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New to Harrisburg

Just wanted to say hello, we just moved to Harrisburg from Los Angeles. It's a stunningly big move/life shift and I'm hoping to ease the transition somewhat by seeking out the best of what's around here. I understand there might be a bit of a culture shock when it comes to what foods are available, but I've heard the area has been growing a lot in recent years, so, fingers crossed! Even if that means I end up seeking out amazing cooks who like to have people over for dinner.

So far on my to-check-out list are of course:
Mangia Qui
Bricco
Home 321
Jackson House

Would love to know if there are any other favorite places I should add to my to-eat list.
Thanks so much!

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  1. You already listed ones I would have recommended.

    Not Harriburg but not too far away - we enjoy going to the Hershey Hotel. The Circular Dining Room has a chef's table on Friday nights. We also like the lounge there for drinks.

    We used to visit a couple of good spots in Camp HIll but the names escape me now. I will need to ask my husband.

    4 Replies
    1. re: cleobeach

      Cleobeach, is Harvest at Hershey any good?

      1. re: melpy

        Haven't tried Harvest.

        We had reservations but the menu didn't interest us at all so we cancelled. This was several months ago so maybe the menu changed but at the time it was burgers, roasted chicken, a steak or two, nothing that I can't make at home from my own locally-sourced ingredients.

        1. re: melpy

          My gosh--we had dinner at Harvest last night and while the service couldn't be nicer, the food was horrible. The stuffed mushrooms first came out ice cold and then completely bland. My husbands filet was just terrible. Was bummed--was looking forward to their 'farm to table' concept.

          1. re: kmesquita

            Thanks for the info. I'll probably steer clear because it is enough out of the way not to be convenient.

      2. That's a heck of a move. :) Some of the ethic restaurants here are good IMO. I like Kanalya Thai on South 13th, Bangkok Wok out on the Carlisle Pike and Aangan Indian up on Walnut Street. For beer, there's Applachian Brewing over on Cameron which has decent food. There is a Meet Up group that does mostly restaurant visits and some cooking: http://www.meetup.com/Culinary-Extrov... . Was a member for a while but dropped out since I like to do more cooking myself and I just can't hear at a restaurant with a dozen people. If you are into home brewing, there's a few places around: Scotzin Brothers in Lemoyne and now Breskis Distributor on Eisenhower. There are some ethnic grocers around too, Steelton, the areas up on the Hill. It's much better than it was, when i first moved here 20 years ago. Then I was told not to live in the city because people whose skin was darker than mine lived there. <rolling eyes> There is usually a good restaurant over on Market Street in Camp Hill but none of them exist for very long.

        2 Replies
        1. re: velkyn

          Velkyn recited the famous Harrisburg motto which we who have left hear incessantly: "It's much better than it was, when i first moved here ... years ago." It's never good in Harrisburg, but always better than it was. Go to the Subway Cafe on Herr St. You'll be happy with the pizza. Otherwise, learn to cook.

          1. re: taiga

            The Subway Cafe was one of my first stops! We really enjoyed it.
            And yes, I've also noticed I've suddenly been spending a lot of time practicing my home-chef skills, such that they are.

        2. I'd put the Progress Grill on there. Last couple times out, we had our 11-year-old granddaughter with us, and she's hooked. Wants HER birthday dinner there! Good classic American food served by great help....

          1. More downmarket and probably more breakfast/lunch, we have always been pleased with the Capitol Diner off of exit 2 of 283

            1. LA offers a sampling of the world of foods along with some of its other delights like sunshine, relative warmth, desert levels of humidity all of which may be found in Harrisburg but not easily and often seasonally. I relocated from SF to the Philadelphia area and while there were differences it was a relatively easy transition, actually now I would be unsure which I would select for home. The task ahead of you is herculean; it seems you have set your expectations properly. Definitely an Apples to Oranges comparison and being from North CA I am not even big a fan of LA, as you would expect. Best Wishes and Good Health!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bacchus101

                Thank you! I'm doing my best to keep all expectations in line and at the very least looking at this as an opportunity to expand my kitchen skills.
                I've been to Philly twice this summer and plan to visit more and I'd certainly be willing to make the 2hr drive for a food specific reason. Please let me know if you've come across any worthy meals!

                And of course, I have to say it, as a lover of SF AND LA... give SoCal another chance! There's a lot of good there, we just tend to hide it. Makes you feel more special when you've uncovered it : )

                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                  As a chowhound I am sure you will alert us on the Philadelphia Board when you are visiting. There are always excellent first person suggestions on the "best of" and we would be please to customize to your specific likes and dislikes.

                  SoCal selectively is indeed quite lovely and certainly entertaining: I only felt compelled to engage in the cross state banter. The hidden jewel theory is one I do appreciate! Tks.

              2. Apart from restaurants this area has some amazing CSAs for both produce and meats.

                2 Replies
                1. re: melpy

                  Please share!

                  1. re: hyacinthgirl

                    I belong to Spiral Path which is a produce CSA and North Mountain Patures which is for meats. They deliver to a centrally located area within region. On my phone so can't put the links but they should be simple to Google. Spiral Path also has some "friends" which may also provide food shares.

