Hive Red Thai Chili Bowl

HIVE

Hive Local Food Kutztown

Some restaurants serve a very specific niche. They identify and fill a need for the community around them.

In a college town like Kutztown, there are students from all walks of life. Along Main Street, there are what feels like an endless number of restaurants that are casting a wide net – pizza and bar food that appeal to a wide range of students and locals, alike.

But then there are places like Hive, a local organic farm-to-table cafe.

Hive Local Food Kutztown

The appeal for Hive is that it doesn’t have mass appeal. It’s tucked away along Sacony Alley, only one street off Main Street, but it feels like a mile away. The alley is quiet. Instead of storefronts, it’s dominated by the backyards – or back parking lots – of homes and businesses.

The “front door” for Hive looks more like the backdoor to a warehouse. Essentially, it is. The space that houses the cafe is repurposed industrial – a large room that would otherwise be very sterile and cold if not for the vibrant metal tables and chairs, the beautifully drawn menu signs, and the shelves of organic produce.

Hive Local Food Kutztown

It was a quiet Sunday, just after 12 noon when we arrived. There was just one table in use. We claimed the other four-person table and brought over a high chair for Jakob before placing our order at the counter.

Hive’s menu – full of vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian options, all organic – expands on Sundays, when additional brunch items supplement the regular lunch menu.

I ordered the heaviest out of the three of us – opting for both a noodle bowl and a smoothie.

Hive Red Thai Chili Bowl

My fin sùt sùt red Thai curry featured rice noodles, spiraled zucchini, carrots, kale, cilantro, lime wedges and scallions in a Thai curry sauce.

Like a pho noodle bowl, the sauce was a thin broth. Rather than a soup with vegetables cooked in the broth, many of the vegetables were placed on top of the noodle bed – the carrots added raw and uncooked.

The broth was definitely kicking, spicy enough to clear out my sinuses but not too spicy that I couldn’t enjoy the dish. This is where most of the flavor came from as rice noodles are rather plain on their own. Aside from the broth, it was a bowl of individual flavors, but I enjoyed it throughout.

Hive Queen Bee Smoothie

I was also glad to have the smoothie to ease the heat – especially because the one glass of spring water – though served in a very cool beaker – didn’t last very long.

It was the “Queen Bee,”  a strawberry banana smoothie with almond milk and bee pollen. I was a fan. It was sweet, but not overly sweet. It definitely helped cool down my burning mouth as well.

Hive Smoked Mozzarella and Mushroom Panini

For her meal, Julie went with the smoked mozzarella and mushroom panini. It was served on a locally made ciabatta bread. It was simple, but delicious. The smoky flavor of the cheese really shined through. And the mushrooms made for a nice, flavorful filler.

Hive Mixed Green Salad

Her sandwich came with a mixed green salad that was served as an appetizer.  It featured spring mix, beets, carrots and a strong, but enjoyable, balsamic dressing. The carrots were raw and cut thick so they were a little more challenging, but the beets added a nice note to the salad. And everything tasted like it came right out of the garden that day.

Hive offers two kids items – a grilled cheese and the a PB&J. We ordered the grilled cheese because it’s something we know he has eaten at daycare. But I can tell you, they don’t serve it like this at daycare.

Hive Kids Grilled cheese

The grilled cheese featured a sharp cheddar that was bright orange and full of flavor. And the wheat bread from Daily Loaf Bakery was delicious, especially toasted as it was. Jakob (and mommy and daddy) thoroughly enjoyed it. He finished half of it at the restaurant. The other half went home in a box with the banana that was served as a side (he also got a juice box with his kids meal).

A lot of times, “organic” is synonymous with “pricey,” but I thought our meal was very reasonable. For a noodle bowl, panini, smoothie and a kids meal, we paid just under $40. I would pay that again for our meal.

Hive serves a specific niche, sure, but the food is definitely good enough to expand the customer base. Yes, the cafe specializes in vegan, vegetarian and organic foods. But it’s a cafe first.

And it’s a good one at that.

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

Hive
236 W. Sacony Alley
Kutztown, PA 19530

Lunch & Dinner Reviews Vegan & Vegetarian
Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tuscan Pasta

Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

At the end of 2017, Berks County lost a mainstay of the finer dining scene when ViVA Good Life Bistro (then known as Fields Kitchen & Bar) closed its doors.

The Wyomissing restaurant had been ahead of its time – at least by Berks County standards – with a modern menu and a younger vibe.

When the restaurant closed, I had concerns about whether a replacement would appear. Sure, it had high visibility from Penn Avenue, a large parking lot and a hotel next door. But it was also one of the largest spaces in the county (that means a larger staff) and the construction (or is it deconstruction?) across the street at the former VF Outlet doesn’t help the ambiance.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

But my fears were unfounded and a new restaurant has taken over the space: Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits.

Brickstone’s is the newest offering from the owners of Austin’s, Coastal Grille, and the region’s J.B. Dawson’s restaurants (Select Grille LLC).

Inside, it hasn’t changed much since the days of ViVA. From the main dining area to the bar and lounge, it feels very much like the former restaurant.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

The menu is a great complement to Austin’s. There is some crossover, and the types of foods offered are similar, but Brickstone’s has built upon the familiar to create something new.

And the menu knows no cultural boundaries. Tikka masala, pad Thai, enchiladas and the South Philly spaghetti and meatballs can all be found in one place at Brickstone’s.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tex-Mex Egg Rolls

Julie and I started our meal with the Tex-Mex egg rolls, a delicious cultural mash-up with chicken, corn, black beans and cheese.

I’ve had similar before, but that didn’t make this any less appetizing. Everything about it worked, especially the avocado ranch dipping sauce. It added a nice, cooling touch to the mild spice.

