Food & Drink

Dine outside with summer menus

Gigi’s Southern Table offers patio dining and a special summer menu.
Gigi’s Southern Table offers patio dining and a special summer menu. Photo provided

Centre County gives its residents plenty of reasons to get outside and enjoy the summer months — one of the favorites being a myriad of options for outdoor dining. As such, many of the restaurants around town have al fresco seating at your disposal, but they know the discerning palates of Centre County want more. Seasonal offerings keep things fresh, and you’ll see many a summer menu popping up at your favorite eateries.

Here are just a few that are changing up their menus to match the best flavors of summer, and setting the table with plenty of dishes best enjoyed in the sun, or under the stars.

Gigi’s Southern Table is breaking out the barbecue with true southern flair, and you can catch all the great eats on Thursdays, right on the patio.

“All of the barbecue is smoked and plated right outside the back porch at our action station, smoker and all,” assistant general manager Valerie Thurnau said. “On our barbecue menu, we offer our guests the choice of two or three deliciously smoked meats — cilantro lime chicken, pulled pork and smoked brisket — and a choice of two sides. We serve all of our barbecue with three side sauces, all made in-house: Texas Smokey Sweet, Cajun Bourbon and Carolina Style.”

Can’t make it on a Thursday evening? No worries. The new summer menu has plenty of items to tantalize your taste buds all through the week. The garden tacos are stuffed with all the flavors of a southern summer — fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese spread, roasted tomatoes and pickled peppers. Then, there’s the grilled Georgia peach salad, served with fresh burrata cheese, and the cast iron-blackened Chesapeake blue catfish.

The barbecue menu for each Thursday does change, but you can expect awesome options similar to the mouth-watering brisket burnt ends, barbecue ribs, jalapeno corn bread and Southern-crusted corn on the cob that were recently up for grabs.

In Bellefonte, Wine and Cafe on the Park is livening things up with a lineup of bands set to play Saturday nights in July. The new summer menu items are more of the great tastes locals have come to expect from this relatively new spot. You’ll want to try the chicken quesadilla, hot pastrami sandwich or The Raceway, which is a version of the Monte Cristo.

“It has ham and turkey, warmed with melted cheddar cheese, in between two slices of French toast, served with a side of maple syrup and sweet potato pancakes,” manager Loren Stamm said.

She also recommends the new Which Came First sandwich.

“It’s a slice of ciabatta with warmed chicken breast, spinach, tomato, Dijon mustard and melted cheddar cheese, with a fried egg on top,” Stamm said. Of course, it wouldn’t be a summer sandwich worthy of a waterside picnic without a helping of homemade coleslaw or potato salad, both of which the cafe has plenty.

Locals know it’s not summer dining without a stop at the Nittany Lion Inn for one of the Pa. on the Patio events, held every Friday through the summer, weather-permitting. Each dinner features Pennsylvania beers, wines and spirits, along with a grilling buffet. The menu changes every single week, so there’s always something a little new, always featuring Pennsylvanian ingredients. If you stop by in the upcoming weeks, you’ll also enjoy live music featuring singer-songwriter Stacy Glenn Tibbets.

Music and grilling aren’t the only things you’ll find on the patio this summer. According to restaurant operations manager and sommelier Sean Caviston, one of the inn’s wine dinners is scheduled for July 29, and will be a starlit event on the Atherton Patio featuring Pennsylvania wines.

Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at