The Green Room in Carlisle is a great answer to today’s dining-out demands at a time when so many are placing higher emphasis on lower prices and healthier foods.
Located off the Cumberland County borough’s square in a floor-to-ceiling, glass-front building on West High Street that for years has been the site of something related to food, this charming little BYOB bistro offers a limited but creative menu stressing organic and local products.
It’s a smallish, casual-chic place with wood floors, banquettes and nicely separated tables throughout. It’s well-lighted with track and pendant lights. But muted colors dominate: chocolate-brown walls with plenty of art are offset by sage-colored beaded-board paneling above the banquettes and extending around the room.
The kitchen is in the back and semi-open to view. It has, I am assured, no microwaves or heat lamps, as everything is made to order and served when ready.
The only drawback I experienced was a fairly high noise level; but then I was there on a Saturday night while the place was hopping.
The bistro’s name could well be a play on words. Could be the Green Room is green because of stressing freshness and eco-friendly touches (short but very cool and often-refilled water glasses, for example, are made from recycled wine bottles), or could be the name plays off the fact it’s located next to the historic downtown Carlisle Theatre. A “green room” is where performers, speakers and so on wait and relax before they go onstage.
But back to business: Service staff is young, no doubt largely students from Dickinson College, but informed and attentive, familiar with all aspects of the menu and a pleasure to deal with.
Speaking of which, this menu is an inspired list of options that range from burgers to meal-size salads, from small plates to full-serving entrees, from natural sodas to organic teas, from French-press coffee to orange-ginger-carrot juice to wonderful homemade desserts.
A couple can eat very well, taste a variety of dishes and get out of the place for under $50 before tip. Given the quality of food and service, this is a real bargain. And, trust me, you won’t mind tipping.
For starters, my dining partner and I split a corn tofu salad ($8) that was easily large enough to be shared by four folks planning on ordering other dishes or by one very hungry salad-lover.
It came with cherry tomatoes, lots of fresh greens, lots of dill and red peppers and with a lime-chili pepper dressing that rendered it deliciously bitey.
Other large salads include a fried calamari salad ($9) with scallions, carrots, cabbage, tangy mizuna (leaves from a Japanese mustard plant), mixed greens and spinach. Or a salad with smoked turkey and quinoa (a grain-like, high-protein seed and ancient South American staple) with local greens and peppers ($10) or a seared diver scallop salad with red onion, wasabi and red-leaf lettuce ($14).
The Green Room burger is made with local, grass-fed beef and topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled onions and local Keswick Creamery cheese and is just $8 (I’m going back for one). And there’s a veggie burger ($8) or a portabella burger with goat cheese and roasted vegetables for just $7. They come with house-made chips or fries.
Small plates range from the homemade soup of the day for $5 to Asian barbecue chicken wings with citrus slaw for $10.
There’s also edamame with chickpeas and toasted sesame oil ($7); an artisan cheese plate using varieties only from Central PA ($7); or baked curried mussels ($9).
My dining companion decided after that big salad to go with two small plates rather than a full-order entree. So it was spicy shrimp spring rolls ($8) that were feather-light and delicious, followed by an order of crepes filled with veggies and served with a spicy tomato sauce. These, too, were light and wonderful.
Larger appetites will find full-serving entrees, but the thing I love about the Green Room’s menu (and think others should emulate) is that it offers half orders (called half plates as opposed to full plates) for those who maybe want to taste multiple dishes or simply like to eat a little lighter at night.
A roast chicken half-plate entree is only $8; the full plate is $16. Rosemary lemon salmon skewers are $7 for a half plate, $18 for a full. And house-made pasta goes for $8 and $16.
I had a half-plate order of the local grass-fed beef tenderloin for $14. It was perfectly prepared with mushrooms and a light sauce, amazingly tender and served with tasty baked (not fried) sweet potato “fries.”
Dessert was a homemade apple cobbler served in a crock topped with what Chef described as a Lancaster County–milled whole-wheat crust and served with mini-scoops of vanilla ice cream.
French-press coffee is excellent. There are also cappuccino and espresso.
Chef Jason Turner sometimes visits tables and sometimes even delivers food. If you see him, tell him to keep up the good work. The Green Room’s motto is “food shouldn’t be bad for you, and healthy food shouldn’t taste bad.” I can attest that healthy food that doesn’t taste bad can be had at this bistro.
THE GREEN ROOM
36 W. High St., Carlisle; BYOB; takes major cards; parking in street or in nearby (validated) garage; open for lunch and dinner Tue through Sat; reservations recommended (can be made online); 717-422-5574; thegreenroom.us
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