Ugly Oyster Drafthaus

Ugly Oyster DrafthausUgly Oyster Drafthaus
Ugly Oyster DrafthausUgly Oyster Drafthaus
Bar, Eatery

21 South 5th Street
Reading, Pennsylvania, 19602
United States

(610) 373-6791 | map

View: Place Reviews
Reviews: 12 | Ratings: 17 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by TheLongBeachBum:
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TheLongBeachBum from California

3.7/5  rDev -7.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

It took a while to find Reading from the nearby Freeways, it doesn’t seem to be all that well signed, once we got there I found out why. It is hardly a tourist trap, & it’s full of those annoying one-way streets that bug the heck out of you. The snow started to fall as fellow BA Erica negotiated the intricacies of the town centre. But soon we were scrambling for Quarters in the cracks of the car seats after we parked the Erica-mobile in a nearby 2hr metered Parking Lot on Cherry Street. A short walk across the road & past a few “Dudes” who were selling some rather large looking Gold Jangly-Jangly Bling-Bling jewelry on the street corner of 5th & Cherry & we are soon greeted by a fantastic looking gloss black frontage with an inset deeply polished gold lettering that proudly proclaims “The Ugly Oyster”.

It looks great from outside, too great in fact, it stands out from the rest of nearby suburban Reading which is far from attractive, & I guess I’m being polite there. Still, once we popped up the two front steps & opened a lovely dark wooden door resplendent with a frosted glass window & gold fittings, we were transported in a much more attractive and warming interior. It was like being in another world, literally.

The interior is classic Olde World Pub for sure, even down to the smell of beer & cigarette fumes. Very heavy on the British Pub theme with a distinctly Irish feel, yet there are thankfully none of those annoying plastic leprechauns or fittings plastered with green shamrocks to be seen anywhere, that is good news & instantly tells me that we are dealing with a serious establishment. This “Irish Pub” definitely has a high quality tastefully appointed feel to it, & it should be, for the entire interior was designed, supplied & fitted out by one of the Worlds premier market specialists in this field, Andy Thornton’s of Yorkshire, England.

The bar is centrally located to your left, a gorgeous looking deeply polished dark cherry wood affair fitted out with snowdrop brass lighting fittings situated on the bar itself. A 2ft wide patterned mosaic style floor runs around the base of the entire bar, carpets fitting out the outside areas from here. High wooden stools line the bar, allowing the barfly’s a great view of the carved wood and mirrored backdrop behind the bar top. Wooden screens fitted with stained glass carve the exterior and surrounding areas into comfy booths on the right as you enter. The bar sits to the left and it is possible to walk all the way around it to the far left hand side, where a more relaxed bar area lies. At the back on your way around a small snug like area sits in front of a replica fireplace, sadly it was one of those gas-fired jobbies with plastic coal lumps, but it still looked good. Be warned though that an exit/entrance to Cherry Street also lies here too and cold blasts of air can be experienced when it is used. The pub like interior extends all the way into the Gents toilets too, a classic UK “one (stand) up - one (sit) down” design; the urinal is one of those full size abbey window walk in affairs that was authentic right down to the dissolving piss stained cigarette butt blocking the drain holes, the pot had a wooden lid too.

Beer range was around 12 taps in total. It included regular British notables such as Fullers ESB, Guinness, Boddingtons and one served from a hand-made ceramic tap in the shape of a fish, not something that Erica or I had seen before…..just as we were about to ask, someone else beat us to it. It turned out to be; yep you guessed it…..Bass! What Else!? They also had Delirium Tremens, Dominion Oak Barrel Stout and Anchor Liberty were the highlights. The last two were on good form. A lone Handpump was bereft of libation though sadly. Oh well. There is supposed to be a bottled beer list of around 80 or so, but we were neither presented with it, or requested it - draft was good enough for our quick visit as the snow was falling and we wanted to get to our second planned stop.

Food is basic Pub fare, with a skew on Fish and Meat dishes. The Clam Chowder was solid stuff and brought some color to my cheeks, Erica had some (distinctly Vegetarian) Fries, home made with the skin on, they were good too - and the Malt Vinegar was already on the Table, sign of "real" Pub that!!

Service was reasonably good, nothing outstanding, the waitress seemed a little stressed out earlier with a set-too with some customers, but did her job, though she could have done better. Prices are fair.

An Irish Pub, all the way from England, situated in Reading, PA. A warm welcome and a nice retreat from what I can only describe as, well nicely as, the rather run down, depressing, local drabness. I’m glad I don’t live in Reading, but if I did, I would certainly spend time in here to escape from it, and next time I will explore the bottled beer list for sure!

