The Pedestrian Diner’s College (Ave) Experience

Take a Walking Tour and enjoy Downtown's best eats!

By Melissa Bradley

Yea, though I walk through the Valley of Happy, 
I shall fear no hunger. . . 
—preached from the steps of the Willard Building

Ditch your ride in the parking garage and gear up for a downtown walking tour that will spin your taste buds around the world.

For a bit of nostalgia, saunter down McAllister Alley, past the bronze pigs (selfie!), and slip inside the cozy confines of the Tavern Restaurant. It’s been a downtown staple since 1948, and the place radiates history.

Reserve your table for date night or Sunday Brunch with the family in an atmosphere that feels like home. If you’re up to it, try the hearty bleu cheese crusted ranch cut sirloin—tender and flavorful, cut off the top sirloin and covered with oven-roasted plum tomatoes and melted bleu. For something lighter, go for an entrée salad like the Chef’s Salad ala Tavern. My favorite is the Cajun style chicken breast, marinated and coated with blackened Cajun spices and bleu cheese and served with roasted corn and red bean salsa.

If your feet lead to points farther East, wander across Calder Way and into theIndia Pavilion, a favorite for adventurous diners. Try the lunch buffet to sample a variety of authentic Indian cuisine and fill up with naan bread fresh out of the Tandoor clay oven. There are plenty of exotic flavors to go around for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Craving a taste of the bayou? Downtown State College can satisfy your hunger for Cajun and Creole cuisine. It’s Mardi Gras all year round at Spats Café & Speakeasy, your best bet for jambalaya north of New Orleans (that’s N’Awlins, for regulars). As a bonus, they source ingredients responsibly and locally for optimal freshness. Those taking the gluten free route by choice or necessity will have no shortage of options.

Herwig’s Austrian Bistro offers a tasty European excursion minus the travel expenses. Savoring their traditional, homestyle Austrian fare is well worth the stress of ordering from an impressively extensive menu. They’ve taken happy hour to the next level by offering half-priced soup from 3-5 p.m. Winter just got a little bit more bearable, and have no fear--Herwig’s cheerful staff will help you with pronunciation, but be prepared for their disapproval if you don’t clean your plate.

Just a few steps down College Avenue, Tadashi is serving up authentic Japanese cuisine and ambience. Tadashi’s menu boasts a variety of ramen options that are a big step up from the boxed noodles in many a freshman dorm room. Tadashi also offers some of the town’s best sushi, and their bar wraps around an open kitchen for an exciting dining experience.

Get your fine dining fix at Zola Kitchen & Wine Bar (formerly Zola New World Bistro). Their menu changes with the seasons; the harvest determines what makes the plate and sates the palate. Globally inspired concepts meet locally sourced ingredients, and the result is deliciously elegant. Having recently changed hands, Zola has retained its fine dining concept. The new name reflects its commitment to perfecting fine food and wine pairings. A climate-controlled wine room and on-site sommelier are helping Zola reach this goal.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true College Avenue restaurant tour without hitting the Corner Room. For the early birds, a classic breakfast is served daily. And you can’t beat the endless pasta on Mondays or half-price burgers on Thursdays. Winter calls for comfort food in a convenient location, so grab an Etch A Sketch and cozy into a booth by a window for good eats and prime people watching. If you’re in the mood for something more contemporary, head upstairs to the Allen Street Grill and enjoy a great meal with the best view in town.

For the grand finale, swing by Ye Olde College Diner for a Grilled Sticky a la Mode and pick up a box or two to go—souvenirs from your College Ave restaurant tour!

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