Re:Joe's Restaurant - Reading, PA reborn in Oregon
I'm sure there were and are places that serve better food. I think what made Joe's special was that the Czarnecki's ran a restaurant and served wild mushrooms they hand picked in the mountains above Reading. They were doing it long before farm to market and organic food became fashionable. In that way they were trendsetters and cause for customers to come from all over the world to dine there.
As to Stanley's it's claim to fame was that it did not allow women in the bar. Many have tried but Stanley would just ignore them. A quaint anachronism and a step back in time for better or worse. It also had no bar stools, a stand-up bar as it was called. In the early '80's when I lived there beer, as with many places in Reading, cost 25 to 35 cents a glass. A decent lunch could be had for a couple bucks. I lunched with female coworkers in the dining room having its own ladies entrance.
The best thing on Minor Street in my opinion was the Bell Alley Bakery. Drive up a tiny one lane brick alley and go inside a door at the rear of a house. Inside against the brick wall was an oven door. The man would open the door and using a peel remove freshly baked too hot to handle soft pretzels. You would tell him how many you want and he would put them in a paper bag. I don't remember how much they cost, we'd usually get a bag full to share at the office, but they were dirt cheap. Easily the best soft pretzel you could ever find.
"The Bars of Reading" was a booklet written by two friends who visited every bar in Reading, over 120 as I recall, for a city of about 80,000. They had at least one beer in each and rated them. I have a copy somewhere but might have been lost in a recent move. What I discovered interesting about the bars of Reading was that of the 120 some bars there, you could safely walk into nearly all of them, have a beer and strike up a conversation. Few times would you feel or be treated like an outsider. They were all neighborhood bars, dotting nearly every corner throughout the city. Simple but homemade, inexpensive and good food could be found at many. Jars of hot sausage and red eggs on the bar were commonplace. Over the five years I lived in Reading I had been in dozens of bars but still never approached all of them.
My favorite bar, now gone, was Al Kline's Paddock. Huge neon signs adorned the neighborhood facade. Inside, you were greeted by a horsey theme where booths looked like horse stalls and several bar stools were saddles. German clockwork machines of horses and horse racing memorabilia including a sulky decorated the walls. It was a theme but not kitchy or "concepted." It was sincere reflection of the man behind the bar, Al Kline a former horse racer, retired but not gone from his sport and vocation. That was his life and his history up on the walls. A beer, conversation and a sardine sandwich was a couple dollars but worth thousands.