So it is that magical time here in the Poconos–IndyCar has come back home to the “Tricky Triangle”! And with that, comes thousands of people who have never been here, or have not been here since George H.W. Bush was President, Oliver North was the grand marshall of the IndyCar Pocono 500, and Danny Sullivan was a winning driver. So much has changed in that time.
We went from a mostly rural county, to now the most rapidly growing population of all the Commonwealth’s 67 counties. We have far more options for fans looking for fun, food, and drinks than back in the ‘80s. From indoor water parks (and two outdoors), to a casino, we have something for nearly everyone.
I will warn you all of two issues locally to be alert for. First, GPS does not work well in Monroe County. With our rapid growth came address issues for the public safety community. Every developer just used their own street names and number systems, making it very inconsistent and difficult to figure out what you were looking for. Over the last year we have had all municipalities make changes to bring more uniformity. Many address have new unit numbers, and many streets now have new names not found on GPS or Goggle Maps yet. So be ready for that if you are looking for a location. Not to mention, some areas of the county struggle to get the GPS signal.
Second, Pennsylvania has a major infrastructure problem. After 25 years of passing the buck, our roads, and bridges are in worst shape than Iraq’s. What feels like 80% of all bridges are under major repair, or replacement. Several in Monroe County fall under this category, with the Route 191 bridge near East Stroudsburg completely closed at this time. While all bridges around Pocono itself are open, if you are driving to Pocono from the mid-west, or mid-atlantic, be ready for delays in the Commonwealth.
Now, a few points about ordering some local foods. First, other than if you go to a chain like Subway, few places call them subs (or heros for New Yorkers), in eastern PA they are “hoagies”. If you go to the nearby Wawa (yes, Wawa, the name was the focus for a brief joke during the last Presidential election when Mitt Romney went there), they have a promotion for the summer called “Hoagiefest”. Its better than a Subway “$5 footlong” and cheaper. Wawa has a location in Blakeslee, just minutes from Pocono Raceway.
Our most popular beer is Yuengling Lager. It is a great beer, and priced about the same as national beers like Bud or Coors. But when you go to a local bar, all you need to ask for is, a Lager. No need to say the name unless the bar keeper just got off the A train from New York. From Philly to Scranton say Lager and you get Yuengling.
Now, if you wish to lose money, and play table games, just minutes away from Pocono Raceway is Mount Airy Casino (formerly Mount Airy Lodge during the honeymoon capital era of the Poconos). I have never been there at all, but, my local friends love the place as a casino. I went to high school literally around the corner at what is now Pocono Mountain East Senior High.
So now, I have some recommendations on establishments for food.
First, if you want a place with cheap food and cheap beer, the Amber Steakhouse is the place. As long as you don’t mind a slightly rough place, it is a real bargain. If you eat at the bar end of the place you can order the “Amber steak”, its a steak, one side, and unlimited soup and salad bar for under $10! And the steak is a decent size as well. Be warned, it is not listed on any menus, it is a special they have to keep locals coming back. Also, you can eat there up till 1:30 AM any night. But, if you arrive later at night, chances are strong you may hear lots of rap music from the jukebox. So if you don’t care for that kind of music, try to arrive earlier, like before 9PM. (Due to a change in staff recently, and the embarrassingly poor service myself and three gracious media members received on the 4th, do not go to the Amber. They can consider that my last visit there. Sorry to anyone who did go there).
Now, if good BBQ is what you crave, in Tobyhanna is a place called Smokin Vittles on Route 196 (about 3 miles north of Pizza Hut of Mount Pocono). They have great chicken and ribs, but what I crave is their beef brisket! I get mine with coleslaw and horseradish and no sauce. It is to die for, so juicy, great smoke flavor–if I had a last meal, that would be it!
If you seek sushi, we have two great places to get that, first is the Tokyo Tea House in nearby Pocono Summit which is right by the I-380 exit you would take for Pocono. they have a great Japanese menu and track President Brandon is a regular there. If you seek something more in the Stroudsburg area, than the Sarah Street Bar and Grill is the place. They have a full Sushi bar. Also, they offer great steak, burgers, and pasta. I would say Sarah Street is the most well rounded menu in the area. Truly something for everyone. They also have great entertainment most nights as well.
As for local pubs not already listed, I would recommend Siamsa Irish Pub on Main Street in Stroudsburg. It is a nice, warm place, with great variety, and even a few Irish food items. I love the all-day breakfast myself. I just love the rashers along with black & white pudding. Also a popular place with good wings is Pocono Pub, right off the I-80 Bartonsville exit. Although, if you want great wings, but don’t want to drink, you might want to try Cluck-U Chicken, yes, that is the name! they have two locations here in Monroe County, one in Bartonsville by the Sonic, and one in East Strousdburg by Wal-Mart. Also, last bar plug, if you love country music, you may wish to visit the Memorytown Tavern by the Lake. not only is it the first place I worked as a teen, it is the biggest place for live country music every Saturday night. And if you look hard enough, you might find some vintage IndyCar items on the wall too. Plus, they have some of the best chili around.
And finally if you seek some sweet treats, I have a few recommendations. if you want great Italian Ice check out the Rita’s locations in Mount Pocono and Stroudsburg. they have a huge number of flavors, and I suspect many from the mid-west would love it. If you want some great Cheesecake and baked treats, then the legendary Pocono Cheesecake Factory (not to be confused with the national chain of a similar name) is for you. And if you want ice cream or gelato, try Jimmy’s on route 611 by the Stroud Mall.
Finally, what do I have to say about breakfast? Easy, there is just one place to go in the Poconos, Compton’s Pancake House!!! This place is great!!! It is locally owned and operated, and puts the national pancake houses to shame!!! I always look for an excuse to visit Compton’s.
So there you have it folks, some of the best places we have to offer. I hope you all enjoy visiting my hometown here, and I hope you all come to the IndyCar Pocono 400 for years to come! The local forecasts shows showers until Saturday likely. Saturday and Sunday highs may be in the mid to upper eighties, so be ready to sweat!!!