Chef Hector Ruiz’s Sofrito Gastro Pub is an island breeze blowing fresh air into the Greater Reading restaurant scene. While so many Berks County establishments are peddling mediocre fare at top dollar prices, Sofrito is serving up pan-Latino perfection for around $10-12 an entree.
My husband and I first visited last Friday night. We paused to find the place empty inside, but that was only because everyone was out back at the cabana bar. We joined them and took a lime green formica two-top under a lamp. The enclosed patio makes you forget you’re in a residential neighborhood of Reading and feel as though you’re on vacation in the tropics (the unseasonably warm weather helped).
Our server, Christina, was also the bartender. Even while busy, she was pleasant, accommodating, and patiently able to answer all of our menu questions. We started with the Aguacate Frito (a half avocado tempura-style). This dish had my husband and I fork-fencing for the last bits of battered avocado, crabmeat, and pico de gallo on the plate.
We also tried a steaming bowl of the black bean soup. Rather than the insipid mud that passes for black bean soup elsewhere, this had whole beans and tender chunks of celery. It was as if someone’s abuelita was in the back cooking it up.
Not only are the entrees at Sofrito astonishingly affordable, they include a salad. My husband munched down the Urban Salad with its rosemary and brown sugar vinaigrette, while I went for the Chipotle Caesar. We both felt our salads had a little too much of the spine of the Romaine lettuce, but the entree course more than compensated for any diminished expectations.
My husband’s crab cakes were all sweet meat with little trace of filler. He wanted to try the muranos (sweetened plantains) for his side dish, but they were eighty-sixed, so he opted for the fluffy yellow rice. I went for the mussels. Completely fresh without a bad one in the batch, they were swimming in buttery, garlicky, green sofrito goodness. I lapped this up with my coconut bread, which was the pièce de résistance of the entire meal. Can I order this stuff by the pound, please?
Sadly, Christina told us they don’t have any desserts (not sure if only for that night or for all times). She did mention that she takes the coconut bread home and eats it with vanilla bean ice cream. Oh, sweet temptation! Like a siren’s call, that coconut bread is beckoning us back!