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Jun 4, 2010 03:44 PM

Looking for affordable & tasty eats in the Harrisburg area

So here's the deal... my fiance and I just moved to Mechanicsburg with his family so we can save up in general. That's besides the point, really. We're both very into food and wine and the like, but we are having such a hard time finding decent places to eat in the area!! Locals seem to think the best pizza around can be found at the nearest Pizza Hut. Being from New Jersey, he and I both know better. I just graduated college and he's still going to school, so we're not really looking for somewhere gourmet where dinner for two is equivalent to a tuition payment. Does anyone have any tips on where we can get something tasty AND affordable?? (Pubs and Asian cuisine are two of our favorites!!) Thanks!!

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  1. I live in Lancaster Co., so I'm sure others will have more suggestions for your area. We enjoy Passage to India when we are in Harrisburg, and the menu is so extensive and interesting, you can get good food for not a lot of money. We also really like Cafe Bruges in Carlise -- I did a review on chowhound that you should be able to find easily with a quick search. All entrees under $20, and we can't wait to go back. My husband requested it for Father's Day.

    I have now been married 12 yrs., and oh how I remember those days of being young, poor students AND "up and coming chowhounds"! My best advice is to get started on your cookbook collection and be very thankful you are living so close to Wegman's where you have access to so many great ingredients, especially all the cheeses and specialty deli items and breads. Cooking together is fun and you actually learn skills from working together that will help you throughout your marriage. And other people generally love having meals cooked for them.... like your future in-laws for instance.

    Cafe Bruges
    16 N Pitt St, Carlisle, PA 17013

    4 Replies
    1. re: centralpadiner

      I agree with centralpadiner, learn to cook and save yourself some money and you'll also find that central pa may not be up to NJ on the restaraunt scene but you'll find some delicious things from local farmers and farm markets that NJ cannot rival. (Hey my wife and I are from Jersey also, where are you from ?) I purchase lamb from local breeders, berkshire pork that will make your head spin. Beef from small local butchers that really rock and veggies from markets that are incredible. Only one place in the area has bread like NY?NJ and that is Pomona's in Biglerville. Some of the local cheeses here are very good too. Good luck

      1. re: pashibaboy

        Just to be clear, the bread operation in Biglerville is the Gettysburg Baking Company. Pomona's is the restaurant in the same building. Both are owned by Marc Jalbert, the breadmaker. Yes, his bread is awesome and the restaurant does wonderful things, too. Biglerville is about an hour away from us, but we make the pilgrimage several times a year. It's a crime that Harrisburg itself doesn't have an outstanding bread maker, although Alvaro's Bakery makes very good Italian bread (see my other post in this thread) and Mussoline's stand at the West Shore Farmers Market in Lemoyne brings in breads from Philadelphia. Also, for a supermarket chain, Wegmans bakes some surprisingly decent breads.

        For local cheeses, try those from Keswick Creamery and Otterbein Acres, both in Newburg. They have small stands at their farms and also sell at the Carlisle Farmers on the Square market on Wednesday afternoons.

        1. re: pashibaboy

          I'm originally from Passaic County. The fiance is from Sussex. We went to school in Gloucester County. I can admit that I prefer Pennsylvania to South Jersey. (No offense if you're from the South Jersey area, it just wasn't for me! The accent people had was awful!)

        2. re: centralpadiner

          I actually cook often, and it does save us some money! I keep a food blog, you can find it on my profile page.
          We live with my future in-laws right now, and they are thrilled with the changes I've made in their usual eating habits. Last night was nerve-wracking, though. My future mother-in-law is Italian and makes some FANTASTIC gravy for her Baked Ziti. I decided to change things up a bit and made homemade Lasagna Bolognese with my recipe for gravy (and I don't have a drop of Italian in my background) and everyone LOVEDDDD it! I can't even describe how exciting it was that everyone approved. :)

        3. Your best bet for tasty, yet affordable dining in the Harrisburg area is going ethnic. Restaurants I can recommend (C = Carlisle, CH = Camp Hill, M = Mechanicsburg, H = Harrisburg or nearby):

