The 17 Best Places to Eat in State College, Home of Penn State

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Eggs Benedict on a large oval plate with home fries, sitting on a menu for the Corner Room.
Eggs Benedict at the Corner Room.
Victoria Gough

Scoops of Mint Nittany at Penn State’s iconic Berkey Creamery, brunch at the popular Waffle Shop, chili at the decades-old Corner Room, and more of State College’s best restaurants

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Eggs Benedict at the Corner Room.
| Victoria Gough

With a charming small-town vibe, State College offers more than just the school spirit hinted at in the town’s name. The dining options are abundant and varied enough to feed a population of 40,000, which nearly doubles when class is in session — not to mention the couple million visitors per year who attend the school’s legendary football games and the lively Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. There are plenty of chain restaurants to choose from, but downtown State College’s impressive lineup of independent eateries provides a more accurate taste of the college town. Students, residents, visitors, and Nittany Lions fans are sure to find something to satisfy their appetites among the eclectic gastropubs, global cuisines, and beloved coffeehouses.

Victoria Gough is a recent Penn State graduate with a BA in advertising and public relations. She lives in Massachusetts.

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One of Penn State’s most cherished traditions, Berkey Creamery has been serving freshly made ice cream and dairy products since 1865. The creamery is committed to promoting local food, sourcing about 70 percent of its milk from a herd of dairy cows living on the university’s campus and the remaining supplies from other local farms. All production and packaging take place in-house within Penn State’s Food Science Building. As far as flavors go, the decadent Death by Chocolate is a clear fan favorite, but flavors inspired by Penn State’s campus and history, such as Mint Nittany and Alumni Swirl, are also popular. First-timers should note that the creamery offers only one size of cup or cone, and mixing flavors is strictly forbidden. One sip of Berkey Creamery chocolate milk will ruin all other chocolate milks.

Beneath Big Bowl Noodle House’s unassuming exterior — and interior, for that matter — is one of State College’s best-kept secrets for a quick and satisfying meal. Big Bowl truly lives up to its name: For less than $12, you can get a Styrofoam container bursting at the seams with freshly prepared rice and noodle dishes. Every item on the robust menu of Chinese and American Chinese food is a winner, and vegetarian diners will be pleasantly surprised by the number of options on the menu.

Tucked away in a small plaza on Calder Way, Cafe Alina may be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, but this Pakistani spot owned by husband and wife duo Asam and Afsheen Mirza is a must-visit. Upon entering, guests are greeted with the aroma of spices and a sleek (and highly Instagrammable) dining area. Order the chicken charga to share, or opt for the chicken or paneer karahi if you want your homestyle-cooked meal all to yourself. Be sure to get some vegetable pakoras on the side, and pair it all with a refreshing glass of mango lassi or a steaming mug of chai.

A meaty stew topped with cilantro.
Karahi at Cafe Alina.
Victoria Gough

This cozy breakfast spot is alway hopping with students, especially on weekend mornings. A Belgian waffle piled high with whipped cream and fresh fruit is the obvious choice, but opt instead for the eggs Benedict with creamy hollandaise and a side of crispy, well-seasoned home fries; it’s truly the best way to kick off your weekend. Arrive early to secure a table at this cash-only establishment.

Once a massively popular food stand at the Downtown State College Farmers Market, Carter’s Table opened its first permanent location at the beginning of 2023. The restaurant prides itself on serving unique and inventive tacos inspired by owner Shawn Carter’s childhood and travels around the globe, hence the slogan “worldwide flavors.” Tacos (and quesadillas) feature five-spice beef, Cajun shrimp, chicken shawarma, and Thai barbecue chicken.

Three tacos on a tin foil tray.
Tacos at Carter’s Table.
Carter’s Table

Students and residents love this bright and sunny cafe, not only for its use of natural ingredients, but also for its kind and welcoming atmosphere. The lattes, panini, freshly baked pretzels, and everything else at this peaceful cafe is made with locally and ethically sourced ingredients. Bring home a bag of Sowers Harvest Blend tea to brew for yourself.

