Above Harrisburg's Restaurant Row on a Saturday night, Level 2 nightclub's white trees and blue lights contrasted sharply with the dance floor at Susquehanna Ale House and bar crowd at Federal Taphouse.
You won't find the beards-wearing-their-hipsters at Level 2. The club is for those who love to dress up, order tuna tartare and sip cocktails. Down the road, sports bars lured the wing-and-beer crowd, while foodies filled the tables and whiskey bar at Stocks on Second.
This is the new Second Street.
Stephen Weinstock opened Stocks on Second in 1998, after a long period of a sparse nightlife scene in the city. "This was just at the beginning of the resurgence. The Whitaker Center was in the works, the FireHouse had opened around that time."
After that initial growth, the blocks just beyond the Hilton Hotel have reinvented themselves a couple of times. This 3.0 version has elbowed out some of the EDM nightclubs for a wider array of options.
"It has become more attractive now for date night — young professionals going out for an evening for drinks and entertainment," said Rick Dunlap, public relations director for Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. "We're seeing more emphasis on the dining experiences and the variety of experiences that you can have along Second Street still fun, still great nightlife but not every other door is a nightclub."
So, where to go for a good time? Depends on your tastes. For the social scene, here are some options:
Craft beer lover?
Federal Taphouse , 234 N. Second St.: In Lancaster, the Taphouse's bar is big and the space expansive. The Harrisburg version is cozier but with all the beer benefits and same menu. The beer menu is two pages long, and instead of cocktails, non-beer drinkers have hard cider choices. The food is a much better version of your typical pub grub. Try the poutine (smothered fries), fresh pretzels or artisan pizza to share. The crowd leans more toward 30-something hipster, but a mix of people hunkered down for dinner.
Fed Live, 234 N. Second St.: The 500-person capacity performance room Fed Live is on the second floor of the Federal Taphouse with its own full bar. Rock for Randy, 2-6 p.m. May 31, has several performers scheduled, including Grumpy Old Men and Single Barrel. See upcoming performers/DJs here .
Anthony's Micro Pub , 225 N. Second St.: Interesting craft beers on tap, trivia on Mondays, and occasional live music.
Beer and sports
Arooga's , 201 N. Second St.: The crowd — a range of ages — gathers on stools outside to watch sports on one of the screens. Bar food is on the menu and almost as many wing variations as taps, which include hard ciders and craft beers. Build your own cheesesteak, choose between four different kinds of macaroni and cheese, or get the mac-n-cheese burger, which speaks for itself. The menu is extensive. www.aroogas.com
McGrath's Pub , 202 Locust St.: This is where you kiss the blarney stone in Harrisburg. It's as Irish as a restaurant gets in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Grab a pint, chow down on some cottage shepherd's pie, and if they're playing, prepare to root for the Fighting Irish.
Brick Haus , 229 N. Second St.: Bar hop here for fun energy. No dancing but really creative shot options, like its famous Lumberjack shot with butterscotch schnapps, whiskey, Bailey's Irish Cream, and - ahem - a slice of bacon.
Zembie's Sports Tavern , 226 N. Second St.: Batter up. Even the food is named after baseball players at this sports haven. Surrounded by full screens, the restaurant has everything from crab cakes to wraps.
Susquehanna Ale House , 236 N. Second St.: Outside seating and wide open doors invite guests into the ale house with its 70 beers on tap and sparse tables inside. The dance floor began to fill up around 10 with 20- and 30-somethings. Doors officially open at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights and close at 2 a.m.
Level 2 , 215 N. Second St.: The bride-to-be, donned in a faux veil, and her entourage might be headed to the chapel, but more likely, she's going to Level 2's VIP seating for classy cocktails and upscale appetizers. Find Top 40 music and a younger crowd here.
Sit under the stars
Sawyers , 210 N. Second St.: Some of the restaurant-bars on Second Street have outdoor seating, but they can't beat Sawyers' fire pits, large outside bar, chairs and couches. Forget hipster cocktails here; they don't have cucumber-infused vodka. The price to being outside is plastic-cup beers and simple mix cocktails.
Whiskey and wine
Stocks on 2nd , 211 N. Second St.: Inside Stocks on 2nd on a recent Saturday night, a duo performed songs from the '70s to a mixed crowd, mostly 40- and 50-somethings. The restaurant underwent a renovation in 2014 that changed it from a primo restaurant to a farm-to-table gastropub and whiskey bar, serving craft cocktails like the brown derby, old-fashioned and Moscow mule. A pairing for your cocktail: braised boar fries or a cheese plate. Have a sweet tooth? Stocks' famous peanut butter pie is layered with fudgy chocolate.
Bacco Pizzeria and Wine Bar , 20 N. Second St.: Small plates and a variety of pizzas with a nice wine selection. Not for the casual bar hopper.
Buddha Buddha , 400 N. Second St.: For the cocktail lovers, this Asian-inspired bar serves hand-crafted cocktails, bottled beers, small plates and vegan options.
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