Downtown York adds about 20 restaurants in 2 years
Americans are spending more at restaurants, according to retail sales data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
And downtown York has benefited from the growing demand with the opening of nearly 20 new restaurants in the past two years.
York’s development overall has gained momentum in recent years thanks, in part, to PeoplesBank Park, which hosted its first game in June 2007.
In that same month, full-service restaurants nationwide took in $16.86 billion, according to the U.S. Census. By June 2017, sales at full-service restaurants topped $25 billion.
Pennsylvania restaurants, which account for about 9 percent of the state’s employment, are expected to take in $21.5 billion this year, according to the National Restaurant Association, an industry trade group.
But that doesn’t mean the restaurant business has gotten any easier.
Taste Test, a restaurant incubator in York, understands that restaurants need a solid foundation to be sustainable.
Since its founding about 18 months ago, the incubator has been helping aspiring restaurateurs hone every aspect of the business, from food costing, to sourcing and brand development, to business skills and applying for financing.
Restaurants audition their concepts for two weeks in a Taste Test Café on South Duke Street in York’s Royal Square neighborhood. Guests provide feedback and successful concepts move to a restaurant space next door and operate as a “pop up” for a few months.
The York community then decides which concept it would like to see as a permanent fixture downtown and “votes” by crowdfunding to see the idea come to fruition.
“We wanted to create a platform where aspiring restaurateurs can test their ideas in the community and have a chance to receive real-time feedback from local diners, which creates a chance to tweak their concepts in a safe space,” said Allison Witherow, creative director for Taste Test.
Some clients have gone on to start mobile food and catering businesses. Infusion Indian Kitchen, which debuted at Taste Test, plans to open a brick-and-mortar location on South George Street.
The Handsome Cab is another newcomer to the York restaurant scene and a boon to oenophiles. Guests can choose from among 50 wines by the glass, 20 on tap and a selection of 250 bottled wines. Beer and cocktails are also offered, along with shareable plates. Artists’ works are displayed on the second and third floors.
“I was born and raised in York and for most of my life there was little to do downtown. To be a part of this is very special,” said Robert Godfrey co-owner of the Handsome Cab, which is on North George Street.
Jessica and Rob Ayala agree. The couple recently opened the Revival Social Club, near the York County courthouse and wanted to be a part of the revitalization.
“Restaurants have the opportunity to turn downtowns into a destination. People can dine downtown, then visit The Strand and see a show, then visit another restaurant for dessert,” said Jessica Ayala.
Another newcomer is Crystal Ball Brewing Co. Founded in West York, the microbrewery is planning to open a bar and tasting room in downtown York in the same building as the restaurant Isaac’s On the Fly.
Crystal Ball co-owner Jesse De Salvo is inspired by the spirit of cooperation that downtown business owners seem to embrace.
“Five years ago, I didn’t know half the business owners,” he said. “Now I feel like I know them all. They are frequenting each other’s businesses.”
Debbie Bailey also has noted the cooperative attitude. She is manager of business services at Downtown Inc, a business improvement group in York.
“Isaac’s buys produce for their salad at the Central Market and the York City Pretzel Co. sells their pretzels to the White Rose Bar & Grill for their crab pretzels,” she said. “Collusion Brewery is making a special beer to be sold in the restaurants during restaurant week from Feb. 23 through March 3.”
Bailey described restaurants in particular as a “landing spot” for people who may end up exploring other businesses nearby.
“Dollars spent in restaurants are local and restaurants infuse more money into the local economy,” she said.
York eateries that opened in 2016-2017
World Grills (29 E. King St.)
Rockfish Public House (110 N. George St.)
LettUsKnow (22 S. George St.)
Collusion Tap Works (105 S. Howard St.)
Picalonga Sabor Tropical (111 E. Princess St.)
Central Market (34 W. Philadelphia St.):
The Handsome Cab (106 N. George St.)
Revival Social Club (19 N. George St.)
Isaac’s on the Fly (78-98 W. Market St.)
Iron Horse York (1 W. Market St.)
Roost Uncommon Kitchen (35 W. Market St.)
Central Market (34 W. Philadelphia St.):