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State College--never found a good restaurant!!!

Been going to PSU for years.Can't seem to find anything exceptional or interesting.
Maybe the "hounds" can help.

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  1. Have you looked at some of the recent threads on State College?

    While I generally agree that there are few places worth the money, there ARE a few places worth the money.

    Chopstick Express comes to mind, for sure, for awesome Sichuan food. My Thai serves some pretty good Thai food (beats the shit out of the cloyingly sweet, never spicy Cozy Thai).

    Pita Cabana is hit or miss. Their tabbouleh is pretty damn awesome, tho.

    Nola's joint has good pizza, but the service is.... spotty, to say the least.

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

    1. Try Spat's. I have yet to try anything I didn't love. Cajun/Creole themed. Decently priced as well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: lwbatterson

        That's funny. Last time I ate at Spat's (roughly 6 years ago or so), I couldn't finish my "creole" pasta dish with crayfish and cream sauce.

        Took it home, put it in the fridge.... only to find about a half pound of congealed butter in the middle of the whole mess when I wanted to reheat it. In the garbage it went, and I haven't been back since.

        I find them waaaay overpriced for what they're serving.

        1. re: linguafood

          Ok. Well maybe you should try it again. I've been there five times in the last year and a half and they haven't done me wrong.

      2. We live here and agree there are not too many good places and none that are "upscale." Stick with ethnic or mid-range. Facia Luna is good for wood-fired pizzas and some of their pastas are decent. We eat at My Thai frequently and have had some decent dishes at Fuji Jade Garden next store too. Spats is OK and the Corner Room has decent sandwiches.

        Harrison's gets good reviews but we haven't eaten there in years.

        The Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks is probably doing some of the best and most consistent food in the area but its about 15 miles out of town in Milheim.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mb luvs SBH

          The Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks is probably doing some of the best and most consistent food in the area but its about 15 miles out of town in Milheim.

          ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          I agree! We love Elk Creek but it is a long drive for us and even a few minutes on Route 45 feels like an eternity. Worth the trip though.

        2. Perhaps you could describe what you mean by exceptional or interesting. Also what your requirements are usually for when you go to PSU - do you go on home football weekends? during Artsfest? spring, summer, and winter breaks? What kinds of circumstances are you fulfilling and what are your standards? What kind of restaurants do you normally enjoy? I looked over your previous posts briefly and the majority of them seem concerned with quality value for dollar. What are your price points? You also seem to enjoy decent seafood options without much focus on meat, which is not as easy to find in State College.

          I'd stick with one of two options:
          1) As suggested already, ethnic food. Herwig's has very enjoyable Austrian food, but is rather meat and potatoes heavy. There are several decent places for Italian and Italian-American food: Faccia Luna has the best sit-down pizza in town, while Brother's Pizza (Centre Hall, Northland Center, rt.26 by the mall) and Bella Sicilia are all family-friendly BYOBs and NOLA's has the most authentic food (at a slightly higher price). For Chinese, I would go to Chopstick Express (only dinner has the really good Sichuan food), Big Bowl Noodle House (check the handwritten dry erase board and the appetizers), or the new place on Allen St (China Dragon, I think? it's near Woodring's where a number of businesses have come and gone) - they do very good Sichuan as well with very good fish. For general SE Asian, I would try Penang on N. Atherton or My Thai on S. Atherton; the former is run by people from Georgetown, IIRC, while the food at the latter is pretty good for State College. Slightly more expensive, and listed already, is Spats. Service is consistently fair and friendly and quick to correct any mistakes while the food is more than acceptable. Feelings are mixed on the value for the dollar with most of the crowd tending to be a bit older (not many college students there!).
          2) American food in several tiers of pricing. For the diner basics, I would suggest trying a cute place called Brody's in a double-wide. Good diner breakfast on Sundays and specials every Friday and Saturday night. A little higher price will send you to the Fraser St. Deli, the Corner Room,Elk Creek Cafe, Champs, Home Delivery - nothing special but reliable food and somewhat inconsistent service in the latter two. Finally, Zola's and American Ale House reliably execute food and drinks for a bit more money.

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

          My Thai Restaurant
          2200 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19146

          1. IMHO
            1. Cozy Thai Bistro: Very good and BYOB!
            2. kelly's steakhouse in neighboring boalsburg
            3. herwig's bistro: stick to your bones austrian food
            4. Foccia Luna: wood burning stove pizza and pasta

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            Cozy Thai Bistro
            454 E College Ave, State College, PA 16801

            6 Replies
            1. re: dining with doc

              Oh, I'd forgotten about Kelly's! And Duffy's! While both are in Boalsburg right outside of State College, service is iffy though the former is higher-priced than the latter.

              1. re: mookleknuck

                We have had several good lunches at Kelly's (Saturdays).

                Duffy's disappointed me. We were only there once. The oldy-timey building is charming but all of our lunches were sort of sad. My sandwich roll was stale and there is no excuse for this in my opinion. I remember a nice selection of beers on tap.

