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[State College, PA]-The American Alehouse

The American Alehouse is located outside of State College, Pennsylvania in village of Toftrees.

The Food

The Ale House offers a menu that is both broad and diverse.  There are a variety of salads, sandwiches, soups, burgers, appetizers, house steaks, and Ale House specialties.  To be up front, I lived in State College for two years as I finished my master’s degree there.  I found the Ale House to be the best restaurant, or at least my favorite one in State College.  I was a regular.  I make it a point every time I visit State College to have at least one outing to the Ale House.  My favorite Ale House item is their Cowboy Steak Sandwich served medium rare, gorgonzola, red peppers, spinach, caramelized onion, ailoi on sourdough.  It is perfection!  It is served with fries now, but used to be served with potato salad, which is a shame because the potato salad was one of the best one could get at a restaurant.  The dill was spot on.  If I am willing to step away from the Cowboy Steak, I recommend the traditional Colorado Prime Rib sandwich or the original Kobe Corned Beef with corned beef, colby jack, onion, shishito peppers, arugula, horseradish cream which presents a nice balance of sweet and savory.  Other recommendations are the grilled sirloin salad, Thai chicken salad, or the seared scallop salad.  All three are a delicious lunch time option.  Another unique feature of the Ale House is their Steam Bar which features all sorts of seafood options from steamed clams to gumbo to jumbalaya to a San Francisco based Italian seafood stew.  All are well prepared and delectable.  Both the wine and beer menus are extensive.  In the 20+ times I have been a patron at the American Alehouse, I have never once had food that was anything but delicious!

The Service

At each visit to the Ale House, the service has been as predictably proportional to how crowded the venue is at the time.  Do not go to the Ale House the weekend of a home Penn State football game.  The service is not bad, but it is crowded, and it can be overwhelming for the servers and patrons alike.  There is a subtle pressure for dinner goers to finish quickly so that the next party can be seated detracts from what is normally and typically a terrific dining experience.  The greeters, bartenders, servers, runners are always friendly and efficient.  At one visit at a slower time of day, it was a friend of mine’s birthday.  We bantered with the waitress, and without being prompted or asked, she brought a brownie with a candle in it, and told us it was on her.  It was an endearing moment.

The Ambiance

The American Ale House is set in a quiet, wooded area outside of State College.  It’s seclusion is part of its charm.  There are indoor and outdoor seating options.  When patrons enter the restaurant, to guests’ right is the bar area that features both the wet bar and the seafood bar.  The space is open with high ceilings and windows behind the bar along the entire front of the restaurant.  The space is bright and welcoming.  The artwork is tasteful and the acoustics make it easy to hear fellow seatmates.  One of the back dining rooms has tables circled around a grand piano providing a warm, intimate setting.  Often times there is live music ranging from a solo piano player to jazz groups to guitar/singer duos.

Overall

The American Ale House with its broad spectrum of dining spaces and its expansive menu, offers patrons the opportunity to enjoy an unique dining experience at each visit.  Not many places can do that, let alone with the expertise achieved by the Ale House.  I have eaten at restaurants across the United States and in Europe.  The American Ale House stands out as one of my favorites!  I clearly give this restaurant an overall rating and recommendation of:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

821 Cricklewood Drive
State College, PA 16803
814.237.9701
Visit American Alehouse!

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[Washington, DC]-Le Diplomate

Le Diplomate is a classic French restaurant located in the Logan Circle section of Washington DC.

