Wheel In to the Wheel InnNov 01, 2022 09:00AM ● By Carolyn Straniere
At the Wheel Inn, a private club snug between the counties of Lycoming and Tioga, dining is done a little differently than at your traditional restaurant. You get a menu from the lounge, write down what you would like, and a member takes that slip to the kitchen. Once your table is ready, a server will escort you to your seats in the dining room and deliver your food. In the main dining room you’ll find crisp white tablecloths adorning the tables, which mixes nicely with the wood chairs and exposed beams, with a bit of hunting lodge coziness thrown in. A blue Marlin takes center stage between a pair of mounted turkeys on the wall. And, of course, bicycle décor dots the walls in pictures and metal art work.
It’s kind of formal in an old-fashioned sort of way.
“It’s become a fun tradition for the older crowd to bring their grandkids and help them fill out their order,” says Glenn Shaffer, president of the board of directors. Dining members are also encouraged to linger at their tables for as long as they’d like. “We’re not your typical eatery where you need to turn your tables over in order to make money. We want people to relax and enjoy the experience while they’re here.” That’s been the story at the Wheel Inn, located at 14262 Route 14 in Roaring Branch. It’s the spot where friends and families have been meeting since it opened its doors seventy-five years ago.
Chartered on June 16, 1947, the club was founded by Michael J. Maggio and 100 other bicycle enthusiasts from the Wheel Club of Williamsport. Glenn doesn’t think there are any of the original family members still involved with the club these days, and he isn’t sure how enthusiastic those founding riders actually were about actually riding, but gives them credit for whatever pedal-turning they did.
“In my mind, I think about the bicycle design of the 40’s, and cannot imagine riding from Williamsport to Roaring Branch and back in one day,” he says. “The roads at the time were nothing of the quality we have today, and to ride sixty to seventy miles would be a task of any wheelman.”
Bikes aside, he says the purpose of the club was to be a charitable, recreational, and educational facility, particularly for youth and their development. The club supports a variety of youth-focused organizations, including Little League. There are baseball fields on the property; in years past the club hosted a Little League picnic for the ball players and their families visiting Williamsport.
“It was a place for them to have fun and just be kids without the glare of cameras,” says Glenn. “We had games for them to play, music, and, of course, food. The [pandemic] shutdown put a halt to these picnics the last few years, unfortunately.”
Scattered throughout the year are member-only events (good incentive to become a member!), including Easter dinner, Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving dinner, the Christmas party, and New Year’s Eve celebration.
“These are done by reservation only, with our Mother’s Day dinner being the most popular, because I don’t know any mom who wants to cook on their special day,” quips Glenn.
For those ready to really unwind, no special event is needed. Just step out onto the wrap-around deck, its construction made possible by a donation, pull up a chair, and take in the view.
“Everything from start to finish—the design, the materials, and the labor—was generously gifted to us by Blaise Alexander and his family,” Glenn says. As for that view—“We own about 500 acres of land, though most of it is hillside, making it hard to climb. A Billy goat would love it though.”
The Wheel Inn hosts a handful of open-to-the-public events throughout the year (the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board allows the club to have five public events, Glenn says), with its annual August clam bake being one of the biggest.
“Everyone looks forward to our clam bake,” Glenn says. “This year we had over 500 people enjoy themselves. There’s cornhole, horseshoes, a band, beer, a DJ, a wide array of food, and, of course, the star of the day—clams—all you can eat.” The Easter egg hunt and the Halloween-time trunk or treat are two of the other popular get-togethers open to the public.
As for food, hungry members can opt for selections including steak, chicken, pasta, or seafood. Wheel Inn haddock is hand-breaded with panko crumbs and then fried—the results are light and tasty, making it one of their biggest sellers. Daily specials might include honey Dijon pork chop, a Cajun shrimp and sausage pasta, or chicken pot pie.
The U-shaped bar, separate from the main dining room, has a beautiful knotty pine ceiling, and is a little more casual, but you can still get the same great food, along with domestic and imported bottled beer, wines, and cocktails.
Becoming a member is easy, Glenn says. There’s an application to fill out, and a member in good standing has to sponsor you. The initial fee, which includes first year membership, is $100, and $55 a year after that.
“Our members come from all over—California, Florida, Washington, Colorado, and of course right here in our area,” he says, adding that if you don’t know anybody who is already a member, contact the Inn for help. “This is a family-friendly environment and we just want you to take advantage of all we offer and enjoy yourself.”
The Wheel Inn is open for dinner Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., on Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. For more information, call (570) 673-8421, send an email to [email protected], or find them on Facebook.