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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

DiAnoia’s Eatery

DiAnoia’s Eatery is on Penn Avenue in the Strip District in Pittsburgh.

The Food

DiAnoia’s menu offers an extensive wine (Italian wines only) and cocktail menu.  From the cocktail menu, I recommend the Godfather with Grouse Scotch, Amaretto, and lemon or the Manhattan.  Both are great.  When it came to wine for dinner, the restaurant manager came over and made recommendations based on what entrees my friends and I chose.  She actually provided us healthy samples of the wines she was recommending before we made our selection.  There is an extensive antipasto menu.  I’ve had the house salad and recommend it.  The oregano vinaigrette is perfection.  I also tried the escarole, beans, and sausage appetizer.  Again, another worthy recommendation.  The entree menu has a variety of pastas, meats, and sides.  A good option is, the gnocchi with meatballs and red sauce, which is the perfect blend of sweet and savory.  The linguine and mussels is another worthy choice as an entree.  The white wine sauce is a mouth watering enhancement to the mussels.  If you are trying to avoid carbs, another entree item to be considered is the Steak Florentine.  Its savory, delectable taste is addicting.  I’ve also had the zucchini, squash, and tomatoes with truffle oil as a side.  For dessert, if you have room, the house-made tiramisu is wonderful.

          

The Service

The service at DiAnoia’s is friendly, efficient, and professional.  I recommend making reservations ahead if going during peak times.  From the moment we were greeted at the door, the service was outstanding.  Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu items and gave us informed recommendations.  Runners brought food and drinks to the correct patron even if they weren’t present when ordered.  (I’m still smarting over  this experience ).  And the manager coming over to offer wine recommendations and tasting could be described as perfect service.  A visit to DiAnoia’s does not feel like being a customer, but rather a guest to be fawned over.  Bravo!

The Ambiance

The venue is gorgeous.  With large windows, the whole restaurant is spacious and bright.  The atmosphere can best be described as electric.  When you enter the restaurant, there is a bar to the left.  It is small and intimate.  Further back in the restaurant, there is a pasticceria from which breads and desserts can be ordered and taken out.  The main dining room is spacious and the corner offers a great view of Penn Avenue.  The artwork on the walls is tasteful.  At times, it was difficult to hear others at my table because acoustically, it is pretty loud.  However, I did not find that as an irritation as I sometimes do.  To me, it added a din of excitement.

Overall

DiAnoia’s Eatery is a new restaurant to Pittsburgh.  All three criteria for reviewing restaurants were exceptionally good.  It is my pleasure to give DiAnoia’s an overall recommendation and rating of:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

2549 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 918-1875
Visit DiAnoia’s

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Park Bruges

Park Bruges

Park Bruges, located in the Highland Park section of the city (and its cousin restaurant Point Brugge, located in Point Breeze) pay homage to the European experience of finding unique bistros in obscure residential sections of villages or towns.  Both restaurants are in sections of the city which could be described as isolated, but that is part of their intended charm.  Both feature food with Belgian inspired fare.  Park Bruges is different from its cousin in that it has a flair of French food emphasis and will be the venue focused on in this review.

The Food

Park Bruges features a great food and drink menu.  A great starter cocktail is the Black Manhattan, but there are a variety of other drinks to choose from including a good selection of Belgian beers.  A great appetizer to start with is the mussels.  They have four different versions to choose from.  Go with the small portion because it is more than amble for a party of four to share.  I strongly recommend the Spicy Creole mussels that have great broth for bread dipping.  For the less adventurous, go with the Classic White Wine mussels.  I would suggest skipping over the Green Curry mussels though; curry doesn’t go with everything.  There is a wide spectrum of dinner salads, but if you’re going to a restaurant with such unique food, go with one of the entrees.  My three favorites are the Bay of Fundy Salmon, the Chicken Milanese, and the Braised Short Ribs.  If you aren’t that hungry, go with the Bruges Burger and try the slaw.

The Service

The greeter, servers, bartenders have always consistently been very welcoming and friendly.  In all the instances that I have been at Park Bruges, the bartenders were not frantically overworked and had time to banter with the patrons.  However, in my last visit, the wait staff was undermanned and therefore the service was slow and not as fluid.  One example of the irregularities was the waitress bringing the entree course before the appetizer course dishes were cleared.  This was all inconsistent with past visits, and the staff warmth overall has been always been terrific.

The Ambiance

Park Bruges, unlike its cousin, offers a choice between indoor and outdoor seating.  If given a choice and the weather is nice, go for the outdoor seating.   The decor offers a bright vibrant space to enjoy one’s dinner.  The lighting and music are not overbearing and strike a nice balance of both.

Overall

Park Bruges reliably provides a terrific restaurant experience.  Although, my last visit there were some bumps with the service and my short ribs entree was a little overcooked, this is inconsistent with what my Part Bruges encounters have been.  My overall rating is:

“Go For It!”

Contact

5801 Bryant Street
Highland Park, Pittsburgh PA
412-661-3334
http://pointbrugge.com/

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Bistro on Penn

Bistro on Penn

The Bistro on Penn is one of five locations on the Sharp Edge Bistro privately owned family of restaurants.  The four other locations are on South St. Clair Street and West Steuben Street, both in the city, but also locations in Sewickley and McMurray, Pennsylvania.

The Food

To start with, the Bistro on Penn has an excellent draft beer selection with over thirty quality drafts to choose from.  What stands out is that they don’t waste their beer taps on beers like Miller Lite and other barbaric ilk.  Their drafts boast German, Belgian, Micro-Breweries, and Crafts.  Their food menu has plenty of variety but not too much where I felt overwhelmed trying to make a decision on what to order.  Their food proportions are just right.  In addition to giving you the option to create your own burger styles, they give you a couple of suggested combinations.  Definitely give the Quinoa Avocado and California Heat burgers a try as they both provide a savory explosion of flavor.  Also, give their fried pickle chips (served with the Pittsburgh cliché Ranch Dressing ;)) a good gander as an appetizer.  Also, consider their Bacon and Tomato Mussels, Mac and Cheese, as well as any of their deluxe salads.  For dessert, if you have room, try the Belgian Chocolate Pudding.  It is a spot on encore!

The Service

I have been to the Bistro on Penn three times now including once for lunch, once for an early dinner, and once for a later dinner.  Whether at peak times or not, I was seated quickly.  Even if there wasn’t seating available, there was amble space in the bar section to have a beer while I waited.  The staff was friendly and efficient each time I visited and I could not have been more pleased.  I had theater tickets and was on a time line.  The wait staff took great care of us.

The Ambiance

Bistro on Penn has bright paint on the walls coupled with windows that look out onto the street.  In the summer, there is street seating available.  With the hustle and bustle of Penn Avenue and the lively atmosphere inside, Bistro on Penn has a vibrant ambiance that is great any time of year.

Overall

I’m happy to give the Bistro on Penn an overall rating of

“Give it a try!” 

Contact

Bistro on Penn
922 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-338-2437
Visit the Bistro on Penn