Phantom Diner

Taphouse heats up Harrisburg dining

Written by The Phantom Diner | May 6, 2013 4:36 PM

If downtown Harrisburg’s restaurant row, which was hot, then not, is hot again this summer, I’m betting it’ll be in no small part due to a beer and food place called Federal Taphouse on Second Street. Located in what was Dragonfly nightclub, the Taphouse specializes in beer, as in 100 craft beers, listed on a chalkboard and on both sides of a legal-sized beer menu.

But whether you’re into sampling wide varieties of brews or not, you’ll be impressed by the food menu and the quality of its offerings. There are specialty pizzas prepared in a wood-fired brick oven and entrées cooked in a (rarely found) coal-fired oven.

If early returns are any indication of long-term success, the Taphouse’s fast start and immediate popularity suggest a run of some duration.

It’s a totally redone, large, open place with a milelong bar sitting under four large TVs. The bar is often several folks deep but also near some high-top tables. The dining area spreads out away from the bar and is smartly broken into sections so that the noise level is livable. There’s big art on the walls, an open kitchen and a very friendly and attentive staff.

Full bar service is also available but, come on, they have 100 beers.

And while we’re at it, allow me to recommend the Bourbon Barrel Barney Flats. A stout aged in Wild Turkey barrels, it has hints of coffee, cream, vanilla and, of course, bourbon and is served in a bulb glass. It is a treat; unusual and unusually good.

A dining partner had Old Scratch Lager, a lighter, sweeter beer from Frederick, Md., and was pleased.

(A word of caution: the hand-out beer menu did not include prices. While the Old Scratch draft was a reasonable $5, the bourbon beer draft was $10. Not saying it wasn’t worth it. It was. I’m just offering a heads-up.)

There are roughly a dozen appetizers priced from $6 for the soup of the day to $13 for a slider sampler or $14 for a charcuterie plate, the latter two of which, trust me, is enough food to serve as a meal.

The sliders include an open-face meatball on crusty bread, lump crab cake and an aged burger with cheddar. The excellent charcuterie had very good prosciutto and beef, slabs of wonderful cheeses, razorthin crisp apple slices, olives and grapes and nicely toasted sliced baguette. It’s a great dish to share or have as dinner.

Other appetizers include housecut fries cooked in duck fat ($8), mussels with Tröegs Dreamweaver ($10), beer-battered onion rings with Russian dressing ($7), hummus with roasted eggplant and house-made breads ($8), smoked pork belly with figs and arugula ($10) and coal-fired wings ($12).

There are five salads, priced $8 or $9 — Caesar, mixed green, arugula, Bibb lettuce and chopped — all of which can be upgraded with a crab cake, steak, duck confit or grilled chicken.

Pizzas also are large, six slices, enough to share but I took half of mine home. Most are $12 or $13, though the duck confit with fig and arugula pie is $15.

There’s a prosciutto pie with roasted mushrooms, a Greek, a sausage, a margherita and a polpette (meatball and cheese).

I had a pesto pie with goat cheese, tomato and fire-roasted peppers. It was thin, crisp and tasty. And it went great with a second Bourbon Barrel Barney Flats.

There are sandwiches, too: pork with broccoli rabe, crab meat, roasted turkey, kielbasa or bratwurst, smoked chicken salad, burger with bacon, onion and pepper jack cheese — in other words, lots to choose from.

The entrées ranged from $18 for a sausage platter with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes to $28 for a New York strip steak with onion rings and veggies.

There was also roasted half-chicken, braised short ribs and wood-fired salmon served on a cedar plank with green beans and potato pancakes.

The Taphouse offers brunch on Sundays. The menu includes their regular pizzas and salads but also a nutella pizza with banana and berries, a smoked-fish pizza with cream cheese, onion, capers and cucumber and a breakfast pizza with sausage, cheese and eggs.

There are country-fried pork chops with gravy and home fries, a 7-ounce steak with poached eggs and home fries and breakfast burritos, baked oatmeal, french toast and wood-fired frittatas.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that a breakfast side of housemade scrapple is available for just $3.

Federal Taphouse is a great example of casual dining in a casual setting offering unique beers and terrific food and attracting a multi-aged crowd. I expect it’ll enjoy success. And I suggest you plan a visit.

The Phantom Diner has been a longtime restaurant reviewer for Central PA Magazine.

234 N. Second St., Harrisburg; 717.525.8077,
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; street parking or nearby garage parking.

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