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

Relish the Deli-sh

On Berks County Eats, we are always looking for the best dining in Berks County – whether sit-down or take-out.

And as new parents, Julie and I are also looking for easy meals that we can make at home.

We found both at the Relish the Deli-sh.

Not to be confused with Relish, West Reading’s breakfast and lunch spot, Relish the Deli-sh is located in an otherwise residential section of Wyomissing.

As the name suggests, it is, first and foremost, a deli. But for locals, it serves multiple roles. It’s a place to do light grocery shopping. In the summertime, it’s a spot for kids to grab a cone of ice cream. And it is also a place to get a quick a meal – either grab-and-go sandwiches or prepared meals that can be reheated at home.

We were interested in trying both of the meal options: fresh-made sandwiches and something to make for dinner the next day.

The meal menu is actually quite large, all things considered. It features nine cold sandwiches, eight hot sandwiches, two dinner salads and a range of side salads (pasta, potato, etc.).

One man was working both the cash register and deli station. He grilled my hamburger, built Julie’s sandwich, scooped out our prepared meal and rang us up. It took about 15 minutes – my burger was grilled to order – before we were on our way back home.

I had kept it simple by ordering a hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion. A half-pound patty, and all the fixings were stacked on an ATV Bakery roll.

The burger exceeded all expectations. Even after a ride home in a plastic clamshell, it was delicious. The vegetables were fresh and flavorful. The burger, itself, was high-quality. And the roll was just the right size so it didn’t get in the way.

It was simple, but it was one of the best burgers I have had on a Berks County Eats visit.

One of the many things that Julie had a craving for during her pregnancy was an Italian sandwich. For nine months, cold cuts were off-limits. But Jakob is with us and this was a chance to satisfy her craving.

Relish doesn’t do a standard Italian sub. The deli offers the garlic Italian. It features all of your standard ingredients – meats, cheese, LTO. Then it gets kicked up a notch with garlic aioli and ciabatta bread.

Julie loved both additions. The aioli provided additional depth of flavor while the ciabatta bread was better than a boring hoagie roll. Overall, it was a great sandwich that more than satisfied her craving.

At the checkout counter, we made an impulse purchase of two white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

I’ve never met a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie that I didn’t like, and these were no exception.

So our first meal was a winner. What about the next night? That’s when we would try the Asian beef and white rice from the prepared foods.

I cooked off some baby carrots in the skillet before adding in the beef, rice and a little water to steam it in. The reheating process actually went better than I expected, and within a few minutes, we had a good looking meal on our plates.

And the taste was up there as well. The beef was actually cuts of steak, prime meat that was marinated in a sweet and salty sauce. It was simple, but very good. And the flavor held up, even after soaking into the rice.

It was a very good dish, and I look forward to trying other meal solutions from Relish the Deli-sh, but I probably wouldn’t get this again. Though good, I would probably just pick up Chinese take-out if I didn’t feel like making a similar dish myself.

That said, Relish the Deli-sh is certainly somewhere that we will return. With a newborn at home, we’re going to doing a lot of takeout and looking for a lot of easy meals. This is a place where we can do both.

And all for a reasonable price. Our two meals cost us a total of $30. It felt like a real value, especially for new parents like us.

But I’d recommend it for anyone who is looking for a quick bite or an easy-to-make meal at home.

Relish the Deli-sh does both. And they do both very well.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: N/A
Price: Reasonable

Relish the Deli-sh
105 Evans Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Relish the Deli-sh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Monte Lauro European Gourmet

A trip to Fairgrounds Farmers Market can be overwhelming for the unprepared.

There are sixty stands inside the Fairgrounds Farmers Market and at least 20 of them offer dine-in meals or snacks.

Even for Julie and I, deciding where to grab our meal is a daunting task.

On a recent Friday evening, we arrived at the market not yet knowing where to go. We surveyed our options as we paced up and down all of the aisles, hoping that something would catch our eyes.

That something was Monte Lauro European Gourmet.

The flagship location for the deli is on Mount Laurel Road in Temple (Monte Lauro is Italian for Mount Laurel) and is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays while the Farmers Market is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

One of the advantages that Monte Lauro has over other dining options is the common dining area across the aisle. On a Friday evening, when things are a little slow, there are plenty of seats to be had (you just may need to take a napkin and clean it yourself).

The selection is both limited and expansive at the same time, with eight cold sandwiches and five hot sandwiches, many of which are also available as paninis. There are also select salad options both as entrees and sides. The only other side available is French fries.

We placed our order, took our number and grabbed a seat. It was a short wait – maybe 10 minutes – until our number was called and I retrieved the tray.

For food being served on a cafeteria tray, it looked beautiful, especially my chicken cutlet sandwich.

