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Jun 2, 2013 05:05 PM

Suggestions for romantic restaurants in Central PA?

My husband and I are looking for a restaurant to celebrate my birthday. We have been to many of the restaurants in Harrisburg and are looking for something different. We live in Mechanicsburg and are willing to travel as far as 2 hours away to get a great meal. Any suggestions?

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  1. I do believe Hotel Hershey is within your specified range. We have always enjoyed the Gem in the middle of PA farm land. The gardens at the hotel of wonderful now, there is jazz on the veranda each evening overlooking the park, town and valley below. The restaurants have been remodeled and new menus presented with the fresh new flavors of iconic American dining in The Circular. Trevi 5 features Italian grill fare. A grand old hotel revived and thriving in Central PA.

    1. If you're willing to travel 2hrs, why not head to Philly? Or to Volt in Frederick, MD?

      I've heard there are nice places in Lancaster, if you're looking closer, but I'll leave that for someone else to answer.

      You say you've tried the Harrisburg restaurants, so just double-checking- have you been to Char's?

      1. If you want to check out Lancaster, I think Ma(i)son is the best option right now. It is BYO, which is nice too and also VERY small so intimate - which helps on the "romantic" front. To round out a top 3 for Lancaster, I would suggest Gibraltar and John J. Jeffries. John J. Jeffries is located in The Lancaster Arts Hotel, a boutique hotel in downtown Lancaster near F&M college and I would recommend a stay there as well, if you'd consider an overnight.

        I was disappointed in Volt, personally, especially considering the special trip and the expense of the meal, however the service was fantastic and helped make up for what we all considered inconsistent food.

        Just a reminder that from Mechanicsburg, Philly is almost exactly 2 hrs and Baltimore is a little less. You may want to try those boards, if you are feeling like more of a trip.

        8 Replies
        1. re: centralpadiner

          All great ideas for Lancaster. Of the three, I think I find Jeffries to be the most romantic. Especially if you add a stay at the hotel for the night. I've also found Fenz to be good and fairly romantic as well. Fenz is just a block or less from Jeffries.

          1. re: sballard

            UGH! Sorry, but the "Cougar Town" atmosphere at Fenz gets to me. I can't go back! LOL!

            1. re: centralpadiner

              Its been a year or so since I've been there. I don't think I've ever been during "prime time", but I get what you're saying.

              1. re: centralpadiner

                Could you please define "Cougar Town" atmosphere. I have never been to Fenz; however do know the pop culture term Cougar. Interesting descriptor, just curious if I am getting the right impression. Thanks

                1. re: Bacchus101

                  Umm... I think you are. Being a 40 something woman myself, I have friends that like to go there, dress up, drink "martinis" that are sickeningly sweet, and flirt. Some of them are even married. I have no doubt in my mind it is just a bunch of ladies having a harmless good time. However, that is not my scene, personally. When my husband has come home after office dinners where that is the locale chosen, he complains that it actually makes him uncomfortable. And since his admin loves it there (she jokes it's "cougar night" when she and her girlfriends go) it is chosen often. So, we don't choose it for our own date nights.

                  Fenz has created a much more "urban hip" vibe than most places in Lancaster. The bar attracts local professionals looking for that type of scene. Women who like those flavored martinis seem to particularly flock there. Like I said, it's just not my thing, except to occasionally stand on the sidelines and laugh about it. But for those that do, go for it.

                  And to be honest, the place always seemed more about the atmosphere than the food. The food didn't knock my socks off, especially for the prices. I find Pour, also in Lancaster, to be similar as far as atmosphere over food except with a younger, more hipster quality and they focus more on quality beverages.


                  Wow, reading back over, I sound like such an old fogey. But when I go out I want quality food for the price in a comfortable space. Trendiness in both food and atmosphere just don't do it for me if the food doesn't live up to expectations. I'm kind of disappointed in the new Char's for this reason. I feel like they are so focused on presenting a certain style that service has suffered for it. Thankfully, the food is still good.

                  1. re: centralpadiner

                    When my wife and I go to Fenz for dinner, I try to get a table downstairs. I feel the downstairs has less of the Cougertown vibe than upstairs.

                    1. re: centralpadiner

                      I do not get to Lancaster City often, but thanks for the comments. You did not sound like an old fogey to me.( also not qualified as an OF yet, well perhaps by some age groups). Good food and the atmosphere one enjoys,even better if it can be found at a reasonable price (subjective I know). Strangely, some places you describe annoy me also and some do not. I am not exactly sure what makes the difference: perhaps the clientele.

                      1. re: Bacchus101

                        SBallard - I imagine that is true. Much nicer downstairs. Our bad luck, there always seems to be a private group there when I've been, or it's full.

                        Bacchus -Sometimes when reviewing a place I know I overlook food misdeeds if I am comfortable and feel like my presence is desired. I probably don't even realize I do it many times, but once in a while, I know it. Am I alone in this? It seems a natural reaction to me. I am much less forgiving if something doesn't meet expectations - whether it is due to price, reputation, or the way the place represents itself (advertised as innovative, or "farm to table.") Of course, I think we all tend to give praise if we didn't expect much and are pleasantly surprised.

            2. If Philadelphia is within your two hour drive time or even a bit more I would definitely agree with central and hyacin: there is your best bet at finding something special. Post on the Philadelphia board with some specifics as to likes/dislikes in food, price range and "romantic" and you should get some great suggestions. Although we do often drive a considerable distance to visit the Hotel Hershey, a very special place.

              1. Have you been to Sidney in East Berlin, PA? It's small, very romantic and might not be quite as much of a drive as Lancaster or Philly. The chef, Neil Annis, has worked in NYC and LA and recently opened another restaurant in Gettysburg, PA - Sidney, Willoughby Run. I've never had a bad meal at the East Berlin location and am planning on visiting the Gettysburg restaurant soon.

                3 Replies
                1. re: MaisieM

                  We have been planning a visit to Gettysburg battlefield and are most pleased to have a recommended restaurant by a chef with some notable experience. The name of the restaurant in Gettysburg is what? I would supposed reservations are needed. Thanks for the tip.

                  1. re: MaisieM

                    Can vouch for Sidney -- wonderful, wonderful place. They do have lighted candles on the tables so if you want it to be really special, I would suggest a later reservation. Just discovered this place, and plan to make my third trip there this weekend. I live in Boiling Springs and it takes about a half an hour...shouldn't be that much longer from Mechanicsburg. Although I love the staff at Char's, I've had some so-so experiences at the new location and Sidney has replaced it as my favorite restaurant. I also agree with the previous poster who gave the thumbs down to Volt. I've been a few times, and while it wasn't horrible, it didn't quite live up to the hype either. They're going for hipness, not warmth. Besides, there are much better restaurants in Frederick. Namely, the Wine Kitchen on the Creek.