Food & Drink

Something different is on tap in downtown State College

A Margherita pizza, with fresh mozzarella and basil, along with a Founders draft and the Spaniard pizza are served at the Federal Taphouse in the Fraser Center. The Margherita pizza is a top seller.
A Margherita pizza, with fresh mozzarella and basil, along with a Founders draft and the Spaniard pizza are served at the Federal Taphouse in the Fraser Center. The Margherita pizza is a top seller.

With three other locations around the state, Federal Taphouse’s latest eatery in downtown State College’s new Fraser Centre just made sense, management said.

According to general manager David Chubb, the location within the same complex as the new Hyatt Place and Target is a perfect fit.

“They were looking for a nice restaurant to put in and looking at the market here, what it currently offered and what it was yearning for, (it) really did seem to fit what our concept really is,” he said.

However, this is not just another downtown bar. Catering to a more adult crowd, the restaurant reaches a lot of downtown locals, as well as Penn State employees and young professionals. The draw includes the 100 taps, scratch kitchen and an upscale atmosphere.

“The beer selection — there are things you can’t find anywhere else in town or in the region, so (we’re) offering guests the opportunity to experience things they haven’t been able to up until this point, at any other establishment in the area,” Chubb said. “We’re bringing in a lot of the Pennsylvania stuff (to) really support the entire state. ... We do have beers from all over the country, specifically a lot of the California beers and really good West Coast beers that you can’t get in this area. ... We have some from Europe as well.”

Beyond the beer, the food is fresh and from scratch, with a menu that’s proving to be a hit. While most beers are anything but local, the food is sourced locally as much as possible, thanks to partnerships with Centre County businesses including farms and The Cheese Shoppe, which is brewing a special blend of coffee just for Federal Taphouse.

The restaurant shares a core menu with its other locations, but about 30 percent of menu items are dedicated to State College. Menu revisions that reflect this are scheduled for release within the next few weeks. However, guests can still find top sellers remaining on the menu, such as the artisanal pizza.

“We brought in our pizza oven specially from Italy,” Chubb said. “They built it on-site, which they’ve never done before, and it’s worked out phenomenally. It actually takes less time to cook the pizza in that oven than it does to prepare it, cut it and plate it. (It) makes a huge difference. We make our own dough and sauce, (and) the pizza is entirely from scratch.”

Chubb said the appetizer selection is also highly popular, with some of the favorites being the house-made soft pretzels with a beer cheese fondue, the devils on horseback, calamari and wings.

Additionally, a brunch menu — with $5 bloody Marys and mimosas — was rolled out recently, to much success.

Chubb notes that menu changes aren’t taken lightly at the restaurant, with each addition undergoing a rigorous approval process before making it to the customer.

“One thing we do focus on, is we want to make sure we’re successful at something before throwing (it) out there,” he said. “We’re not a company that throws everything against the wall and sees what sticks. We make sure it’s a success and we do it right and that’s very important to us — doing it right the first time. ... It takes a while to put something on the menu, because we want to be sure the flavor is exactly where we want it to be, and make it really worthy of being on the menu.”

If the beer and carefully crafted menu isn’t enough to reel you in, the atmosphere may do the trick. The expansive wall of windows looks out on downtown State . The stylish decor, airy feel and even the friendly staff all add to the ambiance, offering something truly new to local diners.

Chubb thinks all that combined is set to make Federal Taphouse a success in State College.

“I think it’s the quality of food, the selection of beer, the service, the atmosphere, the environment,” he said. “This is not a restaurant that’s been in town before. ... We’re not one of those where you can go get a pitcher of beer and your feet are sticking to the floor.

“It’s an experience you’ve probably never had in State College. The service is there, the team enjoys it, the guests enjoy it. It’s hard to walk out of here without a smile on your face.”

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