el jefe taco with steak, onion and chorizo from Comalli Taqueria

Comalli Taqueria

Looking at the blue front door of Comalli Taqueria

The transition from food truck to brick-and-mortar restaurant is something we’ve seen before in Berks County. Two notables come to mind: Gourmand and Sweet Ride. Gourmand now operates two locations in addition to the food truck, while Sweet Ride has it’s ice cream parlor in West Reading (where they are now making their own ice cream) to go along with a truck and the original ice cream cart.

With its recent opening in West Reading, you can now add Comalli Taqueria to that list.

The spacious interior of Comalli Taqueria

It was last fall that Comalli Taqueria debuted its food truck, crisscrossing the county and the region serving artisan tacos. We first gave them a try early this summer at the inaugural Berks County Taco Fest.

We enjoyed everything that we tried so when it was announced that Comalli would be opening a small restaurant in West Reading, it got us excited.

A skull and other sculptures sit on the counter at Comalli Taqueria

The restaurant celebrated a grand opening on November 2, and one week later, we were stopping by to get take-out for the first time.

Comalli offers online ordering so I took advantage of that, placing an order for pick-up “ASAP.” Originally, I was given an estimate of 35 minutes. I got a text message that it was ready less than 20 minutes later (thankfully, I was actually pulling into a parking space in front of the building at the time, taking a chance that it would be ready a little early).

A Coke cooler in an otherwise empty part of the dining area of Comalli Taqueria

While we weren’t dining inside, there was a couple sitting at one of the four tables in the dining room. It’s a nice space, if not a little understated. A few decorations hang on the walls and from the ceilings, but along with blue accent walls, they provide the only real bursts of color in an otherwise monotone space. I think it’s more pronounced because there was actually a large empty space in the room that could hold a few more tables and chairs.

My food was being packed up when I arrived, and a minute or so later I was back out the door and headed home with six tacos – one of each variety offered – and a quesadilla for our toddler. (Comalli also offers a limited selection of sides, including chips with guacamole, rice and beans).

Julie and I each chose three tacos.  For me, it was the al pastor, el Nopal, and el Brulee.

el nopal taco with grilled cactus, avocado and pico de gallo from Comalli Taqueria

The el Nopal was the first one that I had tried at the Taco Fest. It features grilled cactus with pico de gallo and avocado. The cactus has a little bit of a kick to it, which I remembered from before. I like the flavor, but I have to admit, I still haven’t quite gotten used to the texture of the plant. It’s a little gummy, but once you get past that, it’s very good.

Al Pastor Taco topped with pork pineapple, cilantro and onion from Comalli Taqueria

Julie had the al pastor at the festival so I gave it a try this time. The corn tortillas (all of the tacos were served on grilled corn tortillas) were filled with marinated pork and pineapple with cilantro and onion. I really enjoyed the tender meat, and I am always a fan of pairing pork and pineapple. The simple onion and cilantro were understated additions to the sweet and savory tacos.

el brulee taco topped with chicken, rice, queso fresco, mole poblano sauce and bananas from Comalli Taqueria

I do love the combination of sweet and savory, and that’s why I was really excited to try the el brulee. The el brulee is topped with pulled chicken, rice, mole poblano, double cream queso fresco and – here’s the kicker – brulle bananas.

After eating it, I may have a new favorite taco. All of the ingredients were loaded with flavor. The mole poblano (my favorite sauce) had a nice sweet heat which contrasted beautifully with the cool, creamy queso fresco. The pulled chicken and rice both were well-seasoned. And then there were those bananas. They added so much flavor and there were enough that I found some in every bite. It was a great taco.

As I was savoring my three tacos, Julie was tasting the other half of Comalli’s menu.

el jefe taco with steak, onion and chorizo from Comalli Taqueria

The el jefe featured steak with onion and cilantro. It’s the simplest taco on the menu, but when you’re dealing with quality steak meat, you don’t want to hide that flavor. And this was quality, the base of a very good taco.

Chicken tinga taco (topped with chicken, cilantro and onion) from Comalli Taqueria

Her chicken tinga taco was another that we had tried at the food truck. The tinga features chicken that has been slow-cooked in a chipotle, onion and tomato sauce topped with onion and cilantro. The marinade for the chicken is, as I described it before, perfect.

