A Sign of Things to Come


Gettysburg’s newest downtown restaurant pays homage to its historic roots with new twists

Sign of the Buck

By Karen Hendricks  |  Photography by Casey Martin

It was a sign of the times. Back in 1804, many businesses simply had pictures painted on their signs— without words—because a large percentage of the population couldn’t read.

If you were standing at 29 Chambersburg St. in 1804 Gettysburg, you would have seen a buck on a sign to identify a tavern opened by George Welsh. His customers included westward travelers.

Today, 220 years later, there’s a new sign with those historic words: “The Sign of the Buck.” 

“It felt like the right thing to do, taking the building back to its original roots,” says Leslie Trew Magraw, who owns the restaurant with her husband Andrew Johnson, the project’s contractor.

Inside, you’ll find a blend of classic and new décor and flavors, merging Gettysburg’s past and present, in the tavern and adjoining restaurant. It’s a sign of things to come; the historic Gettysburg eatery is ushering in a new era in downtown dining.

A New Classic

“I call it the little black dress of restaurants,” says Leslie. “It’s a place to celebrate an anniversary or have a reception—or come as you are and casually meet a friend for a drink. Gettysburg needed fine dining that wasn’t pretentious—city-worthy but approachable.”

An Adams County native, Leslie has lived in Washington, D.C. and previously worked as a travel editor for National Geographic

“I always came home a lot,” she explains, “and as I became sick of living in the city, I started looking at Gettysburg differently. The first thing I thought of was to move back here.”

As she reconnected with her roots, she welcomed the opportunity to renovate and return The Union Hotel and The Sign of the Buck to its historic roots as well.

Within the first block of Chambersburg Street, The Sign of the Buck is incorporated into the symmetrical Colonial Revival architecture of The Union Hotel. Leslie and Andrew own and operate both as sister businesses. They acquired them in 2019, then renovated and opened the hotel in 2021, with the restaurant following suit in July 2023.

Through the years, going back to the early 1800s, a hotel or boarding house has operated in tandem with a tavern for most of the property’s history. Most recently, it housed the James Gettys Hotel, with the first floor operating as Lord Nelson’s Gallery.

Now, The Union Hotel focuses on welcoming Gettysburg’s visitors, but Leslie says the restaurant’s primary goal is serving residents—becoming a hometown downtown go-to. 

Local Culture

Adams County agriculture meets classic French cooking in The Sign of the Buck’s French-inspired yet approachable menu. 

“This menu is the culmination of everything I’ve done and everything I’ve wanted to do,” says Chef Brent Golding. Like Leslie, he’s an Adams County native (Littlestown) with a worldly background. French-trained, he’s worked in the kitchens of Taneytown’s Antrim 1844, Hanover’s Sheppard Mansion and Nashville’s Josephine and Husk.

And what better place than Gettysburg to develop a New American menu. Apple-Stuffed French Toast, off the weekend brunch menu, tastes like the comfort food it is. But fun surprises, like the delicious apples inside and swirls of maple pastry cream atop, nudge you—sweetly—out of your comfort zone. 

And that’s the goal: Creating familiar, yet inventive dishes.

“We’re trying to hit that sweet spot between elevated cuisine, yet familiar enough that it doesn’t alienate people,” Leslie says.

Local agricultural ties are throughout the menu, from Gettysburg-roasted Bantam Coffee to East Berlin’s Beaver Creek Angus. Weikert’s Eggs, Farmstead Butcher, Charming Meadow Mushrooms and LocaFlora flowers all hail from Gettysburg.

Smoked Salmon Tartine is “like a re-thought everything bagel,” Brent says. “Instead of cream cheese, how can we fancify this?” The combination he created includes olives, pickled onion, everything bagel seasoning and a dill gribiche—a classic French sauce that relies on the richness of eggs.

Crab and Hashbrown Royale, a starter, is not only a surprising combination, but it’s topped with two unpredictably delicious ingredients—a touch of horseradish plus caviar. It’s a dish inspired by Leslie’s mother’s recipe.

There’s also a place of honor for Leslie’s father behind the bar. The last buck he successfully hunted is mounted aside his photo.

And it’s those local agricultural ties and family ties that set the tone at The Sign of the Buck.

“It’s not just creating the restaurant we’ve always wanted to eat at, but also the culture we want to create,” she says. 

A Wink and a Nod 

Balancing the menu with beverages is general manager Ilsa Chesnick, a Carroll Valley native with experience in Philadelphia’s breweries as well as Gettysburg’s former Mela Kitchen.

Local flavors shine—Gardner’s Big Hill Ciders, Aspers’ Ploughman Ciders, Harrisburg’s Appalachian Brewing Company’s sodas, and beer by Hershey’s Troegs and Chambersburg’s Gearhouse Brewing—along with a mix of American and international beer, wine and nonalcoholic options.

But it’s the signature cocktails that make many Gettysburgians smile, because they’re named for iconic local landmarks of yesteryear.

“They’re like inside jokes with locals,” says Ilsa. “It’s subtle, like a wink, and they create great conversations.”

Smoked Old-Fashioneds are popular—and put lead bartender Regina Newman in the spotlight as
she concocts and smokes them bar-side. In addition to the house version, there’s also maple and a creative s’mores version smoked with cinnamon bark. (Keep an eye on our social media accounts for videos of Regina’s showmanship.)

The restaurant has already established several traditions—Happy Hours, Music Mondays, First Friday bands and live jazz on Second Saturdays. Brent is looking forward to creating wine dinners and expanding the menu to include weekday lunch hours this spring.

One recent Saturday afternoon, as happy chatter floated between groups of friends meeting for drinks and brunch, Leslie reflected and smiled.

“I worked on this project for over two years, and it was all very theoretical,” she says. “Seeing people interacting, enjoying being here brings a smile to my face. It’s pure joy.” 

The SIgn of the buck

29 Chambersburg St., Gettysburg




About Author

Karen Hendricks

Karen Hendricks is a a lifelong journalist of 30+ years and plays an important role with the editorial team at CG. In addition to overseeing the social channels at the magazine, Karen is also an accomplished freelance writer. Her skills with pen and paper are only the tip of the iceberg, as she is also an avid runner, recently completing 50 races to benefit 50 causes for her 50th birthday. Learn more about this beautiful endeavor as well as her other passions by visiting www.hendrickscommunications.com.

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