                2. So how have your dining experiences been? Have you found any hidden gems?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: pahiker6

                    Not for food, per se, but I'm thrilled at discovering Little Amps Coffee Shop. Also the bread alone at the nearby Alvarro Bakery is wonderful. The desserts look pretty amazing there, but I haven't yet had the calories saved to try them.

                    Also, was fairly impressed with Thai food at Chalit Bistro.
                    And had a fairly delightful meal at Cafe Bruges in Carlisle.

                    Still looking, still tasting!

                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                      Ya gotta have the Tuscan Grill at Mangia Qui. One of THE best steaks I have ever had.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        That's exciting! Hope to go there in the next few weeks

                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                          The Tuscan is fabulous and so are their pastas. Usually whatever they are doing with braised meat is to die for.The servers give great recommendations too. I also highly recommended brunch there.

                          Upstairs is Suba for tapas. You can usually get that's my downstairs if you ask. The fish taco was excellent.

                      2. re: hyacinthgirl

                        I was going to suggest Alvaro's for bread, lunch, gelato. Lena and Sal -- love them and try to steer business in their direction. They're open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, BYOB. My friend who grew up in the Philly area says their cannolis are excellent and another Italian friend totally approves of the meatballs. If you hit a night with fresh pasta, even better.

                    2. Since you are willing to go to Philadelphia for a meal, consider John J. Jeffries and Ma(i)son in Lancaster and for a really off the beaten path experience, head to Sheppard Mansion in Hanover. Where on your list have you been, and what did you enjoy or not enjoy? That will help people guide you.

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: centralpadiner

                        Char's has opened back up http://charsrestaurant.com/

                        I agree with John J Jeffries, have not been to Maison yet.

                        Take a trip to Adams County and visit http://www.rettlandfarm.com/

                        His berkshire pork is reasonably priced and delicious. Also get bread at http://pomonas.com/ which will rival the best you have ever had. Do it early on Saturday morning before the bread runs out. Good sourdough

                        Swing over to Hanover and go to http://www.carriagehousemarket.net/ A little pricey on some things but great stuff.

                        You just missed the apple festival (Did you know that Mott's and Musselman's is in Adam's County) but swing by http://www.hollabaughbros.com/ and grab some apples and make pies and cakes

                        1. re: pashibaboy

                          Has anyone been to the new Char's?

                          1. re: melpy

                            Just heard this last week, and would also love to hear how it is.... hmm, my birthday is next month, perhaps that's where I should pick for my dinner.

                            1. re: melpy

                              We went to Char's last night, (wow, Thursday night and packed solid!), someone cancelled so we got in ! The first thing that struck me was the building and decor. Char has done a great job with the building, nice bar and dining rooms. Food was very good (recommend the Fried Green Tomatoes, Beet Salad, Lamb Meatball, Couscous Paella. The deserts were good but food is where they really shined.

                              1. re: pashibaboy

                                Thanks for this! We'll be headed there tomorrow night for my birthday!

                                1. re: centralpadiner

                                  Happy BIrthday ! I hope you enjoyed your meal

                                  1. re: pashibaboy

                                    I've been meaning to do a review. The food was fantastic, but there were a few service glitches that they went above and beyond attempting to fix with a free round of drinks and comping dessert. However, despite that we still paid $350 for our group of 4 and when you are shelling out that kind of dough you have certain expectations. I absolutely agree that the space is just gorgeous, and we certainly plan on going back. They seem to be struggling slightly with growing into this new environment and also seemed a bit overwhelmed at how highly anticipated the opening was.

                                    On another note, there was some forced pretension in the descriptions of the specials. The couple we were there with are decidedly NOT foodies, but still enjoy eating a good meal. My friend said right out that she felt intimidated while the server was talking. I love food, but don't think guests should be made to feel that way unnecessarily, especially when it is things like listing "mirepoix" as an ingredient in your soup of the day. I mean, really, I had to bite my tongue to not laugh at the server, but then felt genuinely angry about it when my friend tried to quietly ask what was going into the soup and said she is afraid to ask in places like that because she thinks she'll look stupid.

                                    The set up with the library v. the bar was also confusing, and we weren't given any direction when it turned out the previous diners decided to camp out at our table making our seating 20 minutes later than our reservation. That's fine, but we should have been told to wait in the library, I think - still not sure on that one. Apparently they take reservations for bar seating. I understand they did this at the Bella Mundo location, which was quite tiny, but it seems unnecessary now. Our friends arrived first and were told to go ahead and sit at the bar to wait for us, until the group with reservations arrived, but they were completely ignored by the bartenders - presumably because they weren't really supposed to be there. We were given the same treatment, until Robert directed them to make us drinks on the house due to our long wait. Honestly, if we had just been told to go to the library and that drink orders would be taken from there, we probably would have been waiting in a much more relaxed fashion and the time would have been unnoticed.

                                    The dessert was because they offered to make me a birthday cake at the time my husband made the reservation, but then forgot to make it, so gave us our desserts for free. We didn't take advantage either, the types to always share dessert, we ordered the same way we normally might.

