CLOSED 2016 – due to fire
I have had some really wonderful times at The Waterfront Tavern in Lewistown. The restaurant and its outdoor deck is situated with a very nice prospect of the Juniata River. Because of the location on 6398 Belle Ave., just off the bridge (Rt 103) that crosses the Juniata, the main approach from Lewistown has you driving past the restaurant and turning left at the light onto Belle Ave. Parking is in front, beside and behind the building.
The deck is only hospitable in the best of warm weather so don’t count on it being open at any other time. One weekend, Jim and I visited on a lovely summer’s day and there were still only a couple of patrons taking advantage of it. There was a sign directing us to go inside to arrange seating even if we wanted to be on the deck. I assumed so that they would know people were in need of attention.
We once took our mothers to the Waterfront Tavern for a Mother’s Day lunch. I wouldn’t say the restaurant is “kid friendly” but I frequently see older patrons enjoying meals there. Actually, the 55 and older crowd seems to be more the demographic of The Waterfront than the 30-something crowd, even when there is a game on the 2 televisions at the downstairs bar.
The moms enjoyed the special menu that day and most of us lingered and enjoyed coffee as we watched the full banks of the Spring run off fill the lazy Juniata. We have never felt rushed to leave and are encourage to enjoy dessert and another round of coffee every visit.
Sadly, it’s the downstairs bar and its worn floor that keeps the cute interior of the main dining area smelling like stale beer. If the downstairs is starting to get full, make sure to ask to sit upstairs. The view is even better because you don’t have to look through the furniture on the deck and it looks down onto the Juniata, quite pleasant in any season.
We rented the entire upstairs for a wedding reception in November 2009. The chef catered it with wonderful appetizers of my suggestion. The bruschetta was a twist from what they have on the menu, he utilized roasted red peppers since tomatoes were not in season. The cheese and fruit platters ended up not including any of my requests and the bar forgot to purchase the champagne for the toast.
Not everything went as planned but, like every time we visit The Waterfront, the company was great and we had a sensational time in spite of the botched moments.
Waterlogged at the Waterfront
Even though we make the best of our times at The Waterfront doesn’t mean it is a great place for vegetarians. There are a couple of appetizers, Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Chips and Tomato Bruschetta, neither of which are vegan.
The appetizers and the House, Stilton and Spinach Salads are the only vegetarian offerings on the lunch menu. Although they are very good and the entrée sized salads are generous, I really wanted to try the Greek Pasta on the dinner menu. When the river waters rose this past week and threatened to flood my parent’s basement, we took advantage of the revised less emergent cresting to have an early supper at The Waterfront.
The website WRONGLY says that Lunch ends and Dinner begins at 4:00 PM. We found out when we went at 4:30 PM that day that, as the waitress smartly put it, “Dinner has started at 5 for as long as I have worked here.” Thank goodness they have free Wi-Fi because I called up their own Website as a defense as to why I was expecting to be offered the dinner menu. This was on September 7, 2011, and when I called today they seemed in no hurry to change it even though I told them this blog would be linking to their page.
At the waitress’s encouragement, we ordered some appetizers and enjoyed them until the official dinner hour arrived. The hot Spinach Artichoke Dip with Pita Chips was very nice and the potion was quite generous.
It took us quite a while to make our way through the heavy bowl of dip and deep fried pita 1/2 rounds. We munched and watched the swollen river wash unknown debris swiftly by. The skies opened up again to wash more imaginary alligators down river. It was very wet out and we were just finishing our appetizer when the waitress returned to ask if we were interested to know the evening specials. It was three different kinds of pizza (which is usually not on the menu at all) one of which was a White Pizza. The White Pizza was vegetarian, not vegan, and had cheeses and garlic that sounded very nice.
I was still set on the Greek Pasta and got a small Stilton Salad, Jim ordered a large House Salad and Mom ordered a Spinach Salad. The waitress went to clear away our appetizer dishes and spilled my ice water all over my lap. It was fitting that for the cold and flooding day I should sit for most of our meal with wet jeans. She apologized many times but what would it help to get angry? I was glad to be with good company and hope that, for as emotional as I can be, I don’t ever come across as irrational when accidents happen.
The Greek Pasta was a bit bland, no real flavor of basil and the tiny bit of garlic I could detect tasted like it was from a powder. The feta cheese added some saltiness and the black olive slices some color contrast but the over cooked linguini made it all a little “bleh.” I couldn’t get too disappointed but it was, after all, why I was so insistent on waiting to order from the dinner menu. What a waste of effort.
I was grateful for the fine company and conversation with Jim and my parents. All of our salads had very fresh greens. Mom’s Spinach salad had a sweet homemade pear vinaigrette that she seemed to enjoy along with the caramelized onions. Jim’s House Salad looked very nice with the feta cheese and thumb sized grape tomatoes and pine nuts. My Stilton side salad was my favorite part of the meal, its tangy champagne vinaigrette and almonds were very nice with the blue cheese.
Coffee and conversation were our dessert before we braved the crossing of the rushing Juniata. Not to worry, the river bridge was just fine and not one Lukens had to jump in to save anyone from the raging waters (as my Grandfather had to near Hawstone many years before my father was born). In fact, even my jeans were finally starting to dry out from the ice water mishap at 5 PM.
Hey, it’s average! I had to think long and hard to find any place in Mifflin County that I could rate with consistent vegetarian options and stay within my review criteria. If I can offer a review of at least an average place, my hope is that it can empower current and new vegetarians (and hopefully vegans) to find something in whatever area of central PA they are in. Until the local vegetarian group has something more to share (other than educational fliers at Kid Connection) my review of The Waterfront Tavern is the best I can present at this time.
Instead of preaching to the choir, let my 4 decades of local vegetarianism tell you that you have to pick and choose carefully in Lewistown area. I grew up in Lewistown and the restaurants in this region seem to be some of the most at fault for thinking bacon is an herb.
The Waterfront Tavern has never been confused about meat being vegetables but they just don’t have a lot to offer. The patrons aren’t a sketchy crowd but the waitstaff can be a little lackadaisical. It’s another one of those hit or miss places, sometimes they are missing ingredients and other times the chef is bending over backward to make our experience pleasant.
I’ll wrap it up by reminding readers that it is a tavern and smells like it on the main floor. It has about as many pluses (free WiFi and a great view) as minuses (very limited menu and nothing vegan). It all equals out to an average vegetarian dining experience. My advice is to surround yourself with people you like being with and the mediocrity of the meal won’t matter as much.