If you’re looking for an independently owned alternative to York’s plethora of inexpensive chain restaurants, make sure Crimson American Grill is on your radar.
Since opening five years ago in April of 2010, Crimson has been building positive word-of-mouth, becoming a local favorite for friends, families and co-workers alike. You can enjoy lunch or dinner seven days a week (plus Sunday brunch) in any of the restaurant’s three dining areas, each with its own distinct atmosphere.
The menu offers a variety of modern American fare with daily specials that provide plenty of choices. The drink list features a decent selection of wines, specialty cocktails and beers. At least six of the bar’s taps are dedicated to Pennsylvania breweries – including craft brews and ciders by York’s own Crystal Ball Brewing Co. and Wyndridge Farm.
Plus, their happy hour specials will get you through the work week with half-price wine and mixed drinks (top shelf included).
Be sure to check out their long list of specialty cocktails. They come with enticing names like 5 o’ Clock Somewhere (Three Olives Mango Vodka, Cointreau, pineapple, orange and cranberry juices), Ol’ Blue Eyes (Tanqueray Gin, Blue Curacao, sweet and sour mix) and the Fuzzy Fizz (Absolut Peach Vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and Champagne).
The cocktail menu also features some delectable dessert drinks. The Root Beer Floatini will satisfy your sweet tooth with Three Olives Root Beer Vodka, amaretto and whipped cream. As will the Almond Joy, which mimics the candy bar’s flavor with its blend of Malibu, amaretto, crème de cacao and cream. The Tiramisu will pick you up with Three Olives Vanilla Vodka, Godiva Dark Chocolate, Kahlua, amaretto, Baileys and cream.
The main dining room is large, with an open floor plan sectioned off by black wooden booths and beams along the high, crimson ceiling. Massive black-and-white photographs of ’50s-style diners and their customers line the brick walls surrounding the room.
Adjacent to the main dining room is the pub. This space also has high ceilings, but adds the visual interest of exposed air ducts, vintage beer signs and ambient lighting to provide a more relaxed atmosphere. Booths and tables in front of the bar provide seating for a modest crowd to order from the slightly pared-down bar menu.
The third place to enjoy a drink and a solid meal at Crimson is on the outdoor patio and bar. Ideal for warmer months but open year-round, the spacious dining area is covered and heated in the winter.
Appetizers to get you started include favorites like crab dip, calamari and wings. The featured Tuxedo Encrusted Tuna is seared, coated in black and white sesame seeds and served medium rare with sweet ginger sesame sauce.
Crimson also offers a classic selection of soups like French onion and chili as well as a soup du jour. You can choose from their list of unique salads, like the Strawberry Chicken Salad, which features flame-broiled chicken breast atop mixed greens with candied walnuts, fresh strawberries, cucumbers and Champagne vinaigrette.
Entrees are served with your choice of two sides and range from $8.50-$23. The large menu is well-organized and points out “Crimson Specialties” like the steak and ribs – a 10-ounce sirloin paired with a half rack of barbecue baby back ribs. Also worth diving into is the Sirloin Chesapeake – a 10-ounce flame-broiled Angus sirloin topped with a house made crab cake and creamy crab sauce.
If you can handle a half-pound of Angus beef with sautéed onions, green peppers and melted Cheddar cheese, the Cowboy Burger is sure to satisfy. If omega fats are your thing, the grilled salmon salad (with sliced almonds, tomatoes, red onions, carrots, cucumbers and croutons) pairs well with the sweet onion dressing.
On my trip to Crimson, my party found the portions to be both generous and delicious. The burger and the steak were cooked just right, and the salmon and chicken were grilled with precisely the right amount of char. The blackened chicken penne was topped with a delectable creamy sauce with spinach and tomatoes and the tiniest kick from the garlic. The steak came with a side of au jus and was seasoned simply with salt and pepper, which nicely brought out the natural flavor of the sirloin.
Generally, the food at Crimson has a straightforward flavor profile intended to satisfy cravings for American specialties like ribs, pasta and seafood – as well as some Italian, Asian and Latin- inspired dishes. For anyone looking for some heat with their meat, there are some spicier entrees on the menu, including the jalapeño burger, Cajun tuna or boneless Buffalo bites with hot sauce.
It might be more common to find new independent restaurants moving into old spaces, but this Spring Garden Township business was built new from the ground up, according to restaurant manager Nick Karandrikas.
The Karandrikas family owns Crimson, which was constructed in place of their former Chapps at the Hill, which closed in July of 2009.
With the new business now in full swing, the Karandrikas family has created a restaurant more casual and affordable than Chapps – which opens the door for a broader customer base. While the efforts made in the design and construction of the new modern building are evident, it’s clear that the main focus is on serving good food and drink at an affordable price.
After five years, the spirit of independence is going strong at Crimson American Grill – especially on weekends. (You’ll need to call ahead to reserve a table if heading out on Friday or Saturday night.)
But regardless of when you go, you’ll get a good meal without breaking the bank – and you’ll be supporting one of York’s independent islands in the sea of chain restaurants.
• 1839 South Queen Street, York
• Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m.