                                    Like I said, excellent food - we all loved our entire meal and beautiful space. We will forgive any issues this time, for certain and go back under the assumption that they will work out any problems with a little bit of time.

                                    1. re: centralpadiner

                                      When my wife and I arrived, the other couple with us were already seated, so we did not have any issues for waiting. As far as the waiter, he was fine but did mispronounce ingredients (how do you be pretentous when you can't describe the plate descriptions properly") Being a foodie, I guess I wouldn't be phased by ingredients the average person may not recognize. My wife will just quiz me after the waiter leaves if she had a question. I guess when I reload my bank account I'll try them again in the spring and see how things work out. Once again Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving !

                                      1. re: pashibaboy

                                        Haha! My fiancé asks me about ingredients or we use our phone sometimes but if neither of us know we don't mind asking. They say there is no sub thing as a stupid question.

                                        1. re: melpy

                                          My issue was that "mirepoix" is listed as an ingredient at all. To me, this is like saying a soup contains "sel" or "poive" in an attempt to sound impressive. My friend truly thought it was going to be some exotic seafood or mushroom she had never heard of. I don't blame the serve for this, she was clearly reading off the description of the dish as it had been taught to her, which was why I didn't tease about it when she first said it. I only realized how obnoxious it was when my friend whispered her inquiry after the server left. IMO, it would have been better had she asked the server, so that she would have to explain it was diced carrots, onions and celery used as a flavor base in almost every Western soup with a broth based preparation.

                            2. re: pashibaboy

                              Rettland Farm is where Chef Little of Sheppard Mansion gets all his pork products, and Carriage House is located at right behind it. They sell local items as well as things made by the Sheppard Mansion staff (soups, breads, and I don't know what else). It really is worth a visit. Maybe I am biased because as a "Dutchy" I totally get what he's trying to do with his food and love those flavors, but I found the tasting menu to be just as good or better than meals I've had in big cities. In fact, I can definitely say I enjoyed the food there more than I did at Volt in Frederick, MD. (Bryan Voltagio's - Top Chef - restaurant.)

                              1. re: centralpadiner

                                I'll have to check this out. Sadly our dining out budget is being drastically cut because we are buying a house and might have two mortgages for a bit. If anyone is looking to buy in the Carlisle area let me know ;)

                                1. re: melpy

                                  Sheppard Mansion just announced that they are closing the restaurant and bar at the end of this year. I am beyond sad about this. They are continuing with their farmer's market type space located in the carriage house behind the mansion.

                                  1. re: centralpadiner

                                    I just saw this when I was searching wedding venues.was trying to decide if it was worth the te and effort to go before they close!

                                    1. re: melpy

                                      I would say yes, unless the closing is indicative of troubles that might spill over into the menu. It is remaining open as a wedding venue, is it on your list of possibilities?

                                      1. re: centralpadiner

                                        Went for our anniversary in early December. The caramelized carrot soup is the stand out of the meal in my mind. My fiancé didn't get it he said. I thin the upscale Amish inspired wasn't his thing. Being raised here the traditional way of doing things still impresses him more for the PA Dutch food.

                                        I had it on my venue list but he said don't bother so it has been axed for now.

                            3. re: centralpadiner

                              The dinning room at the Sheppard Mansion is closed! Notice as follows: After careful deliberation, we have decided to close the Dining Room at the Sheppard Mansion permanently effective Jan 1, 2013. Certainly a wonderful venue and for us would have been well worth a long drive. Is this just another example of the local population not valuing and not willing to support finer dinning with their patronage?

                            4. Bricco has changed to a weekly menu. We went last week and it was fabulous. They have some off evenings but this was high caliber once again. The pork belly appetizer which I have notices is on the menu again for this week is just awesome. Last week's lobster and gnocchi was also stellar.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: melpy

                                Good to know. We have yet to eat there but a friend of ours in the restaurant business likes Bricco.

                              2. The locally sourced restaurant in Camp Hill is called Fraiche, and it's fabulous. Opened about 6 months ago - I am curious to see what their winter menu will be like. There are several reviews at this URL http://www.yelp.com/biz/fraiche-camp-...

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: BartCarpenter

                                  Loved Fraiche, and am trying to steer business their way as I understand that's a location that flips businesses a lot. My husband had a steak frites that was perfect and I had a vegan apple mushroom risotto. I'm not a vegan by any stretch, but this dish was eye-opening. It was creative, fresh and really wonderful. I might even have preferred the nutritional yeast to the usual parmigiano in the dish.

                                  1. re: BartCarpenter

                                    3 stars on yelp. doesn't equal fabulous.

                                    1. re: Clherrick

                                      Technically it had 2 stars on Yelp. I joined just to give it a stellar review so it would be bumped up. I don't know why it got so many bad yelp reviews at first but they're wrong.

                                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                        Checking out Fraiche tonight per your recommendation, hyacinthgirl. Will report back on what we had.

                                        1. re: melpy

                                          Fingers crossed you like it!

