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Touring Amusement Parks, want good chow in PA, VA, MD

I know, it sounds ironic and perhaps futile on the face of it - but I and my family love roller coasters, amusement parks, and food. Time was that parks mostly had great food - but that time is gone, and I need your help.

In celebration of my 40th birthday I will be riding more than 40 coasters I have never ridden before in less than 2 weeks. The schedule is largely dictated by the park - in some cases, we'll have no choice but to eat things we'd rather not in order to keep on schedule for the rides. When we can eat outside the park, though, we'd like to find places that are:

- Local
- Distictive
- Yummy
- Willing to admit 10 year olds and adults perhaps a bit grubby after a day in the park - maybe in shorts and t-shirt.

If all goes according to plan, we'll ride 58 new coasters and not eat in a single chain restaurant!

Here are the places where I know we can or must get a meal outside the park:

Knoebels, Elysburg PA, Monday (Memorial Day):
Dinner nearby or en route to Hershey PA (I-81)

(I know Knoebels reputation for excellent food - this is a backup in case we ride up until closing time and have to eat outside the park)

Dorney Park, Allentown PA, Tuesday
Dinner nearby or en route to Hershey PA (I-78)

Kings Dominion, Richmond, VA Thursday
Breakfast near Woodbridge VA or en route to Richmond (I-95)
Dinner near Richmond or en route to Corolla NC (I-95, I-64, US 168)

Six Flags America, Mitchellville MD, Monday
Dinner near Mitchellville or en route to Lancaster, PA (I-87, I-695, I-83, US 30)

Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster PA, Tuesday
Breakfast near Lancaster
Dinner near Lancaster or en route to Ligonier, PA (US 30, I-76 Turnpike, US 30)

Idlewild, Ligonier PA. Wednesday
Dinner near Ligonier or en route to West Mifflin, PA (US 30)

Tuscora Park, New Philadelphia OH (after stop at Village Candy, Sewickly PA), Friday
Lunch near Swickley, PA, near New Philadelphia OH, or en route between the two. (PA 60, US 22, OH 39)

Thanks for any information.

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  1. Past Richmond there is Pierce's BBQ which has excellent NC BBQ. It is right by the Great Wolf Lodge. http://www.pierces.com/

    Also in Richmond is Buzz and Ned's which is known for good BBQ I haven't been yet, but am dying to go. If you can go into Richmond for dinner you might have some nice choices like Comfort, Sticky Rice, etc you can search the South board for Richmond.

    I can't think of much near Mitchellville. But if you wait till Linthicum you could get crabcakes at G&M restaurant it is on the way up to PA.

    1. When you are near King's Dominion, I suggest http://www.thesmokeypig.com

      Just about a mile off 95 in Ashland, VA.

      1. After Six Flags in Mitchellville you could stop at Negril (http://www.negrileats.com/), a Jamaican place just down the road. I've heard good things - haven't tried it myself. It's a little place in a strip mall off 214, maybe 2 or 3 miles from Six Flags.

          1. re: bylinemjf

            Not this time! We've all ridden all of the rides there; this year's emphasis is on coasters new for me and the kids.

          2. Heading north from 6 Flags, you might want to stop at Rip's in Bowie.


            3 Replies
            1. re: shorty40cdm

              This may be too many good ideas! I'm torn between Smokey Pig and Pierce's for after Kings Dominion; I may have to post a separate topic in South and see who remains standing. I know how BBQ fights can get...

              After Six Flags, I think G&M has to win. I love crabcakes beyond all sense, and totally forgot that I would be in Maryland. I just can't miss that opportunity, though Rip's and Negril both sound good to me too.

              1. re: psantucc

                I'd go to Smokey Pig or Buz & Ned's over Pierce's. I've always found Pierce's to be overrated. With Buz and Ned's the service can be slow and abrupt...so be patient if you decide to go there. And definitely get the pork ribs and some mac and cheese as one of your sides. The sweet potato fries are fantastic as well.

