The author received compensation for this post. All opinions are his own.
The Harrisburg PA food scene is worth the trip. There, I said it. There are many so-called “hotspots” for the food lovers of the world, with quite a few in the good ol’ US of A. Think about it: When you think Lobster, you think of Maine. Blue Crab? Maryland. Barbeque? Kansas City, Memphis, Austin, and St. Louis. Creole? New Orleans. Central and South American cuisine? Texas and Miami, Florida. Asian? Hawaii and San Francisco, California. Cheesesteaks? Philly. Pizza? New York and Chicago.
You get the point, even if you flamed me for leaving out your favorite foodie digs.
So when I tell you that Harrisburg, Pennsylvania should be on the foodie map, don’t hate and don’t laugh. During a recent Traveling Dad trip there with seven of my TDAD cohorts, we all came away surprised, impressed and very, very full!
We gave the nod to Philadelphia for its cheesesteak fame, but no other Pennsy city really moves the needle when it comes to food.
Harrisburg’s Restaurants, Brewpubs, and Venues
We traveled to Harrisburg as guests of the Visit Hershey & Harrisburg Tourism Bureau, and Public Relations Director Rick Dunlap of the Bureau put together three days of things to do in Harrisburg that certainly elevated the “feed me” quotient to new levels. Axe throwing, kayaking, Appalachian Trail hiking, fishing, and long distance bike riding were all at our disposal. (You can read all about those things here.)
With yours truly being the Elder Statesman of the clan, I was wise and let the young, in shape TDAD’s, do the heavy lifting. Yes, I threw a mean axe, and fought off a pit bull who attempted to climb into my kayak with its teeth bared, but there was really no good excuse for the amount of food I inhaled while in Hershey/Harrisburg. Or was there a good excuse?
Rick Dunlap carefully curated the “best of” what the region had to offer, and he hit a home run that was equivalent to the long ball shots we witnessed while watching a Washington Nationals AA affiliate the Harrisburg Senators ball game.
So here is a selected list of “must visit” food (and libation!) establishments while in the Hershy-Harrisburg area, in no particular order of taste and/or quality:
Hops, Vines and Spirits — Downtown Harrisburg’s Happy Hour Haunt
17 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg
One of many fine brewpubs in Harrisburg, the focus at Hopes, Vines and Spirits is on local craft beers and wines. Enjoy flights of beer, cider, wine or cocktails paired with locally sourced charcuterie boards and delish sliders. A must is the sugar coated bacon!
The beauty of Hops, Vines & Spirits is that you can move freely amongst different bars that prepare beer, cocktails, and snacks. Because why limit yourself, you know?
Herby’s El Mexicano Restaurant — Authentic Mexican in Pennsylvania
720 Main St., Harrisburg
Experience authentic Mexican dishes at this colorful family-owned restaurant in downtown Harrisburg. Herby’s Tamales, tacos, fajitas enchiladas and more are made with the requisite fire that these dishes bring. All food is freshly made using traditional Mexican techniques dating back generations. The margaritas and sangria slushies are must-have drinks!
Café 1500 — Chic & Delicious Harrisburg Dining
1500 N. 6th St., Harrisburg
The midtown Harrisburg restaurant and bar Café 1500 features a seasonal menu, craft cocktails, and an industrial-chic vibe. It’s classy and date-night worthy, though us guys, having cleaned up as nice as possible, fit right in. On the walk to the table one of our guys said “Man, I hope they have steak, I could so eat a steak,” an incantation that spread to the rest of us. Sure enough, we were rewarded.
Several of us got the sliced steak, and the “American Bistro” menu also includes yummy small plates like Baked Brie and Mini Crab Cakes, with popular dinner plates that include the delightfully tongue-in-cheekily named “Airline Chicken” “Buddah” Bowl for vegans, and Rainbow Trout. Enjoy one of the sensational craft cocktails and a picturesque view of Harrisburg from the rooftop “Roof Garden.”
Bricco Restaurant — Harrisburg’s Premier Fine Dining
31 S. 3rd St., Harrisburg
Our collective desire for steak and more steak and other sorts of meats was rewarded again. Bricco serves a mean ribeye, but it is so much more than just a steakhouse grille. Visiting Bricco was a dual treat. This is where we took a “Grill Masters” class and learned how to cut, season and grill meat and veggies.
We also made our own rubs and seasonings. The nearly four-hour class made us all proud, as the TDAD crew donned aprons and manned the meat grinders, an assortment of chef-grade cutlery, and super hot grills to create our own culinary masterpieces.
For those who would rather have the work done for them, dining at Bricco is a superb choice. They are consistently named one of Harrisburg’s favorite fine dining restaurants, and serves Italian-inspired dishes for lunch, dinner and — my favorite — Happy Hour. Bricco’s menu changes seasonally to reflect the finest of central Pennsylvania agriculture. The dining room features an open kitchen, andit has its own Ciao! Bakery, where a pastry chef creates the finest bread and desserts that make the perfect complement to your meal.
Tröegs Brewery — A Not So Hidden Gem of Harrisburg, PA
200 Hersheypark Dr., Hershey
Finally, if lunch is your favorite meal of the day, then I highly recommend Tröegs, which has been in the community for many years. In 2011, Tröegs built a 90,000 square foot, state-of-the-art brewery which features a beer-hall style tasting room, tasting loft, outdoor patio, dog-friendly beer garden, General Store for merchandise gifts and beer to-go, self-guided tour, and even a curated art gallery.
The new facility has two brewhouses, one for daily production and another smaller pilot brew system for research and development beers. The Scratch Beer Series continues to thrive as more than 200 different brews have been created featuring both local and exotic ingredients to feed the collective muse.
So what about the food? Tröegs features several options, including the “Tasting Loft” menu featuring salads, pizza and sandwiches. Their snack bar menu is extensive, and features far more than what is traditionally considered a snack. Unless of course, you consider Braised Brisket on Brioche, or Duck Confit, to be a snack. In which case, can I get your name and number so we can have snacks ALL THE TIME.
Okay, the secret is out. We went for the beer! It was nice to have some good food to accompany the flights of craft beer we enjoyed.
More Great Harrisburg Restaurants
In just one weekend, we managed to eat an awful lot. But we didn’t get to try the shawarma at any the town’s Middle Eastern eateries. Nor did we get a chance to sample Thai food or pho, visit a deli, have sushi or crepes. With so many fine restaurants, eateries, breweries, vineyards and wine bars, Harrisburg is a foodie’s delight. We’ll just have to make more time for eating on our next trip.
Be sure to add the Hershey-Harrisburg area to the list of “foodie” places here in the U.S.!