Is it safe to dine inside?
These restaurants bet their lifeline on it, strictly following Gov. Wolf’s mandates to combat the spread of COVID-19. Going above and beyond these precautions, some of these area businesses even require temperatures to be taken at the front door, surfaces to be sanitized at regular intervals and tables to be distanced more than six feet apart. They all offer takeout, so that’s a comforting option too.
The Watershed Pub, 2129 Market St., Cumberland County, 717-761-5000
The Millworks restaurant and brewery in midtown Harrisburg has a new West Shore partner, The Watershed Pub. Centrally located on Market Street at the heart of Camp Hill borough, this mindful, locally-focused eatery has already piqued the curiosity of nearby residents. After only two weeks of opening, reservations are booked up.
Safety is a top priority here from the moment you step through the entrance of the modernized, centuries-old home. Customers are required to wave wrists across the free-standing, instant-read temperature check machine before being seated at carefully spaced tables either outside on the lawn, beneath heaters on the patio or inside the building equipped with a HVAC system that filters airborne pathogens.
The menu highlights sustainable-sourced seafood from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed; grass-fed, local harvest beef and produce; as well as heirloom grains and organic greens. And prices reflect these high-quality efforts and ingredients. The disposable one-page menu is well thought-out and creative, listing such items as: Maryland blue crab dip and garlicky grilled bread ($15); raw Chesapeake Bay oysters, half dozen ($14); signature Long Island wood grilled swordfish loin ($28) with stone ground raw milk cheddar grits; wallet-sized, Koji aged braised crimson short rib and grits ($29); Fox Meadow sustainable ice cream ($7); and warm doughnuts served with chocolate, caramel and chai custard sauces.
Keep in mind the buffalo style (deep fried with naturally fermented house-made hot sauce, shaved celery and bleu cheese), farm-raised Maryland snapping turtle — these “wings” demand more chewing than the crisply fried and delicious buttermilk marinated clams ($13), served with intense charred oniony dipping sauce and delightful tarragon tweaked tartar sauce.
Thea, 1303 Saxton Way, Mechanicsburg, 717-759-4654
“Wow, I’m impressed. That’s what a lot of our guests exclaim when they first walk in”.
So says chef and owner AnnMarie Nelms, “We’ve basically reconstructed the dining room since the pandemic hit.”
Masks have been worn since day one. Medical grade spray is applied when wiping down door handles including restrooms. Throwaway menus are handed out and salt and pepper is by request only. Instead of refilling water glasses, pitchers of water are set down at each table.
“For guests not 100% comfortable in the main dining room, they have the option of sitting in the 12-top room that safely distances four people. This way they are in their own little bubble,” Nelms says. “I’m a rule follower.”
Not only will you feel comfortable and confident at the restaurant, you will eat well too. German, Greek, Italian and American influences play out on the menu page. It’s easy to make a meal out of the appetizers: truffle oil splashed fresh cut fries; delicately coated coconut shrimp with pineapple dipping sauce; and herbed ricotta stuffed meatballs are carefully constructed in the scratch kitchen. Try the Fall Chicken Milanese — hand breaded Parmesan and garlic crusted chicken pan-fried over roasted red pepper aioli and topped with balsamic vinaigrette splashed arugula salad.
Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, 2625 Brindle Dr, Susquehanna twp, 717-545-4028
“We’re the safe place to come and eat,” says General Manager Maggie Faubel. “The COVID regulations actually work really well with our business model . We’re allergy and environmentally conscious and there are always vegan, vegetarian or hearty meat dishes available for customers.”
The restaurant is farm to table and everything is sourced from Lancaster County. “Every precaution is in place. Tables have been moved to safe distance guests, we disinfect tables and provide fresh glasses with each water refill, salt and pepper are wiped down and sanitized if requested.”
Due to the lack of business traffic, lunch at this time is no longer being served Monday through Thursday. Since reopening the condensed seasonal menu has gradually expanded and you can still count on delicious scratch cocktails like Harvest Fall Bourbon highlighting hints of autumn flavors — apple cider, cranberry and basil.
Quick and streamlined harvest flatbread with fall seasonings and melted Asiago cheese pleases everyone’s palates. Look farther down the fall flavored menu to find locally grown butternut squash soup garnished with pumpkin seeds and honey drizzle, the ever-popular spicy shrimp noodle bowl ($27) and roasted seasonal root vegetables with braised short ribs ($28). Doordash or Uber Eats are available for no-contact delivery orders.
