Welcome to Bistro 71

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Those who dine there regularly – even if it’s only once a month – often are greeted by name, and it’s not uncommon that their favorite beverages are waiting for them at their table.

Welcome to Bistro 71.

“We try to be as personal as possible,” said Scott Vorhees, who owns the fine-dining establishment at 71 N. Main St. in downtown Chambersburg with his brother, Nick Broadwater, and their parents, Susan and Steven Broadwater. “A smiling face when you walk in the door, and we know your name,” as well as tidbits about lives that have been shared during previous visits.

Vorhees and the Broadwaters bought the bistro almost six years ago from developers Larry and Barbara Lahr. With its small menu brimming with high-quality food, it was Vorhees’ favorite restaurant, so when he heard it might be closing, he felt compelled to take action.

“I just jumped on it,” Vorhees said, recalling that he thought, “I can’t let this place close. It’s crazy.”

The Lahrs sold the eatery to the family and regularly patronize the restaurant, often commenting how delighted they are that it stayed open.

The relatives were not new to the restaurant business.

They established the Norland Pub at 454 Norland Ave. in Chambersburg 18 years ago. Eight years ago, they opened Norland Grille at 883 S. Main St.

Vorhees and his brother started as bartenders, logging 16-hour days, six days a week, a grueling schedule they kept for almost two years. Then, they moved to the kitchen, where their mother’s recipes were brought to life at the pub. Vorhees gravitated to the art and creativity of food preparation.

“I’m a foodie, to be honest with you,” said Vorhees, who loves fine wine and great food, and said he’s spent far too much money on both in his lifetime.

After buying Bistro 71, Vorhees lowered the prices. He added more varieties of seafood, meat and pasta to the menu, and has expanded the vegetarian options over time.

The second and third floors of the building used to be apartments, but now, the second floor is used for private events and overflow seating. It also houses the bourbon and scotch bar, which opened about two years ago when “bourbon was the thing,” Vorhees said. “It’s like a speakeasy kind of feel.”

“They built great bones,” he said of the Lahrs when describing the bistro’s structure.

Vorhees runs the bistro, which does not have the same profit margin as the grille and pub, for which Nick Broadwater handles day-to-day operations. That’s because the price of ingredients is higher.

“Everything is prime, everything is fresh,” Vorhees said.

The bistro’s mission is to create an intimate atmosphere where the food is delicious, but affordable. While there are plenty of customers who are willing to pay for the $50 steak that is offered a few times a year, Vorhees also wants teen prom goers to feel equally as welcome.

Billing its fare as “French-inspired, American-made,” Bistro 71 offers dinner appetizers such as grilled lamb lollipops in raspberry chipotle, shrimp tossed in sweet chili aioli and mussels in white wine saffron cream sauce. Lighter fare includes burgers made from Japanese beef cattle, shrimp wraps and fish and chips, while more filling options include crab cakes, bow tie pasta in spicy chorizo cream sauce and ribeye with truffle butter. The lunch menu features fried chicken on brioche and a surf and turf wrap, as well as Parmesan-encrusted toasted cheese. Soups, salads and desserts such as cheesecake and peanut butter pie round out the options.

COVID-19 changes

When it was announced in mid-March that restaurants had to move their operations to carryout only as a way to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Vorhees opted to close Bistro 71.

When restrictions eased in Pennsylvania recently, eateries were allowed to open outdoor seating, so Norland Pub and Norland Grille did just that.

“We are maxed out every night,” Vorhees said, adding that the owners had to start requiring reservations at the pub for the first time in its history.

In May, Vorhees decided to open the bistro from noon to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday for takeout orders using a scaled-down menu.

“It’s hard in fine dining” to do carryout, Vorhees said. “You just can’t portray it the way you want to when it’s leaving in a container.”

But customers have made it clear by their regular orders that they are happy to have the bistro fare back, even if it’s not in the intimate setting to which they are accustomed.

Franklin County, Pa., is expected to go to the green phase on June 19, allowing restaurants to open at 50% capacity with other social-distancing and health precautions in place. Vorhees anticipates reopening the doors of Bistro 71 on June 24, so he has time to rework the menu, order supplies and ensure that all protocols are being followed.

“It is completely gutted,” Vorhees said of the bistro’s inventory. “We don’t even have ketchup there.”

Having hit the five-year mark, he said it’s time to make some changes.

“We’re talking about slimming it down and stepping it up,” Vorhees said of the menu, which fluctuates seasonally so he can get as many ingredients locally as possible.

He hopes to have it open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; and 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday, unless COVID-19 restrictions dictate otherwise.

Consistently high standards

To ensure that Bistro 71 continues to be successful, Vorhees said certain things cannot change.

“Consistency is key. Every dish has to go out right,” he said. “Being proud of your work, being proud of your plate, being proud of the martini you just made.”

Dependable, capable staff is another key ingredient.

“I have the right people,” he said of the 60 employed between the three restaurants, including some bartenders who have been with his family for 16 years. “The proper staff makes a world of difference.”

Sam Thrush, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., views the fine-dining establishment as one of the downtown’s gems.

“Bistro 71 is one of the many bright spots in our downtown,” Thrush said. “Scott and Nick always have a fresh menu with fresh ingredients.”

Vorhees, his kitchen and wait staff are excited to have the seats inside Bistro 71 filled again.

“We miss them just as much as they miss us,” he said.

For more information, go to; call 717-261-0007; or find Bistro 71 on Facebook.

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