For both of these, Julie added a little bit of the mild avocado salsa (not to be confused with guacamole – the salsa was much more sauce-like) that Comalli offers. It was a little spicier than she expected, but very good and a nice change of pace from the standard tomato salsa.

el gallo taco topped with chorizo, avocado, queso fresco and pico de gallo from Comalli Taqueria

But Julie’s favorite was the el gallo. It had a lot of flavors with chorizo sausage in whipped eggs with pico de gallo, queso fresco and avocado. The creamy cheese and the avocado paired well with the mildly spicy chorizo. It was delicious.

A plain quesadill and a taco at Comalli Taqueria

For Jakob, we had ordered a plain quesadilla. The cheese came packed in between two of Comalli’s signature corn tortillas. Julie and I really enjoyed them. Jakob, however, didn’t care for them, but he opened up the quesadilla and ate all of the cheese. That’s a two-year-old for you.

At least Julie and I really enjoyed our meal. And not only was it convenient, but it was reasonably priced, too. For six tacos and a quesadilla, it cost us $25. Most of the tacos (and the quesadilla) were $3 apiece. The more “premium” tacos like the el gallo and el brulee were $4. That’s not a bad price to pay for quality.

With the food truck, we probably would have visited again if the line wasn’t too long. With the restaurant, we will definitely be back again soon.

Comalli Taqueria is just that good.

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

Comalli Taqueria
701 Court St
West Reading, PA 19611

Mexican Reviews
Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Avocado Tacos

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub

Saucony Creek Franklin Street Brewpub Exterior

One of the most exciting developments in Downtown Reading in recent memory is the reimagining of Franklin Street Station as a brewpub.

Saucony Creek Brewing Company’s Franklin Station Brewpub opened in July to much fanfare. Plans for the restaurant had been revealed in early 2018 but the project was delayed until the proper permits and zoning were in place. Other than a brief stint as an inter-city bus terminal in 2013 and an interactive art installation in 2017, it’s the first life this former passenger rail station has seen since the last SEPTA train rolled out 38 years ago.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Interior

We made our first visit on a Saturday afternoon in September, arriving before 5 p.m. for an early dinner. We got the last parking space on the restaurant’s parking lot (there is plenty of additional parking in the adjacent garage – and it’s free if you spend more than $10) and were seated right away.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Interior

The building is impressive inside. It retains the feel of a classic train station with high ceilings and large windows. Rows of benches – like the ones that would have been used by waiting passengers 90 years ago – are the anchors of the dining area. The tables and chairs are arranged to utilize the long benches, creating wide aisles for the wait staff and patrons. In the far end of the room near the kitchen is a small display case filled with model trains, Monopoly game pieces (for the Reading Railroad, of course) and other railroad memorabilia.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Interior

We had plenty of time to admire the building, too, because though we were seated promptly, no server stopped by for more than 15 minutes to even bring water. Our toddler was ready to eat so the wait was not very welcomed at our table.

The restaurant seemed to have both not enough and too much help simultaneously. While we were waiting, servers continued to congregate near the host stand (including our eventually server).

Once we ordered, it only took about 10 minutes for our appetizer and Jakob’s kids’ meal to arrive. From there, the meal was much easier.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Avocado Tacos

For our appetizer, we ordered the avocado tacos. The order consisted of two tacos: corn tortillas topped with beer-battered avocado slices, roasted corn, tomato, onion and cilantro. On the side was a cup of thick salsa that was very good and had a spicy after-taste. The tacos, by themselves, were a little bland compared to a Mexican restaurant, but with the spicy salsa, it was much better. It needed that little kick to bring everything together.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Kids Quesadilla

Jakob certainly enjoyed his food. Their kids menu isn’t huge, but it does have a decent variety. In the end, though, we went with Jakob’s favorites – a quesadilla with corn on the cob. The corn lasted all of about five minutes (at least it felt that way) as he ate through it in a hurry. The quesadilla was a little more work for him but he managed to eat about half of it at the restaurant with us taking the rest home.

