Several years ago your favorite phantom raved about a place called Sidney in East Berlin, a tiny Hamlet twixt Gettysburg and York.
Go there, I wrote. Find an excuse to go there. For in an unlikely location one often finds truly fine food. I’ve been back since, and what I wrote then holds today.
But I’m here to tell you about another Sidney, this one hard against Willoughby Run, a stream flowing through fields just west of Gettysburg that was once the scene of Civil War-era fighting. (The first day of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg to be exact.)
This Sidney is owned and operated by the same chef and owner of East Berlin’s Sidney — Neil Annis, who is quite simply a Central PA culinary treasure.
An Adams County native educated at the famed Culinary Institute of America (or, as I like to call it, the tasty CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., Annis has worked in top-tier restaurants in Washington and New York, and it shows. His menus are creative. His flavor matches are flawless.
His new location is in the Gettysburg County Club along Route 30 (Chambersburg Road) and just minutes from the town square. It offers something far different from the largely tourist-oriented dining available in and round the historic borough. This Sidney specializes in an ever-changing menu of small plates and a focus on local products.
There’s a bar, a well-designed waiting area just inside the club’s main door, a small dining room and a lovely expanse of quiet outdoor patio dining with piped-out music, table-top candles and an extended view of peaceful landscape.
But because you read “small plates,” don’t read “small price.” Everything served at Sidney is elegant and exceptional and that doesn’t come with discounts. I’m not saying the pricing is unfair. I’m saying the pricing is pricey. Dining for two, for example, with cocktails, with two small plates, one glass of wine and dessert can run to $120.
But let me tell you, it was an excellent meal — one of the best I’ve had in the region.
For starters, cocktails are generous and perfectly put together. There are specialty drinks and special martinis including a “Hendrick’s Tini” of Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, mint, cucumber and fresh lemon juice. Most cocktails are in the $11 range.
The beer list is striking, which actually struck me as odd given the gourmet nature of the menu (unless, of course, the chef prefers beer). It runs the gamut from Miller Lite and Yuengling Lager on tap to Old Speckled Hen English Ale ($5), Belgian Ommegang Witte wheat ale ($12) and a 25-ounce Chimay Grande Reserve Blue Label dark ale ($22).
Some might consider an evening of a small plate and beer-tasting a nice way to cap the day. But the wine, too, is inviting and includes several French Champagnes The menu offerings are not as broad as the beverage list, but anyone who enjoys smallplate dining will be happy with the variety.
During my visit — and I’ll confess a bias because it was a perfect evening to dine outdoors — we had company on the patio, our servers were wonderful and the food was delicious. There were a dozen small plates and four “things to share.” I refused to “share” one of those four things and am glad I did. They were six perfect Wiley Point oysters with a Banyuls (French aperitif) mignonette sauce, and they were heavenly. Wiley Points are Maine oysters known for their body (large, but light) and flavor. These lived up to that reputation so well that I was tempted to order six more. The drawback was the cost: $21 (which I mention only because not everyone savors oysters enough to lay down a double sawbuck for a half dozen).
I should also mention they came with a crispy wedge of pappadam — a paperthin, nut-flavored wafer. I could easily eat a boxful.
My other selection was an equally delicious entree seldom seen on local menus. It was beef tartare with marinated sweet peppers topped with American paddlefish caviar and surrounded by tiny tile-sized gold and purple beets (some topped with capers). Presentation was magazine picturesque. And the dish ($24) was delightful.
Other offerings included grilled octopus with Spanish chorizo; crispy organic chicken with fingerling potatoes, wild dandelion and squash; braised monkfish filet with kale pesto; and raw cobia (a firm, flavorful fish common in temperate and tropical waters) with sweet corn puree, mushroom salad and wasabi peanuts.
My dining partner had a house-made chilled corn soup ($8) and a small plate of blackened white Florida shrimp served in a bean broth ($13). Both drew positive responses.
Many menu items are under $10, some are $11 and others run into the $20s.
Desserts are limited. We tried homemade caramel ice cream, which sadly tasted nothing like caramel. We also shared a blueberry crème brulee, which was superb.
So my advice is the same as it was seven years ago. It’s a different Sidney but the result is the same. And fans of fine dining should go there.
The phantom diner has been dining anonymously for Central PA magazine since 1987.
SIDNEY AT WILLOUGHBY RUN
730 Chambersburg Road, Gettysburg (the former Gettysburg County Club)
Hours: Opens at 5 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Saturday; major cards except American Express; casual dress.
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