                I would try it again because the setting is charming.

                I need to check out Faccia Luna

                1. re: cleobeach

                  Nola's is MUCH better than Faccia Luna, tho the owner is a bit of a strange cookie....

                  Had steak at Kelly's once, never went back. If that is what they specialize in and they can't get it right, what's the point?

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Will keep that in mind. We might head that way the weekend.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      Had pretty good steak at Kelly's, maybe not BLT or capital grill but pretty good all things considered. Seafood also was good. Definitely top 5 restaurants for state college.

                2. re: mookleknuck

                  Duffy is very disappointing it's not what the fuss. Oh yes don't forget to dress semi casual or you'll be seating in the as I would call it the poor man side. I heard it was so good so I finally went and I have never been back there period.

              2. I was hoping for more encouraging replies to your post as we used to get off I-80 when returning from Erie just to stay and eat in State College. Basically, from our recent experience and from the replies here, there are a lot of places to eat in the State College area. Some are interesting but none appear exceptional. A couple of years ago, we ate at Zola based upon the hype on CH. Major disappointment. With Milheim being recommended as the best in the area, that is sad commentary on State College itself. Milheim always seemed like more than 15 miles from State College when driving through there. Doesn't look like any reason to go out of our way again.

                8 Replies
                1. re: jfr

                  Really? I thought we mentioned quite a number of stop-worthy places. Maybe you need to reread.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    I reread your posts and the others. I stand by what I said -- some interesting places but none appear to be exceptional. If we lived in State College or that was our destination, there are a lot of places worth going to for lunch or dinner. (you knocked Spat's, Kelly's, Faccia Luna; even Elk Creek got a "nothing special" from one poster.) As much as we have enjoyed State College over the years, we don't get off I-80 anymore to eat there (and I think all on CH might agree that I-80 can be a food wasteland without specific recommendations).

                    1. re: jfr

                      Chopstick Express is definitely worth your time - fantastic Sichuan food in the evenings.

                      Exceptional? That's certainly subjective.

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

                      1. re: linguafood

                        Again, jfr and brucewein, exceptional hasn't been defined here and as linguafood mentions, it's a subjective state. If you're looking for molecular gastronomy or 3-star Michelins, then you'll need to look to a city much larger than State College. People have different tastes and values when it comes to eating out; there are certainly good dishes at all of the restaurants that were "knocked."

                        At any rate, these are places that serve decent food in different price ranges and will help people who are coming to visit the area or driving through. If there *is* more exceptional food in the one hundred and fifty miles east and west on I-80, please do share!

                    2. re: linguafood

                      No State College has basically NO Upscale or any kind of real restaurants that are worth the money unless you eat at Olive Garden at least the food is half way eatable. Nothing like Philly or Jersey restaurant many to choose from and more on your plate to talk about. This is a college town and a place that needs more top of the line restaurants instead of banks.

                      1. re: hkharp

                        Olive garden sucks to the max. If your idea of edible food is chain food, then you haven't eaten at several restos (all or at least most of them mentioned in this VERY thread) in town.

                        I suggest you check them out, "upscale" or not.

                        Totally agree on the banks, tho. The number of banks in town is ridonkulous.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          Really, like the Elks Country Club major disappointment talk about bad food even some of it member complain. Kelly is over priced for its food, Jade its has it moments and Herwigs Bistro the staff is rude, the corner room well it's not the best I've eaten and Harrison's it's ok food. The Deli is ok food. I have lived here about 10 years and I have not found the top of the line restaurant yet. Name a place and I'll even try the place. And tell you what I think?

                          -----
                          Herwigs Bistro
                          132 W College Ave, State College, PA 16801

                          1. re: hkharp

                            I'd recommend going thru this thread and look at the other places listed:

                            Chopstick Express (only for dinner, tho) - Sichuan worthy of being compared to any city
                            My Thai - very good Thai
                            Pita Cabana - pretty good Lebanese, especially the kibbeh & tabbouleh
                            China Dragon - haven't been but same owners as the mall Chinese
                            Penang - good Malaysian
                            Zola's - great cocktails
                            Nola's - best pizza in town.

                            Comments?

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

                            My Thai Restaurant
                            2200 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19146

                  2. I have to agree with the OP...my daughter is a freshman at PSU and while we have only been going out to State College for a short time, I have to say I am disappointed with the restaurants.We have had good experiences at Ale House, had one dinner at Nola which was fine, but nothing memorable. Had lunch at the restaurant upstairs from the corner room which was good (but found it odd that they would charge 50 cents for extra salad dressing) The beauty of most college towns is that they always have a great selection of ethnic restaurants...where is the middle eastern/greek place? where is the indian place? where is the funky cafe that has a great college -veggie vibe to it? We did go to one middle eastern place (down the stairs in a courtyard...can't remember the name) and it was dirty and uninspired. We'll keep trying places, but am keeping my expectations low.

