2018-11-01 / Features

Best Place to Live

By Maggie Anderson, Kelsey Lentz, Robyn Passante and Laura Zaks

It’s hard to believe, but since State College Magazine was founded (back then it was State College, the magazine) we’ve done a “Best Of State College” reader survey and published the results in an annual issue. Though a lot has changed in 33 years, some things remain the same. Best cheesesteak? CC Peppers. Best dessert? The Deli. Best annual event? Arts Festival. And in that first survey, publishers Larry Snaveley and John Vidmar asked, “What’s the best reason to live here?” The answer was reported as a three-way tie: a city feel in a rural setting, the beautiful environment and Penn State University. We would probably all agree that those things remain at the top of the list for what’s best about State College. For all the rest, read on!


Bagel Crust
Best Bagel
Best Breakfast Sandwich

At Bagel Crust, customers can get a little taste of the Big Apple right here in State College with a variety of New York-style bagels at three different locations around town. They also have delicious breakfast sandwiches like the Hangover, two eggs, bacon, sausage and American cheese on a bagel, or the Christin Rox, a combo of bacon, egg, cheese and avocado.

Best Local Hot Sauce
From the classic buffalo wing sauce to the sweet heat of Peaches’n Scream, Bonfatto’s hot sauces add a perfect punch to any plate. In addition to our “Best Of State College” awards, the sauces have won at WingFest, the Fiery Food Competition in Texas, the World Hot Sauce Awards and the Hot Pepper Awards.

CC Peppers
Best Cheesesteak
With many a Philadelphia transplant in the area, we’re not short on cheesesteak options. But nothing seems to beat the State College classics at CC Peppers. Go for Philly style, Cali or combine the two in Coast to Coast, but don’t skip the fries. 1625 N. Atherton St.

Penn State Berkey Creamery
Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
It does not come as a shock that the Penn State Berkey Creamery, one of the most iconic places in Happy Valley, was voted best ice cream — again. The Creamery has been making delicious ice cream since 1865 and continues to do so, winning this category almost each year. Unique flavors like Alumni Swirl, Birthday Bash or Grilled Stickies — or the new White Out with popcorn-flavored ice cream and white chocolate chips — bring people from all over for a scoop or shake.

Bloody Mary at Barrel 21Bloody Mary at Barrel 21

Barrel 21 Distillery & Dining
Best Sunday Brunch
Best Happy Hour
Best Bloody Mary

Out since July, straight bourbon whiskey and straight rye whiskey are helping Barrel 21’s bartending staff expand their offerings, including some of the cocktails offered at half price during daily happy hours. The Bluebonnet, a mix of house-infused lemon vodka, blueberry simple syrup, lime juice and mint, is a bestseller any time of day. But at brunch, it’s all about the loaded Bloody Mary — choose your own toppings at the bar set up alongside the hot and cold buffet. And Barrel 21 is now open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays, with cocktail and sandwich pairings that are sure to make the afternoon fly by.

Doan’s Bones Barbecue
Best Barbecue
Sticks and stones won’t break Doan’s Bones, as their top-quality barbecue and service are indestructible. Using four smokers with a roof overhead, this family-owned restaurant makes sure to cook rain or shine. Baby back ribs, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, haddock fillet, brisket, shrimp and yummy sides like potato salad and mac-n-cheese are some of the menu staples. And if you really want to go whole hog, they can cater any one of your events.

Faccia Luna Pizzeria
Best Pasta Dish
Best Pizza
Best Lunch Special
Best Italian

You can’t go wrong at Faccia Luna Pizzeria. The wood-fired pizza is the best in town every year, and the lunch special, two slices of daily pizza and a soup or salad, really gives you more bang for your buck. Of course, the classic Italian pasta dishes take you right back to the motherland on a plate.

American Ale House
Best Outdoor Dining
While there’s a lot going on inside the American Ale House, especially Tommy Wareham in the lounge Friday and Saturday nights, the outdoor patio is the place to be. Order up delicious small plates and well-mixed cocktails or go for a whole meal underneath the tall Toftrees oaks. The quiet setting and top-notch menu make it an obvious local favorite that somehow feels like it’s a well-kept secret.

Carnegie Inn & Spa Fine Dining
Best Fine Dining
Best Romantic Dining

Executive Chef Paul Kendeffy knows his way around the kitchen and the garden, making his menu focused on local sourcing when possible. Try his Wild Pennsylvania Mushroom Soup or Beets & Goat Cheese starter before diving into divine entrees like Organic Chicken “Wellington” or Grilled Rack of Pork. For a really special night out, reserve the chef’s table and watch as Kendeffy prepares a unique tasting menu just for you and a guest.

State Burger Co.State Burger Co.

State Burger Co.
Best new restaurant
Burgers are great. What’s even better? A burger perfectly customized to your tastes. At the new restaurant State Burger Co. in Bellefonte, you can have just that and enjoy delicious fries, shakes and appetizers too.

