A personal, 10-inch pepperoni lovers pizza from Pizza Como in Hamburg

Pizza Como

Looking at the outside Pizza Como from 5th Street in Hamburg

One of the things that I love about pizza places is that, more than any other type of restaurant, they are neighborhood places. Every town has a pizza place (or two, or three).

Hamburg has a couple places of its own, and one of those is Pizza Como.

Pizza Como can be found a block away from the downtown business district at the corner of State and 5th Streets. It’s a part of town Julie and I may have never discovered if not for a visit to the Weis Markets across the street a year ago.

(Also, don’t confuse this Pizza Como with Pizza Como on 5th Street Highway in Muhlenberg).

Booths line the sunroom at Pizza Como in Hamburg

The restaurant has a cool vintage look with a sun room dining area facing 5th Street. The wine-colored booths and hexagon floor tiles are definitely from another era (and the tiles are getting a little worn in places). There’s a small, but nice bar that was full with five customers. There were more tables and booths in between.

While there were a decent number of families dining in during our visit, there were a lot more coming and going to pick up their take-out orders. From our spot we watched a constant stream of customers entering through the front door.

A view of the dining room at Pizza Como in Hamburg

Unfortunately the restaurant seemed a little understaffed for the amount of customers. Our server was handling most (maybe all) of the tables as well as tending the bar. I also saw her answer the phone at least once. She was as attentive as she could be under the circumstances, but it took a few minutes before she stopped by to greet us and ask for our drinks.

The good thing about a pizza shop is that it doesn’t take very long to get your food, no matter what you order. We had ordered barbecue wings for an appetizer and they were out a short time later.

A plate of six barbecue wings from Pizza Como in Hamburg

The wings were cooked well but had much less sauce than most wings. It allowed the flavor of the meat to come out more (and I wasn’t quite as sticky as usual), but I did find myself wanting a little more ‘cue. Also, we weren’t offered any ranch or bleu cheese. It didn’t really bother me, and we didn’t need it, either. I just can’t remember the last time we had wings where it wasn’t offered.

We had polished off the wings fairly quickly, but we didn’t have to wait much longer for our pizzas to arrive.

Pizza Como offers individual 10-inch pizzas which was perfect because we could try two very different pies and have enough to share with our toddler as well.

A personal, 10-inch pepperoni lovers pizza from Pizza Como in Hamburg

I had ordered the pepperoni lovers pizza. Surprise, it was loaded with pepperoni so there was at least once piece in every bite. The crust was cooked perfectly – crispy, but not burnt – so that it never sagged when you picked up a piece. And despite having nearly 30 pieces of pepperoni crammed on to the pie, it didn’t feel greasy.

Overall, it was a very good, and very enjoyable pizza.

A personal, 10-inch pesto pizza from Pizza Como in Hamburg

As I mentioned, Julie and I ordered two very different pizzas. She chose the pesto pizza, which had a familiar green tint from the basil. And like a good pesto sauce, it had nice hints of garlic throughout. Like mine, the crust was done very well, exactly how it should be. Even Jakob, our almost two-year-old, approved.

We didn’t need to eat all of it, but we did. It was too good that we didn’t want to let any of it go to waste – or our fridge.

After we were finished, we had another wait, this time to get our check. I peeked around the corner and saw our server taking orders from the four guys who had just sat down at the bar. A few minutes later, she was still there, this time jotting down a phone order. Thankfully, once we had the check, I just had to pay at the counter because when a toddler is done eating, he is really done and ready to go, and I don’t know how long it would have taken to get change.

All things considered, she did an excellent job (and was great with our son), she was just stuck juggling too many tasks, which I can’t blame her for.

Our total bill, by the way, was just $21 for two pizzas and a half-dozen wings. That’s a bargain compared to a lot of places that we’ve visited.

Aside from the waiting, we had a very good experience – and some very good pizza. If we lived closer, I could see us getting take-out from Pizza Como often. And even with a little slower service, we would still dine in again if we’re in the area.

