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Anniversary dinner within 90 minutes of State College

Done some digging but not nearly enough so hopefully you all can help me out. DH and I are off to a wedding in August in State College (we're based in Detroit), during which occurs our anniversary. We'd like to sneak off for a nice dinner on Friday, August 26. Any ideas? I'd been thinking about Meat and Potatoes in Pittsburgh but not sure we really want to drive almost three hours each way for that.

We stopped at Gamble Mill in Bellafonte last year on the way to Philadelphia. It was okay, nothing I'd go back to for an "anniversary dinner," though.

Chopstick Express, mentioned in another thread, intrigues me although I'm guessing it's not exactly white napkin...but if they have real deal dan dan noodle and/or lamb dishes I could be convinced.

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Chopstick Express
134 E College Ave, State College, PA 16801

Gamble Mill Restaurant
160 Dunlap St, Bellefonte, PA 16823

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  1. Hi Oppsie. I am the Chopstick Express fiend :-D

    It really has outstanding Sichuan food, but would not be my choice for an anniversary dinner. It is about as far from a white napkin experience as possible.

    Unfortunately, State College leaves a lot to be desired as far as 'fine dining' goes. I've resigned myself to cooking at home, or saving awesome meals for other cities.

    My guess is you will get some recs for Zola's, but that's because it's the only 'fine dining' (in quotation marks for a reason) in town. It's a nice adult place -- meaning it doesn't cater to the student population who are happy with Taco Smell or Subway -- with a great bar, where one can hang out and munch on some appetizers. Their mains are rather underwhelming and overpriced.

    Frankly, the best meal I have had in a LONG time "near" State College was in Harrisburg (about 1 hour 15 min away) at Mangia Qui. It's a cute little Italian place with a tapas (!) bar upstairs.

    I've had one of the best steaks of my life there - Tuscan Grill (rib-eye prepared similar to bistecca Fiorentina), and the appetizers and paste are delightful.

    You'd still end up driving more than you want to, but it'll probably be worth it.

    And Harrisburg opens up all kinds of options -- the restaurant scene is definitely more varied.

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    Chopstick Express
    134 E College Ave, State College, PA 16801

    Mangia Qui
    268 North St, Harrisburg, PA 17101

    4 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      I, too, love Chopstick Express. Have you tried the new China Dragon next to Woodring's? It had a very solid water-cooked tilapia and chicken with hot peppers the last time I went. And although we were asking to eat less than an hour before they closed and were the only patrons, they couldn't have been more gracious or friendlier. I hope that they're still in business the next time I'm in town!

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      Chopstick Express
      134 E College Ave, State College, PA 16801

      1. re: mookleknuck

        I am actually planning on checking them out tonight! What a koinkidenk!!

        I thought their specialty was homemade ramen? In any event - really looking forward to trying them out!!

        Have you been to Galanga? It's apparently owned by the same folks as Cozy Thai (which I don't like -- too many deep-fried, sweet things, and no heat to speak of), but *supposedly* has northeastern Thai dishes.

        1. re: linguafood

          No, I haven't been to Galanga or Yummy Cafe. Nor have I ever enjoyed Cozy Thai. I'll know which to avoid. I did enjoy Penang on N. Atherton, which may be owned by the same owners of My Thai. I know that the manager from Penang is actually from Georgetown, Penang.

          Please report back after you've tried China Dragon!

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          My Thai Restaurant
          2200 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19146

        2. re: mookleknuck

          OK, scratch my entire reply. I was confusing Yummy Cafe with the place on Allen which you were referring to.

          FWIW, Yummy Cafe was rather underwhelming. The ramen came with spaghetti, and both the ramen and the pho broth were really bland.

          I guess I'll have to check out China Dragon next.

