.

It was simple, but it was one of the best burgers I have had on a Berks County Eats visit.

One of the many things that Julie had a craving for during her pregnancy was an Italian sandwich. For nine months, cold cuts were off-limits. But Jakob is with us and this was a chance to satisfy her craving.

Italian sandwich with garlic bread as the bun

Relish doesn’t do a standard Italian sub. The deli offers the garlic Italian. It features all of your standard ingredients – meats, cheese, LTO. Then it gets kicked up a notch with garlic aioli and ciabatta bread.

Julie loved both additions. The aioli provided additional depth of flavor while the ciabatta bread was better than a boring hoagie roll. Overall, it was a great sandwich that more than satisfied her craving.

At the checkout counter, we made an impulse purchase of two white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

two white chocolate macadamia nut cookies on a white napkin

I’ve never met a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie that I didn’t like, and these were no exception.

So our first meal was a winner. What about the next night? That’s when we would try the Asian beef and white rice from the prepared foods.

beef and rice stir fry on a red plate with black floral outlines

I cooked off some baby carrots in the skillet before adding in the beef, rice and a little water to steam it in. The reheating process actually went better than I expected, and within a few minutes, we had a good looking meal on our plates.

And the taste was up there as well. The beef was actually cuts of steak, prime meat that was marinated in a sweet and salty sauce. It was simple, but very good. And the flavor held up, even after soaking into the rice.

It was a very good dish, and I look forward to trying other meal solutions from Relish the Deli-sh, but I probably wouldn’t get this again. Though good, I would probably just pick up Chinese take-out if I didn’t feel like making a similar dish myself.

That said, Relish the Deli-sh is certainly somewhere that we will return. With a newborn at home, we’re going to doing a lot of takeout and looking for a lot of easy meals. This is a place where we can do both.

And all for a reasonable price. Our two meals cost us a total of $30. It felt like a real value, especially for new parents like us.

But I’d recommend it for anyone who is looking for a quick bite or an easy-to-make meal at home.

Relish the Deli-sh does both. And they do both very well.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: N/A
Price: Reasonable

Relish the Deli-sh
105 Evans Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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Review: Haiku Hibachi & Sushi

exterior of Haiku HIbachi in Muhlenberg Township

Late in 2015, a new restaurant appeared on the scene that was quite…different.

Located in a former fast food restaurant along the Fifth Street Highway – directly across the street from Jumbo China Buffet – Haiku Hibachi & Sushi brought something completely new to Berks County: drive-thru hibachi.

A drive-thru hibachi is certainly a unique concept, a one-of-a-kind experience in our region, if not beyond.

There is a dining room at Haiku, but it’s the window — a leftover from the Taco Bell that once occupied the space — that sets this apart from Berks County’s many Asian inspired restaurants.

screenshot of an order screen for Haiku HIbachi

Anyone who wants to take advantage of the drive-thru service has two options: order in line or place it  ahead of time and use the window for pick-up. We decided to use the online ordering system to place our order.

It’s a very convenient system. The entire menu is available and customizable. For example, if you order steak, you can choose how you want it prepared. You can choose the type of roll for your sushi. You can ask to hold the onions (though why anyone would do that, I have no idea).

At the end of the process, it asks for your payment method. Haiku doesn’t accept online payments. The options are cash and credit upon pick-up or a phone call for a credit card. This saves the customer money because there’s no commission or online processing fees tacked on to the bill.

Once finished, a message flashed on the screen saying my order would be ready in 15 minutes.

screenshot of an ordering screen for Haiku Hibachi

Then I was given the option to boast on Facebook about placing my order.

I drove from my home base in Wyomissing to the restaurant along the Fifth Street Highway with no problem getting there before the 15 minutes were up.

My biggest problem was finding the entrance to the drive-thru lane. In an inherited design quirk, the drive-thru lane is surrounded by curbs on either side so it’s completely inaccessible from the dine-in parking.

a car waits in the drive-thru line at Haiku HIbachi

I pulled up to the microphone and menu board, told them my name and that I was here to pick up an order and was ushered around to the window where I had just a short wait while the car in front of me, who obviously had not ordered ahead, sat idling while the driver’s food was prepared.