A warm Thanks to BA Erica for the drive out here in the cold.

Last Visit: Saturday 11th February, 2006.

Feb 18, 2006
More User Reviews:
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jzeilinger from Pennsylvania

4.2/5  rDev +5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

My wife and I stopped by last week for dinner after we dropped our kids off for a concert. Very small place but a very cool vibe with live Celtic music. The bar was something to behold and the inside decor reminded me of an old European style bar in impeccable condition.

Even though they only have (10) taps, it's a very solid list, had a hard time deciding. There were (126) beers on the bottle list and I never even got that far because the taps were so good. Enjoyed a Barrel Aged Greater Pumpkin from Heavy Seas (x2). Hoped to have more but had to pick the kids up.

The food was really good. 'Had the Fish and Chips and the fish was not at all greasy, but tender and flaky. In all honesty, some of the best I've had.

Recommendation: This place can get really busy during peak evening hours and reservations would be suggested.

Great service, great food, solid beer list. What's not to like? Would definitely go back.

Oct 24, 2017
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MarkChristof from Pennsylvania

4.94/5  rDev +23.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 5

Only been here once, which is a shame because the one time I went everything was fantastic. Great selection of beer, however I did find myself just enjoying the nice Smithwicks they had on tap. The food was absoltuely to die for. As far as vibe goes, this is where it's at, I've never been but I feel like being in this bar must be almost identical to how it feels to be in a pub in Ireland or the UK. Great place, couldn't recommend it more!

Nov 02, 2015
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BeerForMuscle from New Jersey

3.63/5  rDev -9.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5

Jun 04, 2015
Photo of misternebbie
misternebbie from Pennsylvania

3.6/5  rDev -10%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 4.5

Dec 29, 2014
Photo of DLSheidy
DLSheidy from Pennsylvania

4/5  rDev 0%

Jul 23, 2014
Photo of Beastcpa
Beastcpa from Pennsylvania

4.5/5  rDev +12.5%

Jul 09, 2014
Photo of Barleycorn
Barleycorn from Pennsylvania

3.75/5  rDev -6.3%

Jun 12, 2014
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ShanePB from Pennsylvania

3.83/5  rDev -4.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

This past Friday, we decided to visit the Ugly Oyster for dinner. We walked in and immediately were asked if we had reservations (just two of us). I told the hostess we didn't and that it would then be about a 15-20 minute wait, no problem, but where the hell were we going to wait? There's no waiting all. Anyway, strangely enough, she seemed to change her mind and immediately sat us at a two person table next to the door. OK, nice.

The space is cramped, locale pub-like which is pretty cool. The tables are close together to get it a more close-knit atmosphere. I can see how some people wouldn't like this but this a very social place to come to eat and drink.

No beer menu was on the table, I had to ask for one, not a big deal. All they give you is a bottle list, consisting of probably 40 different beers or so and the selection is quite standard. I had to ask the rather inattentive waitress what was on draft which ended up being a disappointment (maybe 6-8 taps of standard Guinness and Smithwicks, etc.) -- you're better off getting a bottle.

The food was absolutely outstanding. We ordered an appetizer of the jumbo shrimp cocktail which was fantastic, I had a spicy chicken steak and my girlfriend had a salad topped with marinated chicken breast. All in all, we were extremely satisfied with the food.

The Ugly O is definitely a nice place to visit if you're in the area, though I would have much preferred (as would anyone else) a more attentive waitress. She didn't stop to ask how we were doing...if we needed something, we needed to stop her, NOT how it should work. Worth visiting for the atmosphere and food, not necessarily for the service and beer.

Mar 28, 2011
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PhillyStyle from Georgia

4.25/5  rDev +6.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Great place. Went on Wednesday night, May 6, 2009 and the place was fairly full. Good vibe, rock music playing in the background.

The food was excellent, had the NY strip and the ugly pretzel. Also the wings were really good as well as the crab drip. The service was really good and very helpful, which was a bit unexpected having lived in Philly for years and have gone to many local places where the staff always has a chip.

The beer selection is really good. The bottle selection is better than the tap, which is usually not the case. I had the Guinness 250 on tap and the Legacy Hoptimus Prime, 750 ml bottle. Maybe 8 taps, but must have been 40 or more bottles. Wide selection of styles and breweries, with a big selection of regional PA beers.

