OS Eats: LettermanS Offers Standard Bar Fare With A Penn State Kick
The former location of Damon’s Bar and Grill is home to a new eatery: LettermanS. In case you were wondering, the capital ‘S’ is not a typo. When we went to review LettermanS earlier this week, there were eight televisions and only seven customers, excluding ourselves. This was probably because there’s no permanent sign on the outside of the building signaling the new restaurant; instead only a small flag covering the void where a large Damon’s decal once hung.
According to our server Tuesday night, the restaurant has big plans to make the eatery an all-inclusive experience with a refined menu that caters to a more tavern-like crowd, an expanded upper-level bar, and separate rooms for families, sports fans, and bar patrons.
Inside, not much has changed since new ownership took over, although renovations are underway. The walls are still stacked with Penn State memorabilia, large televisions still cover most of the remaining wall space, and James Franklin, Pat Chambers, and Rob Cooper will continue to hold their radio shows throughout the year. Our server said to expect major improvements in the renovations in time for Blue-White weekend, a mere two weeks away.
Despite these admirable initiatives, however, we found the food didn’t stand out, at least the items we selected. Here’s a taste of our LettermanS experience.
Good food isn’t cheap. Neither, apparently, is mediocre bar food at LettermanS.
Upon being seated at my table in the expansive yet empty basement, I was taken slightly aback by the high prices its menu offered. The hamburgers, which claimed to be hand-pounded, ran about $12.00. Whether smacked by hand or mallet, I found that to be on the more expensive side for a State College eatery. The more upscale items, like steaks and ribs, ran much higher.
I settled by splitting the pterodactyl wings, named after the flying dinosaur for its greater amount of meat, and a buffalo chicken sandwich with onion rings.
The wings, mixed in a sriracha-inspired sauce, were tasty, but lacked an appropriate freshness, seeming more like they came from a heater than the deep fryer. The buffalo chicken sandwich was fine, but the sandwich’s bread-to-chicken ratio heavily favored the roll. The same was true of the chicken, which seemed to have more breaded coating than chicken meat, a less than enticing combination. The onion rings also felt too bready, and not sufficiently oniony.
The food at LettermanS was, in an adjective as bland as the food itself, suitable. But for the higher price, and claim to be more refined than its predecessor, I hoped it would carry a kick or flavor I couldn’t find anywhere else in town. Alas, LettermanS is yet another standard sports bar, except with a better collection of Penn State swag.
I never went to Damon’s, so I had no idea what to expect from LettermanS, both from the food and experience. While I anticipated typical bar food, I had no idea what its specialties or recommended foods were, so I went in with a pretty open mind.
From the outside, the construction makes the restaurant look somewhat run down, but the second you step inside, you can feel the overwhelming vibe of a traditional, Penn State-crazed sports bar. It’s every sport’s fan’s paradise: big-screen screen televisions and memorabilia everywhere. We started by getting the pterodactyl wings, which were really just larger-than-average wings. As far as wings go, they were very average, but the sauce was a nice, unique touch, described by our waiter as a mix of buffalo and sriracha.
For the main course, I ordered a pulled pork steamboat, which, contrary to its name, was just a pulled pork sandwich with cheddar jack cheese on top in a hoagie roll. There was no boat. Despite the lack of nautical transportation, the sandwich was very good. The fries were the best part of the meal. They were well-seasoned, perfectly fried, and just generally delicious.
While the food was nothing special, with Penn State pride evident everywhere you look, and the space to accommodate football-crazed fans, LettermanS would be a great place to watch the Nittany Lions.