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Located conveniently just a few steps away from both Old Main and the library, this bustling, industrial-looking cafe offers an abundance of choices to keep both busy students and visitors energized throughout the day. Without a doubt, the stars of the show are the bagels, which are made in-house every day. Opt for the ever-popular breakfast special: egg, cheese, and your choice of meat on a freshly baked, buttery bagel. Don’t forget to add fried potatoes to the sandwich or on the side.

Serving Penn Staters since 1926, the Corner Room stands as a tribute to Dear Old State, and it’s an essential bucket-list destination for students, alumni, and visitors. Diners can expect a heaping serving of Penn State memorabilia, as well as both classic and reimagined American comfort food, like a 40-year-old chili recipe and a peppery skillet of Eggs in Purgatory. End your meal with a serving of warm grilled stickies — a cross between a sticky bun and a cinnamon roll that originated at the legendary but now-closed Ye Olde College Diner. Go the extra step and top your grilled stickies with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.

A heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of grilled stickies, drizzled with caramel sauce, served on a white dish on top of a restaurant menu.
Grilled stickies with ice cream.
Victoria Gough

Mismatched tables and chairs on concrete flooring give Webster’s Bookstore Cafe a delightfully down-to-earth and oh-so-hip charm that has won over the hearts of countless students. The cafe serves a range of literary-named vegetarian fare. Order the Wuthering Heights (a walnut pate sandwich with Brie and apples), and sample one of the 80-plus loose-leaf teas. Get lost in the aisles of used books, records, and vintage clothing while you wait for your order. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a book discussion, concert, or open mic event.

Catch any Penn State match or game at Champs Downtown. One of the largest and most iconic sports bars in the area, Champs has solidified itself as a staple of State College’s unparalleled nightlife scene. This weekend hot spot offers an extensive drink selection, with a wide array of beers and a variety of fun mixed drinks, including “booze bags” served in drink pouches and Champs’ signature Dirty Sprite in grape or berry flavors. There are generous portions of classic bar fare, such as wings, loaded nachos, sandwiches, and pizza, to soak it all up. The enormous venue offers multiple options for entertainment, with a lively main bar area at street level and a basement that features a second, smaller bar, pool tables, arcade games, pinball, and more. While under-21 patrons are usually welcome to enjoy the food and atmosphere, on weekend nights or during special events, the bar often operates as a 21-plus establishment.

A dark bar with a long counter, library style lamps, rows of bottles on metal shelving, and TVs playing sports above.
Inside Champs.
Champs Downtown

Originally launched in Pittsburgh, the upscale burger restaurant Brgr opened its doors in State College in 2019, finding a spacious home in a former bank building. The space’s touch of industrial flair complements Brgr’s dressed-up burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Those dining in a group should kick off their meal with an order of Chachos (nachos with potato chips instead of tortilla chips) or poutine. For the main event, Brgr provides an array of signature and custom options, including Angus beef, grilled chicken, Impossible burger, salmon, or even bison meat (the kitchen is extremely accommodating with substitutions for dietary needs). The restaurant also offers some of the most decadent milkshakes in town, with boozy options available for those seeking an extra indulgence.

Anyone looking to get away from State College’s wild weekend nightlife scene will find a home at Local Whiskey. Both seasoned and aspiring spirits connoisseurs will be thrilled to hear about the extensive menu of more than 300 whiskeys. For the whiskey-disinclined, the chic haunt also boasts countless varieties of other liquors and seasonal craft cocktails. Whether you like your drinks strong or zero-proof, Local Whiskey’s upscale pub fare can’t be beat. The fries are the best in town.

Nestled in an alleyway, this Venezuelan establishment remains a hidden gem of State College that’s great for a quick lunch or dinner. Owner Ady Martinez pays homage to her grandmother Juana with Venezuelan dishes made with secret recipes and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. While the menu offers options like tacuchos (Venezuelan-style wraps) and cheese-filled cachapas, it would be a crime to leave without trying an arepa and a tall glass of Venezuelan chicha, often described as a liquid version of arroz con leche (rice pudding).

