Located in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA), the city of Wilkes-Barre is surrounded by the Pocono Mountains, the Endless Mountains, the Susquehanna River, and the Lehigh Valley. The former coal-mining city has rebuilt and revitalized itself, and its food industry is on the rise. Try one of these top ten restaurants for proof of the city’s success.
Cork Bar and Restaurant
Bar, Bistro, Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
This upscale restaurant and bar in the north end of Wilkes-Barre has a casual, bistro atmosphere and serves New American cuisine. The extensive dinner menu includes fresh salads, hand-cut steaks, and savory pastas. In addition to the dinner menu, the bar menu features gourmet burgers, seasonal flatbreads, and the much-loved martini list. Take a seat on the patio for a romantic, candlelit dinner, or head downstairs to the bar area for a few drinks instead. The food has won local awards, and the restaurant is located just minutes away from the public square.
Breaker Brewing Company prides itself in being the official microbrewery of NEPA’s coal-mining region. The brewery provides craft beers that are dedicated to the hard-working people who have given the city its heritage. Located in an old, renovated schoolhouse, the brewery has quickly expanded since its humble beginnings in 2009. The menu features appetizers like soft pretzels with beer cheese or homemade mustard and full meals like kielbasa mac and cheese or other hearty dishes perfect for filling you up.
Enjoy a French dining experience with a New York twist at Le Manhattan Bistro. The bistro is located in a historical building restored to resemble a French brasserie, and the chef was traditionally trained in France. The chef’s work in New York expanded his influences to include contemporary American ingredients and cooking methods. The menu is full of classic French dishes like steamed mussels, le coq au vin(braised chicken in red wine with bacon, mushrooms, and potatoes), and la bouillabaisse Marseillaise (Southern French seafood stew). At Sunday brunch, crêpes or ratatouille and goat’s cheese omelets are popular choices.
Stations Grill is a locally owned restaurant that serves great American cuisine at affordable prices. The vast menu includes meals like pizzas, tacos, burgers, sandwiches, and more. Try the Penn Station Cheesesteak, a spicy sandwich with melted pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, green peppers, and chipotle mayo on steak or chicken breast. Alternatively, invent your own recipe with the Creation Station Cheesesteak. The steaks are tender, and the fresh hoagie rolls are fluffy and light. Come in to enjoy a fresh alternative to a fast-food lunch.
El Ray Azteca looks like an unassuming hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but it happens to house of the best Mexican food in the area according to locals. What started as a pizza shop quickly transformed into an authentic Mexican restaurant offering table-side guacamole service and excellent food. Try the Mayan Burrito, made with al pastor and homemade chorizo, fried onions, lettuce, tomato, avocado, rice, beans, and sour cream.
What the Fork is an award-winning restaurant and food truck specializing in unconventional dishes. The casual restaurant provides an option for customers looking for something fresh and new. Each handmade meal is made with ‘smart’ ingredients including fresh produce and high-quality meats. Try the famous pulled pork served with candysauce and sweet potato straws, the tasty ahi tuna tacos served with sesame-crusted rare ahi tuna and ginger dressing, or the decadent crab cake sliders.
This take-out-only sandwich shop and novelty store located in the heart of downtown Wilkes-Barre has dominated the area’s lunch scene for 26 years. Despite its lack of seating, the restaurant is a hit with locals, and at lunchtime, you should expect a queue. If you’re new to the restaurant, you might not mind a few minutes to contemplate your order – the menu is massive and every sandwich sounds better than the last. Try any of the specialty sandwiches or set a new standard for your favorite classic. The chefs use Boar’s Head high-quality meats and fresh baked bread to make your sandwich the best it can be.
The authentic Tuscan recipes at Café Toscana are family favorites in Wilkes-Barre. Specializing in the flavorful, delicate cuisine of Northern Italy, this restaurant is the perfect spot for anyone looking for a classy, atmospheric dinner with professional service. Try one of the homemade pastas such as the veal tortellacci served with meat sauce or the potato gnocchi in white wine and sage sauce with spinach and shrimp. Finish your meal with one of the restaurant’s fine homemade desserts, like chocolate cake with hazelnut mousse and vanilla ice cream.
Gerry’s is the best local pizzeria to in which to try the area’s unique sweet pizza sauce. Although it is not the biggest name in the sweet sauce game, Gerry’s is an undiscovered gem that is guaranteed to be less busy than other pizzerias. Service is friendly and attentive, and the dining area is always spotless. Try the sweet sauce on thick or thin-crust pizza, or order a pizza with regular or white sauce.
El Zocalo is an authentic Mexican restaurant that provides excellent-quality food at affordable prices. The downtown Wilkes-Barre restaurant makes a fine lunch spot, and despite being a BYOB establishment, they provide virgin margaritas to which you can add your own Tequila. Burritos are full of flavor and packed tight with fresh toppings. For dessert, try the tres leches cake or fried ice cream.