“Our goal was to open a restaurant that is unique, fun and affordable,” says Dustin Smith, co-owner with Sean Burke. “I think that staying true to those goals gave us a welcome place in the community where friends and family can go out together for a custom dining experience, chat over great food, and not break their budget.”

Champs Sports Grill
Best Wings
Best Sports Bar

In a community like Happy Valley, you’ll find more sports fans per square mile than in most places. And these sports fans love Champs, with a great environment to watch the biggest games and cheer on their teams. With huge flat screens, friendly service and a fun atmosphere, there’s no better place to experience gameday. Plus, their almost-famous Stanley’s Wonder Wings come in seven different sauces to hit the right spice for any taste.

Best Salad
A healthy meal can still taste good — Fiddlehead proves this every day. Choose from seven different salad options, make your own or even get your salad in the form of a wrap. Backyard BBQ, Bob Cob or Las Cantinas Locas are a few of the unique salads they offer in addition to tasty soups and breadsticks.

Gemelli Bakers
Best Artisan Bread
The authentic touch at Gemelli Bakers makes every loaf feel like it’s baked right in your kitchen. Owner Tony Sapia is excited to have won the title again this year. “We feel it’s an honor and a privilege to work with our hands and mind creating great food from our hearts feeding a great community,” he says. And something to look forward to this holiday season — German stollen and Italian panettone. “They make great host gifts!”

Harrison’s Wine Grill & Catering
Best Soup
Chef Harrison Schailey makes the best soup, it’s just that simple. Schailey’s Butternut Squash Bisque is so popular he fields complaints when he tries to take it off the menu in the spring. Every soup has something special, like the goat cheese he puts in his baked potato soup. “I think we just make sure our soups are really flavorful,” Schailey says. Look for Creamy Parsnip & Parmesan this month and their delectable Lobster Bisque as the holidays approach.

Happy Valley Brewing Company
Best Appetizer
Year after year, it’s all about the short rib nachos. There’s just something about tortilla chips piled high with cheese sauce, braised short ribs and pepperoncini that keeps folks coming back for more. Of course, other delicious apps like Pork ‘N Buns and Henhouse Wings, not to mention a rotating list of craft brews made in-house, don’t hurt.

India Pavilion
Best International
A staple of the downtown State College restaurant scene for more than 20 years, India Pavilion offers a lunch buffet of six different main courses, along with appetizers to start and desserts to finish. Go for dinner and choose between soups, tandoori, seafood, lamb, chicken, rice specials, house specialties and mouthwatering Indian breads.

Jersey Mike’s Subs
Best Sub
Not only did Jersey Mike’s win best sub yet again, but its owners, State College residents Kristie and Matt Patterson, were also presented with the Multi-Unit Operator Award at the recent Jersey Mike’s Subs national conference. Jersey Mike’s really does go a sub above with delicious subs both cold or hot, quality service and award-winning store owners.

Kelly’s Steak & Seafood
Best Steak
Best Seafood

What’s in a name? For Kelly’s, it’s all there — our readers’ favorite place to go for surf and turf. Go for a classic 28-day dry-aged steak or take it to the sea with perennial favorites like the halibut cheeks or wild Alaskan salmon. Chef Sean Kelly posts weekly dinner specials on Facebook — recent dishes include apple pork tenderloin and seafood fettuccine.

Plaza Mexican Bar & Grill
Best Mexican/Southwest Grill
For authentic Mexican and Southwest cuisine, our readers gave Plaza Mexican Bar & Grill the top spot in town. From their guacamole made table-side to their gigantic menu and full bar (Hola, margaritas!), Plaza Mexican satisfies. Patrons rave about the friendly and efficient staff, easy parking and excellent lunch specials.

Little Szechuan
Best Asian
The journey to the Sichuan region in China may be long, but lucky State College residents need only head to the cozy gem on West College Avenue for a taste of it. Little Szechuan is home to many delicious dishes including perennial favorites like lo mein, kung pao chicken, Peking duck and lamb with scallions. Whether it’s seafood, chile hot pots, casseroles or fried rice, the BYOB downtown spot has it all — and will deliver it, too.

Otto's Beef on Weck sandwichOtto's Beef on Weck sandwich

Otto’s Pub & Brewery
Best Place for a Business Lunch
Best Brewpub
Best Vegetarian Offerings
Best Kids’ Menu
Best Beer Selection
Best Local Craft Beer
Best Sandwich
Best Bartender, Mike Knipe

Each year, Otto’s Pub & Brewery is a fan favorite for so many reasons. With Mike Knipe behind the bar, the local beer selection garnering rave reviews and the menu having a little taste for everyone, Otto’s is always a winner with their quality service and food. This year, Otto’s added “Best Sandwich” to its accolades, but it’s anyone’s guess which is really the fan fave: the cheesesteak, the spicy ultimate wedge, the lamb gyro, the beef on weck or the pulled pork sandwich. Of course, if you’re not into meats, Otto’s has a variety of vegetarian options, including weekly specials. And for the kids? Families love the healthy and kid-pleasing options.