          Indian: Passage to India (H), Aangan (H)
          Thai: Bangkok Wok (M), Bangkok 56 (H), Kanlaya Thai (H)
          Chinese/dim sum: China Tea House (M)
          Korean: Spring Garden Restaurant (CH)
          Lebanese: Cedars Restaurant (CH)
          Moroccan: La Kasbah (H, currently closed, but will reopen in a new location)
          Egyptian: Sphinx of PA (H)
          Pan-Asian: Okini (H)
          Vietnamese: Rose's Vietnamese Cuisine (H), Vietnamese Garden (H), Ninh Kieu (H)
          Belgian/French: Cafe Bruges (C), Confit (CH, more expensive, but sometimes has specials)
          Mexican: Tres Hermanos Taqueria (H), Herby's Mexicano (Bressler)
          Venezuelan: Arepa City (H)
          Not ethnic, but feature local/organic foods: The Green Room (C), Pomona's (Biglerville)

          For pizza, there is definitely better than Pizza Hut, even though none may equal the best pizza you've ever had: Alvaro's Bakery (H, for lunch only), Pizza Grille (CH and Lemoyne; they have a much greater variety of toppings than most pizzerias), Lio's (Linglestown). The first-named place, Alvaro's, is run by a husband and wife from Calabria and serves excellent and authentic country-style southern Italian food. You can also buy good Italian breads, pastries and gelato there. Great for lunch, but they are not open for dinner.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cheesemaestro

            Excellent list of ethnic eateries maestro! saving this one for reference :)

            1. re: cheesemaestro

              I agree this list is great but te Puzza Grille is a disappointment. People rave and I don't get it. Most towns have some good pizza at mom and pop joints. I live in Catlisle and Miseno's II is the best in town but George's is a close second. Aneli's in boiling springs is decent too.

            2. I agree with all these! :

              Indian: Passage to India (H), Aangan (H) also Taj Palace (H)
              Thai: Bangkok Wok (M),
              Lebanese: Cedars Restaurant (CH)

              Haven't been to the rest but I like Mt. Fuji (C) and Issei Noodle (C) as well.

              For a special ocassions we like Bricco (H) and Tavern on the Hill (Enola) but last time Bricco was dissappointing.
              My SO loves Firehouse (H) but I don't really get it.

              Pizza is tough, I would keep trying to local (non chain places) until you find one you like. I live in Carlisle and prefer Miseno's (I or II) and George's. I've also been to Anneli's in Boiling Springs. Don't have much info about pizza in Mechanicsburg since I have good ones in Carlisle.

              I would stay away from Pizza Grille if you are used to NY style. I thought it was pretty pathetic but I'm in the minority (but I'm also Italian American from New Haven, CT, so who do you want to trust?)

              Pizza Grille
              3817 Gettysburg Rd, Camp Hill, PA 17011

              Issei Noodles
              , Carlisle, PA 17013

              3 Replies
              1. re: melpy

                I lived in New Haven for several years a long time ago and have fond memories of Pepe's and Sally's--apizza, not pizza!

                1. re: cheesemaestro

                  Of course, apizza! Where is my head? (though that's all I knew as a kid and my mom who wasn't Italian always called it pizza)

                2. re: melpy

                  I pretty much only post on this website to recommend the Subway Cafe, in Harrisburg, for excellent pizza.

                3. WOW! Thanks so much, folks! This will definitely keep us eating for a while! :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JenniferRoman

                    Hi Jennifer. I'm from Essex county. I grew up in an Italian neighborhood, so I'm constantly disappointed by Italian restaraunts in the area. I agree, Alvaro's is good for lunch. Though their pizza isn't my cup of tea. I agree on South Jersey, They're a Philly Suburb :^)

                  2. I live in Mechanicsburg too! My all time favorite pizza is the Pizza get a personal-sized pizza for around $6 or $7, and they have some very interesting choices.

                    As for asian, I would recommend Mikado on the Carlisle Pike, which serves food "hibachi-style", where they cook on a grill right in front of you. It's a little more pricey, with entrees ranging around $15 - $20. If you're into sushi, go to Sapporo East, also on the Carlisle Pike. Best sushi bar around.

                    If you want some Italian, I would recommend Carrabba's on the Carlisle Pike. I don't normally go to "chain" restaurants, but this one is quite good, and reasonably priced.

                    And of course, there's always Wegmans, on the Carlisle Pike (notice a trend here?) which has some pretty decent take-out and eat-in meals.

                    If I think of any more, I'll let you know!