Our dinners arrived just a short time later. The menu of large plates – “Masters” as they are called on the menu – features a diverse selection that leaned toward higher-end dishes. For example: my coconut braised beef cheek.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Coconut Braised Beef Cheek

Beef cheek is not found on a lot of menus, probably because it is a tougher cut of meat that has to be slow-cooked. It’s also very rich, as I discovered with my first taste. It reminded me a little of duck – not in flavor – but in the richness. The flavor, though, was very good. It was braised in one of Saucony Creek’s signatures beers so it picked up some of those flavor notes with subtle hints of coconut.

It came served in a bowl of sweet potato puree that added a sweet and savory contrast to the dish. It was also topped with a watermelon radish that served more for garnish than flavor. As I look back on the menu, it also said it was to be served with creamy blue cheese. There was definitely no blue cheese on the plate. I’m not sure how it would have changed what was a very good dish, but now I’m curious.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Franklin Street Burger

Nothing was missing from Julie’s plate. She ordered the Franklin Station Burger which came topped with bourbon bacon jam, Boston Bibb lettuce and Swiss cheese.

It was an awesome burger where the bacon jam really shined. The salty, savory and slightly sweet spread is always a great burger topper. This version had a deeper flavor thanks to the bourbon, and it really shone through on the burger.

The burger was served with fries on the side. As our server described them, they are boardwalk-style fries: skin-on and well-seasoned. They were a little peppery at times, but very enjoyable, especially paired with the homemade ketchup. The ketchup was not as sweet or as thick as the store-bought variety, but it perfectly complemented the already flavorful fries.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Ice Cream

While Julie and I did not save room for dessert, Jakob’s kids meal came with a scoop of ice cream. His generous scoop of peanut butter ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry cheesecake were the other flavor choices) was topped with a mound of whipped cream and a cherry that elicited a loud, “ooooh,” from our son when he saw it.

I think Jakob ate most of the whipped cream while Julie took care of the ice cream that he didn’t finish. It was around this time that we heard the unmistakable air horn of a freight train approaching.

Norfolk Southern trains frequently use the former Reading Railroad tracks and a train’s arrival is a big deal at the bar. Upon hearing the horn, doors were opened and everyone cheered loudly until the engines passed. Jakob, like all young boys, loves trains. He joined in with a loud, “Choo Choo!” as the train rolled past.

If there’s a downside to the building, it’s that the cavernous dining room echoes. It can get loud quickly. That’s a good thing when cheering on a passing train, but it can be a little distracting if you’re trying to have some quiet conversation.

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub Exterior

We paid our bill – $61.01 – and went outside to watch the tail end of the train from the old station platform. The scene would have looked a lot different 90 years ago when a steam engine would puff into the station to pick up and drop off passengers.

While the hungry diners aren’t at the Franklin Street Station to grab a train to Philly, the historic building is once again bustling with people.

Sure, there are some issues to work out as there are with all new restaurants. But Saucony Creek could keep the passenger benches full at Franklin Street Station for a long time to come.

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

Saucony Creek Franklin Station Brewpub
690 Chestnut St
Reading, PA 19602

Bars & Pubs Breweries & Wineries Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews
Alebrije Spinach Enchiladas

Alebrije – Wyomissing

Five years ago, in January 2014, Berks County Eats as we know it truly began. It’s incredible to look back to see how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same since then.

Amazingly, it’s been five years since we last blogged about Alebrije. That visit was to the Exeter Township location and while it was a very good meal, we never made it back to either of Alebrije’s other two locations in Wyomissing or 5th Street Highway.

On a Sunday afternoon in December, we finally decided to pay another visit – this time to the Wyomissing location.

Even this location has changed since Berks County Eats began. Five years ago, Alebrije’s Wyomissing restaurant was still located in a strip mall near the Berkshire Mall. In 2015, it moved to a stand-alone building, the former Ciabatta restaurant along State Hill Road.

The menu has been updated since our visit and I was glad for this because I got to enjoy the poblano soup – an item that was added when the menu was updated.

Alebrije Poblano Soup

I didn’t know what to expect beyond what the description in the menu said: “smooth, slightly spicy and creamy.” I’ve had peppers in soup but never a cream of pepper soup. But after trying it, I would eat this soup again and again.

The soup was definitely creamy and I always tasted the distinct flavor of poblano pepper throughout. I didn’t find it spicy at all – flavorful, yes, but not spicy – so it was easy to eat and enjoy. And the sour cream was a perfect complement.

