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Drive Like You’re From Jersey

Last week, I had the unfortunate luck of finding myself driving in Camp Hill on a Friday around lunchtime. People who live in Harrisburg or on the “east shore” generally categorize those who live on the “west shore” or Camp Hill as a bit more affluent, well-to-do and certainly more employed and employable than their Harrisburg counterparts.

Now this, of course, isn’t true for ALL west shore dwellers. There are scores of residents that used to live within the city limits but after their children approach school age, they take that trip across the Harvey Taylor Bridge one last time and settle in with a yard and a driveway; escaping the faltering Harrisburg School District, higher crime and lower quality of life in the Capitol City.

Considering more people are more employed and probably have more urgency of places to go and things to do, I’d think that those on that side of the river would drive a bit more efficiently. But believe me…they don’t.

And Harrisburg drivers – don’t think you’re getting out of this rant either. You can be just as sluggish on the road as the rest of the midstate. I just happen to be hot on the topic of Camp Hill drivers at the moment.

Here are a few tips from a Jersey native on how to get places quicker and navigate more congested roads at 2PM on a Sunday than this area will likely ever see at 4:30 on a Friday.

The gas is on the right!

Step on the gas, grandma! Speed limits are merely guidelines for traveling.

Bob and weave…safely

My bud Jersey Dan and I were driving back to Harrisburg from Hershey the other night and he commended me on my cutting-in-and-out skills. There’s a fine line here, though. Sometimes, you can appear to be a real dick if you too aggressively bob-and-weave. But a steady, gentle cutting in and out of lanes is perfectly fine.

Pass Right, Cruise Middle, Turn Left

Front Street in Harrisburg is incredibly frustrating at times. Mostly, when entering on a busier morning or afternoon. If you’re traveling on Front Street and don’t plan to turn off anytime in the next several blocks, stay in the middle lane! And if you’re in the middle lane, you better be cruising along at least five or seven miles per hour over the posted limit.

Unless You See Otherwise, Turn Right On Red

Just do it, already! If you don’t see a sign advising otherwise, go right on red! It’s totally legal.

Put The Phone Down

No, no. I realize I’m pretty guilty of this one too, but hey…if you’re going to text at a red light, you damn well better have one eye on the light while you’re waiting. You get a three second grace period when the light turns green before I’m laying on the horn.


When In Doubt, Be Aggressive

I’m not saying be in a constant state of road rage, but grab your balls and get out there! It’s a competitive world we live in and driving isn’t excluded.

This Is Not A Post About Roller Coasters

Want proof that reforming an Amusement Tax is a great thing?

Look no further than Kennywood Amusement Park in West Millflin, PA.

The 111 year old amusement park had fought local officials for YEARS about the fairness (or lack thereof) of their local Amusement Tax before winning the reform.

Last April, West Mifflin officials and Kennywood brass came to an amicable agreement which made both parties happy…and saved the century-old park nearly two million dollars per year in payouts.

And TODAY- Kennywood announced they’ll be building a brand new roller coaster…to the tune of five million dollars.

Think that the reform of the Amusement Tax had anything to do with that?

You betcha.

Wake up, Harrisburg. It’s 2009. Get with the times or you won’t HAVE any great businesses to tax out of town.

Off The Record- Episode 11

otr-logo1-medHere it is!

Episode Eleven: Battle of The PennLive Bands, Poor State Workers (on the breadline), Trying to explain social networking to the uninitiated elder set, Entourage, The Strip Club Is Coming!, CoTweet, Jersey Bagels, Dave Matthews Telephone Game, We’re Number 1! (In Crime)


Right and Wrong

Seven years.

My grandmother says that things go in seven year cycles.

Seven shit years followed by seven years of triumph.

Seven year chapters of relationships.

You see, my grandmother was married for over fifty years. She’s clearly experienced enough to dispel this wisdom.

Me, however, I’m still in those seven year chapters.