The Food

Bring your appetite.  This is going to be superb!  Both lunch and dinner menus offer seafood “Fruit De Mer.”  If you go to Le Diplomate for lunch, start with either the spring pea soup, with blue crab, petits pois, and creme fraiche, or the Pate De Campagne with pickled onions and cassis mustard.  Both are delicious.  I enjoy the Baguette Provencale as a lunch entree with French salami, camembert, cornichon, and mustard vinaigrette.  My strong recommendation is to go to Le Diplomate for dinner.  An extensive hors d’oeuvres and salad menu is available.  My favorites are the tuna carpaccio, steak tartare, or again the Pate De Campagne.  From the entree menu, my favorite is the Beef Bourguignon, with mushrooms, lardons, and red wine sauce.  It is absolutely delicious and melts in your mouth.  Other entrees that are also very good are the Veal Escalope with mushrooms, onion, and a mushroom cream, the Stea Au Poivre, and the Salmon Al Francaise.  Save room, because there is an extensive dessert menu.  The Apple Tarte Tatin served with vanilla ice cream and the Palet Chocolat-Framboise with rasberry and sorbet are both excellent options.

The Service

Make a reservation as the wait can be long at Le Diplomate at times.  The service, as expected in our nations capitol, is exceptional.  On the four occasions I have eaten at Le Diplomate, I have been in parties ranging from four to ten, as well as during peak and slower times.  At every visit, the service from greeters, bartenders, and servers was consistently both efficient and friendly.  When I visited with the large party, the server did not complain about dividing up checks, which important to this patron’s dining experience.

The Ambiance

Nostalgic to the Montmartre District of Paris, Le Diplomate pays reverence to French cafes.  Sitting on the corner of the bustling section of Logan Circle at 14th Street SW and Q street NW, Le Diplomate has natural light provided on two sides with gorgeous windows.  This mixed with installed lighting provides for a bright, brisk, welcoming environment.  The layout of the venue is such that one can experience a cappacino bar, outdoor seating, diner style seating, a more formal dining room.  The acoustics provide an atmosphere where diners can hear each others at their table with ease.  It is a wonderful space.

Overall

Every time I visit Washington, I make it a point to visit La Diplomate.  The combination of food, service, and ambiance are all tremendous.  It is without any hesitation that I give La Diplomate my highest recommendation of:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

1601 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-3333
Visit La Diplomate


 

Other Cities

[Boone, NC] Vidalia

Vidalia is chic restaurant in the college town of Boone, North Carolina.

The Food

Vidalia has a terrific menu that features a wide variety of Southern cuisine.  The menu is also seasonal with a Summer/Fall menu that is different from its Winter/Spring one.  The appetizer menu has a variety of fry options, cheese and cracker plates, and other items with a Southern flair.  My recommendation is to try the Cracklin Mac n’ Cheese Au Gratin.  This hearty dish is sharp cheddar mac and cheese with tomatoes and sriracha cracklins.  Delicious!  If you are craving something lighter, the Georgia Pate is a great choice as well.  There are a variety of salads to choose from.  I suggest the Fig and Prosciutto salad that has a nice combination of sweet and savory.  All of the salads have the option of adding chicken, shrimp, or tofu.  The entree choices include a variety of dishes that are both hip and Southern.  Just as a heads up, if you’re from the North and you order the Chicken and Waffles, it is dry, not wet like Northerners are accustomed.  I give my strongest recommendation to trying either the North Carolina Catfish or the Shrimp and Grits.  The catfish is served with ham risotto, hoecakes, and remoulade.  The shrimp and grits come with ham, creole grins, green onion, greens, red peppers, and a sunny side egg.  Both hearty dishes are great!

The Service

Vidalia’s greeters, wait staff, and bartenders are spot on.  In the two instances I visited, I was there once with a large group and again with a small one.  At each visit, the staff was great.  And the waitress was accommodating with a large check being paid for on several cards.  It was more than 20 people and she didn’t flinch.  Bravo!

The Ambiance

Vidalia sits on the bustling King Street in Boone’s east side.  The tasteful decor is bright and welcoming.  Although a little loud acoustically, the venue is quite pleasant.  I recommend having a drink at the bar before getting seated to soak in the great experience of dining at Vidalia!  Bon appetite!

Overall

I give Vidalia the overall rating and recommendation of:

“Go For It!”

Contact

831-835 West King Street
Boone, NC 

Visit Vidalia

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[Philadelphia] The Plough and the Stars

The Plough and the Stars, is an Irish bar, located in the old city section of Philadelphia on 2nd Street between Chestnut and Walnut streets.