      2. in state college... hmm... how about that awesome pizza shop with the woodfired oven? (they serve pasta and other things too, but those pizzas are out of this world!). well, it's where I'd eat -- anniversary or no, I'd find the best thing local, and eat there.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chowrin

          I agree with Chowrin, (Luna 2 Woodgrille and Bar maybe?). State College just dosen't really have any "fine dining" restaurants. That being said, it's a very nice and fun town, with a lot of very good choices. I've always enjoyed Zola although it is pricy. My favorite is a local place called The Tavern. Is it great food? Nah...but it's very historic, a nice relaxing feel and right in the center of town. If nothing else, it would keep you out of the car for several hours.

          http://burghfeeding.blogspot.com/

          1. re: Chowrin

            You may be talking about Faccia Luna. There is even better pizza in town now, run by the same owner of Gemelli's Bakery -- Nola's Joint. Really, really good Neapolitan-style pizza, and interesting appetizers (roasted fennel, octopus, etc. -- changes daily). The owner's quite the character, too.

            I just don't know that it's special enough for an anniversary dinner...

          2. http://www.elizabethsbistro.com/

            Elizabeth's is located about 60 minutes east of State College and is worth the trip. We eat there whenever we pass thru Lewisburg. We have been eating there since it openned (15 or more years ago) and always have a great meal.

            1. Thanks for the replies so far -- still a bit up in the air about whether we won't just postpone/advance the "nice" dinner entirely and do it back home. On the plus side I'm also socking all of these suggestions away for Thursday night. Have to come into town early for the bachelor party and we will certainly need to eat. Keep em coming.

              1. For my money, the best dining for your anniversary dinner is just within your 90 minute guideline.

                Elizabeth's, an American Bistro in Lewisburg is about sixty miles east of State College, on route 45. The setting is pleasant, the cuisine is very well executed, they do a lot of locally sourced foods and have been consistently the best dining in Central Pennsylvania outside of the Harrisburg/Lancaster/York population areas.

                www.elizabethsbistro.com

                Mangia Qui and Bricco in Harrisburg are probably a little bit outside your 90-minute window, but are excellent choices. Though I have not been there, friends also highly regard Char's Bella Mundo in Harrisburg as well.

                www.charsbellamundo.com
                www.briccopa.com
                www.mangiaqui.com

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                Char's Bella Mundo
                540 Race St, Harrisburg, PA 17104

                Mangia Qui
                268 North St, Harrisburg, PA 17101

                5 Replies
                1. re: Dan D

                  I just had my first meal at Char's Bella Mundo last week, and it is easily as good at Bricco and Mangia Qui. Perhaps better, since we found it relatively affordable. We happened to be there on a Wednesday night which, unbeknownst to us, is when they have special list of wines for $25/bottle. We can't wait to go back!

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                  Char's Bella Mundo
                  540 Race St, Harrisburg, PA 17104

                  Mangia Qui
                  268 North St, Harrisburg, PA 17101

                  1. re: Dan D

                    what's the Mexican place up there? I remember it being outstanding! (had southern mexican cuisine, which I don't get often). Rita and Paco's? (do NOT have a head for names, sorry!) I'd recommend that place.

                    1. re: Chowrin

                      There is a restaurant called Reba and Paco's in Lewisburg on Route 45. Is that what you are thinking of?

                        1. re: Chowrin

                          The Reba half of the restaurant came from the same Elizabeth's that is also mentioned in this thread. We visited when they first openned 5 or 6 years ago but haven't made it back since. We know people who visit regularly and it does have a very good reputation.

                  2. I have lived in Bloomsburg for the past five years (its approx. 1 hr 15 min from State College), and can honestly say our tiny Italian restaurant called Rose Maries is the best restaurant I have eaten in the whole state. The menu is like a book...Everything from gourmet pasta dishes, chicken, seafood, salads, brick oven pizzas, and so much more. They start you off with a big basket of fresh foccacia bread with dipping oil. Lots of wines and spirits to pick from, and not over priced by any means. I tend to dine there once per week. I highly recommend their prociutto and smoked gouda stuffed chicken with a leek crram sauce, alfredo, and zucchini. It is to die for!! And every pizza is tremendous. Just be sure to make reservations!

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                    Rose Marie's Restaurant
                    26 E Main St, Bloomsburg, PA 17815

                    1. Kelly's in Boalsburg (right outside State College serves wonderful food. Their focus is on Pacific Northwest seafood and on great steaks. The food is terrific. We eat there at least three times during the week that we are in State College.

                      I wish that I was going there tonight for the incredible Halibut cheeks that they serve!

                      http://kellys-steak.com/content/home.php