Sold speakers for seven years. Followed by seven years in Harrisburg.

Seven, karmically retributive years.

But in our cycles of life, there are things which we pick up along the way…some from mistakes we’ve made, some from lessons we’ve learned from peers or elders and others yet are life experiences which we take things away from to keep in our moral-pocket the rest of our lives.

Here’s a list. Nothing scientific, but just a handful of items I try to remind myself of daily (or as necessary) to get me through the toughest of times. Feel free to add to this little project..as I’m sure we can share a thing or two with one another.

1. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

In business. At a restaurant. With your mother on the phone. To your son or daughter. I’ve found that you can get virtually any message across to a listener if you simply say it kindly.

I’ve seen this rule be ignored by countless people I’ve encountered. Particularly bosses or figures of authority. “Ask nicely” I was always taught. No need to be a dick, right?

2. Attitude is everything.

Great attitude = great results.

Bad attitude = bad results.

I’ve seen this in action and have caught myself when I’ve just generally got a bad attitude about a situation. Life’s short. No need to sweat the small stuff, right?

3. Regardless of what your mother said, a moderate about of sex, drugs and rock and roll are just as essential as your daily multivitamin.

Maybe more “sex” and “rock and roll” than “drugs” (depending on your definition). And perhaps it’s what I do for a living..but I can’t go a week without at least a little of each of those three items.

4. Be nice to girls.

I’m always astounded when I read in the paper about someone physically hurting a woman. Maybe it’s just how I was raised, but it just seems like there are things that one wouldn’t need to be taught. If she’s really that tough to deal with, walk away. But always take the high road.

And on that note..

5. Bros before Hoes.

Women come and go. But a bro is always supposed to be there. So fellas- ya’ll should know that if your best bud breaks up with his girl, she is, forever, off limits. And if you break that rule, you’re a douchebag and a cheat for life. It’s just another one of those things that one would think that dudes would respect and unconditionally know…but unfortunately, that is not the case.

6. Hold the door for the person behind you.

There’s a rule to this though…I generally use the twenty-foot-rule. If I’m entering a building and there’s someone behind me who is walking at a moderate pace, I’ll hold the door for them. It’s just courteous. Then again, if they’re lollygagging along, all bets are off.

7. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

If I were to discount everyone in Harrisburg prior to meeting them myself based on the opinions of others, I’d likely not have any friends. People make bad decisions from time to time and leave a bad taste in the mouths of some. Occasionally, it happens. But I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt until they wrong me personally.

That said…

8. Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice…shame on me.

Once a thief always a thief? Perhaps. But generally, the ‘one strike’ rule tends to hold up.

That’s it. It’s by no means a complete list. And I’m sure I’ll add to it.

What are some of your rules to live by?

Some pretty notable shows coming through the region in the next couple of months

My friend Joe Casillo – fine young Irish lad that he is-  used to write a pretty neat blog called Instrumental Analysis (RIP)- geared toward the more fringe, up and coming bands too ripe even for Pitchfork’s cherry pickers. He’s the guy who turned me on to bands like Frightened Rabbit, These United States, J Roddy and The Business (he gave me a free ticket to my first J Roddy show at the Recher), We Were Promised Jetpacks and tons more way too hip to put in this intro.

Joe is thinking about starting up the blog again – but until then, he’s just sending around a PDF of shows he knows about that are coming through the area. And there are a ton. So in the spirit of teamwork and community, here is the list – the Instrumental Analysis List of Killer Rock Shows Coming Through The Region In The Next Few Months.

(PS – I’m too lazy to link each show to the individual band or venue site.)

3/01: Dinosaur Feathers/Grandchildren @ Metro Gallery
3/02: Langhorne Slim @ Ottobar
3/03: Cults @ Ottobar
3/04: Travels @ Golden West
3/05: Titus Andronicus @ Ottobar
3/06: Royal Baths/Slowdance @ Golden West
3/07: Me You Us Them @ Sonar/Talking Head
3/07: Dead Leaf Echo/Fan-Tan @ Metro Gallery
3/08: Secret Mountains @ Ottobar
3/08: Kevin Devine/The Front Bottoms @ Chameleon Club
3/09: The Shrouded Strangers @ Moviate
3/10: The Lemonheads @ Ottobar (what!?)
3/10: The Shrouded Strangers @ Hamilton Arts Collective
3/11: Throwing Up @ Ottobar
3/11: No Age @ Chameleon Club
3/16: Henry Rollins @ Baltimore Soundstage
3/17: Dr Dog @ Rams Head Live
3/17: Girl Talk @ Power Plant Live
3/20: The Head and The Heart @ Rams Head Live
3/21: Kimya Dawson @ 2640 Space
3/22: Kurt Vile @ Rams Head Live
3/23: Psychic TV/Celebration @ Sonar/Talking Head
3/23: Deleted Scenes/El Ten Eleven @ Sonar/Talking Head
3/26: Rachael Yamagata @ Rams Head Tavern
4/01: Cloud Nothings/A Classic Education @ Ottobar
4/03: Nat Baldwin @ Metro Gallery
4/04: Real Estate/Twerps @ Ottobar
4/04: Bellows @ Moviate
4/05: Benjamin Francis Leftwich @ Metro Gallery
4/06: Psychic Ills/Night Beats @ Golden West
4/06: Corey Harris & The Rasta Blue Band @ Snail Pie Lounge
4/07: Alabama Shakes @ Rams Head Live
4/07: Frankie Rose/Dive @ Golden West
4/08: Hunx & His Punx/Natural Child @ The Windup Space
4/10: Kaiser Chiefs @ Rams Head Live
4/10: We Were Promised Jetpacks @ Sonar/Talking Head
4/13: Rasputina @ Ottobar
4/14: The Ting Tings @ Rams Head Live
4/17: !!!/Shabazz Palaces @ Sonar/Talking Head
4/17: Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds @ Baltimore Soundstage
4/18: Andrew Jackson Jihad @ Ottobar
4/19: Portugal. The Man @ Rams Head Live
4/19: Sharon Van Etten/Flock Of Dimes (Jenn from Wye Oak) @ Ottobar
4/20: Commander Cody/Professor Louie & The Crowmatrix @ Snail Pie Lounge
4/24: Lucero/J Roddy Walston & The Business @ ABC
4/25: Colin Hay @ ABC
4/27: The Felice Brothers @ Chameleon Club
4/27: Squeeze/The English Beat @ Rams Head Live
4/30: Death Cab For Cutie/Youth Lagoon @ Strathmore
5/01: Real Estate/Twerps @ ABC
5/03: Acid Mothers Temple/Phantom Family Halo @ Ottobar
5/04: Ane Brun@ Baltimore Soundstage
5/05: Lower Dens @ Ottobar
5/09: Andrew Bird @ Rams Head Live
5/09: Feist @ Strathmore
5/11: Star Slinger/The Hood Internet @ Sonar/Talking Head
5/12: Star Slinger/The Hood Internet @ ABC
5/17: Kurt Vile@ Chameleon Club
5/30: City and Colour/David Bazan @ Rams Head Live
5/31: Dawes @ Capitol Theatre
6/03: Matt Schofield @ Snail Pie Lounge
6/10: Foster The People/The Kooks @ Merriweather
6/12: Two Door Cinema Club/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ Rams Head Live
6/17: Bonnie Raitt/Mavis Staples @ Pier Six
6/23: Childish Gambino@ Pier Six
7/20: Dick Dale @ ABC

Things You Never Hear People Say In Harrisburg

You’ve seen all of the regional YouTube videos about what people in virtually every city in America “say” – hipsters and hippies and suits and snobs…here are a handful of things you’ll most likely never, ever, ever hear someone in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania say. Not ever in any of our lifetimes. Ever.

