In 1989, Dan Gallagher and Dan Smith joined their respective names and began pursuing one common goal: to bring a contemporary alternative to Berks County's dining scene. The 40-seat eatery was successful in the Dans' hands until 2005, when Bill Woolworth and MD. Monir stopped in for dinner, fell in love with the place, and decided to buy it.
Though much of the space's original charm remains intact, the new owners gussied up the decor with white tablecloths and floral arrangements, and they solicited the help of executive chef Jason Hook to lighten the rotating menu. Jason draws on his experience studying in France and working at The Four Seasons in New York to craft healthful, contemporary French- and Californian-inspired dishes. In every preparation, he highlights the ingredients' natural tastes, often pairing local cuts of meat and poultry with fresh, seasonal ingredients and luxurious flourishes such as truffles or Lamborghini-scented foam.
Hook, Woolworth, and Monir also frequently evaluate their wine selections to ensure that they pair well with the evolving menu, which changes every week. While sipping glasses of red or white, diners can question servers about the building's rich history in the Penn's Common Historic District. Before the restaurant settled into the space, it was inhabited by an old-style soda dive, a prison doctor's home, and a grassland populated with roaming dinosaurs.
Bensi co-owner Genci Previzi helms an immense menu of classic Italian cuisine, including hearty homestyle dishes with roots in Calabria, Italy. Entrees, joined by a house salad or cup of comforting housemade soup, range from spaghetti and meatballs to gluten-free grilled chicken in a lemon-garlic marinade served over a veggie medley. The chefs also prepare an array of specials such as pignoli-crusted goat cheese and arugula salad, barolo-braised veal osso buco, pan-seared Chilean sea bass with eggplant caponata, and nutella chocolate pizza with fresh strawberries. The dishes are served in a modern dining atmosphere where minimal table settings and simple dark-wood furniture keep the focus on the vibrant cuisine.
Good Eatz Green Café stocks its kitchen with local, sustainable, and organic ingredients to fill its menu with gluten-, dairy-, or animal product-free meals. Wholesome recipes include maple buckwheat pancakes and Mexican-style frittatas, as well as ahi tuna sashimi, gluten-free cheese ravioli, seitan meatloaf, and Black Angus cheeseburgers.
In addition to its devotion to sustainable ingredients, Good Eatz boasts other green qualifications such as membership in Oxfam and Green America, formerly Co-op America, a box and paper reuse program, and Energy Star appliances, which can be plugged directly into the sun.
The ingredients used in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine are vastly different, as are the methods of preparation. At Zhuang's Garden, they come together in surprising ways. Eight crackling hibachi-grill tables and a sushi bar represent Japan, and Chinese décor and the aromas of lo mein hint at the traditions of that nation. Glasses of wine clink together above plates of Thai food at the BYOB eatery, where the dishes include curry that is the brilliant yellow of turmeric or a banana salesman’s business card.
Judy's on Cherry fills dinner plates, lunch plates, and small-but-supportive tapas plates with Mediterranean-inspired, fine dining flair. Like most children who take pottery classes, chef, owner, and Reading native Judy Henry tends a 6,000-pound ceramic oven, where most of the menu items emerge. Evening diners choose from an array of 15 diminutive dishes, such as roasted asparagus bundles, adorned simply with sea salt, lemon aioli, and parmesan ($7.95), or spicy, stouthearted papas bravas, combining fingerling potatoes, large shrimp, and cured chorizo ($10.95). Thin, crispy-crusted chicken saltimbocca pizza leaps out of the hearth-fire oven screaming about being tasty ($10.95), the balsamic braised-lamb shank relaxes in a bed of creamy cheese polenta with roasted cipollini onion pillows ($25.95), and the frenched pork chop gets tipsy on a peach-bourbon glaze and admits a crush on its lyonnaise potato and swiss chard platemates ($19.95).
Cuisine Type: Pizza, burgers, and cheese steaks.
Most popular offering: Large New York syle pizza.
Reservations: Not offered
Delivery / Take-out Available: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Number of Tables: 5–10
Outdoor Seating: No
Parking: Free street parking
Handicap Accessible: No
With their far-reaching knowledge of sauces, Wing Out Cafe's cooks transform chicken wings from a single food item into 25 different snacks. They craft flavors from the gentle parmesan garlic to the aptly named Face Melta, the spiciest variety in their repertoire. The signature sauces are good for more than just decorating wings and boring white t-shirts, though. The cooks also spread them over pizza crusts, combining them with cheese and 15 available toppings to create unique pies.