If you haven’t visited in awhile, new things you might notice include a weekly hot dog special — rotating toppings on a locally raised all-beef dog — the Beyond burger for vegetarians and beer to go switching from bottles to cans.

The Gardens Restaurant
Best Buffet
Whether it’s the America’s Bounty Buffet on Friday and Saturday nights or the extensive spread for Sunday brunch, The Gardens knows how to please a crowd. Enjoy a complimentary mimosa or glass of Champagne with a brunch buffet that includes all the usual suspects plus chef-carved top round, a Belgian waffle station, omelets made to order and more.

Rothrock Coffee
Best Cup of Coffee
Best Coffee Shop

“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we roast in-house; quality means everything to us,” says Rothrock Coffee café manager Abriana Mandez, and one whiff inside the South Atherton shop confirms that. Their three custom blends — Thickhead, Singlespeed and Wildcat — are joined by a rotation of single-origin coffees and pour-overs, along with specialty drinks, Moody Culture Kombucha, smoothies and an expanded food menu. Mandez says the coffee shop will change the menu seasonally with locally sourced ingredients when possible. The vibe is friendly, the décor is urban chic, and the wifi is free, making it our readers’ favorite place to hear the community buzz and get a flavorful caffeine fix.

Yallah BurritoYallah Burrito

Yallah Burrito Company
Best Burrito
Our readers are letting out a hollah for Yallah. Since Yallah Burrito Company, an expansion of the taco stand on McAllister Alley, opened off of South Garner Street last year, it's taken the streets by storm. Try one of the Monster burritos like the King Kong with steak, fries and chipotle sour cream, or the Kraken with spicy shrimp and special Yallah sauce. Just make sure you have two hands free to hold it.

Best Sushi
Sushi lovers will feel right at home at Tadashi where they can satisfy their cravings with some of the best Japanese dishes and sushi in town. From miso soup and ramen to sushi made right at the bar, Tadashi provides a unique dining experience on top of delicious food. And soon we’ll have a double serving: the second location in the ground level of The Metropolitan on College and Atherton is set to open this month.

The Original Waffle Shop
Best Pancake/Crepe/Waffle
Best Breakfast Place
Best Wait Service

This practically famous State College staple is known for its fluffy, golden waffles, but The Original Waffle Shop also has a diverse menu that offers an array of breakfast items everyone is sure to love, making it truly the best breakfast place in town. Plus, you can’t beat the friendly and welcoming waitstaff who help make the Waffle Shop an ideal way to start the morning.

The Deli Restaurant
Best Dessert
The Deli is on top once again for its exceptional dessert menu. No other spot in town can really compare with the 12 homemade dessert options The Deli offers, all of which are made from scratch by the restaurant’s pastry chef who works overnight to bring these sweet treats to you fresh. Chocoholics can indulge in the Triple Chocolate Cake, and traditionalists enjoy classic cheesecakes or the Ten Pound Apple Pie.

The Field Burger & Tap
Best Burger
Best French Fries

Does anything beat a good burger? Well, maybe the best burger with the best French fries does. Lucky for us, The Field Burger & Tap has both. Take a bite of the Lancaster Burger to taste a perennial favorite featuring bacon, York Valley cheddar, fried egg and veggies. Don’t skip the Field Fries — cut and fried russet potatoes — in various decadent flavors like Parmesan and truffle, or venison chili and cheese.

Big Spring Spirits
Best Mixed Drink
Best Cocktail Menu

Since opening in 2014, Big Spring Spirits has been the place to find craft cocktails, both familiar and challenging, on the ever-evolving menu. And now those delectable drinks are even easier to imbibe — Big Spring released a series of ready-to-drink bottled cocktails earlier this year. Take them to a tailgate or keep them stashed in the fridge for an effortless happy hour at home.

Local Whiskey
Best Bar for the Over-30 Crowd
For a business lunch, happy hour or a late-night bite, Local Whiskey is the favorite place for grown-ups to get their sip on. They’ve got free wifi, charging outlets discreetly placed beneath the bar, and a mind-boggling menu of whiskeys, creative cocktails and plenty of beers on tap. Plus there are fun daily specials (Whiskey Wednesdays! Good Old Fashioned Thursdays!) and a kitchen staff cooking upscale bar fare until 2 a.m.

Gigi’s Southern Table
Best Wine List
When you walk into Gigi’s Southern Table, you may notice the wine wall — and it’s not just for looks. It houses a well-rounded wine list that features dozens of bottles from various regions. Assistant general manager Valerie Thurneau loves the Barichello Sangiovese-Montpulciano (“It’s like magic in your mouth”) and the Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel. And if you really like those bottles too, you can now buy them to go. “This year we got our license so that if you really enjoy a bottle and you want to take it home, you can do that at a reduced price,” says Thurnau. “It’s a great way to take home some of the wines we have that you can’t find in the state store.”