1. “Man, these roads are really smooth!”

Last year, I spent around nine hundred dollars repairing the front axle of my car. And I absolutely blame about eighty percent of those repair-needs on the totally horrific upkeep of the public roads within the city of Harrisburg. There are straight-up sinkholes throughout this place. SINKHOLES.

2. “Ya know what? I do feel really safe walking alone at night in Harrisburg. Especially on the dark streets where the streetlamps have burned out.”

If you choose to walk the streets of Harrisburg alone after dark, especially between the hours of 11PM and 3AM anywhere between Forster and Maclay, Front to Third, you are absolutely taking your personal safety in your own hands.

Oddly, though, you’re generally safe along Front Street in Riverfront Park.

3. “I feel pretty satisfied that my local tax dollars are going to good use and benefiting me directly.”

Have I mentioned the condition of the roads?

4. “I wish we had more bars here”

For a city of forty seven thousand, Harrisburg certainly has an abundance of watering holes. Some are swanky and some are skanky, but there really seems to be a bar or tavern within every three blocks here. You’re never more than a several hundred yard stumble from your next shot in Harrisburg.Which gives plenty of us plenty of options for the self medicating that seems to happen nightly here.

5. “Man, that river is so beautiful and CLEAN”

How many e-coli breakouts were there in this section of the Mighty Susquehanna last year?

6. “Considering how many parking tickets I get here for street cleaning, I feel that the streets are pretty darn clean and I probably deserve to pay a fine for failing to not park on alternating sides of the street, two days per month so the city maintenance guys can clean the streets.”

I wonder where there are more cigarette butts, chip bags, plastic juice bottles and empty beer cans and bottles? New Orleans after Mardi Gras? Or Harrisburg…any day of the week? For a city that spends so much time and effort on “street cleaning”, we sure do have some dirty streets.

7. “This place is so unified! I love the sense of connectedness and community and pride within this whole city!”

You do hear this in other cities. Other cities do have local pride, you know. It’s not like this everywhere. There are plenty of cities in America that have a unified community which spans all races and cultures and barriers and differences and they all share the same traits- pride in their surroundings. Midtowners seem to stay relatively connected…but Harrisburg, believe it or not is much larger than the area bound by Front, Third, Forster and Market streets.

8. “I moved to Harrisburg from [Insert much bigger, much cooler city here] because of the awesome job market.

Who moves to Harrisburg? There’s a major brain-drain problem here and it won’t be corrected until some progressive companies plant their roots here. Either that or when people start to realize that this is a large town and not a small city. We don’t have to feel so fragmented, yet different factions continue to operate as if they’re the only people in town. Why doesn’t HYP, Friends of Midtown, The Harrisburg Art Association and Jump Street all join together for one annual humdinger of an event? Why don’t all of the little different neighborhood associations have a monthly meeting with all neighborhood associations?


9. “I completely trust my elected officials to make the decisions and push for what’s right and best for this city. I will vote for this current incarnation again and again.”

This is where it begins and ends. Linda Thompson was president of City Council before she was elected Mayor. And as much as she’d like to pass the blame of everything that’s wrong with this city to former Mayor Reed, she is just as guilty. The blood of the atrocity of the financial state of the city of Harrisburg is on every elected officials hands for the past twenty years.

Every bond deal, every backroom handshake, every stupid artifact, every dollar misappropriated from one fund to another and every brick of that cursed incinerator was a choice that someone you and I elected made.

When local politicians choose to realize that they are charged with fixing or failing this city, that’s when we’ll see true progress. But now? With the exception of a small handful of standouts, all I’ve seen is a bunch of bullshit posturing and career advancing politicking from the elected officials in Harrisburg. Guys – it’s not about you…it’s about the welfare of this city. And it’s pretty grim these days.

