Phantom Diner

Go for the beer. Try the snacks

Written by witf.org, | Jun 26, 2014 2:59 PM
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OK, hear me out.

I know it’s not common for any restaurant critic to review a snack bar. For that matter, it’s not common for any restaurant critic to visit a snack bar.

I understand one should not expect great or even especially good food at a snack bar. And I get that when you dine out, you want real service, not a stand-in-line then carryyour- tray snack bar.

But the snack bar at the Tröegs Brewery in Derry Twp. is different. And I have my reasons for recommending it at this time.

For one thing, it’s summer — a season for family travel. That means friends and relatives descending and looking for things to do. Hershey, with attractions such as Hersheypark, Chocolate World, outlet shopping, Giant Center, etc., is a strong candidate to pop up on any local list of what-to-do options. And probably everybody is going to get hungry and thirsty.

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Tröegs Brewery is just east of the major Hershey attractions along Hersheypark Drive. It is a functioning brewery with a tasting room, tours (guided and not) and a gift shop. The brewery was started by two brothers from Mechanicsburg, John and Chris Trogner, in Harrisburg in the late 1990s. It moved to Derry Twp. in 2011.

Tröegs is maybe most famous for its Mad Elf Ale, a high-alcohol holiday quaff featured at many Central PA Christmas parties. (It has 11 percent alcohol. By contrast, Tröegs pilsner is 4.5 percent.)

Tröegs makes many handcrafted brews. But we’re talking about Tröegs’ snack bar right now and not its delicious beer — not even the beer you can get with a scoop of ice cream floating in it.

So, to the details. The snack bar is on the edge of a large, open area that is adjacent to the brewery’s tasting room — a big industrial space with high ceilings and a variety of seating throughout. There are long tables, booths, regular tables and lots of windows. Plus, there’s a large deck with lots of outdoor seating.

“Snack bar” is sort of a misnomer. There certainly are snacks to be had — chocolate peanut butter cookies, truffled tator tots, gourmet popcorn with sea salt, hand-cut fries — but there also is substantial food. And, unlike most snack bars, the food is locally sourced, made on premises and ever-changing. How many snack bars have you visited that offer daily specials?

I’m talking a snack-bar special such as a cornmeal fried fresh oyster po’ boy with crispy pork belly and cucumber remoulade on a split-top roll with homemade chips, $12, absolutely delicious and plenty filling, especially when paired with a lovely pint of Tröegs JavaHead Stout.

My dining partner had a braised beef brisket au Poivre with steak sauce on a brioche, coleslaw and those hand-cut fries. (Find out if what you order comes with fries and, if not, get some). The brisket, $11, also was deemed delish. It was paired with another well-known Tröegs brew, DreamWeaver Wheat.

Other stuff to share during my visit: Mad Elf fondue with baguette and fruit; charcuterie; and a cheese plate with honey, fruit and toast (all priced at $11).

Other sandwiches included: a “Tröegswurst” with cabbage and potato salad; a three-cheese grilled cheese on house sourdough with a tomato dip; smoked salmon on house pupuso (a thick, homemade corn tortilla) with avocado; and meatloaf on brioche with house bacon, mashed potatoes and arugula. Sandwiches run from $9 to $13.

And there are “large plates,” as in large enough to share. Again, not the sort of things you’d find at most snack bars. There was wild grain polenta with local mushrooms, olive puree and lemon yogurt; confit duck leg with chestnut French toast, acorn squash and a poached egg; wood-smoked pork loin with hand-rolled flatbread and compressed pineapple. Large plates run from $7 for a classic Caesar salad to $14.

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There is a kids menu. Items are $4 to $6 and include chicken fingers, French bread pizza, hot dog, quesadilla, fries and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

And there are seasonal desserts.

My point is Tröegs is a unique dining venue for an outing, and it actually serves surprisingly good food. Here, I should mention that Tröegs can get very crowded and because of its layout and structure (and, I suspect, enthusiastic beer tasting by lots of people) very loud. If you are planning a visit, plan to visit during off-meal hours.

There are non-guided brewery tours for everybody and tasting tours for those of age. Just don’t forget to hit the “snack bar” afterward.

TRÖEGS Brewery SNACK BAR, 200 E. Hersheypark Drive, Derry Twp.; 717.534.1297; www.troegs.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

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

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