I can’t imagine a better start to the meal than this.

Alebrije Spinach Enchiladas

For my entree, I decided to try the spinach enchiladas – another item that was listed as “new” on the menu.

The plate was beautiful when it arrived (it’s amazing how a little sour cream can liven up a plate). The primary topping for the spinach-filled corn tortillas was a creamy chipotle sauce. It featured a mild spice, nothing overpowering. It worked well with the spinach though and was enjoyable enough, but I would probably go back to the enchiladas poblanos (and the mole sauce) in the future.

Alebrije Steak and Chorizo Tacos

Julie enjoyed her chorizo and steak tacos. The tacos come topped with Chihuahua cheese with cilantro, onion and spicy tomatillo sauce on the side to build to your own taste.

She skipped the tomatillo sauce – the chorizo was enough spice for her taste – but she took advantage of the cilantro and onion. Both helped to enhance, not mask, the flavor of the meat. And the mix of steak and chorizo ensured that the flavors of both shined through in every bite.

Both Julie and I had sides of refried beans with our meals (mine also came with rice). I’m not a huge fan of refried beans but these were good enough.

Kids eat free on Sundays at Alebrije, which had two advantages for us. One, we could order a kids meal for Jakob and not feel guilty about him not eating the whole thing (we did take his leftovers home) and two, we knew there would be other families, most likely with small children, so Jakob wouldn’t be a distraction.

Alebrije Kids Quesadilla and Chicken Nuggets

For his meal, we ordered a combo that included two of his favorite foods: quesadilla and chicken nuggets.

The plate came with one kid-sized quesadilla and five nuggets. The quesadilla was a little simpler than one that you would order off the menu while the nuggets were pretty generic. I certainly wouldn’t order it for myself, but Jakob seemed to enjoy them so I have no complaints.

Alebrije Chips and Salsa

One other thing to mention: like all good Mexican restaurants we had chips and salsa at the table almost immediately. I’m a fan of Alebrije’s salsa. It’s somehow both thin and chunky with just enough heat to have me going back to my water.

Alebrije has always been reasonably priced, and with the kids eat free deal, it makes it even better. For our three meals, bowl of soup and an iced tea, we spent around $35 (kids meals are normally priced at $5.99). Our meal was certainly a good one and for me, the soup was well worth the additional $6.50.

I still can’t believe it’s been five years since our first visit to Alebrije, but I can say this after our latest meal: we won’t be waiting five years to visit the 5th Street Highway location.

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

Alebrije
2224 State Hill Road
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Lunch & Dinner Mexican Reviews

Castaneda’s Mexican Restaurant – MOVING

Editor’s Note: Castaneda’s Mexcian Restaurant is moving. The location at 141 West Penn Avenue closed at the end of July. A new, larger location will be opening this fall on the other side of town at 225 West Penn Avenue.

My childhood home of Robesonia has undergone a lot of changes over the years, oftentimes in ways that I would have never expected.

For example, 25 years ago, I would have never imagined a Mexican restaurant would open in town. But that’s exactly what happened in August 2017 when Castaneda’s Mexican Restaurant debuted.

The location doesn’t have a great track record – restaurants have come and gone over the years. Most notably, Muddy’s Smokehouse BBQ occupied the space for about two years. Castaneda’s is trying to turn that around.

Visitors may recognize owner James Castaneda as one of the business partners who began La Abuela Mexican Restaurant in West Reading.

Castaneda’s menu is smaller with a greater emphasis on lighter fare – tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, burritos and salads.

We visited on a Saturday evening in December, and the dining room was about half-full. Castaneda’s has a handful of tables for four in the small storefront. There was also a steady stream of customers picking up take-out orders while we – Julie, Jakob, my parents, and myself – sat at a table by the front window.

With a relatively small menu, it didn’t take long to decide on our meals. Before our meals were delivered, we were served our complementary chips and salsa.

The salsa is pureed, not chunky, making for easier dipping and more consistent flavor in every bite. It was good, though I don’t think I could ever complain about free chips and salsa.

Our meals arrived a short time later. Looking for more of a meal than a snack, I ordered the enchiladas Verde – three hefty beef enchiladas in homemade green sauce and queso fresco.

Verde isn’t normally my go-to, but I wanted to switch it up from my usual order of enchiladas with mole sauce.

