Dating back as far as 1748, Reading in Pennsylvania has a colorful history as an industrial hub and tourist hotspot. Despite facing hardship in the wake of the recent recession, the city’s dining scene is helping to put Reading back on the map. Whether contemporary American fare, rustic Italian cuisine or upscale seafood takes your fancy, our round-up of Reading’s top restaurants will guide you towards the city’s best local eats.
Located in the heart of downtown Reading in what used to be a farmer’s market is Judy’s On Cherry. This restaurant offers Mediterranean inspired dishes in a beautifully designed space complete with gorgeous wooden vaulted ceilings, a warm color scheme perfectly suited to its menu and a huge, hearth fired oven. Chef and owner Judy Henry, a native of Reading, cooks up delicious, hearty plates such as cedar planked Scottish salmon with quinoa-brown rice pilaf and Brussels sprouts petals included. Guests can also choose from a number of smaller, tapas-style plates. Don’t leave without trying one of Judy’s famous homemade desserts, the classic Florida key lime pie is especially popular.
The palatial Stokesay Castle, located on the outskirts of Reading, is something of a local landmark. Built by George Baer Hiester in 1931, Stokesay Castle is modelled on the 13th century castle of the same name in Shropshire, England. In 2009 local entrepreneur Jack Gulati bought up and lovingly restored the beautiful property. Today, Stokesay Castle offers contemporary American cuisine crafted by executive chef Willie Brockington in the Lord’s Dining Room, with tempting dishes that include ras el hanout rubbed roast duck breast with wild lingonberry sauce and orange zest, and The Knight’s Pub which offers casual American pub fare and drinks.
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Situated in a beautiful 200-year-old property on the outskirts of Reading, Dans at Green Hills is widely considered one of the best fine dining restaurants in the city. Guests have the option of dining in one of four private dining rooms, or can take a table on the restaurants beautiful patio on warmer evenings, while sampling the delicious contemporary American-French recipes of executive chef Michael Schaeffer. Try the Pennsylvania chicken with mushroom risotto and sherry herb jus or the pan-seared scallops with caramelized fennel and potato gratin, arugula and citrus beurre blanc.
The café branch of the world famous Sweet Street Desserts, Café Sweet Street is a hip, urban venue offering delicious made-from-scratch breakfasts and lunches with a firm locavore sensibility at its core. Guests can dine in Café Sweet Treat’s industrial-chic interior, complete with locally produced artwork, or outside on its High Line-inspired terrace with its own Marri Forna pizza oven while sampling chef Brendan Jones’ hyper-local dishes, some of which feature produce from the café’s own herb garden. Choose from hearty breakfasts, fresh salads, sandwiches, pizzas and weekly specials and don’t leave without trying one of Sweet Street Desserts signature sweet treats like salted caramel cheesecake or zucchini loaf cake.
A winner of the Reading Eagles Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mexican Restaurant, Alebrije is where local diners in the know head for spicy, south of the border fare. With three locations spread throughout Reading, each has a bright and breezy design full of the warm, vibrant colors one associates with Mexican design. The restaurant’s laidback, welcoming ambience is the perfect place to try its many tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas. Other menu options include the likes of choripollo, a charbroiled chicken breast marinated in guajillo sauce and topped with Mexican chorizo, sautéed onions and cheese sauce. Plenty of classic Mexican desserts and drinks, like churros and horchata, are also served.
Jimmie Kramer’s The Peanut Bar Restaurant was first opened in 1924 by its namesake and after a colorful history, including a brief stint as a speakeasy, the restaurant remains a family run operation today. Homely, casual American fare dominates the restaurant’s menu with dishes like Buffalo-style hot wings and jumbo lump Maryland crab cakes alongside specialty old-time favorites such as oyster po’boys, fish and chips with house tartar sauce and honey-stung fried chicken with seasoned fries. Don’t forget to try the award winning, homemade pretzel pie dessert.
Opened by locally based owners Jim Lukens, Pete DiCarlo and Marc DiGiovanni, Coastal Grille is an upscale seafood restaurant that pays homage to the owners’ culinary adventures of America’s coastal regions. In keeping with its seafood-heavy menu, Coastal Grille’s interior features a huge aquarium while marine inspired sculptures add flair to a chicly understated design. It is a befitting space in which to try dishes like the panko-crusted baked Boston haddock in a shrimp and crab garlic cream sauce or the more casual Baja tilapia tacos with chimichurri sauce, mango salsa and lime-cream drizzle.
For lovers of beer and hearty American fare, Reading’s Canal Street Pub & Restaurant is a must try dining destination. Opened n a historic property dating back to 1851, Canal Street Pub allows guests to enjoy casual fare or opt for a fine dining experience in its restaurant. On the menu are entrées like vanilla cashew scallops with basmati rice and snow peas and the oven-roasted duck breast with fig-balsamic glaze, ginger rice and sautéed Asian vegetables. Alongside serving an extensive menu of rare American microbrews, Belgian ales and other imports, Canal Street Pub also hosts the Brewphobia and S.I.P beer festivals featuring brews from local, regional and national breweries.
Located on the outskirts of Reading, not too far from the city’s famous Pagoda in Mount Penn Reserve, Frank & Diannah’s Arbor Inn is a New American restaurant serving upscale eats in an inviting, relaxed atmosphere. Highlights of the menu include the pan-seared Spanish mackerel with lemon, grilled balsamic onion and roasted cherry tomatoes and the braised pork shank with broccoli rabe, pancetta and polenta. Go on Thursdays for the restaurant’s weekly burger night which includes must try varieties like the Wimpy Burger.
For rustic, regional Italian fare in the heart of downtown Reading, hungry diners need look no further than Panevino. Its the latest creation of local chef and restaurateur David Brennan’s, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America voted one of the region’s top chefs by The Restaurant School of Philadelphia. Choose from authentic eats such as chef Brennan’s traditional Tuscan-style pizzas and the Dover sole, filleted tableside and sautéed with brown butter and toasted almonds or opt for Panevino’s set three course dinner or a few lighter snack-style plates at its bar. A wine list featuring over 180 types is also served alongside a number of cappuccino liqueurs.