Boalsburg Farmers Market
Best Farmers Market
The fan-favorite Boalsburg Farmers Market continues to garner top honors for local food enthusaists. Though the hot summer weather makes for lovely market days, we’re lucky that this market doesn’t stop when the weather turns colder — it just heads inside. Starting this month, find the market at the same time, Tuesdays 2-6 p.m., inside Saint John’s UCC, just down the street.

Wolf Furniture
Best Furniture Store
At Wolf Furniture, shoppers get the best selection of home furnishing options while enjoying a pleasant, traditional shopping experience. With a showroom floor space including the only escalator in town, you can find handmade wooden furniture from Amish craftsmen, entertainment centers, master bedroom sets and everything else you could possibly need. Wolf has been selling quality furniture and providing unbeatable service since 1902. Plus, they offer free interior decorating services as well as professional delivery services.

Monteca Confer-Beisel of Confer's JewelersMonteca Confer-Beisel of Confer's Jewelers

Confer’s Jewelers
Best Jewelry Store
Monteca Confer-Beisel and her husband, Daniel Beisel, are the second-generation owners of this Bellefonte jewelry store that opened in 1977. They completely remodeled the store last year but offer the same friendly atmosphere, customer service and beautiful inventory that longtime customers expect. They boast two in-house jewelers and a cold or hot complimentary beverage for those wanting to come in and browse for the perfect sentimental, sparkly gift.

Blaise Alexander Family Dealerships
Best Used Car Dealer
Blaise Alexander has been in State College for a decade but it’s been a Pennsylvania business for 30 years. The great thing about having a local dealership with 18 locations is that when you need a used car, you can choose from thousands of vehicles in the dealership’s overall inventory, not just the cars you see on the State College lots. GM Mike Warner attributes their success to “pricing, selection and customer satisfaction,” and our readers clearly agree.

Bobby Rahal
Best New Car Dealer
After taking over perennial “Best Of” winner Dix Honda, Bobby Rahal has kept up with expectations for the West College Avenue dealership. Customers note the friendly and patient service in addition to competitive prices. Coupe or crossover, the inventory here has something for every car buyer.

Track N’ Trail
Best ATV/Motorcycle Dealer (TIE)
After 30 years in business, Track N’ Trail moved to a new location last month, but, as co-owner Scott Pletcher notes, there’s a neat benefit: “We’re basically on the Seven Mountains Dual Sport Trail. We have easy access to that for our customers.” A dealer of Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki, the Potters Mills shop is bigger, allowing for a larger selection of riding accessories. Take a beautiful ride out Route 322 to see the new digs.

#1 Cycle Center Harley-Davidson
Best ATV/Motorcycle Dealer (TIE)
You’ve no doubt driven past #1 Cycle Center along Route 322 — the chrome stallion is rather eye-catching. And so are the Harley-Davidson motorcycles inside. Started in 1976, #1 Cycle Center moved to its current locale, which boasts more than 30,000 square feet, in 1999. With both new and used inventory, #1CC also offers all the gear you’d need and service to keep you on the road.

Best Local Clothing Store
At Harpers, you can find everything you need to dress to impress. From tuxedos or Penn State wear to brand names like Vineyard Vines and Tommy Bahama and even fully custom suiting, Harpers has a variety of apparel and accessories that make for the most fashionable, timeless purchases to add to your wardrobe. The store was first opened in 1926 and has since served as one of the premier shopping destinations for those who seek style and tradition.

PNC Bank
Best Bank/Credit Union
For both college students and local residents, everyone values having a bank they trust. With PNC you get just that, no matter your financial needs. PNC has five different locations in the State College area and an additional 25 ATMs, making convenience another reason residents bank with PNC. From personal checking to mortgages and investments, PNC’s services fit a wide range of customers.

Rapid Transit Sports
Best Shoe Store
From Penn State gear to your perfect pair of sneakers, Rapid Transit Sports is known for having the best staff and service. Our readers love seeing people taking a jog up and down Allen Street with a salesperson taking in the stride. And part of that service is to community — Rapid Transit is a long-time supporter of many local youth sports teams and events.

Woodring’s Floral Gardens
Best Florist
Woodring’s Floral Gardens has been harnessing flower power since 1922 for any and all occasions. Family-owned and committed to friendly, prompt service, Woodrings offers a variety of houseplants and planters in addition to cut flowers and bouquets at both the downtown State College and Bellefonte locations. If you’ve been to a wedding, a funeral, a prom, a hospital or a special event in Centre County in the last century, there’s a good bet you’ve seen some of Woodring’s finest.

Your Cigar Den
Best Place to Buy Gifts
Best Customer Service

Owner Tony Ghaffari says it’s not an accident that Your Cigar Den was voted Best Customer Service. “Everybody here knows that the number one job is customer service. You never get ‘I’ll look into it,’ or ‘I’ll ask somebody and get back to you.’ Whatever the question or issue is, we try to resolve it while the customer’s here.”

