Dining out is hotter than ever in central Pennsylvania, likely fueled by pent up demand from the pandemic.
Since COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, many restaurants report a booming business this summer.
In fact, several restaurants have opened or are preparing to open in the Harrisburg area, giving diners an opportunity to grab a seat or takeout from a new spot.
While our list is comprehensive, we recognize several spots are missing and that’s because those owners aren’t ready to go public with their plans.
Here’s a list of new and up and coming restaurants to check out:
A local couple brought their combined love of tea and Vietnamese sandwiches to BonBon Tea in Swatara Township.
In mid-June, Kha Thai and Dung Tu opened the mostly carryout shop at 3110 Parkview Lane with an extensive drink menu that encompasses bubble tea, smoothies and coffee. The restaurant also serves a selection of fried rice and beef pho dishes.
Customers stop for large cups of colorful bubble teas in flavors like taro, honeydew, avocado and passion fruit sealed and packaged in clear to-go bags.
BonBon has been nearly a year in the making. Last summer, the couple approached the building’s owner about buying the 2-story brick house from him. They liked the visible location near the well-traveled Paxton Street.
A Burger King is under construction at a highly-traveled corner in Swatara Township.
SWC Derry and Milroy, LLC purchased 2.30 acres at 7700 Derry St. to build one of the fast food restaurants, according to The Bill Gladstone Group of NAI CIR in Lemoyne, which handled the transaction.
The land, which sits across Milroy Road and is adjacent to Rutter’s convenience store, is part of a commercial site under development by Triple Crown Corporation. According to NAI CIR, four lots have been sold.
- READ MORE: Philadelphia-area chef opens Zachary’s BBQ & Soul in Harrisburg
If you’re a dessert fan, keep your eyes out for Dough & Arrows.
Owners Brandon and Crystal Blevins, who bought Dough & Arrows in Hanover from the original owners in 2019, are bringing a shop to 105 N. Hanover St. in Carlisle. Dough & Arrows specialize in edible cookie dough, ice cream, ice cream pies, cheesecakes and baked goods.
In the meantime, the couple also operates a mobile setup and books birthday parties, fundraisers and other events.
Juan Garcia is taking on a new project on the West Shore.
The owner of El Sol Mexican Restaurant in Harrisburg, is opening a restaurant in a few weeks at the former Federal Taphouse at 3721 Market St. in Hampden Township. He’s in the process of hiring employees.
“I see the opportunity over there. The parking means a lot to me,” said Garcia, who also owns El Sol Express in Swatara Township and Fresa Bistro and Taco Solo in Harrisburg.
He said the former Taphouse is a good fit with a parking lot, 140-seat dining room and liquor license. In the meantime, he said he plans to continue operating El Sol in Harrisburg.
Lovedraft’s Brewing Co. is closer to making its debut at the former Quaker Steak & Lube at 165 Gateway Drive in Hampden Township. The sign is erected, brewing equipment is installed and deliveries of pinball, arcade, darts and skill games have arrived.
Owner Justin Browning said the building is large enough for the brewery’s current needs with a full kitchen, private parking, room for seated dining, bar and venue space as well as a separate area for brewing and distilling.
“A space very similar in style to our sister location on Restaurant Row in Harrisburg. The same rules will apply. Music will be heavy. Meals will be hearty,” said Browning, who owns JB Lovedraft’s Micro Pub in Harrisburg.
Looks like burgers and barbecue will star on the menu. Beer styles will run the gamut, and Browning said not to expect “an IPA assembly line.”
“We want to experiment and make fun/weird concoctions that are also delicious. Some session-able, some high ABV (alcohol by volume), and everything in-between,” he said.
Brothers Armani and Sean Elmalak opened the Hampden Diner on June 23 at the former Applebee’s restaurant at 6055 Carlisle Pike in Hampden Township.
“It’s a high-traffic area, a good location,” Armani said.
They have operated the Starlight Diner in Hanover for 11 years. The duo purchased the Applebee’s, which closed in early 2020, and created a modern atmosphere with a simple, open layout. Building material shortages and challenges filling positions delayed their plans to open.
The restaurant seats about 180 diners and serves an extensive menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner foods. Breakfast is served all day and includes omelets, pancakes, Belgian waffles, eggs Benedict and steak and eggs.
Lunch and dinner menus cover salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps with entrees including crab cakes, fried seafood, breaded chicken parmesan, roast turkey and stir fries. Daily specials will round out the offerings.
A new shop will soon serve superfruit bowls and smoothies in Carlisle.
