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Restaurants worth reviewing?

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With the exception of some Pittsburgh interactions there is little activity on this board considering it covers the entire state of PA outside of Philadelphia.

What are your thoughts regarding the lack of interest here?

-Few restaurants worth the effort?
-PA people outside the major metro areas just don't care about the subjects here?
Where to find duck? Breakfast between Breezewood and Johnstown? Thanksgiving in Jim Thorpe? Understandably get few responses.

What is your opinion?

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  1. I think you're quite right with some of your thoughts on the lack of activity on the PA board, particularly with regard to restaurant reviews.

    As one of the few souls covering Central PA, I'll try to be better about this. We have quite an impressive Chinese/Sichuan food scene here, with a *great* Cantonese newcomer chef as well as dim sum in the future.

    I'll make sure to write about these places more often. I just don't know if anyone will read it :-D

    4 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      Where are some of these great Chinese restaurants in Central PA? (crossing fingers hoping you're not from State College)

      1. re: pahiker6

        Ha. Not from, but in -- sorry to disappoint.

      2. re: linguafood

        I will read it! I want to go for Chinese tonight. Where should we go?

        1. re: melpy

          Depends on whether you are willing to drive to State College '-)

          There's Sichuan Bistro (BYOB) and Fuji Jade Garden (great cocktail bar). Chopstick Express cranks out excellent Sichuan food, but it's a hole in the wall (also BYOB).

      3. Hi - I grew up in Pgh but live outside Philly now. We end up driving back and forth a few times each year, and have taken vacations in other parts of the state (Lancaster, Poconos, etc). One thing I would love to see on this board is a list of suggested restaurants by Turnpike exit! For example, everyone knows Breezewood has every fast food chain on earth... but what if we want something better - is there anything nearby? Based on some CH suggestions a few years ago, we stopped at a Belgian restaurant in Carlisle and it was great. Having more of a "reference" for visitors may be helpful... and we visitors need to follow up and report back.

        4 Replies
        1. re: truman

          Summit Diner, Somerset. Close enough?

          1. re: truman

            So funny that people like Cafe Bruges so much. It is 5 minutes away (we used to live close enough to walk). For us the pull is the beer and we have so much beer at home it is hard to justify the price of my beloved Monks when I have a fridge full in the basement.

            My husband loves the moules frites while I jump around the menu a bit. I wish they have the lamburger more often than Saturday lunch because we don't usually go there then because we feel tipsy all afternoon. I like the frites and the waffle, the eggs benedict at brunch and the special mac and cheese they had once. We were very lukewarm on the the steak. Anyone else have dishes to recommend? We might go more often if there was a super stand out dish.

            1. re: melpy

              My husband works for a Belgian company. He especially likes to go there when the stash of brews he's brought back from work trips has run dry. Of course, in the last 2 yrs. there are more and more places to get some of the great Belgian beers - and for us, closer. Such as The Fridge in Lancaster, or even the Brass Rail in Cambelltown. Another reason we don't take the trip as often.

              We almost always get the moules frites. I also like the leek tart and the Liege salad. He seems to think a lot of their food is spot on. My first review of the place was when we took a van of 15 Belgian ex-pats. The stoemp was enjoyed, but the waterzooi deemed bland. For the most part, it was a very successful evening with our friends very happy to get some familiar foods as well as beverages they had not seen anywhere else in this country.

            2. re: truman

              i know i'm a little late, but i am new to the site. as for great places by turnpike exits, i suggest johnny's steakhouse/ kyma seafood grill on rt. 272. it's about 5 mins off of the denver/reading exit 286. the steaks rival any well known steakhouse for a portion of the price. any local will tell you that its the best restaurant around.

            3. Having lived in Philly, and now living back in Harrisburg, I can tell you that the restaurant scene in the Harrisburg area is sad. Making matters worse is that the vast majority of the people in this area are quite content with hitting up the local Applebees, Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, etc for dinner, and find those establishments to be excellent in their opinion.

