As much as State College is one of the best college towns in America, it’s often derided for its lack of defining restaurants. And although it’s true that there’s been an influx of chains in recent years, there is still a good number of worthy places for a bite in this town yet! Check out the 13 best restaurants in State College, PA.
The 13 Most Essential Restaurants in State College, PA
Best burger: Otto’s Pub & Brewery
2235 N Atherton St
Otto’s may be best known for its beers (an on-site distillery is on the way!), but the burgers with locally-sourced ingredients are where it’s at. Try the Cowboy, with barbecue sauce and bacon, The Ottonator (pancetta, grilled onions, and Amish white cheddar), or the Juicy Lucy, a take on the Minneapolis classic.
Best pizza: Faccia Luna
1229 S Atherton St
Widely regarded as State College’s premier pizza joint for students, alumni, visitors, and townies alike, its oven is wood-fired and the pepperoni is the curly edged kind. The toppings here are anything but pedestrian.
Best sandwich: Happy Valley Brewing Company
137 Elmwood St
Start with the short rib nachos, then dig into the intense Shish Kicker -- a grilled chicken sandwich topped with fontina, shishito peppers, and garlic aioli -- paired with a brewed-on-site Tailgater Pale Ale or a Phyrst Phamily Stout.
Best breakfast/brunch: Original Waffle Shop
1610 W College Ave & 1229 N Atherton St
Be prepared for a wait on any weekend, but especially Sundays following Penn State home games. Don’t let the line deter you, though -- there’s a reason for the crowds. The headlining waffles are huge, and the chicken noodle soup will make you wish for a head cold more often.
Best cafe: Saint’s Café
123 W Beaver Ave
A quality cafe is a must in any college town, and this little shop with its outdoor seating is an excellent place to cram for an upcoming exam, or to simply enjoy the nice weather that occasionally decides to visit central Pennsylvania.
Best steakhouse with a cow on its roof: Kelly’s Steak & Seafood
316 Boal Ave, Boalsburg
OK, so technically this roadhouse isn’t in State College proper, but it is only four miles down Route 322. The giant rooftop bull gives it the air of a tourist trap, but it’s anything but -- State College residents themselves lauded it as the town’s best steakhouse eight years running.
Best date spot: Allen Street Grill
100 W College Ave
Located on the second floor of the more than 150-year-old Hotel State College, the view here is downright iconic. Prices are reasonable for students, and the vibe is classy (there’s a piano!) without being black-tie. Sit near the giant windows and watch "The Corner” -- where College Ave meets Allen St -- bustle below, then head to the bar for live music every Wednesday through Saturday night.
Best value: Margarita’s Pizzeria
222 W Beaver Ave
Although college kids will invariably tell you the best cheap slice in town is Canyon Pizza, our sleeper hit is several blocks west. Margarita’s, squished between a parking deck and an apartment building, is no-frills but not in a way that feels cheap -- the menu is surprisingly deep (for a pizza place, anyway) and the staff even remembers regulars’ orders.
Best place to watch a game: Bill Pickle’s Tap Room
106 S Allen St
Despite the presence of one of America’s most successful university athletic programs, State College doesn’t have an abundance of true sports bars. Enter Pickle’s, with its central location, drink specials, and TVs for watching Pittsburgh and Philadelphia duke it out over bocce ball. A big portrait of the bar’s namesake hangs on the back wall. Was he a real person? No! Doesn’t matter.
Best wings: Duffy’s Tavern
113 E Main St, Boalsburg
This roadside pub and patio -- established in 1819 -- serves the standards, but creative options like Wasabi Garlic Ranch, Thai Maple Soy, and Bacon Habanero Ranch are what you’re here for. The name of the latter is rarely spoken aloud for fear of jinxing its presence at Wednesday wing nights. It’s that good.
Best late-night food: Local Whiskey
107 E Beaver Ave
It’s located directly above one of the top college bars in America with a kitchen that’s open until at least 2am, so you do the math. The impressive late-night menu from connected Famous Ernie’s Steaks comes complete with cheesesteak egg rolls, a Beaver Burger (not the animal meat -- gross! -- just the street name), and the best Reuben in town. Fries come in two sizes: plate and tray.
Best place you’ll probably go to after graduation but should really go to more often: The Tavern
220 E College Ave
An institution since 1948, it’s the go-to post-graduation spot (likely because of all the Penn State ephemera decorating the walls), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit year-round. The menu changes frequently but is heavy on steaks and seafood, and sides are unlimited.
Best place to get yelled at for not finishing your food: Herwig’s Austrian Bistro
132 W College Ave
Reasons to come here: 1) it’s BYOB, 2) the schnitzel. Oh, the schnitzel, and 3) the huge, huge portions that you better finish -- you’ll be scolded otherwise!
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1. Otto's Pub & Brewery2235 N Atherton St, State College
2. Faccia Luna1229 S Atherton St, State College
3. Happy Valley Brewing Company137 Elmwood St, State College
4. Original Waffle Shop1229 N Atherton St, State College
5. Saint's Cafe123 W Beaver Ave, State College
6. Kelly's Steak and Seafood316 Boal Ave, Boalsburg
7. Allen Street Grill100 W College Ave, State College
8. Margarita's Pizzeria222 W Beaver Ave, State College
9. Bill Pickle's Tap Room106 S Allen St, State College
10. Duffy's Tavern113 E Main St, Boalsburg
11. Local Whiskey107 E Beaver Ave, State College
12. The Tavern Restaurant220 E College Ave, State College
13. Herwig's Austrian Bistro132 W College Ave, State College
This brewery and bar hybrid offers a wide selection of in-house and local beers and serves American classics like burgers with locally sourced ingredients and mac and cheese.
This local favorite serves casual Italian fare and incredible pizza to students, alumni and visitors alike. Their wood oven cooks pizzas to perfection and the pepperoni is the kind that curls and crisps at the edges.
This eatery and microbrewery brings together craft beers and quirky comfort food in a converted barn. Be sure to order the short rib nachos!
You likely won't get into this waffle joint without waiting your turn but it's guaranteed to be well worth it. The upbeat eatery offers their famous waffles along with other classic breakfast dishes and lunch fare.
This is a quintessential college cafe that caters to studying and chilling needs. Enjoy their outdoor patio while enjoying quality coffee and baked goods.
Four miles out of State College, PA, this joint has been rated by local residents as the best steakhouse 8 years running. Don't let the giant cow on the roof fool you into thinking this is a tourist trap. If you do, you'll be missing out on some quality eats.
Enjoy burgers, steak and seafood at this iconic establishment with a homey vibe. It's located on the second floor of the 150-year-old State College Hotel. The piano and delicious cocktails make it feel classy but not too fancy.
This place has a surprisingly packed menu and serves up some of the cheapest, most delicious pizza in State College. The staff is incredibly friendly and remembers the orders of regulars.
This enduring sports bar is lively and packed with TVs to watch your favorite Philly (or Pittsburgh) team. Count on good wings, good beer, and other tasty bar bites.
This Victorian tavern - established in 1819 - serves standard fare with exciting twists like Wasabi Garlic Ranch and Thai Maple Soy wings. There's an upscale dining room and a casual bar so you can choose your experience.
This cocktail bar serves up over 200 types of whiskey and keeps their kitchen open until 2am, guaranteeing a very delicious late night. Be sure to order the fries, which come in two sizes: plate and tray.
This colonial-style eatery feels homey in all the right ways. Around since 1948, it's a go-to graduation spot for college students and their families. It's worth stopping by any time of the year though, as their seafood, steak and pasta are always up to par.