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Scranton, PA


JLK
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Scene from a coffee shop

"You have to behave or they will throw us out," says a mother to two adorable girls, probably 5 and 6 respectively, in brightly colored faux fur coats and high floppy ponytails. The girls nod and smile, glad to be in on the relatively adult experience of getting coffees.

Mom describes the soups of the day - Wisconsin Cheddar and Tomato Florentine, are today's options - to the girls. Priced at $3.49 for a 14 oz bowl, the soup is a steal if these offerings are half as good as the soup I had here two days ago. My baked potato soup tasted homemade with huge chunks of potato and carrot in a creamy, but not too thick broth.

For me, Northern Lights on Spruce Street in downtown Scranton is a find. Until recently, getting coffee in Northeastern PA (NEPA) meant hitting Dunkin Doughnuts or a greasy spoon for a cuppa joe that cost maybe $.59 (and tasted like it). There weren't any Starbucks which, in a big city, might be a good thing, but here made me go through caffeine withdrawal each visit.

I moved away from Northeastern PA (Taylor, to be exact) at 17 to attend college and have never returned for more than a month at a clip. Through the years, I have seen lots of changes, many of them improvements. The dining scene finally expanded to establishments offering food beyond Italian, Italian-American, bad Chinese and Old Forge style pizza (yes, distinct from Italian or Italian-American; just trust me). In Moosic, there's now and Indian place or two; I tried one called Amber and liked it quite a lot. There are places offering sushi including Kyoto in Clarks Summit which is run by a Hong Kong born man who has his fish delivered from NYC daily. That type of delivery is hard to fathom; that people dwelling in the area are now open to eating raw fish is sort of miraculous.

Back to Northern Lights. Great lattes, made with care and served in nice glassware. A cozy, yet airy, space with tables for laptop users, couches for relaxing readers and chatters, and an upstairs loft providing yet another option. It's clean and bright. The wifi is free and also problem-free (take that Busboys and Poets!). The staff is friendly and knowledgable. Surprisingly, the crowd is comprised not only of students from the nearby University of Scranton and Marywood University, but also quite a few senior citizens, apparently unafraid of a $3.50 espresso beverage. The muffins taste homemade, or at least locally made.

Having seen many local businesses come and go through the years, I hope Northern Lights continues to do well. It's exactly what Scranton needs.

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At the risk of sounding like a spokesperson for the greater Scranton/Wilkes Barre area, I will share info about a few other local treats and highlights.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs recently opened for business. One of its five eateries is offering a $5.95 prime rib special. :)

On a non-food note, actor Paul Sovino has announced plans to build a film production studio in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

I had dinner at Furia with a group of family members on the night before Thanksgiving. I was skeptical from the start for a few reasons. First and foremost, it's located up a rather long set of stairs from its sister bar, a raucous place called Brews Brothers. When we got there, I was even more concerned: the place was EMPTY other than our group. We settled in for a drink at the bar and met the lovely, yet ditzy, bartender.

Note to wine drinkers: plan to drink liquor or beer in Scranton. Really. Restaurants in this area tend to offer a list of wines by the glass that starts with white zinfandel and ends with Riunite lambrusco. Many "wine drinkers" in the area will have their Riunite on ice. I wish I were joking. The bartender had not heard of sauvignon blanc, and when she looked for it, I had to point out that her reds were on the bartop, and her whites would be in the fridge. Still, she was a sport about it. I eventually switched to a not-bad glass of pinot noir (which is just like the sauvignon blanc I'd originally asked for, right?? :) ). Sometimes you make do.

Fortunately the food was seriously great. The menu at Furia is very different from what I have come to expect in NEPA. In a good way. We received warm bread with room-temperature butter. Starters included excellent onion soup au gratin, and a pleasant and not boring salad of greens, red onion and red wine vinaigrette.

For main courses, two of us had the short ribs with buttery fettucine. It was a real winner. The meat had been braised in red wine and I could taste a hint of rosemary. Very comforting on a night when temperatures outside dipped to 30 degrees. My mother raved about her filler-free crab cakes.

Even more notable for the area: our service (aside from the bartender, who was new and trying hard) was quite professional. He was pleasant and polished, not overly friendly and goofy. I joked to my mother that he had to be a transplant. :lol:

Between full bellies and the need to make a run to the airport to pick-up my cousin, we didn't have dessert, but I expect we'll return when I'm in town for Christmas and I'll be sure to save room.

