The city of Reading, Pennsylvania goes back to 1783 with West Reading being incorporated in the late 1800’s. Known to outsiders as simply Reading, these two parts of the city are split sitting across the Schuylkill River from each other into two very different areas.
A manufacturing and working class city, Reading was an industrious hub for the the railroad industry, the train industry, the textile industry, the hardware industry and a depot for military supply among many other industries. The city was once was an industrial and economic gaint. It was a city planned by Thomas and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn who founded Pennsylvania.
The economy boomed until eventually industries started shutting down and with shopping options in nearby Philadelphia, local shopping malls and outlets in the area became skeletons baring shadows of a once vibrant past of yesterday leaving a once industrious city to become one of the most impoverished cities in the country.
While money may be hard to come by these days, the locals of Reading are still optimistic about their city. One particular part of the city that seems to catch the eye of everyone from young families to young adults and entrepreneurs is the section of West Reading which almost looks very different from it’s brother section across the river. Mature tree lined streets dot a mixture of rowhomes, Victorian era homes and condos with small business in between the heart of the business district which is mostly made up of small businesses and an sophisticated, independent restaurant scene that has something for every palette: a sushi bar, a French restaurant, a wine bar, a restaurant devoted entirely to cheese, brew houses, American, an old time ice cream shop and yes even a few vegan restaurants.
Since the rise and demand for dietary restrictions, restaurant owners have begun to adapt or become more open to switching up their offerings. It used to be that was all you can find if you were vegan, fasting or on a restricted diet and going to places like Philadelphia or Manhattan were your saving grace for creative vegan cuisine. Not so anymore. Enter Chen.
Chen looks like your average Chinese restaurant in town, the kind of place you find refuge in a big bowl of general tso’s chicken on a cold, rainy day type…but you cannot because you realize you’re fasting or vegan and your usual neighborhood place can only do so much with tofu.
But come closer and bring your appetite.
Chen along with his wife are the owners of this diverse Asian fusion restaurant who have taken the classic Chinese takeaway menu and veganized it…and what wonders they have done. They also offer a juice bar and soy based frozen yogurt. They are like many of the latest vegan restaurants revolutionizing how society views vegetarianism and veganism and they excel at it. They show how healthy and delicious this cuisine can be without sacrificing taste or flavor. Some recipes are so good and even better than their counterparts made with animal products like Chen’s chicken nuggets served as both an appetizer and an entree but the motive behind Chen is to simply enjoy your meal.
If you ever find yourself in Reading, PA…stop by Penn Avenue and give them a try.
Chen Vegetarian House
709 Penn Ave
West Reading, PA 19611