              1. LOL! Bacchus, I try, really I do! We haven't eaten out much lately, and not really at all since my "camp week" dining adventure. And,honestly, I haven't really heard of anything new going on that is convenient for us. I check back daily hoping I'll hear about a new spot...

                The husband and I would love to try the supper parties at Tellus 360 in Lancaster one of these days. And on the corner of Queen and Walnut, I heard there is a new bakery/cafe type place that is hosting pop-up dining experiences in the evenings. But, haven't heard about it recently.

                Like I said, since the start of school we've been too busy to go out.

                As to why no one else but a small group of us seems to care? I have to agree with PAhiker. Most people I know don't understand why I dislike Olive Garden or never take the kids to Friendly's. My husband and I just smile and cringe internally when people are all excited to go to Red Lobster for their birthday. Just the other day, another mom was selling coupon books for her son's team and said to me. But it doesn't have any of those fancy, schmancy restaurants you guys are always eating at, so you won't want one. Well, with a sales pitch like THAT....

                7 Replies
                1. re: centralpadiner

                  Oh, and about 2 hrs. after I typed this response my husband looked at me across the dinner table and said, "you know, we have not been out to a nice dinner together in a really long time!" I responded that I want to go back to Ma(i)son soon.... but, we'll see when we get the chance...

                  1. re: centralpadiner

                    Quite fortunate you are to have a husband who shares and encourages your interest in food and good dining. Understand your point regarding "get a chance". I always recall a quote on "having time" which in summary said something like: "we all have the same amount of time as Edison, Einstein, Jobs, Gates and Buffet, allocation is the difference." Feed your soul not just your body off to Ma(i)son.

                    1. re: Bacchus101

                      Sorry centralpad, did not mean to preach; just sharing some point of view. Based on past CC postings I do consider you the "go-to" hound for recs in your area.

                      1. re: Bacchus101

                        Not preachy at all Bacchus. And thank you for the compliment. But I also get lots of my info from trusted sources that have been to a location more recently than I have. I really do hope to get to Ma(i)son again soon. It is a little fancy (food wise) for the kids, and a little expensive for them to decide they don't like it, as well. So, we have to find a night out alone.

                        This harkens back to the "New to Harrisburg" thread. I know I got a little preachy with that one. Some parts (around Jan?) turned into some interesting discussion about the "non-foodie" culture of the area. And in all honesty, some of the things mentioned are actually pluses depending on your perspective - frugality and still eating family meals at home.

                        Another issue, I think, is how spread out the area is. Melpy mentions needing to go to Harrisburg from Carlisle. We would love to go to Cafe Bruges in Carlisle more often (and perhaps check out the other places with the same owners) but it is 45 minutes each way without traffic. Combine the distance with having kids with active schedules, a husband that travels regularly for work, and we get there once a year if lucky. I live in Lancaster Co. but it takes me a good 25 minutes to get downtown and 30 to get to Harrisburg. That doesn't make those areas a choice for us on a typical weeknight. Anyway, there are lots of people like us throughout the region that live in the smaller, suburban communities that can't support fine dining.

                        Each small town in Lancaster Co. seems to have one "decent" spot - some more worth going to then others. And local tastes tend to support menus that lack creativity, IMO. We like McCleary's in Marietta. It tends to be our "go to." About a 15 minute drive, it isn't terribly inconvenient. Husband and I like the beer choices and the kids can get wings and burgers while I get an excellent seared tuna with seaweed salad. But the kind of place doing new, exciting food that I want to come here and crow about? No, it's not. And that's true for most of the local favorites (that aren't chains) which tend to be pubs or "family restaurants" like Oregon Dairy.

                        1. re: centralpadiner

                          I can't remember if I recommended this to you yet or not. But, have you tried Zuckfoltzfus in Mount Joy yet? It is a very small place next to the train station. They brew their own beer and have a small menu that changes every two weeks or so. I think they should have given it a different name, but I have to say, I really enjoy their beer, food and the atmosphere. Their menu is on their facebook page.