Judging by the foot traffic, a lot of locals keep coming back for more.

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

Pizza Como
501 State St
Hamburg, PA 19526

Pizzerias Reviews
A half cheese, half pepperoni pizza from Fratello's in Reading

Fratello’s Bar & Restaurant

A view of the brick facade at the entrance to Fratello's in Reading

Back in 2014 when I started Berks County Eats, the Reading Eagle ran a story about the upcoming renovation of the Big Mill, one of the buildings that made up the former Reading outlets. I was excited for the project, mostly because it was to include a new restaurant: Fratello’s Bar & Restaurant.

Then a fire broke out in October of that year and everything was put on hold. The apartments would open in 2016 with no restaurant – and honestly, I had assumed the restaurant portion of the project was dead.

Then earlier this year, Fratello’s arrived, celebrating a grand opening in April. Half a year later, and I finally had a chance to make my first visit as my friend Dennis and I headed into the city on a recent Friday night.

Fratello’s address is North 8th Street, but the main entrance – and off-street parking – is located along Nicolls Street.

Booths and tables are laid out among exposed beams inside the brick walls of Fratello's in Reading

Walking through the front door, I felt a little lost. To our left was the bar with seating for about 20. Straight ahead was the take-out counter. Hidden behind the counter was the deceptively large dining area. Booths line the walls, accompanied by a handful of tables in the center of the room.

The whole place has an industrial feel to it with brick walls and exposed beams. When we arrived, the lone TV in the room was set to cable news. After stopping by our table, our server changed the channel and turned on a video DJ station that was playing Latin pop. At some point, the music switched over to Frank Sinatra and Elvis.

Our server was attentive throughout the meal, but we were the only patrons in the dining room when we sat down. A young family came in while we were eating. Our server spoke with them in Spanish as easily as she spoke to us in English.

The restaurant has a fairly robust menu with pasta dishes, but we were there for wings and pizza.

Ten BBQ wings piled high at Fratello's in Reading

Our 10 barbecue wings were out first. The sauce was good and sweet, though nothing remarkable. The wings were meaty, well-cooked, and well-sauced. It was exactly what we were hoping for.

We hadn’t quite finished our wings before the pizza arrived. Originally I had been thinking about an individual pizza, but Dennis and I decided to split a medium – plain cheese on his half, pepperoni on mine.

A half cheese, half pepperoni pizza from Fratello's in Reading

The pizza was very good, though a little greasy. The cheese and sauce were both good. And I enjoyed the dough, which was cooked just right.

I was glad to see that even for a half pie, they didn’t skimp on the pepperoni. There wasn’t a bite without some of the salty, savory slices.

No one would mistake it for an artisan pizza like you’d find at a place like Nonno Alby’s, but it was enjoyable for what it was.

Our final total for the meal – which included my usual glass of unsweetened iced tea – was $32. It’s certainly not the cheapest pizza and wings around, but it felt right for the amount of food and was a little less than what we would have paid had we each ordered an individual pizza.

The most important thing, though, was that we enjoyed our meal.

Hopefully the good food and friendly service will keep Fratello’s in business for a lot longer than the five years they waited to open.

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

Fratello’s Bar & Restaurant
702 N. 8th St
Reading, PA 19604

Pizzerias Reviews

Brocmar Smokehouse – West Reading – CLOSED

Editor’s Note: Brocmar Smokehouse’s West Reading location is now closed as of October 10, 2019. Brocmar continues to operate at the Shillington Farmers Market, its arena and stadium locations, and its mobile food truck and catering business. B2 Bistro, which Brocmar shared the space with, is continuing to offer barbecue with the newly opened BBQ Smokehouse at B2.

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

Closed
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

5 Favorite Appetizers of 2017

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. We’re starting off with our favorite starters. Here are our five favorite appetizers we tried in 2017.

