Good Life

Spruce Creek Tavern french fries

The Spruce Creek Tavern in Spruce Creek, Pa., has been serving it's famous french fries since it opened in 1949.  Each tray of fries is made of 7-8 potatoes that are hand peeled and cut daily.  The tray costs $6.50.  CDT/Nabil K. Mark
The Spruce Creek Tavern in Spruce Creek, Pa., has been serving it's famous french fries since it opened in 1949. Each tray of fries is made of 7-8 potatoes that are hand peeled and cut daily. The tray costs $6.50. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

At the Spruce Creek Tavern, new owners Leah and Lucas Hamer have no intention of ending a local tradition.

After taking over in June, the Hamers kept the jumbo tray of homemade french fries — the Huntingdon County restaurant’s signature dish for decades — on the menu.

“I think we would get run out of town if we didn’t,” Leah Hamer said.

Long a favorite of fly fishermen plying the town’s namesake and the Little Juniata River, the fries come in two smaller but still generous portions, a “handful” and a platter.

But the tray is the famous choice, a golden mountain piled high over an area roughly the size of a cookie sheet, all for $6.50.

Every morning, the Hamers cut their fries the same way the previous owners, John and Lois Carper, did for 31 years. One of the first changes John Carper made was ditching the frozen fries his sister used in favor of fresh spuds.

A grinder first peels the potatoes, then the job is done by hand before the fries are sliced and cooked in soybean oil. It takes about six or seven potatoes to make a tray order and a lot to keep up with demand: The Hamers once went through three 50-pound bags in four hours. On a busy day, they might go through six times as much.

“Lois taught us well,” Leah Hamer said.

As her husband knows, the result can overshadow a menu of burgers, sandwiches and pizza sampled by such luminaries as former President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Dick Cheney and former Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski.

In Lucas Hamer’s hometown, the real celebrity comes heaped on a tray.

“Many people come in here pretty much to eat the fries,” he said.

The Spruce Creek Tavern is on state Route 45, about 25 minutes southwest of State College

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