A franchise of the New Jersey-based Playa Bowls chain will open this summer at the old Wardecker’s building at 32 N. Hanover St.
Owner Brooke Butler said she was inspired to bring the concept to the college town after discovering Playa Bowls in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, where her family owns a home.
“I think we ate there every single day for three years,” she said. “It’s something fresh, it’s something other than your deep-fried foods, your wraps.”
Sage Café is making its way to Piatto at 22 W. Pomfret St. in Carlisle.
The contemporary restaurant will serve “revitalized classics and inventive original dishes” from chef Travis Mumma, who previously worked at Cafe Fresco Center City in Harrisburg.
“We think it’s a cool area. People are friendly, there are college students, a historic district. We really liked the atmosphere and we feel there is a lot of potential there,” Taryn Farhat, co-owner with her husband, Ameer Farhat, told PennLive in 2019.
The couple, who purchased the two-story building, used to operate Pizza Delights in Harrisburg and Elizabethville. Ameer had been involved with the pizza restaurants since 1998 but retired to focus on their other business, A to Z Construction in Halifax.
They said the goal is “to provide our community with cuisine and service rarely seen and often missed in restaurants today.”
In fact, they recently teased on Facebook Sage Cafe’s menu items, including quiches, crispy fried chicken “hot legs,” coconut shrimp po’ boys, sage cream dried beef, grilled Caesar salads and pizzas.
A sushi restaurant is en route to the old Outback Steakhouse at the Gateway Shopping Center in Hampden Township. At this point, we only know the obvious – sushi will be the focus and we’re betting it will be heavenly. Hopefully, more information including an opening date will surface soon.
Urban Churn opened its second location in June at the Silver Creek Plaza on the Carlisle Pike in Hampden Township.
Owner Adam Brackbill said the shop scoops at least 22-plus flavors with specialties such as banana bourbon splits, lemon bar sundaes and espresso affogatos. Cookies, brownies, lemon bars and other treats are baked in an onsite commercial oven.
Seven years ago, Brackbill launched Urban Churn in a small room at Midtown Cinema, making ice cream in six-gallon batches. The ice cream is made with all-natural ingredients and no artificial flavorings or colorings. Some ingredients are sourced locally for the ice cream, which contains 14 percent butterfat.
Vitality Bowls will open at 825 Hogestown Road in Silver Spring Township in mid-July. The cafe is owned by Meetul Patel, who operates one of the franchises in King of Prussia.
The Vitality Bowls chain, based in northern California, specializes in smoothies and açaí bowls, a thick blend of antioxidant-rich açaí berry, topped with a variety of superfoods. About 140 Vitality Bowls locations operate or are in development across the United States.
Roy and Tara Gilad founded the first one in 2011 after discovering their daughter suffered from food allergies. They wanted to create a place to accommodate those wanting safe, healthy food options.
Diners can pick from a variety of power bowls such as a Dragon Bowl with pitaya, mango juice, coconut milk, bananas, pineapple and raspberries or a signature Vitality Bowl with organic açaí, bananas, strawberries and organic flax seed.
The menu also steers to savory items including salads, grain bowls, wraps and toasts topped with a variety of toppings. A Vitality Wrap is made with hummus, avocado, super greens, grains, roasted potato, radish, pickled red onion, lemon tahini vinaigrette, vegan garlic aioli and superseed crunch, wrapped in a tomato basil tortilla.
A vegan and kosher restaurant with roots in Harrisburg is branching out.
This summer, The Vegetable Hunter is expanding to Carlisle with a restaurant and taproom at 46 W. High St., positioning owners Kristin Messner-Baker and husband, John Baker, to sell a line of kombucha at area Giant grocery stores.
The couple, Boiling Springs High School graduates who live in Carlisle, said the area’s growing population and diverse restaurant scene appeals to them. They also like that Carlisle is a college town thanks to Dickinson College and has a growing number of craft breweries and distilleries.
They said for several years, they have been looking at locations in the borough for a second restaurant.
“A lot of people said over the years said they wanted us to open a location here,” Messner-Baker said. “Carlisle is really growing.”
The fast food chain is joining a mixed-use development project in Dauphin County.
The Vartan Group’s 58-acre village-style development project at the corner of Progress Avenue and Linglestown Road includes room for 24 commercial/retail buildings. It will eventually be home to a mix of restaurants and shops, offices, homes, public parks and green space.
Wendy’s joins other tenants including a stand-alone Panera Bread along Linglestown Road and ZeroDay Brewing’s 5,000 square-foot brewery with food service by Shakedown BBQ. Other tenants include Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty, which is under construction.