                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  Thanks! Pretty well settled on Smokey Pig, or Ipanema Cafe ( found in another thread) for that dinner. We have kind of a long drive ahead and dinner earlier makes sense.

            2. Someone is going to accuse me of "planting" this thread. I'm a charter member of ACE, have been on over 400 coasters in the U. S. and Europe and, in fact, have been in the amusement industry for almost thirty years including heavy involvement in IAAPA. (I sold Hershey East Coast Waterworks and Kings Dominion the Zoom Flume this past year while starting with Intamin in the early '80's.) Excepting Tuscarora Park I've sold equipment to every park on your list. I was also the brakeman on the wooden coaster in Glen Echo when I was in 11th grade in high school.

              I have lifelong friends who have travelled all over the world to ride on coasters; they, like yourself, have done this with the priority of going on rides and food being secondary. I note my background because I have been in literally every amusement park in North America and most in Europe. I have also done everything in my power to place an equal priority on food in the areas or near the parks that I've gone to that either I can't find here or is better than I can find here. Several friends have ignored this, looking for convenience at the expense of great pizza/fish and chips/bbq/Michelin starred restaurant, etc. From my perspective (and, again I am one of the original 26 in ACE) this is a huge loss. How can you go to Dorney and not detour to Old Forge for pizza? How can you not stop at Carl's for frozen custard or Allman's for sliced pork Q in Fredericksburg? No french fries at Kennywood? (Idora park had the best of any amusement park.)

              I'm making the argument that there should be an equal priority on both food and coasters. I'm also making the argument that not every coaster is worth riding (I know people who have been on over 700.) But when I first went to Kings Island in '79 to ride the Beast I also stopped at Graeter's, Camp Washington Chili and the Montgomery Inn. I've been back to Cincinnati almost every year since (most on business) and have continued to go to Graeter's and Camp Washington on EVERY trip. I haven't been on the Beast in ten years. Still, a front seat ride on a Friday night with all the lights turned off during the ACE convention there stands as the best coaster "ride" I have ever had. The best coaster was the Texas Cyclone. I first rode it in '80 before it had seat belts and was reprofiled; what I remember about the night that I first rode it was Ninfa's on Navigation boulevard in Houston which was the best Tex Mex I had ever had. Astroworld is closed but Ninfa's is still there.

              For years I would drive over 35,000 miles in the U. S. and over 10,000 km in Europe annually on business. I would also ride the better coasters in the parks I visited. On the trip to Houston ( a vacation) I was actually on the road for seventeen days and rode about 50 coasters. I also had bbq'd ribs at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, Archibald's in Northport, McClard's in Hot Springs, the Central Market in Luling, the Interstate in Memphis, Arthur Bryant's in KC and a half dozen other places. I remember the Q as well as the Texas Cyclone-and Ponchartrain Beach which was still open then.

              I'm suggesting that I love coasters and amusement parks as much as any human being on earth. But I also love to eat. I've been obsessed with both for my whole life. Years from now when you look back on forty coasters in two weeks there may have only been a half dozen really worth riding. But there may have been another half dozen meals that would have been equally important.

              By the way, NO amusement park has ever had great food. I first went to Palisades Park in the late '50's. But there was a place across the street called Callihans' that had a great hot dog. I remember the Palisades Cyclone (not the Traver but the wooden one) along with Callihan's. I believe it is called Hiram's today but it's not the same. Nathan's also used fresh potatoes in Coney Island-once upon a time. Still, Thresher's on the south end of the boardwalk in Ocean City are better.

              PS Pierce's is a shadow of what it was in the late '70's and G & M uses Indonesian crabmeat (Narrows on Kent Island or Jerry's Crab Bomb in Seabrook).

              And, The Pantry on E. Chocolate Avenue in Hershey has the best breakfast in the U. S. as well as the best cinnamon rolls (topped with gobs of cream cheese frosting) and fantastic carrot cake. http://www.hersheypantry.com/menu.htm
              It is known. Expect a long wait, even at 11:00AM. It is worth it.