Passage to India, 520 Race St, Harrisburg, (717) 233-1202
Consistency, consistency, consistency is this restaurant’s mantra. At Passage to India, authentic Indian dishes don’t stray from original recipes. Customers can expect standards to remain constant, from the upkeep of the beautiful Asian accented dining room to plated Indian-spiced cuisine.
There have been some great, innovative creations coming out of the COVID precautions. Even though every one misses the value-oriented assorted chafing dish lunch buffet, the replacement of Thalis, Indian-style meals served in small tasting portions and served on a platter are fantastic. The platter of food also comes with appetizer, soup, salad and dessert. It’s an Indian TV dinner, only 100 percent more inviting. You have a choice of small portioned vegetarian, lamb, goat, seafood or chicken. My favorites off the main menu include charcoal flame licked eggplant-based baigan bhurta ($13.95), chunky, spicy and tender lamb vindaloo ($18.95) and shrimp in coconut sauce ($19.95). You can order online from Doordash or Grubhub.
First Watch, 151 W. Chocolate Ave., Hershey, 717-500-2230
First watch is watching out for customers. The restaurant chain has implemented an hourly cleaning and sanitizing of all the touch points and six-foot distanced tables are cleaned and sanitized immediately after each seating. Glasses are kept on tables with pitchers of water and there are individual salt and peppers. Be sure to download the First Watch App so you’ll know how long the wait is and when it’s your turn to be seated.
Breakfast for lunch or lunch for breakfast it doesn’t matter, either meal is served from 7 a.m to 2:30 p.m. Go big, go healthy but don’t go home until you’ve tried something from the scratch kitchen. One of the most popular items from the lengthy menu is the highlighted chickichanga ($10.99); a whipped egg concoction consisting of all-natural, hormone free chicken breast, green chilies, cheeses, onions and fresh avocado rolled into a flour tortilla and served with Vera Cruz sauce and sour cream.
For a simply luscious breakfast, order the avocado toast ($10.69), served with two basted cage-free eggs that literally melt in your mouth. Scoops of fresh avocado sit two finger thick on top of chewy, toasted whole grain slices and a slight sprinkle of Maldon sea salt, which enhances the intrinsic flavor of the eggs and avocado. And while it lasts, the seasonal signature spiced oversized pumpkin pancake is served next to two cage-free eggs and juicy chicken sausage patty. Tables are still set up outside until the weather gets too cold.
Revival Social Club, 19 N. George St., York, 717-430-2981
Revival Social Club is a long way from Home 231. But the two restaurants, one in York and the latter in Harrisburg, share the same owners/chef, Rob and his wife Jessica Ayala, same fresh, farm-to-table concepts and some of the same New American menu items; octopus, trio of deviled eggs, homemade ice cream and signature donuts the size and fluffiness of cotton balls.
“York is moving in a really good direction and we wanted to be part of these wheels of change, the revival of York.” said Jessica Ayala. “We wanted a nice place where people could come and talk, choose from small plates and have drinks and a full meal from our scratch kitchen.”
Dwarfed by surrounding businesses, the conjoined squatty wood paneled house and rectangular three-story building are easy to spot on this portion of George Street known as Continental Square. The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining, takeout and curbside pick up. Masks are required by guests and staff, sanitizer is provided, tables are sanitized between customers and social distancing is enforced.
Start with house-crafted cocktails using simple syrups, fresh herbs, fruits and juices such as hipster sour ($12) and grin and pear it ($11) merging gin, pear, ginger and lemon into this refreshingly smooth cocktail.
All draft beers are made in Pennsylvania and hand-picked wines from around the world feature pinot noir from Oregon, cabs from Loire Valley and Argentina, rose from Chile and lively pinot grigio from Italy.
Of interest on the menu: General Tso’s cauliflower ($6) harkens to the Chinese chicken dish, blasted first in the deep fryer then slathered in candy sweet, succulent soy based sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds and green onions; straight-forward, cilantro lime shrimp tacos ($14); herbaceous lamb Wellington ($30); and cherry braised duck cassoulet ($31) a streamlined casserole combination of cannelini beans, bacon lardons and cherry tomatoes.
