A bowl of edamame, quinoa, chickpeas and cranberry from the Greenhouse Cafe

The Greenhouse Cafe

A view of the outside of the Greenhouse Cafe from the parking lot.

The arrival of a new restaurant to Berks County is always welcomed. But when that eatery offers something different – when it adds a little more variety to the dining scene – it’s a little more exciting.

A little something different is exactly what the Greenhouse Cafe promises as Berks County’s newest vegan spot.

The Cafe is located in an outbuilding on the property of the Bell Tower Salon & Spa in Wyomissing (just off of State Hill Road near the intersection with Penn Avenue). I have never had a reason to go to Bell Tower myself, but Julie tells me the space was at least partially a retail store previously.

The main dining area of the Greenhouse Cafe with silver tables and chairs and brown walls.

Walking in the door, you don’t get the Greenhouse feeling. It’s very minimalist with plain brown walls and simple silver-colored tables and chairs opposite the large windows. The dining room to the right is where you really feel the Greenhouse and feel at home. Natural light pours in from the sides and from above. The seating is varied with both high-tops and more relaxed sitting areas. We sat on cushioned benches around a low-top table. A faux fireplace was unlit on the wall next to us.

The interior of the sunroom dining area with high top tables and cushioned benches at the Greenhouse Cafe

With the opening of the Greenhouse Cafe, Berks County now has four fully dedicated vegan eateries with Chen Vegetarian House in West Reading, the Firefly Cafe in Boyertown and HIVE in Kutztown being the other three.

A look at the rear of the sun room at Greenhouse Cafe, including bench seats and a high-top table.

The Cafe opened at the end of November with just drinks and baked goods. They slowly expanded their food offerings to include hummus and soups. The full lunch menu debuted on February 15.

Small plates include hummus and bean dips. There are several homemade dressings for your salad or grain bowl (including lemon tahini and ginger sesame). And entrees include chickpea by the sea (mock tuna), an egg-less salad sandwich and hummus and veggie sandwich.  

A plate with a chana masala sandiwch on a hoagie roll and a small cucumber salad from the Greenhouse Cafe

When it came to deciding on an entree, I was torn between the hummus sandwich and the rotating special, a chana masala sandwich. The special sounded too good to pass up.

Masala is an Indian tomato sauce (chicken tikka masala is probably the most well-known version of the dish in America); chana masala features chickpeas as the primary “protein” in the dish. For the special, the chana masala came served on a hoagie roll topped with pickled cabbage.

A plate with a chana masala sandiwch on a hoagie roll and a small cucumber salad from the Greenhouse Cafe

It was an excellent entree. The masala sauce was very nice and the chickpeas were cooked well but still had texture to them. There were times while eating the dish where the sauce and the roll reminded me of a Berks County cheesesteak. (The roll was delicious, by the way).

The sandwich came served with a side of cucumber salad. It was good, but there wasn’t much to it.

Julie made a meal out of a small plate of hummus and a side grain bowl of edamame, chickpeas, cranberry and quinoa.

A bowl of edamame, quinoa, chickpeas and cranberry from the Greenhouse Cafe

The bowl came out first with my sandwich. The server then appeared with a hummus sandwich only to retreat back into the kitchen for the plate of hummus that Julie had ordered.

Julie started on the bowl, which was very good. We make a quinoa dish at home with dried cranberries that we really like and this was even better. The edamame was softened just enough that it wasn’t crunchy but was still a little firm. The cranberries and (surprise) golden raisins added the sweetness that it needed to tie everything together.

A plate of hummus and pita wedges with carrots and celery from the Greenhouse Cafe

When Julie’s hummus plate arrived a few minutes later, it was worth the wait. The hummus was much thicker and more textured than store-bought hummus. It was also more flavorful with a nice dusting of spices on top. Julie was excited to come back and buy some hummus to-go so she could enjoy it at home, too.

