B2 Bistro's steak frites - steak with fries and Brussels sprouts

B2 Bistro + Bar

B2 Bistro is located in first floor of the former Narrow Fabrics factory.

In more than five years of Berks County Eats, there have only been a handful of restaurants that arrived with the hype of B2 Bistro + Bar. Recently opened in the former Narrow Fabrics building in West Reading, the restaurant had been anticipated since the first tenants moved into the Lofts at Narrows, the luxury apartments on the upper floors.

B2 Bistro has an unfinished look, including exposed beams and rough-hewn paint.

The creative re-use of the building has led to a unique atmosphere. “Unfinished” paint and exposed beams – some still with original safety warning posters – can be seen throughout the space. A large rectangular bar is surrounded by high-top tables with a couple booths along the sides. A row of stools can be found in front of the open kitchen, providing a unique experience for diners wanting to watch their chef in action.

Guests can sit at the chef's table and watch their meals being prepared.

On the opposite side of the room, large garage bay doors open to create an outdoor feel during the warm weather months.

Another smaller dining room is located toward the back of the building and features low-top tables for those who prefer them.

The best way to describe the menu is eclectic. There are shareable small plates, pasta dinners, a raw bar, pizza and charcuterie. Other mains include everything from the 50 oz. bone-in ribeye (shareable for most) and roast suckling pig to burgers and chicken.

B2 offers an oversized bowl of French onion soup

We decided to start off our meal with a couple small plate appetizers. I ordered the French onion soup, expecting a typical crock.

What I got was an enormous bowl about twice the size of what normally constitutes a “bowl” at most restaurants. It could have easily been a meal by itself, especially with how good it was. It was heavy with onion and thick chunks of bread. And there was more than enough cheese layered on top to go with every salty-sweet bite.

The beautifully presented shrimp cocktail with six interlocked pieces of shrimp.

Julie also ordered an appetizer, the shrimp cocktail. As she told me, she was craving shrimp for a while and was not disappointed.

The six shrimp were presented beautifully, each one connected gracefully. While cold shrimp are cold shrimp, these were colossal in size and even better for scooping into the cocktail sauce. Julie’s craving was satisfied.

A big bowl of pasta Bolognese from B2 Bistro.

Deciding on a main course wasn’t easy but I eventually settled on the Bolognese pasta, one of five such pasta options on the menu. The pappardelle pasta was served with a sauce of Iberico pork (an imported meat from the Iberian peninsula of Europe), veal, tomato, cream and grana cheese.

It was a good meal – very hearty and more than enough food – but I had enjoyed the soup more. I have also had Bolognese pasta other places and I didn’t find that this version stood out among the others.

B2 Bistro's steak frites - steak with fries and Brussels sprouts

For her meal, Julie had opted for the steak frites – steak in demi glace, served with fries and Brussels sprouts. The steak was cooked beautifully and the semi-sweet demi glace paired beautifully with the savory cut of meat.

The fries were good – thick, fresh-cut fries and plenty of them. Brussels sprouts are a vegetable where you can only do so much to them. They were fine but better with a little of the demi glace.

B2's focaccia bread featured thinly sliced tomato baked on top

Before our meals arrived, we were served a plate of thick focaccia bread, unique in that there were thin slices of tomato baked into the top. It was served with a cup of oil for dipping and was very good.

Take one look through the Yelp reviews and you’ll see a range of opinions, mostly centered on price and service.

A thread guide from Narrow Fabrics hangs on the wall in one of the private rooms.

As for price, our final total was around $80. It wasn’t a cheap night out, but with two appetizers, an iced tea and two entrees (both of which were enough that we took home leftovers), I can’t say we were cheated, but the price of every item was a couple dollars higher at B2 than other places. A margherita pizza, for example, costs $12 at B2; the same costs $9 at Nonno Alby’s a block away.

The service was fine during our visit. Our server was a little slow to take our food order and with our check at the end of the night, but we were still in-and-out in just under an hour so it wasn’t a long wait by any means. (And I didn’t mind that he called me “boss” throughout our visit).

Overall, I was impressed. It’s a cool spot and all of the food was good-to-great. Though I saw high chairs, it’s not a place we would take our little one (he spent the evening with his grandparents).

But for a date night or a night out with friends, B2 Bistro + Bar is a good choice.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Service: Good
Price: A Little Pricey

B2 Bistro + Bar
701 Reading Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Juliana's Tigliatelle alle Norcina

Juliana’s

Juliana's

In 2015, we paid a visit to what became one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Berks County – Basil Restaurant and Pizzeria.

Located in the village of Fritztown, just outside of Sinking Spring, Basil was headed by Chef Gianluca Longo, whose resume included stints working for Giorgio Armani’s restaurant in Milan and De Niro’s Restaurant in Miami.

The restaurant closed abruptly in April 2017, and in its place, Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant arrived. Cosa was a worthy replacement, but unfortunately it closed after less than a year.

Juliana's

Fast-forward to the summer of 2018, and what’s old is new again. Juliana’s is the new restaurant in town, but it’s headed by a familiar face – Chef Gianluca.

Juliana's Bar

The interior of the restaurant has evolved. It’s still split into two seating areas, but they feel more cohesive, whereas before there was a distinct difference between the restaurant and the pizzeria. A bar has been added, replacing the waterfall that once adorned the dining room wall.

Juliana's Dining Room

Juliana’s menu features a mix of classic Italian pasta dishes, pizza and sandwiches with rotating dinner specials.

We started our meal with an order of homemade ricotta balls. The cheese was rolled, baked to a light crisp on the outside, and served in the house marinara sauce.

Juliana's Ricotta Balls

The red sauce was nearly perfect – thick with tomatoes and just a little sweet. The ricotta melted in your mouth and worked so well with the sauce. It was an excellent starter.

Juliana's Salad

Also with our meals came starter salads with choice of dressing. I enjoyed the fact that the salads were actually prepared – instead of whole cherry tomatoes and large slivers of onion, both were diced and mixed in with the greens. It wasn’t the largest salad but it was large enough with a full meal to follow.

Juliana's Pasta Al Forno

I ordered my entree, the pasta al forno, off the special menu. The dish featured penne pasta in Bolognese sauce with soppressata (a type of salami), ham, peas and mozzarella.

I have to say, first impressions were not that impressive. The Bolognese was fine but my first bite had just ham, and it really didn’t do much for me.

Then I took a bite with the soppressata, and the whole complexion of the dish changed. The meat was packed with flavor, a spice that complemented the Bolognese perfectly. And after that first bite, the flavor stuck with me through the whole plate. The longer I ate, the more the flavors mixed and the better the dish became.

Juliana's Tigliatelle alle Norcina

Julie ordered the tigliatelle alle Norcina off the regular dinner menu. Her pasta was tossed with pancetta (think Italian bacon) and onions in a white cream truffle sauce.

She really enjoyed her dish. Pancetta is a great addition to any pasta dish, but it starred here. The truffle sauce was a perfect partner for the salty pancetta. The pasta was homemade and cooked perfectly tender. And the shaved parmesan finished off the dish nicely.

Juliana's Bread

I also want to mention the complimentary bread basket that included slices of olive loaf and toasted Italian bread served with oil and balsamic. Did we need it? No. Did we eat it all? Yes.

Our service was also very good – though there really were not many other people in the restaurant with us for our Sunday dinner. (It was the first week of pro football so I didn’t expect to have much company).

The final bill – just shy of $50 – felt right for a nice night out.

We’re happy that Juliana’s is here. Basil was a favorite of ours and our extended family and the new restaurant, while completely renovated, feels familiar.

And the food is just as good as we could have hoped.

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

Juliana’s
776 Fritztown Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Billy Burger earned the title of Best Burger

5 Favorite Entrees of 2017

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. We’re finishing our year-in-review with the main course. Here are our five favorite entrees we tried in 2017.

1 Potato Two – Eggplant Parmesan Spudwich

For the uninitiated, a spudwich is a sandwich where the bread or roll has been replaced by a deep-fried potato sliced lengthwise. The novelty of it was intriguing. But the taste, that was amazing. It was messy, it was greasy, but it was delicious. The fried eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese may not have been as much of a standout on its own, but in a spudwich, it was memorable. Read Full Review

Billy Burger & Bakery – The Ranch Burger

Billy Burger earned the title of Best Burger

The last time a burger made our end-of-the-year favorites list was in 2014 (Frank and Diannah’s). This year, Billy Burger made the cut with its Ranch Burger. The burger starts with lettuce and tomato, but then it gets crazy with the addition of a grilled poblano pepper and buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing. The cool ranch mixed with the mild pepper and a well-cooked burger made it one of my favorite handhelds of the year. Read Full Review

Cosa Pizzeria and Restaurant – Ragu alla Bolognese

Cosa's ragu bolongese has layers of flavor from the sauce, homemade pasta and herbs

Cosa is a newcomer to Berks County – opening in the former Basil Restaurant and Pizzeria location outside Sinking Spring. The ragu alla Bolognese was a stand-out dish. Featuring house-made pappardelle pasta tossed in a veal and sofrito ragu, I became an instant fan of Cosa. Read Full Review

Folino Estate Vineyard and Winery – Drunken Pasta

The second pasta dish on the list is nothing like the first. The drunken pasta at Folino Estate is infused with red wine to give it a distinct purple hue, then it was cooked in wine (for good measure) and served with chicken and shaved Pecorino Romano cheese. It was unlike anything that I have ever tried, and it’s a must-try (and I’m not even a wine lover). Read Full Review

Willoughby’s on Park – Dry-Aged Ribeye

The 20-ounce dry-aged ribeye at Willoughby's on Park

This year, I saved the best for last. It’s almost not fair to compare a steak from Willoughby’s on Park to anything else in Berks County because the high-end steakhouse feel of Willoughby’s is unlike any other restaurant experience in the county. And my steak, combined with the mission fig Cabernet reduction (for a non-wine drinker, I certainly ordered a lot of wine-infused meals) was about as close to perfection as I could have wanted. Read Full Review

 

Best of Berks County Eats Entrees