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Bistro 71

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Having relocated to south-central PA from the DC area, it's been an adjustment because of the limited restaurant choices in the region. We discovered a gem of a place in old town Chambersburg that has the potential to fill that void. The place is called Bistro 71, on North Main about a block from the town square. We've only been there once so the jury is still out. But our inaugural meal was certainly the best thing we have eaten since our move to Pennsylvania. My veal piccata was served with a lemon, caper and red pepper sauce over homemade pasta, preceded by a wonderful spinach salad. My SO had a roasted lamb rack encrusted with a peanut pesto, preceded by a Caesar salad.
Entrees seem to run in the $18-$28 range, excluding daily specials. The restaurant is wonderfully cozy and is located in a restored storefront that seems to be part of a mini revitalization effort in that section of downtown Chambersburg. There also is an outdoor dining area at the rear though it was a little cool for most patrons the night we were there.
The one shortcoming was the absence of a wine list although they do seem to have a decent - but basic - list of selections by the glass or bottle. The beer offerings also are limited but they do have a range of choices, including local brews.
The restaurant is only open for dinner but, based on our first impression, would be worth a trip for those in search of a better-than-average dining experience. The website is: http://bistro71.net/

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  1. I'd like to start a post about dining in Chambersburg specifically - there are very few locally owned restaurants worth giving a try. Many are run by Greek families that cater to a "cheaper is better" market. But there are a few gems and Bistro 71 is certainly one of them. What I'd like to point out is that the Bistro exists because it was able to apply for and receive an Economic Development Liquor License. These were created to help offset the extremely high cost of procuring a liquor license in Pennsylvania and how it discourages entrepreneurial restaurant owners from opening in small PA towns. It comes loaded with restrictions, which is likely the reason for the lack of a proper wine list or beer selection.

    The good news is that last I saw, an application to dispense placard is hanging in their window implying that they may have raised enough money to purchase a liquor license with fewer restrictions.

    They are only open for dinner as you mentioned, and they are also closed Mondays. Reservations are recommended on the weekends.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Effington

      This site certainly could use some additional posts from the south-central region. And I would encourage Effington and others to post at will. I would love to hear about more interesting restaurants, ethnic or otherwise. Meanwhile, Bistro 71 remains near the top of my list of favorites, even without the wine list.

      1. re: RaeJ

        I will do just that Rae, and please feel free to ask about any local places - I have been living as an out-of-place foodie between Harrisburg and Chambersburg for the past 10 years, and would love to discuss dining options. It's harder to pinpoint a forum for the area as I also tend to include the Hagerstown, MD area along with Franklin/Adams Counties for local food.

        1. re: Effington

          Looks like they are closed on Sundays. Any recommendations for a Sunday?

          1. re: ChiMom42

            Sunday evenings are a real challenge in this area. Where, precisely, will you be?

            1. re: RaeJ

              We are staying in a B&B in Clearfield, but dropping a child at Dickenson College in Carlisle (leaving by 4 pm).

              1. re: ChiMom42

                So are you looking for more of a lunch place? Sundays are difficult in Chambersburg - despite recent growth, people here are still hesitant to leave their small town ways. Some of that makes Chambersburg great - however, trying to go anywhere on Sunday (that isn't a chain at least) is annoying.

                If you're going to be Carlisle, you're much better off grabbing something to eat there. There are several unique choices - there is Market Cross Pub which serves authentic British pub style food if you're into it (and a nice beer selection if you're into that). Issei Noodle is a popular spot with the students, it's a Southeast Asian style noodle restaurant. Mount Fuji has Japanese and Amy's has Thai. Oh, and last but not least, Cafe Bruges is a Belgian style restaurant. Try a Kwak or Monk's ale.

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                Market Cross Pub
                113 N Hanover St, Carlisle, PA 17013

                Mount Fuji
                149 N Hanover St, Carlisle, PA 17013

                Issei Noodles
                , Carlisle, PA 17013

                Cafe Bruges
                16 N Pitt St, Carlisle, PA 17013

                1. re: Effington

                  I think we'll be in Carlisle for lunch, but we'll still need dinner, and I was hoping for something atmospheric for two (as opposed to fast lunch with the teen for three).

                2. re: ChiMom42

                  Perhaps others on this board can recommend something that would closer to where you are staying. In Carlisle, one of my favorites is Cafe Bruges, a Belgian restaurant with an outstanding beer selection and above average food. I especially enjoy their mussel offerings. It is open on Sunday, as far as I know. The only other restaurant I've been to on Sunday in Carlisle is Rillo's, an Italian restaurant that feels like it is stuck in a 1970s time warp. The first meal I had there was merely okay; the most recent was not. Most everything that landed on the table felt like it had spent time in a microwave; fish wasn't fresh and Italian sausage accompanying a pasta dish had apparently been cooked well ahead of time. In other words, I would not recommend the place, despite the non-stop Frank Sinatra music in the background.
                  But you should consider Cafe Bruges; it is very casual, right downtown.

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

                  Cafe Bruges
                  16 N Pitt St, Carlisle, PA 17013

                  1. re: RaeJ

                    I could not stress enough that you should avoid Rillo's. It's all quantity, no quality - and it's still overpriced.

                    For real Italian, I almost forgot about one of Carlisle's best kept secrets - Piatto.

                    http://www.piatto.com/

                    They are open for dinner only. +1 for Cafe Bruges where I think you can get a great sandwich if you're just looking for lunch.

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

                    Cafe Bruges
                    16 N Pitt St, Carlisle, PA 17013

                    Piatto
                    22 W Pomfret St, Carlisle, PA 17013

      2. I have a friend who grew up in C'burg, and he says Bistro 71 is the best place in town. And he's the pickiest person I know. He may even be pickier than I am.