It wasn’t just the hummus, though. The pita it was served with was as good, if not better, than we have found elsewhere. It was more dense than others and was packed with flavors (of course neither of us could put our fingers on what those flavors were that were shining through). We loved everything about it.

The only thing that was a little confusing to me was the menu said it was topped with shawarma. I only know shawarma as the meat that is sliced from the spit. I can only assume that it was a shawarma spice that was on top.

A green mug filled with chai tea latte from the Greenhouse Cafe

Beyond the food, I was very excited to try their house blend chai tea.

I don’t drink coffee, but I love a good chai latte. The Greenhouse has their own special chai spice blend and they use oat milk to keep it vegan. It didn’t have a foamy head like a lot of chai that I’ve had, but it had a nice aroma and flavor from the spices. The oat milk even added a little bit of an earthy flavor as well that I really enjoyed.

The sizing of our drinks didn’t make much sense, though. Julie ordered a small while I ordered a large. They were served in the exact same size cups. Hers was just filled slightly less than my own.

Our lunch was a little on the pricey side at $37 (about $10 of that were the drinks), but we thought it was worth it. The service was definitely a little off. It wasn’t just the sandwich/hummus plate mix-up either. As we were leaving, a line was growing as two employees looked over the screen of their point-of-sale system trying to find the menu item the customer wanted to order.

Those hiccups will get better with more time and practice. The food is already on-point, and that’s the most important part.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Excellent (in the Greenhouse Dining Area)
Service: Good
Price: A Little Pricey

The Greenhouse Cafe
18 State Hill Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Cafes & Coffeeshops Indian Lunch & Dinner Reviews Vegan & Vegetarian
A dish of baba ghannouj with olive oil drizzle from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

An exterior view of Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

When I was working in King of Prussia, there were options when I wanted Mediterranean food – schwarma, falafel, kebabs, etc. In Berks County, those are rarities on our restaurant menus.

But I did find all of those and more at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant in West Reading.

Aladdin has been around since 2009 when the restaurant renovated a former gas station adjacent to the West Reading Diner (now Americana Diner). More than 10 years later, Aladdin is still going strong, as we found out on a recent Saturday night.

A view of one of the dining areas at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant with a table for four in the foreground and a fireplace in the background

We arrived around 5:30, a little early for dinner, and found just a couple other tables taken in the dining room. Aladdin offers two dining areas. We were seated in a booth by the window in the standard dining room. It featured a large fireplace at one side with photos of beautiful coastal towns, musical instruments and other keepsakes from the old country adorning the walls.

A look at one of the dining areas at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant with red cushioned seats with pillows along a wall in front of large windows covered with red curtains.

The second room (on the right-hand side when entering the restaurant) has a completely different feel to it. Red curtains cover the windows behind a long row of cushioned bench seats with red and black throw pillows to support diners.

I didn’t remember until I did a little research that the building that currently houses the restaurant was formerly a Getty gas station. It certainly shows no signs of that today.

A plate with six rolled and stuffed grape leaves and a side of yogurt for dipping from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

At our table, I was struggling to make a decision as I looked over the menu. Aladdin promotes itself as offering the “best quality Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes,” and there are a lot to choose from. The one easy decision was choosing an appetizer – Julie and I agreed on stuffed grape leaves.

I first discovered stuffed grape leaves at the annual Greek Food Festival. I really enjoyed them there. And I enjoyed them even more at Aladdin.

Stuffed grape leaves opened to show a mixture of seasoned rice and ground beef from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

The stuffed leaves were shaped – and sized – like cigars and filled with rice and seasoned ground beef (a vegetarian option is available). The filling was very good; the beef had hints of many different seasonings and spices that I couldn’t immediately identify. The tangy leaves were done well, and it was a great beginning to the meal. Even Jakob, our often fussy two-year-old, ate his (the filling, at least).

Deciding on the main course was more difficult. Entrees at Aladdin include kebabs; schwarma; rack of lamb and lamb chops; various sautes and a range of vegetarian options. I settled on the chicken saute.