Stonersville Hotel – Baked Tomato and Mushroom Soup

The Stonersville Hotel was a pleasant surprise, and it started with a cup of their baked tomato and mushroom soup. It was served like a French onion soup, in a crock covered with mozzarella cheese. The tomato and mozzarella came together nicely in one of the best soups that I have tried on my Berks County Eats journey. Read Full Review

Say Cheese – Cheddar Beer Soup

Speaking of delicious soups, Say Cheese had a fantastic offering with its cheddar beer soup. The two namesake ingredients were the obvious stars, and the flavors were only enhanced by the oversized croutons and the small, salty bits of bacon. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale – Poutine

In July, I attended a conference in Quebec City and tasted true French Canadian poutine. Four months earlier I had poutine at Fork & Ale. In this case, Berks County did it better. The “gravy” – a sausage tomato sauce – was amazing, and the fries made a perfect stand-in for spaghetti in the Italian-inspired take on the dish. Read Full Review

Pike Cafe – Wings

The Pike Cafe has won many “best of” awards for wings, and in our first visit, we got it. The Pike uses Bell & Evans organic wings so they are a little smaller than some other wings, but it also meant that they were crispier and more evenly seasoned throughout. We had Montreal seasoning on ours, and we loved every bite. Read Full Review

Nirvana Indian Bistro – Samosas

When Nirvana Indian Bistro opened in Wyomissing in spring, we wondered how it would be able to compete with the already established Laxmi’s right down the street. It turns out, they are just as good. Our first taste of Nirvana were the samosas, fried pastries filled with vegetables and potatoes. They were good, but when paired with the chutney selections – specifically the sweet and spicy onion chutney – they were delicious. Read Full Review

 

Appetizers Best of Berks County Eats

1 Potato Two – CLOSED

1 Potato Two at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market

Editor’s Note: 1 Potato Two is now closed. August 10 was the stand at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market. The owners of the stand still operate a food truck based in New Jersey.

Berks County has never really been known for creativity – at least when it comes to food.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are not exactly the most adventurous eaters in the world either.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to introduce something new, something different, something unique.

Unique is the best word to describe the spudwiches at 1 Potato Two at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

The concept for 1 Potato Two began as a food truck in New Jersey. The best in the state, according to the USA Today article that hangs from one wall at the stand.

1 Potato Two Features a Rotating Menu of Spudwiches

(Almost) everything at 1 Potato Two is built around – you guessed it – potatoes. There are tater tots with multiple topping choices. There are potato balls, deep-fried bites filled with potato, meat and cheese. And then there are the spudwiches.

So what exactly is a spudwich?

It’s a sandwich, but with no bread. Instead, the filling is placed between two carved out potato halves.

It’s genius.

Over the weekend, I visited the stand with my friend Dennis, already a fan of the spudwich. We ordered our two spudwiches and waited for a few minutes while the potatoes and some of the ingredients took a quick bath in the deep fryer.

The selection of spudwiches rotate weekly, and there is quite the variety. I ordered the eggplant parmigiana while Dennis ordered the buffalo chicken.

Our spudwiches were delivered to our seats. “You’re nice guys so I’m going to leave you these,” said the cook as he laid down some extra napkins. They came in very handy.

My spudwich was fantastic. The fried eggplant was light and tender. The mozzarella and tomato sauce were nicely portioned. But the best part about it is the potato.

I could have eaten the potato by itself. Give me three or four of them, and it would be the best potato skin appetizer I have ever tried. But as part of the spudwich, it is actually very complementary to the other ingredients.

Now, I have to point out that it is greasy – the potato and eggplant having both come out fresh out of the fryer – so if that does not appeal to you, you probably won’t enjoy the spudwich. If you don’t mind a little fried food every now and then, this is right up your alley.

Dennis’ spudwich, I dare say, may have been better than mine. It was certainly more robust than my own, with chicken strips spilling out over the sides.

The chicken was delicious. I’m not a big fan of buffalo sauce, but Dennis allowed me a small piece and I was impressed.

What really worked – and what Dennis found to be the best part – was the combination of the buffalo chicken with the bacon. And the potato made for the perfect addition.

It was so good that he completely forgot about the cup of blue cheese on the side. Quite frankly, it didn’t need it.

