Reading Steak Shack offers 'A Philly Authentic'
READING EAGLE ARTICLE
Tuesday April 18, 2017 12:01 AM
By Carole Duran
When people think of convenience-store food, it has no resemblance to the unexpected aroma of meticulously prepared fresh ingredients wafting from the doors of the newest Steak Shack in Reading, owned by Eryk Cerankowski.
Cerankowski, 54, is fearless when it comes to scouting for sandwich shop locations. His flagship Steak Shack is a 120-square-foot free-standing building in the Sinking Spring Plaza, South Heidelberg Township, which opened in September 2013.
"We put a lot of food out of that shack," he said. "It's like a Steak Shack on steroids."
His latest venture is the newly opened Steak Shack in the Citgo Gas Station and Convenience Store at Lancaster Avenue and Kenhorst Boulevard.
Marbled steak, especially sold for steak sandwiches, fresh vegetables, and rolls trucked in daily from the Conshohocken Italian Bakery in Conshohocken, Montgomery County, give Cerankowski's sandwiches an authentic Philly taste.
"This is the best sandwich in Reading," said Ron Muller, Cumru Township. "I come two to three times a week."
"My favorite is the cheesesteak hoagie," Muller said. "This guy, he puts meat in his sandwiches."
Started cooking 40 years ago
Cerankowski's idea to open Steak Shack came from being a transplant to Berks County from Trevose, Bucks County.
He started his cooking career 40 years ago and worked as a chef in five-star hotels.
"You don't get too many five-star chefs making steak sandwiches," he said.
After moving to Berks County, he found himself frustrated, like other transplants, by not being able to find an authentic Philly steak sandwich without driving to Philadelphia.
"The transplants all give up until they find us," Cerankowski said. "That's why we say everyone comes back to the shack."
"My friends at Reading Truck Body told me they had a new sandwich place to go to," said Wyomissing resident Carol Fields. "I said that I'm not eating from a gas station."
Once she tried Steak Shack, she became a regular.
On a typical weekday, cashier April Keyser has customers three deep at the cash register while Cerankowski masters the grill.
The whole family gets involved in the act. Cerankowski's four children - Austin, Alayna, Eryk and Gracie - spend time working at whichever shack needs help.
His wife, Crissy, and father Al also help out when they can.
"My dad is our 77-year-old runner," Cerankowski said.
Crissy owns Junk to Jazz in Cumru Township, but squeezes out time to work at Steak Shack when she can.
Between Reading Truck Body and the auto dealerships along Lancaster Avenue, there is plenty of sandwich traffic in the neighborhood.
For non-steak-lovers, a chicken section on the menu includes buffalo and barbecue chicken specialties.
Philly hoagies in Italian, chicken and tuna, a Greek gyro and a Veggie Shack topped with feta cheese round out more choices.
"I don't know of any other restaurant that makes its own bread crumbs," Cerankowski said, but that is exactly what Steak Shack does with its day-old rolls. "We use everything."
Cerankowski uses the bread crumbs to coat homemade French fried onion rings and pickles. "Nothing comes frozen in a box," he said. "Everything is made to order."
He has developed a secret tangy steak sauce and special spice mixture that he plans to package and sell to the retail market.
Contact Carole Duran: email@example.com.