              Don't leave Knoebel's without eating there. It is not as good as some of what you can find outside the park but it is a decades long tradition of ACE members. You'll hear as many conversations about Knoebel's food as you will about their coasters.

              I've been away from ACE for over twenty five years. Coasters (and carousels) have become a business for me. Still, Cedar Point, Knoebel's, Europa Park and others are special. But so are the many memories and experiences I've had in equally indulging my love for eating as well as riding. Have a cinnamon roll at Hershey's Pantry and see if you don't agree.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Joe H

                Joe, we certainly do seem to have a lot in common. Thanks very much for your insight.

                I didn't decide on the priorities for this trip lightly. Much of the time pressure comes from the need to get the kids to bed and not push the drive times too long. Combine that with short operating hours this early in the season and admission costs and I'm devoting a greater percentage of meals in-park than I would strictly like. Convenience does play a part - but not enough to get me to eat in a chain when I could find something local, or something bad when something good is nearly as available. It's a compromise, for sure, and I know I'll ride some forgettable stuff in my quest for numbers - but there it is.

                I've replaced G&M with Jerry's on your recommendation - if G&M are importing their crab I'd really rather not. I hope Jerry's will admit us fresh from the park.

                I'm also listing Allman's and Carl's as alternatives in case we don't end up eating dinner at Busch Gardens, as planned... see my next reply.

                One off-topic note of thanks - for being a charter ACE member. I'm not much up for joining clubs of any sort, but ACE has benefited the whole hobby and respect is owed.

                1. re: psantucc

                  Wow this seems like a great trip. I remember my Mom taking my friend and I to Kennywood, I used to get really car sick and the first ride my friend wanted to ride was their biggest fastest coaster I forget the name maybe Steel Thunder or something, at that point I was in no shape for it, so poor Mom went as I found a bathroom and recovered with something to drink. As close as it is to Mother's Day I just wanted to add my little ode to Mom. I don't think I ate till we left the park just to be safe. Enjoy all that quality time with your family.

                  Joe H- I didn't even remember Jerry's being on that route, thanks for always supplying great information you are a true asset to this board. I have to disagree with you respectfully on Pierce's but having a Georgia fiance it is the closest BBQ to Georgia BBQ we can find, and not being a BBQ connoisseur until I met him I must be taking on some of his taste :) But he judges places on pulled pork sand not ribs, I am trying to do both as I am a big ribs fan now so our tastes are starting to differ.

                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    Thanks for the nice words-much appreciated.

                    Steel Phantom for Kennywood.

                    For Jerry's you can take I 495 to 450 (Lanham) and you'll only be a couple of miles from it. It's actually not that far out of the way from Six Flags America. If you go you should also have their cream of crab soup which is among the best I've had. It IS very expensive but jumbo lump Chesapeake Bay crabmeat is, too. (Wegman's and Maine Avenue both have it for about $24 or 25 while Whole Foods is in the high 30's.

                    Pierce's uses a microwave to heat their bbq. ACE's first meeting was in '78 at Busch Gardens and several of us went to Pierce's afterwards. It was a fraction of the size that it is now. GREAT Q then...GREAT. Today the flavor is similar but the texture is different and I'm also letting the microwaves influence me.

                    I've eaten bbq all over Georgia from Fresh Air to the GA Pig to Aleck's. I've also learned to realize that part of bbq is hometown loyalty which can influence an opinion. I do believe, however, that regardless of pulled pork, minced, chopped or sliced the northermost outpost of really good pork Q of any kind is the original Allman's sliced Q. If you go have a milkshake there: they scoop ice cream into a metal canister and pour milk and syrup then blend it for a minute or two. Along with great cole slaw and the pork shoulder smoked for 12 to 14 hours it is a great meal.

