You come upon the Wilderness Lodge almost without realizing it. After a long and curvy drive through Milroy and rural Pennsylvania, you’ll find the restaurant up a gravel road, situated after a patch of pines, outfitted with a log cabin-like facade that fits its name. Park in the unmarked lot and walk inside to be greeted by an array of taxidermy and a crowd of locals at the bar. The lodge has been a neighborhood standby for years, but it’s just recently received a new life thanks to one local in particular.
Dustin Pollock and his family purchased the Wilderness Lodge in January of last year, but they fell in love with the restaurant much earlier.
“My wife and I have been going there for over 20 years,” he said. “That was one of the first places we went on a date; they always had the best wings. We were out eating with our family there one night and saw a ‘for sale’ sign. I mentioned to her I thought we should look at it and, after a little bit of convincing, she agreed to pursue it.”
With Pollock’s work, the venue received a much-needed facelift, which is evident by the new and nearly spotless dining area.
“We pretty much completely redid everything,” he said. “Refinished the floors; all new seating. Down to the electric, plumbing, new kitchen equipment — pretty much everything’s gone over.” There’s even a patio and outdoor dining area, with covered picnic tables.
The changes have brought a more varied crowd to the lodge, which was one of Pollock’s goals from the start.
“That was definitely one of the things I wanted to work on, was getting more of the family crowd,” he said. “The bar side is smoking, so no one under 18 can even go on the bar side. The dining room — it was completely closed off, it had no windows. It was a shell basically. So we opened up the windows, and there was another area they had blocked off for storage. (We) just really opened it up, and we’re definitely seeing a lot more families.”
Even with the upgrades, the Wilderness Lodge still maintains a very classic lodge ambiance, which is what Pollock thinks helps set it apart.
“It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, but yet, when you get there, it’s unlike any other establishment that I can think of,” he said.
The decor wasn’t the only part of the restaurant to receive updates. The menu also boasts a few new additions, while also keeping some of the crowd favorites, such as the award-winning wings. The Wilderness Lodge won the Tussey Mountain WingFest last year, with one of the representing flavors being the new Tangy Jerk.
Beyond a few new wing flavors to complement the original menu selection, Pollock has brought some smoky options to the menu. The now best-selling baby back ribs and brisket are quickly gaining popularity.
“The things we’ve been smoking have really taken off on us,” he said, admitting that the baby back ribs are also one of his favorite items.
Upcoming menu additions include wood-fired pizzas, which have gone through a few successful test runs, and which guests should be able to spot on the menu soon. Pollock said he’d also like to begin featuring a handful of sandwiches and craft beers each month, starting this summer, with a few varieties that won’t be available throughout the rest of the year.
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Wilderness Lodge
Where: 20 Jack Pine Circle, Milroy
Info: 717-667-2244, www.facebook.com/newlancastervalleypa