Harrisburg’s Koda restaurant stands out with decor, menu: Mimi’s Picks


Electric blue isn’t a common restaurant color, but Koda isn’t your average central Pennsylvania dining destination.

“It’s an honest color like you’d see at the beach. This place represents 20 years of my career and a lot of personal growth. I wanted it to be its own thing, an extension of me,” said head chef and owner Christian DeLutis, who hails most recently from six and a half years at Troegs Brewing Co. Prior to that he worked at distinguished restaurants in Baltimore, and America’s first certified organic restaurant in Washington D.C.

Koda has partnered with Newfangled Brew Works (Adam Cole serves as head brewer) and both businesses are housed in the sprawling rustic farmhouse building at the center of Yingst Homes’ Union Station, a mixed-use community by Locust Lane and Union Deposit Road.

The brewery “playland” adjacent to Koda has oversized games: Jenga and Connect Four as well as ping pong. The outdoor patio features live music on Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 7 p.m. The brewery has a built-n food truck that serves tacos ($4 or 3 for $11), burritos, quesadillas, specialty sandwiches such as the Cubano, and custom wood-smoked items — all of them provided by DeLutis’ kitchen team (which includes sous chef Devin Ream).

DeLutis didn’t want the “coffee shop dungeon look”, with dark wood and a cavernous feel. Instead, the huge Koda space is doused in natural light during the day thanks to double rows of windows and oversized light fixtures dangling from high, industrial piped ceiling. At night, the expansive dining room has a neon cobalt glow and modern feel. It’s not cozy or warm, but quirky, minimalist and as wide open as a high school gym.

The Americana décor scheme begins with the vintage 1930s blue water glasses and expands into 1950s-style Chicago steakhouse booths, ’60s-like art deco chairs, white wood tables and hundred-year-old theater seats for awaiting customers.

If space allows definitely take a seat at the bar counter facing the kitchen. From the floor, you’d miss seeing the six-foot Argentinian wood-fired grill fueled by thick oak logs. You’d also miss the copper lights over the active work space. You’d miss William “Billy” Houck craft some of the finest cocktails using Pennsylvania liquors, made from scratch spirits and wines. (For a $9 corkage fee, customers can bring their own selection of bottles.)

The cocktails are sublime, inventive and blissful. The “In a Pickle,” ($10) swirls together blue coat gin, cucumber, dill, ginger simple syrup, fresh lime juice and sweet garden bitters. The herbaceous, bold flavors of this drink will leave a ginger-citrus freshness on your breath.

The clipboard menu features nostalgic comfort dishes that taste as unpretentious as their straightforward descriptions.

“It’s mood food that makes customers feel a certain way,” DeLutis said.

For example, there’s the hot fudge sundae ($8) crowned with peanut brittle, whipped cream and cherries; the turmeric-cream dolloped mint-laced, chilled pea ($7) soup with a carrot cracker; or the crusty French toast sticks ($6), made with pain perdu by pastry chef Kyle Komada.

The scratch kitchen sources from local purveyors whenever possible. If you order the deviled, beet-brined eggs and crispy, full flavored bacon ($13) as a starter or for breakfast it will be the best darn bacon and pork belly you have ever tasted in your life thanks to how well cared for the animals are at Rettland Farm. (You can buy a vacuum-sealed package of bacon by the pound for $8 at the market stand in the restaurant.)

Every dish is made with the same attention to quality and preparation, from pinky-size oysters cloaked in a crunchy potato crust ($16 or served raw with chopped cocktail), to a wood-grill perfected ribeye steak ($28), served with herb butter and accompanied by golden, freshly cut fries and garden-fresh peas.

Other dishes of interest are the pork belly B.L.T. ($14). made on house baked spent grain toast; the salmon ($24) accompanied by asparagus, peas and zucchini ragout; the Cornish game hen ($24), served with cornbread stuffing and crispy Brussel sprouts; the crispy duck leg ($16 or $27) cast with rhubarb and “raspberry sticky”; gnocchi ($29) embellished by scallop and lobster; and slow-braised lamb shank ($33) with three bean succotash, artichoke chips, tomato and orange marmalade.

One missteps is the shake and bake pork chop ($22) that is served amidst a swirl of chopped sweet potato hash, which retains pleasant al dente crunchiness. However, the chop — though exceptional and smothered in blueberry barbecue sauce — had a seared outer edge but a dry interior texture.

The other misstep is the baked Alaska ($9), which arrived straight from the freezer as a solid hard ball of ice cream on a soft, insipidly thin chocolate cake layer. The individual S’mores cheesecake squares ($9) were much better, topped with miniature marshmallows and chocolate chips, and then piped with a Nike swish of torched meringue.

“Koda is like having a child. You name it [Koda is a Native American word that means “little bear”] and then it has to grow up. We’re finding out what people like and dictated by that audience,” DeLutis said.

Worth the prices, Koda and Newfangled Brew Works stands out amongst the local restaurant/brewery scene with whimsical settings, inventive yet unpretentious menus and caring, happy staff.

Koda, 8001 Union Station Boulevard, Lower Paxton Township, 717-982-6473



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