                    Carl's, to the best of my knowledge, is one of only two places left in the state of VA that has an original ElectroFreeze machine from the '50's. Klein's in Harrisonburg does also. There are modern versions of this (i.e. Dairy Godmother, Milwaukee Frozen Custard ((Kopp's in Milwaukee iand Andy's in Madison are the best I have ever had)), Neilsen's) but having frozen custard from an original machine is a real treat.

                    Kennywood's Potato Patch is fantastic. Years ago Idora Park in Youngstown, OH had similar fresh, thick cut potatoes topped with melted cheese, etc. that were outstanding but I'm going back over 20 years.

                    Last, don't overlook my comment about the Hershey Pantry. Their cinnamon roll (far superior to ANY you have ever had) competes for the single best bite of food that I have ever had anywhere.

                    1. re: Joe H

                      Fiance is a big fan of Slopes in GA, I haven't had that yet, I don't know if you have? I keep thinking I will mail order it for him. If you have had it do you know anywhere in the NC, VA mix that would compare, to him that is gold standard. Where is Allman's?

                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        The original Allman's is on route 1 across the from the bus station in Fredericksburg. NC Q is either eastern (i.e. Skylight Inn in Ayden) or western (Lexington #1) and neither have anything in common with Allman's sliced or Pierce's. Totally different from what you'll find in many places in GA. I wouldn't mail order bbq-I personally believe that it loses too much-especially if you want to taste the best you can find. There are a lot of places that do this, though. Years ago I used to buy a couple of pounds of Pierce's and bring it home to later heat. It was still good but nowhere near as good as when it was fresh there. Having said this, my criticism today is that essentially this is what Pierce's is doing, i.e. heating their bbq in a microwave similar to what I use to do.

                        1. re: Joe H

                          Hey Joe H- We were driving back from my Dad's bay place and Fredericksburg was mostly out of power, except Allman's had lights on, unfortunately they were closed for their quarterly staff meeting, we were a little sad, but next time we are going down there we will try again!

                      2. re: Joe H

                        You got me. I was hedging over Hershey Pantry; my 'cheap Dad' personality kept saying 'The hotel has free breakfast! You don't need breakfast!'

                        I slapped him down. The hotel breakfast will be crap and I know it... I'm there for three days, and we'll make it to the pantry at least one of them. I'd never forgive myself for missing the best cinnamon roll in the country.

                        1. re: psantucc

                          Expect at least a thirty minute wait-BUT, please don't let this discourage. It is also NOT expensive. You can see their prices on the website.

                    2. re: psantucc

                      Two caveats on Jerry's--long waits to get in, and pretty expensive menu (not necessarily over-priced for the quality).

                  2. Rip's in Bowie has been around for well over 50 years, though I'm not sure of your route. G & M is always a winner with me, though some naysay it.

                    I'll second Allman's BBQ and Carl's in Fredericksburg, which is on the way north from Kings Dominion anyway.

                    If you're going to West Mifflin, why no Kennywwod (or Potato Patch)? Jim's Drive Inn has great hot dogs (with their special sauce) in West Mifflin. They sell the sauce to go if you like it.

                    2600 Skyline Dr
                    West Mifflin, PA 15122
                    Phone: (412) 466-1644



                    2 Replies
                    1. re: KOK

                      Here's a shout out for Allman's and Carl's in F'burg. My first job out of college was in F'burg and I worked across the street from Carl's and a bad day of work was suddenly better with a chocolate malt (with extra malt) from Carl's.

                      1. re: KOK

                        We certainly are going to Kennywood; my children's first time. I can taste the Potato Patch fries even now! More people have posted regarding that leg of the trip in the PA board.

                        What I never said is that there is more to the trip than is posted here... on days when I planned to have all meals at some combination of park and hotel, I didn't even list the destination. That's why you don't see Kennywood or Busch Gardens Europe - I considered them solved problems.

                        Based on the several strong recommendations for Allman's and Carl's, I'm putting them on my list; we're stopping overnight in Fredericksburg anyway. If we get tired of Busch Gardens, we'll have some dinner to look forward to!

