By Jen Merrill; Photograph by Jadrian Klinger
Gilligan’s Bar & Grill often gets recognized – and lauded – as a sports bar. You know, pool tables, a large selection of beer, some televisions. And yes, you can find those things at both the Eisenhower Boulevard location as well as the Colonial Park location. But that’s certainly not where Gilligan’s ends. And after the renovations and redecorations that both locations have undergone, you’re going to want to give them a second look.
After two decades in the business, owners George and Leah Lois are no strangers to the game. They opened their Eisenhower location first in 1993 after noticing a need for a bar that offered a finer dining experience.
“At that point in time, there weren’t too many bars around that offered anything besides fried food and wings. The owners had the concept of bringing in something that was a little more upscale,” says Steve Meyers, Gilligan’s district manager. “Here you can have the same camaraderie as any place else, plus nice wine, a nice beer selection, a fine liquor selection. You can have a lobster tail, fresh cut veal, salads, pasta, chicken, the whole nine yards.”
Some of their specialties include Gilligan’s Advanced Alternative, a delicious blend of jumbo lump crabmeat, shrimp, scallops and artichoke hearts sautéed in a sun-dried tomato sauce with hints of citrus and ginger. Or there’s the Veal and Scampi Misto, a house special that includes succulent veal medallions and jumbo shrimp sautéed in a house scampi sauce with prosciutto, roasted peppers and mushrooms. It’s topped off with a tasty blend of cheeses.
“And that’s unique to our restaurant. You can’t find it anywhere else,” reminds Meyers.
After success on Eisenhower Boulevard, the Lois family opened their Colonial Park location in 2002. The recent renovations offer a chic space that lends to the upscale casual atmosphere. Both locations see a variety of repeat customers, and Meyers notes that many of his regulars aren’t necessarily from Central Pennsylvania.
“I can count regular customers as people who are from Kansas City and California and all over. Because when they come to travel, they come to our restaurant,” says Meyers. “I may see them twice a year or six times a year, but whenever they’re in town, I see them.”
Belinda Edsall, the operations manager of the Colonial Park location, recognizes a lot of her customers as well and enjoys getting to know the families that frequent her establishment.
“It’s a lot of the same people on the same nights on the week. This is their regular dinner spot on Friday night or Saturday night,” says Edsall. “It’s nice to walk through the restaurant and be able to speak to a lot of people personally and know who they are and remember what they like.”
Edsall considers customer service to be her passion. She and the rest of the Gilligan’s staff strive to create a welcoming environment for everyone that walks through the door. Business people, locals, travelers and sports teams will all feel welcomed at either Gilligan’s location.
Even our commander-in-chief has enjoyed a meal at Gilligan’s. President Obama stopped by the Eisenhower location on his way to the airport during a trip to the area.
“Customer service is one of the biggest factors. You have to have great food, absolutely. But you also have to have a passion for serving your customers and making them feel welcome and making them enjoy their dining experience,” says Edsall. “That’s equally important as the food you serve.”
Gilligan’s Bar & Grill is located at 987 Eisenhower Boulevard in Harrisburg and 10 N. Houcks Road in Harrisburg. They’re open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday through Sunday 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. Gilligan’s accepts reservations and can host private parties at both locations. Visit gilligansbarandgrill.net for more information and “like” their page on Facebook.