Jennie Geisler: Erie Donato’s owner to open 2nd shop near Mercyhurst campus in November

Donato’s,1535 W. Eighth St., open just shy of four years (officially Oct. 18), is getting a sibling in mid-November. Owner Christina Vogel is opening a second location at 861 E. 38th St., near Mercyhurst University.

“I’m excited and a little nervous,” Vogel said, adding that she signed the lease in December before the pandemic, which slowed the buildout progress. She said the drywall is going in this week and the equipment is due the third week in October.

“Hopefully I can find enough employees,” she said. “That’s seems to be the problem for everybody.”

She said anyone who’s interested can find applications and a box to drop completed ones into at the new location, or apply online at

The new restaurant will have a pickup window, like ones at drug stores, at which to pick up the food that’s already been ordered.

“Customers cannot order there but they can pick up their orders without coming inside,” Vogel said.

Let me be the 1,000th person to tell you that Food & Wine magazine named Federal Hill Smokehouse, 2609 Peach St., as Pennsylvania’s best barbecue. But you might have heard about it. Now you can read about it, because there’s no sense in me smashing up the perfectly wonderful phraseology of the magazine’s reporter, David Landsel:

“Pennsylvania loves to eat, and seems to love barbecue well enough, so I’m not certain, after spending months at a time in the state since 2018, why I’ve been able to turn up so little to get excited about,” Landsel writes in part. “At the time of my 2018 survey, Ryan and Autumn Atzert had just opened Federal Hill Smokehouse, way up in Erie, which was already demonstrating a great deal of promise. On the one hand, it’s kind of a bummer that you have to drive all the way to Erie for their honking beef ribs, when they have them, for deep-fried pulled pork cakes served with chipotle cream, for sliced smoked turkey, sausages, and, of course, brisket. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where it happened. I only wish it were closer to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the better to influence the culture.” Read the rest at

Meadville Market House is hosting a Pop Up Pick Up: Southern-Style Brunch on Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon, at 86 Acres Farm, 19758 Route 86, Saegertown. The menu includes choice of chicken fried pork steak or fried mushroom medley on a savory garlic buttermilk waffle topped with sawmill gravy, cheesy parsnip and rutabaga hashbrown casserole, tomato & spinach and mushroom swiss frittata bites, fresh mesclun and spinach salad with sage buttermilk ranch dressing, mocha chocolate beet cake with espresso buttercream frosting, and coffee or tea from a selection of teas. Tickets are $35 per meal. Organizers said you can eat picnic-style on site at 86 Acres. Take a blanket and/or chairs. For tickets or more information, visit

Well, it’s not a restaurant, but there’s food, so I’m interested. The Erie Zoo‘s annual fundraiser – Lions, Tigers & Beers – will not be taking place this year, but instead the zoo is offering a box to go, a tasting kit for two.

Each Brew Box will include: a six-pack of assorted local and national beers; two collectible Lions, Tigers & Beers sample cups; one Lions, Tigers & Beers T-shirt (additional available for $10 each); a snack bag of PopLuck Gourmet Popcorn’s Cheddar Pretzel Beer popcorn; a snack bag of Utz pretzels; a buy-one-get-one-medium pizza coupon for Sticks & Bricks Wood Fired Pizza (good through the end of the year); and the first 35 purchases will receive a Lions, Tigers & Beers bottle opener and lanyard.

Boxes go on sale this Thursday at 10 a.m. through Oct. 21, or while supplies last, organizers said. Pickup of boxes will be Nov. 7, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., in front of the Erie Zoo gates.

Black Monk Brewery, 3721 W. 12th St., is hosting its last outdoor comedy show of the season this Thursday, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Seating is at 6. Hit up the food truck or take your own food.

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