PLEASANT GAP — Restaurant owners Clay and Melanie Phillips love to zing their customers’ taste buds with locally made condiments.
Their Village Eatinghouse Marketplace & Café, at 105 S. Main St., Pleasant Gap, features seven different toppings made right there and used on meals or sold separately.
“We used a little oil here or a little mustard there, and came up with something we think — and something our customers think — is a pretty good outcome,” Melanie Phillips said. “More than anything, it just boosts the food we make and gives it that extra flavor.”
The eatery is gaining a reputation for its dressings, marinades, spreads and spices.
“They were just developed out of a need and desire to make them,” Melanie said.
Patrons Jodi and Craig Meyers said their favorite Village Eatinghouse dish is the Farmstead Sandwich — made of roast beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, horseradish, red onions, lettuce, tomato and one of the house dressings, on an onion kaiser roll.
Craig Meyers said the restaurant offers a pleasant atmosphere.
“When the owners actually take time to get to know you and ask you questions and just be friendly, it makes the experience that much better,” he said, “not to mention the food is never disappointing.”
Clay Phillips began his career in the food service industry when he was just 16, working at The Corner Room in downtown State College. He now is the chef at his restaurant and makes dishes in front of the customers.
“We like that they see what they’re getting,” Clay Phillips said.
In 1985, the Phillips’ opened The Village Eating House — a quaint setting, featuring local products, in the heart of Boalsburg.
The idea to bottle their own dressings came a few years later, when a patron asked to take some home with him.
“The rest is history,” Phillips said. “We’ve been bottling it since 1989.”
The restaurant in Boalsburg closed in 1995, as the couple shifted to catering and selling their dressings at arts festivals, local farms, gift stores, wineries and trade shows, Melanie said.
About three years ago, an opportunity came to get back in the restaurant business. Clay is originally from State College while Melanie has roots in Bellefonte and Centre Hall. But they landed in a former tavern at the corner of College Avenue and Main Street in Pleasant Gap.
“We kind of hit the jackpot with this location,” Melanie said, noting that the spot attracts both locals and passers-by on Routes 26 and 144.
One dressing is named for the State College band Biscuit Jam, which has performed at Village Eatinghouse.
Each condiment is put in a recycled jar or bottle with a handcrafted stamp that is sealed right at the facility. Clay Phillips said he manually stamps the logos on and seals them.
To demonstrate, he took a bottle of dressing and put it through a heating device that carefully set a customized logo and sealed the top.
The duo’s next step is to come up with a new marketing campaign for the dressings. They plan to feature the acronym “BYOB” — or “bring your own bottle.”
Craig and Jodi Meyers said they appreciate that the Village Eatinghouse strives to serve local products in combinations that are both healthy and tasty.
“We’re glad we’re able to sell our dressing that we are so passionate about and able to make great food at the same time,” Melanie said. “We hope our guests have a good experience filled with local goodness that is locally sourced and delicious.”
Using fresh, regional contents has a positive effect on the economy, Melanie Phillips said, noting that the Village Eatinghouse features coffee from Huntingdon and meats from Spring Mills.
The restaurant also displays local artisans’ and crafters’ creations.
“It was like it was meant to be,” Melanie Phillips said. “It was our idea to bring everything local back to the community, to a community space.”
— Britney Milazzo