Matt’s Steaks

Everyone wants things that are quick, convenient and quality. When you have a four-month old at home, convenience is everything.

Lining up someone to watch Jakob isn’t always easy. Even “spur-of-the-moment” decisions are not really spur-of-the-moment.

So when we decided to grab a quick bite after a recent trip to the grocery store, we had to find someplace close and fast.

That’s how we ended up at Matt’s Steaks in Spring Township.

A worn-out marquee on a home across the street pronounces “WELCOME 2 WHISKEY DITCH.” Long-time Berks Countians know the area across the railroad tracks from West Lawn as Whiskey Ditch. Today, most people know the area as “West Wyomissing.”

Matt’s is one of the few businesses left in the area. The sign out front also promotes two businesses that have long-since moved to more high-traffic locations along Penn Avenue: Sprecher’s Meats and Domino’s Pizza.

But Matt’s has survived – along with a hair dresser and auto shop – since 1991. On our visit, the staff were all wearing green football jerseys with “Matt’s” and the number 91 on the front. But don’t be mistaken, these were not in celebration of the Super Bowl champions. A Green Bay Packers hard hat hanging on a post in the kitchen says everything.

Matt’s is clearly popular. As we sat in our booth, we heard countless rings of the bell (it sounded like an old-school phone) as customers came through the door. Most of the business was takeout, but it’s a quiet spot to sit down and enjoy a meal.

Many of the customers that we saw during our visit were taking advantage of the Saturday specials: 70-cent hamburgers and 80-cent cheeseburgers. And at those prices, I can’t blame them.

But it is Matt’s Steaks, after all, so we were there for steak sandwiches.

I know it’s heresy but I’m not a cheesesteak guy. I much prefer my sandwiches with onions and sauce with no cheese.

Matt’s version is one of the best around. The soft roll was stuffed full with meat and topped with just the right amount of sauce. A base of sweet peppers (another add-on favorite of mine) made it feel like two different sandwiches – one with a little more bite than the other.

Of all of the ingredients, the one thing that made it stand out more than anything was the steak meat. It was juicy and somehow more flavorful on its own than similar sandwiches.

Julie ordered a chicken cheesesteak and when offered the choice of tomato sauce or ranch dressing, she couldn’t pass up the ranch. It was a great decision as the ranch created a very different sandwich from my own.

The chicken is a lighter meat and is generally more pre-seasoned than steak. But the addition of the ranch – messy as it was, added a creamy, herby flavor that was worth savoring.

Our side order of onion rings had actually arrived first, serving as more of an appetizer. I love onion rings but I don’t order them often because they just feel so much heavier than fries.

These were your typical fast food rings, lightly salted and exactly the what I was looking for.

With the addition of two bottles of water, our total bill was just shy of $20. I’m sure the table of four behind us, all of whom were enjoying the burger specials, had a tally even less than ours.

I also have to give credit to Matt’s for being baby-friendly. We had Jakob along on our outing and they had a high chair ready (his car seat didn’t quite fit correctly, but that wasn’t their fault) and the customer restroom had a changing table, an all-too-rare feature as we are starting to find.

Matt’s Steaks is a friendly place that’s great for our young family, and as Jakob grows up and learns to love hamburgers, I’m sure we will be visiting more often.

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

Matt’s Steaks
57 W. Wyomissing Blvd
Reading, PA 19609

Matt's Steaks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews Sandwich Shops

The Bridge Inn

the-bridge-inn

“We need to go there sometime.”

Both Julie and I say those words often as we drive past restaurants in our travels in and around Berks County.

In the past few weeks, we have said that often about The Bridge Inn in Pleasantville as we drove Route 73 on our way to and from Boyertown.

Finally, after saying it enough, we made a trip to the Oley Valley with the Bridge Inn as our destination.

The Bridge Inn has the feel of a great dive (I use the term lovingly). You can sense the character of the building — and hear it with every step across the wooden floor.

the-bridge-inn-interior

We chose to sit at one of the three random booths in a narrow room along the front of the building. On one side we could watch traffic breeze by on Route 73. On the opposite wall, an even more random antique couch sat empty. And at the far end of the room hung a floor-to-ceiling drape for those times when this room is closed off to the bar on the other side.

The menu is deep with bar food and beyond. Burgers and sandwich options are plentiful and there is a half-page of seafood options, as well as steaks, chicken, veal and pasta.

A few of the options stood out for originality, one of them being the tequila fettuccine.

the-bridge-inn-tequila-fettuccine

The pasta is tossed in jalapeno lime sauce with spinach, onion, peppers, cilantro and choice of chicken or shrimp (I went with chicken).

It was a hefty bowl, for sure. Specks of red and green popped against the dull-colored cream sauce and chicken breast slivers.

And it packed a decent punch. It wasn’t an overwhelming heat, but it was impossible to miss the jalapeno that lingered after every bite. The peppers and cilantro gave it some freshness, too.

the-bridge-inn-onion-rings

I finished a little more than half of it before I couldn’t take another bite. Not because I didn’t want more, but because the portion was too large, especially with a side order of onion rings to eat as well.