Together, our two spudwiches were just short of $20 ($8.99 each). For me, the spudwich was hearty enough on its own that I didn’t need anything else for my lunch.

One other note: the challenge of dining at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market is seating. We were lucky to grab two of the four stools at 1 Potato Two’s counter. It was a win for us because the Saturday lunch rush makes it hard to find a seat in the Market’s main dining area.

1 Potato Two certainly brings a new perspective and a whole new idea to Berks County.

And it’s an idea that I can really get behind.

1 Potato Two
Fairgrounds Farmers Market
2934 N. Fifth Street Hwy
Reading, PA 19605

1 Potato Two Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Farmers Market Meals Reviews

The Pike Cafe

We’ve spent a lot of 2017 visiting restaurants that are new to Reading and Berks County.

I couldn’t wait to visit highly anticipated restaurants like Gettin’ Crabby at the Crab Barn and Fork & Ale.

But sometimes, you have to also experience the classics that we’ve neglected, places like Reading’s Pike Cafe.

The “World Famous” Pike Cafe is a true gem in the city. The corner of Pike and Moss isn’t exactly in a part of the city that sees a lot of outside traffic – except for those coming to the Pike.

One of the best parts about the Pike is that it has one of the largest parking lots in the city. And it needs it. We arrived at about 5:15 p.m. on a Saturday night and got the last available table.

Take my advice and make a reservation, especially for the weekend dinner rush.

We were led around the U-shaped bar and into the back corner where they packed in the two-seat tables.

It was our first time at the Pike so we had to try the wings – a perennial contender in every “Best Of” competition.

After my first bite, I get it.

The wings are advertised as Bell & Evans organic wings. Anytime you are ordering an organic protein, you can expect it to be smaller – without the growth hormones, the animals are a more natural size.

But what the organic wings lacked in size, they made up for in flavor. It’s everything that chicken should taste like, and without the excess meat, there’s a crunch to every bite. The wings were also able to absorb more of the flavor from the Montreal dry rub we chose.

Sauces and dry rubs aside, these are the only wings in Berks County that I would order naked (the wings, not me).

I got another taste of Bell & Evans chicken with my entree, the chicken bruschetta sandwich.

The sandwich featured a grilled chicken breast with house-made bruschetta, asiago cheese, balsamic drizzle and a bun branded with the Pike logo, just so there are no doubts where the sandwich came from.

First, the chicken was excellent. It was juicy, flavorful and clearly not processed. The bruschetta was very good, though I would have preferred smaller pieces of tomato (the large chunks tended to fall out of the bun). The asiago cheese was the perfect choice for the sandwich, and it had just the right amount of balsamic.

Toasting the bun didn’t just add branding, it added a crunchy texture that the sandwich needed to make it truly feel like bruschetta.

I almost forgot to mention the fries. Hand-cut, skin-on, golden brown – this is how fries are supposed to be. I wouldn’t call them the best in town, but I definitely enjoyed them.

Julie went with another Pike Cafe original dish, the pepperoni cheesesteak supreme wrap.

Ribeye chipped steak, pepperoni, mushrooms, caramelized onion, marinara and Provolone were combined in a flour wrap.

It tasted exactly as I imagined it would. While the steak was the base, the pepperoni came through strong. In the one bite Julie allowed me to have, I could pick up the onion and mushrooms, and the melted Provolone helped pull everything together.

Skipping the fries, Julie opted instead for the potato chips – Sweet Maui onion flavored. If you like onions, you’ll appreciate this as a refreshing change from a typical kettle chip. If you don’t like onions, get the fries.

We were comfortably full after our entrees, but I couldn’t leave the Pike without dessert, or more specifically, the Pike Crème Cafe.

The crème cafe features deep-fried ice cream with whipped cream, honey and chocolate syrup served on a powdered sugar tortilla. Admit it, you couldn’t pass that up either.