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My parents like Arcaro and Genell's and Revello's. Personally I prefer Salerno's. I also grew up enjoying Arcaro's on Taylor Hill, no relation to Arcaro and Genell's, and a completely different style of pie.

I had hoped to get back to Armetta's in Clarks Summit, however they were closed during my visit due to a massive water main break. Hopefully at Christmas.

Incidentally, none of these places are far from Route 81 so if you happen to be passing through, give 'em a try. Feel free to PM me for directions.

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I am just back from five days in Scranton. Given the cold temperatures and snow squalls, I can't say that I'd suggest making your trek to the area for Old Forge style pizza now. But in my two meals that included pizza, I realized how much I miss this sort of pizza and how little I generally enjoy the pizza available here in the DC area.

I was in town for my father's open heart surgery (he's doing well, thanks) so the trip also included a pledge about not eating bacon for a month (!!). The things you do for love.

Anyway, the pizza. Oh, the pizza. I was a happy girl as I indulged into a few slices at "Taste of Italy" on Meadow Avenue in Scranton. The rectangular slices took me back to memories of childhood birthday parties and post-football game meals. The sauce used on the pizza at Taste of Italy was particularly good--although as a child, I would have rejected it in that there was the occasional chunk of onion and tomato. As a pickier eater, I liked my sauce SMOOTH back then. But now I love the relatively prominent onion flavor of this spot's sauce, and I was psyched to end up with two leftover slices for lunch the next day.

Also good, pizza at Colarusso's. My mother and I dined at the Clarks Summit with my cousin, his wife and their three kids (one of whom is a very vocal 11 month old). Delicious pizza overall, but give special consideration to the fresh tomato pizza, topped liberally with minced garlic. Really great flavors, but oh, the lingering stench the next day. It's pungent.

Most of the pizza joints aren't just family friendly, they encourage family comfort. Servers fawned over my [adorable, smiling] little cousin and no one shot a single dirty look when her sweet babble turned into happy "look at me" yells, probably because most dining groups had a baby or toddler in tow too.

Here are some photos of double-crust Old Forge style white pizza.

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Hell if I know where to post this one...it's a small town between Harrisburg and Scranton on I-81 called Frackville, PA. Yeah, Frackville. Exit 124 B. Don't forget that.

The only reason I don't trade in my mom-mobile for a shiny new Mercedes SLK is because she has such a great nose for genuine home cooking, Central PA style. The SLKs - probably not so much. And she steered me straight to the parking lot of the Dutch Kitchen. Amazing. Homemade soup of the day was lentil, "bleenies" - two huge fresh potato pancakes hot out of the pan ($1.95!), and a terrific house-made chicken pot pie. The baked fresh pork sausage looked tempting too. I asked about the pierogies and was told sheepishly that they were made elsewhere. After all that, there was no room for a slice of that good looking lemon meringue pie sitting in the pie case. Bottomless cup of Joe: $.89.

That will get you at least to Binghamton without even thinking about a stop at KFC.

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Cucas87 and I had lunch here on Sunday. We had the salad bar (with a few nice pickled veggies and apple butter), a club sandwhich and a hot turkey sandwich. All in all good home cooking at a reseasonable price. I realized that I had been to the Dutch litchen a year ago on a trip to Scranton, PA.

Hell if I know where to post this one...it's a small town between Harrisburg and Scranton on I-81 called Frackville, PA. Yeah, Frackville. Exit 124 B. Don't forget that.

The only reason I don't trade in my mom-mobile for a shiny new Mercedes SLK is because she has such a great nose for genuine home cooking, Central PA style. The SLKs - probably not so much. And she steered me straight to the parking lot of the Dutch Kitchen. Amazing. Homemade soup of the day was lentil, "bleenies" - two huge fresh potato pancakes hot out of the pan ($1,95!), and a terrific house-made chicken pot pie. The baked fresh pork sausage looked tempting too. I asked about the pierogies and was told sheepishly that they were made elsewhere. After all that, there was no room for a slice of that good looking lemon meringue pie sitting in the pie case. Bottomless cup of Joe: $.89.

That will get you at least to Binghamton without even thinking about a stop at KFC.

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Hell if I know where to post this one...it's a small town between Harrisburg and Scranton on I-81 called Frackville, PA. Yeah, Frackville. Exit 124 B. Don't forget that.

