On A Roll Grill

On A Roll Grill Exterior

This summer was one of the busiest that I can remember for new restaurant openings in Berks County.

Some received a lot of hype as they were preparing to open, others opened with little fanfare. Wernersville’s On A Roll Grill fits into the latter category.

On A Roll Grill Interior

The restaurant opened in late June in the Westgate Shops, a small strip mall along Route 422 on the eastern edge of Wernersville borough. It’s the first restaurant to occupy a space in the strip and they did a nice job turning it into a welcoming space.

There are plenty of tables and a handful of counter seats in the restaurant. When we arrived for our first visit it was shortly after 5 p.m. on a Friday night. There was a younger couple finishing their meal at the counter and another gentleman waiting for his takeout order to be completed. We grabbed a table in the middle of the room and waited to be served.

On A Roll Grill Interior

There was only one person working – a woman who I assume is the owner. She apologized for making us wait, though it had really only been a few minutes and it gave us a chance to look over the menu.

On a Roll’s menu is exactly what you expect: burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. That’s not to say there wasn’t variety. There are a dozen varieties of burgers and even more hot dog choices. There are also fries and tots along with pig wings (pork shanks) with 10 dipping sauces to choose from.

On A Roll Grill Coney Island Hamburger

I ordered one of my favorites, a Coney Island burger with a side of crab (Old Bay) fries while Julie ordered a pig-in-a-blanket hot dog with tater tots.

We were surprised by how quickly the food arrived. Despite only one person running the kitchen, our food was at our table in about 10 minutes.

My burger looked great as the caramelized onions were falling out the sides of the bun. The burger patty is not much to speak of – it was smaller than the bun and very thin, McDonald’s sized (and no, not the quarter-pounder) and kind of bland. But at least there was plenty of Coney sauce and onions. I actually really liked the sauce – the beanless chili had just a hint of spice to it – which is good because I would not want to eat the burger plain.

The fries were doused in Old Bay – probably a little too much as they were very salty. The fries, themselves, were the fresh-cut variety and good on their own. And I definitely wasn’t cheated on the portions as the fries easily filled the plate.

On A Roll Grill Pigs-in-a-blanket Burger

Julie’s pig-in-a-blanket burger was what she expected – a variation of the dish where the hot dog is served with a strip of bacon and cheese instead of being wrapped in it. There was a part of her that hoped for the real thing, but for what it was, it was good. The bacon didn’t fit very well into the bun but she managed, and she would have liked a little more cheese, but it was a good hot dog.

Where I ordered one of the specialty fries, Julie had ordered plain tater tots. Like the fries, the tots covered the plate and we were not cheated on portions. But where my fries were overly salty, Julie had to pour salt and pepper on the plain tots to give them a little flavor. But a little S&P went a long way.

On A Roll Grill Chicken Tenders

Jakob was along for our visit but was having one of those fussy eating days (as toddlers do) where all he wanted to do was use the chicken tenders we ordered for him as a spoon for eating ketchup.

The tenders were fried to a dark brown which is actually how I prefer them. I ate one (since he wasn’t) and enjoyed it. They were nice and crispy on the outside but still moist on the inside, just the way I like them. We took two tenders home for later (the fourth in the order was the one we cut for him that he never ate).

I will say this for On A Roll Grill, the prices are right. For all of our food and two bottles of water, we spent $20. Sure, the burgers and hot dogs aren’t gourmet, but a Coney Island burger is $2.25 so I’m not expecting to be blown away.

And despite being short on staff, the service was excellent, which is a big plus.

It may not be my favorite meal that I have ever had, but there is a definitely a place for restaurants like On A Roll Grill. The food won’t blow you away, but if you’re looking for a fast, cheap meal without the drive-thru, On A Roll fits the bill.

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

On A Roll Grill
600 E. Penn Ave
Wernersville, PA 19565

Diners Reviews

Brocmar Smokehouse – West Reading

In January 2018, we made our first visit to Brocmar Smokehouse at the Shillington Farmers Market. By this time, the local barbecue company was already running a stand at the Santander Arena.

