Cheers to Mela Kitchen

Cheers to Mela Kitchen: From fresh-pressed cider to oven-fired pizza, Mela Kitchen at Jack’s Hard Cider has something for everyone, Susquehanna Style, January 2021.

If you need a new reason to visit Gettysburg—besides hallowed battlefields and history—chances are you’ll find it at Mela Kitchen at Jack’s Hard Cider. The new flagship restaurant showcasing Jack’s Hard Cider and freshly-launched Atomic Dog Wines is located at one of the region’s largest open-air outlets, the Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg.

Mela, Jack’s, and Atomic Dog are housed under one roof—a 40,000 square-foot former movie theater converted via adaptive reuse into the Italian-forward, family-style restaurant, and cider and wine production facility.

“We’re a fast, casual-style restaurant with a quality of food that matches some of the area’s best full-service restaurants,” says Chef Josh Fidler, who considers his latest gig the “highlight” of his 20-year career.

A bright, pop-art mural by Carlisle-based artist Aron Rook sets the scene inside the restaurant, depicting an apple’s transformation from orchard to glass—appropriate given that “Mela” is Italian for “apple.”

Another focal point is the large Italian pizza oven, featuring volcanic tiles on the outside and a mesmerizing rotating disc on the inside. It churns out both classic and creative pies such as apple bacon, artichoke (featuring garlic toum, rosemary, Calabrian chili and three cheeses) and even a meatball pizza.

Savory flavors and healthy comfort foods are where Fidler’s skills shine brightest. 

Smoked trout toast, a “small plate,” combines a smoky trout spread with sourdough, pickled onion, and bright pops of trout roe. Additional small plates include: Grilled octopus in a delicious white bean hummus swirled with salsa verde and charred lemon aioli; fried Brussels sprouts juxtaposed with balsalmic vinaigrette, pine nuts, blue cheese, and pink pickled onion; and the creative carrot and Stracciatella (a soft Italian cheese) which integrates four preparations into one beautiful dish—roasted carrot, carrot puree, carrot vin and pickled carrot, topped with granola.

Main dishes include sweet potato gnocchi, featuring a sage cream and hazelnut sauce made for savoring, with the light and pillowy gnocchi topped with spinach and Parmesan cheese.

“It’s a perfect mix of the pumpkin spice craze,” says Fidler. “The gnocchi are hand-rolled every day. It’s hearty and homey, but elevated.”

And it’s perfectly paired with a seasonal Jack’s Hard Cider from their Cellar Series, only available on-site. We tried fall’s special releases, Hopped Sumac and Cherry Honeysuckle. 

Speaking of ciders, Men’s Health magazine  just came out with their list of 2020’s best hard ciders—and Jack’s Hard Cider Dry Hopped is ranked #1.

In addition to Jack’s ciders—including pear, peach and flights—and Atomic Dog Wines, the drink menu features creative cocktails crafted from Pennsylvania spirits. Fidler calls them “big city-style cocktails in Gettysburg.”

“Jack’s has such a bright future—we’ve just begun to scratch the surface, and we’ll soon be expanding our wholesale operations beyond 12 states,” says owner Donald Hoffman.

Jack’s Hard Cider was founded in 2008 as part of Adams County’s former Hauser Estate Winery. Hoffman purchased Jack’s in 2018, merging it with the new Atomic Dog Wines and Mela Kitchen. There’s a family connection—Hoffman’s son was a college roommate of Jonathan Patrono’s—grandson of cider namesake Jack Hauser. Throughout the transition, Joe Cuneo-Tomasi remains in place overseeing his eighth season with Jack’s—and now Atomic Dog Wines.

“Atomic Dog” is a salute to Hoffman’s love of rescue dogs—his beloved Nicholas is depicted on the label—as well as his background as a nuclear engineer.

“It’s been an experience—I’ve had to learn a whole new industry,” Hoffman says. “I’m a huge believer that great leaders surround themselves by people smarter than them—I just ask a lot more questions.”

Hoffman often comes into the restaurant on weekends to wait on tables and talk directly with guests, who have no idea he’s the owner.

Opening a restaurant amid a pandemic was no small accomplishment. And Hoffman is dreaming big with expansion plans that involve future dinners on the mezzanine overlooking cider and wine-making operations, as well as a rooftop experience with sweeping battlefield views.

“We’ve had challenges navigating the [COVID-19] landscape, but we’re working through everything, staying positive and keeping everyone safe,” Fidler says. 

He’s expanding the menu to include Sunday brunch offerings like lemon ricotta pancakes, breakfast bowls featuring polenta, brunchy pizzas, and cocktails. The cidermosa, for example, combines orange juice with Jack’s Original Hard Cider. 

To which we say “cheers” to a new Susquehanna Valley destination with a bright future.

Mela Kitchen at Jack’s Hard Cider

1865 Gettysburg Village Dr | Gettysburg, PA 17325  | 717.334.4888 

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