Fine Dining in the Basement of a HoJo?
As Jeanne put it, it seemed like something straight out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
We’d looked up the most highly rated restaurants in Hershey, PA and settled on What If…, the only catch was that it was, that’s right, in the basement of the local Howard Johnson. I was attracted to the comment about it being a great “hole in the wall find”, I love making discoveries like that, and the great happy hour specials and impressive wine list, Ferrari Carrano in a Howard Johnson??
So Saturday afternoon we headed out in the pouring rain to check it out. If you just looked at the entrance, it DID look like a nice restaurant.
Driving by though…
The entrance was completely surreal. There was a small breakfast area off to the left with basic seating and worn carpet. Straight ahead though, was tall wood paneled walls and a wide staircase with framed posters leading down the restaurant.
We were a bit early for dinner, so we had the modern looking bar to ourselves. The happy hour wasn’t amazing, only $1 off wine and beer, but getting to have a glass of our favorite Ferrari Carrano Fume Blanc for under $7 was pretty good.
We asked about the origin of the name. The bartender’s original account — when they were first considering the restaurant there were a bunch of “what if we had these kinds of chairs?” “what if we had this on the menu?” “what if…” — was my favorite. Unfortunately they had apparently also found a “What if” poem about equality, etc that they now attribute the name to.
I would have liked it way more if it had been by Shel Silverstein.
We decided to order some half price appetizers as we were watching the football games. A Black Bean dip served in a margarita glass for only $4.50.
And a baker’s dozen of boneless wings for $5. We ordered mild. Must have been Thai mild since my tongue started burned two wings in.
The restaurant is clearly a favorite of locals and within an hour the bar was pleasantly full. If you go to Hershey, you need to stop in just for the experience alone, though the food itself will probably be worth it.
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