I really love Mexican food, I really do, but this is not food that State College is known for. Having just come back from a trip to Southern California where there is real, authentic and delicious Mexican food – seemingly offered on every block, the State College three selections of; Mad Mex, Rey Azteca and Plaza Mexican don’t seem to really stack up. It is after all, Central Pennsylvania so I do understand what we are up against.
I’m really hoping that our visits to Mad Mex and Rey Azteca deliver – because sitting #3 out of 3 on our list of “best “Mexican” restaurants in State College” has got to be Plaza Mexican.
Like most everyone around here I was sad to see Spats close after 30 years but….so happy to see that they have partnered with Hotel State College to bring back Spats at the Allen Street Grill. The Grill has always been a great place to go for great food and what I think is one of the best settings in town. It’s always fun, no matter the season to sit (hopefully at a window seat) and look down onto the cross roads of downtown.
We happened to be there on a very cold, very rainy winter night – but still fun to look out and be glad that we were not the ones dogging the rain.
We normally hit up the Pump Station Café for coffee and sometimes a breakfast sandwich in the mornings but never for lunch. I enjoy the coffee and morning sandwiches and I have to say this is one of the few places on the South side of town that you can pop in for a quick bite to eat or coffee. Its located on Boal Ave across from the Military Museum.
They recently changed they organization and look inside and I can’t say I’m a total fan of the new look. There was something cute and kitchy with the old look that worked better. The new plexiglass storage for the pastries could of been done better. The cream and sugar were moved which now creates issues when there is a line of people waiting to order food or when food is ready for pick up – there is no room for those who want to add cream and sugar to their drinks. But details details.
On a recent very cold Saturday night we wanted something to warm us up and Kimchi Korean was the perfect choice. Kimchi Korean is located next to Domino’s Pizza on North Atherton – for those of you who have been around State College long enough its the location of where Kenny Rogers Roasters once stood and before that, Dunkin Donuts. A fun fact – when I google Kenny Rogers Roasters – they only have one US location left, in California and 155 locations spread throughout Malaysia, China and Indonesia. Who knew.
Back to Kimchi Korean – It actually looks the same as what I remember from Kenny Rogers Roasters, and I swear its the same layout. They offer dine-in with waiter service or take-out. The menu is typical Korean fair featuring, rice and noodle dishes served in the typical Korean hot stone pot. They also have soups, appetizers and a kids menu. Considering the semester was over and town was empty of students, the restaurant was about half full on a Saturday night which I took as a good sign.
Everytime I am downtown I keep eyeing Sauly Boys, but never had the chance to go in. Its a strange juxtaposition of timing in State College because just as the students leave for the semester, town becomes quiet and easier to get around just as we ramp up for the busiest time of the year. This means that heading downtown for some holiday shopping or eating is easier now than ever. Plus free parking! So…. while downtown last weekend doing some holiday shopping I decided that it was time that we finally went to Sauly Boys. Located next to Kondu, and across from Appalachian Outdoors its been open since 2016. Sauly Boys offers gourmet hot dog, fries, burgers and sandwich shop. Its an order and pay at the counter sit down and eat kind of place. Its laid back, has a fun industrial atmosphere, great menu selections and relaxed.
How much did we love Kondu? Enough that we went twice in one week! Seriously, had it once, and then we both (secretly) were craving it. My husbands attempt to go at lunch (without me) was thwarted. As he told me how his lunch plans got off track I realized that I too had been craving it again. So…we went…for dinner, again…during the snow storm – which was fun.
I think part of my love for this place has been compounded by the fact that I have been in a sushi deficit so this fulfilled my sushi craving and lets face it its SUSHI THE SIZE OF A BURRITO. What could be better.
I think, at least until proven otherwise, if you want a really good gourmet burger in State College, The Field at Toftrees is the place to go. Sure, Kelly’s Bison Burger is delicious, but its the only fancy burger there. At The Field, you have an entire menu of burgers, not just one. We came on a Tuesday evening, and……had to wait! Can you believe it? Waiting for a table for two on a TUESDAY ?!? Unheard of. I take this a good sign that The Field is not just a weekend place, and not just for visitors who are staying at Toftrees. Our wait, wasn’t too long and we ended up with a table situated close to the fireplace and next to a window.
Another great thing about The Field, is their beer menu. It features not only beers from PA, but it rotates the selections with the seasons so there is always something new (and good) to try. They also have a wine and cocktail menu that utilizes local products such as Big Spring and Tait Farm.
Barrel 21 Distillery & Dining is part distillery and tasting room, part event space and part restaurant. And all good.
Barrel 21 is the sister restaurant to Otto’s pub which is located next door on North Atherton. We were pleasantly surprised and happy to see a place that featured local fresh ingredients, distill their own spirits, all in an environment that is modern, fresh and clearly someone thought about it. There are a lot of places in town where the design and atmosphere are clearly not valued or thought about, and they should be. As an Architect, I can tell you that it matters and translates into more customers and better experiences.
Red Horse Tavern located in Pleasant Gap, PA is on the corner of N. Main Street and E College Ave. Part bar and part restaurant the Red Horse offers freshly prepared food with great service. According to a StateCollege.com article, the current owners took over the Tavern in 2012.
We came on a Saturday and at first, my husband was worried as we were one of the very few cars in the parking lot. And once inside we were the only people in the dining area. But…while we were there the dining area filled up with a good lunch crowd. (Apparently we beat the rush and arrived a little too early for lunch) The menu offers starters, salads, sandwiches and burgers. There is a dinner menu available after 4:00pm which also looked really good (so we will be back for that !).
When I was in school at PSU I seriously thought that D. P. Dough was just a local place. Well turns out they are not. I learned this when visiting the University of Maryland and saw it on what is their equivalent to “College Ave” (trust me people, its not even close) A quick google search, and turns out D. P. Dough is a college town staple located at schools all across the country. There is only one in State College, so it does feel local in that sense. They have all sorts of menu items ranging from tots, wings, salads (these did not exist when I was in school) and stix – but the real reason you come to D. P. Dough are the Calzones. If you can’t find one you like, you can make your own in the “Construction Zone”.
In school, my go to Zone was called the DMZ zone. And they no longer have this on their menu :(. I can’t really tell you what was in the DMZ zone, only that it was the best, and If anyone out there remembers what was in it please tell me so that I can re-create it again. At one point in college, I decided that I would try all of the zone’s they offered and slowly made my way through their list. I didn’t make all the way through, I would always get stuck ordering my favorites, like the DMZ.