The menu at Big Dean’s is astoundingly short, but that’s because this Southern cuisine specialist wants to focus on one thing: Nashville hot chicken. Get the Go-To, which comes with four crispy, juicy tenders in your choice of three heat levels, a thick slice of buttery Texas toast, and creamy coleslaw or crinkle-cut fries. Wash it all down with a tall glass of cold sweet tea for a splash of the South in the heart of Pennsylvania.

Situated in the back of a plaza on College Avenue, Momotaro is a lively and trendy cafe that focuses on boba tea, but it also offers a delightful array of desserts to cater to every variety of sweet tooth. While the taro milk tea with boba is a must-try, make sure to explore the selection of charming cakes, including tiramisu, creme brulee, and cheesecakes. Alternatively, treat yourself to a bowl or cone of green tea ice cream topped with sweet red beans.

A branded Momotaro cup with green tea ice cream, red beans, a torched skewered marshmallow, and pocky sticks.
Green tea ice cream.
Victoria Gough

In central Pennsylvania, finding high-quality seafood can sometimes be a challenge. Tadashi delivers it in abundance. Relaxed yet sophisticated, this Japanese restaurant on South Atherton is an ideal choice for all kinds of occasions, from first dates to end-of-semester celebratory meals. Order at least a couple of Tadashi’s signature sushi rolls to start, and enjoy a classy yet comforting bowl of chicken or unagi donburi for your main course. Tadashi has a second location — a smaller, more intimate setting just a stone’s throw away on College Avenue — that focuses primarily on ramen, featuring tender pork in a rich, flavorful broth.

A closeup on a bowl of fish and vegetables, divided into portions, presented in a patterned bowl.
Spicy salmon bowl.
Victoria Gough

The first Lupita’s location was far from campus, inside of an otherwise unremarkable Uni-Mart, but this didn’t deter devoted fans from making the trek out to enjoy some of the best Mexican food in the area. In 2022, Lupita’s opened its second location, on Beaver Avenue, winning over countless new fans. Now within walking distance to campus, this low-key Mexican spot is an easy stop for flavorful tacos, gorditas, flautas, sopes, quesabirrias, and more.

A hand holds three tacos overflowing with ingredients.
Tacos at Lupitas.
Lupitas Authentic Mexican Food

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One of Penn State’s most cherished traditions, Berkey Creamery has been serving freshly made ice cream and dairy products since 1865. The creamery is committed to promoting local food, sourcing about 70 percent of its milk from a herd of dairy cows living on the university’s campus and the remaining supplies from other local farms. All production and packaging take place in-house within Penn State’s Food Science Building. As far as flavors go, the decadent Death by Chocolate is a clear fan favorite, but flavors inspired by Penn State’s campus and history, such as Mint Nittany and Alumni Swirl, are also popular. First-timers should note that the creamery offers only one size of cup or cone, and mixing flavors is strictly forbidden. One sip of Berkey Creamery chocolate milk will ruin all other chocolate milks.

Beneath Big Bowl Noodle House’s unassuming exterior — and interior, for that matter — is one of State College’s best-kept secrets for a quick and satisfying meal. Big Bowl truly lives up to its name: For less than $12, you can get a Styrofoam container bursting at the seams with freshly prepared rice and noodle dishes. Every item on the robust menu of Chinese and American Chinese food is a winner, and vegetarian diners will be pleasantly surprised by the number of options on the menu.

Tucked away in a small plaza on Calder Way, Cafe Alina may be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, but this Pakistani spot owned by husband and wife duo Asam and Afsheen Mirza is a must-visit. Upon entering, guests are greeted with the aroma of spices and a sleek (and highly Instagrammable) dining area. Order the chicken charga to share, or opt for the chicken or paneer karahi if you want your homestyle-cooked meal all to yourself. Be sure to get some vegetable pakoras on the side, and pair it all with a refreshing glass of mango lassi or a steaming mug of chai.