The only reason I don't trade in my mom-mobile for a shiny new Mercedes SLK is because she has such a great nose for genuine home cooking, Central PA style. The SLKs - probably not so much. And she steered me straight to the parking lot of the Dutch Kitchen. Amazing. Homemade soup of the day was lentil, "bleenies" - two huge fresh potato pancakes hot out of the pan ($1.95!), and a terrific house-made chicken pot pie. The baked fresh pork sausage looked tempting too. I asked about the pierogies and was told sheepishly that they were made elsewhere. After all that, there was no room for a slice of that good looking lemon meringue pie sitting in the pie case. Bottomless cup of Joe: $.89.

That will get you at least to Binghamton without even thinking about a stop at KFC.

As good as the Dutch Kitchen may be I could not in good conscience pass over Arcaro and Gemelli's in Old Forge. For their square white pizza. It is a landmark neighborhood tavern that has a large USA Today article framed on one of the walls as one of the best pizza places in America. For the white pizza it is. But not for the red. While the pizza is totally different the "feeling" is actually quite similar to the ORIGINAL Ledo's on University Boulevard in Hyattsville if that is of any help.

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Note to wine drinkers: plan to drink liquor or beer in Scranton.

While you're there, just belly up to any bar and order "Lager." That one word brings you Yuengling, no questions asked. And its cheap, since its brewed in Pottsville, which is not far from aforementioned Frackville.

Any recommendations for decent restaurants in the Wilkes-Barre/Wyoming Valley area? I'm headed up there, and its always a challenge to avoid Olive Garden or Red Lobster.

Was to the Cooper's in Pittston this spring, and their beer list was extensive and impressive. Unfortunately, the food was not so much. And the scene was a joke, even if you can overlook the great white shark on the sign. We arrived around 8pm and by 9pm you could have a limp spaghetti noddle drop in the kitchen. (If you're a fan of "The Office" they ref Cooper's often, but its the original in Scranton.)

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I like Grico's on Wyoming Ave in Pittston. Celestino's too. It's been awhile since I dined in Wilkes Barre proper. I have heard good things about K Medici, but haven't been there myself. Phone is 570-822-8688 if you'd like them to fax you the menu.

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I recently enjoyed Michelangelo's Restaurant, just outside of Clarks Summit, for dinner. Not cheap, but excellent food and service in a very pleasant setting. The staff was friendly, the winelist was good, the food as I remember, including a very good soft shelled crab and some excellent lamb, was excellent for the area.

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Had dinner last night at Center Street Cafe in Pittston... in a neighborhood apparently also known as Hughestown. Its Italian and was recommended by a DC resident, Pittston native. Service was very friendly. Veal was good. I had stuffed sole. Pork medallions looked tasty.

Clams casino app were filled to the brim. Stuffed mushrooms were tasty, but not overly special. Shrimp cocktail were too limp.

The sides are generic. Choice of potato (mashed with peppers, etc. added) and mixed veggie. Salad was a lot of iceberg and too much dressing.

For the area, it was a decent meal. Will return on future trip to the in-laws.

For a dynamite meal in the Valley though, hit the church bizarres for potato pancakes, pizza fritta (fried dough with sugar), etc. We went to one in Swoyersville last year that had great potato pancakes. Waited 45 mins. in line, maxed out our order, and it was well worth it! Having returned from Poland in May, its a good way to get back to the placki we were loving in Krakow, Zakopane, Jaroslaw and in between.

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Although my hometown can be bizarre, I think you mean bazaars. ;) Worth checking out:

La Festa Italiana (Labor Day Weekend)

St. Ann's novena starts on the 17th so I believe the picnic is this coming weekend. That's a big one.

The Scranton Times-Tribune web site lists dates (search for "Clipboard"). Other big names to look for are Holy Rosary, Saint Joseph's Center and anything that takes place in Old Forge (really). Some of the best potato pancakes can be found at the Russian Orthodox church on Keyser Avenue (less than 5 miles off 81 for those of you just passing through; look for the giant bright blue dome).

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There's a really nice BYO just south of Clarks Summit proper called Pepato Cafe. And the PA state store in Clarks Summit (just north--the other side of the highway) has some, er, useful closeouts.

Very simple food--mostly grills and roasts with precisely cooked veg. Not cheap, at least before you consider the lack of booze markup.

We ate in Pepato two summers ago with several bottles. We left them a couple, including an unlabeled bottles of 2003 BWC Syrah. They keep a stockpile of bottles to give to unsuspecting non-BYOers (they can't sell wine, but can give it away, and traveling businesspeople sometimes don't remember to BYO). So bring an extra one and, if you're as chuffed as we were, donate it ;).

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