The Farmers Market was their second location and featured an expanded menu that included the Brocmar Taco – the dish of smoked meat, coleslaw and barbecue sauce atop a corn cake that made our list of Favorite Entrees for 2018.

And Brocmar’s stand at FirstEnergy Stadium, which opened for the 2018 season, has become my go-to for ballpark foods.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2019 and Brocmar Smokehouse is now four locations strong with the opening of their first full-service restaurant at the Lofts at Narrows in West Reading. The new Brocmar shares a space with the B2 Cafe – the grab-and-go breakfast side of B2 Bistro. Under the partnership, B2 continues serving coffee and breakfast while Brocmar takes over for lunch and dinner service.

Two weeks ago,  I was invited to the friends and family opening. So Julie, Jakob and I stopped in last Friday evening for a first taste of the new Brocmar.

While the restaurant is attached to B2, Brocmar has fully taken over the space. From the Brocmar sign painted on the brick outside to the high-top tables made out of barrels in the dining room. Honestly, it feels more at home with the industrial salvage motif than B2 does.

This was only the second night of table service for a business that has never done it before so there were hiccups to work out. We were seated promptly and we put in our drink order quickly but were told that Jamie would be taking care of us after that. Jamie never came so it was obvious that they’re still learning who is responsible for which tables, but things were smooth after that.

For the friends and family event, we were encouraged to order a lot of food and to try some of the new offerings along with the old. After we ordered, it wasn’t long before a large tray filled with sample dishes arrived at our table.

The friends and family preview menu was “limited.” About the only thing that wasn’t available was my beloved Brocmar taco. But that just meant an opportunity to broaden my horizons – appropriate since that’s exactly what Brocmar was doing as well.

(Gary, the owner and pitmaster, offered to have one delivered to us anyway, but we declined. If you want to read about the Brocmar taco, click here).

Brocmar offers eight different sauces, and I’ve tried just about all of them now. Preview night was my first exposure to the Mississippi Comeback sauce – listed as a “classic southern dipping sauce for fried foods.” Appropriately, it was drizzled atop my order of fried catfish.

Long time readers know that I am not a fan of seafood but I was pressured into trying the catfish. I have to say, I actually enjoyed it. There wasn’t much of a fishy taste to speak of. Instead, most of the flavor came from the combination of the breading and the sauce. The comeback definitely had a kick to it – not as much as the cayenne-based Moonshine sauce – but enough to get your attention. And both Julie and I really enjoyed it. I would actually order it again sometime.

My favorite among Brocmar’s sauces is still the Cripple Creek. Made with bourbon and brown sugar, the Cripple Creek sauce is a dark, thick sauce with deep flavor and just enough sweetness. It works on everything, but I especially enjoyed it on our loaded tots.

The golden brown tots come topped with cheese sauce (we had it on the side) and choice of meat – for us, brisket. All of the ingredients are good, but it was the addition of the sauce that made it great for me. Adding that rich, smokey flavor to the tots and brisket was perfect.

Among the other samplers we got were the smoked wings. Unlike the fried version, these had a nice char around the outside. Julie found it to be a little too well done, but I thought the char from the smoker added some excellent flavor.

I thought the same about the ribs. They were charred on the outside but the meat still came off the bone easily. And with a few drops of sauce, they were very enjoyable.

Both Julie and I also ordered sandwiches (to be fair, we thought we were getting half-sandwiches, not whole sandwiches cut in half) with our favorite barbecue meats – brisket for Julie, pulled pork for me.

There’s nothing I can say about Brocmar’s smoked meats that I haven’t already said. They know what they are doing, and they are doing it right.

I did, however, use the opportunity to try out a couple new sauces. The Moonshine sauce – Brocmar’s hot sauce – was way hotter than I expected. I was a much bigger fan of the Red Dirt Road sauce, a black pepper-based sauce that went really well with the pulled pork. I also found the Hokey Pokey sauce to be a good pairing too. It’s described as “mild and sweet with a little twang.” It’s a classic ‘cue sauce that I enjoyed, for sure.

Like his parents, Jakob is also a big fan of Brocmar. Our 19-month-old loves Brocmar’s mac and cheese. We knew that going in to the meal. What we didn’t know was how much he loves Brocmar’s baked beans.

