Gettysburg is well known for its Civil War history and tourists come from all over to visit battlefield sites, museums, historical homes and more. What many don’t realize about this charming Pennsylvania town, however, is that it’s also a hot spot for foodies.
It’s a no brainer when you notice the area around town is flourishing with agriculture. Thriving veggie and fruit farms sit alongside dairy farms and breweries, making it one of the most active agricultural regions in the country.
A good intro-duction to the food scene is to take Savor Gettysburg’s Historic Downtown Food Tour. You’ll walk, eat, drink and get a hearty dose of history, as well as insider tips and recommendations, on this three-hour excursion. And all the establishments you’ll stop in at are locally owned and operated.
Our tour guide Gayle met our group at Tacos Monarca Mexican Grill, which we were told has the best tacos in town. The restaurant offers authentic Mexican fare using the freshest ingredients. We sampled a Quesabirria, a corn taco full of spicy, shredded beef cooked with melted cheese. The beef is slow cooked in a seasoned chili sauce. It comes out like a cross between tacos and quesadillas. And if you like a lot of heat, you’re welcome to add more red sauce.
Tacos Monarca is named after the monarch butterflies that migrate from Canada to Michoacan, Mexico – the home state of owners Jimena and Louis Gonzalez. The butterfly symbolizes change and rebirth, which is exactly what the couple was searching for when they decided to take a leap of faith and open the restaurant in 2020.
The next stop was Food 101, a local gem specializing in New American, made-from-scratch, dishes and artisan pizza. The place is casual and contemporary, with a modern diner vibe and open kitchen. The menu looked wonderful with offerings that included fresh salads, a veggie powerhouse sandwich, lobster pita, a Cubana, truffle parmesan fries and more delish-sounding dishes. Our group dived into slices of Wild Mushroom White Pizza with truffled mushrooms, caramelized onions, fontina, asiago and mozzarella cheese. Yum!
Stop number three was Garryowen Irish Pub, Gettysburg’s only Irish owned pub. This convivial place features authentic Irish fare, a selection of 200 plus Irish whiskeys, the best of Ireland’s draft beers and of course, the perfect Guinness pour. It’s owned and operated by
Kevin and Joanne McCready, who are originally from the Emerald Isle. The pub is an inviting establishment with a handsome mahogany bar and several cozy dining areas.
The menu boasts such Irish delights as Scotch Egg, Bangers & Mash, Fish & Chips, Garryowen Irish Stew and naturally, Shepherd’s Pie, the latter which was given to us to sample on the tour. Made from a family recipe, it consists of seasoned beef with veggies in a rich gravy, topped with lightly browned mashed potato. It was accompanied by a glass of Scrumpy Prig Cider, made from local apples. Speaking of apples, there are 250 varieties grown around Gettysburg and cideries abound.
More cider was ahead for us at Reid’s Winery & Cider House, stop number four. This family owned and operated winery, vineyard and orchard has a wide variety of handcrafted red, white and fruit wines, as well as a line of hard ciders. Here we tasted several wines, including a nice Seminary Ridge red, and a few different ciders. A plate of accompaniments featured some yummy, local apple butter, tomato basil, garlic-infused cheddar cheese and a chocolate caramel to sample with the wines.
One of my favorite stops was Cottage Creperie. I adore crepes, both sweet and savory, and the cookie butter, caramel, vanilla ice cream and banana crepe I had was wonderful. I could have easily eaten here for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as the selection is extensive. The majority of ingredients are locally sourced and you can watch your crepe being made, adding an entertainment aspect to your meal.
Owner Lori Mitchell, who is also the founder of Savor Gettysburg Food Tours, recently opened Cottage Creperie, making a longtime dream a reality. She first experienced crepes thirty years ago and was smitten ever since. It inspired her to learn the art of crepe making and she took classes in New York and PA, as well as sampled crepes during her travels in Europe.
The tour ended with another sweet treat at Mr. G’s Ice Cream. The menu features sixteen flavors of homemade ice cream, homemade waffle cones, shakes, flurries and more. And there are always several seasonal flavors, like peach and blueberry in summer and pumpkin in fall. Hard to choose, but a cup of half coffee and half coconut did the trick for me. Beware – the scoop sizes are huge!
You’ll find Mr. G’s in the Historic Twin Sycamores House, circa 1819. Out front is one of the town’s twenty or so Witness Trees. Such trees were alive when the Battle of Gettysburg occurred and are still standing today, as silent sentinels of the past. If only they could talk…
Throughout the tour, Gayle regaled us with commentary and stories regarding the different historical buildings in town and the colorful characters who once inhabited these structures. She also emphasized the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg and how the 2,400 residents were left to pick up the pieces and tend to the approximately 21,000 dead or wounded soldiers left behind. The tales illustrated the overwhelming humanity on display throughout this challenging time.
During my stay in Gettysburg, I ate at several spots that I can heartily recommend. For lunch, head to SavorHood, a newly opened food hall with ten food stations, a brewery, taproom and bar. You’ll have no trouble finding something tasty to eat, from Texas style barbecue, wood-fired pizzas and street tacos to lobster rolls, Philly cheesesteaks and more. Make sure to grab a cookie or two to go from Gettysburg Cookie Co. I wanted to take a crate of the Peach Orchard ones home with me.