There really isn’t a side order that goes with this dish (other choices included fries, potato filling, mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed mushrooms) so onion rings were just what I was craving most among the available options.

They were fine, if a little greasy. But I certainly didn’t need them. I probably would have been happier with a starter salad and no sides.

Julie may have actually had more food than I did as her “Bridge Chicken” dinner came with two sides.

the-bridge-inn-bridge-chicken

The Bridge Chicken is sautéed with tomatoes, garlic, feta cheese, spinach and bacon with Dijon cream sauce. You could really taste the Dijon mustard, and it paired well with the smoky flavor of the bacon.

It was a unique mix of flavors, a deconstructed chicken sandwich of sorts. And Julie really enjoyed it.

For her sides, she chose a baked potato and corn nuggets. The corn nuggets were average, but she really enjoyed the baked potato, which was covered in coarse salt. Already a fan of potato skins, Julie was excited to have the extra salt on them.

She, too, took home nearly half of her chicken so our $42 was stretched into a few more meals.

There was a lot to like about the Bridge Inn, and judging from the crowd in the dining room, plenty of others thought so, too.

And now that we’ve been there, “we need to go there” is now  “I’m glad we finally went.”

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

The Bridge Inn
3 Covered Bridge Rd
Oley, PA 19547

Bridge Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews
PJ Whelihan's is Chickie's and Pete's kid brother

P.J. Whelihan’s – Reading

pj-whelihan-s-sign

The arrival of P.J. Whelihan’s to Berks County last fall was a big deal.

In the past year, search terms like “PJ Whelihan’s Reading” and “PJ Whelihan’s Wyomissing” have driven hundreds of clicks to news articles on this blog.

It’s not really a surprise. Since the first P.J.’s opened in Allentown in 1994, they have built their brand throughout greater Philadelphia. The Spring Township location was the 15th and farthest west for the franchise, finding a clientele that was obviously looking for them.

PJ Whelihan

And if P.J. Whelihan’s wanted to go big with its Berks County location, they picked the right spot. Toscani had built the restaurant into one of the largest in the area, with a spacious dining room complimented by the semi-enclosed outdoor patio.

Julie and I were seated at an oversized booth along the wall, one large enough to comfortably fit six or more.

Dead Jimmy was performing throughout the evening. His acoustic songs were mostly subtle background noise, but when he really let loose, our conversations had to turn to shouting just to be able to hear each other.

The menu is printed on the paper placemats, and is your typical bar food staples like burgers, sandwiches, fried appetizers and P.J.’s famous wings (the official wings of Wing Bowl).

Julie decided to start her night with a little drink (it is a bar after all). While P.J.’s is heavy on the beer selection, it did have a few frozen drinks available, including the creamsicle margarita, which looked more like a milkshake topped with whipped cream.

pj-whelihan-s-creamsicle-margarita

While Julie happily sipped it all night, she was hoping for orange creamsicle. Instead, it was slightly tart, like original frozen yogurt. It was good, but probably could have used just a little more sweetness.

On the back of the frozen drinks menu were the specials for the evening. One of them caught my eye more than anything on the regular menu: the avocado chipotle burger.

pj-whelihan-s-avocado-chipotle-burger

When the burger arrived, it looked great, but I had to dig to find the avocado. There was a roasted tomato slice and plenty of chipotle cream on top, but no avocado. Thankfully I found them, hiding beneath the large (probably 1/3-pound) patty.

The chipotle sauce was a little overpowering, and while I certainly enjoyed every bite, I thought it could have gone from good to great with a little less sauce and a little more avocado.

The burger was flanked by an order of P.J.’s “Famous Fries.” Crinkle-cut with an Old Bay-like seasoning, Famous Fries look and taste a lot like another Philadelphia-area favorite: Chickie’s and Pete’s Crabfries. The only differences being that P.J.’s is thicker cut and—at least this batch—a little saltier. They were still good, it just took a little more ice tea to wash them down.

Julie also ordered a side of Famous Fries to go with her entree of the choice, the short rib melt. The braised beef was topped with three kinds of cheese, but it was the provolone that really shined and made it an excellent meal.

pj-whelihan-s-short-rib-melt

P.J.’s short rib sandwich comes served with a mound of onion tanglers. Smaller and thinner than typical onion rings, the tanglers were more like something that would normally be served on a sandwich, not as a side. They were really good, but so rich that it was impossible for Julie to finish them.

Half of Julie’s fries and most of her onion tanglers came home with us so she could enjoy them throughout the week with her lunches. So for less than $25, we got more than a couple meals (our drinks brought our total over $30 for the night).

P.J. Whelihan’s doesn’t try to hide what it is. It’s a Philly sports bar, a place to catch the game with friends, enjoy some drinks, and eat lots of fried food.

It’s your local bar, just a lot bigger.

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

PJ Whelihan’s Pub & Restaurant
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Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews