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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!

Pittsburgh Restaurants

James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy

The James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy is located at the corner of James and Foreland Streets on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

The Food

To start with, the beer menu has a nice blend of Ales, IPAs, Belgians, Stouts, Wheats, Ciders, and  some Domestics.  In the spirit of a Speakeasy, the drink menu offers vintage choices like a Side Car, Brandy Alexander, Gin Rickey, as well as staples such as Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs, and unique drinks to James Street such as the Smoked Jazz, made with cognac and scotch.  The food menu offers a variety of small plates, wings, burgers, salads, and entrees.  Broadly speaking, the menu overall offers classic nods towards Pittsburgh.  The city loves Mac and Cheese, and James Street has a Build Your Own Mac option.  If you’re hungry, definitely try the Mac and Cheese with some of the unique add ons.  I get mine with chili, tomatoes, and spinach.  Another menu item that stands out are the James Street burgers.  There is also an option here to build your own burger, but there are two choices on the menu that I recommend.  The Big South burger has Pimento cheese, bacon pepper jam, and fried green tomatoes.  It is a unique mix of flavors.  And in a nod to the city, there is the Yinz Gotta Try This Burger, which has perogies, cheddar, and coleslaw on a pretzel bun.  From the entree options, I recommend the Cajun Shrimp and Grits or the homemade Meatloaf Devonshire over broccoli, smashed redskin potatoes, with a whiskey cheddar sauce.  Both are hearty and delicious.

The Service

On the several occasions that I have visited the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, the service has been consistently terrific.  The greeters, bartenders, servers, and runners have all been efficient, well organized, and friendly.  If there is a wait for a table, just saunter up to the bar and order a pre dinner drink.

The Ambiance

The James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy provides a warm nostalgic ambiance.  The decor upstairs is a shrine to some of the great performers who have visited.  Depending on where one sits, the feel of the entire venue is different.  If you’re in the booths by the bar, you have an elevated view of the whole upstairs portion of the restaurant.  The main dining room is open and there is plenty of space between the tables where diners are not on top of each other.  Downstairs, in the speakeasy section of the venue, there is a small stage and small bar.  The intimate setting, with the lighting and decor, provides for a very sentimental, nostalgic setting.  It is a must visit!

Overall

Everything about the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy is nostalgic nod to a different time, but also an homage to our great city of Pittsburgh.  I recommend embracing the speakeasy ambiance by starting with the Side Car or Gin Rickey, have a great dinner, then go downstairs and listen to some great live jazz.  I easily give the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy an overall rating and recommendation of:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

422 Foreland St
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 904-3335
Visit the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy