Permit me to blow your mind for just a moment. Did you know there are other places to eat besides downtown State College?! (I know right? Quite a shocker.) In fact, there are lots of delicious dining options outside of downtown. Being a townie and a particularly food-obsessed person, I have eaten at practically every restaurant in town.
It’s been hard picking just a few to highlight here, but overall I think we have a list of winners. Most of these restaurants have a fairly large price scale (ranging from the everyday to the special occasion), but they’re all perfect for when your family visits and you take advantage of your parents’ wallets.
Otto’s Pub and Brewery: Otto’s is first on the list because it’s a restaurant I feel like everyone in the entire world would like. The building used to be an old Quaker Steak and Lube, so this pub is huge, complete with tons of seating and bar space. There are also many TVs to go around, for those of you who like to drink alcohol and watch sports (which I’ve heard is a thing).
To top off the awesome atmosphere, Otto’s has an extremely wide range of food: from wings and traditional bar faire, to bacon-wrapped meatloaf and fish tacos with homemade pico de gallo. The best part about Otto’s is that they use a lot of local ingredients in their dishes, and even show you where it’s from on their menu. And when they can’t get it somewhere else, they make it. Practically every part of every dish is homemade.
They also serve brick oven pizza made out of their homemade pizza dough which has, get this, BEER inside of it. Oh, did I forget to mention Otto’s brews its own beer? (And root beer for the under 21 crowd like myself.) Not only do they brew beer in the back, they also put it in everything they can think of. Make sure you try the beer infused pretzel — it’s straight up crazy.
Gigi’s Restaurant and Wine Lounge: Gigi’s is a fairly new addition to the State College restaurant scene — it hasn’t even been open a year. However, they have made a huge impact in a short amount of time, amazingly turning a crusty old rib joint into one of the classiest wine lounges in town (this is a joke because I’m pretty sure it’s the only one). All jokes aside, the decor is pretty swanky, and is definitely impressive enough if you want to show off to some extended family. It’s a little far from town, but definitely worth it. Things I would recommend: the burger, any of their tapas, and probably wine.
Sakura: If I find myself simultaneously craving Asian food and feeling like I could eat an entire cow, Sakura is my first stop. I’ve heard many say that Sakura is the best place for cheap sushi, and I have to say I agree. Although I love sushi of any kind, I think that they really do the California Roll right.
But for me, the star attraction are the benton boxes — trays of absolute Asian ecstasy. The benton boxes are a little pricey (around $15), but you get a hell of a lot of food for your dollar. Each order comes with a choice of meat (chicken/beef/salmon teriyaki, chicken katsu, or sushi of your choice), a California roll, dumplings, shrimp and vegetable tempura, rice, and a starter soup and salad. It’s not just a lot of food — it’s insanely delicious. I’ve never had tempura as good as Sakura‘s. Everything is perfectly light and crispy with minimal grease. And for you lightweights, you can get the smaller version called a bento box for lunch. It’s cheaper and comes with less food, but still tastes like heaven.
Gamble Mill Restaurant and Microbrewery: Every year for my birthday, I have only one request for dinner: the Gamble Mill. This is definitely one of the more upscale restaurants on the list, although lately they have been trying to go towards a more casual route like Otto’s. It is in Bellefonte (boo! hiss!), but it’s worth the drive.
Again, this is another place that brews their own beer, which is not something to take lightly. It’s also a beautiful building, as it used to be an old mill (hence the name). Things I would recommend: Hungarian mushroom soup, seafood strudel, and the locally raised smoked pork chop. However, their menu does change seasonally, so check online beforehand!
Duffy’s Tavern: Although I used to think Duffy’s was gross (my parents got snails one time when I was eight and it completely traumatized me), it’s actually quite a nice place to eat. I haven’t been there in a long time, so I can’t personally recommend anything in particular, but any place that serves alcohol and food in the birthplace of Memorial Day (Boalsburg) has got to be pretty good.
Faccia Luna: Although I kind of have multiple favorite restaurants, Faccia Luna is at the top of the pile. I come here every chance I get and am so obsessed I even wrote a paper about it for ENGL 15. Faccia Luna is an awesome Italian restaurant and local hotspot. I could eat their chicken parmesan and Italian wedding soup for every meal until I die. It’s that good.
They also have the best pizza in town (in my humble opinion) and make it in a legit wood-fired brick oven. Even my NYC friends like the pizza here, and they’re generally total assholes when it comes to pizza. The only thing that is less than perfection at Faccia Luna is that they don’t take reservations so make sure you either get there early or are prepared to wait.
Kelly’s Steak and Seafood: Also located in Boalsburg, Kelly’s is the best place to get steak here in State College (because no, Outback doesn’t count). It’s also a bit pricey, but their silverware is shaped like fish, so I can’t really complain. You’ll always be able to find it too because there is a giant plastic steer on the roof (welcome to Boalsburg, folks!). The best part about Kelly’s, and the deal I always come for, is the early dinner menu. For $22 you get a main entreé along with a soup or salad, dessert, and hot coffee or tea. My favorites on the early menu: macadamia nut chicken, oven roasted key lime prawns, and the fillet mignon medallions. But don’t think too hard about it, you can’t go wrong.
So the next time your parents come up to visit, try one of these for a change — I guarantee they won’t mind paying!