A vegan black bean and sweet potato burger with side of chips from Good Life Organics in Reading PA

Good Life Organics

The exterior of Good Life Companies headquarters in Reading PA

For many, an important part of dining out is truly knowing what you’re eating – knowing that the food is made from the highest quality ingredients.

By using high-quality, locally sourced, organic ingredients, Good Life Organics makes it easy for you to feel good about what you’re putting in your body.

Five shelves of assorted organic products at Good Life Organics in Reading PA

The juice bar and eatery promises that everything is as close to 100% organic as possible, and the menu gives special mention to the local businesses and farms that the ingredients are sourced from.

Good Life Organics also makes it easy on their customers by offering the convenience of online ordering through Toast Tab, the same platform we used for our recent lunch at Comalli Taqueria. Not only does it make it easy to order ahead, but there are pictures of most menu items which helped the decision-making process.

Tables and chairs, including two arm chairs, at Good Life Organics in Reading PA

After completing the order, I made the short drive to the Good Life Companies headquarters on Lancaster Pike, just outside Shillington. Good Life Organics is located in what is essentially the lobby of the corporate building.

The coffee, tea and kombucha taps at Good Life Organics in Reading PA

Enter through the main doors, and Good Life Organics is on the left. There is plenty of seating between the tables and a pair of armchairs by the window. Across from the counter are the coffee, tea and kombucha taps. In the corner is the Good Life Grab ‘N Go, a small marketplace filled with organic goodies that are also found on the menu as toppings and blends.

It wasn’t long after I arrived that my order was ready and I was back on the road headed home.

A flatbread topped with hummus, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds from Good Life Organics in Reading PA

With a large menu, we decided to try a variety of their lunch and dinner offerings. For me, it started with the hummus veggie flatbread.

In addition to garlic hummus, it came topped with sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and extra virgin olive oil. I enjoyed everything, but the garlic hummus really shone through. It wasn’t overly garlicky, but the hint was just enough. The caramelized onions were a very nice touch, too, providing all the sweetness that the flatbread needed.

A cup of sweet potato, black bean and kale soup from Good Life Organics in Reading Pa

Good Life has a rotation of seasonal soups available (according to the menu, they are sourced from the Half Dozen Cafe and Dove Song Dairy). The one that caught my attention was the sweet potato, black bean and kale. And I was not disappointed. The sweet potatoes popped with flavor and along with the black beans made it a hearty, and delicious side.

To get the full experience, I also tried one of Good Life’s juices (sourced from Rijuice in Lancaster). The “Orange You Glad” is a combination of mandarin orange, apple, lime and lemon juices with turmeric. It was good, but I have to admit the turmeric takes some getting used to and may not be for everyone.

A vegan black bean and sweet potato burger with side of chips from Good Life Organics in Reading PA

There are eight sandwich options on the menu at Good Life, including the vegan black bean and sweet potato burger that Julie ordered. It was topped with greens, Fabanaise (vegan mayo) and guacamole.

It was a good “burger.” The patty was very flavorful with both the flavor of black bean and the sweet potato coming through. It was soft, but it stayed together throughout. And guacamole is always a welcome addition to any dish.

A bright blue smoothie and cup of Orange You Glad juice from Good Life Organics in Reading PA

Julie also ordered the most intriguing-looking smoothie on the menu, the blue spirulina bliss. It included banana, avocado, maple syrup, vanilla chai multi-collagen protein, vanilla extract and E3 Live Blue Majik Spirulina, which gives the juice its bright blue hue.

Spirulina, for those that aren’t familiar (like I wasn’t before looking it up) is a type of algae that has been used in foods for centuries, and now because of its high protein content and other nutrients, it’s become increasingly more common in things like protein bars and smoothies.

It may have given the smoothie its distinctive color, but the flavor was dominated by the banana. It was actually surprising to take a sip from a blue smoothie and have the strongest flavor be the familiar yellow fruit. If you can get past the color, it’s delicious.

The food and drinks were very good, but I have to say that we had a little bit of sticker shock at the price. The smoothie and the juice, especially, are a little pricy by Berks County standards. All smoothies are 16 ounces and cost $8.95. My 12-ounce juice was $6.75. In all, our total was around $45. The food was around $30, which is more in line with what we are used to paying.

And we would pay it again because Julie’s vegan burger along with my flatbread and soup were all very good. And they were made with foods that made us feel good about eating them.

Good Life Organics definitely made a good first impression.

