Ok, we’ll admit it…we are foodies. We love to cook, bake, shop for, and seek out great food whether it’s at a local farm stand, gourmet shop or some little family-owned restaurant. But mostly – we like to eat. And we love to go to great restaurants. So we’ll skip the chains that you’ve been to everywhere. Here are our choices for the best eating around Lancaster County. These are not really restaurant reviews, but more a compilation of our opinions on what dishes we like and a sampling of some items on the menus. Restaurants are listed in alphabetical order. We’ll be happy to talk about any of them, make reservations for you and give you our “shortcuts” to finding them. Check this page often as we are constantly on the lookout for good food in new places.
Fine Dining (But not necessarily fussy)
Belvedere Inn – Whether for a drink, dinner or to listen to Jazz on Friday and Saturday nights, or rooftop dining in the warmer months, it’s all good.. We really like the Scallop with Pasta and Red Thai Curry Sauce with macadamia nuts, and also the Veal Duo with the pumpkin polenta – yummy. You can explore almost all the rooms in this Victorian row house…a great destination when in downtown Lancaster. Open 7 days a week, about 25 minutes from the inn.
Birchrunville Store Cafe – Small and in the middle of nowhere, you’ll feel like you’re in the French countryside…or maybe Italy. This restaurant is so romantic that you’ll fall in love all over again. You can bring your own bottle of wine. We liked the mixed baby greens with roasted figs stuffed with pancetta and Roquefort appetizer, and any of their fish offerings. There are usually so many specials that you’ll have a hard time deciding! The 40 minute drive is but a mere detail. But make your reservations early; Saturdays fill months in advance. They do not take credit cards. See our blog for more information.
Bube’s Brewery – What a fun and interesting place – from the Biergarten outside in the summer, to the Catacombs restaurant housed in a cave 40 feet below street level, to the line-up of entertainment in The Bottling Works. But our favorite is dining at Alois’s where we’ve enjoyed mutli-course gourmet offerings. The restaurant is steeped in history…so be sure to ask for a tour of the building. They now brew their own beer and offer many special events, including a ghost tour. A trip to Bube’s for dinner is an event. Located in Mt. Joy, about 40 minutes from the inn.
Carr’s Restaurant – One of the best restaurants in downtown Lancaster – the meals are always creative, beautifully presented, and delicious. We’ve hosted several special dinners here and particularly like to be seated in the back room with the view of the wine cellar. They often feature local cheeses, produce and meats and have a great wine selection – including 30 wines for $30 (or less!). There’s a lot to choose from on their “small dishes” offerings. Located in downtown Lancaster across from Gallery Row, open on Sundays until 2.
Checkers Bistro –. This downtown Lancaster restaurant is now in a new modern space. We love their small plate menu – if you order three or more, the tiered presentation is fun. We recommend the lobster and crab rolls, the eggplant roulade, the tuna carpaccio and any of their wonderfully creative pizzas. They have a nice selection of wines by the glass. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Dan’s at Green Hills – A lovely drive through the country ends at this historic inn. Choose the fireplace room, the sunroom, or outdoors, among the sparkling lights. Wonderful seafood and sauces. Open 7 days a week for dinner; about 30 minutes from the inn – we guarantee no traffic on the drive there!
John J. Jeffries – Located in the restored Lancaster Arts Hotel in downtown Lancaster, this is a restaurant like no other. Beautifully restored and great architectural details in brick and recycled barn wood. The food is organic, from local farms and creatively prepared. They offer small portions in addition to normal. Great for celiac or vegetarian diets. Open on Sundays, patio seating available in the warmer months.
Judy’s On Cherry – Located in a restored warehouse in downtown Reading and serving an eclectic mix of Mediterranean foods – all wonderful. We’ve tried just about every appetizer and salad – and the Meze plate – grape leaves, roasted red pepper hummus with Morrocan orange salad, feta and yogurt sauce is one of our favorites. Nice selection of beer and wine, great foccacia bread. We recommend sitting at the Chef’s table to watch the action! Closed Sunday and Monday. About 25 minutes from the inn.
Maison – Small BYOB restaurant in downtown Lancaster features fresh creative foods from local farms. We loved the Squash and Zucchini Salad, the Pork, Ricotta Fritta, Blueberry Tart and Creme Brulee. Chef can be seen prepaing dishes from the open (and tiny) kitchen. Open Tuesday through Saturday. We liked this restaurant so much, we blogged about it here: The Artist’s Inn Blog.