This Sentence Really Pisses Me Off (In Defense Of The Harrisburg Music Scene)

I read a blog post earlier tonight about a new record label forming in Harrisburg. It’s a nice story. I know all the guys working on the label. And I think they’re going to do very well.

The purpose of this post, however, isn’t to spotlight the new label. I’m not even going to link to the post that described the new label. Rather, I’m going to harp on one sentence. The sentence that led the post. And the writer isn’t 100% at fault for typing this. It’s an easy target. The story about the new label led with this sentence:

“Any musician or music fan in the Harrisburg area knows that the local music scene leaves much to be desired.”

As a person who earns a full time living producing concerts and events in virtually every local and regional music and music related venue, I take issue with that statement. The “local music scene” is a direct reflection of the local demography. And the local demography simply lacks the population to support anything more than what we generally have to appreciate here in the Susquehanna Valley.

And the term “local music scene” – what is the writer referring to? Simply the city of Harrisburg? One would be remiss to exclude York, Lancaster and even State College from the regional offerings of live music in the midstate.

Constant comparisons to major metro areas like Baltimore, Philadelphia or even Pittsburgh are absolutely unfair when talking about a local music scene.

Sure, a music fan would likely have to travel more than sixty miles to catch some of the bigger shows – and by “bigger” I mean some of the hotter, most relevant national acts on the circuit. Plain and simple, we do not have the million-plus population to make the Harrisburg region a must-play market for many touring bands. But get this- we often get some of the bigger names months and years before they break, but it’s up to the causal music fan to go out more often than once a month to catch those acts on their way up (or down).

Let’s talk our immediate region for a second. In Harrisburg, York and Lancaster, we’ve got the following venues hosting live, touring bands four or five nights per week – Chameleon Club, American Music Theater, Whitaker Center, The Strand Capitol and Cap Live, The Abbey Bar, The State Theater, Cafe 210, Championship, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Gullifty’s and dozens more bars, pubs and coffee shops too numerous to list. On those dozen or so venue’s calendars is the full gamut of touring and local talent and it’s all happening nearly every night of the week.

Years ago, I had a discussion with my good friend Sara B Simpson. The gist of my argument at the time was “man, the Harrisburg music scene sucks.” (Not unlike the writer of the post I’m pissy about right now). And she made the completely valid point that the scene is just fine – it’s out there, but you have to find it. And if it were more mainstream and over populated, people would bitch that there are too many meat heads at shows. And then we’d argue that nobody is happy, no matter what.

So break it down for me- what, exactly, is there to be desired about the “local music scene”? The quality of the local bands? I wouldn’t necessarily argue with that. But think about it – if a band has the chops enough to do something valid and career bolstering, why would they hang around Harrisburg when Brooklyn, NY is merely three hours away? Or Asheville, North Carolina? Or Nashville, TN?

The writer of the post wasn’t being malicious. Or spiteful. Or vindictive. And his viewpoint is understandable. But I’ve traveled to some cities that one would think there would be a jumping music scene…but there simply isn’t. There aren’t a dozen venues – legitimate, stage and PA and light rig-having music venues with dedicated pages on their websites promoting their individual calendars and a staffed sound and light technician and someone dedicated to booking their calendar…like there are here in Central Pennsylvania.

I used to work in a pretty hardcore direct marketing job that drilled the sales force on the importance of having a great attitude. We heard it every day. And it’s stuck with me because it’s absolutely true. Want great results? Have a great attitude. Want bad or mediocre results? Have a bad attitude.

It’s really as simple as that.

I came to terms with the reality of the fact that Harrisburg and Lancaster and York aren’t home to any major league universities with tens of thousands of students living within the city and starting student and youth-centric businesses and influencing the business landscape enough to support multiple rock clubs in the same city having five nights of music per week.

But we’ve got a dozen. A dozen legitimate music venues in our region. And they all have great stuff on their calendars three or four nights per week. And the other two or three nights per week there are dozens of bars and pubs and coffee shops hosting open mic nights, pickin’ parties and other music-themed events.