For our main courses, we went in completely different directions.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tuscan Pasta

I went Italian with the Tuscan pasta. It featured penne pasta with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a Parmesan cream sauce.

It felt like a dish I had before at Austin’s – maybe it was a special once, I’m not sure – but it was very good.  I love sun-dried tomatoes, and Julie and I are always looking for recipes that use them. The sauce was rich and creamy. Even the spinach was a nice little throw-in.

All in all, it was one of the best pasta dishes that I have had outside of a traditional Italian restaurant. And it’s definitely one that I would order again (perhaps for Julie and I to split as half of it went home with us).

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Coconut Curry Bowl

Julie’s dish was more reminiscent of south Asia. Her coconut curry bowl included chicken, carrots, broccoli, onions, green beans and zucchini in a Thai red curry sauce, served over rice.

The vegetables were fresh, the chicken was done well, but the real flavor in a dish like this comes from the sauce.

At first, she didn’t even notice the heat. But as the dish went along, her bites got more and more spicy. Now, neither of us will ever claim to have a high tolerance for spicy food so this may taste milder to others. The spice level was certainly high for Julie, but not high enough that it made the dish unenjoyable.

She brought some of her dish home, but not as much as I did.

Julie also added a drink (not pictured). This being a date night, and one of the few evenings where Jakob – now 10 months old – was not with us, it seemed the perfect opportunity for us to unwind a little.

With entrees, appetizer and drinks (I had an iced tea), our total was between $45 and $50. Our service throughout the night was very good, though it seemed to take a while for us to get our check (we were happy to savor the alone time so we didn’t mind).

It was a great night at what is surely to be another hit for the popular restaurant group.

And it certainly is a great fit for a location that could have easily fallen away with the closure of ViVA.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent
Service: Good
Value: Reasonable

Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits
901 Hill Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Mikura was named Best Chinese in Berks.

Mikura Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar

mikura-exterior

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.

mikura-interior

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.

mikura-smoothies

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.

mikura-thai-panang-curry

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.

mikura-thai-mango-shrimp

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.

mikura-check

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

Mikura Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Asian & Pacific Islands Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Hong Thanh – MOVED

Editor’s Note: Hong Thanh has moved. The restaurant is now located at 22 N. 6th Street in downtown Reading and renamed Lang Restaurant. This was also the restaurant’s location prior to moving to Broadcasting Square.

When you think of Berks County cuisine, what do you think of?

Many probably think of a bowl of chicken pot pie, a platter of schnitz und knepp or other Pennsylvania Dutch specialty.

Others may think of homemade pasta, a south-of-the-border recipe or barbecue chicken.

One thing I have learned since starting Berks County Eats is that we are blessed with amazing variety when it comes to dining options.

Still, if you asked me what I think of when I think of Berks County cuisine, a Vietnamese sauté probably would not have been very high on my list.

Hong-Thanh

From the outside, Hong Thanh looks very much like many area Asian restaurants. Its location – a strip mall inside the Broadcasting Square Shopping Center in Spring Township – doesn’t allow for much of an exterior. A large silhouette of a mystical-looking woman adorns one of three tinted windows.

Past the large statue that stands guard inside the doors, the dining room opens up. A bright yellow booth seat runs the length of the far wall. Across the room, small tables for two are raised above the dining room.

The menus are small, but the items on them are varied. For those looking for the familiar, Hong Thanh offers a variety of lo mein, fried rice and beef, chicken and pork stir-fry.

Sauteed-Onions-Garlic-and-French-Butter-Hong-Thanh

But my eye never made it past the first of the “specialties” items: sautéed onions, garlic and French butter. The dish comes with your choice of three meats, and though I consider myself to be an adventurous eater, I was not feeling adventurous enough to try the squid. Instead, I added the cubed filet mignon, and was glad I did.

The meat was extremely tender and had soaked up a lot of the flavor from the French butter sauce, which was sweet and a little salty from the addition of soy sauce, making the filet extra juicy as well. The dish is served with a cup of lime-based dipping sauce which worked with the flavors of the dish to create a sweet and sour dynamic that took it to another level.

Rather than serving as a bed for the meat, a scoop of white rice was served in a side bowl. Instead, the plate was filled out with the addition of a simple lettuce and tomato salad that went well with both the dipping sauce and the French butter.

Pork-Lemongrass-Curry-Coconut-and-Peanuts-Stir-Fry-Hong-Thanh

The other item I wanted to try was a lemongrass and curry stir-fry. Thankfully, that was the item that caught my wife’s attention. The stir-fry also included coconut, peanuts and choice of meat (in this case, pork) and was served with lo mein noodles.

The noodles were angel-hair thin and created a delicious tangled web atop the plate. The stir-fry itself was a sweet and spicy combination, with the curry coming through strong. The addition of the lemongrass also helped make this a little more authentic than the “Americanized” stir fries that feature broccoli and similar vegetables.

Vietnamese-Banana-Cake-Ginger-Ice-Cream-Hong-Thanh

After our meals, we had just enough room for dessert, a slice of Vietnamese banana cake served with a small scoop of ginger ice cream.

The dessert was more pie than cake, with large chunks of bananas sandwiching a layer of thick cream, surrounded by a moist crust. The ginger ice cream, one of several homemade ice cream options, added some spice to go along with the sweet cake. The two pieces were enjoyable together, but could also stand individually.

For $45, we enjoyed a meal that went outside of our traditional comfort zone and forced us to experience new flavors.

Though Hong Thanh has only been at its current location since late 2012, the business has been serving Berks County for nearly 30 years, an eternity in the restaurant business.

Vietnamese cuisine will probably never become synonymous with Greater Reading, but Hong Thanh serves as a reminder that Berks County’s food scene is rich with diversity.

Hong Thanh Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Asian & Pacific Islands Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews