Valley Tavern in Seven Valleys serves chicken and waffles and lobster mac and cheese
Location: 1 Cherry St., Seven Valleys
Jess' pick: Valley Chicken and Waffles with one side, $11.95
Hours: Dining room: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Price range: $1.50, apple juice box; $31.95, broiled seafood feast
Smoking: Permitted in the bar, but not the dining room
Accepts: Cash and credit
Kid's menu: Yes
Details: Call 717-428-2611 or visit thevalleytavern.com
In The Valley Tavern's more than 150-year history, it's survived a fire and multiple floods. (Thankfully, the fire department is next door.)
Pictures hang on the dining room wall showcasing the tavern's past. Meg Fullerton, who's owned the restaurant the last nine years with her husband, Terry, said the fire was in 1985, started by a broaster. The most recent flood was three years ago, after tropical storms Irene and Lee. But, by the night of the flood, Fullerton said, the bar and kitchen were open.
Lately, the tavern has been a prime location to watch hikers and bikers zoom past on the York County Heritage Rail Trail – and watch tractor-trailers become wedged under the nearby bridge.
No such excitement happened the recent Sunday when I visited. Upon entering the main door, there are two more doors -- one straight ahead leading to the bar, one to the right leading to the dining room. In the dining room, I seated myself, choosing a booth over a table.
Waitress Nancy Cramer has been serving generations of York Countians for about 35 years. Fullerton jokes she came with the settlement.
She took my order – Valley Chicken and Waffles ($11.95) with a choice of one side (mashed potatoes).
While I waited for the dish, Cramer brought a cracker assortment with cream cheese dip, perfect for munching.
My Cheap Eats budget is typically $15, but if I had decided to splurge, the lobster macaroni and cheese sounded delicious for $21.95. The tavern prides itself on crab cakes ($17.25 for one or $20.25 for two) and broasted chicken ($11.95 for four pieces).
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the tavern offers all-you-can-eat chicken for just $9.25. On Mondays, you'll find a hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes for $7.95; Tuesdays, a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes for $7.95.
To me, it's all York County comfort food. But it's been years since I've seen chicken and waffles on a menu. Four waffles arrived covered in gravy with hunks of chicken; mashed potatoes plated on the side. About half of the full plate went home with me in a box for later.
Lunches are well within Cheap Eats range – order a meatball sub with provolone cheese and marinara for $5.95. Grilled chicken breast, fried fish or burgers are some of the many options that come with your choice of bread, cheese and toppings. All sandwiches include chips and a dill pickle spear.
If you saved room for dessert, assorted cakes and pies are $4.25 for a slice. The Valley Peanut Butter Pie sounded intriguing for $4.75 or the Valley Sundae for $4.50.
Cramer has seen a lot since she started working at the tavern more than three decades ago, but when the restaurant first opened in the 1800s, Seven Valleys was strikingly different.
The Northern Central Railway was in full operation, and the town was bustling, known for manufacturing cigars and ice cream, according to the borough website. Seven Valleys included two general stores, two hotels, two churches, two secret lodges, a baseball team, a feed and flour mill, two ice cream plants, a blacksmith shop, four cigar factories and a sewing factory.
It's much more low-key today, with a population of just over 500, according to the 2010 Census.
But the tavern seems to be the one element Seven Valleys still has, continuing to unite people over food.
Email Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter @JessKrout.