On the Heritage Hills Golf Resort website there’s a description of its restaurant, Ironwoods, as “the best kept culinary secret in York.” You know what? It might be.
Tucked off Mount Rose Avenue just east of Interstate-83’s Exit 18 and overlooking the 18th green at Heritage Hills, this little gem of an eatery offers some different and delicious fare.
Inside, Ironwoods (get it?) has a sort of throwback country club look but it’s not part of any country club. Heritage Hills is a public course.
As diners walk in, they face a large bar and split-level seating that includes an “upstairs” with booths beside a big stone fireplace and a “downstairs” with tables, booths and a great view of the golf course. A piano player offers live jazz on weekends, too.
But Ironwoods is one of those places that unless you know it’s there, you’d never know it’s there. My point is that Ironwoods is worth knowing.
The emphasis seems to be on small plates. There are many and they are terrific. But there is also enough regular entrées to please anyone with aversions to small plates or simply a larger appetite.
You also should know that a house specialty is a cream of crab soup ($6) oddly served in something resembling a sauce server or gravy boat. The soup was extremely creamy and packed with lump crabmeat. It got rave reviews at my table — even from those generally not drawn to creamy soups. The bread, too, was excellent.
In addition, there is a soup of the day ($3.50) and as well as white and black bean with shrimp ($6), a second house special.
The salads include a $5 house salad; a grilled Caesar served with a “garlic bread ring” for $6; a golden and red beet salad with avocado and goat cheese, also $6; a duck confit salad with shaved fennel for $7; and a wonderful baby spinach salad with pear, toasted hazelnuts, dried cranberries and goat cheese that was a table favorite for $6.
This salad had a creamy texture to it but the snap-hard hazelnuts and cranberries added some crunch. It was a great mix and made for a very good starter to share.
Small plates range in price from $4 for asparagus and Parmesan gratin or $6 for fried brie cheese on a baguette to $14 for crab-topped scallops or $15 for roasted duck breast with seared foie gras.
There were 18 small-plate choices during my visit and many were very creative. They included: blue crab macaroni and cheese; baked oysters jambalaya; “salmon 2-ways” (topped with a quail egg and asparagus puree, served with a frisee and bacon salad); braised beef short rib with goat cheese polenta; and tuna tartar with pine nuts, avocado and orange slices.
There is also a pan-seared petite filet BLT; a Mediterranean trio of olive salad with feta cheese, hummus and tapenade served with pita bread and a baguette; garlic escargot; and fried calamari.
I had both the tuna tartar ($13) which was diced and divine and a filet and scallop small plate ($14) served with wild mushrooms and asparagus. The latter was so well-prepared and tasty I was tempted to order a second.
Now you might be thinking: “Two small plates for $27? I can get a full entrée most places for less than that.” True. But the keys to this type of dining are that you get quality, crafted food in smaller but adequate amounts; you can sample different things, especially if you share; and you can ultimately pay less and eat less, too.
A small plates dinner for two with cocktails and a shared salad cost $80. (Sadly, “call” cocktails are $9 instead of the “bar” price of $7. Plus, mine wasn't well made and a tad watery.) But that final bill included coffee and espresso and one order of house-made strawberry ice cream (which was just OK, a little grainy).
And, again, for those with larger appetites there are full entrées. For example: ricotta gnocchi with pumpkin seeds and butternut squash; salmon with whipped potatoes, parsnips and carrot ginger cream; a New York strip steak with root veggies and fingerling potatoes; a filet with rainbow carrots, potatoes and broccolini; and a lump crab cake served with roasted potatoes, pancetta, leeks and red pepper coulis. Entrées range from $18 to $30.
Ironwoods also has happy hours, special events and an impressive wine list.
Our service was exceptional, very informed about all the restaurant’s offerings and attentive without being intrusive.
If you’re in or near the neighborhood or looking for something a little bit different and a lot delicious, you could do much worse than booking an eating time (Get it? Instead of a tee time?) at York’s “best-kept culinary secret.”
2700 Mount Rose Ave., York; 717.755.0123
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday; on-site parking.
The Phantom Diner has been a longtime restaurant reviewer for Central PA Magazine.