Staff Picks: Our Favorite Lesser Known State College Food Joints
Food talk in State College is predictable. You’re either debating the merits of Canyon Pizza, Yallah, and Sheetz after Country Night at Pickles, making a case for the best sit-down spot to take the parents or a first date or recommending one of the ever-appearing new eateries in hollowed-out College Ave. buildings.
But the Borough is a diverse place when it comes to food options, with plenty more than just the standard fare and chain restaurants. Stick with our staff’s suggestions next time you’re in the mood for something different or lines are out the door.
Cece McCarthy: Sower’s Harvest Cafe
Sower’s Harvest Cafe has to be one of the most underrated places downtown. Located near D.P. Dough and Insomnia Cookies, it‘s a brunch paradise, offering everything from giant lattes and omelets to sandwiches and salads. I’m a HUGE fan of both coffee and breakfast foods, so this place really caters to what I like the most about mornings.
The ambiance — which includes an incredibly kind staff and cozy decor — makes you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door. Sower’s is even a great place for just grabbing a coffee and getting some work done. My only complaint is that it closes at 3 p.m. — I’d stay there all day if I could. Nonetheless, the homemade food and comfy atmosphere absolutely make up for it. I’d recommend this place to anyone, especially fellow breakfast fanatics.
Otis Lyons: Kondu
Hailing from California, I have always been a fan of high-quality Asian food. This craving led me to Kondu, a small Japanese restaurant across from Champs on South Allen. Kondu offers a wide range of Japanese cuisine, including sushi burritos and poke bowls. I like to order chicken teppanyaki, which comes with rice and vegetables. Most of Kondu’s meals, especially the teppanyaki entrées, are large portions, giving you an even better deal.
Kondu’s staff members are always smiling, and there isn’t too much noise, which makes for a pleasant dining environment. I’d recommend Kondu for students who are tired of typical campus food.
Mira DiBattiste: Federal Taphouse
Located above Target downtown, Federal Taphouse is an all-around stop with a pretty view of Old Main and downtown. It’s reasonably priced and a great place to hang out casually with friends or take a date for dinner. The Taphouse also offers almost 100 beers on tap, which pretty much guarantees that everyone (of age) can find a beer to enjoy.
A friend of mine described it as “a nicer Champs,” which really hits the nail on the head for me. It’s good American bar food that gives you a great view of campus without the chaos of some other bars downtown.
Matt Paolizzi: Halal Cart
This little cart of wonders has been my go-to spot in State College since my freshman year. Halal cart food is as simple as can be, a big bed of yellow rice with lettuce on the side and your choice of protein and sauce on top. Whether it’s falafel or chicken or lamb (or all three!), you really can’t go wrong with anything at Sher Halal. The servers are always friendly, even late at night with a rowdy line. It’s not pricey, either, and they really fill up the container they plop your meal into. Plus, drinks are included with every purchase.
Whether it’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday or a Wednesday afternoon, Sher Halal hits the spot whenever. I highly recommend it.
Amanda Thieu: The Koop
If you’ve been craving fried chicken, The Koop (formerly known as Waker Chicken) is hands-down your spot. It’s easy to overlook Koop’s small sign and unassuming appearance. But the restaurant has a ton of sauce flavors — I’d recommend the honey garlic. Plus, the bone-in wings are the size of my hands.
Matt Noah: Penn Pide
If you’re into trying something new and unique, Penn Pide is the place for you. The owner of this small Beaver Avenue spot is always friendly. I like the Cheese Pide. This dish is similar to a pizza at first glance, but what makes it unique was the green garlic sauce they give to dip it in. It was the first time I’ve ever had anything like this dip, but it was a pleasant experience. The most expensive entrees all price out around $10. I would recommend Penn Pide if you’re looking for a spot with fewer lines and late hours.
Ryan Parsons: Green Bowl
You’ve heard of Big Bowl, but get ready for its colorful counterpart: Green Bowl. Your future favorite bowl-themed restaurant is located on Beaver Ave. and features an all-you-can-eat stir-fry bar. As someone who is holding onto those meal plan dollars for dear life, I venture off campus for only a handful of meals, and Green Bowl is one of the only places worth doing so.
What makes this place special is the combination of traditional wait service and fast-casual dining. Picking your ingredients works as a buffet, but your stir-fry is then cooked and served to you at your table. It’s affordable, convenient, delicious, and has plenty of allergen-free and vegan options.
Lauren Wysseier: Sadie’s Gourmet Waffles & Bakery
If you’re on the lookout for a new cafe in Downtown State College, Sadie’s Gourmet Waffles & Bakery is a must-try. This cozy, lesser-known eatery is tucked away on the corner of South Pugh Street and East Calder Way and serves everything from breakfast sandwiches and decadent waffles to delicious sandwiches and smoothies.
Sadie’s staff are always so welcoming, and their service is surprisingly quick for such delicious and fresh food. At Sadie’s, they seem to truly care about your experience unlike some of the more “chain-y” restaurants downtown. Whether you’re craving a sweet and unique waffle, in need of a caffeine fix, or looking for a quiet cafe to relax, do some work and/or socialize, I highly recommend giving Sadie’s a try.
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