After getting my order, I brought it home and opened up the to-go bags. I have to give it to Haiku because the presentation was outstanding.

black takeout container with chicken, mixed vegetables, carrots and fried rice

Our hibachi dinners were compartmentalized. For mine, my chicken, fried rice and vegetables were all separated. There was nothing to do but dump everything onto one plate and dug in.

It was delicious. This was not fast food, this was a real hibachi-cooked dinner. The sauce for the chicken was thick, sweet and salty. The rice was done perfectly. And the vegetables were a beautiful al dente.

It all worked. I couldn’t believe that this came from a drive-thru window.

black takeout container with stir fry noodles, steak, mixed vegetables and carrots

Julie took full advantage of the order customization for her dinner, choosing steak (and opting for well-done) and an upgrade from rice to noodles.

It was the same delicious sauce, this time with perfectly cooked steak meat. The noodles were nicely done as well for a complete, enjoyable meal.

But Haiku doesn’t stop with hibachi. As the name suggests, there’s also sushi.

plate with a dozen sushi rolls

Neither Julie nor I are willing to take the plunge into raw sushi, but there are plenty of cooked sushi rolls to enjoy from haiku. We ordered two: shrimp tempura rolls and sweet potato rolls (don’t judge me, I’m still very much Pennsylvania Dutch).

Both were fantastic. At Haiku, all of the sushi is rolled to order so all of the flavors are fresh and vibrant. The rice-covered slices were the perfect size for an appetizer or side dish and we had no problem finishing off all 11 of them.

One of the great things about Haiku’s concept is the price. By skipping the tableside hibachi presentation (once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all) and focusing strictly on food, the price comes down dramatically. Our total dinner cost came in at about $25.

By comparison, our meal at Tokyo Hibachi two years ago cost $44.

There’s room in Berks County for both concepts, but for this frugal eater, give me the convenience, value and quality of Haiku Hibachi & Sushi.

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

Haiku Hibachi & Sushi
3215 N. 5th Street Highway
Reading, PA 19605

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barn-shaped building with a large crab statue and the words "Gettin' Crabby at the Crab Barn"

Review: Gettin’ Crabby at the Crab Barn

large crab on the side of a building with the words "Gettin Crabby at the Crab Barn"

In my time doing Berks County Eats, there has been no more highly anticipated restaurant than Gettin’ Crabby at the Crab Barn.

In February 2013, the Reading Eagle reported that the new restaurant would open that summer.

It was 45 months later, November 2016, when the doors finally opened to the public.

Nothing builds anticipation like a four-year wait.

We waited just a couple months after the official opening before making our first trip to the Hampden Boulevard landmark, just north of the Reading city limits.

Look for the barn with the giant crab hanging off the front. You can’t miss it.

Having never been to the original, I had no frame of reference for what to expect.

bar area with wooden bartop and black high stools

Walking in, I was impressed. The main entrance opens to the lower-level bar and waiting area. A boat propeller and other nautical memorabilia hung on the wooden walls (the Goldfish crackers for bar snacks were a nice touch).

As we were led upstairs to the dining area, I was even more impressed.

It’s very hard to combine rustic barn and nautical theming, but the Crab Barn does it. A painted on American flag takes up much of the roof. The far wall is painted to resemble a vintage barn-side advertisement, but instead of Mail Pouch tobacco, it beckons you to chew “Male Crabs.”

a large fish hangs above a dining area at Gettin Crabby at the Crab Barn

There’s also a swordfish, the back half of a boat, oars and two mounted elk heads (one of these things doesn’t belong).

Clearly a lot of work went into the building. One thing that could still use a little work is their system of seating customers. The hostess is downstairs. The dining room is upstairs. Staff came and went while we waited. Then, after we were led upstairs, we waited again while they fixed a table for us.

Service was a lot better after we were seated.

At this point, I need to mention that I don’t like crabs (or anything, generally, that swims). I have tried to like them. Not happening.

plate with dungeoness crab, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables

Julie, on the other hand, loves crabs. On her business trips to Seattle and Portland, she especially grew to love Dungeness crabs.

Though she was a little worried about having them 3000 miles away, she couldn’t help herself.

And she was very pleased. The meat came out in nice chunks, and there was plenty of it to enjoy as she cracked open every leg and claw.

To go with the crabs and the other entrees, the Crab Barn offers nine side choices, many of them unique to the restaurant, like the tomato cucumber salad.

