What do puzzles and beer have in common? The question seems like a riddle itself, but the answer is actually quite simple.
Late last year, Mary and Dimitri Papadimitriou opened Escape Room Hershey and Hershey Biergarten, two very fun (if different) things housed under one roof.
“We are excited that we have a unique venue where customers can pair both or enjoy either independently, depending on their preference,” explained Dimitri.
The two new businesses are located on Chocolate Avenue, taking over the building where Bricker’s Pizza had operated. And, while they may seem quite distinct, there is a common thread, according to the couple, who also run Escape Room Lancaster.
“At our location in Lancaster, people frequently requested to pair the escape room with a dining option so that they could debrief and discuss their experience,” said Dimitri. “When our current space in Hershey became available, we saw the benefits of having the two connected.”
So, everyone knows about beer, right? But what about the escape room part?
An escape room is a relatively new, interactive adventure game spreading across the country. Players are locked in a room and use clues to figure out a series of puzzles to “escape” before an hour expires. In Hershey, players have a choice of games, including “The Wacky Candy Factory,” “Mystery in the Theater” and “Wizard’s Laboratory.” Mary designed the rooms, and all three are different from the Lancaster location.
Since the two businesses are connected, the couple decided to put an open wall between them. So, visitors can look across and see what is happening in the other room—kind of like free advertising. It’s also a great way to expand the space while catching the eye.
On the restaurant side of the wall, Hershey Biergarten’s interior offers patrons an open, inviting space with high ceilings and an industrial look. Dimitri made the wood finish, which creates a warm, comfortable feeling, and white lights strung from the ceiling soften up the room. Even the menus are made of wood—a nice touch, I thought.
One side of the restaurant is lined with a cooler filled with 150 varieties of bottled beer. Customers can also buy six-packs (mix and match as well) to go. Local craft beer drafts are the specialty at Hershey Biergarten. Being a dark beer fan, I tried a peanut butter chocolate stout called Big Gruesome from Lancaster-based Spring House Brewing Co. Delicious.
According to Dimitri, the biergarten has 12 rotating craft brews on tap and will always have selections from our area’s rapidly growing beer scene.
“We wanted to support other local businesses, so we want to have a significant selection of local breweries available at our location,” he said. “However, we also know that many beer enthusiasts want the opportunity to try new options. Our goal is to have a mix of local and unique domestic options to appeal to everyone.”
While the couple has small business experience, this is their first restaurant. However, they’re not worried. Dimitri said he knows customer service is the most important thing when it comes to running a business.
“Plus,” he said, “Greeks know food!”
In addition, they hired Chef Jerimy Simms to head up the kitchen. He offers seasonal items such as prosciutto and pesto panini, which is one of the most popular menu items since opening in November.
I decided to try a flatbread pizza—the traditional margherita. It was served on a beautiful wooden cutting board and was cooked perfectly. The fresh mozzarella melted nice and gooey on top of the crust, which was a bit soft inside and just crispy enough on the outside. The Roma tomatoes, along with roasted garlic oil and fresh basil, made a delicious balance. Panini, tacos and salads, as well as small bites like charcuterie, Bavarian soft pretzels and short rib sliders, add variety to the menu.
The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and full of personality. Hershey Biergarten has a positive, upbeat atmosphere, which spills in from next door.
It turns out that Dimitri was right—the two unique businesses do seem to go well together. As I sat enjoying my pizza, I could see folks at another table drinking beer as they passionately recounted and reconstructed their escape room adventure. I laughed and thought, “Another mystery solved!”
Author: Carissa Bannister Kauwell