The sauce gets its distinct green color from the tomatillos. It had a very mild spice, but was full of flavor. The ground beef was also well-seasoned, and the two worked very well together. And the cool creaminess of the queso fresco added a nice finish.

Enchiladas at Castaneda’s are served with yellow rice and refried beans. I have always preferred black beans to refried – the texture of refried beans leaves a lot to be desired – but these were fine. I found myself scraping for as much of the salsa Verde as I could get to mix with the rice and beans to give them some of the great flavor that the enchiladas had.

Julie also ordered enchiladas, but for her it was enchiladas Suizas, one of several daily specials advertised on the menu board.

Enchiladas Suizas literally means “Swiss enchiladas.” The name comes from the dairy used to make the creamy white sauce (thank you, Google).

Choosing chicken as the protein, Julie really enjoyed the dish. It was a heavier sauce (Julie had to bring one of the three enchiladas home with her because they were so filling).

Suizas sauce was also out of her comfort zone (ranchero sauce is her favorite), but this dish got her approval, and she said she would definitely order it again.

My parents each enjoyed their meals as well – my mom had a quesadilla with a side salad while my dad had the chile rellano – a stuffed pepper also served with rice and beans.

But despite all of us being full, we couldn’t leave without trying the fried ice cream. By that, I mean Julie couldn’t leave without trying it. We just had to help her eat it.

The vanilla ice cream was coated in a corn cereal, and deep-fried. It was served with cinnamon tortilla chips and whipped cream, and topped with chocolate syrup and sprinkles.

It’s probably the highest calorie menu item in western Berks County, an indulgence that is great once every five years or so. But it’s so good. The contrast in texture and temperature between the hot, crunchy shell and cold, smooth ice cream never gets old. Everything else is unnecessary (but delicious) window dressing.

It’s also a lot of food, especially after a full meal. We all left feeling way too full. But while we certainly packed on pounds, our wallets didn’t lighten much. Castaneda’s is reasonably priced. The four of us were able to eat for less than $50, even with the dessert and some sodas.

It’s still crazy to think that there is a Mexican restaurant within walking distance of my parents’ house, but Castaneda’s is here. And based on what I saw – and tasted – it might just be hanging around for a while.

BCE Rating:

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

Castaneda’s Mexican Restaurant
141 W. Penn Ave
Robesonia, PA 19551

Castaneda's Mexican Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert Lunch & Dinner Mexican Reviews

The Westy Bar & Grill

the-westy-exterior

It’s always hard to compare one restaurant to another. I get a lot of questions like, “what’s your favorite?” or “which one’s better?”

But for me, it’s never been about picking sides. It’s about finding something to like about every restaurant I go to.

This week, I found more than a little something to like at the Westy Bar & Grill in Hamburg.

The Westy is actually located in West Hamburg, across the river from the downtown. It had been years since I was there, and I forgot just how big it was. The building is three floors tall (apartments, I assume, fill up the top two floors) and there are three separate dining spaces.

the-westy-bar

We were seated in the largest room, at a small table near the bar. The current draft list was artfully written on a chalkboard above the bar stools—about 20 of them, and nearly all filled. Despite the bar, the restaurant feels more like a diner, with number cards on every table and an expansive menu that includes fried apps, burgers, salads, subs, entrees and more.

One of the things that came highly recommended to us was the Westy’s wings.

The Westy has more than 20 flavors to choose from. Most of them are standards like mild, BBQ, ranch and honey mustard. But there are a few that are a little different. Sriracha, red chili and something called “boom boom” sounded a little too intense for us, but the kickin’ bourbon molasses sounded perfect.

the-westy-kickin-burboun-molasses-wings

Dripping in reddish brown sauce, the wings looked amazing when our waiter set them in front of us. The first bite confirmed that they tasted as good as they looked.

Each bite took me on a mini flavor journey. First came the sweetness of the molasses, then the unmistakable hint of bourbon, finished with a mild after burn.

the-westy-side-salad

The heat wasn’t overbearing, but I was still glad to have a cup of ranch dressing with my salad for a little cool relief when I was done.

