Bedford pleases palates
You won’t find chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Red Lobster in downtown Bedford, but you will find some high-quality eating establishments.
A handful of locally owned restaurants have opened downtown giving diners a variety of choices.
Some of them include 10/09 Kitchen, The Restaurant at Golden Eagle Inn, Lifestyles and Bedford Tavern and Restaurant.
“Anytime a new business is launched, it represents an investment in our region, and we certainly celebrate that trend. The new restaurants offer a variety of interesting and unique menus and experiences that undoubtedly bring visitors to our county as well as serve residents in addition to travelers who are here for business and pleasure,” said Kellie Goodman Shaffer, executive director of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce.’
Tom Salmon and Mary Jane Housel took over the restaurant at the Golden Eagle Inn, 131 E. Pitt St., on July 31, 2013.
The couple met in 2003 while working at Nikos, a Greek restaurant in New York City.
Housel is a native of Everett, and the couple decided to return to Bedford County.
“We wanted something that was ours,” Housel said.
The first step was to find a chef, and luckily Zach Ford and his brother, Drew, former chefs at the Altoona Hotel, were available.
“Hiring them was the best decision that we made. We get a lot of Altoona and Hollidaysburg people. They have a good reputation,” Housel said.
“Chef Zach Ford, he is so inventive and consistent,” Salmon said.
Lamb shank and periodic oyster dishes such as Oysters Rockefeller, fried oysters and oysters on a half shell as well as fresh catch such as walleye and North Carolina catfish have become popular dishes, Salmon said. A chef burger – a blend of three meats with a candy bacon sauce on it – also is popular.
“The restaurant has been great; it has far exceeded our expectations. It was a food scene waiting to happen here,” Salmon said.
Salmon and Housel added a downstairs pub in the spring.
“We thought it was a natural spot for a pub. John Anderson had a pub there years ago. The Golden Eagle was the name of a tavern that had been there before. We opened the week before St. Patrick’s Day. We sold a lot of Guinness,” Salmon said.
Lifestyle, 108 E. Pitt St., isn’t a newcomer. It opened as an Italian products store in April 2007 but evolved into a restaurant in July 2008.
“We decided to serve the products that we were selling to show people how to use them,” said owner/chef Stefano Ferrari, a native of Milan, Italy.
Lifestyle brings something different to the Bedford dining community – it is known for its Saturday night Trattoria where all guests are seated at the same table with five different courses served.
Dinner begins with an appetizer, followed by the first dish (pasta or risotto), second dish accompanied by a side (pork, beef, chicken, lamb or salmon) and the meal is finalized with a cheese plate including pairings, dessert and espresso.
Guests are encouraged to bring a bottle of wine, Ferrari said.
Reservations are needed for the $50 meal.
“Lifestyle is an informal restaurant you usually find in small towns in Italy that serve local foods and wines. We try to have Italian recipes using fresh meat, vegetables and ingredients we find around here,” Ferrari said. “I decide the menu during the week and call everyone and suggest the wine that they bring. If they don’t like something, I will change the menu. After six years of doing this, I know what the people like. I serve things I think they will enjoy and everybody will eat.”
Among the most popular main courses are pork tenderloin with sauteed onions, raisins and balsamic vinegar and chicken cacciatore, Ferrari said.
“Here they sit down, enjoy the food and the company. It is a big part of the Italian culture to sit at the table and enjoy the meal. It is good for family and friends to be together. That is what we try to have here. People see and understand that when they come here and really enjoy it,” Ferrari said.
Lifestyle also offers five course meals for private parties during the week.
“The number of private parties depends on the season. We usually have two or three a week,” Ferrari said.
“Everything we do is of the highest quality. People like the atmosphere of the place. It is like being in Italy for one night,” Ferrari said.
The Bedford Tavern and Restaurant, 224 E. Pitt St., has been around since 1946, the last seven years under the ownership of Jeff Rinscheid.
Rinscheid said he quadrupled the size of the kitchen and tripled the dining space after he purchased the business from the May family, which had owned it since 1981.
The Bedford Tavern and Restaurant is best known for its seafood.
“We feature all you can eat seafood. Crab legs are popular, but we also have scallops, oysters, clams, shrimp and a couple of kinds of fish. We don’t have lobster tails. Crab legs draw people in,” Rinscheid said.
Rinscheid admits business is tough with the growing number of restaurants.
“There are too many restaurants that can’t be sustained by the population. We just keep our nose to the grindstone. You keep trying to be innovative and find opportunities to work with others to bring more business into town,” Rinscheid said.
In October, Rinscheid purchased the Bread Basket Cafe, which enabled him to offer lunch. The restaurant now operates under the name The Bread Basket at the Bedford Tavern.
“I started serving lunch with their traditional menu and some of my seafood items,” Rinscheid said.
10/09 Kitchen opened its doors June 25, 2013, at 132 E. Pitt St.
“My husband (Nick) and I talked about this since our first date. He has been a chef his whole career, and I have always wanted to own my own business. The two of us make a nice pair,” said Sara Letzo. “We are co-owners. He is the chef, and I am the everything else. He has one big job, and I have one thousand little jobs.”
The couple met in 2009 while working at Bedford Springs where Nick was a sous chef and Sara was director of finance.
The name of their restaurant – 10/09 – is their wedding date.
“We wanted a name that was personal,” Sara Letzo said.
When the restaurant opened, only dinner was served. Lunch service began in March.
“We kept getting asked when we would be open for lunch; business people wanted a place to take their clients,” Sara Letzo said.
Business has been going well.
“Our first year we did 40 percent better than we expected. I think we will keep growing. We have built a great reputation. We have been very blessed,” Sara Letzo said. “We are working at expanding the number of seats.”
Two of the top items on the dinner menu are seared scallops with mushroom risotto and bucatini bolognese.
“Nick makes the bolognese sauce from scratch on a daily basis. We have people who come once a week and that is the only thing they will order,” Sara Letzo said.
The local restaurants work together, and several teamed up with Briar Valley Winery for a walking wine dinner event.
“We like our guests to have variety. We want them to get a good full downtown Bedford experience. We see each other as competitors, but it has to be a healthy competition. I think we realize that we are stronger for the variety that we offer. Our focus is a bed/breakfast and an upscale dining restaurant. We also have a pub where people can get a nice glass of wine,” Salmon said.
Letzo said she has a great relationship with Salmon and Housel.
“We are so far from being saturated; there is no need to be competitors. We send each other business. We don’t have a liquor license yet, so I send people to have a drink at Golden Eagle. We admire the work of Tom and Mary Jane. They are doing great work over there,” Letzo said.
Ferrari and Rinscheid agree that the local restaurateurs have a friendly relationship.
“To have the others in town it helps Bedford to be more appealing. One time they come here, and another time they go to another. The restaurants are like a culinary attraction in Bedford,” Ferrari said.
The local restaurateurs said Bedford is a unique town.
“We see this as a unique market. You have a very high population of affluent diners but also have a high tourism count,” Letzo said.
“I think it is a marvelous little town. It is wonderful, not just the restaurants but the shops. For a little town, there is a lot. It is visually pleasant,” Salmon said. “We are not a fast food place. People are not in and out in a half hour. We want the people to understand it is an experience and it takes a little time.”