The Food

At The Plough and the Stars, there are almost 60 different types of Irish and Scotch whiskeys to choose from in addition to an extensive beer and wine list.  The food menu features a variety of appetizers, salads, and entrees.  Depending on how hungry you are or if you are with a group of people, try as an appetizer the battered sausages or the mushroom cheese fricassee, which is baked portobello mushrooms with gouda cheese and prosciutto, since both are items that are not common on many menus.  From the main entree list, try either the Wild Caught Shrimp over rice, the Guiness casserole with prime rib, carrots, onions, and mashed potatoes, or the Plough steak fritte with garlic au jus.  All are delicious, filling, and the right price.

The Service

The service at The Plough and the Stars has been consistently pretty good.  Most of the time, the greeters, wait staff, and bartenders have been warm and efficient.  However, when the place is crowded and busy, the staff tends to become less friendly and the service becomes slower.  It seemed to me that the staff was undermanned, which is unfortunate because everything else about Plough and the Stars was great!

The Ambiance

The Plough and the Stars has one of the neatest venues and layouts.  When a patron walks in, they come into a large open space with the bar straight in front of you.  On a partial balcony above the bar, a dining area looks over the entire space.  Coupled with wonderful artwork and enormous windows, the venue has a very wecloming and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere that is terrific for a more intimate dining experience.

Overall

The ambiance alone is worth the visit whether for a drink or a meal.  I give Plough and the Stars my overall rating and recommendation of:

“Go For It!”

Visit

123 Chestnut Street Enter On 2nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 733-0300
Visit The Plough and the Stars

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[Hershey, PA] What If of Hershey

Located in the “Sweetest Place on Earth,” in Hershey, Pennsylvania, What If of Hershey offers a full service menu.

The Food

To start with, What If, has an extensive specialty drink menu.  Go with the Tin Cup Maple Fashion, which is What If’s twist on the traditional Old Fashioned.  The food menu offers small plates as appetizers, which can pair well with a specialty salad or a small pasta dish.  From the small plate options, I recommend the blackened Ahi tuna with ginger, horseradish, and a sweet soy sauce, the pan seared scallops, or if feeling particularly hungry, the lobster mac n cheese with brandy cream sauce and sweet corn.  All are delicious!  There are a variety of salads to choose from with the options of blackened shrimp, tuna, salmon, chicken, steak, and the not often seen offering of scallops, jumbo lump crab, or lamb chops.  There is an extensive menu of entree items including chicken, steaks, veal, pork, seafood, and pasta.  If you’re really hungry, have the lobster ravioli.  A lot of calories for sure, but it is absolutely delicious.  If looking for lighter fare, the Chicken Arrabbiata and Chicken Milanese are great options.  Even though you may be full, you are still in the sweetest place on Earth.  So dessert is a must.  The turtle brownie with caramel and pecans served with hot fudge and ice cream is the perfect ending for dinner in Chocolatetown USA.

The Service

I have visited What If of Hershey twice.  Once for lunch and once for dinner with a larger party of six of us.  At both visits, the staff was friendly and efficient, which are the two most important traits for this reviewer about restaurant service.  Glasses and dishes were cleared quickly, and the bill was divided among six individuals without griping.  Thumbs up on the service.

The Ambiance

Oddly enough, What If of Hershey is located downstairs below a Howard Johnson’s Motel (I didn’t even know they existed anymore).  But don’t let the peculiar upstairs jade your opinion to the downstairs.  Although there is not much natural light, the decor is appropriate and has a speak easy feel to it.  The space is decorated tastefully and the acoustics are pleasing.

Overall

What If of Hershey is definately worth the visit.  My overall rating and recommendation is:

“Go For It!”

Visit What If of Hershey

845 East Chocolate Avenue
Hershey, PA  17033
717-533-5858
Vist What If of Hershey

Other Cities

[New York City]-Becco

becco new york city

Becco, an Italian Restaurant, is in New York City’s Restaurant Row on 46th Street in the heart of the theater district.  Becco offers a wide variety of foods and wines to accompany.