It was a light side, a good change of pace, served in a nice lemon basil dressing. Julie’s second side, the basil redskin mashed potatoes were also quite flavorful.

plate with steak tips and cups with fried plantains and rice

So, what does a land lover do at the Crab Barn? Well, they are prepared for customers like me with several turf options to go with the surf.

My choice was the marinated beef tips.

The small sirloin pieces were marinated in Sriracha bourbon marinade. There was only a hint of heat from the Sriracha, but it picked up rich flavors from the bourbon. I really enjoyed it, though the half pound portion felt small.

For my sides, I went with fried plantains and Island cilantro rice. I loved the plantains (if you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know there was never any doubt). The rice was good, too, but I would have liked a little more cilantro.

Several of the items on the menu, including the Dungeness crab, are listed as market price on the menu. That was about $25 on our visit. With my beef tips and iced tea, our total for the two of us was about $45.

It was a four-year wait to get crabby at Gettin’ Crabby at the Crab Barn. Judging from the full dining room, we weren’t the only ones who were anxious to try it.

Now that we’ve been there, we’re excited to go back.

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

Gettin’ Crabby at the Crab Barn
2613 Hampden Blvd
Reading, PA 19604

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Panevino – CLOSED

exterior of a large building with a red awning and the words "Panevino Rustic Italian Cuisine"

Editor’s Note: Panevino now operates as a special event venue and caterer. In 2021, Panevino moved to a new location in Wernersville where they continue to focus on catering.

In the early years of Berks County Eats (circa 2012-13), blog posts were sporadic.

For those two years, I only did 12 restaurant reviews. Two of those restaurants have closed, two of them have moved. The other eight continue on, and for me, they are simply noted by an “x” on my spreadsheet of Berks County restaurants.

In May of 2013, I checked Panevino off my list. Three years and three months have passed since Julie and I visited the Italian restaurant on the corner of Second and Washington, across from the Reading Movies 11 & IMAX.

Thirty-nine months later, it was time to go back.

Panevino is in a tough location. It doesn’t have the visibility of Penn Street, and so far, it remains the only business among several empty storefronts on the first floor of the Albert Boscov Plaza.

On the plus side, Panevino customers can enjoy free parking in the garage above it.

Both Julie and I were surprised to see all of the open tables when we arrived for our reservations. It began to fill up as we ate, but the spacious dining room still looked empty.

Our waitress dropped off our menus, which were different than what I found on Panevino’s website. Slightly pared down, all of the entrees now come with an appetizer and dessert included so there is no excuse for leaving hungry.

three pita wedges with a cup of hummus

Before our apps arrived, we were treated to an excellent sampling of parmesan pita bread with white bean hummus. It was compliments of the chef, not something available on the menu, but it was delicious. The small portion left us wanting more.

plates with two different kinds of bread and a teardrop shaped bowl of oil for dipping

Instead, we were served our choice of bread: focaccia (Julie), ciabatta (me) or asiago cheese (odd bread out) with olive oil for dipping. I would have liked a little bit of seasoning in the oil, but the breads were good, especially the focaccia.

three plates, each with an arancini (fried Italian rice ball) atop a bed of cream sauce with mushrooms

Up next were our appetizers. For me, it was the arancini di riso, three large fried balls of rice, meat, peas and cheese, served with mushroom sauce.

There was definitely plenty of rice and a nice amount of meat, but I don’t remember seeing many peas. The mushroom sauce was good, if a little thin. The rice definitely soaked it up well, though.

bowl with bright red crab chowder

Julie, on the other hand, was a huge fan of her spicy crab and clam chowder. Not too spicy, the chowder was loaded with tomato, potatoes, a little bit of celery and plenty of clam and crab. There was never an empty spoonful, and each one was delicious.

She was also a big fan of her eggplant parmesan.

boat-shaped bowl with a slice of lasgana

The battered eggplant was layered with Grand Padano (comparable to Parmesan) and mozzarella cheeses. The eggplant was cut so thin that it almost disguised itself as lasagna.

Everything worked together – the eggplant, cheese and a very good tomato sauce – for a delicious dish.

rigatoni topped with sliced sausage and shredded parmesan cheese

I decided to go with the rigatoni. I normally wouldn’t have gone with something so boring, but the roasted red pepper sauce sold me on it.