We probably would have been more than satisfied with the fried ice cream. The addition of a crisp outer shell is always welcome with vanilla ice cream. The tortilla was good – a fried tortilla shell like you would get in a taco salad – but it was almost too much fried food for dessert.

Still, I didn’t regret it.

That was more than enough for us to leave the Pike Cafe satisfied. Our total was just shy of $40 (one iced tea was also included in that). All told, it felt like a reasonable price for everything that we had.

I don’t know if the Pike Cafe really is “World Famous,” but it’s definitely famous in Reading and Berks County for good reason.

Once you visit for the first time, you’ll get it, too.

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

Pike Cafe
930 Pike St
Reading, PA 19604

Pike Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Klinger’s at the Airport

klingers-airport-mural

Every great movie franchise is built on the trilogy. Think Lord of the Rings, the Dark Knight and Star Wars (the originals, obviously). That formula apparently works for restaurants, too.

With the opening of Klinger’s at the Airport at the end of 2016, the Klinger’s trilogy is now complete.

Berks County Eats has already visited the original Klinger’s on Carsonia, and last year, we visited the new Klinger’s of Fleetwood.

If I were starting a restaurant, the Reading Regional Airport would not be my ideal location. The airport hasn’t had regular passenger service since 2004.

But with the closing of Malibooz early last year, the space was open and Klinger’s stepped in.

The lights were mostly off in the terminal when we arrived, but Klinger’s was alive and well, tucked in a corner on the left side of the building.

It looks like a hole in the wall, but the dining area opens up from the entrance. To the right is a 360-degree bar. A large mural dedicated to aviation history decorates the wall behind it.

The rest of the dining room is filled with booths and tables, definitely the largest dining area of the three Klinger’s restaurants.

Our table was by one of the windows overlooking the airstrip. During our visit – a Tuesday night where we played Challenge the Pub trivia – we saw exactly one plane out the window, though whether it was coming or going, I couldn’t say.

klingers-airport-wings

Klinger’s is known for their bar food and for me, their wings are some of the best around. So we had to start our night with a basket – five Old Bay and five Jameson Whiskey BBQ.

Both flavors can be found at Klinger’s other restaurants, the Jameson Whiskey BBQ being the signature flavor. It’s sweet, and a little bitey. When I’ve had the wings at Carsonia, the sauce is laid on much thicker. This was lighter, but the flavor was still there. And the Old Bay is exactly what it sounds like, wings rubbed down in the classic seasoning, Julie’s favorite.

The menu looks similar to the other two locations, though each one has its own unique offerings. For instance, all three feature different varieties of chili. I had an opportunity to sample the habanero chili during the chili cook-off at this year’s Fire & Ice Festival and loved it. It was a little sweet with enough heat to make you take notice, but not enough to overpower everything else.

klingers-airport-lone-star-steak-sandwich

Another twist comes with the sandwiches. All three locations have a section for steak sandwiches, but only Fleetwood and the Airport have the Lone Star Style steak sandwich featuring sautéed onions, barbecue sauce, beer cheese and bacon.

It is a phenomenal mix of ingredients. The steak meat – real cuts of meat, not Steak-Ums – is a great base. The beer cheese and the barbecue sauce blend together really well for a sweet and smoky flavor. The thick-cut bacon adds a salty note and more smokiness. And the sautéed onions are the perfect finish.

This is no Philly cheesesteak, but it is one of the best sandwiches that I have tried in more than three years of Berks County Eats.

klingers-airport-stromboli

One of the only-at-the-airport menu additions is Stromboli – seven varieties made with beer dough. Julie decided to try the Classic – pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, mozzarella and marinara.

Klinger’s did a good job with this. The doughy shell is very good, though I couldn’t taste anything uniquely “beer dough” about it. What really stands out though is the sauce. It’s a thick, deep red sauce that is quite enjoyable for a place that doesn’t qualify as an “Italian restaurant.”

klingers-airport-cookie-sundae

We were joined on our visit by our friends Matt and Hannah, who were very excited to see a cookie sundae on the dessert menu.