A plate with a stir-fry mix of chicken, green peppers, onions and tomatoes and a side of rice pilaf at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Though it sounds boring, it was anything but. The chicken breast was sauteed with green peppers, onion and tomato in a garlic sauce. I really enjoyed the olive oil-based sauce. It had enough garlic to really pop without overpowering the flavors on the plate. The tomatoes really stood out for me, too. They were diced and cooked so tender that they practically melted away. The tomatoes were like little bites of marinara sauce throughout the dish.

Many of the entrees, including both mine and Julie’s, are served with rice pilaf. The pilaf was lightly seasoned, but good. I did enjoy using it to soak up some more of the garlic sauce at the end.

A dish of baba ghannouj with olive oil drizzle from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Because that wasn’t enough food, the meal also came with a side: your choice of hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh or fattoush.

A plate with three thin pitas in the foreground with a glass of rose iced tea and a plate of stuffed grape leaves from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

I love baba ghannouj and was excited to try Aladdin’s version. I didn’t have to wait long as it was actually served as an appetizer along with a basket of pitas. Baba ghannouj, if you’re not familiar, it is basically hummus but it’s made with pureed eggplant as the base instead of chickpeas. It’s more moist than hummus, a texture I like better. I also prefer the flavor as it’s less nutty.

Aladdin’s version was everything I wanted it to be.

A skewer of lamb and onions atop a bed of rice pilaf with hummus in the background at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

While this was my first visit to Aladdin, Julie has actually been there twice for business lunches. And she has had the same thing on each visit: lamb kebabs.

The skewers feature large chunks of lamb mixed with onions, served over rice pilaf and choice of two sides. Lamb meat is so rich; I always enjoy it. But while it was grilled, it picked up this nice char that trapped in even more flavor. It was very good, and I understand why Julie loves it so much.

For her two sides, Julie ordered tabbouleh and hummus. The hummus came on the plate with the kebabs. It’s a very good hummus, but I still prefer the baba ghannouj (that’s just me, though).

A small plate of tabbouleh (parsley salad with tomatoes and lettuce) from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

The tabbouleh actually arrived early as an appetizer. Tabbouleh is a Mediterranean salad that uses parsley as the base green. Aladdin makes theirs with cracked wheat, tomato, oil and lemon juice (with some lettuce thrown in).

It’s really flavorful. I think the lemon juice shines nicely giving the whole salad a bright citrus flavor. I would order the salad as an entree on a return visit.

A plate with three chicken fingers and a handful of fries from Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

Not knowing how Jakob would take to the cuisine, we played it safe and ordered him chicken fingers and fries off the kids menu. We hadn’t anticipated that he would fill up on grape leaves and tabbouleh before it even arrived. Though he did eat some, we brought most of it home for him to have later in the week.

Two glasses of rose iced tea on a table at Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant

We were all stuffed by the end of the meal and didn’t have room for the baklava sundae that we really wanted. We did splurge a little when we ordered rose tea for our drinks. The iced tea was given a little rose flavoring (I believe it was from a syrup). It was almost like sweet tea but with a little extra herbal flavor that we found refreshing.

I have to admit that the meal was more expensive than we had anticipated at $78. Part of that was our rose tea ($4 each) and also the fact that we ordered an appetizer ($12). The entrees were $22 and $25, respectively. When you look at the portion sizes, though, I didn’t feel cheated at all.

Aladdin’s food is serving a niche here in Berks County, and I’m glad for it. The next time I have a craving for baba ghannouj, I know where to turn.

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

Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant
401 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Lunch & Dinner

Gourmand Cafe (Via Delivery Dudes)

As you might have already heard, there is a new addition to the Berks County Eats family – a baby boy! He’s due around Thanksgiving, but chances are he will make his grand entrance a little before that. (We’re just hoping he bakes a few more weeks!)