The Food

Becco’s menu includes a broad spectrum of appetizers, entrees, desserts, and wines to choose from.  Menu decisions are difficult.  To begin with, make sure you bring a large appetite because you won’t want to skip any of the meal courses.  The appetizers include soups, salads, seafood, meat and cheese platters, to meat dishes.  The entree menu includes spaghetti, lasagnas, seafood, and meat based dishes.  Becco also offers ala cartes sides.  I recommend the Pollo al Limone, which is a sauteed chicken breast with lemon, olives, caper berries, and spinach, as it is the only entree I had at Becco at one lunch visit.   The reason the pollo is the only entree I’ve tried is because of my favorite Becco offering which is their Sinfonia Di Pasta.  The daily pasta trio features three different pasta dishes which are selected and made daily.  So, my food recommendation is this.  Splurge on a good bottle of wine.  With the food, start with the Caesar Salad.  Don’t overdo it with the bread serving, but make sure you at least try all of the breads and spreads that accompany.  For your entree, without hesitation, have the Sinfonia Di Pasta.  And for the dessert finale, go with eaither the Torte, which is a chocolate mousse cake with cherries, or the Zabaglione, which is an Italian custard with fruit.

The Service

The service at Becco is incredible.  From start to finish, the greeters, wait staff, servers, bartenders have all been friendly, organized, and efficient.  The water glasses were constantly filled, plates were cleared timely.  I hate to use a cliche, but the service was like clockwork.  I could not have been anymore pleased.  Bravo!

The Ambiance

Even though it is on the ground level, the lighting and paint gives it a bright vibrancy.  The bar area is more intimate than the other sections of the restaurant.  The skyline in the back dining room provides a nice luster which is very pleasant at lunch time.  The brisk pace of the staff goes nicely in tandem with the hustled section of the city that is Becco’s location.  When one thinks of what a New York City restaurant experience “should be,” Becco easily fits that epitome.  Again, bravo!

Overall

I am pleased to offer without any reservation whatsoever to give Becco my highest rating and recommendation.

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

355 West 46th St
New York, NY 10036
212 397 7597
Visit Becco

Other Cities

[New York City]-Putnam’s Pub and Cooker

The first out of town review takes us to the Big Apple!  Putnam’s Pub and Cooker in Brooklyn on Myrtle Avenue is a gastropub with a laid back atmosphere.

The Food

Putnam’s has a great mixed drink and beer selection.  One drink that is an absolute must is their smoked bourbon.  Their food menu has a wide variety of choices, but keeps it limited to where choices and decisions are not overwhelming.  The appetizer menu features standard fare such as oysters, wings, shrimp, they add flair.  For example, their mussels are served with bacon, IPA, and a wholegrain mustard.  Absolutely try the Devils on Horseback deviled egg appetizer!  Being in trendy Brooklyn, Putnam’s offers a variety of salads and their own grain and rice bowls.  All of which can have chicken, shrimp, or salmon added.  They have standard sandwiches and a variety of side items that also have flair such as their brussel sprouts with bacon, pecorino, and poached egg.  For a main entree, try the pan seared Scottish salmon.

The Service

Putnam’s recently reopened after being damaged by a fire.  Even with the break while being closed for repairs, Putnam’s picked back up right where it had left off.  The server was patient and courteous as she paid special heed to the complexity of the smoked bourbon.  We were seated quickly and the food was delivered efficiently and timely.

The Ambiance

One of Putnam’s greatest features is its ambiance.  The music selection is classic rock which fits the venue perfectly.  The dark, beautiful, and intricate wood work contrasts all of the light from windows on two corner sides of the restaurant.

Overall

This is a great venue with terrific food.  The drink menu is what makes Putnam’s stand out.  Overall, I would give Putnam’s Pub and Cooker a:

“Go For It!”

Contact

419 Myrtle Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(347) 799-2382
Visit Putnam’s Pub