Is it wrong to dream about brownie a la mode? Asking for a friend.
After a recent visit to Riverrun Restaurant and Social Lounge, located on the first floor of the newly opened Hotel Indigo Harrisburg Hershey, I can’t seem to get this particular dessert out of my mind. But more on that in a minute.
When I arrived at Riverrun, Kerri Conway, the restaurant’s food and beverage manager, greeted me with a warm smile. Conway and executive chef Steve Miller are veterans of the region’s food and beverage scene. She listed off gigs that helped hone her expertise, including time spent at ever-delicious Cork & Fork. Miller most recently served as sous chef over at local favorite Café 1500.
Conway and Diana Bernardo, the hotel’s general manager, chatted with me about the restaurant and hotel’s commitment to serving as a gathering place and destination for travelers and locals alike. Highlighting the region’s food and beverage offerings is a key component of this.
“That’s one of the things Kerri and I were really passionate about when we came on board,” explained Bernardo. “Incorporating that into everything we do—not just the design elements, but from the food we serve to the places we recommend.”
Hotel Indigo, the boutique line in IHG Global’s international collection of hotels, develops a “neighborhood story” and “design story” around which each hotel’s aesthetic and narrative are built. Local landmarks and history appear in both easily recognizable and subtle nods throughout the hotel.
The Walnut Street Bridge is memorialized in artwork in the social lounge, on guest room signage and in the lobby’s architectural details, which play off the bridge’s distinctive trusses. Much of the staff sports violet-colored boutonnieres as a nod to artist Violet Oakley, whose work is featured in the state Capitol, and a bas-relief installation that plays upon a topographic view of the Susquehanna River is mounted prominently on the wall behind the front desk.
Though some of the hotel’s local design details may be less evident to visitors to our area, just one bite or sip at Riverrun will be enough to demonstrate Indigo’s commitment to showcasing local food and beverages.
As we spoke, Conway shared a bit about the process of developing a menu that draws from the best the area has to offer. This included—among other fun activities—“field trips” to destinations like the Broad Street Market. Conway’s years in the hospitality industry gave her a leg up on the process.
“I knew where I wanted to start,” she said.
From here, she rattled off a list of local farms and craft food and beverage producers, including Caputo Brothers’ cheeses, Urban Churn ice cream, Elementary Coffee brews, Popped Culture popcorn, Kunzler’s meats, Kegel’s produce and Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op products.
Many of these names show up on Riverrun’s menu via perfectly Pennsylvania dishes like the fried Lebanon bologna sandwich. Consider it a delicious, gourmet take on a lunchtime go-to from many childhoods of yore, featuring fried Kunzler’s sweet Lebanon bologna, Herlocher’s mustard, gruyere cheese, Middleswarth chips and greens, nestled within a pretzel roll.
For those looking for a more robust and refined option, Riverrun offers a wide variety of entrees, such as a cilantro, lime, chimichurri steak and a truffle linguini. The latter’s champagne truffle sauce, fresh sage and garlic-marinated mushrooms give the dish a rich earthiness, and the crumbled goat cheese on top provides a delicate flavor contrast.
When dining out, I like to craft a balanced meal—if not nutritionally, definitely in flavor—so a sweet dessert seemed like the perfect follow-up to the aforementioned sandwich’s indulgent, salty tang. Which brings us full circle to those brownie dreams I mentioned earlier.
Riverrun’s “Local Collaboration” is a dessert significant enough to drive a sweet tooth to distraction. Picture a moist, rich, from scratch, Pennsylvania Bakery brownie (gluten free, to boot) paired with a generous scoop of Urban Churn’s bourbon cinnamon ice cream. Thick-cut, chocolate-covered bacon from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative sits majestically atop, bedecked with Popped Culture’s Caramel Brown Sugah popcorn. And there’s Hershey’s chocolate syrup to go with it. Can you even stand it?
As we discussed other culinary high points of the menu, chef Miller noted that he plans to keep the current menu in place while they get up and running, but, as summertime comes, he plans to begin introducing daily specials to further incorporate local produce and meats.
The restaurant’s cocktail menu injects levity into the regional theme, with cleverly titled drinks that name-check local history and landmarks. The “It’s LANG-kis-ter not LAN-caster” (Thistle Finch gin, green Chartreuse, blueberries, mint, cucumber and Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative honey) and the “Strawberry Square” (Midstate Distillery white rum, muddled tarragon, strawberries, peppercorn syrup and club soda) are just two such delicious examples.
For those wondering if happy hour is celebrated here, have no fear—Riverrun presents a range of specials, Monday to Friday, including select $5 appetizers, $2 domestic beers, $1-off Tröegs drafts, $6 house wines from Spring Gate and $5 house spirits from a range of local favorites, such as Faber, Stateside Vodka, Midstate Distillery and Thistle Finch.
As our conversation concluded, I scanned the lobby with its cozy nooks and seating areas. My eyes fell upon a pair of upholstered chairs beneath the Walnut Street Bridge artwork. If I were a guest, I could imagine returning to Riverrun for a happy hour glass of Spring Gate’s blackberry sangria at the end of a long day exploring the area or soldiering through hours of meetings. I could curl up there with a book or, if I still had the energy, grab appetizers at Riverrun and then Uber into the city for some fun. At evening’s end, I would return to the hotel and polish off the night with—you guessed it—a brownie.
Riverrun Restaurant & Social Lounge is located at 765 Eisenhower Blvd, Harrisburg. For more information, visit hotelindigo/harrisburgpa or hotelindigo.com or call 717-558-7676.