Erford Road has undergone dramatic changes in the past few years, starting with the implosion of an office building at 100 Senate Ave., which soon led to a flurry of development, along with the creation of Camp Hill Commons, where Olive Oil Grille is located. The owners of the fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant’s self-stated goal is to appeal to the workers in the area who seek healthy lunch and dinner choices.
Those unfamiliar with the restaurant may recognize the ordering concept where customers queue up at the front and proceed forward, assembly-line style, to build a bowl or fill a pita.
My friend and I showed up this past Sunday and easily found a parking spot within steps of the restaurant. When we entered, the staff behind the counter bid us a cheery hello and we made our way along the front counter, customizing our orders.
Because we had viewed the menu beforehand, we were familiar with the many food options and the order in which we would have to choose the items. Those who are new to the Olive Oil Grille may wish to consult their helpful website in advance.
Customers can start with a “style” (grain bowl, salad bowl, pita), then choose a “base” of white or brown rice; ancient grains comprised of quinoa, lentils and white pearl barley; a power blend comprised of carrots, kale, radicchio, brussels sprouts, broccoli stalks and kohlrabi; or an Arcadian blend with green leaf, red leaf and baby lettuce; or they can keep it simple and opt for plain arugula or romaine.
Dips and spreads are next in line and customers can choose up to three, with options like hummus, a spicy fire feta and a cooling yogurt dill.
Next up are a selection of six proteins, which include choices like grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, braised lamb and falafel. An array of toppings like diced cucumbers, tomatoes, crumbled feta and shredded romaine follow, with dressings designed to top it all off. Guests can choose from six, ranging from lemon herb to creamy Mediterranean or apple sumac vinaigrette.
If this seems complicated, it can be, but staff is always happy to walk customers through the myriad choices, and they have been trained to be well-versed in special dietary requirements.
For my lunch, I chose a Greens + grain bowl, requesting half a serving of brown rice as my base. I next chose the fire feta and Tzatziki “dips” along with grilled chicken, tomatoes/diced cucumber/onion/shredded romaine and a half serving of apple sumac vinaigrette ($9.87).
I like the fact that I can curb a few calories by ordering light dressing and half an order of rice. My dish was not only tasty and satisfying, but filling as well, and the flavorful vinaigrette complemented the dish quite nicely. Perhaps they should bottle it for sale — it’s that good.
My friend picked a pita with a romaine base, hummus/tzatziki/fire feta “dips,” with meatballs, olives, banana peppers, feta, tomatoes and cucumbers ($9.87). He also opted for the seasonal soup, a vegetarian French lentil ($3.95).
The pita was fluffy and light, and he said the grilled flavor of the meatballs worked well with the other options he chose. It’s as if all the flavors were designed to work together harmoniously, no matter how one customizes the final dish.
We also enjoyed the hearty French lentil, which was delicious, seasoned nicely with plenty of flavor, laying rest the notion that vegan, gluten-free soups must all be bland.
Customers may be interested to learn that neither freezer, nor microwave or fryer is used in the making of the food, so that everything is at the peak of freshness. I might also remark that the protein portions are ample, as opposed to what one might find at a chain employing a similar concept, which reminds me of an old joke where the waiter asks the customer how he found his steak. “With a magnifying glass,” comes the reply.
Drinks included strawberry lemonade and mint iced tea on the day we visited, and for those craving something sweet afterward, giant oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies were for sale at the front.
Have a little one in tow? The Olive Oil Grille offers a mini-pita and juice at $6.25 for children ages 12 and younger.
As we cleaned up our table and proceeded to the exit, a member of the staff took notice and called out a cheery “thank you.” If you’ve yet to experience the Olive Oil Grille, you may want to give it a try for the friendly staff, the fresh and tasty food and a selection that is anything but run of the mill.
Up Next: Dinner at Tri-Asian Taste in Mechanicsburg.
Stay up-to-date on what's happening
Receive the latest in local entertainment news in your inbox weekly!