About a month ago, I was in the hospital and since then have basically been a home-body. The good thing is, I am pretty good at entertaining myself. The bad thing? I would love to be doing more active things! But I’m not, and this is just life’s way of telling me to take some time to relax before Baby B. arrives. (That’s the nickname for our little bundle.)

Thankfully, I’m still able to go out to eat so I can still be a part of the BCE experience. But when you’re stuck at home and kind of tired of leftovers and the same old stuff, you really want to have something yummy from outside the house.

Enter Delivery Dudes. Delivery service has been around for a long time. Think about all those pizza places delivering right to your door. Or even as far back as the milk man.

Delivery Dudes came into the Reading area in 2015. With so many independent restaurants popping up in Berks County, it is a much-needed service. It helps these businesses reach beyond the crowd that walks into their brick-and-mortars. And it helps busy customers that are looking for something other than their everyday lunch or dinner.

About a month ago, I was having a craving for Gourmand. I am not supposed to be driving, and without a ride to the Gourmand Café on Berkshire Blvd. in Wyomissing, I decided to order take-out through Delivery Dudes.

I ordered the tuna melt and their featured hummus.

The tuna melt arrived as an open-faced sandwich. I was pleasantly surprised because that also meant that I would be saving the second half for later. The melt is made with a house-made tuna salad, melted Swiss cheese and tomato on a toasted marble rye bread.  The salad was good and hearty, not runny at all. The rye bread was a nice addition and added a different kind of flavor to the sandwich. The sandwich is also served with their house-made potato chips which are always a favorite of mine.

The featured hummus looked amazing. I have to be honest though, as the baby is growing, it’s harder for me to eat a lot in one sitting without feeling REALLY uncomfortable. Pair that with the fact that I forgot that the sandwich comes with chips, I just couldn’t eat any more so I saved the hummus for a snack.

When I finally got around to the hummus, I loved it! The simple hummus was garnished with (I believe) roasted red peppers sautéed onions, and spring onions. The hummus came with house-made tortilla chips which were also amazing! The tortilla chips were fried and puffed up in the process, making them even more delightful.

So how does Delivery Dudes work? You’ll find a list of all participating restaurants on the website. Click on the restaurant you want to try and browse the menu. Add items to you cart and check out.

There is a $5.00 cash delivery charge per restaurant on all orders, no matter the size. If you choose to pay by CC, there is a $2 processing fee.

When I finished check-out, it gave me a delivery window of about 45 minutes. Boy, I was glad I was thinking ahead because when a pregnant woman is hungry, she wants it NOW!

Right on schedule about 45 minutes later, the delivery person pulled up in front of the house and brought the food right to the door. I added a tip to the total, which ended up being just under $25.

I have to admit, when I’m the only one ordering, $25 for lunch is kind of a lot, but it’s all about convenience.

It’s a great service if you’re ordering lunch for the office, a meal for the family, or dinner for you and your friends. But for one person, it’s not just practical.

That said, DD is providing a service and a great service at that. I’ll just make sure to order with Zach next time.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: N/A
Price: Reasonable (A Little Pricey w/ Delivery)

Gourmand Cafe
945 Berkshire Blvd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Delivery Dudes
deliverydudes.com/reading

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Panevino

panevino-exterior

Editor’s Note: Panevino now operates as a special event venue and caterer. Though no longer open daily for lunch and dinner, they are open for holidays and special dining events throughout the year.

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.

panevino-parmesan-pita-with-black-bean-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.

panevino-bread-and-oil

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.

panevino-arancini-di-riso

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.

panevino-spicy-crab-and-clam-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.

panevino-eggplant-parmesan

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.

panevino-rigatoni

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.

panevino-peach-and-blueberry-cobbler

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.

panevino-ny-cheesecake

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.

panevino-chocolate-raspberry-martini

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.

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

Dessert Finer Dining Italian Lunch & Dinner Reviews