One dilemma that happens with 80 degree days in April is: “Should I turn on the air conditioning, or not?” For those of us without central AC, turning on the air conditioning means cleaning windows and sills, cleaning and lugging a window unit out of the basement or attic, mounting it, and hoping the fact that you have never recharged it doesn’t come back to haunt you this summer. For all of those reasons plus the savings on the electric bill, most of us try to hold out as long as possible before turning on the AC. With that in mind, we offer this article by our friend Ken Hull, author of Going Local! An Adventurer’s Guide to Unique Eats, Cool Pubs & Cozy Cafes of Central Pennsylvania. After all, the last thing you want to do on a hot day without air conditioning is cook! This article first appeared in the 2009 edition of the Raystown Lake Region/Huntingdon County Visitors Guide. Ken has since published Going Local 2: A Second Helping.
For some great options for eating out on a hot April day, visit Raystown.org/Places-To-Eat. Enjoy!
by Ken Hull
I love Huntingdon County. Though a Centre County native through and through, I have close ties to this region to my south and visit often. My buddy’s folks have a cottage along the beautiful Juniata River and I’ve spent many a lazy day drifting quietly in a peaceful cove at Raystown Lake. Not only that, but I live in a structure that grew out of the rich mountain soil of Huntingdon County nearly a hundred years ago. What I mean is; I built a log cabin out of trees that came from a wood lot south of Cornpropst Mills. It’s a beautiful place to live and every time I travel down Rt. 26 I recall the adventure of finding these logs and the great experience of moving them to Boalsburg.
Speaking of adventures and experiences, I’ve recently published a book about them in regards to unique eats, cool pubs and cozy cafés of central PA. The book is called Going Local and it chronicles my journeys as I crisscross the state aboard my 1994 Harley Sportster in search of locally owned places to eat and drink.
One of the best reasons to take a ride, whether by bike or car, is a food destination. My friends and I always look for scenic roads that include, or eventually lead to, a great restaurant, pub or café. And since I’m somewhat of a “gastronomical guru,” I’m always the one in charge of the route we take because my foodie and beer geek friends know we’ll end up with a very cool trip and very happy bellies. The funny thing is that as soon as we crest the Tussey Mountain range outside of Pine Grove Mills and enter our neighbor Huntingdon Co., I know they’re all wondering which roads I’ll choose and where we’ll end up. Because in this place, the roads are amazing and the eats are awesome! But since this is about dining and not a guide to sweet curvy byways, I’ll stick to what makes you go “mmm!”
As I mentioned, I only go to the local places (of which there are many here) and I go for everything from breakfast to dinner, coffee to a beer, and pie to ice cream. Actually, most folks would prefer pie AND ice cream but I like mine separate as to appreciate the differences of each dish. But every once
in a while I “let my hair down” and go for the stack. But only if the pie is warm, otherwise the ice cream doesn’t melt into the pie and create a whole new blend of flavors. However, I digress. Seriously though, Huntingdon Co. has it all, so let me just get to some of the things you’ll find here to fill your stomach, warm your heart and support independently owned businesses.
Breakfast places are a good place to start and why not? Where else can you show up with bed head and be addressed as sweetie no matter your age or gender. Simple dishes like bacon and eggs can be found as well as more gourmet offerings like sweet potato pancakes. Coffee in the morning is most folk’s salvation and you’ll find that at all the breakfast spots. But for me a good latte or cappuccino in the afternoon is always an option and there are even cafés here that offer those.
Lunch is one of those meals that gets the shaft a little I think. You’re either too busy or needing to get somewhere to stop. Well, most of the rest of the world considers lunch the main meal, so if you want to join with them Huntingdon Co. has plenty of places to stop, take some time and enjoy. With great soups, sandwiches and even pizza, your midday meal will not only be yummy but keep you going on your adventures.
Now about dinner; my friends, it’s a tough call here. As I so boldly stated, I’m somewhat of a food snob and most definitely a beer snob. Not that I look down on things like onion rings (which, by the way, there’s a place in Huntingdon that has the world’s best – no lie) because in my book (literally) I consider a good burger as sacred as a good steak. There’s casual as well as fine dining, and let me tell you, you’ll be blown away by both. And, whether a hand-crafted beer or fine wine is your choice with dinner, or a perfectly made martini beforehand, you will find all and in atmospheres that are welcoming and easy-going. No taste bud or stomach is discriminated against here… only embraced.
Yeah, Huntingdon Co. is not just a bunch of scenic roads and beautiful waterways; it’s a place where you can have many great experiences and adventures by just pulling over, pulling up a chair, and saying “what’s the special today?”