• Hershey Road

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The owner of Hershey Road Family Restaurant has dialed down his style of cooking from fine to family-friendly dining.

With years of experience as a certified executive chef, Scott Levy (co-owner, wife Jackie runs the front of the house) would rather folks drop in to this new coffee shop-style eatery two or three times a week than splurge once or twice a year at a fancier venue. The restaurant produces top-notch, homemade food, but prices are affordable and the extensive menu focuses on uncomplicated, good-quality fare.

The newly built box-shaped restaurant went up in West Hanover at the back end of La Quinta Hotel’s parking lot in May. Clean and sparsely decorated with flat screens of food items, the big, open room has large booths next to plate-glass windows, tables and luncheonette counter pinned with wrapped baked goods. Homemade sticky buns, $3.79, are favorites down the counter at breakfast.

Made-from-scratch recipes are prevalent, especially when it comes to appetizers, soups and specials. Our waitress recommended the house-made stuffed mushrooms, $6.99.

Panko-crusted and deep-fried mushrooms hugged bite-size soft clusters of seasoned cream cheese. For further creaminess, we dipped the mushroom clumps into piquant horseradish sauce. Fried green beans, $7.59, were just as crisply fried and golden brown. This big pile of lengthy beans was served with chipotle ranch sauce.

Soups, cup, $2.49, admits Levy are “labors of love.” Two soups are made every day such as Cuban black bean and cream of crab. “I put a lot of love and care into my soups, they’re not just thrown into the pot,” he said. Ham and bean soup pops up on the menu quite a bit because it has become popular.

Daily specials are all from scratch such as Monday’s chicken potpie, $9.99. The homemade noodles in this Pennsylvania Dutch dish are rolled out by hand and formed into squares.

On Tuesdays, stuffed peppers, $9.99, make their appearance on the menu under specials. Twin peppers are stuffed with ground seasoned beef and rice. Wednesday’s stuffed cabbages, $9.99, are made the same way as the peppers, but cabbage leaves replace bell peppers as vessels for beef and rice.

Spinach pie, $10.99, (includes roll, soup or Greek salad and one vegetable), already has followers, Levy says. This classic Greek dish consists of spinach and Feta cheese mixture under a lid of crispy, browned phyllo layers.

We noticed several tables were filled completely by workmen. When the waitress delivered their meals, fries tumbled off the plates as they were being set down. What was next to those fries? Burgers.

“Burgers are big sellers,” Levy says. They combined ground beef with chopped onions, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. And Levy makes sure no one making the burgers presses down on the patties with spatulas while they’re on the grill.

“I don’t want all of the juices pressed out,” he adds.

I went ahead and ordered Hershey’s half-pound house “smothered” burger, $8.99, laced with fried onions, crisp fried bacon and melted mozzarella cheese. Cooked to preference, the rare-centered meat patty dripped with locked in juices.

The American menu is lengthy and therefore there were items on the menu that did not taste as “homey” as others. “My mother made the best ham loaf” commented my dining companion. “ I never order it because it won’t taste like Mom’s.”

Well, she shouldn’t have ordered it. Ham loaf, $9.99, gets baked off at the restaurant, but the loaves come from Wenger’s, a local purveyor. The spoonful of crushed pineapple piled up over the slice masked any mild ham flavor.

In contrast, baked meat loaf, $9.99, has at least 16 ingredients added to this house recipe. Hot, moist and well-seasoned, meat loaf was a cut above the meek, invisible ham slice.

“It tasted like Mom’s” and that’s what the Levys want to hear when they meet and greet folks in the dining room.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the frozen, thawed vegetables consisting of broccoli, crimped carrot slices and cauliflower next to chicken cordon bleu. It was panko-crusted, thinly pounded chicken breast, $10 (with rolls, butter and two sides), wrapped around thinly sliced ham and Swiss cheese. Chicken was flavorful, but the pool of white, murky sauce was not.

There are assorted desserts always listed on the menu, but holiday specials pop up, too. Pumpkin pie, $3.59, with a fresh whipped cream edge was creamy and homemade, but custard filling could have used more spices. It was rather flat tasting.

A chocolate layer swiped over the crust enriched the thick and cream-based peanut butter pie. This piece of pie disappeared quickly with two forks attacking it from opposite sides.

Bypass anything not officially made on the premises and you’re in for a good meal. As Levy says “he’s not inventing the wheel but keeping it well greased.”

By Mimi Brodeur

Special to PennLive

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