A meaty stew topped with cilantro.
Karahi at Cafe Alina.
Victoria Gough

This cozy breakfast spot is alway hopping with students, especially on weekend mornings. A Belgian waffle piled high with whipped cream and fresh fruit is the obvious choice, but opt instead for the eggs Benedict with creamy hollandaise and a side of crispy, well-seasoned home fries; it’s truly the best way to kick off your weekend. Arrive early to secure a table at this cash-only establishment.

Once a massively popular food stand at the Downtown State College Farmers Market, Carter’s Table opened its first permanent location at the beginning of 2023. The restaurant prides itself on serving unique and inventive tacos inspired by owner Shawn Carter’s childhood and travels around the globe, hence the slogan “worldwide flavors.” Tacos (and quesadillas) feature five-spice beef, Cajun shrimp, chicken shawarma, and Thai barbecue chicken.

Three tacos on a tin foil tray.
Tacos at Carter’s Table.
Carter’s Table

Students and residents love this bright and sunny cafe, not only for its use of natural ingredients, but also for its kind and welcoming atmosphere. The lattes, panini, freshly baked pretzels, and everything else at this peaceful cafe is made with locally and ethically sourced ingredients. Bring home a bag of Sowers Harvest Blend tea to brew for yourself.

Located conveniently just a few steps away from both Old Main and the library, this bustling, industrial-looking cafe offers an abundance of choices to keep both busy students and visitors energized throughout the day. Without a doubt, the stars of the show are the bagels, which are made in-house every day. Opt for the ever-popular breakfast special: egg, cheese, and your choice of meat on a freshly baked, buttery bagel. Don’t forget to add fried potatoes to the sandwich or on the side.

Serving Penn Staters since 1926, the Corner Room stands as a tribute to Dear Old State, and it’s an essential bucket-list destination for students, alumni, and visitors. Diners can expect a heaping serving of Penn State memorabilia, as well as both classic and reimagined American comfort food, like a 40-year-old chili recipe and a peppery skillet of Eggs in Purgatory. End your meal with a serving of warm grilled stickies — a cross between a sticky bun and a cinnamon roll that originated at the legendary but now-closed Ye Olde College Diner. Go the extra step and top your grilled stickies with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.

A heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of grilled stickies, drizzled with caramel sauce, served on a white dish on top of a restaurant menu.
Grilled stickies with ice cream.
Victoria Gough

Mismatched tables and chairs on concrete flooring give Webster’s Bookstore Cafe a delightfully down-to-earth and oh-so-hip charm that has won over the hearts of countless students. The cafe serves a range of literary-named vegetarian fare. Order the Wuthering Heights (a walnut pate sandwich with Brie and apples), and sample one of the 80-plus loose-leaf teas. Get lost in the aisles of used books, records, and vintage clothing while you wait for your order. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a book discussion, concert, or open mic event.

Catch any Penn State match or game at Champs Downtown. One of the largest and most iconic sports bars in the area, Champs has solidified itself as a staple of State College’s unparalleled nightlife scene. This weekend hot spot offers an extensive drink selection, with a wide array of beers and a variety of fun mixed drinks, including “booze bags” served in drink pouches and Champs’ signature Dirty Sprite in grape or berry flavors. There are generous portions of classic bar fare, such as wings, loaded nachos, sandwiches, and pizza, to soak it all up. The enormous venue offers multiple options for entertainment, with a lively main bar area at street level and a basement that features a second, smaller bar, pool tables, arcade games, pinball, and more. While under-21 patrons are usually welcome to enjoy the food and atmosphere, on weekend nights or during special events, the bar often operates as a 21-plus establishment.