                                          1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                            Last night we went to Fraiche in Camp Hill. The waitstaff was friendly and helpful and the space was airy and simplistic in decor while being inviting. Water glasses were canning (not mason) jars. Being a BYOB we brought a light Pinot noir to drink and were charged a 3 dollar corking fee. Being our first time and we were hungry we ordered several courses. The only draw back was we were told portions would be smaller than they actually were. The amuse bouche for the evening was "amish edamame", which was similar to a sugar snap pea. they were warm and salted, very light but we did not finish.I started with the dandelion green and mesclun salad with apple and potato straws, cheese and a citrus pesto dressing with smoked almonds. The combination was delicious but it was a little more lightly dressed than I would have typically liked. This did however give me plenty of opportunity to really taste the ingredients which is what you want in a farm to table restaurant in my opinion. My fiancé had the potato bacon soup which had a nice earthy flavor, making it known that these were real potatoes.

                                            Next we did a few small plates.

                                            1. re: melpy

                                              Continued from above:
                                              My fiancé had the smoked trout with the aioli and crackers and I had the tempura squash blossom with the cheese foam. It was really more of a mousse than a foam, not molecular gastronomy style. Both were very good. We also split the pork belly, poached egg and biscuit with maple sauce. This was probably our least favorite dish of the night. Some dishes could have benefited from a little salt. I think they were relying on the pork belly to provide the salt and it wasn't quite enough for the richness of the egg yolk. The biscuit was too crumbly and dry to be able to sop up all the eggy goodness.

                                              I probably could have stopped there but my fiancé insisted on an entree. I had the carbonara with wine cream sauce, guanciale, a fried egg, greens, peas and hade pasta. It was very good but again would have benefitted from some salt. My fiancé had the pork tenderloin with apple pancake and milk jam which was very good but a little smaller than I think he was hoping for since our other items ended up being larger than we thought.

                                              I did not want dessert but we ended up with the angel food cake with strawberry sauce, strawberry ice cream and whipped cream. I did not care for the ice cream. It had a metallic taste that I found off putting. He also had a cup of the French press coffee.

                                              Overall I really enjoyed it and I would go back. My fiancé was lukewarm but he is hard to please, so I may need to coerce him into it next time.

                                              Thanks for the recommendation.

                                              1. re: melpy

                                                Thank you for the thorough review!

                                  2. We moved from San Diego five long years ago. After a few months we realized you have to go to dc or Philly if food is your thing. Central PA has no understanding of what fine dining is about. I'd be happy with a few good dinners or dives. Devon's in Hershey is pretty good. Beyond that. Plan weekend road trips.

                                    40 Replies
                                    1. re: Clherrick

                                      You know, I just LOVE these kinds of complaints. Completely ignoring the fact that San Diego has a population of 1.3 million and Harrisburg, PA has a population of 50,000. Let's be honest, when you make that kind of a move your expectations need to change accordingly. The unfortunate reality is that the clientele just isn't here.

                                      The truth is that even looking at 'Central PA' as a whole having a population maybe equivalent to the city of Washington, D.C. (not metro area), the culture here is very financially, and, obviously, politically conservative. There just isn't a culture of eating out. As much as I love food and dining out (and chatting about it with like minded folks) we really only do it about twice a month (beyond grabbing a pizza or some other take out), and the really high end stuff is saved for special occasions 2 or 3 times a year. And my husband and I eat out WAY more than anyone else that I actually know in real life, except for maybe my empty nest cousin and her husband who have pretty much settled on 4 or 5 casual spots they like to hit for decent food and a beer with friends a couple nights a week. I am well aware that even if my own personal dining habits changed drastically to eating out daily, it would not be enough to support even one new fine dining establishment in the area.

                                      So, I guess what you are saying is true, there is a lack of fine dining in the area when compared to a major metropolitan area. Which seems ridiculously obvious, don't you think? However, some of us choose to try and support and spread the word about places we think are worthwhile that choose to make a go of it in the area, rather than just take a road trip to the major metropolitan areas.

                                      1. re: centralpadiner

                                        I can't disagree with what you write. Every area has its own culture and expectations. I've lived in many areas, I know. But, it doesn't change the fact that there is t much going on in the dining scene in central PA.

                                        There could be. A good meal doesn't have to be delivered with pomp and circumstance. And there are glimmers of good. I mentioned Devon's. cafe Luna in Hershey offers very good Mexican. Hoolihans in Hershey is a better than average fern bar. Challots Thai in Hamden township is very good.

                                        Still, I could cite way to many visits which could have been good which weren't.

                                        1. re: Clherrick

                                          As someone who has lived in big cities (and I consider myself an urban person), it has been quite an adjustment moving to the boonies of Central PA. And I don't even live in glitzy Harrisburg '-)

                                          That said, I've had one of the best steaks of my life at Mangia Qui, of all places. Good meals can be found almost anywhere.