                          1. re: sballard

                            No I haven't. I was following their story for a little bit, weren't they having licensing issues? I didn't realize that they had been able to open. We'll definitely have to check it out. Thanks!

                            And . . . I agree about that name.... LOL!!

                            1. re: centralpadiner

                              A couple of the neighbors were contesting the license because they were afraid there would be parking issues. It was silly, but was resolved when the neighbors withdrew their petitions, and the license was immediately granted. They've been open for a few months now. I went in with a bad attitude because I don't like the name or the faux Amish spin they put on things; but I have to admit they won me over. The food, beer and atmosphere were really spot on. The menu is very small, but everything I tried was really good. One of my favorite items was the homemade pretzels they make with left over grains from the beer, served with a homemade spicy mustard and tomato bacon jam which is pretty awesome. I've only been once. Been trying to get over again, but haven't had a chance to yet. This is a link to their current menu: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zuckfo...

                2. Less to post about. Fewer people who are interested enough in food to explore and post.

                  I'm pretty lucky to live near Lancaster, which has more options than most of central PA. But we're talking about how many restaurants that I would continue to visit in New York or Philadelphia? 10? 5?

                  How many new restaurants opening per year that are worth posting about? 1? 2? Hard to discuss and debate when working with those numbers. When people ask, you try to help. When something good comes along, you try to post. But I find myself checking in less than I did when I lived in bigger cities.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ahab

                    Understand your initial point, well said. Not quite sure of your comment that you would only continue to visit 5-10 restaurants in New York or Philadelphia, really? Is that because of distance rather than lack of interesting options. One could spend a month dining a different interesting restaurants in Philly and probably a year doing the same in New York. Nice that you help when you can and post something good, very helpful even if only occasional . Interesting thanks.

                    1. re: Bacchus101

                      Meant to say that if we suddenly had all the dining options of a bigger city like NY or Philadelphia here in Lancaster, there are only 5 - 10 existing restaurants that could keep my interest in the new and improved dining landscape. Probably closer to 5. I need to stop posting in a rush! Or you need to learn how to read my mind...

                      Yes, NY could keep someone busy for a long time. I lived there 10 years ago and loved every minute. And we explore Philadelphia any chance we get now. Going to Vedge next week!

                  2. I live an hour from Philly and we have a few good places here, but the further away you get the worse it becomes. Driving back and forth from Pitt, I have been amazed at the lack of options anywhere near the turnpike...even for breakfast that isn't at a chain.

                    In most of the state Applebees would be a step up.

                    And what's up with Erie? You never hear anything about the third largest city in PA. In fact I don't know anybody who has even been there. Does it really exist? Do they eat out at all there?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sal_acid

                      Exactly sal, I recall spending a month in Erie one week a year ago; old joke I know. No offense just an observation. I drank a lot when there eating only free bar food which was as good or better than the few restaurants I did try. Maybe that is the problem too much free bar food.

                    2. Open Table has all of two restaurants in Erie. Two.

                      One is at the race track. The other promises a sensory experience delivered through the TV screens on the walls. Odd.

                      Tripadvisor lists about 300, but most are chains or pizza/mexican/chinese places. One notable pizza place is called Sporedaddy's. Sporedaddy's?? Ewww. Fungus on all the pizzas?

                      1. I'm here! I do what I can. We live in Carlisle and there are just so many places to go.
                        We eat in Harrisburg often.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: melpy

                          Interesting that you say you have "just so many places to go" and that Harrisburg is your dining destination. A bit contrary to other threads posted which suggest frustration regarding dining in Harrisburg and environs. Pleased you are happy and enjoy what is available in your area.

                          1. re: Bacchus101

                            I think people are a little hard on Harrisburg. It is actually quite a small city, but it seems expectations are high due to being the capital. So, high quality restaurants like Mangia Qui, Bricco, Char's, and Home 231, not to mention numerous places that are perhaps not quite as good but fairly popular (or at least they've lasted a long time - Stock's, Zia) and a plethora of pubs and bars, seems adequate to me.

