Afghan Chicken & Gyro

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Afghan Chicken & Gyro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Taste of Hamburg-er Festival 2017

On a rainy Labor Day weekend, the 14th Annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival took over the streets of Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Berks County Eats braved the weather and enjoyed some of the unique burger creations that you will only find at the festival. Here’s a look back at our afternoon in Hamburg.

Driven by Food

I had not heard of Driven by Food until I saw the name on the festival website. But as soon as I saw that they were serving a chorizo burger, I knew the caterer would be my first spot.

The line wasn’t long, but the burgers were made to order so it was a good 10-minute wait until my name was called and my burger appeared in the window.

Chipotle mayo, cheddar jack cheese and a poblano pepper were piled atop a chorizo sausage patty.

The chorizo held its shape on the bun, but unlike a ground beef patty, this was melt-in-your-mouth. Chorizo itself has so much flavor that it made a perfect burger base.

While the poblano pepper served more as a garnish, the chipotle mayo added a zing to the dish. It wasn’t spicy, per se, but it was flavorful and tied all of the ingredients together.

Overall, it was an outstanding burger that I was glad I tried.

The Perk-Up Truck

Sometimes, you just want dessert first. The Perk-Up truck is Julie’s favorite food truck. Anytime she sees it, she has to have a smoothie.

With the Perk-Up Truck parked just a few stands away from Driven by Food, she just had to stop.

A peaches and cream smoothie was her choice on the day. It was rich, sweet and creamy, everything that you could hope for from a smoothie.

It was also filling, and helped calm Julie’s hunger until we found the burger she was looking for.

Scott’s Gyro Box

I knew that I wanted to try one more burger before I left. It came down to two choices: a gyro burger from Scott’s Gyro Box or a shepherd’s pie burger from the Hamburg Diner.

Both were on the same block as Driven by Food. In the end, the long line for the diner was the deciding factor for me choosing Scott’s.

I was going to get a gyro burger, but the tropi-terranean burger piqued my interest. Similar to the gyro burger, it was served on a pita and featured feta cheese, tzatziki sauce and lettuce (the Mediterranean) with the addition of pineapple (the tropical).

To make it worthy of a burger festival, sliced hamburger patties replaced gyro meat as the dish’s protein. This change didn’t result in much change in flavor as it was still very clearly a gyro. The biggest difference was made by the pineapple which added a bright, sweet flavor that worked surprisingly well with the more traditional ingredients.

It was a good second act, but didn’t quite match up to the chorizo burger.

Salem E.C. Church

Proudly proclaiming that its burgers are the most heavenly at the event, Salem E.C. Church is a multi-time award winner – again this year it was judged best burger for a local organization.

After hearing about it every year, Julie decided that this was the year to try it.

The Heavenly Hog burger is topped with bacon, French fried onions, balsamic vinegar and Italian cheeses, but what makes it unique is the blend of beef and pork in the patty.

It gave the burger a different flavor, almost making it sausage-like, but not as flavorful as the chorizo. The toppings were overloaded and fell out of the bun, but what remained were good. After experiencing the other flavors, the balsamic hits. It’s a lingering taste that evokes a love or hate reaction.

It’s a good burger that aspires to be great, but for us, it didn’t quite live up to the hype.

Winners

While we tried three burgers on the day, judges chose winners in multiple categories and fans picked one winner for the People’s Choice award. Here is a full list of the day’s best burger winners:

People’s Choice
Deitsch Eck
Lenhartsville

Best Restaurant
Bull & Bear
Allentown

Best Organization
Salem E.C. Church
Lenhartsville

Best Mobile Food Truck
Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzels
Hamburg

Best First Time Vendor
Video Burger
West Lawn

Food Festivals & Events

The Hot Spot

If you subscribe to the daily edition of the Reading Eagle, then you have likely seen the full-page advertisement for the Boscov’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market that runs every Wednesday.

Lately, I have been using it as a checklist and for inspiration for my blogs as I eat my way through the Farmers Market.

What caught my eye over the past few weeks was the note under the Scott’s Hot Spot section: “UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP”

Scott’s opened in 2010. A health issue forced the owner to close the stand for several months in 2015, but otherwise, it has been a staple in the market for seven years.

On April 12, the restaurant’s Facebook account announced the new owners: Roseann Rothenberger and Brian Miller, who are now running the stand and will soon rename it, “The Hot Spot.”

We decided to make it our latest Friday night stop on our Farmers Market odyssey.

The Hot Spot was certainly one of the busiest stands at the market, with a line to order and several people waiting at any given time. While we stood in line to order, we heard another customer complain about his order. “I said no onions on both,” was the cry before his food was remade.

Our food took a little while because of the line that had been in front of us. We probably waited 20 minutes before it was called and I could pick it up at the counter.

My entree choice was Scott’s traditional gyro, one of the items that had been a staple at the stand (and spawned a catering trailer called Scott’s Gyro Box).

Gyros are not something that I order very often. My only other gyro in my Berks County Eats journey was from Cafe Sweet Street so I was excited for another taste.

I really enjoyed it, especially the salad base. It had a flavor that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but it complemented the meat and tzatziki sauce nicely.

It was also very filling to where I probably didn’t need my side order of fries.

But I really wanted those fries, especially after I saw that they were red-skinned potatoes.

I was slightly disappointed with them. Red-skinned potatoes have such a strong flavor compared to Idaho or russet potatoes, but the natural flavor of the red skins didn’t shine through as much as I had hoped.

For French fries, they were good. They were a little oversalted, but good. But I was hoping for more.

Julie was a little perplexed by her order. She got the tuna meltaway, but was surprised to find that it really wasn’t a true tuna melt.

While the bread was clearly toasted, the cheese and tuna filling were still cold. That’s not to say it was bad, but you can’t call something a tuna meltaway and then not melt the cheese.