                                          Yes, Philadelphia or NYC it is not.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            I have also had a few great meals at Mangia Qui and at John J. Jeffries and Ma(i)son in Lancaster. Unfortunately, John J. Jeffries has gone more casual since they first opened, changing from a fantastic prix fixe menu to one with small plates and a few entrees. However, the food is still quite good, IMO. Sheppard Mansion has closed, as mentioned, and I can think of several others that tried to hold on to the fine dining element in the area but just couldn't make a go of it. Brian Kent's in Hershey several years back was one of the most innovative places I had ever been to at the time, but the stress of trying to keep a small place dedicated to such high quality food actually led him to have a nervous breakdown. He attempted to get back in the game at Niko's in Lebanon, but it didn't work out. Now, Niko's does most of their business as a bar, from what I understand. Confit Bistro? We loved that place. Even The Circular Dining Room at the Hotel Hershey is changing to "meet the modern customers' needs." I'm scared to find out what that is even going to mean. Char's at Tracey Mansion might fill a void, but they need to get some service quirks worked out, and the food was good but not particularly new and exciting.

                                            Trust me, I get the frustration. I've lived in the area my entire life, and I'm no longer a Spring chicken. DH and I have lamented the loss of too many great places - fine dining and not. But, at the same time, I realize that if I can only get to that place once or twice a year, how can I expect them to be able to stay open?

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              My father who has eaten at fine restaurants all over the world, had said that Mangia Qui for him is in the top ten meals of all time. He insists we go when he is in town. It truly is one of the best steals we've ever had as well.

                                              1. re: melpy

                                                Steal or steak? :-)

                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  Steak!

                                              2. re: linguafood

                                                Still haven't tried the steak there, but I did have a brunch and a lunch at Mangia Qui. The brunch was nice and they had an interesting variety of items, but I wasn't blown away by any of them. The timbale was decent and the pumpkin french toast was very good, but there was a wow factor missing.

                                                The lunch made up for that. Their lunch menu alone was impressive with a beautiful variety of dishes. I got a diablo chicken served on a grain, I'm afraid I can't remember perfectly which one. I can remember that it was delicious with all of the flavors precisely in balance.

                                                I also heard a rumor that they're opening a 3rd space that will be French inspired. I'm looking forward to trying that.

                                                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                  Anymore on this rumor of the French inspired restaurant?

                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    Just that it's happening, but slowly...

                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                      I'm guessing this is going to be it... http://rubiconhbg.com/

                                                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                        It is a true tabula rasa. My selfish hope is that it is in a location which can be easily accessed by a non-local, say within an hour of the greater Philadelphia area. But of course more importantly that it provides central PA with new and wonderful dining experience. Thanks for the link, I will watch for this one.

                                                        1. re: Bacchus101

                                                          It's going to be in Harrisburg city, I believe in the vicinity of Mangia Qui.

                                              3. re: centralpadiner

                                                It's also more family oriented, I think. I know relatively few childless urban professionals who have the time and money to go out a lot. I live on the West Shore, and people here have money... but they're either older or have kids. (We're the latter.) The chains all along Carlisle Pike do great. We have a few other good places (randomly, several Thai places--I don't get it, but don't complain, either! By the way, there's a Korean place on Market St in Camp Hill--went there once and it was pretty good.)

                                                I love to eat, but yes--I don't get the chance to go out to the nicer places, and I think we're pretty typical. The market isn't here.

                                                I don't think Central PA is really so much worse than any other demographically similar place in the US.

                                                1. re: AlexisT

                                                  That's interesting. Living in midtown, I know a LOT of childless couples who go out constantly. In fact, we're still the only people with kids we know, and that said, we go out a fair amount too. But that's all anectdotal and I'm sure what you're saying contributes to the lack of a restaurant scene here.

                                                  1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                    Midtown, and maybe a couple other patches of Harrisburg proper, are probably the best neighborhoods for finding childless couples who like to go out. :) But they're only part of the city, and the city is only a small part of the metro area. Get past the city limits, and it's heavily family and retiree oriented here.

                                                    I'm from the NYC area originally--moved here 4 years ago--and there is less of a dining culture in general compared to where I grew up. But I look around where I live (Hampden) and people do have money and go out, but they don't tend to be very adventurous about it. Hence, the chains.

                                                    And yes, like you mentioned below--people here think the river is an unbridgeable chasm. So when we are lucky enough to get somewhere good on this side, people think it practically requires an expeditionary force to try it!

                                                    1. re: AlexisT

                                                      hahahaha! That always makes me think of my mom. I don't know why, but she is the person I most think of as repeatedly saying "it's different West of the river." Her family is 7 generations of Eastern Leb. Co. Egad, you probably can't even imagine. So she would even say it the entire 10 yrs. we lived in Franklin Co. when I was growing up. "You don't really understand, dear, but things are different on this side of the river from where I grew up." LOL, yeah, not really THAT different. After eating at Sheppard Mansion, I was telling her about the chef trying to do upscale PA Dutch food and when I told her it was in Hanover, you should have seen the look on her face! "That's not really PA Dutch, people settled west of the river much later ("then OUR people" was unspoken, but implied) so it's nothing like what WE think of as PA Dutch." *sigh* It could be 5 miles apart on different sides of the river, and you may as well be talking Pittsburgh vs. Philly.

                                                      1. re: centralpadiner

                                                        I can relate. My mother lives on the West Shore and gasps in horror when she asks me about our plans and knows we are going out in Harrisburg. Until she married into the West Shore, I had no idea there was such an attitude.

