Phantom Diner

Good Things Brewing – Phantom Diner, Central PA Magazine, September 2009

Written by The Phantom Diner | Aug 14, 2009 3:53 PM

I know it sounds contradictory — Lancaster Brewing Company Harrisburg — but don’t let that stop you from stopping by, especially if you like fresh beer, a tavern atmosphere and good American saloon-type food.

If this place were in downtown Harrisburg no one would go there; it’d be too crowded. As is, it’s out by the Harrisburg Mall off the Eisenhower Interchange en route to the Turnpike by a Howard Johnson’s, and it still draws a crowd.

The beer’s delicious, food portions are enormous, service is fine, and pricing is more than fair. It’s not for everyone (tough to maintain a diet here), but it’s economical and easy, and there’s no need to dress up.

I liked its parent, too. Back in 1996, I favorably reviewed the Lancaster Malt Brewing Company in an old factory on the east side of Lancaster. It’s still there. That’s where all the beer gets made.

This newer place, though not as evocative of a bygone era as the original, is styled the same, with lots of brick, wood and tile, some booths, candles on tables and a nice bar in a separate area.

Several homemade beers are offered, as is a sampler (eight five-ounce glasses) that someone at each table should order, even if just to share. I opted for one of the “flagship” beers, Amish Four Grain, which was smooth and silky and, at only $4 a pint, worthy of a second round.

Other staples include a dark milk stout and a strawberry wheat but, worry not, there’s fest beer, bock, ale, Pilsner — trust me, any kind of beer you like.

The menu’s a mix of small plates, big salads, sandwiches, entrees and thin-crust pizza. Prices go from just $5 for the soup of the day to $27 for a filet mignon, but the vast majority of offerings cost well below what one would pay in most restaurants with this level of quality.

The question is, will you be bad to eat good? You could get the hummus ($5.50) and not feel guilty. But, come on, there’s things that go better with beer: Reuben egg rolls ($8.50), bourbon barbecue smoked brewery wings ($8), a salumi platter of soprasata, prosciutto, salami, provolone and pickled veggies ($11), a Scotch egg, a sausage-wrapped hard-boiled egg with whole-grain mustard sauce and romaine salad ($7) or crab rolls, calamari, seared shrimp and scallops, and more.

I got an order of Amish Ale–battered onion rings with horseradish sauce ($6.50). Each ring was big enough to encircle a softball. Each was light, tender and tasty and, at six giant rings to the order, meant to be shared.

Salads are dinner-sized and range from $5 for a garden salad to $16 for a tuna niçoise. There’s also a Pittsburgh steak salad ($15) with candied pecans, sweet potato fries, cheddar cheese and ranch dressing; a smoked chicken Cobb ($11.50), and Caesar and Greek salads with add-ons of steak, chicken or tuna.

A dining partner and I shared a garden salad that was crispy, good, large enough for three and served with nice fresh pumpernickel bread.

Sandwiches also are huge and come with house-made potato chips and pickles. There’s smoked pulled pork with barbecue sauce and homemade slaw ($8.50); a lamb burger with feta cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion ($9); a “USDA Prime” burger with bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato jam ($9.50); and an herb-rubbed chicken sandwich ($8.50) with bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and cheese.

I had the LBC steak sandwich ($11), flatiron steak with Vidalia onion relish, mushrooms and Gruyère cheese. Excellent but large. I took half home. (My one complaint, other than location? The house-made chips were way too salty.)

Most of the dozen-plus entrees are priced in the mid-teens, some in the low $20s, and five different thin-crust pizzas are priced from $9.50 for a classic cheese pizza to $13 for prosciutto and pineapple.

The entrees run a routine gamut: steak, crab cakes, roasted chicken, pasta with seafood, and penne with chicken. But some dishes are hard to resist because they’re offered with just a slight twist.

Take the blue corn–coated organic salmon with sweet-corn risotto and roasted asparagus. Or lacquered pork belly and crisp pork loin; Amish Ale–braised bratwurst with horseradish whipped potatoes; maple smoked baby back ribs; or fish and chips, beer-battered cod and house-cut fries. It’s real variety and real tempting.

One dining partner ordered crab cakes that came with horseradish whipped potatoes, snow peas and slaw ($20) and called it better-than-expected for tavern food. Another dining partner had LBC meatloaf with whipped potatoes, glazed carrots and milk stout mushroom gravy ($14.50) and loved it.

This is the kind of place that one can return to over and over and not tire of the fare. The menu offers options both in price and in the type of food. One could easily slip in for a pizza and a beer or a sandwich and a beer, or stay awhile and have appetizers, salad and an entree and a couple of beers.

I like it a lot, and despite where it is, plan to go back again.

Lancaster Brewing Company, Harrisburg

469 Eisenhower Blvd., Harrisburg; open for lunch & dinner seven days a week; open until midnight; Mon-Sat & until 9pm Sun; on-site parking; takes major cards; 717-564-4448

Published in Phantom Diner

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