                            Lancaster gets more press because it has seen a surge is good food over the past 5 yrs or so. But I would say that the dining scenes are quite similar in many ways.

                            1. re: centralpadiner

                              People are harsh but it doesn't stop us from enjoying. Many place have menus that rotate so there is always something new. We eat out often and have tried some real stinkers (Tj Rockwell's anyone?) but I try to steer people to the best of the best.

                              Some place just aren't getting traffic and most people in this area just aren't posting on Chow. Yelp (gag!) is more popular and that is the midset of the folks around here. It is very difficult to weed through review anyway because so many times a poor review in this area means that portions weren't the size of your head. There are places that may not be the best value for what they are offering (Cafe Fresco, I'm looking at you) but that doesn't mean it isn't worth eating there either.

                              I won't say the drive to Harrisburg (25-30 minutes for us) isn't often a deterent but there are definitely some good experiences to be had. The real problem with this area is that many of the great places are hit or miss and it sounds like the folks who have only been once have gone on a miss night. We only went to Home 231 once but we didn't understand the hype and much to my chagrin, haven't returned.

                              There are some places that were so deplorable that we haven't been back and I can't make myself try again (enter Sammy's Authentic Italian). Some places have hours that make it difficult and we aren't much for crowds.

                              I think Lancaster has some great place of those we have tried. There is a real tourist pull as well, while Harrisburg doesn't get as much foot traffic and most folks going to Hershey aren't going to go to Harrisburg to eat when they have some ok options in town. If we could make it the 75 or so minutes to Lancaster more often I am sure we would enjoy. We absolutely loved Gibraltar when we went for my grad school graudation dinner in May. I think we had a 3-4 hour dinner and enjoyed every minute (although we were getting a little exhausted at the end).

                              1. re: melpy

                                The proliferation and popularity of places like Rockwell's and Arooga's definitely highlight some of the food issues in the area. Blech! You are spot on in that so many prefer quantity over quality. I've lived somewhere in the region my entire life, and I'm not sure where that comes from because I didn't develop that mentality. But, I grew up in a town that literally had almost no place to eat but fast food or other chains. Fortunately, my parents belonged to the area country club. The club house taught me to eat well. If not because the food was outstanding, at least the overall atmosphere was a better simulation of fine dining then most of my friends were getting.

                                You know, the last time I went to Home 231 I was disappointed and it immediately took me back to the thread where you expressed a bad experience and I was so surprised. I got the steak frites and found it dry and tough. I was really surprised because my son gets it every time. He definitely gets better steaks at home. I had always gotten one of the specials in the past. Now I know to stick to that method.

                                The one consistent complaint about Gibraltar is the slow service. And the more in your party, the worse it is. Food is spectacular though.

                        2. Nice to see some action and opinions on the PA board!

                          1. Personally, I think it's mostly that folks have a misguided opinion on what is Chowish. The Original Hot Dog Shop counts as a chowish hole in the wall, after all.So does Udipi.

                            PA has tons of good food areas, selling tons of great food.
                            It's not all "I paid 50 dollars and was satisfied"...

                            If you want more reviews, ask for 'em. I'll probably see if I can type up some myself, when I get a chance.

                            (Also, Eastern PA is a great area for "snacks" -- it may not be the world's best restaurant area, but I've gotten fresh (that day's work) fried potato chips at a farmers' market!)

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Chowrin

                              Agreed! There are some great holes in the wall. No need to break the bank. I too will try my best to review more often.

                              1. re: melpy

                                The definition of "good" is the issue. Of course everyone has their own favorite Dinners, Drive-ins & Dives. I know I did noticing I become less eager to invest time and calories in these places and have become disappointed in recent visits due to a change in my definition of "good". If the subject is good Hot Dog shops or cheap food joints then rec's for same are appreciated. However when on a "foodie" (and I hate the term) site and being ask for good restaurants by cuisine or area suggesting that whole-in-the-wall is more of a statement on ones tastes and what is the norm for an area.