But you have to look for them.

This region’s music scene is what you make of it.

It’s out there. And we’re fortunate to have the number of options that we have.

The Guestlist

Today, I got an email.

I did not know the person who sent it, but he claimed to be a promoter in a tiny little town in NEPA. I searched for the name of his company on Google, and found nothing. Then, I searched it on Facebook. Also, nothing. Finally, I searched his name on the Book of Faces and located him. We have three mutual friends. In his info was a link to his promoter page within Facebook. I clicked. They don’t seem to do any shows and the photo for the page is probably a photo of the stage of a Furthur show, but taken by a professional photographer.

The page had twenty two “likes”.

The reason the dude emailed me?

Asking for a guestlist spot on tonight’s show.

Here’s the transmission:

Hello Mike,
I’m ******** of **************, i am attending Biodiesel tonight and was wondering if there was anyway to get on a guestlist?

From: Michael Van Jura <mike@greenbeltevents.com>
To: ******************************
Sent: Thursday, December 8, 2011 10:33 AM
Subject: Re: biodiesel guest list

are you press?

On Dec 8, 2011, at 12:00 PM,************* wrote:

no not press , just the owner of another production company.

From: Michael Van Jura <mike@greenbeltevents.com>
To: *****************************
Sent: Thursday, December 8, 2011 2:08 PM
Subject: Re: biodiesel guest list

I don’t really want to sound like a dick, but it’s only a $7 ticket.

And for what it’s worth, I almost always buy tickets when I go to shows in other venues…

But sure, I’ll put you on the list.

Doors are at 7.

On Dec 8, 2011, at 2:21 PM, *********************> wrote:

wow definately do sound like a dick, the person who invited me out had said they thought it was $20 which is too much for a biodiesel show, that is why i asked about guestlist. $7 ticket not a problem.
and for what its worth i always guestlist any promoters who come out to any show im involved in and usually have same done for me.  like i said its not a problem if we decide to come out i have no problem paying $7.

From: Mike Van Jura <mike.vanjura@gmail.com>
To: ***********************
Sent: Thursday, December 8, 2011 2:25 PM
Subject: Re: biodiesel guest list

So, you’re a promoter but didn’t think to check the website to see how much the tickets actually cost?

Do you see what happened there?

Someone I don’t know emailed out of the blue, asking to be put on the guest list for a show with a seven dollar cover. I did a bit of due diligence just to make sure I wasn’t giving a hard time to someone that didn’t deserve it, explained my reasoning for questioning him in my email, still offered him a spot on the list and I got called a “dick” for doing so.

Here’s my position on the guest list:

  • If you’re someone who goes above and beyond and helps promote shows (or a particular show), I have no problem giving a plus one.
  • If you’re somehow connected to the band via street team, long time fan, sleeping with the bass player…whatever. The band always has a guestlist allotment on a show and you can work your way on that way.
  • If it’s someone that I think that you really want to see, I’ll often say “hey man, you should come check these guys out. You’d probably dig them. I’ll put you on the list. They start around 9.”

And that’s pretty much it. Helping promote the show, a friend of the band or a personal friend of mine because I do have that luxury of giving free tickets to my friends.

Sometimes people don’t realize that a concert ticket is a promoter’s product. Just like Five Guys sells hamburgers and people exchange currency for two buns, beef, lettuce, tomato and ketchup, the hamburger you’re paying for at any concert is the act that’s performing on stage.

Shows ain’t cheap. And oftentimes, most people visit a venue twice or three times per month and see shows that are pretty well attended. And yes, while the well attended shows are profit generators for a promoter, there are plenty of other shows that either break even or lose money for the promoter.

Inherently, to be a concert promoter, one must also be a gambler at heart. When I confirm a show in August that isn’t scheduled until December, I have no idea if there is going to be a foot of snow on the ground the day of or if a better show will be confirmed for a venue within driving distance of mine on the same night. Therefore, for every show that confirms, I make another roll of the dice.