Earlier in the day, I mentioned to a co-worker that I was going to the Westy. His response sold me on my decision. “The chicken parm!” he said, “It’s just…they cover the whole plate in sauce and cheese.”

the-westy-chicken-parmesan

It was not an exaggeration. If anything, he undersold it because beneath the pool of red and white was not one, but two six-inch chicken breasts fried to a golden brown, waiting to be uncovered.

I knew I was never going to be able to finish both, especially with a plate of spaghetti waiting on the side.

the-westy-spaghetti

While I was eating an Italian dinner, the Westy is not an Italian restaurant. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The fried chicken was delicious, the bright red sauce was beautiful, though it was a little runnier than an Italian restaurant. And the cheese—so much cheese—covered everything, ensuring it was in every bite.

Just as the Westy is not an Italian restaurant, it’s also not a Mexican restaurant. But that didn’t make Julie’s Cuban quesadilla any less enjoyable either.

the-westy-cuban-quesadilla

The half moon on her plate was filled with pulled pork, ham, honey mustard and Swiss cheese. The quesadilla was a little inconsistent as some slices had more ham, some had more pulled pork. But the honey mustard was consistent, adding a sweetness throughout.

the-westy-cuban-quesadilla-2

Even with a full chicken breast set aside to take home, there was no way either of us could force any dessert.

Our final total came in at $32, nearly exactly what we spent at Cafe Sweet Street. But it’s impossible to compare the two meals: one was a gourmet lunch with dessert, the other a hearty dinner with an appetizer.

When it comes to any restaurant, it’s best to let it stand on its own merits. The Westy provided very good food, and a lot of it.

And with a large menu to choose from, it won’t be hard to find something to like.

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

The Westy Bar & Grill
279 W. State St
Hamburg, PA 19526

Westy Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Stephen’s on State

stephens-on-state

Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us an hour southeast of Reading to Media, PA.

As much as I love exploring (and tasting) Berks County, sometimes life takes me to faraway places.

That was the case last week as Julie and I ventured to Media, Delaware County, where her brother now calls home, and where we met her family for dinner on the town.

Media is one of Philadelphia’s most happening suburbs with a bustling downtown and a big city feel. There’s a lot to do, but more importantly, there’s a lot of places to eat.

A restaurant they always mentioned among the popular spots in Media was Stephen’s on State. On a recent visit, they suggested it for a nice dinner. They’re the experts so we just followed along.

State Street is essentially a row of restaurants packed one next to the other, and if you look at the review sites, Stephen’s has received mixed reviews.

One of the common complaints I see about Stephen’s on State is that the service is slow, but our waitress, who introduced herself as Julie (easy enough to remember), was very attentive all evening, constantly returning to refill our water and check on us throughout our stay.

We were seated at a round table tucked in a small alcove between the bar room and the more formal dining area. It was a tight squeeze for a table of six, but it never felt uncomfortable.

stephens-on-state-spice-coated-steak

Stephen’s dinner menu is not very big. There are 10 entrees to go with six choices of steak. Being at a steakhouse with a manly appetite, I chose one of Stephen’s “signature steak” options, a spice crusted steak with garlic shallot butter.

The big, beautiful cut of meat was served atop a bed of mashed potatoes and French cut green beans in a red wine sauce. And it was delicious.

The steak had a beautiful crust from the spices which helped seal in the juicy flavor. The spice combination reminded me a little of a Memphis rub—a little sweet, a little salty with the slightest kick at the end.

With every bite-sized piece that I cut, I soaked up as much of the red wine sauce as I could, especially as the steak began to shed its spicy coat.

As flavorful as the steak was, the mashed potatoes were a tad bland, but they did soak up the au jus which greatly helped.

Having few entrees to choose from and a much smaller appetite, Julie decided to create her own meal with a pair of appetizers.

stephens-on-state-french-onion-soup

She started her meal with a cup of French onion soup. The presentation was beautiful with the bubbly cheese on top melting over the sides of the crock. It tasted just as good as it looked with a flavorful broth and plenty of onions and bread pieces throughout.

stephens-on-state-quesadilla

Part two of her meal was very different, but just as cheesy: a smoked chicken quesadilla. The cheesy pocket was topped with salsa, guacamole and chipotle sauce. It was good, but we both agreed that the French onion was better.

stephens-on-state-sesame-bread

Along with our meals, Stephen’s also gave us complimentary loaves of sesame seed-topped bread with olive oil dipping sauce, a delicious pairing that helped hold us over until our dinners arrived.

