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.
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.
Austin’s Texas Hot Dogs in Tipton, PA has been an area staple since opening in 1978. Although its gone through many location changes throughout the years, the same great taste and quality remains. They now have a new(ish) opened in 2015 location just down the street from the DelGrosso’s Park. I remember going here as a kid when we visited what was then called Bland’s Park. This technically does not count as a Centre County place, but just over the County line, its worth the drive. In fact my parents have on occasion, driven to Austin’s for some good Texas Dogs and back, just because. Plus if you are on your way back from visiting further South, this is a perfect stop.
Austin’s specializes in well, hot dogs, Texas style. Fresh-cut fries, and Old Fashioned Frozen Custard. I like my dogs with just about everything on them, chili, mustard, onions and relish. You can also add cheese and ketchup.
Stepping into My My Chicken was like stepping into a hipster cool local hangout you would expect to find in a beach town or nestled into some trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn. Well my friends, if you haven’t already noticed, Westerly Parkway Plaza is not Brooklyn. Its not trendy, hipster or cool however, the addition of My My Chicken definitely elevates the shopping center into a location worth turning into.
First the aesthetic: This place has a great vibe – walls decorated with skateboards, most featuring a chicken of some sort. Seating is ample. There is a pick up / take out order area when you first walk in, sharing its space with some classic video arcade games. Sadly, a lot of them were ‘Out of Order’; still cool to look at and for those of us who are old enough, to reminisce about. The larger dine-in area features just about any type of seating you would want; table and chairs, booths, a bar area, and lounge seats by the window. Okay okay, so the place is cool but how is the food you ask?
I have not walked into CC Peppers in 20+ years, but even if you haven’t been there in a while, don’t worry ITS EXACTLY THE SAME. You know that classic aesthetic of green and purple stripes tracing every nook and cranny of its strip mall footprint. The ceiling tiles, once white are now yellow, ceiling diffuser grilles are now coated with years worth of grime and rust. The kitchen, in full view of CC’s patrons, still boasts the classic stainless steel griddle, the long prep bench full of sub toppings, and the best piece of equipment, the fryer. The jar with water at the bottom – begging you to have your try and drop a coin in to see if you can get it into the shot glass nestled at the bottom, is still there. Its classic State College food nostalgia and much like its look, the menu hasn’t changed either. And really that’s a good thing.
I was so excited to visit Big Spring Spirits, located in the old Match Factory in Bellefonte. The Distillery currently makes several rums, whiskeys, gins and bourbon. Their Tasting Room offers an unbelievable drink menu which offers a wide range of classic and seasonal drinks all made with spirits distilled in their LEED Gold certified facility next door. The Tasting Room is a great space, with high ceilings, a long bar and several tables lined up against a wall of windows looking out towards Talleyrand Park. For fun, there is a big selection of board and table games – what a great way to enjoy time with your friends and family, drink something delicious, and play some games. And to my dinner guests relief, TVs at the bar (hey it was the end of the 100th PGA tournament at Bellerive) You can also take tours of the distillery, which I sense we will be doing sometime in the future.
Food is also available in the Tasting Room. The menu developed by chef and owner MJ Custom Craft Kitchens, Mark Johnson, includes soup, sandwiches, and other snacks. They have many specialty nights such as Science Pub night and Throwback Thursdays.
On Sunday’s, they offer a five course Chef Tasting Dinner. This was our objective last Sunday. Each week Chef Johnson creates a menu using what is local and what is in season. Each guest receives a welcome cocktail, and for an additional fee, you can opt to add a cocktail pairing menu to go alongside each of your food courses (which, of course we did!)
I was so sad to hear of Zola’s closing at the end of August 2018. It, like its neighbors Golden Wok, California Tortilla and two houses (one of which I lived in for two years during school) will be torn down to make way for a new high-rise apartment building.
I remember its predecessor, Zola New World Bistro, as a ‘special occasion’ place to go, And the relaunched Zola Kitchen and Bar which opened in 2015 provided a great upscale and alternate dining option downtown.
We went on a weekend night, our excuse (aside from checking another place off our list) was to celebrate moving. Hey, whatever you have to say to yourself to justify something, is okay with me. My husband had never been, and really I don’t think he knew of its existence until we went.
Where do I begin with Elk Creek Café? What a great place that is part restaurant, part brewing / pub, part music venue. They partner with local farmers and purveyors, brew some great beer and make really great food.
Not more than a 25 minute drive from State College, we came on a dreary rainy Saturday evening, specifically to try the local summer menu. It was beyond well worth it. A Great atmosphere, friendly staff, great beer, and overall great vibe. The best part of driving out there was when a horse and buggy pulled out in front of us. This meant nothing to me, I’m a Central PA native but, my husband, Not from PA, not from a small town, not from farmland. He had such a great look on his face. I could see his wheels turning, trying to digest the situation and what to do. “See”, I said, “I told you moving here would be an adventure!.”
Anyway, back to the food. Here it is, our review of Elk Creek Café & Aleworks