Come for the special Nittany or The Lettermen cigars, stay for trivia on Mondays, which includes free beer for the 21-and-older crowd.

And if you can’t get downtown, the Your Cigar Den mobile lounge is set up in front of Letterman’s Sports Grill on home football Saturdays, and can be spotted at golf tournaments and private events around town.

RedLine Speed Shine
Best Car Wash
With three locations in State College, RedLine Speed Shine helps local auto owners keep their rides in tip-top shape. Join the unlimited wash club for a monthly fee, or pamper your car with the new Simoniz Hot Wax and Shine at the North and South Atherton locations. And when Lucky gets so dirty you can’t bring him inside, hit the North Atherton dog wash for a fast and easy clean.

Sammis Greenhouse
Best Greenhouse/Nursery
Though we have to wait until April for Sammis Greenhouse to reopen for the season, our readers know it’s well worth the wait. The Sammis family is busy all winter planting seeds and rooting cuttings so that the 1-acre greenhouse will be bursting with life when spring hits. From seedlings to succulents, you can find almost anything at this Centre Hall plant outpost.

Tannenbaum Farms
Best Place to Buy a Christmas Tree
The secret to the perfect Christmas tree is having branches sturdy and abundant enough to decorate, and that’s what co-owner Craig Weidensaul says sets his trees apart. “We alternate where we trim,” he says. “That makes for an abundance of twigs to hang things on.” Patrons love the “$45 cut your own, any size” option, and while Fraser fir is the hands-down favorite, Weidensaul says they have the more fragrant concolor fir and balsam fir at Tannenbaum as well.

Best Bottle Shop
Best Grocery Store
Best Place to Buy Natural/Organic Food

For our readers, Wegmans is the place to go to grab all your dinner ingredients — and a little something to sip on while you cook. The bottle shop now has a wide variety of wines in addition to a great beer selection, but there’s also the impressive cheese shop, bakery, deli and produce sections, plus dozens of freshly made hot and cold dishes to tempt your tastebuds. Finding organic and natural products is easy in the Nature’s Marketplace aisles. There’s even a choo-choo train high above the food to amuse the youngest shopper in your cart. And don’t forget to try whatever samples they’re handing out — it’s always something delicious.

Christa Stofferahn and Shaun Knight of Maine Bay & BerryChrista Stofferahn and Shaun Knight of Maine Bay & Berry

Maine Bay & Berry Co.
Best New Business
What began as a traditional Northeast seafood shack out on Shiloh Road will, this month, take over what was previously The Barn in Lemont. Maine Bay & Berry Co. has exploded since opening just over a year ago, bringing fresh and frozen seafood from the docks to State College. Owner Shaun Knight is still driving to Maine every three weeks or so and to Baltimore twice a week. And while Knight says great, fresh product is one reason for the Best New Business win, he really attributes it to customer service.

“It sounds so simple, but it doesn’t get practiced much unless you go to a local business,” he says.
Be on the lookout for the grand re-opening this month — the business will move to the upstairs portion of the barn and add a soup and bread bar, leaving the downstairs area for special events.

Tubbies Spa & Patio
Best Spa/Jacuzzi/Pool Dealer
Winter is coming. So heat up your Jacuzzi or take a dive for one final swim — if these options aren’t yet possible for you, head on over to the best spa and pool dealer in town: Tubbies Spa & Patio. This outdoor living store takes top spot with not only amazing quality hot tubs, spas and saunas but also umbrellas, wicker furniture and fire pits.


The State Theatre
Best Place to See Live Music
A community-owned performing arts center, The State Theatre strives to promote collaboration, creativity and vitality through the arts in State College. Local artists, traveling bands and national touring acts can all be found on the stages of The State. Upcoming shows include Dar Williams orchestra on Nov. 15, Beatles Go Big Band on Dec. 1 and the Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra on Dec. 9.

Bernel Road Park
Best Playground
When families move here and ask around for the best playground, they hear the same name over and over — “Airport Park!” — but can’t find it on a map. Officially called Bernel Road Park, this perennial favorite close to University Park Airport has an airport theme that ignites imaginations and fuels tons of physical fun. Tiny tots and bigger kids can climb, swing and play all on one uniquely designed playground that includes a mini air traffic control tower and bike paths painted like runways.

Discovery Space of Central PennsylvaniaDiscovery Space of Central Pennsylvania

Discovery Space
Best Place for After-School Activities
Discovery Space leads after-school activities in four area school districts, but many families spend afternoons at the hands-on science museum. The MAD (Make And Design) Lab posts a new engineering challenge each week for 8- to 14-year-olds, and younger kids have lots to keep their brains and hands busy too. Families can reserve a free weeklong pass at Schlow Centre Region Library, or sign up for a full year to enjoy the membership benefits.

