220 East College Avenue
State College, PA 16801
Open Mon-Thurs 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm, Sun 5pm-8:30pm
Meal: Dinner / Weekend / 5pm
Website: The Tavern
If you’re on East College Ave in State College, chances are that you or someone you know is, has, or will be going to Penn State. Not lacking dining options, this busy street has a good mix of tastes to suit any budget. We were recommended to try the Tavern Restaurant by a friend, and I had a high ‘degree’ of confidence the five of us would ‘master’ our meals well enough to present the dissertation herein.
One novelty of The Tavern is its free-for-all side dish policy. Order any entree on the menu and get as many sides as you want throughout the entire meal at no charge. I haven’t seen this type of policy at a higher-end restaurant, so I was perhaps more excited for the sides than my actual entree. Our waiter, though, started things off on the wrong foot. He blustered to the table and rushed us through our drink orders without even a proper introduction. On top of that, he was wholly unfamiliar with wines and could not recommend anything from the menu. Although I do not expect a waiter to be an *expert* in fine wines, his disinterest in our desire to get a bottle almost convinced us not to. Fortunately for him, by the time our bread arrived (a good duo of a small Italian loaf and a few multi-grain slices), we were back in good ‘spirits’ and were ready to give him a second chance with the menu ordering.
The table had a pretty diverse palate. I tried the baked haddock with shrimp sauce. My companions ordered the beef bourgeoisie, baked chicken with wild rice, and the veal cutlet. For the sides, we tried the spicy apple sauce, apple cole slaw, roma creole beans, vegetable couscous, french fries, and the spinach salad. The spinach salad was a big hit. Most of the table ordered multiple plates. The apple cole slaw grew on me but was more a ‘cole slaw with apple wedges’ than ‘apple cole slaw’, if that makes any sense. The vegetable couscous was flavorful, but the roma creole beans just seemed a bit of a mess with more roma than creole. The spicy apple sauce was fantastic. The fries were good but I was only able to grab a couple. It’s important to mention that the menu appears to vary each day, so check out the website for the latest dishes.
Aesthetics wise, the beef dishes were a shade small and the veal looked a little too smothered, although I concede I’d never (and will never) order it. My haddock, though, was thick, tender, and flaky, with a good amount of sauce and a few nice-sized shrimp. Autumn enjoyed her beef entree, but echoed she expected it to be larger. The chicken was described as ‘excellent’ and the table concurred when shared. Time to table was reasonable and, of course, it’s worth noting that the portion sizes become slightly less relevant when you can fill up on sides. The waiter, who had a rough start, did better throughout the remainder of the dinner.
The atmosphere inside is pretty cool. Unlike most places that call themselves ‘taverns’, this actually felt like one. You have multiple rooms, lots going on, with creaky stairs and some nice street-level window seating. If you’ve got a large group, you should have no problem finding appropriate seating. Parking can be done in a public garage up the street or metered on a nearby curbside. Most entrees are going to run you around $20 so it’s not exactly a good frequent spot for a collegiate budget.
+ Free Sides
+ Great atmosphere
Autumn’s Score: 3.5 Chews
Guru’s Score: 3.5 Chews
Our Score: 3.5 Chews
Subjective rating: Not head of the class, but no slouch either.
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