HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – As the West Shore enjoys a boom in new restaurants, how will the dining destination of downtown Harrisburg’s “Restaurant Row” fare?
Cork & Fork Osteria just opened its doors along the Carlisle Pike in Hampden Township, a second location to its flagship restaurant in the shadow of the State Capitol in Harrisburg.
Nick Laus is the latest restaurateur to open a second location on the West Shore. Federal Taphouse is opening a second location along with Gilligan’s and Duke’s Bar and Grille. About 10 new restaurants are popping up along the Carlisle Pike following a re-zoning in Hampden Township.
The recent boost comes on the heels of Harrisburg’s North 2nd Street Restaurant Row going through an identity change within recent years. What was once a nightlife mecca has matured into upscale dining-forward locations focused on craft cocktails and beer.
But, with the emergence of eateries across the river, does that mean downtown Harrisburg will suffer?
Food photographer Ali Waxman said there is more of a cultural shift happening.
“There are terrific restaurants [in Harrisburg], ya know, that we all love,” he said. “And, people from the West Shore don’t come over here because it’s too far for them to drive.”
He believes that business expansion in Cumberland County does not mean the demise of downtown. Rather, Waxman believes perhaps the new places on the West Shore would create some more culinary curious eaters.
“Those people weren’t coming down here anyway,” he said. “They’re going to get exposed to a great Nick Laus or JDK Group restaurant.”
ABC27 posted an informal poll on Facebook asking if the new wave of restaurants impacted a person’s decision to dine in downtown Harrisburg. Of those polled, 59 percent said “no.”
Others point out there are also more East Shore options for dining in Midtown Harrisburg, surrounding townships and Hershey.
Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDEC President, Dave Black, said new tends to eventually wear off, which is why businesses must reinvent themselves to remain relevant.
“This is the hit place to be or in three months next door is the hot place,” he said “That’s just the nature of the beast.”
Black believes that there could be some short-term competition, but long-term believes the rapid population growth in Cumberland County would support a budding new market on the West Shore and not take away business from Restaurant Row.
“There is new demand (on the West Shore) and as houses are being built, particularly where there’s more land available, that creates more of a market,” said Black.
The same philosophy he said can be put on Harrisburg. Several new luxury apartments have opened in downtown Harrisburg attracting young professionals with a concentration of restaurants and nightlife within walking distance.
Black believes as the housing market grows, so will Restaurant Row’s business.
“I think it’s going to balance out in the end,” he said. “I don’t think one hurts the other. I think it’s just generally good economic news for the region.”