The sweet Italian sausage was very good, but I wanted just a little more red pepper in my sauce. It was there, but it didn’t distinguish it enough from a traditional tomato sauce.

It was a good meal, though I was left wanting something just a little more to make it feel special.

Dessert definitely did not disappoint.

bowl of peach and blueberry cobbler overflowing with fruit filling

I was torn between the crème brulee and the peach and blueberry cobbler, finally settling on the cobbler. I made the right decision.

The blueberry-heavy sauce had bubbled over the sides of the mug with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Slices of peach were scattered beneath the puffy pastry topping.

It was just a little sweeter than I would have liked, but it was still an amazing ending to my meal.

slice of New York cheesecake drizzled with berry sauce with two strawberries and whipped cream

Julie’s sweet treat was New York cheesecake with orange sauce, garnished with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. It was delicious, especially with that hint of citrus throughout.

martini glass next to a martini shaker on a table

That wasn’t the only sweet treat that my wife enjoyed during our visit. Her chocolate raspberry martini lasted her through the meal.

And for two entrees, two appetizers, a pair of desserts and a martini, we still paid only $50. We’ve paid more than twice as much for three-course meals other places.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Panevino is not fine dining. They try hard, but it’s not the same as a meal at Dan’s at Green Hills or Heirloom.

Still, it was a nice night out in an underappreciated restaurant.

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Mikura was named Best Chinese in Berks.

Review: Mikura Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar

exterior of Mikura in Wyomissing, PA

Since starting weekly blogs in 2014, I don’t get much opportunity to make return visits to restaurants. It’s much more exciting to try someplace new than revisit the old.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like the places that I visited in the past. I just have to be more selective with where I go on a weekly basis.

One of the restaurants that I haven’t been able to visit in a long time is Mikura Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar.

I first visited Mikura almost four years ago, not long after it opened in a strip mall along North Park Road in Wyomissing. At the time, I was able to get there for the small weekday lunch buffet. I had enjoyed my meal but never had a chance to return, despite the fact that it’s just a five-minute walk from my house.

wooden seats in the dining area of Mikura

So finally, after Julie and I had taken countless walks past the restaurant, we stopped for dinner.

There are two sections to the restaurant. The main dining room and sushi bar are on the left. To the right is the hibachi space (where the lunch buffet was on my visit).

Mikura was actually the second restaurant for the owner of China Penn, and it shows with the extensive menu.

It includes a combination of Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes. It’s great until you have to make a decision.

two tall glasses with smoothies from Mikura

Thankfully Julie and I had one easy decision: smoothies. (We did walk there so we could afford a few extra calories). I’m not sure why so many Asian restaurants that I’ve visited offer smoothies, but I’m not going to complain about it because we always enjoy them.

Dinner was a harder decision. After looking through everything at least three times, I settled on the Thai Panang curry.

panang curry with chicken and vegetables from Mikura

I’m not an expert by any means, but the dish didn’t look like curry to me. It was very thin in texture and a lot lighter in color than any I have seen before. The lighter color was owing to the coconut milk base, but even Panang curry usually has a reddish brown tint to it.

That’s not to say that it didn’t look appealing in its own way. The chicken, broccoli, snap peas and peppers all looked appetizing, especially with the red chili flakes.

The coconut milk and the chili were definitely the predominant flavors. It was spicy, especially the after taste. I was glad to have my smoothie handy to cool down after every bite.

bowl of shrimp, mango and vegetables in sauce with a cup of rice from Mikura

Julie also went with a Thai-inspired dish, the Thai mango shrimp. The shrimp and mango were stir-fried with snow peas, bell peppers and asparagus in a mango sauce.

All of the ingredients were slathered in a glaze-like sauce, but it was the mango that provided most of the flavor, complimenting the shrimp quite nicely. The vegetables, cooked to al dente, added a crunchy texture.

Both of our entrees were served with a bowl of white rice on the side, which was very helpful in sopping up the runny sauces.

It was a good meal and the service was very quick. We were in and out in less than an hour.

plate with four orange slices and two fortune cookies in bags from Mikura

Our smoothies made it a little pricier than it otherwise would have been. The final bill was nearly $40, but $10 of that was the smoothies.

I was glad to finally make a return trip to Mikura. We both enjoyed our meals and look forward to returning again. And with such a large menu, there are plenty more dishes to enjoy.

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

Mikura Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar
840 N. Park Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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