El Jefe’s Taqueria opened at 352 E. Calder Way in summer 2021. Photo by Frankie Marzano | Onward State
Who would’ve thought the 2019 season was the last time you made the trip to Penn State for a football game? Now, it’s been nearly two years since State College was packed with students, fans, and alumni for a home game weekend.
Downtown State College still has its classics, but several new businesses, high rises and restaurants have popped up since you last walked College Avenue.
As you venture back to Happy Valley this football season, be sure to check out all that downtown has to offer.
Food & Drink
Crust & Crumb Cafe
Located at 115 E. Beaver Ave. is a coffee shop and artisan bakery that makes fresh pastries daily and gets coffee beans delivered weekly from Commonplace Coffee in Pittsburgh. Crust & Crumb opened its doors in fall 2020 and is known for having a friendly staff that gives great recommendations.
The cafe prides itself on quality ingredients and the time and effort its employees spend on its products. Onward State staffers raved about the horseradish-dill cream cheese, the lavender vanilla iced latte, and the espresso chocolate banana muffin.
El Jefe’s Taqueria
El Jefe’s is located at 352 E. Calder Way on the ground floor of the Maxxen (née HERE State College) and debuted in May. The Mexican-style restaurant gives Chipotle and Yallah a run for their money. Queso and guac do not cost extra, and the ingredients are fresh and well seasoned.
Onward State staffers recommend the pollo asado tacos, the steak and chorizo bowl, and the churro.
Allen Street Grill
The new menu reimagines classic dishes and makes them seem modern through acid, herbaceousness, and details. The Allen Street Grill is a must-try if you’re looking for a bit of a fancier meal.
K2 Roots is located at 109 S. Fraser St. and is a cold-pressed juicery that just opened this summer. The juice is 100% raw, fresh, and free of artificial sweeteners and preservatives which might just cure your Sunday morning hangover.
Gold medal Olympic wrestler David Taylor is even one of the shop’s co-founders. Who knows? You might just get to try on his medal.
Big Dean’s Hot Chicken
Big Dean’s is located at 208 W. College Ave. and serves food inspired by the “deep south.” The chicken joint serves chicken tender meals and chicken sandwich meals and offers three different styles of chicken to pick from: “Perfectly Southern,” “Nashville,” and “Inferno.”
Onward State staff was impressed by the Nashville hot chicken and was a fan of the spicier options.
Central Reservation opened last year and offers a unique selection of seafood and fine cocktails, with open-air seating available on nice days. It’s located at the corner of South Allen Street and Beaver Avenue
Popular menu items include lobster mac and cheese, the C.R blackened wagyu burger, and hanger steak, but cocktails are a must if you make the visit.
Yallah Taco opened another location at 310 E. College Ave, the former spot of Taco Bell, in September 2020. This location offers a breakfast menu, vegan options, and original drinks such as smoothies and refreshers. These options add to Yallah’s traditional burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.
Onward State staffers enjoyed the breakfast tacos, bowls, and burritos that were packed full of scrambled eggs, queso, avocado and tater tots.
Mr. Wish, Hibachi Express & Aone Mart
Mr. Wish, Hibachi Express and Aone Mart recently opened their new joint location at 320 E. College Ave., the former site of Metro clothing store.
Mr. Wish originated in Taiwan and offers different types of bubble, fruit, and brewed tea. Hibachi Express offers a selection of Japanese-inspired steak, shrimp, salmon, chicken, tofu, and vegetarian hibachi entrees, as well as sushi, Japanese noodles, fried rice dishes, and appetizers. Aone Mart, an Asian market, sells groceries, produce, meats, snacks, ramen and more.
The Tavern closed its doors for nearly a year to renovate after more than 72 years in business. Its new seating and dining areas are elegant, but the ever-cozy feel remains intact. There’s even a new second-story patio overlooking College Avenue and a view of Old Main which is perfect for a game day weekend.
Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon & Carvel
The trio of national chains brought their signature soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, and ice cream to State College. The store opened in early 2020 at 324 E. College Ave., the former location of Kiwi Yogurt.
Chumley’s gay bar reopened in April after renovations during the pandemic.