                                                      2. re: AlexisT

                                                        I should probably say, I actually grew up in Camp Hill and still have family there, though I haven't lived there in decades. My parents are there, as are their friends. They're all childless or empty-nesters and there is a lot of money to spend. Many of them consider themselves oenophiles ("consider themselves" being the notable part, if I were to call them that, they wouldn't know what the word meant.). And yet when they go out to dinner, and they do, often, they go to a Country Club or Carrabbas. They also go to Tavern on the Hill. That is pretty much it. Maybe an occasional trip to the Pizza Grille (which I was very unimpressed by). I'm always surprised by their seeming lack of interest in trying new places. They've lived here 50 years and in my 6 months I feel like I've gone to a greater number of restaurants than they have. People seem to be very habitualized here.

                                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                          The river in Harrisburg has been a legendary obstacle to progress there. We who hailed from the East Shore were simultaneously more multicultural and less xenophobic than our sheltered, gated brothers and sisters on the West Shore, though I think we were also as dismissive of them as they were of us. Race relations and food relations were a double edged sword. The lack of a university/college insured that young creative types would leave. There are certainly tasty spots, but Central PA has never been a magnet for creative types. Rather more often, we leave and return to, "It's not as bad as it was when you were here."

                                                  2. re: centralpadiner

                                                    centralpadiner, Your comments have gone from being marginally offended with "I just LOVE these kind of complaints" to "So, I guess what you are saying is true, there is a lack of fine dining in the area ...............". Setting expectation is an important first step when making this type of dramatic move. The comparison in this case is dramatic; however this poster was looking local and has not found what they are looking for in local restaurants. A few years ago I had traveled to accounts in Central Pennsylvania and recall clients noting the same lack of good restaurants the poster has described. Weekend road trip were on their agenda also.

                                                  3. re: Clherrick

                                                    Expectations are important and I don't expect Harrisburg to be LA or NY. I've so far been a little frustrated with the lack of salads in the area. The same 3 salads, over and over, slightly upscale or downscale versions, but still, the same 3... it's just boring. I feel like the area suffers from a lack of creativity. That said, when I talk to other people around here, it seems there's a lot of fear of the unfamiliar, which on a larger scale would mean that an innovative restaurant would struggle to find the clientele.
                                                    That said, we were impressed with Fraiche in Camp Hill. It was seasonal, fresh, creative. Nothing that would have stood out to us in LA as anything more than another cute little neighborhood place, but really shines here in Central PA.

                                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                      I was not aware of Fraiche, looks like it took over the old Confit Bistro space? I'll have to make the trip to the West shore and check it out.

                                                      See, this is what I come here for, not complaints that the food in Central PA sucks, but to hear about the successes. ;)

                                                      And yes, I agree with the assessment that many locals fear the unknown. I think that, combined with a genuine lack of desire to drop money on good food regularly, works against the restaurant industry here.

                                                      Then, there's logistics. We are an area comprised of many small communities. Our population is relatively spread out. I am, personally, at least a 25 minute drive from Lancaster, Harrisburg, York (is there anything worthwhile in York?), Hershey.... you get the picture. Our kids are old enough to be great in restaurants and are turning into a couple of critics in their own right.But between work, school, and their extracurriculars, traveling for a meal out just isn't practical on many occasions. But a small town like mine basically only supports a couple bars and several pizza places.

                                                      1. re: centralpadiner

                                                        Which town are you in? I've noticed a lack of desire to travel too far in this area. I used to think the east/west of the 405 war was bad, but here seem to think driving 5 minutes across the river is a major shlep :)

                                                        I do recommend Fraiche. We've only had the opportunity to go once, but it was truly good.

                                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                          I live in the western part of Lancaster Co. Just far enough from the larger communities that it would be an hours total of just driving to visit most of the better restaurants. So, we have a few casual spots we visit most frequently - McCleary's in Marietta, Black Gryphon in E-town is a little more hit or miss, but we'll go there too. And, like I said, we eat out WAY more than anyone else I know in real life that has kids of similar ages to ours. We even try to make the trip to Carlisle at least once or twice a year because we enjoy Cafe Bruges, but that is nearly an hour each way.

                                                          It's not so much that we are the types that don't like to drive anywhere. We're just genuinely busy and that limits us to making those kinds of treks to weekends only, and even then, not every weekend is available. Trust me, my car has a ridiculous number of miles on it for a 6 y.o. vehicle. It's the worst thing about suburban living (although, we live where we do so that my husband has a short commute, which is the opposite of many suburbanites) plus, my son plays hockey. Devon Seafood is one of our most liked places to eat, but since I can't, and really don't want to, take a sweaty, smelly kid there post game, (or in his gear, pre-game) sometimes it comes down to "do we really want to drive to Hershey one more time this week?" And often the answer is no.

                                                          I do know many like what you describe, however. In fact, where I live people are often described as either "Harrisburg people" or "Lancaster People" since many commute to one or the other communities then do everything else in those places - shopping, dining, kid's extracurriculars - and never venture in the other direction. We are the rare ones that regularly visit both.

