It was balmy Jan. 12 outside the Burning Bridge Tavern, nestled on a hill in Wrightsville that leads down to the Susquehanna River. Customers didn't need to bundle up to step outside to make calls or have a smoke. It was warm enough to sit on the second floor roof deck, which is usually used during the spring and summer.

But most patrons were focused on the frigid NFL faceoff in Colorado. Cheers sounded for both the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens after the 4:30 p.m. kickoff. Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers fans, deprived of a playoff team to root for, had to choose a side.

Mike Salsgiver, who was decked out in a Steelers hat and sweatshirt, jokingly warned Ravens fans to pipe down.

Salsgiver, who lives up the road, said he visits the Burning Bride Tavern once or twice a week. He said the friendly atmosphere and food usually get him in the door. The plentiful 70-, 60- and 50-inch flat screens make it an ideal place to watch big games.

"No matter where you sit, you can see," he said.

Down the bar - crafted with a walnut tree from the owners' farm - Norah Saxman rooted for Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

"It's quiet here," the Wrightsville resident said, "except on game days."

The nachos and Creamsicle crush drink are a few of her favorite menu items, she added. When Saxman first came into the remodeled bar, she told all her friends about its modern and open floor plan.

"It has a brewery feel," she said. "It's definitely different."

Co-manager Steve Conti said the brick building operated as a hotel and tavern for 150 years. The establishment was formerly called the Hometown Hotel. A fire gutted most of the structure in 2008. It was renovated and rebuilt by the owners of Wrightsville's John Wright Restaurant.

The Burning Bridge Tavern - named after Wrightsville's Civil War claim to fame - opened last February. The complex also has 12 hotel rooms and is flanked by apartment buildings. It has exposed brick walls and accents in metal and wood - crafted in the sawmill around the corner.

The bar smokes all its own meat - brisket, pork and ribs. In addition to pulled pork, the wings are a customer favorite and come in a dozen flavors, including a Burning Bridge dry rub, Conti said. Each table has a roll of paper towels to mop up sauces left on cheeks and fingers. In addition to orange and mango crushes, the bar serves 12 drafts, including a signature Burning Bridge Red by Lancaster Brewing Co.

Peanut shells crunch underfoot, thanks to a big barrel that sits in the dining room. The nuts are such a popular snack that the bar goes through about 120 large bags a month, Conti said.

barrel of salted peanuts is a staple at Burning Bridge Tavern.
barrel of salted peanuts is a staple at Burning Bridge Tavern. (FLIPSIDE -- CHRIS DUNN)

Most of the walls, including the ones above the urinals in the men's bathroom, are actually chalk boards that customers and kids can scrawl on. A stage at the rear of the main bar and dining area features live bluegrass and country music from local groups and Nashville up-and-comers like J.P. Harris. A smaller upstairs bar can be rented for parties.

Last call is at 12:30 a.m. by choice, Conti said. It's meant to be a family-friendly neighborhood hangout. A lot of people walk to the tavern. Others ride their Harleys up to the front door. As the dining area filled in around 5 p.m., Conti stopped at tables to chat. He joked with his daughter Erica, who tends bar.

"We kind of fly under the radar," Conti said. But, since the tavern's in the shadow of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge it's easy to find, he added.

On Jan. 12, Christa and Tom Mann of Downingtown came to York County to revisit the place where they married more than four years ago - Lauxmont Farms. Afterward, they headed to the Burning Bridge for the first time to meet friends.

Christa sipped water form a mason jar and raved about her burger and fries. An Eagles fan, she said most of their group was rooting for the Broncos. Of course, the Ravens eked out the win that night.

But regardless of the score or weather, most Burning Bridge customers will be back Sunday for the pigskin and peanuts.

PopEye is a bi-weekly column focusing on the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. To reach writer Erin McCracken, call 717-771-2051 or send an email to emccracken@ydr.com

Tavern Tour

FlipSide is taking its PopEye column on the road to explore taverns around York County. In this ongoing series, we'll give readers a peek inside small-town bars and out-of-the-way watering holes. At each stop, we'll learn about local history and share stories about the people at and behind the bar. Want to suggest a Tavern Tour stop or story? Email emccracken@ydr.com.

Other Tavern Tours you can find on flipsidepa.com:

The Hodle in New Freedom

The Valley Tavern in Seven Valleys

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Burning Bridge Tavern

The sports bar and live music venue is at 108 Hellam St., Wrightsville. Weekly food specials include wings, barbecue ribs and smoked pork. The tavern features live bands on the weekends and an open mike night on Wednesdays. In March, the bar is planning to add a Nashville Style Songwriters Night. The venue is non-smoking. Smoking is permitted on the front porch and second-floor roof deck. It has a pool table and sponsors two local pool teams. And unlike Wrightsville's historic John Wright Restaurant, which is rumored to be haunted, The Burning Bridge doesn't boast ghosts.

"I think we burned our ghosts out," co-manager Steve Conti said with a laugh.

For details, call 717-252-2468 or visit burningbridgetavern.com.

Sports coverage

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