I have to say, after the meal, the sundae was a bit of a letdown. The chocolate chip cookie, though it looked cute with a faux face made of chocolate chunks – was disappointing. It was hard so it was difficult to cut and share. We finished off the ice cream and chocolate syrup but left some of the cookie behind.

For Julie and I, our total bill was around $30 (that included our two entrees, wings and an iced tea as Matt and Hannah picked up the tab for the cookie). Good luck coming in under $30 for dinner at PHL.

The new Klinger’s, despite its location, should prove successful. It follows a similar formula as its two sister restaurants: a cool atmosphere, rotating craft beers for the bar crowd, and great food.

Now that they have the three-peat, will Klinger’s try for four?

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

Klinger’s at the Airport
2385 Bernville Rd
Reading, PA 19605

Klinger's at the Airport Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Dessert Lunch & Dinner Reviews

The Liberty Taproom

On my laptop is a list of more than 500 Berks County restaurants. Every week, it’s my responsibility to look through the list and find a new place to try and review for the blog.

Except this week.

This week, I left it to Julie to find us a place on-the-fly as we drove back from a trip to the Philly suburbs.

After searching review sites for a few minutes, she suggested the Liberty Taproom. It was an interesting choice. Two non-beer drinkers heading to the Mount Penn area to try the multi-time Best in Berks winner for best beer selection.

Neither of us had ever seen the Liberty Taproom before, inside or out. So we were in the dark (literally, which is why I couldn’t get a picture of the building’s exterior) until we stepped inside.

Despite it being, first and foremost, a bar, we were surprised by the number of families. It was definitely a family friendly place, even on a busy Saturday evening.

It was also loud. With only a partial wall separating the bar from the “dining room,” voices carried and the noise level was high. Add to it the live music that started at 6 and conversations got louder. It wasn’t overbearing, but it was noticeable.

The menu is all pub food, with a beer and drink menu that equaled the size of the food menu. Among the options were pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, wings and oversized pretzels.

liberty-taproom-dr-pepper-bbq-wings

We started with an order of wings, tossed in Liberty’s Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce.

I discovered Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce years ago with a homemade recipe. I love the extra sweetness (and the addition of Dr. Pepper’s 23 flavors). It worked especially well with Liberty’s meaty, breaded wings.

These were definitely among the best in Berks.

In the car on our way to dinner, Julie and I were talking about the best burgers that we’ve had around the county, including those at the nearby Frank and Diannah’s Arbor Inn.

liberty-taproom-duck-confit-burger

There was no doubt I was going to get a burger. And once I saw the duck confit burger, there was no doubt which one it would be.

Liberty’s duck confit burger features a patty cooked in duck fat, topped with duck sausage, smoked gouda, “haystack” onions, lettuce and tomato.

It was quite a burger.

First, the burger itself was cooked to a perfect medium-well, just the slightest remnant of pink in the center.

Then there was the duck sausage. I was not expecting that. It was richer than pork sausage, with a much brighter flavor. The gouda added a sweetness, especially in bites that didn’t include the sausage (which were few).

Haystack onions are Liberty’s take on fried onion strings. Loaded high atop the burger, the onions were ever present, just the way I like them on my burgers.

On the side, I had a cup of fries. With such a heavy burger, I didn’t mind the smaller portion of fries. They were good, the thick-cut type though nothing outstanding.

liberty-taproom-chicken-sandwich

Feeling the need for something slightly lighter, Julie built her own sandwich with grilled chicken as the base.

She topped it with gouda, lettuce, tomato, haystack onions and mayo.

The chicken breast was hefty, definitely just as robust as my half-pound burger. Not having it on mine, the mayo really stood out on her sandwich.

Along with her sandwich, Julie splurged on a side of sweet potato fries (with caramel dipping sauce). I thought they were much better than the regular fries, but that may have been the caramel talking.

That was all we could handle for the night, leaving with a bill of $40 for a very satisfying meal.

Maybe I should let Julie pick the next restaurant, too.