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts
Best Community Event
A big part of what makes Happy Valley so happy is our commitment to celebrating the arts. Arts Fest happens every July, featuring more than 300 artists and craftsmen whose work is guaranteed to make you stop short on the sidewalk. Plus musical performances by local bands as well as the annual Sue Crowe Memorial Arts Festival races featuring the 5k, 10k and 10-mile runs round out a week of celebration every summer.

Centre Gives
Best Fundraising Event (Beyond THON)
Have you ever gone to the Centre Gives website intending to donate to a particular cause, and then end up scrolling through the seemingly endless list of other worthy — and sometimes little-known — local nonprofits that wind up getting some of your dollars, too? That’s the beauty and magic of Centre Gives, Centre Foundation’s annual 36-hour online fundraising event. Last year’s event raised $1.4 million for more than 160 local organizations serving Centre County.

Designer’s Denn Salon & Spa
Best Spa
Treat yourself to a day of R&R at Designer’s Denn Salon & Spa where you can relax with a variety of different body therapies, massage therapies, facial treatments and beauty services. Designer’s Denn offers an assortment of organic approach facials like the firm, calm or clear skin signature facials as well as hydrafacials. To relieve stress try a deep tissue, warm stone or aroma synergy massage. And put a quick pep in your step with a manicure or haircut from the pros at this longtime downtown establishment.

Foxdale Village
Best Retirement Community
Foxdale Village rises to the top once again among residential communities for retirees, thanks to its many options for living arrangements and types of care available to residents. The 21-acre campus is beautifully maintained, with common spaces and planned activities for just about every interest. Locals say Foxdale Village staff works hard to address its residents’ physical, intellectual, spiritual and social wellness.

FUSE Productions
Best Local Theater Group
This group has definitely lit a fuse and set the local theater scene on fire. FUSE Productions combines the talents of local actors, Penn State alums, current students and faculty, as well as actors from all over the country. Upcoming shows include Sunday in the Park with George, a Sondheim musical about painter Georges Seurat and his grandson (Feb. 21-23), and the monster hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar (June 20-22).

Grace PrepGrace Prep

Grace Prep High School
Best Charter/Private School
Grace Prep High School is in its 15th year as a private high school, with 65 students in grades 9 through 12. Though it’s based on Christian principles, religion is not a requirement, and international students make up about 15 percent of its population.

“We’re helping (students) to be prepared for life, not just academically prepared,” says Beth Sheerer, director of operations and a Grace Prep parent. That includes regular business formal dress days, comprehensive senior projects and weekly chapel with guest speakers on topical issues.

Looks Hair Design
Best Hair Salon for Women
Best Manicure

When it comes to both hair and nails, Looks is the ideal spot for all your primping needs. This full-service salon tucked into Calder Way has been open in State College since 1974 and has a talented team of artists who are experts in all things beauty. They offer many different services and are the perfect salon to hit up for a manicure or new ’do. Plus, a new online booking service and rewards program make looking your best easier than ever.

Mount Nittany
Best Hiking Trail
Looking for one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Centre County? Look no further than Mount Nittany. The symbolic and geographical high point of blue and white fever, Mount Nittany is home to blazed Blue and White Trails, all maintained by the Mount Nittany Conservancy. Views feature Beaver Stadium, Tussey Mountain and the Bryce Jordan Center. And if you really love the preserved nature right in the middle of our town, help keep it that way by purchasing a deed to one square inch of the mountain.

Ownen's BarbershopOwnen's Barbershop

Owen’s Barber Shop
Best Place for a Men’s Haircut
Looking for a trim? Owen’s Barbershop has you covered as five licensed professionals work the four chairs at the Colonnade Boulevard shop behind Wegmans Café every day but Sunday. The barbershop is a staple of State College, providing great hair and amusing conversation — now there’s a second location in Bellefonte. Owen’s offers free parking, a no-appointment-necessary policy and $12 traditional cuts — however you cut it, that’s a deal.

Palmer Museum of Art
Best Museum/Gallery
With 11 galleries, a print study room and a faculty and staff that love collaboration, innovation, creativity and heart, the Palmer Museum of Art is a haven for artists and art patrons. Eight of the galleries display a permanent collection of 8,200 objects, while the other three rotate nine annual exhibitions. This year, the Palmer is introducing a string of new events on the third Thursday of every month. Each event will shed light on a special Palmer theme and will include performances, art-making activities and gallery talks.

Yoga Lab
Best Yoga Studio
Both beginners and advanced yogis can enjoy the spiritual and serene experience that Yoga Lab provides. At the downtown yoga studio, anyone can come and practice meditation, yoga philosophy or self-discovery. Yoga Lab is committed to helping you meet your personal goals with various classes of all levels from more than a dozen teachers. Sign up for a two-week free trial of unlimited classes to stretch yourself at the Yoga Lab.

The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center
Best Conference Center
With 300 guest rooms and suites, the Penn Stater is the conference center of choice for locals and out-of-towners alike. The 3-star hotel features two award-winning restaurants in The Gardens and Legends Pub — join the Brews and Burgers club for a free burger when you buy 12 craft beers — as well as a lap pool, fitness center and parking galore.

