Liberty Ale House G.O.A.T. Burger

Liberty Ale House

Liberty Ale House Exterior

Recently, I wrote about our second blog visit to an Alebrije restaurant and how it compared to our initial visit five years earlier.

Unintentionally, history repeats itself this week. You see, in 2016, Julie and I visited the Liberty Taproom in Exeter Township. We loved everything about our meal there and we were very excited when plans were announced for a sister restaurant, the Liberty Ale House, to be opened later that year.

Liberty Ale House Interior

The Liberty Ale House sits in a small building along Lancaster Avenue in Reading (the restaurant is within the city limits, but barely). From the outside, it looks more like a house than a restaurant, except for the enclosed porch filled with chairs and the string lights above the outdoor seating area.

When Julie and I visted in December, we were on our own (Jakob was spending some quality time with his  grandparents). We were seated at a high-top table for two just inside the door on what was a quiet Friday evening.

Liberty Ale House Interior 2

The menus at the Ale House and the Tap Room are similar. Both offer a selection of tacos, burgers and sandwiches, but there are noticeable differences. The Ale House menu is a little smaller with no pizza or Stromboli like the sister restaurant has.

One thing both offer is wings, but there are even differences here. During our visit to the Taproom, the standout of the night were the wings. Coated in Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, they are among the best around.

Liberty Ale House Jerk BBQ Wings

The only BBQ options at the Ale House were sweet jerk BBQ and pineapple Siracha BBQ (there is also a Memphis dry rub, for those who like their barbecue without sauce).

We ordered five of the sweet jerk BBQ wings,  and I have say that I was a little disappointed. That’s not to say that they weren’t good – they were – but they weren’t as good as the Taproom, in my opinion. The sauce was fine, a little less thick, with a little sweet and spicy profile. They were good wings, but I was hoping for great.

Thinking back on our visit to the Taproom, I remembered how much I enjoyed the burger. So when I saw something on the ale house menu called the G.O.A.T. burger, how could I resist.

Liberty Ale House G.O.A.T. Burger

The Angus beef burger was topped with bacon, goat cheese, red onion and cranberry aioli.

It’s definitely not the “greatest of all time” but it’s a good burger. I love goat cheese on a burger – it adds a creamy element that you don’t get from sliced cheese and the tang works well, epsecially with bacon. I was a little let down by the cranberry aioli. It wasn’t bad, but I just didn’t feel like it added as much flavor as it could have.

Overall, though, I was happy with my selection – and with my decision to upgrade to fries. Sure, they are a little greasy, but they are good.

Liberty Ale House Thai Chicken Tacos (w/ Lettuce Wrap)

While my meal packed on the Calories, Julie went the other direction, ordering Thai chicken tacos while opting for the lettuce wrap instead of a tortilla.

The tacos featured tempura fried chicken, sweet Thai chili, shiso cucumber slaw, avocado and cilantro. We were both impressed. The Thai chili sauce was flavorful and it had some heat, but not too much. The slaw was very good. And the lettuce wraps actually added to the flavor in a way that a flour tortilla wouldn’t have. They also made the the order of the three tacos less heavy and more manageable.

In all, we spent about $35 on the night. It was a good meal, though I would add that our server was less than attentive considering how early we were and how few tables she was handling at the time.

Three years ago, our meal at Liberty Taproom set the bar high. My meal at the Ale House didn’t quite reach that bar, but I would definitely go back.

And I’m sure I would enjoy my meal even more the second time.

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

Liberty Ale House
1501 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19607

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews
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
Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tuscan Pasta

Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

At the end of 2017, Berks County lost a mainstay of the finer dining scene when ViVA Good Life Bistro (then known as Fields Kitchen & Bar) closed its doors.

The Wyomissing restaurant had been ahead of its time – at least by Berks County standards – with a modern menu and a younger vibe.

When the restaurant closed, I had concerns about whether a replacement would appear. Sure, it had high visibility from Penn Avenue, a large parking lot and a hotel next door. But it was also one of the largest spaces in the county (that means a larger staff) and the construction (or is it deconstruction?) across the street at the former VF Outlet doesn’t help the ambiance.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

But my fears were unfounded and a new restaurant has taken over the space: Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits.

Brickstone’s is the newest offering from the owners of Austin’s, Coastal Grille, and the region’s J.B. Dawson’s restaurants (Select Grille LLC).

Inside, it hasn’t changed much since the days of ViVA. From the main dining area to the bar and lounge, it feels very much like the former restaurant.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits

The menu is a great complement to Austin’s. There is some crossover, and the types of foods offered are similar, but Brickstone’s has built upon the familiar to create something new.

And the menu knows no cultural boundaries. Tikka masala, pad Thai, enchiladas and the South Philly spaghetti and meatballs can all be found in one place at Brickstone’s.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tex-Mex Egg Rolls

Julie and I started our meal with the Tex-Mex egg rolls, a delicious cultural mash-up with chicken, corn, black beans and cheese.

I’ve had similar before, but that didn’t make this any less appetizing. Everything about it worked, especially the avocado ranch dipping sauce. It added a nice, cooling touch to the mild spice.

For our main courses, we went in completely different directions.

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Tuscan Pasta

I went Italian with the Tuscan pasta. It featured penne pasta with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a Parmesan cream sauce.

It felt like a dish I had before at Austin’s – maybe it was a special once, I’m not sure – but it was very good.  I love sun-dried tomatoes, and Julie and I are always looking for recipes that use them. The sauce was rich and creamy. Even the spinach was a nice little throw-in.

All in all, it was one of the best pasta dishes that I have had outside of a traditional Italian restaurant. And it’s definitely one that I would order again (perhaps for Julie and I to split as half of it went home with us).

Brickstone's Mighty Fine Food & Spirits Coconut Curry Bowl

Julie’s dish was more reminiscent of south Asia. Her coconut curry bowl included chicken, carrots, broccoli, onions, green beans and zucchini in a Thai red curry sauce, served over rice.

The vegetables were fresh, the chicken was done well, but the real flavor in a dish like this comes from the sauce.

At first, she didn’t even notice the heat. But as the dish went along, her bites got more and more spicy. Now, neither of us will ever claim to have a high tolerance for spicy food so this may taste milder to others. The spice level was certainly high for Julie, but not high enough that it made the dish unenjoyable.

She brought some of her dish home, but not as much as I did.

Julie also added a drink (not pictured). This being a date night, and one of the few evenings where Jakob – now 10 months old – was not with us, it seemed the perfect opportunity for us to unwind a little.

With entrees, appetizer and drinks (I had an iced tea), our total was between $45 and $50. Our service throughout the night was very good, though it seemed to take a while for us to get our check (we were happy to savor the alone time so we didn’t mind).

It was a great night at what is surely to be another hit for the popular restaurant group.

And it certainly is a great fit for a location that could have easily fallen away with the closure of ViVA.

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

Brickstone’s Mighty Fine Food & Spirits
901 Hill Ave
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Lunch & Dinner Reviews