                    Sapporo East
                    4612 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: CjH

                      I just went to Mikado for the first time a couple weeks ago. Maybe a tad pricey but the portions were HUGE (although if you don't eat vegetables less so). We had the sushi appetizer and the mixed steak, chicken , shrimp hibachi. It was extremely warm (I wondered if the AC might be on the fritz) so our sushi was a tad warmer than to what I am accustomed at Mt. Fuji (Carlisle). Piatto and Rillo's both have decent Italian in Carlisle if you prefer not to eat a chain.There is no shortage of chains in the Italian area (Macaroni Grille in H-burg, Carrabba's and Olive Garden in Mechanicsburg), the wait at these places in unbelievable at peak hours. Chains are very popular in this area so when we do get a chain craving or it's late we'll patronize a chain. LATE is the key. 9pm is a decent time to to go 8-9pm is iffy if you don't want to wait or be rushed.

                      Rillo's Restaurant
                      60 Pine St, Carlisle, PA 17013

                      22 W Pomfret St, Carlisle, PA 17013

                      1. re: CjH

                        Indeed, CjH ... the Carlisle Pike "miracle mile" does have some good options. We just ate at Wegman's tonight ... I don't recommend doing it before getting your groceries, though. ;)

                        For 30 years, I've been a fan of the stromboli at Your Place. The sausage/mustard/cheese combination is one of the better singular tastes I know aruond here. And Jennifer, if you're looking for good and affordable, they have a lunch buffet that includes that stromboli every weekday from 11:30-2 and Wednesday nights from 5-8, I think.

                        Another quick lunch/dinner stop you REALLY want to try at least once is Neato Burrito. There are about seven of them now around the Harrisburg area; in Mechanicsburg, there's one in the Windsor Park Shopping Center on Simpson Ferry Road. Burritos are made to order, the size of both your fists.

                        My speciality: The Sour Cream and Onion Burrito. ;) Jalapeno cheese tortilla, hummus. Dirty rice. Extra cheese. Sirachi (hot) sauce. If they have the Jalapeno & Feta salsa that day, add that. Sour cream and onions to finish. Yummmmm.

                        A nice night out without breaking the bank? Look into Theo's, across from Capital City Mall. CjH mentioned Carrabba's, and it is pretty good. I do lament the fact that Juliana's has moved from next to Your Place across the river to Eisenhower Boulevard. THAT'S the best Italian around here. Make a point of checking it out.

                        And if you ARE going to venture into the city, a hidden gem lies on Sixth Street. It's called the Jackson House, and it simply has the best burgers AND Italian hoagiesI've had in a long, long time.

                        It's open only from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, and it's really a little hole in the wall. Just a dining room with seating for about 20, and you go into an adjacent little cubicle to place your orders.

                        The burgers fall apart as you eat them, and are done perfectly. They get bread every morning from south Philly. All I can say is, you've got to try it.


                        Jackson House
                        1004 N 6th St, Harrisburg, PA 17102

                        1. re: jrshooter

                          I noticed a new restaurant in Julianna's spot....

                          So Julianna's moved across the river? Is it at Pesche? I'm not spelling that correctly. The same guy that owned Julianna's owned a fish place somewhere over there. I am not great with East Shore geography but am thinking the fish place was on Eisenhower.

                          We had a very nice meal at Carley's, Locust Street, just off Second, two weeks ago. A total surprise. We were in town for the night and just set off walking. Saw a couple of employees outside and struck up a conversation. They encouraged us to come in and boy were we glad we did!

                          The pasta entrees were reasonably priced and decent sized.

                          1. re: jrshooter

                            RE: The Jackson House.

                            Believe the hype. The burger is superb, as are the hoagies ("subs" for those who don't speak South Philly). As noted part of the secret is the quality of the hoagie rolls -- there really is no substitute.

                            The dining room is simple and old-fashioned, so leave your tuxedo at home. The food DOES take time to prepare (as you are warned by signs at the order counter...) so relax.

                            Friendly tip: When I ordered my burger I didn't ask for any toppings. The burger comes with NOTHING on it if you don't ask. All the usual toppings available. (But don't even think of asking for cheddar cheese -- there's American and American...)

                            My only regret was that I didn't have enough room to try EVERYTHING on the menu.

                            Worth the trip.

                            Jackson House
                            1004 N 6th St, Harrisburg, PA 17102