For dinner, I had the pleasure of dining at a trio of delightful restaurants. One night, it was The Sign of the Buck, a newly opened establishment in the historic Union Hotel. Co-owners Leslie Magraw and Andrew Johnson are behind the place, and they’re also the owners of the twelve-suite boutique property. The name, The Sign of the Buck, is a nod to the past, as it’s the same as the location had back in 1804 when it started life as a tavern and boarding house.
Chef Brent Golding’s cuisine is New American with a French spin and Pennsylvania Dutch influence, emphasizing fresh and local produce, meats, seafood, ciders and more. Start with one of the meat or cheeseboards, or the Salmon Tartine or Crab & Hashbrown Royale, a meld of crabmeat, hashbrowns, cream cheese and caviar.
Definitely order the Alsatian pretzel rolls to accompany whatever you decide. Served with caraway cheddar cream and mustard butter dips, they are to-die-for!
As for entrees, you’ll find a number of seafood dishes, such as rockfish with farro, scallops with sweet corn risotto and trout with gnocchi to satisfy any pescatarian. And if you’re a carnivore, there are steak frites, a venison steak and even a cheeseburger to sate those meat cravings. You’ll enjoy the top notch food as you dine in this contemporary brasserie with its casual, unpretentious vibe.
Being enamored with historic homes, I jumped at the opportunity to eat at the Dobbin House Tavern, Gettysburg’s oldest, most historic house. Built in 1776, it offers elegant fine dining, as well as casual fare, and is also a B&B.
As for the house’s history, Reverend Alexander Dobbin, a frontier pioneer who helped settle and civilize the area, built the place. In the mid-1800s, a secret crawl space in the house served as a “station” for hiding runaway slaves during their perilous journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad. And after the Battle of Gettysburg, the residence was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers from both the North and the South.
Today, the house looks virtually the same as it did over 200 years ago. Its stone walls, fireplaces and hand-carved woodwork have all been lovingly restored to their original beauty and character. Antique furnishings provide the décor and the China and flatware are an exact match with the fragments which were unearthed during the re-excavation of the cellar. Waitstaff wear period clothing that’s authentic down to the tie-on pockets.
I opted to do the fine dining experience in the “Colonial Manner.” There are six historic dining rooms, including the Bedroom, where one can actually dine in bed! I was seated in the cozy Library next to a crackling fireplace.
The place had me from the start when a basket of warm homemade breads appeared on the table. I made a beeline for the carrot bread, but after scarfing down two slices, I controlled myself, knowing I had an entire dinner on the way.
The menu is well-rounded. Steaks and other meat dishes are popular, as is fresh seafood with offerings like Maryland Colony Crabcakes, Gettystown Shrimp and Drunken Scallops; the latter which are sauteed with bacon and herbs, then “drowned” in Chablis. Don’t you just love the choice of wording?
If you can’t decide between carnivore or pescatarian, opt for the Flesh and Fish, where you’ll get both. If you’re a vegetarian, however, the options are limited. All entrees include salad and choice of baked or sweet potato or vegetable of the day.
Save room for the array of homemade desserts, like pecan or apple pie, or my personal fave, the fresh baked Warm Colonial Gingerbread with lemon sauce and whipped cream. Heavenly!
For a more casual scene, head downstairs to the Springhouse Tavern, where the historic alehouse aura is prominent and the food options focus on sandwiches, salads and soups.
On my third night in Gettysburg, I drove about fifteen minutes outside of town to Mansion House 1757, another historic property with a restaurant, tavern and inn. The farm-to-fork menu here reflects the restaurant’s partnerships with over twenty local farms, markets, cheesemakers, brewers, bakers, butchers, and wineries of Adams County.
During the Battle of Gettysburg, General J.E.B. Stuart used Mansion House as an officer’s quarters and General Robert E. Lee and officers ate at the restaurant while in retreat. Flash forward a century when Mamie Eisenhower came to dine here with friends. And later, actress Jean Stapleton and her husband would stay at Mansion House during the summers while working to establish The Totem Pole Playhouse, which is still operational today.
Start your meal with the Crab Imperial Eggroll or a soup sampler, which includes She Crab Soup, Chilled Peach Soup and Local Corn & Roasted Sweet Pepper Bisque. You’ll have your pick of such entrees as scallops, shrimp etouffee, stuffed flounder, pecan crusted chicken breast, a ribeye, pork chop and more tantalizing dishes. When it comes to dessert, you might find it hard to narrow down your choice, though in my case, I had laser focus on the Peach Dutch Crumb Cobbler with vanilla ice cream. And yes, I waddled out the door.
Good thing you do a lot of walking in Gettysburg!
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Debbie is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more.
Her travels have taken her to all fifty states and nearly 100 countries, spanning all seven continents.
Her stories reach over three million readers and listeners, and appear in numerous print and digital publications, including Luxe Beat Magazine, Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine, Parks & Travel Magazine, Northwest Prime Time, Woodinville Weekly, Santa Fe Fine Lifestyles Magazine, Edmonds Beacon, Outdoors Northwest, Southwest Stories Magazine, Go World Travel, Northeast Traveler and Travelworld International Magazine, among others. She can also be heard sharing her travel adventures on Big Blend Radio.