In a way, Dylan Simon is coming back home.
Ten years ago, Simon worked at the former Nonna’s Delicisio on Reily Street in Harrisburg. Then, last month, he opened his own restaurant, Right on Reily, in the exact same spot, bringing fresh ingredients and a new look to the Midtown location.
Simon moved with his mother from West Hanover to Harrisburg when he was a teenager. They settled on Green Street, which made for a short commute to his job at nearby Nonna’s. He immediately fell in love with the space and knew then that he eventually wanted to own his own business.
After high school, Simon pursued his dreams by studying education and small business management at HACC. But he’s also had real-world experience by working in the restaurant industry his entire professional life. His passion erupted while working at Rubicon, where he was a bartender for several years.
“I just learned so much from the people I worked with,” Simon said, crediting Rubicon manager Ashlyn Hawkins and fellow bartender and friend Valoree Skiles, both of whom played a role in helping Simon name Right on Reily.
He was closing at the end of the night with Hawkins and a few servers at Rubicon when they asked him if he had named his new venture. He had a couple of ideas but really wasn’t sold on any of them. He took out the trash and returned to his find co-workers still working on thinking up something appropriate.
“I feel like ‘right on’ should be in there somewhere,” Hawkins exclaimed, as Simon often uses that 1970s pop culture slang in conversation.
“Right on Reily just came to us,” Hawkins said. “Dylan was gone with the trash for all of three minutes and, when he came back, we said, ‘We got it.’ We told him, and he was sold.”
Right on Reily serves bistro-style food six days a week. The 45-seat, BYOB space boasts a post-modern décor with soft-colored walls that contrast with a bold painting of a rooster on the front counter, a mural created by local artist Katie Trainer. A large mirror flanks a pew that he acquired from a church in Maryland, with two five-foot tables for a unique seating experience. The restaurant is powered by wind and solar energy, making your visit not only delicious but environmentally friendly.
House-cured and smoked meat sandwiches, fresh salads and seasonal soups are just a few menu delights. At least a quarter of the menu features vegan and vegetarian dishes.
All of the dishes are inspired by Simon’s extensive knowledge of food products, something that always impressed Skiles.
“When I was first getting to know Dylan, I had just come from shopping at a local foods store that was selling Iranian saffron,” she said. “I brought up how exotic and expensive the saffron was, how these single threads sold in small glass jars had made their way around the world to end up here in Pennsylvania. Dylan then began to talk, in detail, about the Pennsylvania Dutch local cultivation of saffron. I was so impressed with his knowledge of food, and he has been impressing me ever since.”
Simon has partnered with Broad Street Market businesses Raising the Bar and Elementary Coffee for all of his baked goods and coffee selections and with local farmers and Lancaster Farm Fresh for many of his ingredients. Next year, he’ll work with Tri County Community Action to gather produce from Harrisburg-wide co-op community gardens.
On Reily Street, Simon is partnering with neighbors Zeroday Brewing Co. and the Midtown Cinema on specials and events. The restaurant will be available for private parties and catering, too.
Simon is offering takeout with Uber Eats and will serve brunch from noon to 4 p.m. every Sunday for late risers.
“We’ll be doing a bring-your-own bloody [Mary] brunch and mimosas,” he said. “I’ll have the mixers for each table, and customers can bring their own alcohol.”
Right on Reily will be working with the Harrisburg school district to offer mini-educational tours to students to provide them with the opportunity to learn what it takes to run a business and what it takes to prepare healthy and fresh food.
Simon is as excited about opening his own business as he is in making a difference.
“It’s all about synergy,” he said. “This is not just going to be some place to go to eat and drink. It’s about making a difference. It’s about community.”