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                    Ale House
                    3546 W Chester Pike, Newtown Square, PA 19073

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: judyep

                      Well, even though it seems like your questions were rhetorical, let me answer a few:

                      The middle eastern place is Pita Cabana - the place you went to. I have to agree that it doesn't really live up to expectations. I found the sandwiches to be lacking in flavor, the falafel is dry, and there is not a lot of selections. This at a place where a Lebanese Mom is cooking! I did really like the tabbouleh.

                      The Indian place -- we have two -- is India Pavillion on Calder Way (quite decent if you ask me and certainly on par with what's on the plate in other college towns), and there also is Kaarma on Beaver Ave, but I've never been.

                      The funky café, Webster's bookstore, was thrown out of their lease and is still looking for a new home. Their old location remains empty. Saint's Café cranks out a pretty good brew (sans the required funkiness).

                      There is a vegan place "Enchanted Kitchen" on Pugh St. which gets good reviews, but it's not my cup o'tea, so you'll have to find out for yourself.

                      One last note -- this is State College, not Ithaca. Athletics and boozing take over any crunchy-granola hippie fantasies you may have about college towns.

                      As for other resto options, see above.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        I think you hit the nail on the head...I do think that ithica is the ultimate college town...interesting restaurants both traditional and "crunchy." Well I'll have the next 4 years to find something...might try Faccia Luna or Kellys this weekend. I'll report back!

                      2. re: judyep

                        My fav is Cozy Thai Bistro which also is BYOB. Other good places include Foccia Luna, Kelly's steak and seafood and Herwigs bistro. I have not tried the Korean restaurants on Atholton street but have them targeted for a future visit

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                        Cozy Thai Bistro
                        454 E College Ave, State College, PA 16801

                        1. re: dining with doc

                          You should give My Thai a try sometime, which is also BYOB, and is much more authentic (and tasty) than Cozy Thai.

                          I found Kim Chi to be overly expensive for what they're offering - basically Korean home cooking that, according to Korean friends, simply isn't "all that".

                          Seoul Garden might be worth a try, I haven't been there in ages.

                        2. re: judyep

                          Because that Austrian bistro isn't fun, interesting, or something you can't find someplace else...

                          1. re: Chowrin

                            What is this post referring to/answering/commenting on? I cannot for the life of me figure out what you are trying to say. Austrian bistros abound in PA? Or not?

                            1. re: linguafood

                              ... judy's saying "but there's no Ethnic Stuff!"
                              I'm saying if she expanded her horizons on what ethnic is, she might find more.

                              http://www.herwigsaustrianbistro.com/...

                              I recommend the goulash.

                              1. re: Chowrin

                                Mmm, I especially enjoy their Szegediner gulasch (sp?)!

                                Sarcasm can be hard to convey, but I'm being sincere here!

                                1. re: Chowrin

                                  Sorry...had a weird/rude/awkward encounter with one of the owners of Herwigs when I was trying to buy a gift card, nothing else. Heard from others that the brash behavior of the employees is part of the charm. Not so in my book. Wouldn't go back and wouldn't recommend. Just saying...

                                  1. re: jme90

                                    It's a shtick, is all. The food is quite tasty, actually.

                                    1. re: jme90

                                      teehee. each to their own. At least with Herwig's they mean it in good fun. At Tram's (pgh), I'm not so sure (perhaps it's a lack of english, there, or something cultural, I have no idea...)

                                      1. re: jme90

                                        Sorry to hear that; usually, I've found the staff to be warm and friendly, if occasionally stepping out of the bounds of what is normal food-service behavior... However, there's not much as room for banter and interaction (which I usually enjoy) at this larger place on College Ave as there was in their former space (the tiny place behind the CATA bus office where there is a pasta place now). Also, I think that there was one employee who was let go awhile ago because of poor customer service, so I'd try back and see what you think. That said, I certainly understand when one poor customer service interaction is enough to put you off a restaurant.

                                2. re: judyep

                                  Keep your expectations low and stick to the classics and you will remain entertained. It has been difficult to eat well in Central Pennsylvania since 1970. Harsh, but my honest opinion.

                                  1. re: taiga

                                    ... sticking to the classics seems like a Fine Plan.
                                    Seriously, you're in central pennsylvania, known as one of the top three places for milk in the western hemisphere. And someone's really having trouble finding "fine tasty food"? This isn't Utah, where the food's radioactive (thanks nevada!)

                                3. Hey, no one goes to State College to experience exceptional gastronomic experiences. We all go there to attend college (me) or visit family members (my daughters) or attend sporting events. However, I did have a quite respectable meal several weeks ago at the Gamble Inn in Bellefonte. They also have a microbrewery and an okay wine list.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Kshell

                                    I go there for good food. It's got the tops in the world place for Philly style ice cream, after all. I'd say that's pretty exceptional. It's like New Castle -- people go way out of their way for hot dogs there.