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

The Liberty Taproom
237 N. Prospect St
Reading, PA 19606

Liberty Taproom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Basin Street Hotel

basin-street-hotel-exterior

Kutztown will always have a special place in my heart.

I don’t make it back there as often as I would like since graduating from KU in 2013. When it’s time for blogging, I try to time my visits so school’s not in session.

It’s not that I have anything against college students, but the summer months (and winter break) are slower times for many of the local restaurants. That means less crowds, shorter waits, and better service.

That’s why Julie and I waited until a Thursday night in June to pay a visit to the Basin Street Hotel. Two months from now, when class is back in session, I wouldn’t suggest going anywhere in town on a Thirsty Thursday night.

basin-street-hotel-interior

But the Hotel was calm and quiet when we arrived. Only one other booth was taken, though there were a few people hanging at the bar and a couple enjoying dinner outside on the cloudy evening.

During my time in Kutztown, I had never visited Basin Street. It’s almost on the wrong side of the tracks for college students, facing out to the train station and the Allentown and Auburn Railroad line.

Restaurants and inns have been operating on the location at the corner of Main and Willow Streets (ironically, there is no Basin Street) for more than 100 years, and the hotel maintains a certain old-time charm inside with high wooden booths, decorative ceiling tiles and historic photos of Basin Street and the town.

The only thing I really knew about Basin Street before arriving is that they are known for their wings, or at least, that’s what they tout on Twitter and Facebook so I knew where our meal was starting.

basin-street-hotel-wings

There are 22 flavors to choose from on the menu ranging from standard hot, mild and BBQ to original creations like the red pepper parm and drunken varieties.

We went with two of the more original flavors: enchilada and spicy lime.

The enchilada wings were tossed in oil and taco seasoning. Unfortunately, much of it ran off the wings so I had to continually dip it in the run-off on the plate to get that Mexican flavor I was looking for. It took some work, but I got. I just wish it had been stronger.

On the spicy lime, I got spice and very little lime. It was basically Buffalo sauce with a little after taste of citrus. (Unless I was accidently given hot wings and just imagined the lime). For Buffalo wings, they were really good.

The wings were also very meaty and filling, definitely more than we needed when we saw the size of our dinner.

Basin Street’s menu is all pub food: apps, salads, burgers and sandwiches. There are no entrees, no meals. But that’s OK. There are more than 40 burgers, wraps and sandwiches to choose from on the robust menu.

basin-street-hotel-the-golden-bear

On the “Collegiate Corner” part of the menu, all of the sandwiches were given KU-themed names, like the Golden Bear.

The Golden Bear is Basin Street’s take on a Primanti Brothers sandwich – roast beef with coleslaw and French fries served on top of the meat.

This is a sandwich that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Separately, it’s average fries, good roast beef and tasty slaw, but together, it was a hearty, enjoyable sandwich.

From being between the hot roast beef and fries, the coleslaw warmed up quick so there was never a cold bite. The fries got a little soggy, but the thick French bread roll held up deliciously well. I probably shouldn’t have finished the whole thing, but I did anyway.

Julie went with something a little bit different as well, the turkey French dip.

basin-street-hotel-turkey-french-dip

French dip sandwiches, as you probably know, are generally made with roast beef and served with a cup of au jus (light gravy) on the side. The turkey French dip just substituted the meat on the sandwich and in the gravy.

It was a nice change of pace. Julie especially enjoyed it with the Provolone cheese she ordered on top. She also finished off everything on her plate, except a few chips that she left in the bag to take home.

The only downside to visiting Kutztown in the summer months is that a lot of the restaurants are running with short staffs. There was only one guy working as both server and bartender, and while he did well at taking our orders and bringing our food, we had to go up to the bar to get and pay our $30 check.

I’m sure there aren’t many nights when the Basin Street Hotel is as quiet as it was for our visit. But that’s why we went when we did.

I like to enjoy Kutztown – and its restaurants – at its best.

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

Basin Street Hotel
42 E. Main St
Kutztown, PA 19530

Basin Street Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars & Pubs Lunch & Dinner Reviews