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
Gourmand Food Truck

Gourmand Artisan Street Food

Gourmand Food Truck

The food industry is all about trends. Fads come and go.

Berks County has seen it many times in recent years. We are just coming out of a boom period for barbecue where it seemed every other restaurant that opened was serving smoked meats.

We saw the same thing with fro-yo. Just the other year, Berks County saw a half-dozen or more frozen yogurt spots open up around the county.

But while the industry ebbs and flows, its the innovators that thrive.

One of the hottest culinary trends today is food trucks. The restaurants on wheels have become increasingly popular in the last two years.

And the truck that truly started the revolution in Berks is Gourmand.

Advertising itself as “artisan street food,” Gourmand wasn’t the first food truck in Berks County, but it is arguably the most recognized. Its success has spawned two brick-and-mortar locations: one inside Body Zone in Spring Township and another on Berkshire Boulevard in Wyomissing.

The Gourmand Food Truck at West Reading Farmers Market

It seems like the distinctive two-tone truck with the gray hex sign is at every major outdoor event or concert.

Though the Gourmand truck makes its rounds across the county, we found it close to home, set up along Penn Ave in West Reading for the West Reading Farmers Market where the truck is a regular fixture.

One of the great things about food trucks is that the menus are ever-evolving. Menu boards are erased every day, allowing for daily innovation and creativity. And creativity certainly describes Gourmand’s menu on this day.

Gourmand Food Truck Menu

The day’s menu included a lot of things that you won’t see anywhere else in Berks County, like truffled goat cheese fries, lobster tacos and The Berks, one of Gourmand’s signature sandwiches.

The Berks Sandwich

The Berks is a work of pure genius. It starts with fried sweet bologna on a toasted hamburger bun. Then it’s topped with cream cheese, apple butter, and potato chips.

It’s a delicious combination of savory, sweet and salty. Fried Lebanon bologna will always be a favorite of mine (thanks to the Kutztown Fair), but cream cheese and apple butter add a layer of creaminess. And who doesn’t love putting potato chips on their sandwich?

Gourmand Fries

Another of Gourmand’s signature concoctions is the Gourmand fries. The truck’s standard fries are tasty, fast-food-style fries, but this takes them to a whole new level.

The standard fries are topped with fried pastrami, crispy bacon, provolone, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli. Pastrami sounds like the odd-man-out in this dish, but it makes a great substitute for a more expected meat, like pulled pork. It’s a side dish that eats like an entree, and a very good one at that.

Gourmand Trio Cheese

Everything on Gourmand’s menu gets turned up a notch, even their take on grilled cheese. The “Trio Cheese” sandwich featured mozzarella, provolone and gruyere on Italian bread. It was grilled to perfection and the three cheeses blended perfectly together. Unbeknownst to Julie, her grilled cheese sandwich also came with fries, but we happily added them to our other pile, half of which went home with us.

In French, gourmand literally means glutton or gluttony. And that’s pretty much how we felt when our meal was over.

Gourmand’s sandwiches are all less than $10 apiece (both of ours were priced at $7) so a meal won’t break the bank. Even with our additional fries and a pair of drinks, our total was less than $25.

The food truck craze is still going strong in Berks County, but it’s hard to say for how long it will last. Fads come and go; it’s just the nature of the business.

One thing I can say with confidence: when food trucks are no longer the talk of the town, you’ll still be able to find artisan street food at Gourmand. It’s just too good to go away.

Food Trucks Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Hunt’s Battlefield Fries

Gettysburg-National-Cemetery

Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us 86 miles southwest of Reading to Gettysburg, PA.

As Independence Day approaches, plans are being made for parades, fireworks and family barbecues. It’s a day of celebration and revelry across America as we celebrate all of the freedoms we enjoy in this land.

But it is just as important to remember those who sacrificed everything so that we may continue to live free.

Nowhere in American does “freedom” take on such a somber meaning as it does in Gettysburg.

It was July 1, 1863, 151 years ago this week, that Union and Confederate soldiers engaged in the first of three days of fierce fighting in and around the county seat of Adams County, Pennsylvania.

Today, the battlefield stands a solemn reminder of ultimate price that was paid for independence. Devil’s Den. Little Round Top. The Peach Orchard. Cemetery Ridge. All places around town that have become etched in American history.

A century-and-a-half later, the Civil War is big business for the town, as millions pour in to Gettysburg each year to pay their respects. In town you’ll find museums, storefronts and restaurants that add “Lincoln” and “Union” to their names to attract visitors.

hunt-s-battlefield-fries

At first glance, Hunt’s Battlefield Fries is just another one of those businesses. Adding the word “battlefield” and hanging bunting from the front porch makes it seem like just another tourist trap at first glance, but we decided to give it a try anyway.

Inside, the decor is best described as busy. One wall appears plucked from a Nashville club circa 1998 as autographed photos of Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and other leading ladies of country music cover every inch. Opposite are a collection of faux tin signs.

And then there are the hats, hundreds of them. Each one bears the name of a U.S. Army brigade, Air Force squadron, Naval warship or other military unit. It’s a bizarre, yet touching tribute to all those who have defended America in the last 240 years.

But Hunt’s is a restaurant first, and it is the food that had customers lining up for a table in the sardine can that passed for a dining room. At least in the summer months the outdoor patio is a viable seating option, otherwise there would be room for no more than 20 diners at a time.

Kutztown-Soda-Reading-Draft-Soda

Upon seating, we were explained that all food is made to order so the wait would be about 40 minutes so we searched through the incredible collection of sodas before finding a pair of Berks County favorites and passing the time with a trivia booklet sitting on the table.

Hunt-s-Battlefield-Fries-Burger-Chili

As the name implies, the Hunt’s offerings start with fries, with burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches filling out the remaining menu. I decided a chili burger would do well and was not disappointed. The burger was cooked perfectly and the chili was excellently seasoned, adding a little sweet and a little heat. The fries were fresh-cut, and I gave them a vinegar bath and tossed on a few sprinkles of Old Bay and Cajun seasoning from the toppings bar. A little crispy on the outside, but still a beautiful golden brown, the fries were made that much better by the add-ons.

Hunt-s-Battlefield-Fries-Grilled-Cheese

On the other side of the table, my wife was enjoying an American classic of her own: grilled cheese with tomato and bacon (because a plain grilled cheese was just not enough). The bacon and tomato added more crunch, a little salt and a lot more flavor. And because she can’t get enough cheese, she also added a side of cheese sauce for her fries.

A burger, grilled cheese and fries in Gettysburg, our food at Hunt’s Battlefield Fries were about as American a meal as you can get, all for about the price of admission to the park’s museum and Cyclorama.

From Hunt’s, it is just a short drive to the actual battlefield, the place where freedom for all Americans was ensured 150 years ago. And this all-American meal feels right at home there.

Hunt's Battlefield Fries on Urbanspoon

Lunch & Dinner Reviews