Pottsville, Pennsylvania is a small town about three hours from Washington, DC if you don’t hit traffic. We hit traffic. Now, why exactly did we find ourselves here?
Well, often we adopt the hobbies of our loved ones. Mr. Os started following football, and I began joining him on brewery tours. We’ve visited about…ten or 12, but he’s probably visited 20-plus breweries in the states and worldwide. And we’ve done ultra-micro breweries, like Maine Beer Company, and the big ones like Heineken.
For several years, Mr. Os and I toyed with visiting America’s oldest operating brewery, just because…gotta do it, right? Founded in Pottsville in 1829, the Yuengling Brewery is that brewery.
The reason it took so long was that, well, it’s three hours away. And all the beer enthusiasts we’d invite to join us on this mini adventure expressed interest. But when it came time to pick a date though, they didn’t actually commit. And, when you think about it, that’s a six-hour drive (round trip—more when you hit traffic), which makes it A Commitment. More so than most of our outings.
If you follow Nomadic Matt, you’ll recall that he wrote a post about people who say they don’t have time to travel. There was a lot of wisdom that stuck with me. Primarily the idea that we have weekends to travel and find our own adventures, whatever they may be.
It’s just that we find excuses not to use the time we have. Let’s face it. It’s not easy to find time. There’s so much to do, and it’s exhausting. That’s why Nomadic Matt’s perspective was enlightening, and was probably a big driving force behind me not letting this trip slip into the “some day” list.
So, when a friend of ours said he was down for the trip, I figured, carpe diem. It’s time to nail a date and just go before the window of opportunity closed.
Traveling to Pottsville was, in many ways, going back in time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the soft-focus dreamy good kind of traveling back in time, like when you visit Shakespeare’s birth house in Britain or Plymouth Rock in, Massachusetts.
It was traveling back in time to a community where the color has slowly faded out of the scenery. Pennsylvania fell on really hard times, and this is a great example of what we’re dealing with on a national scale. You can tell the houses that lined the streets were loved once. Once this was a thriving small town with big dreams and high hopes. And it had a lot of promise.
Now what was bright is dull, what was shiny is in disrepair. The signs outside buildings are a mélange of 50’s, 60’s, and 1970’s typeface. It looks as if each of these was yet another failed attempt to bring Pottsville back to its promise and glory days. Similarly, it again looks as though they could use an infusion of cash and love. You can tell that there are people investing in the town, people who refuse to give up on it. But driving a bit off of the main drag, you can also tell there’s a long way to go.
Having said all that, we stumbled upon one of the good first steps “in the right direction,” and a real gem in Pottsville: Greystone’s Restaurant. Located at 315 N Centre Street, this unassuming restaurant sits in the town’s former Park Hotel. Although it looks grey on the outside, it’s a real pop of color and personality inside.
The hotel was purchased by a local businessman and renovated in the 1990’s. Because of structural problems, only a portion of the building could actually be saved and used as the current restaurant. Check out their website for more of the restaurant’s history because it’s rich.
It was easy to peg us as tourists, because it seems to be a popular locals spot. Regardless, we were greeted warmly by the bartender. We were impressed by the beer selection and were even talked into a sample of a “banana flavored” beer, which was better than it sounds. The menu is not overly complicated, but it was straightforward, and included a solid showing of locally sourced food. We also learned their BBQ is smoked at the restaurant every Wednesday for Thursday and Friday lunch, and the occasional dinner specials. Mr. Os and our friend opted for the BBQ sandwich; both said it was amazing. It must have been because I never got to try a bite. That was okay though, because I went all out and ordered the friend bologna and cheese. It was fantastic, deceptively light tasting but MASSIVE. So much so, that Mr. Os had to help me finish my sandwich.
Don’t miss the restrooms when you stop by Greystone’s. Both the men’s and ladies room sinks are works of ceramic art. The men’s room sink is in the form of a cabbage and the lady’s room’s an oyster. Both were inspired by and refer to a passage from The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll: “…The time has come,” the walrus said, “To talk of others things. Of Shoes and ships and ceilings wax. And cabbages and Kinds. And while the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings. Kaloo Kalay no work today. Were cabbages and Kings. Oysters, come walk with us…” The first line could not be more fitting for this journey.