A dark bar with a long counter, library style lamps, rows of bottles on metal shelving, and TVs playing sports above.
Inside Champs.
Champs Downtown

Originally launched in Pittsburgh, the upscale burger restaurant Brgr opened its doors in State College in 2019, finding a spacious home in a former bank building. The space’s touch of industrial flair complements Brgr’s dressed-up burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Those dining in a group should kick off their meal with an order of Chachos (nachos with potato chips instead of tortilla chips) or poutine. For the main event, Brgr provides an array of signature and custom options, including Angus beef, grilled chicken, Impossible burger, salmon, or even bison meat (the kitchen is extremely accommodating with substitutions for dietary needs). The restaurant also offers some of the most decadent milkshakes in town, with boozy options available for those seeking an extra indulgence.

Anyone looking to get away from State College’s wild weekend nightlife scene will find a home at Local Whiskey. Both seasoned and aspiring spirits connoisseurs will be thrilled to hear about the extensive menu of more than 300 whiskeys. For the whiskey-disinclined, the chic haunt also boasts countless varieties of other liquors and seasonal craft cocktails. Whether you like your drinks strong or zero-proof, Local Whiskey’s upscale pub fare can’t be beat. The fries are the best in town.

Nestled in an alleyway, this Venezuelan establishment remains a hidden gem of State College that’s great for a quick lunch or dinner. Owner Ady Martinez pays homage to her grandmother Juana with Venezuelan dishes made with secret recipes and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. While the menu offers options like tacuchos (Venezuelan-style wraps) and cheese-filled cachapas, it would be a crime to leave without trying an arepa and a tall glass of Venezuelan chicha, often described as a liquid version of arroz con leche (rice pudding).

The menu at Big Dean’s is astoundingly short, but that’s because this Southern cuisine specialist wants to focus on one thing: Nashville hot chicken. Get the Go-To, which comes with four crispy, juicy tenders in your choice of three heat levels, a thick slice of buttery Texas toast, and creamy coleslaw or crinkle-cut fries. Wash it all down with a tall glass of cold sweet tea for a splash of the South in the heart of Pennsylvania.

Situated in the back of a plaza on College Avenue, Momotaro is a lively and trendy cafe that focuses on boba tea, but it also offers a delightful array of desserts to cater to every variety of sweet tooth. While the taro milk tea with boba is a must-try, make sure to explore the selection of charming cakes, including tiramisu, creme brulee, and cheesecakes. Alternatively, treat yourself to a bowl or cone of green tea ice cream topped with sweet red beans.

A branded Momotaro cup with green tea ice cream, red beans, a torched skewered marshmallow, and pocky sticks.
Green tea ice cream.
Victoria Gough

In central Pennsylvania, finding high-quality seafood can sometimes be a challenge. Tadashi delivers it in abundance. Relaxed yet sophisticated, this Japanese restaurant on South Atherton is an ideal choice for all kinds of occasions, from first dates to end-of-semester celebratory meals. Order at least a couple of Tadashi’s signature sushi rolls to start, and enjoy a classy yet comforting bowl of chicken or unagi donburi for your main course. Tadashi has a second location — a smaller, more intimate setting just a stone’s throw away on College Avenue — that focuses primarily on ramen, featuring tender pork in a rich, flavorful broth.

A closeup on a bowl of fish and vegetables, divided into portions, presented in a patterned bowl.
Spicy salmon bowl.
Victoria Gough

The first Lupita’s location was far from campus, inside of an otherwise unremarkable Uni-Mart, but this didn’t deter devoted fans from making the trek out to enjoy some of the best Mexican food in the area. In 2022, Lupita’s opened its second location, on Beaver Avenue, winning over countless new fans. Now within walking distance to campus, this low-key Mexican spot is an easy stop for flavorful tacos, gorditas, flautas, sopes, quesabirrias, and more.

A hand holds three tacos overflowing with ingredients.
Tacos at Lupitas.
Lupitas Authentic Mexican Food

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This website may contain affiliate links and advertising so that we can provide recipes to you. Read my disclosure policy.Rich, chewy, and topped with...

Muffuletta

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