Look, I’m not a dick. But think of it like this – if we both owned a Turkey Sandwich shop and I went to your turkey sandwich shop and said “hey! I have a turkey sandwich shop a few hours from here. May I have a free turkey sandwich?, would you give me one?

See what I mean?

But, if I’m out in front of that Turkey Sandwich shop wearing a sandwich sign and parading up and down the block enticing people to come  in and buy a turkey sandwich, then I pretty much deserve that turkey fucking sandwich.

No, this isn’t the gospel. And every promoter is different. But I just had to vent this pet peeve of mine.

Ten Great Breakfast Spots In (And Around) Harrisburg

To say “I love breakfast” is an understatement.

I really, really love breakfast.

If I could take a tomato, avocado and cheese omelet out to dinner, feed it some wine and take it home with me and watch a movie, I would.

If there weren’t a law prohibiting the fornication of a man and his English muffin, I’d probably have a litter of little baby English muffins running around my house today.

I love breakfast so much, that there have been days that I’ve had eggs in the morning, pancakes in the afternoon and waffles for dinner.

So any time someone new comes to Harrisburg, be it a band or a friend, I’m often quick to recommend a handful of great breakfast options. Because for as underwhelming a town that Harrisburg can be, we are fortunate to have a good smattering of breakfast choices.

Here, in no particular order, are ten great places to get a good breakfast in the Harrisburg area. (I’m not talking about brunch, which could be a post of it’s own. These are ten, solid, dependable diners, greasy spoons and corner shops to get a good cup of coffee, a couple eggs, toast and bacon)

1. Yankee Doodle Diner
902 North Front Street, Lemoyne, PA
(717) 731-9100

The first thing you need to know about this place is that it is NOT the Riverview Diner anymore. When this structure was known as the Riverview Diner, I swore it off for years due to terrible service, cold food and hair in my eggs. But under new ownership for about two years now, the Yankee Doodle Diner is one of my favorite breakfast spots. A creative menu featuring specials daily, burritos, omelets, waffles, pancakes, eggs, oatmeal and cereals served by a super friendly and always entertaining staff, this place keeps impressing me.

2. American Dream Diner
1933 Herr Street, Harrisburg, PA
(717) 234-5840

There’s nothing classy about The American Dream, both literally and figuratively, and this diner embodies all of it. It’s a classic train car diner perched at the intersections of Route 22 and Herr Street just north of Cameron in Harrisburg. Basic menu items like ham and cheese omelets, two-over with bacon and home fries and occasional baked oatmeal, but The American Dream is known for two locally-famous menu items – The Rope and The Annie’s Dream Omelet. The Rope is an emasculating piece of sausage served with two eggs and home fries. And Annie’s Dream is your cardiologists nighmare: a three egg omelet stuffed to the max with ham, peppers, onions, potatoes and topped with a few slices of American cheese. And the servers? Think the old Bounty commercials in the diner and you’re just about there. Get in early, though. They close at 2 daily.

3. Camp Hill Cafe
40 Erford Road, Camp Hill, PA
(717) 730-9887

My favorite part of this place is the Eggs Benedict options, specifically, the Crab Benedict. I’m not the kind of guy to judge, but it just irks me to hear someone say “Crab Bennie”. I know, I know. Stupid, right? Just a pet peeve. ANYWAY, this is another sort of off-the-beaten-path breakfast option that’s just up the road from the must-avoid Perkins at The Radisson just off of the Camp Hill Bypass and barely two minutes from the intersection of Front and Forster streets at the Harvey Taylor Bridge. Small and cozy, this is a nice alternative to some of the greasy spoons in the city. And the coffee is pretty great.