Sliced in half, you could see the bright colors of the roasted red peppers and spinach that the cutlet sat upon.

I enjoyed the sandwich – particularly the roasted reds – but I wanted something a little more. The cutlet was OK, but nothing special, and I would have loved another slice of sharp Provolone.

Also, the roll was very good. It was heavy enough to soak up the juice from the roasted reds, but not too heavy to overpower the rest of the ingredients.

Julie’s homemade meatball panini looked just as good with beautiful grill marks on top, a hint of red from the marinara sauce and meatballs sliced perfectly for the grill press.

It was a good sandwich. The meatballs were solid though we’ve tried better. And I would have liked a little more sauce.

With little other choices, we decided to split a side of French fries to go with our sandwiches.

The thin cut fries were in the traditional fast-food style: skins off, cooked to a shade of golden brown and served in a paper bag. They were good and certainly helped fill us up, which is all you can really ask for from an order of fries.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Monte Lauro. It was fast, it was tasty and it was right around the $20 mark for the two of us.

I’d like to go back again to try the homemade sausage or one of Monte Lauro’s take-and-make Italian specialties.

Of course, we have many other stands to try first.

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

Monte Lauro European Gourmet
Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2930 N. Fifth Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

Farmers Market Meals Reviews Sandwich Shops

Crave Cafe

crave-cafe-counter

There is always a buzz around a new restaurant when it opens. The trick, however, is keeping the buzz going weeks and months after the opening.

We have seen a lot of new restaurants open in Berks County in the past few years, but none have been able to sustain the buzz quite like Sinking Spring’s Crave Cafe.

Crave Cafe opened at Green Valley Nursery last September, in the strip of stores off Route 422 behind the Charlotte Shoppe. It’s nearly invisible from the road, but that doesn’t stop the dining room from filling up every day at lunch.

The ambiance is truly unique. In fact, every table is unique. Each one has its own set of chairs, different styles, different colors and different sizes.

crave-cafe-fireplace

A pair of parlor chairs sit in front of a large stone fireplace. Highly sought-after, they are, at the same time, the most appropriate and most out-of-place chairs in the cafe.

Orders are placed at the counter where the cashier is set up with an iPad that’s connected to a cash drawer and credit card machine. We took our number and retreated to our little table for two (we made sure to save one before ordering, just in case).

It wasn’t long before our drinks arrived. Normally I don’t spend the money (or the calories) for a drink, but being at a cafe, I felt obligated.

crave-cafe-frozen-hot-chocolate-and-mango-smoothie

But instead of coffee or tea, Julie and I both went for frozen: a mango smoothie for me and a frozen hot chocolate for her.

Mine was good, but I was a little disappointed to see the syrup flavor going in when I was hoping for fresh fruit. Julie’s frozen hot chocolate did not disappoint, however. She happily slurped it down and was nearly finished by the time that our food arrived.

Both of us opted for the soup and sandwich combo. For me, it was a bowl of chili and an Italian chicken panini.

crave-cafe-chili

The chili thickened as the shredded cheese on top started melting. It had a good balance of flavors: not too spicy, a little sweet and plenty meaty. A bowl of it with some bread would probably make a nice meal on its own.

crave-cafe-italian-chicken-pannini

My sandwich was excellent. The Italian chicken came with grilled chicken breast, spinach, sun-dried tomato, mozzarella and basil pesto aioli.

Chicken and spinach poked out the sides of the sandwich along with the mozzarella that melted mozzarella that was oozing onto the plate.

The meat wasn’t the most flavorful I have had, but it didn’t need to be with the strong flavors it was paired with. I love pesto anything, especially when paired with sun-dried tomatoes. The mozzarella did well to keep everything together and hold most of the sandwich inside the grilled pita.

crave-cafe-soup-and-sandwich

Julie’s chicken and basil soup was the soup of the day for our visit. With little pastas and chunks of tomato, it looked like a pasta e fagioli, but there were no beans. Instead, the brothy soup was lighter with the basil providing light notes to go with the chunky ingredients.

For her sandwich, Julie went with the turkey bacon avocado. Turkey doesn’t have a lot of flavor to start which allowed the bacon, tomatoes and chipotle aioli to shine through. Likewise, the avocado took a back seat to the stronger flavors it was paired with. Overall, everything blended well together for a hearty and filling sandwich.

The soup and half-sandwich combos are very reasonably priced, but with the addition of our frozen drinks, our total came out much higher than it normally would for lunch at about $25.

Crave Cafe continues to generate buzz more than a year after it first opened. The relaxed atmosphere helps set it apart from other go-to lunch spots in the Sinking Spring area.

But it’s the food that keeps filling the tables at lunchtime.

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

Crave Cafe
4600 Penn Ave
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Cafes & Coffeeshops Lunch & Dinner Reviews