Planet Fitness
Best Health Club/Gym
Hydromassages, tanning beds, massage chairs, fitness training and state-of-the-art gym equipment are just some of the perks members of Planet Fitness can enjoy and why this facility was voted best health club. At just $10 a month or $21.99 for the Planet Fitness Black Card membership, you can have a fitness experience like no other. And, of course, the judgment-free philosophy means anyone can feel welcome.

Tom Tudek Memorial ParkTom Tudek Memorial Park

Tom Tudek Memorial Park
Best Park
Tom Tudek Memorial Park has something for everyone, which is probably why it consistently gets the gold. Any given day you can find families picnicking under pavilions, ultimate Frisbee teams competing, little kids playing on the playgrounds, gardeners weeding, tennis players volleying, runners and walkers enjoying the trails, and dog owners letting their pups run in the fenced-in dog park. Tudek Park is a true community gem.

Schlow Centre Region Library
Best Community Space
Libraries have always had the ability to bring communities together, and nobody does it quite as well as Schlow. Whether it’s a Nittany Valley Writers’ Network discussion, kids’ story time, book club or a class, State College community members of all ages are always free to stop in at Schlow for events or to just read and peruse the shelves. This month, among many other events, author J.D. Barker will visit for a discussion and book signing Nov. 13.


America’s Carpet Outlet
Best Flooring/Carpet
Though “carpet” is in the name, America’s Carpet Outlet carries just about any type of flooring you can imagine. From hardwood to tile, the staff at this North Atherton store is up on all the latest trends while keeping in mind long-lasting style. Whether area residents want cork, stone, laminate or something softer beneath their feet, America’s Carpet Outlet is our readers’ first choice for flooring.

Melanie RosenbergerMelanie Rosenberger

Melanie Rosenberger
Best Local Artist
Melanie Rosenberger is a lifelong artist with a BFA in Ceramics from Penn State, but she’s just returned to her first love after taking time off to attend culinary school in New York and work as a chef, most recently helping Taproot Kitchen perfect their menu. A member of the Art Alliance of Central PA, her work can be seen at the Art Alliance Gallery Shop in Lemont and the Art Alliance Gallery Downtown. “I love the process (of ceramics),” she says. “There’s so much openness to that creative space.”

Artemis Massage Studio
Best Massage
Best Massage Therapist, Bobbi Deardorff

Founder and owner Whitney Polakowski started Artemis Massage Studio nine years ago as a tiny solo endeavor. By popular demand it’s grown to include 10 massage therapists who collectively see almost 6,000 clients per year. Artemis offers nine relaxation-focused massage techniques and seven more specialized massage therapies for health issues. Polakowski says one secret to her success is offering her staff free continuing education, a living wage and a great work environment. “The best massage you can get,” she says, “is from a massage therapist who is incredibly happy.”

One of those happy employees is Bobbi Deardorff, voted Best Massage Therapist, who’s been with Artemis for almost four years. “She takes an interdisciplinary approach that gives people more of an experience than just a massage,” Polakowski says. “And she has wonderful energy.”

Bob Froehlich
Best Realtor
This is Bob Froehlich’s fifth win for Best Realtor, but he still feels honored and humbled, just like the first time. “I have proudly earned my reputation for excellence in real estate client service through a personal quality of service, knowledge in the local market, advanced in technology, and a strong passion for what I do,” he says. His definition of real estate excellence involves “ongoing guidance, continued support and prompt communication throughout the entire process and beyond.”

Eddie Fisher
Best Barber
Though fairly new to town, Eddie Fisher is making a splash with his old-school-meets-downtown-cool barbershop Badger and Hound on Pugh Street. Sit in one of three vintage chairs for a quick cut or a clean shave — or just stop in to shoot the breeze. They even have Badger and Hound swag for sale, in case your well-groomed beard isn’t enough of a giveaway.

Halfmoon Valley Animal Hospital
Best Veterinarian
Halfmoon Valley Animal Hospital never does anything halfway. With full heart and passion, owners Dr. Jeffrey and Karen Miller make sure their facility treats your pets like family. Dr. Leon Menapace and Dr. Margaret Zink offer similarly top-notch care aided by a team of techs and assistants. The animal hospital offers medical, surgical, wellness and preventive care and service for both dogs and cats in Centre County.

Erica Kaufman
Best Yoga Instructor
Erica Kaufman has been practicing yoga almost her whole life. “You could say that I grew up with yoga,” she says. Through her classes, she hopes to pass on what she has learned. “Yoga gave me the tools to identify what problems I was creating and what challenges existed. Now I’m completely devoted to hopefully passing on that skill to anybody who is interested.” Lila Yoga, which is both the name of Kaufman’s studio and the style of yoga she teaches, “is a way of practicing that honors the holistic nature of our being. We align our body, we align our breathing, and we align our intentions.”

