A sign at John Wright Restaurant advertises local tomatoes. The restaurant aims to serve fresh, local ingredients.
A sign at John Wright Restaurant advertises local tomatoes. The restaurant aims to serve fresh, local ingredients. (FLIPSIDE -- EILEEN JOYCE)
Director of operations Jim Switzenberg likened his role at John Wright Restaurant to that of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

"I don't yell and scream," the former culinary instructor joked.

After the business' owners expanded the small restaurant to a 100-seat eatery in 2010, Switzenberg signed on to help with consulting.

He said he cleaned the kitchen, trained staff and revamped the menu in an attempt to offer food and service the restaurant could be proud of. He also hired some of his culinary students.

"When you have a kitchen that's proud of their food, it creates a service staff that's really proud of their kitchen," he said.

What's more, the "soapbox-screaming foodie" got a chance to put into practice a buy-local ideology.

He said he buys produce and meat from five farmers every week. The potatoes are still dusted with dirt when they arrive at the restaurant. He picks up 60 to 120 dozen eggs from an Elizabethtown farmer each week. He sat down with farmers in January to plan what vegetables he wanted for spring, summer and fall.

"When they take that green bean seed and put it in the ground, they know it's sold," Switzenberg said.

For the last several years, buying local and using fresh ingredients has become more of a focus for restaurateurs. Most owners and managers I interview for Cheap Eats mention it, at least to some degree.

However, at John Wright Restaurant, you can see it happening. It's not just a catch phrase.

Planters of basil and mint sat on the patio overlooking the Susquehanna River and the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge. Cherry and vine tomatoes climbed tomato cages. Switzenberg said he'll soon move inside lemon trees -- bartenders muddle the leaves for cocktails.

I sat on the brick patio under a yellow umbrella during a weekday lunch. I ordered a veggie wrap with fruit.

The tortilla, which was grilled, came filled with smoked gouda, hummus, spring mix, tomato, red onion and cucumbers. I liked that it wasn't overly stuffed or slathered in dressing. The combination of ingredients provided just enough flavor.

Switzenberg said even patrons who aren't locavores appreciate that their money stays in the community.

He said his goals aim beyond the restaurant -- he wants to build up the entire Wrightsville area. He likes the "village mentality" and said York countians can do more to utilize and support local agriculture.

I knew about Switzenberg's approach to food and business before eating at the restaurant because I had interviewed him for another story. It takes a lot of work, and it's commendable.

It doesn't go unnoticed. It's evident in the taste of the food and the atmosphere of the restaurant. He doesn't need that soapbox.

Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants, aiming to please our palates and our wallets. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 771-2101, lzaleski@ydr.com, @leighzaleski.

John Wright Restaurant

LOCATION: 234 N. Front St. in Wrightsville

CUISINE: Local, American

LEIGH'S PICK: Veggie wrap with fruit and coffee ($10.60)

PARKING: Yes

HOURS: 11 a.m. to
3 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to
3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday

PRICE RANGE: $1.50 to $25

ALCOHOL: Yes

ACCEPTS: Cash and credit

TAKEOUT: Yes

KID'S MENU: Yes

DETAILS: Visit www.johnwright
restaurant.com or call 717-252-0416