Overall, good place, reasonable prices, a must stop for any BA who finds themselves in Reading, PA.

May 14, 2009
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Slatetank from Pennsylvania

4.2/5  rDev +5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I dropped in at the Ugly oyster w/ HombreWing and mughugger after checking out the Design, drink and be merry exhibit at goggleworks. When we arrived some celtic folk music was being played in the back - this sort of set the tone for the eveing.

The atmosphere is very nice w/ brass and wood w/ a wrap around bar that is very attractive. We decided to sit near the back by the hand pump in close proximity to the folk music. The music gave us a mood of merriment w/ banjo, strings, keys and hand drums all creating a joyous sound. We ordered some Avery Hog Heaven from the Cask and shared that w/ mussels which were great served french style. The selection of drafts was decent w/ Smuttynose and Corsendonk as well as Guinness, Reading Premium and later Anchor Porter and Lefthand sawtooth. I found the bottles to be more interesting later though and ordered a McChouffe N'ice chouffe barleywine and a Hoptimus Prime from Legacy.

The service was very solid and we chatted it up with one of the bartenders for a while who seemed sincerely interested in the craft ales and pointed out a cellared Jereboam of Mad Elf. I enjoyed the pretzels and toasted bread w/ spicy cheese and crackers which made the Avery seem sweet. The music continued and some gospel was thrown in for good measure, I even caught myself clapping and stopping to the great rhythmic sounds. This place is well worth checking out if you happen to be in Reading. There are private booths and plenty of bar space for sitting with a few friends and blending Belgian and American ales together. I like how the beer is fresh and there are plenty of U.K. and Belgian beer choices w/ decent value for those on a budget - the Ugly Oyster is alright w/ me!

Jun 07, 2008
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boelker62 from Pennsylvania

3.98/5  rDev -0.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

The greatest little place in Reading. It’s actually one of the few redeeming attributes in Reading. I used to live there, and plan trips just to go back here, more so for the food and ambiance. They have a good selection, and the staff is adequately knowledgeable, so you shouldn’t be disappointed. The food, however, is out of this world. I can’t say all the menu items are great, but I strongly suggest any of there seafood specialties. Best seafood you can get in the county. A great stop for an early meal, or a late drink, not a late meal, though. It is a smoky local hangout that gets very crowded.

They carry alot of national craft brews, and especially, the last time I was there, they had Arrogant Bastard on the handpump. What a difference! Great friendly place.

blitheringidiot's review from below, is dead on, except one thisng, they have TONS of regional bottles. They have a good beer list and you get that menu before you get their food menu. There are over 90 listed just on their website, but trust me, there are more there at all times. It is a big "U" shaped bar, and I think the bottle coolers are all on one side, which cannot be seen from the other.

Downside: not open on Sundays at all.

May 21, 2007
Photo of blitheringidiot
blitheringidiot from Pennsylvania

3.79/5  rDev -5.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

Ugly Oyster gets mad props for a near-perfect atmosphere. This place belongs smack dab in Dublin, Ireland but it is in the heart of Reading, PA! I found it without even tryin' while looking for another place with my rental car map on my lap. Great location!

Inside? 3 words: Beer, brass and bras. Ha! Bras hang from a few corners behind the bar and ceiling. Polished old worn wood and tin ceilings abound. Classy clutter adorns the walls like an antique shop with a clever wink. Although there is a juke box, I think an Irish mix was flowing from the speakers like Whiskey in a Jar. The folks at the bar were friendly and all locals.

Service was fine but you could hear the waitstaff griping about everything. Maybe it was a bad night? But it WAS only a slow Monday. At least I got my cask of Legacy Heavy Handed Hops pint. Man was it fresh and good!

Beer tap selection was a touch above average. Actually it WAS average, but there is a cask so 3.5 Ta da! Also on tap was Yuengling Lag-air, Magic Hat # 9, Thirsty Dog Old Leg Humper, Harp, Bass (on a fish head tap handle) Guinness, and Belhaven (on a giant crab claw). Bottles were limited to Miller lite, Kers light, and Franziskaner, but it seems that they had other. I couldn't tell.

Last call: Could you bring your Mother here? I'd say yes. It can get a bit smoky since the Oyster is not the biggest place in the world, but the atmosphere is killer. Too bad they don't have more good beers. If I lived near here I'd go often. Beers are cheap! $3.50 a hand-pulled pint!

1: Have a beer bottle menu. I couldn't make out what they had.