                                1. re: Bacchus101

                                  I see your point. "Good restaurant" without a modifier eg good Chinese/hot dog/mexican restaurant, usually makes me think of a place that is serious about the experience of eating. No plastic forks or styrofoam at the table. Reservations taken etc.

                                  A DD&D type place might have tasty food, but isn't what I see in my mind when the term Good Restaurant is used.

                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                    I don't go out to be pampered.
                                    I go out to get food that is not economical for me to make at home.
                                    Sometimes, that comes with pampering -- but I'd rather it didn't.

                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                      Chow, We understand your position and tastes based on the post above and others. "Fresh fried potato chips" and "the Original Hot Dog Shop" and tons of great food at tons of good food areas". Pleased you are well satisfied in your culinary pursuits! I am sure you have no problem with being pampered at the choices you noted.

                            2. I don't post as often as I used to because frankly, there's only maybe a half dozen people whose opinions I pay any attention to.

                              At one point a few years ago CH was a more accessible, democratized version of eGullet - informed opinions without the high-brow atmosphere. Now CH doesn't mean much of anything. Crap is celebrated as much as excellence.

                              I use Urbanspoon more than CH for restaurant reviews nowadays - but I'm not even there a lot. I might check CH once a month. The participation in the "foodies thread" on City-Data is where a lot of the action is for Pittsburgh these days.

                              1. Sidney in Gettysburg had been recommended by friends who visited the National Park last year. With a visit upcoming in the near term; does anyone have a recent experience at Sidney they could comment upon?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Bacchus101

                                  I wouldn't imagine locals eating there.
                                  Not that Gettysburg can't support a few
                                  tourist places.

                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                    I've been there once so I am not really in a position to pass judgment. But I am a fan of the original Sidney in East Berlin. The Gettysburg version is in a quieter location, in an area that used to be a golf course. And it is practically adjacent to the battlefield.
                                    The atmosphere at the new Sidney is decent but not as quaint as the original.
                                    But, when the new place opened, they made a decision to offer small plates as an alternative. Since I am not a fan of this culinary trend, my opinion of Sidney has been influenced accordingly, But they do have a decent beer and wine list. Bottom line is, if you are a fan of small plates, Sidney is one of the better choices in Gettysburg. If you don't, then it would not be your best alternative.

                                    1. re: RaeJ

                                      RaeJ, thanks for your comments. I have heard the comment regarding the "cavernous space" as a negative, ie. not quaint as the original in Berliin, as you also noted. Other sites, yelp and tripadvisor, show a very high composite rating of 4.5 with many comments by locals and other PA people who love it. The other negative comment mentioned there that you have also noted is the small plates. I happen to like that concept but it is definitely an individual preference. Many restaurants offer the choice of small plate or full entree size; I will check the menu. The good news is you have a high quality restaurant that you love. Hope the plate thing get mediated for you. Thanks for your 1st hand experience and opinions.

                                2. Just off the donagal exit off the turnpike-Out of the Fire Cafe is outstanding great seafood nice views and BYOB. Seafood almost on a par with New Orleans. Had soft shell crabs there in the spring manager adivsed they were alive 2 hours ago! Lunch menu is a bit limited but both lunch and dinner very good value.

                                  DC

                                  1. The Gettysburg Sidney is certainly far more contemporary and, although not as cozy and intimate as the original, it seems pleasing enough. It certainly has the feel of a higher-end restaurant although the main dining area is bigger than any of the spaces in East Berlin. I think you'll note that I did not criticize the food, only the concept. We'll look forward to your impressions after you've sampled it yourself.

                                    1. A restaurant worth review; Stokesay Castle in Reading has a long history of being good high end dining in a lovely venue high atop Mt. Penn in Reading with a view across the valley from the back patio. The menu is good solid standard fare at moderate to high (for the area) prices, nothing too foodie. Great for a special occasion, wedding, party etc. There is a new Pub for more causal drinks and dining. www.stokesay.net

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Bacchus101

                                        I might add for all of those who have some remembrance of boring food; when one reads beyond the menu item heading the preparation and ingredients are approaching foodie level. There has been a huge investment in upgrades to the property which while maintaining the original look and feel have begun to establish Stokesay as a potential destination restaurant or at least a "must visit" when in the area; which is sorely needed in that part of Pennsylvania.