Her sandwich was much smaller than mine, though she wasn’t upset by that. For her, it was just the right size.

Also, her sandwich was supposed to come with a bag of chips, but we never got them (she wouldn’t have eaten them with her meal, but we would have taken them home for later).

Overall, there was confusion at the stand, as would be expected of a new business. Because of the setup at the farmers market, you can see the kitchen very clearly and the three people behind the counter seemed to be stepping on each others toes, leading to small mistakes.

I fully expect things to get better, especially as the menu shifts with the new owners. For now though, it’s a little scattered.

One thing that is still good is the pricing. Our meals (plus two bottles of water) cost $20 and change. That’s one great thing about all of the stands at the market – there’s low overhead costs so the prices are generally lower than if you ordered a similar meal at a restaurant.

The new Scott’s Hot Spot, soon to be The Hot Spot, has the makings of a great stand. It’s just not quite there yet.

Hopefully it reaches its potential because I want to come back in a few months and enjoy something new.

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

The Hot Spot
Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2934 N. Fifth St. Hwy
Reading, PA 19604

The Hot Spot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Farmers Market Meals Reviews

Cafe Sweet Street

cafe-sweet-street-from-street

If you live in Berks County, chances are you’ve indulged in a Sweet Street dessert at least once.

Sweet Street’s cheesecakes, pies, cakes and other tasty treats are well-known around here, and with distribution in more than 60 countries, it’s safe to say that they’re known worldwide.

But what is less well known is Cafe Sweet Street.

cafe-sweet-street-from-parking-lot

The Cafe is attached to Sweet Street’s corporate office building on Hiesters Lane. While the parent company is all about the sweets, the cafe is more in-tune with savory foods, offering a range of hearty options for breakfast and lunch.

That doesn’t mean it escapes its roots altogether. Just inside the front door, you are bombarded with the desserts that have made Sweet Street famous. In addition to serving fresh-prepared meals, the cafe serves as a retail store, with tables full of temptations.

We saw dozens of customers come through the door while we were there, and the vast majority of them were passing through simply for the desserts.

But we were there for something more, and when it comes to lunch, there are plenty of options to choose from.

cafe-sweet-street-dessert-case-and-menu

The menu is scrolled across the entire wall, only broken up by a tall TV screen that displays the weekly specials. The wall was filled with burgers, sandwiches and salads, each one sounding more tempting than the next.

It was hard to know where to begin until we saw a sign on the counter telling of the in-house flavored sodas. The first decision was made.

While Julie grabbed a high-top table by the window, I watched as our cashier became a barista of sorts. Our drinks were not pre-made but mixed on the spot. After scooping a full cup (16 oz.) of ice, she poured in the flavored syrup. Then she sprayed in the unflavored soda and stirred it with our straws.

cafe-sweet-street-sodas

I was a little put off when I saw the cups full of ice, especially after paying $3.00 ea. for the sodas, but I was actually glad to have it once I started drinking. The sodas were a little too syrupy at first, but once the ice began to melt, it helped tone it down. By the end, the flavors were just right and only a few ice cubes were left sitting at the bottom of my cup.

After a short wait, my food was the first to arrive. I had decided on the lamb gyro with a side of fries. It was something completely different for me—I had never so much as thought about eating a gyro before—but yet it seemed like the right thing to order on this day.

cafe-sweet-street-lamb-gyro

The pita was packed with grilled lamb, tomatoes, and a mound of onions. And the whole thing was oozing with tzatziki, the white Greek sauce that I mistakenly took to be melted cheese when I first saw it.

cafe-sweet-street-lamb-gyro-2

Instead I found that tzatziki is actually a yogurt-based sauce that is quite refreshing, especially given the hints of mint that work so well with lamb. It was a messy meal for sure, but one that I happily devoured.

The fries were much more familiar, but Cafe Sweet Street put a unique twist on it. The menu touted them as world famous, hand-cut, double-fried and seasoned to perfection. While I don’t know about “world famous” (I had never heard about them), they were certainly seasoned to perfection and quite addicting.

As much as I loved eating them, I was still happy that I only got a “baby” order because the regular order is a full fryer basket.

Julie munched on a few of my fries while we waited for her Caprese salad. After a few minutes, she went back to the cashier to check on it and was told “they are still working on it.” That’s restaurant code for, “sorry, we forgot to make it.”

cafe-sweet-street-caprese-salad

When it arrived, it looked beautiful: red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices and a balsamic drip. There’s no denying that it was delicious, but we were both expecting something a little bit more for the money ($9.00).

The one saving grace about having such a light lunch was that she had more than enough room for dessert.

Ordering dessert was another cause for confusion as there was a dessert counter (sparsley filled) with individual servings plus all of the aforementioned desserts at the entrance: the whole pies, cakes and sheets. In between is the cash register which had a list of the week’s featured desserts.

As it turns out, the featured desserts are the latter, not the ones meant for consumption at the table (though it would have been quite entertaining to watch us open an 8-inch square box of the salted caramel stack and dig in).

cafe-sweet-street-turtle-bundt-cake

Once we got this figured out, we ordered a turtle Bundt cake to share. All previous grievances disappeared with the first bite.

The cake was topped with pecans and caramel and drizzled with chocolate sauce. The molten center was rich and gooey. In a word, it was divine.

Cafe Sweet Street, like the desserts they serve, is an indulgence. Our lunch was more than $30.00, certainly not a bargain by Berks County standards.

But there’s no denying the quality of the cafe, the same quality that goes into every goodie that rolls off the assembly line next door.

Besides, it’s good to indulge sometimes.

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

Cafe Sweet Street
722 Hiesters Ln
Reading, PA 19605

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Cafes & Coffeeshops Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews