Best Bets: Insider picks for downtown dining, brunch and more

STATE COLLEGE — In downtown State College, beyond the constant hustle and bustle of Penn State fans, there’s also an abundance of places to keep your cravings at bay. From College to Beaver Ave. and beyond, here are a few of our favorites.

For brunch on the weekends, head to The Deli & Z Bar. Every Sunday, enjoy live jazz brunch in the hippo room. If brunch isn’t your thing, you can stop in for lunch, when you can get New York-style deli favorites. Everything is local and made from scratch, including their soups, breads, sauces and award-winning desserts. For night owls, you can still head over to The Deli & Z Bar and grab a drink. Their focus is American craft beers, and they offer 57 drafts and over 150 bottles — and for those wine lovers, there are more than 30 selections by the glass or bottle.

Those who follow a vegan diet won’t be let down at Café Verve. This 100-percent vegan café offers espresso beverages, in-house baked good, smoothies, smoothie bowls and other breakfast and lunch items served all day, including veggie burgers. Café Verve recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, and added two new fresh juices, “Glowing Green” and “Sweet Sunrise” to their menu.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true downtown 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. Plus, word is that Spats Café will be combining their menu with The Allen Street Grill in the near future, with a combination of flavors from both of those favorite restaurants.

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 you’re looking for a fun, sweet snack, head over to Peace, Love & Little Donuts. Originally founded in Pittsburgh, Pa., these little donuts recently found their way to State College. They are made continuously throughout the day and there are three different categories of toppings to choose from. “Groovy” donuts are on the simple side, with choices of toppings like cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, honey glaze and maple sugar. If you want to be more “Far Out,” you can choose from vanilla, chocolate, maple, raspberry, banana, lemon and fan-favorite mocha frosting. “Funkadelic” donuts include flavors like Maple Bacon, S’mores, Cherry Cheesecake, Rasp RasRaspberry Lemonade and Boston Cream Pie, just to name a few.

To read more stories from the 2018 Food Guide, click here.

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