Adams County mainstay adds house-made beer to its fine dining menu
Sitting on the corner of a roundabout in Abbottstown, the Altland House is one of the oldest establishments in Adams County.
The tavern has been serving locals for more than a hundred years, though the menu has changed drastically. The establishment was a regular stop for former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (His favorite dish was the classic chicken and waffles, which through most of the ‘30s and ‘40s was the only dish on the menu.)
The Haugh family has owned the Altland House since 1954 and has been continually updating the menu, the service and the atmosphere. Entering the grill today feels almost like walking into a beach house – the décor is both historic local and maritime. The seating is comfortable, whether you’re in a high-backed round booth or at a table.
The pub inside the grill has a comfortable and classic L-shaped wooden bar, well-lit with a giant mirror back. The atmosphere is quiet and relaxing – on a Thursday night it quickly filled up and light chatter overtook the room.
Every table is provided with a hearty portion of fresh baked, warm bread with an assortment of enhancers – olive oil drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette reduction, roasted garlic, grated Parmesan cheese and rosemary herbed butter.
I ordered the baked brie as an appetizer. The brie, appropriately served in a puff pastry, comes with a raspberry coulis drizzle and sesame seed crackers on the side along with fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries on top of a cluster of mixed greens. The traditional sharp and creamy flavor is complemented by the sweet and sour of the berries, and the flaky, buttery crust is the only vessel needed for every bite.
The waitress also brought an order of house-made chips with balsamic reduction and Parmesan cheese. Though the chips aren’t found on the dinner menu, they are a popular lunch item and one of the dishes the Altland House is known for. They were a nice light addition to our dinner. I can see why they would be popular for lunch.
I also ordered the turtle soup, described as “a 60 year tradition, served with cream sherry.” The first thing I noticed when it was placed in front of me was the distinct essence of clove. The broth is dark brown and heavy, the chunks of turtle are enormous and the potatoes and onion round out the larger than expected portion. The flavor is sharp and bursting with various spices. This soup isn’t for the faint of heart or a weak palate, but will be enjoyable to the adventurous or curious food explorer.
My dining partner (my sister, Katie) ordered the pear Gorgonzola salad. Her favorite part was the crunchy candied walnut, which enhances the soft texture of the honey-poached pears. The smooth but sharp Gorgonzola brings out the sweetness of the walnuts and fruit. The salad is served on a bed of mixed greens with merlot vinaigrette.
For her main course, Katie ordered the oysters a la Oscar. The fried oysters are loaded with hollandaise sauce – and there are a lot of oysters. They’re perched on top of a lightly fried potato cake with a side of crab meat and asparagus. The hollandaise balances out the typical fried taste, leaving the desired fried oyster crunch. The flavor of this dish is equal to the amazing presentation.
My main course was the classic chicken and waffles – the meal President Eisenhower enjoyed when he was a guest at the Altland House. Pulled roast chicken in thick, semi-sweet gravy is served atop two small Belgian waffles, also sweetened. Underneath is a healthy scoop of mashed potatoes with a side of broccoli and carrots.
I’ve always argued that chicken and waffles should be a few pieces of fried chicken on top of waffles with syrup – the perfect meal for those strange hours between dinner and breakfast that you have to have both. But the history of this dish at the Altland House warranted a taste, and that taste did not disappoint. It was far from the Pennsylvania Dutch style chicken and waffles I expected.
After a very filling dinner, Katie and I ventured into The Underside Pub for a flight of The Altland House’s new microbrews. The atmosphere is completely different from the formal dining hall upstairs. This was the kind of place you can get a beer and burger and be comfortable wearing a T-shirt. February was “Caribbean Month”– a motif that seemed kind of out of place. I mean, there are a couple yards of fine sand on the floor that I would hate to clean up.
Microbrewing is new to the Altland House and isn’t publicized yet.
Myers has been home-brewing for 12 years and started a brewpub in West Virginia before he moved back to his home state of Pennsylvania. Myers says Altland House is still developing what will be their list of tap standards. Right now, it includes the German Altbier, a traditional German-style amber ale with a lot of imported malts.
The Altland American Pale Ale might be another beer continuously found on tap. My favorite, it’s a traditionally hoppy APA with just enough bite and a smooth finish. The APA is considered to be the crowd favorite right now, with the Altland Harvest close behind.
The Harvest is a wheat beer that has been getting a lot of positive feedback for its strong fruit profile and high drinkability.
Also on tap was the German Chocolate Stout, which is rich in mocha and coconut flavor – to the point you could heat it up and serve it on a cold day with marshmallows. Finally, the seasonal draft – in honor of Caribbean month – was the Tropical Stout. The Tropical Stout was very light-bodied thanks to an experiment with papaya enzymes, used to break down the body.
Every beer created by Myers was highly drinkable and refreshing – a great dessert after our lovely dinner. I would expect to see good things come from the Altland House in the next year. The pub is being remodeled to feel more like a brewpub, with visible pots and all.
The Altland House is one of a kind in the area, and a nice respite while traveling on Route 30 between York and Gettysburg. It will suit any dining occasion, from a quick bite on the road to a fine dining experience for a date. If you’re passing through, stop in and try the chicken and waffles – you’ll leave full and happy.
• 1 Center Square, Abbottstown
• Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.