Mar 07, 2006
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NolanGTI from Pennsylvania

4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

This is about as authentic looking an Irish Pub you are going to find...and in Reading no less. It is the Fado model of pub, which people like to bash, but I actually think is a great place for a pint from an atmosphere perspective.

I had a Corsendonk on draft and a burger. They were very busy for lunch and maybe slightly short staffed, but very pleaseant. I got a few words with the owner as well, seemed like a real nice guy.

The tap selection is about 12 beer, with mostly Euro psuedo-craft brews (Guiness, Stella, Boddington's, etc..). Great bottle selection of about 120 beers. They had everything from Two Hearted to Morimoto Soba and a bunch of english pub draft cans.

The food looked like nice bar food, the burger was above average not great. I would definitely recommend a look if you are in the Reading area...a pub worth supporting in Berks Co.!!

Sep 28, 2005
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fromage from Ohio

3.8/5  rDev -5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4

I'm from Reading, and this is pretty much where it's at. I really can't believe this place, actually--it's better than anywhere in Nashville (my new home)! The pub was made in the UK and they shipped it over here, or something insane like that.

Has the atmosphere of (what I imagine to be) an english pub... it's at least a big improvement on the Irish Pub ripoffs. Almost always smokey, but usually easy to get a table.

Everything I've gotten has been good quality. They take care of their taps.

Service is average. Waitresses don't know anything. (I asked for a Weihenstephaner and she's like, "You have to order something on the menu," so I pointed to it.) Bartenders know more. (I asked for a Korbinian and pointed to the bottle and she says, "Oh, that's what it's called.") I had luck with Dusty though. (I ask for a McChouffe and he gives me a LaChouffe on tap for free.)

Good selection. They always have a few taps open to good beers. Two Hearted. LaChouffe. Hop Devil. They don't seem to get much Troegs, but they do get Victory stuff. Sometimes their selection is a bit random. I was hoping to get a Sam Smith winter warmer, and they had little SS at all. You know it's at least a decent bar if they have no BMC on tap. I'm not crazy about Guinness draft, Boddingtons, or Bass, which they always have, but they usually have something else good. Limited belgians--LaChouffe and Lindeman's lambics. There's definitely a focus on British pales.

Great pub food. Excellent wings. Decent fries. Oysters too.

I think the prices are usually pretty good. $12 for a bottle of Chouffe. $6 for a bomber of rogue. $4 for Weihenstephaner.

It's definitely not a place to go out of your way to go to... make the trip to Monk's or Victory in philly. Stoudt's isn't far, nor is Troegs. But if you live near Reading, I'd definitely check it out. Thursday nights they have Celtic music. Park across the street for free. Don't be scared... all the gang shootings are up North.

Jun 02, 2005
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MsRogueRed from Colorado

3.88/5  rDev -3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Very cool looking place from the outside and inside. Clean restrooms.

We had to order three beers to get our first one, so just because its on the menu, don't expect them to have it for sure. You may have to go through a few choices to finally find one they have. That said, they still have a very large selection.

We had good food here too. I had a veg sub that was really good and I remember great fries too. Others in the group had chicken fingers that were good.

We were there on a Sat afternoon, so it wasn't the hoppingest place, but I can imagine having a good time on an evening.

I wouldn't drive out of the way for this place, but its worth stopping in.

May 22, 2004
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rotsaruch from Pennsylvania

3.95/5  rDev -1.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

In the heart of downtown Reading, the Ugly Oyster is one of the oldest pubs in Berks County. The interior was totally renovated about 5 years ago and turned into a very stunning, classic Celtic pub. When you walk in the door, there is this beautiful wood-carved bar to your left that continues in a U-shaped pattern around the interior. There is bar and dining seating surrounding the bar. Although it is a small, intimate place, it has alot of character, including Dusty the bartender. There are always 12 beers on tap, usually three on nitro (Guiness, Boddingtons and Fullers ESB when I was there). On the other taps were a couple of microbrews (Victory, Rouge and Stone) and other English/Irish imports. There is also one beer engine. I had a cask-conditioned Stoudts Scotch Ale when I was there. There are also a bottled beer menue of 80 brews (imported, local, regional and national). Of course the food menue contains oysters. I was impressed with the menue selection and cost. I had a delicious soup (bowel of shrimp bisque) and salad for $5.50. The pints were $2.00 and the cask brew was $3.00. Not a destination location, but seek it out if your in the area.

Dec 04, 2003
Ugly Oyster Drafthaus in Reading, PA
Place rating: 4 out of 5 with 17 ratings