The other common complaint on review sites is related to price. Stephen’s is not inexpensive—my steak cost more than $30 and Julie’s pairing came to $15—but it didn’t feel unfair, especially for the amount of food and the quality of it. At the time, I did wish I had a starter salad, but I still left on a full stomach.

Stephen’s on State may not be a darling on Internet review sites, but the menu proudly proclaims 13 years in business in downtown Media. Our experience was great, and the busy bar area showed that it certainly has a loyal following among the locals.

Media is not a destination that many Berks Countians are likely to find themselves in. But those who go will surely not go home hungry. If Stephen’s on State is any indication, you’ll be going home happy too.

Click to add a blog post for Stephen's on State on Zomato

Finer Dining Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Sofrito Gastro Pub

America is a place that is defined by its neighborhoods.

Our country is nothing more than a string of communities that have been knitted together over time.

Friendships were forged in the neighborhood bars and restaurants. There was at least one in every town; sometimes, one on every corner. Long before Applebee’s usurped the name, a neighborhood bar and grill was the place that truly helped define a community.

The rise of housing developments and shopping centers helped lead to the decline of the traditional neighborhood. And today it seems like more friendships exist through social media than in our towns.

The one place where the word neighborhood still means something is in our cities, and Reading is no exception.

One of the most recognizable of the city’s neighborhoods is the Centre Park Historic District, a mix of Victorian mansions, quaint row homes and the beautiful open space for which the neighborhood takes its name: Centre Park.

The neighborhood is a true treasure for the city, one with a personality all to its own. And inside this neighborhood is a restaurant that perfectly complements its surroundings.

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Sofrito Gastro Pub sits on the corner of Douglas and Thorn Streets, just a short walk west from Centre Park. The front of the building looks more like the adobe homes of the American southwest than the stone mansions of Centre Park.

Inside, the best way to describe Sofrito is eclectic chic. The barroom is adorned with beer signs and flat screens. To the left of our table was a large swine statue that read “Sofrito Pig Roast.”

Our table was pushed against a support pillar, and on the other side, the Bryan Betts Group was serenading patrons with their smooth jazz sounds.

When the weather’s warm, diners can take the party to the outside deck, where a large mural of city’s history adorns one of the large outer walls.

Sofrito’s menu is as eclectic as the atmosphere, drawing inspiration from across the Caribbean islands and Latin America, with a few American favorites thrown in.

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We started with a half basket of fresh-cut fries (a steal at just $2.00), still glistening from their bath in the deep fryer.

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My entree also came with my choice of starter salad. I opted for Sofrito’s original creation, the Centre Park Urban Salad, a spring mix with Spanish olives and red peppers tossed in a rosemary garlic and brown sugar vinaigrette (which I found also makes an excellent dipping sauce for the fries). It was a hefty salad to start, and before I could finish it, my main course was on the table.

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And for my main course, I chose mofongo al pilon. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican specialty of mashed plantains, in this case mixed with onions, garlic and cilantro and topped with chunks of fried pork and served with black beans and the brightest yellow rice I have ever seen.

The cilantro really came through in the mofongo, which was much heavier and more filling than I had expected. The pork was fried to a golden brown and was very good, though a couple pieces were a little too fatty for my taste. Overall though, it was excellent in both presentation and taste.

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My wife opted for the chicken mango quesadillas. The chicken had a nice char from the grill, which mixed well with the sweetness of the mango. Add in the locally made tortilla and gooey cheese, and it was an awesome dish, one that was big enough to also enjoy for lunch the next day.

Sofrito’s motto is “Tu sabes!” which, according to Google Translate, means “You know!” Judging by the full tables and bar stools, it’s safe to say that a lot of people know about Sofrito’s great food, unique atmosphere and reasonable prices (less than $25 for our meal).

It’s a true neighborhood gem, one that adds to the unique character of Reading’s Centre Park district. But more importantly, it’s a great place to enjoy a great meal.

Tu sabes!

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

Sofrito Gastro Pub
220 Douglass St
Reading, PA 19601

Sofrito Gastro Pub on Urbanspoon

Bars & Pubs Caribbean & Latin American Lunch & Dinner Reviews