Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >
Jul 16, 2009 06:42 AM

Help! Transplanted to State College and can't find familiar foods...

Ok, I was transplanted to the State College area about two years ago and I just can't get used to the style of foods I'm familiar with in Chicago that are just not right here in State College.
I can't find a decent pizza to save my life. I'm not talking about the famous Deep Dish pizzas everyone equates with Chicago, but the less familiar thin crust pizzas that are a staple of the Chicago diet. They're more akin to a St. Louis style, unlevened crust pizza. Out here all I can find are the floppy, sloppy, greasy New York style pizzas that I really can't stand.
Another thing I've noticed is no one around here knows how to serve a hot dog. Let alone the fact that they're all the Turkey, Chicken & pork varieties...I've noticed they're usually served luke warm at best. What's up with that? And Ketchup on a Hot Dog? OMG NO WAY! Ask for a Steamed bun and you get sideways glances that tell you they all think you're crazy. Is it really too much to ask for some decent toping choices? Really? I'm so used to the Chicago Style dogs that I just can't go with anything less than fresh ingredients to top my dog. Tomatoes, Dill Pickle spears, relish, mustard and please don't forget the celery salt!

Ok, so now on to the Italian Beef sandwich. They simply don't exist out here.

Don't get me started on the breads these atrosities are served on. What is with the chewy, gooey, flavorless breads? Is it the water?
I like a solid bread with a crisp crust, airy and light in the center and something that can hold a sause or two!

I actually had to go back to Chicago to get the amazing foods I love and grew up with.

Granted, I'll give serious kudos to the micro and small breweries around here though. They work hard to craft some really awsome suds!

But would it be too hard to find some decent (non-chain, non-fast food) mexican food? Really? Come on...I crave carnitas and tacos on steamed corn tortillas.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Wow, I'm sure you'll solicit a lot of help by insulting the locals. News flash, you're not in Chicago anymore.

    I moved from that area 14 yrs ago (Wmspt) to NC and the hardest part for me was adjusting to the food here. To this day, though, I miss PA pizza (I love NY style, with a good, chewy crust), all the Italian foods, hoagies and a good butcher. If you can find a decent bakery, the bread can be amazing. And it is the water that makes it delicious. Joanna's in Williamsport has great breads, Italian cookies, etc. The New Lycoming Bakery is another good bread baker.

    There is no decent Mexican food in that area - that I am aware of. Look around, you're not in a very culturally diverse area. Most of the folks in the area are of Italian, German, Irish and Polish decent. I didn't have decent Mexican (or Cuban, Spanish, etc) until I moved out of the area.

    Eat your delicious Chicago foods when you go back to visit. But try and embrace was the local foods - there is plenty of deliciousness to be found.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lynnlato

      My thoughts exactly. State College isn't exactly the food mecca of the world, but does offer some decent food. You won't find Chicago-style pizza, but you will find good Thai, Indian, Korean, Italian and Contemporary American food. Have you ventured to Bellefonte? Gamble Mill is one of my favorite places and I love Zola's and Alto's (same owners).

      Make your familiar foods at home and accept that that is the only place where you will get it- that's part of the transplanting process!

      1. re: Mag454

        Part of what I have loved about being a transplant is exploring the local foods of my new home town. I've broadened my culinary horizons, but still love the foods I grew up with (and I stock up a cooler when I go home to PA).

        For me, being a chowhound is all about food exploration - not seeking out the same old thing.

    2. Look at the bright side, State College has a good coffee shop (Saints) and some nice tree-lined streets with pretty good ethnic and new American al fresco dining. PA doesn't do Chicago Italian beef. PA does cheesesteaks and you can find those in town. As far as pizza, about the only folks who really love Chicago-style pizza are Chicagoans. That style of pie is rarely found in the entire Eastern time zone, so it's not just State College. Those of us who grew up in the Northeast feel just as out of sorts when in Chicago - so we don't order pizza there and concentrate on what they do well ;-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Panini Guy

        We really liked the pizza at Faccia Luna on South Atherton: thin crust, not the heavily cheesed and sauced soggy crust stuff. And you do have a Wegman's in State College, something you don't have in Chicago.