CoreLife Eatery, 25 N. 32nd St., Camp Hill, 717-801-0503
Healthy eating gets a high five at this wholesome fast-casual restaurant chain established in 2015. At CoreLife eateries it doesn’t matter what diet you follow — vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, Keto or none — you can eat well here without breaking any rules. Healthy, scratch made fulfilling meals in a bowl or protein-packed plates nourish mind and body without any artificial additives, dyes, sweeteners, GMO, trans fat or hormones.
The spacious eatery offers plenty of room to social distance when ordering or picking up food and has marked off flooring showing you where to stand in line. Leafy dark greens, sustainable proteins, grains, crisp-tender vegetables and slow-simmered bone broths come together on power plates or build your own bowls. Build your own custom bowl or choose a described bowl under one of the headings favorite, hearty, bone broth, spicy Thai chicken and rice noodles (330 calories) is the hands down most popular bowl at the Camp Hill locale. Ranch flank steak rice bowl made with sustainably raised, super tender meat is a close second. Along with the grass fed beef, purple al dente rice blend, arugula, pickled jalapeños and red onion and intensely flavorful twin balls of falafel are arranged colorfully beneath drizzle of ranch dressing. Choice of seasonal roasted vegetables, in this case, cinnamon dusted baked sweet potatoes come along side in another smaller bowl.
Himalayan Fusion, 2308 Patton Road, Harrisburg, 717-412-4907
Himalayan Fusion is listed on the flip side of the family owned and operated Khana Indian Bistro’s business card. The sibling restaurant is located at the Patton Place strip mall.
Soft muted pink and yellow walls, grainy flooring and socially set apart tables add casual elegance to this clean and sanitized environment. The restaurant offers dine in, curbside pick up and no-contact delivery.
The menu is less fusion and more an expansion of Indian and Nepalese listed dishes. However the cuisines of India, Nepal and China already overlap due to neighboring influences. The favorite foods of Nepalese, for example, include momos, a Tibetan version of Chinese dumplings.
One of the most popular foods on the menu, six different momos are served stuffed, steamed, pan fried or deep fried. And these juicy pleated pouches spill with assorted chopped vegetables or chicken. They are served in light aromatic broth with cabbage and vegetables alongside tomato chutney or tomato pickle. Have the momos as appetizers or consume as entrees. And definitely order gobi 65 ($6.99). This rosy colored deep fried cauliflower, green pepper and onion mountain has built in heat and battered richness.
Nepal is landlocked but Indian preparations of seafood abound. Salmon palak (GF $19.99) has luscious, lip-smacking tomato based, herb sauce. The shrimp vindaloo (GF $19.99) is made with classic piquant potato and onion simmered sauce. Nourishing curries and tandoor oven baked chicken, lamb and seafood highlight Indian and Nepali dishes. All dishes are generously portioned and shareable. And don’t forget an order of chewy, garlicky naan to mop up juices. Desserts range from kheer rice pudding flavored with cardamom to kulfi, saffron flavored Indian ice cream.
Tavern on the Hill, 109 Howard St., Enola, 717-732-2077
This hilltop restaurant specializing in steaks and seafood never disappoints. Go once, go twice or go three times — consistency shines through in service, ambiance and cleanliness at every visit.
The spacious garden room is open and airy for socially distancing. Impeccable professional service, superb wine list and delectable cuisine have kept this hard-to-find locale in business. Slurp down oysters on the half shell prepared “Rockefeller style” (baked and blanketed by a creamy, spinach topping). Flavorful, garlicky escargot slides back with an herb-laced, lemon-butter sauce. Hand-cut steak dinners are outstanding and — I’ll admit — expensive, but worth it. Start saving now to enjoy 9-ounce center cut filet mignon crowned by Roquefort crumbled crust. Pungent cheese crust stands up to rich, juice-riddled chunk of beef and intense bone broth based bordelaise sauce.
For the uber-carnivore, there’s a 16 oz. Tuscan Style extra thick, bone-in grilled Kansas City strip loin aged USDA prime beef. I don’t expect you to remember the name, just the rosemary, sage and garlic flavors permeating this intense chop. And the rosy centered medium-rare mediterranean rack of lamb infused with fresh herbs is also memorable.