Now, the bar has a sleek new look inside and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s always lively in the evenings, and the bar top has a neat scrabble top to it.
The Corner Room
The newly refurbished Corner Room received a much-needed facelift this summer. It offers the classic feel you remember wrapped up in a sleek new package, including a new, smaller menu.
It received new booths, remodeled flooring, new light fixtures, and more. Additionally, the historic breakfast bar made its highly anticipated return.
Trophy Room Restaurant
Trophy Room restaurant opened this August inside of Graduate State College, located at 125 S. Atherton St. While new to State College, Trophy Room already has locations in other Graduate hotels across the country, including Evanston and Chapel Hill.
The eatery and bar serves American dishes, including chicken tenders and grilled cheese. The cocktail menu features Penn State-themed drinks like the “Nittany Lion” and “Happy Valley Water.”
Social Food + Drink
Located at 201 E. Beaver Ave. in the Scholar Hotel, Social Food + Drink is a bistro-style restaurant that opened in March with a full-service bar with a variety of specialty cocktails and small plated menu items.
Blue & White Bottle Shop
A new bottle shop opened this week at 222 W. Beaver Ave., the former location of Brewsky’s. The store offers in-store sales and online orders that can be picked up. Additionally, the Blue & White Pub is expected to open at some point this fall.
In November 2019, the reconstructed MinitMart located on the corner of North Atherton Street and West College Avenue reopened with an alcohol license. It features more than 100 varieties of beer including craft brews, IPAs, and lagers from foreign and domestics makers, as well as a wine selection and alcoholic slushies.
While it still serves as a gas station, the renovations inside make it almost unrecognizable, and it’s now a go-to place for folks west of Atherton Street to buy alcohol.
High-Rise Apartments & Hotels
The HERE (The Maxxen)
The HERE concluded its construction in fall 2020 at 131 Heister Street. It’s located on the east side of downtown and is massive compared to other businesses in the area.
This fall, the HERE debuted under a new name, “the Maxxen.” At this time, it is unclear why the luxury apartment complex was renamed.
The brand new 12-story apartment complex, The Standard, is located at 330 W. College Ave. It’s located directly across from another semi-new high-rise, The Met.
The Scholar Hotel
The Scholar Hotel opened in January at 205 E. Beaver Ave., the former location of the Glennland Building.
It features 72 guest bedrooms, a conference and meeting space, a 24-hour fitness center, and a 24-hour business center. Most rooms contain a view of Old Main or downtown State College.
IQ Skate Shop
Located at 118 S. Pugh Street in the former spot of Sadie’s Gourmet Waffles, IQ Skate Shop sells boards, trucks and wheels, as well as skate accessories and clothing.
Professional skateboarder and State College native Jake Johnson aims to grow Centre County’s skateboarding scene with this new shop.
Blue Brick Theatre
The new space provides Happy Valley Improv with a permanent home and an opportunity to grow in State College.
Stage West is a 600-capacity, 18+ concert venue located at 420 E. College Ave. It opened in February 2020 but shut down for most of the pandemic.
After opening for good this summer, it’s now a popular spot for the EDM crowd and books local DJs and openers. One of the most-liked features is that there are two bars, so it is easy to get a drink even when it’s packed.
Healthy-eating chain Shake Smart opened two locations in Penn State’s White and IM Buildings last fall. The menu includes protein shakes, acai bowls, cold brew coffee, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, and more.
Onward State staffers found the shakes refreshing and suggest the chocolate-covered strawberry shake and the “Shake Your Coffee.”
Slim Chickens opened this semester and replaced the Chick-fil-A in the HUB. It serves chicken sandwiches, tenders, fries, and coleslaw.
Slim Chickens gives Chick-fil-A a run for its money, and Onward State staffers were impressed with the sandwiches, tenders, and price point.
Interestingly enough, the restaurant comes with a Penn State connection. Jackie Lobdell, Slim Chickens’ vice president of franchise development, is the mother of a Penn State women’s hockey player.
West Campus Parking Deck
A new parking deck located along White Course Drive between the Earth and Engineering Sciences Building and White Course Apartments opened in May. The six-level deck holds 1,651 parking spaces.
Visitor parking is available for $1 an hour with a $12 maximum daily fee.