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

Good Life Organics
2395 Lancaster Pk
Reading, PA 19607

Cafes & Coffeeshops Lunch & Dinner Vegan & Vegetarian
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

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
Julie's blueberry-banana smoothie bowl with almond milk and granola.

The Green Bean Cafe – CLOSED

The Green Bean Cafe Wyomissing

Editor’s Note: The Green Bean Cafe is now closed. The owner reopened the location as a new concept, The Meat Up Delicatessen, in May 2018 before closing less than two months later.

I always get excited when a new restaurant opens up, but the Green Bean Cafe was a different level of excitement for me.

It’s not just that Berks County would be getting an all-organic cafe, but that the all-organic cafe would be just blocks away from my house.

Having walked past the Park Road strip mall that now houses the cafe (the same one where you will find Mikura Asian Bistro and Nino’s Italian Restaurant), we had peeked in at the renovations and watched as the mural came to life behind the counter.

Inside the Green Bean Cafe in Wyomissing, PA.

So we decided to make the short walk to the cafe for Saturday morning breakfast during its opening week.

It was a little before 9 a.m. when we arrived, and there was only one other customer – a lone woman seated at one of four tables on the sidewalk in front of the building.

Animated vegetables adorn the walls of the bathrooms at the Green Bean Cafe

We walked in and picked up a menu, browsing the list of breakfast bruschetta power toast – five different choices including the “Stress Buster” (hazelnut spread with bananas and coconut flakes) and the “Tummy Tower” (avocado, black pepper, sea salt and housemade hummus).

The owner, who was behind the counter to take our order, told us that it had been a good first week, but that lunch was definitely more popular than breakfast.

Lunch options at the cafe include salads, paninis and vegetable noodle dishes – spiralized sweet potato, butternut squash or zucchini roasted with olive oil, sea salt and pepper (additional proteins optional).

The dining area of the Green Bean Cafe

The cafe also offers waffles, egg sandwiches, and a dish called the sweet potato nest: sweet potato noodles filled with an egg, accompanied by sliced tomato, avocado and toast.

But both Julie and I were looking for a sweeter morning so we decided to create our own smoothie bowls.

Green Bean’s smoothie bowls are completely customizable with your choice of base – vanilla yogurt, milk, coconut milk or almond milk), fruit, vegetables, sweeteners (almond butter, peanut butter, honey or sugar) and toppings (like chia seeds, granola or coconut flakes).

A strawberry-orange smoothie bowl with almond milk and sliced almonds.

My bowl consisted of an almond milk base with strawberries and oranges. It was sweetened with honey and topped with sliced almonds.

While it is essentially a smoothie, it is served in a bowl like a chilled soup. It took about 10 minutes for our bowls to be delivered to the table, and they certainly looked every bit as appetizing as they sounded.

The strawberries gave my smoothie its distinct red speckled coloring, but the oranges definitely shone through in the flavor. There was just enough honey to add another layer of sweetness.

While the almonds were listed as a topping, many of them had sank into the smoothie so every bite also had a nutty crunch. The almonds also helped make it more hearty, adding healthful fats that were also filling.

Julie's blueberry-banana smoothie bowl with almond milk and granola.

Julie’s bowl, like mine, started with almond milk. But that’s where the similarities ended. she added blueberries and bananas as her fruits, a little almond butter to thicken it, and topped it off with granola.

The blueberries were front and center, but you could taste all of the ingredients – the bananas and the almond butter both came through. Like the almonds in my dish, the granola added some needed crunch to the dish.

Looking at our two bowls next to each other, Julie felt like I had a little bit more. And she unfortunately was still a little hungry at the end so she grabbed a muffin to go.

Julie taking her gluten free muffin to go.

The gluten free muffins, ironically enough, were also blueberry and banana flavored. They weren’t very large, but it was a needed addition to fill her up until lunch.

With the muffin added on (plus a bottle of water to drink), we spent a total of $25. Organic is not cheap, and the smoothie bowls at $9.95 each were actually among the most expensive items on the menu, breakfast or lunch.

Being so close to the cafe, Julie and I both agreed that we would go back, but we would definitely order differently. If we ordered the smoothie bowls, we would also get one of the power toasts or waffles to split. It would be a little more expensive, but it would be more filling. Or we would each get our own toast and split the smoothie bowl.

Either way, we will be back. It’s too close not to give it another try.

The Green Bean Cafe
840 N. Park Rd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

The Green Bean Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Breakfast & Brunch Closed Reviews