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The Must-Try Family Friendly (Still Fancy) Restaurants in Central Pennsylvania

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In the Pennsylvania state capital of Harrisburg, the culinary scene encompasses an eclectic mix of fares, thanks to a population of chefs with very different approaches in the kitchen. Want to savor the flavors of the Mediterranean? You can do that within the city’s limits. Interested in washing down a gourmet burger with a pint of locally brewed craft beer? That’s an option, too. Craving a bubbly, golden-brown pizza and a glass of wine? The eateries of Harrisburg have you covered. Read on to learn all about the five eateries in the Harrisburg area that you have to visit, as ranked by your fellow eaters.

1. Lancaster Brewing Company

Just imagine a juicy patty of prime lamb meat, embellished with creamy feta cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion. This is the highly lauded lamb burger, a customer favorite at the Lancaster Brewing Company. As you can probably surmise from its name, this Harrisburg gastropub has roots in nearby Lancaster, where the original brewery still resides. But you don't have to leave the city to sink your teeth into the lamb burger or savor a pint of the local craft beer.

Lancaster Brewing Company boasts a large lineup of artisan brews, but the Strawberry Wheat reigns as the most popular option for fans of lighter ales. If you’re hankering for a heavier pour to warm you up this wintry season, sip on the coffee-infused Milk Stout instead. Regardless of which beer you ultimately choose, rest assured a true beer lover crafted it with great care and passion.

2. The Millworks

The Millworks also boasts innovative beers and American eats, but the beers don’t travel from a different county to your pint glass — the master brewers craft them in-house. The suds aren’t the only way the Millworks celebrates Harrisburg’s distinct culture, either. Its owners invite local artists to display their masterpieces on the wall. So if you see something you like, inquire about taking it home — you’ll help out a local talent in the process.

When it comes to drinks, the Millworks departs from Lancaster Brewing Company with signature brews like the Apple Saison, the nitrogen-infused Mocha Stout and the Barrel-Aged Barleywine. The food menu, meanwhile, features revamped versions of farm-to-table comfort food, from gooey mac and cheese to chicken pot pie ravioli.

3. Bricco

So far, this list has mainly pointed to Harrisburg haunts for New American food and sudsy drinks. So where do locals go for some international fare? Local foodies laud many international eateries, but they’re particularly fond of Bricco on Third Street. The chef explores Mediterranean and Italian cuisine using ingredients from Harrisburg-area farms, and bartenders pour fine glasses of wine and mix creative cocktails to match.

Two dishes outshine all the others at Bricco: the braised beef short ribs and the sage pappardelle. If you opt for the former, expect a plate that showcases tender Calabrian-braised beef short ribs with a rapini and demi-glace and accompanied by spicy horseradish crosta di burro and celery root-potato puree. If you prefer the pasta, savor every bite of pappardelle studded with duck ragout, fresh pecorino Romano and pieces of pancetta.

4. Cork and Fork

Cork and Fork also pays homage to the fresh, healthy food of the Mediterranean region, but its chef homes in on Italian small plates and thin-crust pizzas. Don’t expect the standard pepperoni-and-cheese creations at Cork and Fork. This chef keeps the pizza list fresh with options like the pistachio pie, which sports a layer of pistachio pesto topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheese, arugula and crushed pistachios. Of course, for pizza traditionalists, the chef also offers more familiar options, like the simple Margherita with crushed tomatoes, cheese and fresh basil.

If you want to enjoy a few different dishes, opt for a meal built out of several small plates. Regulars highly recommend the oven-roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with crispy pancetta, shallots and sherry vinegar. Pair the Brussels sprouts with the equally popular buffalo chicken meatballs, and round out the meal with a glass of wine from Italy or the Napa Valley. Make sure to save some room for dessert, too, because Cork and Fork’s pastry chef doesn’t disappoint. Try the warm affogato — a shot of La Colombe espresso over vanilla bean ice cream — or devour an oven-baked Nutella pizza loaded with the creamy hazelnut spread, marshmallows and a light dusting of powdered sugar.

5. Home 231

The red-brick building on North Street that houses Home 231 really looks like it could be a private residence, hence the eatery’s fitting name. But as soon as you step inside its chic, comfortable dining room, you’ll realize a professional definitely designed this space. Professionals are at work in the kitchen, too, as evidenced by the farm-fresh vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare on the varied menu.

Home 231’s team is so devoted to partnering with local farms that, if you have a question about how your meal was grown or raised, your server will happily provide its back story. The dinner menu offers meat-free options, like the freshly made falafel with fire-roasted tzatziki sauce, Mediterranean couscous and seared zucchini, but carnivores have options, too. The Wagyucoulotte steak showcases one of the highest-quality cuts of meat available, complemented by a house-made steak sauce, truffle potato skins and whipped potatoes.

With so many dining options at your fingertips in the Harrisburg area, it’s easy to do date night at a new local spot every week. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Whether you find your new favorite hotspot at Bricco or Cork and Fork, or your renewed sense of culinary adventure leads you to eateries beyond this list, it’s time to take full advantage of living in central Pennsylvania. The region is more than just whipping winds, rolling fields and rural towns. It’s also home to the state’s capital, where many inspired chefs come to dish out their inventive creations. So get a little bit outside your comfort zone and start taste-testing your way through the city today.

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