Jerry Valeri
Best Broadcast Personality
Whether or not our readers love country music, they do love Big Froggy 101’s morning DJ Jerry Valeri. Weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m., catch the funny man riffing on family, sports, food, pop culture and everything in between.

Dr. Fred Carlin, Nittany Eye Associates
Best Eye Doctor
Since 1975, Dr. Fred Carlin has been helping State College residents see their best. With state-of-the-art equipment, he and the staff at Nittany Eye Associates offer top-notch vision care to patients of all ages. Active in the community, Carlin has worked with the Centre Area Health Council, American Cancer Society and Sightloss Support Group of Central Pennsylvania.

Laura’s Home Cooking
Best Caterer
Since starting her business five years ago, Laura Sogor has risen to the top for local catering, from weddings to tailgates. She makes everything from scratch and offers clients custom menus according to their tastes. Sign up for her email list for recipes in your inbox.

Jocelyn Anderton DMD, LLCJocelyn Anderton DMD, LLC

Jocelyn Anderton, DMD LLC
Best Dentist
With Jocelyn Anderton, you know you are getting the best dental care in addition to your trip to the dentist being an enjoyable one. Anderton says she owes it to her team.

“We are extremely grateful for our patients who voted for us. It’s not just a reflection on me but a reflection on the whole office. Not everyone likes to come to the dentist, so we just try to make it a pleasant experience.”

Lauren Vaught, Evolve Studio
Best Hairstylist
Lauren Vaught, Evolve Studio’s owner and key hairstylist, is a three-peat winner and wants to thank her clients and her co-workers for the award. “I love my clients like family and the staff at Evolve is the most wonderful group to work with; going to work every day is a dream,” she says. “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this is the third year in a row because there are so many wonderful and talented hairdressers in this area.”

Pure Cane Sugar
Best Musician/Band
The “sugar” of State College’s most popular band is the vocal harmonies of Kate Twoey and Natalie Race, who’ve been performing together since 2007. With the “spice” of drummer Daryl Branford, bassist Bob Hart and new guitarist Brian Cleary, Pure Cane Sugar Band is a foot-stompin’, soul-shaking good time, every time. Says Twoey: “The support that we receive from the State College community … the fans who become dear friends, and our fellow local musicians who become family, is overwhelming and inspiring!” Catch them at Zeno’s on Saturday nights.

Dr. Rodney Sepich
Best Doctor
Dr. Rodney Sepich has been practicing primary care geriatric medicine in State College for 14 years, and says he loves how inquisitive area residents are about their health. As one of three owners of Nittany Valley Medical Associates, Sepich works with patients to minimize the interruptions that health issues may cause.

“I get the greatest satisfaction when I can improve their quality of life by reducing medicine or finding a lifestyle solution.”

Dr. Roy M. Love, Nittany Valley Chiropractic Center
Best Chiropractor
Dr. Roy Love of Nittany Valley Chiropractic and Wellness Center has won best chiropractor for the past four years. Love says his success is a reflection of the dedicated team of chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists at their two office locations.

“Our staff help patients regain their pain-free function and wellness every day,” says Love. “We work as a team to help all our patients feel comfortable and cared for in an environment of support using the latest techniques to help our patients get well.”

Scott’s Landscaping, Inc.
Best landscaper/lawn care company
From a small flowerbed to an entire patio redo, Scott’s Landscaping works hard to turn your home dreams into reality. From design and installation to maintenance and lawn care, Scott’s staff focuses on four core values of integrity, accountability, creativity and trust. And this month, they’re organizing a bus trip to Longwood Gardens for the annual Chrysanthemum Festival on Nov. 7. Call for tickets!  

William Ames
Best Photographer
In 1987, Williams Ames went to a Kodak seminar with famous photographer Bob Harris. “The idea of the seminar was to get people excited about photography, and it worked. I went out and bought a camera the next day.” Since then, Ames has been shooting “anything that looked interesting.” He has worked in photojournalism, weddings, landscapes, real estate, portraiture and more. Currently, he’s most focused on studio work out of his Calder Way space. “People think that photographers are all the same,” he says. “But most photographers have very specific genres that they work in. I’m a little different because I do a few things.”

Tire Town
Best Mechanic/Place to Fix Your Car
Tire Town has been around since 1964, and that kind of longevity speaks to having earned a community’s trust. Whether your vehicle is due for its state inspection, needs a tire rotation, new brakes or preventive maintenance, the mechanics at Tire Town are experienced, professional and ready to help. Multiple generations of family members have relied on Tire Town, making it the gold standard in the Centre Region for car repairs.

Veronesi Building & Remodeling Inc.
Best Remodeling/Home Contractor
Through work on both commercial and residential projects, Veronesi Building & Remodeling Inc. has built up a reputation for high quality since its founding in 1981. From preconstruction planning to remodeling existing buildings, the team works not only in Centre County but also in Mifflin, Blair, Clinton and Clearfield counties. Check out their work at Liberty Craft House and the American Philatelic Research Library.

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