I don’t blame him either. The baked beans are unique in that it’s a blend of black and red beans. The sauce is just sweet enough.

None of us needed anything else, but there was “Nanner Pudding” waiting.

Thankfully it was a small sample, but it was more than enough to get a taste of the delicious dessert – sweet pudding topped with fresh cut bananas. The only problem is that I have never had room for dessert after a Brocmar taco.

But maybe the opening of the new location will get us to broaden our horizons a little more when it comes to Brocmar Smokehouse. We certainly tried more on this night than in all of our previous trips to the Shillington Farmers Market combined.

And all of it was delicious. If they can nail the service – again, this was their second night of running a full-service restaurant – the new location will become a mainstay in the crowded West Reading dining scene.

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

Brocmar Smokehouse – West Reading
10 S. Summit Ave
West Reading, PA 19611

Barbecue Lunch & Dinner Reviews
The Napoleon Dynamite at Mad Dogs

Mad Dogs

Mad Dogs

Editor’s Note: Julie took the lead on this blog, visiting Mad Dogs with her parents (leaving me behind, sadly).

One cold Friday in February, I was looking to get out of the house with Jakob. My parents are retired so I suggested that we go to Kutztown for old time’s sake. (Zach and I are both graduates of Kutztown University). I always enjoy driving down Main Street to see what is new and what has stayed the same.

Just off of Main Street on Constitution Boulevard sits a brick building with two parking lots on each side. There is an outside seating area shared with a cigar store. While it was too cold to eat outside, we walked in the large warehouse door that I had walked through many times before – but for the first time at Mad Dogs.

Mad Dogs Daily Specials

The building previously housed CC’s Wooden Grill, once one of my favorite BBQ joints in Berks County, and Potts U, a spinoff of the popular Lehigh Valley hot dog chain.

As we walked through the door, the space looked very familar. The order counter and tables were basically the same as the last time we had visited Potts nearly two years ago.

Inside Mad Dogs Kutztown

The only difference was a few drink coolers along one of the walls which held your typical soda products and my favorite: Pure Wild Tea. (Another Berks County business). There were hot dog signs leftover from Potts U and movie posters added to go along with Mad Dogs Hollywood-themed menu.

The Throwback Lounge at Mad Dogs

Through a doorway, in an area that was previously an office, is the Mad Dogs Throwback Lounge. It was pretty cool space that looked like a fun place to hang out. There were bean bag chairs, retro furniture and flat screen TVs.

We found a seat at one of the very familiar tables and browsed the extensive menu of 21 different specialty hot dogs. Mad Dogs’ menu also has a burger, pulled pork and various sides.

Plain Jane Hot Dog from Mad Dogs

The menu also includes combo specials, which my dad took advatange of. He’s not always the adventurous type when it comes to food, so he had one plain Jane hot dog with relish, ketchup and onions (toppings are 50 cents each), mac and cheese, and a drink. There isn’t much to say about the plain Jane hot dog, but he really enjoyed the mac and cheese.

Mad Dogs Mac and Cheese

It was a unique version of the dish with tri-color noodles that looked like carrots and peppers. But they were definitely noodles. There were also pieces of hamburger, onion and bacon mixed with what tasted like a Cheez Whiz sauce.

I really wanted to experience one of the specialty hot dogs so I got the Napoleon Dynamite. I have to be honest, I’m not a huge hot dog fan, but one of my favorite childhood food memories is of hot dogs stuffed with cheese and bacon wrapped around them. The Napoleon Dynamite was the closest to that memory.

The Napoleon Dynamite at Mad Dogs

It is a grilled dog with tater tots, bacon, cheese sauce and Mad Dog sauce. Overall it was a good hot dog. The bacon and hot dog rested in the roll with cheese sauce and three smashed tater tots drizzled with Mad Dog sauce. The Mad Dog sauce didn’t quite shine through with the other flavors on my dog so it is hard to say what that actually tasted like.

They have an interesting selection of sides including fried cauliflower and sweet potato fries. But I opted for basic fresh-cut Yukon Gold french fries. The menu says that they are tossed in a special seasoning, but I don’t remember tasting it. That aside, they were very good fries. I also ordered Maple Mayo dipping sauce (they have 9 different dipping sauces to choose from), but never received it and didn’t remember that I ordered it until I was in the car driving home.

