Since we are on the topic of Reading’s history, it seems like a great time to talk about Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar, one of the oldest restaurants still operating in the city.
The Peanut Bar opened as The Central Café in 1933, but at that point Jimmie Kramer had already been sneaking from place to place, pouring beers around Reading and Berks for almost ten years of Prohibition. When one speakeasy was discovered and shut down, he just opened another. When Prohibition was finally repealed, the restaurant now found on Penn Street was legally established. Today, the décor and some of the menu stands as a memory of those early days.
The name changed to the Peanut Bar later due to the popularity of the free peanuts found at every table. Patrons are encouraged to drop the shells on the floor, creating a unique flair that is fun for the whole family. You can learn more about how the peanuts first came to the restaurant in the video from The Travel Channel imbedded at the bottom of this post.
Not only is the Peanut Bar nationally famous as the first restaurant to serve peanuts in this way, they are also well known for their wings. These wings are local and all-natural, and come in your choice of two flavors: buffalo or garlic herb. As recently as a year ago, USA Today named the Peanut Bar one of ten great places to get wings in the country, and they have not been the first to include the restaurant on this kind of list. All you can eat wings are only $8.95 on Monday night, but plan ahead: wing night is so popular you will probably need reservations.
The Peanut Bar may be recognized nationally, but they certainly cater to the tastes of Berks County. Of course it goes without saying that they have Lager on tap, but they usually serve at least two other Yuengling brews as well. For a special treat, order one of their beer cocktails, such as a half and half (porter and lager blended together). A long list of specialty mixed drinks also sits at each table.
The restaurant’s head chef, Andrea Heinly, was hired the summer of 2012 after winning third place on Fox TV show Hell’s Kitchen. You can read all about that experience here in the Reading Eagle. Her influence helps make the new dinner menu one of the best in Berks, including a good amount of gluten-free options. My favorite item is the clam chowder. Other options range from steaks and seafood to burgers and sandwiches.
Visit the Peanut Bar at 332 Penn Street, where they are open Monday-Thursday, 11am-11pm, Friday 11am-12am, and Saturday 12pm-12am. If you are driving in, there is a free parking lot behind the restaurant on Cherry Street. And now, as promised, here’s that video from The Travel Channel:
UPDATE: This article was originally published June 22, 2012, but this newer version contains additional material.