4. Flapjacks (Formerly known as Paul’s Pancake House)
9 N Us Route 15, Dillsburg, PA

(717) 432-8995

I wish this place was closer. It’s about fifteen miles south of Harrisburg on 15, but this list wouldn’t be complete without including this place. As the name would suggest, it’s known for pancakes. But what makes this little diner special is the beer selection. Tons and tons of microbrews lined up neatly in a few coolers just as you walk in the door, a full bar (for those Sunday morning Bloody Mary’s) and dozens of pancake options. It’s certainly not a quick stop on your Tuesday morning commute to work (unless you commute to Dillsburg…but who does that?), but for a weekend morning drive, it’s worth the trip.

5. Keystone Restaurant
1000 North 3rd Street, Harrisburg, PA

(717) 236-3273

I’m including the Keystone in this list because if I didn’t, my buddy Devin wouldn’t let me live it down. The Keystone is, at it’s heart, a greasy spoon with all of the glorious prestige that comes along with that designation. No frills, nothing fancy about the menu but it’s consistent, it’s quick and it’s filling. And the coffee is also decent. If you want quick, cheap and charismatic wait staff, pay the Keystone a visit.

6. Roxy’s Cafe
274 North Street, Harrisburg, PA

(717) 232-9232

I’m not going to dog on Roxy’s, because, in my heart, I love Roxy’s. I do. My buddies Chris Hoke, Adam Kline and myself used to duke it out over the Foursquare Mayorship of Roxy’s. But since I’ve fallen in love with the Yankee Doodle, I haven’t been in Roxy’s as often lately. But that shouldn’t stop you from going. Weekends can be sort of slow, depending on how many servers are on and who’s cooking on the line, but for great coffee, a good Lyonnaise (mushroom and cheese) omelet and Midtown Harrisburg resident people watching, Roxy’s is a staple. The sourdough toast is a nice option too.

7. Capitol Diner
800 Eisenhower Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA

(717) 939-2279

There’s a reason the Summerdale Diner in Enola didn’t make this list. And that reason is – The Capitol Diner. Conveniently located just off of I-283 heading to the airport (or Target), this is another example of how a once sub par diner went under new ownership and became something pretty darn good. So good, in fact, that I’d think it could stand up next to any of the newer remodeled diners in the Motherland – New Jersey. The decor isn’t gaudy, per se, but it’s got lots of multi colored shiny tiles, a sort of grand entrance way and the standard dessert display case that’s chock full of desserts that look much better than they actually are. (That’s not a knock at the Capitol diner, it’s true of ALL diners…seriously).

8. Skyline Family Restaurant
7510 Allentown Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA

(717) 652-1780

Again, another place which I wish were closer to downtown Harrisburg, The Skyline Family Restaurant has it all. Dynamite soups, sandwiches and daily specials, but the breakfast is killer. I often judge a breakfast spot by their home fries. And where the Keystone and American Dream simply slice em up and throw em in a frying pan, the Skyline seasons their home fries. Great service and a somewhat creative offering of the standard breakfast faire.

9. Dodge City
1037 Paxton Street, Harrisburg, PA

(717) 236-2719

I’m gonna keep this simple, because that’s what you get at Dodge City: a surprisingly good and simple breakfast with the option of a hair-of-the-dog drink for your Monday Morning Hangover. Dodge City was recently featured on Restaurant Impossible and went through a menu and aesthetic overhaul, but fortunately, the breakfast went mostly unchanged. It’s another spot with great home fries that only need a dollop of ketchup.

10. Hi Life Diner
4890 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg, PA

(717) 737-7700

While this breakfast guy often longs for the more unique and creative breakfast offerings of some of the bigger city haunts like Pamela’s in Pittsburgh, The Blue Moon Diner in Char0lottesville or Honey’s in Philly, the sad reality of breakfast in Harrisburg is that we simply don’t have many of those options. Sure, there are a few pretty awesome brunch spots, but those are resigned to weekends. But for 7 day a week breakfast, The Hi Life Diner rounds out this list. It’s good, they’ve got a fishtank in the foyer and the service is consistent.