Mad Dogs Hot Dog and Tater Tots

Lastly, my mom built her own plain Jane dog with bacon and baked beans on top with a side of tater tots. The bacon was chopped up and mixed with the baked beans. She liked all of her items as well.

My only complaint was the presentation, and it’s not something you will notice in my photos. The food was brought out in long wire baskets that looked really neat. The problem was they weren’t organized by meal. One basket had two dogs, another basket had a dog and side and the rest of the food came out without baskets. It would have been nice if my hot dog and fries would have been together, my dad’s hot dog and mac and cheese together, and my mom’s hot dog and tater tots together. It would have saved a lot of shuffling and confusion at the table.

Mad Dogs seems like it’s caught on in its first year – the restaurant celebrated its first anniversary in January – because as we were there I saw more people come through the front door than on any of our visits to CC’s or Potts.

They have a good product with interesting twists and customizable options fit for anyone looking for a good hot dog. And being that it is in a college town, I’d say it’s a good value for what you get (we spent about $25 for the three of us).

I hope the next time I make my way through the doors of this building that I am still eating at Mad Dogs.

Berks County Eats Rating:
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Good
Service: Good
Value: Reasonable

Mad Dogs
100 N. Constitution Blvd
Kutztown, PA 19530

Lunch & Dinner Reviews Sandwich Shops

Station House Grille

station-house-grille

With hundreds of restaurants spread out across 866 square miles, it’s going to take time to visit them all. Among those are many restaurants that have been on my short list since the blog started that, for one reason or another, I just haven’t been able to make it to.

One of those restaurants is the Station House Grille. I’ve sampled their food on multiple occasions, mostly at Iron Chef competitions.

Every time we see them at an event, our response is the same, “We need to go there.”

This has been going on for more than two years. We tried visiting once before, not realizing that they close early on Saturdays (6 p.m., compared to 8 p.m. on weeknights).

station-house-grille-sign

Finally, last week, the stars aligned and the timing was right. On a Wednesday evening with nothing else going on, we made the drive to Tuckerton.

The Station House Grille sits along Tuckerton Road, just west of Route 61, in what looks like someone’s two-story house.

Parking is limited and so is seating – the dining area consists of just four round tables that seat up to four.

We ordered at the counter before moving to the small dining room to wait for our meals to arrive.

The menu is certainly unique among Berks County restaurants: tater tots, pulled pork, sliders and gourmet grilled cheese are among the menu highlights.

I went for a pork tater bowl: an order of tots topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and cheese.

station-house-grille-beef-brisket-pork-bowl-loaded-tots

The Station House Grille definitely knows how to do pulled pork, and they chose the perfect sauce to complement this dish. It was sweet, tangy and thick, covering everything.

Beneath the mound of meat, cheese and sauce were the tater tots, which had now fallen apart. That meant just about every bite had a little bit of fried potato. And that can’t be bad, right?

Julie decided to separate her meat and her taters, getting a shredded beef sandwich and an order of loaded tots.

The sandwich featured balsamic shredded beef, onion straws and horseradish sauce on a Kaiser roll. The horseradish sauce added flavor. But it was mild, not overpowering like it can sometimes be.station-house-grille-dining-room

She really enjoyed it, just as she did the loaded tater bites. Cheddar cheese sauce, bacon, chives and sour cream topped the mound of tots. I’m not a fan of cheese sauce. I would have rather had plain (they call them ‘naked’) tots. But Julie loved it so listen to her, not me.

Our total bill was around $20 (including a pair of bottled drinks). It was a fair price for a good little meal.

The Station House definitely has the feel of a neighborhood sandwich shop, but they take that idea in a different direction with their unique menu.

If you’re tired of the same old places along 61 or the 5th Street Highway, it’s definitely worth making the turn into Tuckerton to this little gem.

I’m glad we finally did.

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

Station House Grille
157 Tuckerton Rd
Reading, PA 19605

Station House Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Barbecue Lunch & Dinner Reviews