                                                          What AlexisT described is accurate, in my experience. Most families want their dining out experience to be fairly quick and easy the vast majority of the time. I cook at home rather than do fast food, but a lot of busy families are grabbing things on the fly. Diners or ethnic take-out spots, seem to crop up as the most successful alternatives to the big chains. I agree that this area is likely similar to other places with these types of demographics. I don't think Harrisburg is actually worse than other cities of similar size and market.

                                                          1. re: centralpadiner

                                                            A lot of people we've met in Harrisburg have been telling us that Lancaster has a lot more to offer, in food and in culture. Do you think that's true?

                                                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                              The one thing Lancaster does is keep trying. Does that make sense? Even though restaurants seem to fail at the same rate as in the Harrisburg area, someone always seems to come along trying the high end food thing again. Lancaster also has a buzzing art scene and the people of the borough run much more socially liberal in comparison to the rest of the county, which seems to lead them to try new things - like The Fridge. Which is essentially a high end 6-pack shop with a spectacular # of imports and American craft beers. Of course, in PA they have to be a restaurant too, but they insist on only the best fresh, local ingredients. So they do these incredible pizzas with local and seasonal toppings and since ingredients are a little limited, they often run out of most food items by 2 pm, but are selling beer until midnight and are unapologetic about it. I hope they last the long term, it's an interesting place. Business owners are able to be more creative and F&M college helps support things like music at the Chameleon Club and a few food trucks. Two centrally located hospitals keeps bodies downtown for lunch.

                                                              But things are far from perfect. The new convention center is not doing nearly as well as had been hoped. The Quilt Museum recently closed its doors because there just weren't enough visitors to keep it going, it was losing money hand over foot. And IMO, too many restaurants end up eventually dumbing down their menu to bring in more patrons, or the food isn't really that good to begin with, yet for reasons inexplicable to me are the most popular spots in town.

                                                              I will admit, that my husband and I will go to Harrisburg for an evening of dining - Char's, Home 231, Mangia Qui, Bricco - and then immediately return home. In Lancaster (and maybe it's because we've always lived in Lancaster Co., and he grew up there) we are more likely to have dinner then walk to a bar for for a drink afterward, or even get a room at the Arts Hotel or Marriott so that we can spend the next day walking through art galleries, getting a breakfast crepe at Rachel's and stocking up at Central Market and Mandros Import Foods. I am not familiar enough with things to do in downtown Harrisburg besides eat to do that. Ok, we have gone to a bar for an after dinner drink, and we really enjoy walking along the river, but I don't see us ever getting a room for the night. Perhaps we should, I've never even gone to the State Museum. My daughter just had a field trip there and loved it.

                                                              1. re: centralpadiner

                                                                Thank you, that's really interesting and helpful. We live in the city of Harrisburg and I couldn't see getting a room here. There's nothing that would draw me to stick around after dinner, really. It's very possible I simply haven't discovered the hidden gems yet, but then they must be very hidden because we have tried.
                                                                I'll be very interested to try out a weekend in Lancaster. Creativity is what I'm looking for and it sounds like it's more abundant there.

                                                              2. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                I'll add to Centralpadiner's response. I also live in lancaster county. It used to be that any time we had a special occassion or weekend without the kids, my wife and I would travel to Baltimore, DC, Northern Virginia, or Philly for a good meal. Now, with what Lancaster has to offer over the last 2 years or so, I have a hard time justifying those trips. I've been to Maison 3 times so far, and have enjoyed each meal as much if not more than any restraunt we've traveled to at in the bigger cities. Right down the street from Maison is "Pour", a very comfortable wine/beer bar with a nice selection of small plates and charcuterie. Great selection of beers and wine by the glass, and awesome DuckFat fries. I had a dinner at John J. Jeffries last weekend and it was awesome. Wife and I split 3 small plates and an braised lamb shank entree. For many years I knew of the existence of Gibraltar, but always kind of blew it off since the owner had several other lower end restaurants. But, I finally tried it and really think they are doing great food as well. In between Gibraltar and John J. Jeffries is Fenz, at which I've also had several enjoyable meals. Between Maison, Jeffries, Gibraltar, and Fenz we have a hard time deciding where to go for a good dinner. We always try to hit up Pour for a drink after dinner. If I didn't live so close, Lancaster would certainly be high on my list for a nice place to spend a weekend. I'd stay at the Lancaster Arts Hotel, which also happens to be where John J. Jeffries is located.

                                                                1. re: sballard

                                                                  It seems we will have to venture a little farther on our special ocassion dinners. Living in Carlisle, Lancaster is a bit of a hike for normal weekend dining but perhaps we can make a few trips out that way. I will definitely look into these for my grad school graduation dinner. We will be at Millerville.

                                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                                    Ended up going to Gibraltar for my graduation dinner. Just delicious. Can't remember all the food we had but there wasn't a dish we didn't like. I think I had a pasta dish with lobster? Anyway, great experience but it was a long meal.

                                                              3. re: centralpadiner

                                                                Have you tried Rooster St. Provisions in Elizabethtown yet? They are making great cured meats and other items.