                                        1. re: Bacchus101

                                          Forgot all about the place.

                                          1. re: sal_acid

                                            Reminds me. Paris 66 apparently got a new chef.
                                            I didn't go the first time, and I probably won't go now.

                                            I figure our Belgian is better than a good deal of French
                                            (it's at least to my taste), but if you're desperate for French...

                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                              I may be out in the 'burgh in a few weeks.....but P-66 was soooo frigging bad last time I think I'll do Belgium unless assurances can be given.

                                      2. Hi I'm from Somerset, yes the a Summit Diner us a great off the Turnpike pick especially for breakfast. Rey Azteca is great for a Mexican restaurant. Main Moon is my pick for Chinese, but if you drive up the road to the Diamond their is a great cafe there Crazy Alice's is only open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Thursday they do dinner along with the breakfast and lunch Friday and Saturday and they have a Amazing brunch on Sunday but you must reserve a table. Coffee and Teas are great and homemade scones and muffins and tarts and cheesecake. Breakfast Wraps and sandwiches, Omelets, French Toast, and Pancakes for breakfast. Wraps, Gourmet Dogs, Sandwiches, soup and stews for lunch. Steak, Veal, Salmon, and Scallops for dinner. http://www.crazyalicescafe.com/defaul...

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: LEsherick2007

                                          Can you write up some full reviews on these places? I'm always game for a roadtrip, and I'm always starving after hiking...

                                          1. re: LEsherick2007

                                            Is this Main Moon related to the Main Moon in Johnstown?

                                            1. re: mookleknuck

                                              I think it is. I never ate at the one in Johnstown but as far as what to get in Somerset Main Moon beats Gourmet Buffet as far as Chinese food goes.

                                              1. re: LEsherick2007

                                                Thanks, LEsherick2007. Why do you prefer the Somerset Main Moon to Gourmet Buffet for Chinese food? (I've never been to either, so I'm just looking for information.)

                                                1. re: mookleknuck

                                                  Quality over quantity. Gourmet Buffet has a lot of items on thier buffet and they offer crab legs on thier dinner or Sunday buffets, but often they are either to watery or to dry. Comparing item to item at each place Main mom is always better. Main Moon is consistent in quality and I tend to order to go not have thier buffet and every this is tasty, hot, and made to order.

                                                  1. re: LEsherick2007

                                                    What do you usually order? What do you recommend ordering and avoiding?

                                          2. The Inn at Saint Peters Village -Between Pottstown/Phoenixville & Morgantown has a new chef, Francis Trzeciak of Birchrunville Store Cafe took over the kitchen post-Survey at this "hard-to-find", "lovingly restored" inn in a "breathtaking" setting by the French Creek in northern Chester Co. The Brichrunville Store Cafe is among the most highly regarded and hard to reserve restaurants in the greater Philadelphia area. Thus the expectations for a great meal has significantly increased.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Bacchus101

                                              One correction on my previous post on The Inn at St. Peter Village. The chef from Birchrunville Store Cafe has left the building and has not been at the Inn for some time now. Mea Culpa . It is however a lovely venue. I can not comment on the current state of the food.

                                            2. The new Sichuan hot pot place in State College. Yes, it is THAT great:

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9137...

                                              1. Love to hear more news from the Pittsburgh brethren as there will be a business trip to the Steel City after the new year. Any rec's would be good for the board; for my purpose I would like to hear of semi-foodie (yes I hate that term) locations for a relatively quiet conversational dinner. We of course know of the ubiquitous steak house chains but would rather something of semi-local origin. I did check some older threads but was looking for updated opinions.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Bacchus101

                                                  Price? Location? What are you in the mood for?