Yesteryear Ambiance, Today’s Taste Temptations

The outside of Hershey Road Family Restaurant, Harrisburg, is somewhat deceiving in its everydayness.

Step inside, and that first impression changes.

It isn’t that there are many frills; in fact, the décor is quite simple with gleaming counters, and well-lit tables and booths. However, what the interior lacks in bells and whistles, it more than makes up for in pure, old-fashioned diner nostalgia. Immediately, the customer is reminded of malt shops and Alice (for those who came of age in the 1970s). Servers smile, the smell of fresh food beckons and all is right with the universe.

Ironically, the menu is much broader than one might expect. Interspersed with a mix of homestyle “comfort” options (think meatloaf, gravies and pot pie) and modern flavors (gyros and vegetarian dishes), it’s difficult – if not impossible – to not find something for every member of your party to enjoy.

When we visited Hershey Road Family Restaurant, our focus was on ordering for a late lunch/early dinner, though we did notice that their breakfast menu (filled with palate-pleasing morning standards) promises patrons a delicious way to wake up.

We began our meal with mozzarella sticks and fried green beans. The former were batter-fried and oozed melted cheese. They got the thumbs up for being exactly right for snacking pleasure. The latter were crisp and tasty, especially when dipped in the accompanying chipotle ranch dipping sauce.

Our next course was lunch fare – a burger and a Rachel (the “feminine” counterpart to a Reuben). Having heard that the Hershey Road Family Restaurant was known for serving excellent burgers, we decided to test them on a plain, no-frills cheeseburger. Well-done – but not overdone – the sandwich was juicy and large. Fries and a pickle were equally satisfying plate partners to the choice.

Two large, refrigerated dessert displays grace the Hershey Road Family Restaurant, and if you can walk past them without salivating, you have taste buds of steel.

The Rachel, grilled rye bread slices, which could barely contain mounds of turkey, melted Swiss cheese, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing, was admittedly sloppy. Consequently, it’s probably best eaten when you’re alone or with friends and family who won’t mind a little mess. Our only wish was that the dressing and coleslaw had stronger flavors, as they were unable to compete against the rye and cheese.

Portion sizes are generous, and the waitress didn’t bat an eyelash when we asked for a take-out box for the food we couldn’t finish. Of course, we did leave room for a sweet treat (and we recommend you do, too).

Two large, refrigerated dessert displays grace the Hershey Road Family Restaurant, and if you can walk past them without salivating, you have taste buds of steel. Homemade apple dumplings, rich cakes, fruit-filled and creamy pies and the ubiquitous Jello (which no child can resist when topped with whipped cream) remind visitors that life is short, and dessert is to be relished without shame.

For us, a slice of plain, silky cheesecake with graham cracker crust and a piece of Red Velvet cake were ideal ways to end our meal. Though our waistlines might have expanded a bit, it was well worth the calorie splurge.

The meal was finished, the waitress was helpful and the hostess was friendly, but the nicest surprise came when we paid our bill. For under $40, we were able to eat a veritable feast, and we took a good amount home. That’s truly delightful, especially given today’s economic constraints placed on individuals and families.

The restaurant’s motto is “Comfort Food – Great Style,” which is definitely apt. If you’re tired of cooking and want to spend a night relaxing and eating without busting your budget, Hershey Road Family Restaurant is a winner.

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