                                                                1. re: sballard

                                                                  Yes, what a wonderful surprise it has been for my part of the county. What's been great is the support they've gotten from the locals. Even though not a lot of folks are really familiar with the offerings, they seem to realize it is something special and really want them to make it. So far, the pate with pistachios has been my favorite.

                                                                  1. re: centralpadiner

                                                                    Yeah, I really hope they can hang in there. I see they've started carrying what looks to be good bread. I need to get over and try some. So far, my favorite item is their smoked chorizo. I've been putting it in damn near everything, and a little can go a long way. I only wish they had Sunday hours. I have a hard time making it ove there given their limited hours.

                                                                    1. re: sballard

                                                                      They are opening a stand in Lancaster's Central Market, which will hopefully help them gain more customers. They might have already done so, or it will be soon. Bought the lonzino yesterday. Wow, super delicious!

                                                                  2. re: sballard

                                                                    Good tip, I'm going to make a day of Rooster St Provisions and then the Di Bruno cheese counter! Maybe Alvarros for some bread too...

                                                                  3. re: centralpadiner

                                                                    You mentioned that Black Gryphon is hit-or-miss; could you elaborate on what you've enjoyed eating there and what you would expressly avoid ever ordering again? I've been several times and enjoy the ideas on the menu but the things I've tried do not encourage further eating as nothing tasted good.

                                                                    1. re: mookleknuck

                                                                      The menu changes fairly regularly, and we don't go that often. My husband enjoyed the bibimbap the last time we were there. I didn not taste it. I had the escolar and the fish was cooked perfectly but the mashed potatoes with braised beef cheek was too rich for the dish. Decadent, but could really only enjoy a spoonful or 2. My son likes the wings. I once had a raw fish dish that is not currently on the menu that I thought was delicious. I cannot think back to other dishes I particularly hated. The "wachos" are kind of odd.

                                                                      We don't actually go that often for the very reason that there always seems to be one person in our party that is less than thrilled with what they got.

                                                                      1. re: centralpadiner

                                                                        Thanks for letting me know. I'll give the wings a try whenever I have to return, but as you say, there's always at least one person in the party that is less than thrilled, and I think it's quite often the whole party. Lovely sounding ideas on the menu, poor execution.

                                                              4. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                Fraiche has since closed for those of you who still had it on your list of must try.

                                                            2. Subway Cafe is the place worth going.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: taiga

                                                                I enjoyed Subway, it's fun. Doesn't fill the good pizza craving for me, but it's good in its own way.

                                                              2. If you come to York, say, to see a show at the Strand Capitol, a restaurant "The Left Bank" is a block away. I think it's the best the (York) area has to offer. You should dress well, but not formally.

                                                                http://leftbankyork.com/

                                                                You might try it even without a show.

                                                                There's also the TratFrat in Lebanon http://www.tratfrat.com/ only been there once I have no clue why I haven't been back (could be I like my food :) ).

                                                                1. Tried the newly opened Federal Taphouse tonight. I had an arugala salad, which fell into the category of unoriginal salads that plagues the area. That said, it was well done, the ingredients were fresh and the chicken breast that I got on top of it was truly wonderful- juicy, well seasoned and perfectly cooked.
                                                                  My party also had the short ribs fries, cooked in duck fat. Glad to see the duck fat frying craze has made it to the area- the fries were done nicely and maintained their crispiness even under the meat and cheese. We also got a Greek pizza. Everyone at the table agreed this was the weak point of the menu. The dough was dense in a rubbery, unpleasant way. There was no sauce, just mashed eggplant, that did not seem to be seasoned and the overall effect was very bland. I was disappointed as it seemed their pizzas were a point of pride. I'd be willing to go back to try another, but I wouldn't have high hopes.
                                                                  All in all, I'd be most interested in trying their entrees, as the chicken was so well prepared, I'd like to see what else they can do with meat.

                                                                  1. You should definitely go to Chars at Tracy mansion for probably the best food in the area. Tavern on the Hill is a good spot and also Devon in Hershey has great seafood.

                                                                    1. Just tried the new Yellow Bird Cafe in midtown. They're doing a really lovely job with some beautiful quality baked goods. I also had the red pepper soup, which was simple and well made. On Friday nights they do pizzas, which are much more a thick delicious flatbread with some pizza toppings sparsely arranged. I would have liked more tomato, more cheese, but I still enjoyed it, simply because the bread/crust was so delicious.
                                                                      I definitely recommend this place and hope we can attract similar quality businesses!

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                        Love the Harrisburg prices. I'm jealous.

                                                                        1. re: taiga

                                                                          Unfortunately the salaries match the price :(

                                                                      2. Final Cut...At The Hollywood Casino....pricey but sooo worth it.....

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: apsaras6

                                                                          I thought it was decent but not worth the price. Stick with the beef dishes. My friend found her fish to be inedible. If you are already there am have the money to burn then by all means but I wouldn't make a special trip.

                                                                        2. Progress Grill is old school, but good food and always consistent. Fusion Fire is great for sushi and my favorite steakhouse is in the Hollywood Casino. It's called Final Cut.