Tucked away on the corner North College and West Penn streets in Carlisle is a small restaurant that exudes old-school charm.
If I lived in the neighborhood, I’d most certainly be a “regular” at John’s “Hideaway” Restaurant. The white-brick eatery is situated in a residential area with free on-street parking. When my husband and I arrived last Friday around the lunch hour, we easily found a convenient parking spot and made our way inside.
The minute we stepped through the door, we were greeted with a cheery hello and instructions to take a seat at any of the available booths.
The relatively small eatery reminds me of what people in the past would call a luncheonette. Customers can grab a seat on one of the 15 stools at the counter or at any of a dozen or so blue-cushioned booths situated around the room. Another throwback to an earlier era is a black felt menu board that hangs on the wall behind the lunch counter and lists the menu selections in white plastic letters.
When we visited, specials of the day were listed on a blackboard as “broiled or fried haddock,” which patrons in a neighboring booth highly recommended. In fact, conversation seemed to flow as freely as the coffee at John’s, as customers chatted about the menu and the weather and exchanged other pleasantries during their visit.
John’s offers a large selection of sandwiches like ham, tuna, fish, chicken breast, burgers, roast beef, crab cakes and steak. Hot sandwich platters include turkey, meatloaf and more. A small selection of salads like garden, Greek and chef are also available.
A list of about 20 entrees includes items that mom may have made, like liver and onions and Salisbury steak, or comfort food favorites like chicken Parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs and meatloaf. In the mood for steaks, chops or seafood? John’s offers a New York Strip, a ham steak, pork chops, scallops, oysters and stuffed shrimp with crabmeat, to name just a few.
My husband was in the mood for fried chicken — he always is actually. And the price was right. A half chicken (cut up), with coffee, macaroni and cheese and a side salad cost him $10.50. For my lunch, I chose an item that I haven’t ordered in years: a cheeseburger sub, with onions, lettuce and tomato ($6.10).
On the day we visited, two cooks were handling the orders while customers sat at the counter and chatted and watched with interest as they swiftly turned out dish after dish. After a period of about 10 minutes, our friendly waitress arrived with my husband’s side salad, comprised of iceberg lettuce, a small amount of shredded carrots and a large slice of a ripe, red beefsteak tomato.
A short time later, our food arrived piping hot. The chicken received rave reviews and was described as crunchy, moist and delicious. Of course, I had to verify this by going in for a bite and I can say I concur.
I’m happy to say that I can I recommend the cheeseburger sub, as well. It certainly satisfied a craving for a sandwich that I only indulge in on rare occasions. The burger portion was rather large for the roll, but I figured out that by cutting them lengthwise and repositioning them inside the bread, I was able to eat the sub a bit more gracefully.
Before we left, we asked about some of the desserts that were displayed in a case behind the lunch counter. The waitress told us that old-fashioned favorites like lemon meringue, coconut cream pie and carrot cake are all made on-site, so if you’re in the neighborhood, keep in mind that you can also stop in for a slice of pie and a cup of joe.
Whether you decide to stop for breakfast, lunch, dinner or simply a snack, I can say with certainty that you’ll be more than welcomed by the friendly folks at John’s.
Next Up: Totino’s Pizza in East Pennsboro Township
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.