                      2. In Pennsylvania, there's a little chain called Isaacs that I like and great for kids and being grungy. They have a wide variety of healthier foods (or not if you don't want-- my kids loved the deep fried mac and cheese). Some of the food is preprocessed, eg. the dino nuggets look an awful lot like Costco's dino nuggets, black bean burger looks like Morningstar. But, you can get a decent bite to eat, much better than inside the park.


                        I can't think of a nice place in Woodbridge for breakfast but if you want to keep it light before a day of riding roller coasters, there is an IKEA for something fast and inexpensive. Also, along the way are the typical chains, Waffle House, IHOP.

                        When you're at Kings Dominion, you're so close to Busch Gardens. They have the new Griffin roller coaster which just opened. I'd love to try that, plus they have the Alpengeist (one of the tallest and fastest in the world). Along the way, you can stop by Pierce's barbecue. Grubby is fine there.;-)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: chowser

                          Breakfast in Woodbridge was a tough nut to crack; I have two places listed on my plan thus:

                          Convenient – Silver Diner 703-643-2363 14375 Smoketown Road Dale City, VA 22192
                          Local classic – 2400 Diner (540) 373-9049 2400 Princess Anne St. Fredericksburg, VA 22401 (About 30 min drive from hotel on the way to the park)

                          I know silver diner is a chain and themey-cheesy, but at least there are none near me so there is a little novelty value. I'm hoping (and believe) that the draw of 2400 will win out.

                          1. re: psantucc

                            I don't care for Silver Diner. I'd go to IHOP before Silver Diner. IHOP is down Smoketown Road, about 2-3 miles off 95. That whole road is chain central.

                            If you go farther to Stafford (about half an hour), there's an Anita's, New Mex Mex. I haven't been to the Stafford one but the other branches (it's a small chain) I've been to have been decent. The problem is the food is hit or miss. I like the posole for breakfast, a little salty but I like salt. Their menu link isn't work on the site for breakfast. They have a huge selection both New Mex Mex and your basic eggs, bacon, etc.



                            I don't know about 2400 Diner but I love trying out small local diners.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Totally agree about IHOP vs. Silver Diner. (I've also found from years of heavy travel that some IHOP's are better, perhaps much better than others.) And, Anita's usually has great breakfast burritos.

                        2. I went to college in Allentown ... so my rec's there are "lowbrow" to say the least.

                          The diner we always went to was the City View Diner in Whitehall, near the Lehigh Valley Mall, just off 22. They have this thing called "King cheesecake" which is a layer of cheesecake and a layer of chocolate cake on top -- heaven!

                          The other foodie must-visit is the Allentown Farmers Market. Its located at the Great Allentown Fairgrounds, on Chew Street. Its open Thurs (till 8), Friday (till 8), and Sat (till 6, but should probably get there by 4). In addition to veggie stands, there are fresh deli meats and cheeses, homemade breads, and a couple of hot food stands, one thats mostly sausage and one that is amish focused.

                          There are also a few good restaurants near the fairgrounds, there is a diner more or less on site, and the 15th St. Grille is a great little place tucked in an old house.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: aletnes

                            "Allentown Farmers Market.... couple of hot food stands."

                            Is the lunch counter still there? It's mostly (good) diner-style food, and they serve excellent french-fried redskin potatoes.

                          2. So many good places in Lancaster. Look for Miller's Smorgasboard for breakfast. They have brochures in all of the hotels. Best buffet breakfast you will ever have. Cheap too!

                            1. Depending on your timing from Mitchellville to Lancaster, you could stop in the Baltimore area for some crabcakes (and I think in your directions you might mean 97 not 87).

                              1. Why not head 15 mins north from Six Flags on Rte 193 to KBQ Barbecue in Bowie? Make a right on 450 and you're there. Small, casual, limited seating...and the best around these parts.