      2. I feel your pain JustWild. Doubt anyone from your new neck of the woods reads chowhound. but it is good you posted. If this thread keeps going maybe someone from your area will respond with some ideas. It's kind of off topic but I read that they have Goose Day thereabouts, do they still do that? I moved from Penna to NC for a bit and I missed pizza and Italian food in general. I decided to make lasagna to cheer myself up but the supermarkets did not have ricotta cheese. In desperation I was forced to use cottage cheese. Things have likely improved since then. The places I ate seemed to stress quantity over quality. I did find a few gems though. I loved the pecan waffles from waffle house and the hash browns and I learned what a real barbecue sandwich tastes like! For this displaced yank a barbecue sandwich was little more than a sloppy joe. Then I discovered the barbecue places. The first time I tried the NC barbecue sandwich I didn't care for it much, shredded pork with this clear sauce with no tomatoes in it at all and what was up with the strange cole slaw served on top? No mayo, very finely chopped cabbage, what the heck? Of course I ended up addicted to them, and would love to bite into one right now. I was lucky enough to get invited to a genuine NC pig pickin'. That pig was sooo good. I never did get used to hot dogs served with that same slaw on top though. I sure did love those barbecue places though. Fresh fried chicken was on the menu for dinner with hush puppies and biscuits. For us chowhounds, what we eat gives us a sense of time and place like few other things. Thanks for reaching out and best of luck. Sounds like if someone was to open a good mexican or pizza place near the college campus they could make a killing.

        1 Reply
        1. re: givemecarbs

          What Carbs said, exactly. Expand your horizons instead of bemoaning what may not be available from your habitual menu choices.

          I spent my junior year of college at the University of Vienna and, while I craved a hamburger back then (my pre-vegetarian days), I adjusted to schnitzel, gulyas suppe, emmentaler gebacken, rindfleisch and a plethora of other specialties that taught me new taste combinations and methods of preparation. But I didn't see a hamburger for a year until I returned home and lived to tell about it (wieners, well, they were in abundance.)

          And, JustWild, I not only sense a longing for the past but an aversion to the newly- introduced. Were you a picky eater as a kid? Has the concept of sensory integration ever been a matter for discussion? Not only taste but texture and temperature are on your complaint list. Just curious.


        2. There is a lot of good and a lot of bad about food in PA. It's just something that we've learned to live with. If you haven't tried it yet, I beg you to go to Facia Luna on Atherton. Wood fired oven pizza to die for. Lovely crust, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil. I love the crushed tomatoes and garlic as sauce, but their fresh pizza sauce is also very good. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007 and can no longer eat wheat - so please eat some pizza for me!

          There is a good open-pit barbeque place on 26, right as you turn to go to Whipple Dam.

          Also, if you ever make it to Harrisburg you really must go to El Sol (authentic Mexican) on Third Street. Fresh corn tortillas that I can eat! Really good food. I expecially enjoy the chicken taco platter.

          1. Yah, quit your big city whining and get with the program. I moved to SC 8 years ago, and -- while it will NEVER EVER compare to the culinary cornucopia a big city has to offer, there is certainly good food to be found.

            Fantastic bread at Gemelli's.
            Decent BBQ at Clem's out in Tyrone.
            Great beer (lousy food tho) at Otto's.
            Mind-blowing Sichuan at Chopstick Express (dinner only).
            Acceptable Thai/Vietnamese at Viet Thai.
            Good pizza at Faccia Luna.
            And the one upscale place, Zola's, ain't bad either. I'd avoid Alto's, unless you're into the more Americanized version of Italian food.

            So there. Shut up and eat.

            7 Replies
            1. re: linguafood

              How come nobody mention the ice cream at the Creamery?

                1. re: linguafood

                  Peachy Paterno? Them's fighntin' words, Lingua (grin).

                  1. re: PattiCakes

                    I know '-D. Add to that my complete disinterest in football (ok, as a German I think I might be excused), I'm surprised I haven't been banned from Happy Valley.

                    I do try to promote good eats there, as hard as they may be to find, especially for visitors....

              1. re: linguafood

                i would add Cozy Thai to the list, it is very good. Home Delivery for good strombolis and cheap beer. CC Peppers has great italian subs and cheesesteaks. Faccia Luna makes a red-stuffed pizza that is really really good. put sausage and onions in it and it will somewhat satisfy your deep dish craving. Golden Wok has the best egg rolls on the planet and good food but the lunch specials are a good value. Chicken with garlic sauce is probably the highlight. Clems is world-class barbecue. i would go to the one over Skytop for highest quality, only about ten minutes from downtown. And finally Wegmans can feed you with something different every day of the week. their beer selection is awesome!

                1. re: Mr Siegal

                  Wegman's is an awesome grocery store! What I wouldn't give for one down here in NC. But I wouldn't trade my Trader Joe's.

                  Hoagies and cheesesteaks... i'll have good dreams tonight. :)

                  1. re: Mr Siegal

                    Well, I was rather disappointed with Cozy Thai -- all appetizers are deep-fried, and whether you tell them to make it spicy or not, they absolutely won't. Which is why I prefer Viet Thai, who will at least attempt to honor your request.

                    Speaking of spiciness, India Pavillion can really make your head sweat, ordering a dish medium hot will generally suffice.

                    I'd take Chopstick Express over Golden Wok anytime. What it's lacking in atmosphere, it definitely makes up for in deliciousness.

                    And of course, how could I forget Wegmans! That store has saved my big city ass '-D