Stoudts Black Angus – Carole and Ed Stoudt have been in business for 44 years – and their experience shows. The restaurant is known for their steaks, award-winning micro-brewed beer and artisan breads. There’s a casual pub area and a Victorian dining area featuring curtained booths. And Bruce is very fond of the pictures in the men’s bathroom. It’s just 10 minutes from the inn. They offer year-round events and Sundays feature the antiques market.
Aromas Del Sur – Casual and BYOB. This Columbian restaurant in nearby Ephrata offers an interesting menu, a friendly and helpful wait staff and generous portions. It’s become one of our favorites. Sort of like Mexican food without the cheese and with more flavor (but not heat). Open Sundays, but closed on Mondays.
Bistro on 10 – Located in the Waynebrook Inn in Honeybrook, this wonderfully restored hotel features a beautiful bar decorated with tin ceilings and rich wood accents. Spacious and inviting, I fell in love with the Victorian lamps over the bar. We enjoyed lunch in the Bistro – with sophisticated decor. The chicken and seafood gumbo was perfectly seasoned with a little kick and a sweet finish and so loaded with vegetables, chicken and crawfish that you could have eaten it with a fork. The wood fired pizza was served on a peel and was the perfect size for two. We recommend the Italian sausage and fontina. Open every day – about 25 minutes from the inn in Chester County.
Boehringers Drive-In – This drive-in restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1936! Located in Adamstown next to a creek, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a great burger and fries on a summer day. Shaded picnic tables provide the setting. It’s no longer a drive-in; you simply place your order inside (the place is run mostly by college kids) and then step back in line – and there is ALWAYS a line! They somehow remember who you are without any ticket or number. No credit or debit cards here, folks – only cash. I love their chocolate almond amaretto ice cream, my mom always preferred the lemon. Open Sundays. Grab your flip-flops and hurry – they are only open in the summer.
Cafe Chocolate – A great place to stop for lunch or a light dinner or just treats with the best glass of hot chocolate on the planet. Be sure to pick up some truffles too! Both the mulligatawny and chicken and rice soups were great and we really liked the Cubano sandwich. They serve local and organic foods and have some nice choices for vegans and vegetarians. The soups are all gluten-free for those of you celiacs out there. About 25 minutes from the inn in downtown Lititz.
Characters – Tucked away in downtown Lancaster City, this intimate little spot has a nice beer and drink selection, uses local ingredients and has incredible olive bread. Bruce fell in love with the larger-than-life pencil sketches by John Klomp, especially the one of Marilyn Monroe! There’s a screened-in back porch, specials throughout the week. Closed Mondays and Sundays.
Culturas – Lancaster’s first Tapas restaurant is located upstairs from El Serrano in Lancaster. This is my favorite way to eat – small servings of oh, so many wonderful dihes. Take a group and try a bite of everything! We highly recommend the Paquetitos de Cangrejo – little “packages” stuffed with crabmeat, leeks and cheese, or the Ceviche de Pollo – organic chicken and white onions in an aji amarillo sauce with fried yucca, or the Charcuteria – Gold Label Iberian Serrano Ham aged 20 months, served with Mahon, Manchego and a specialty cheese, Marcona almonds, dates and grapes. Come to think of it, we’ve tried just about everything but the sardine dish…Great atmosphere – intimate tables on the second floor overlooking the courtyard. About 25 minutes from the inn.
El Serrano – A most impressive restaurant – you almost feel like you are in Peru (not that we would know what that feels like) but you definitely get the feeling that you’re not in Lancaster (or Kansas?) anymore! At any rate, you are in for an exciting meal. We’ve not yet been to Clementines – for the five-course special meal upstairs, but have enjoyed everything we’ve eaten in their restaurant, from the Chiles Rellenos to the Mixto Limeno (Tilapia with jumbo lump crabmeat and garlic herb sauce), but most especially the margaritas! Open daily. For more news on this restaurant, see the posting under Culturas.
Fiorentino’s Italian Restaurant – There are two locations – one by the airport in Lititz and the other downtown in Lancaster – we’ve been to both several times, but the one downtown has more personality. You’ll feel like you are in Little Italy (either New York or Cleveland) or possibly a restaurant in northern New Jersey. The tables are close, the atmosphere is noisy and, if you like garlic, your feet won’t hit the ground once you get within a whiff of the restaurant. Classic Italian menu with a few fresh surpises. Great bread, great gravy (sauce) and they even have a bar. Go here hungry! About 30 minutes from the inn. Open 7 days a week.
Gracies on West Main – Great for lunch or dinner – or if you just can’t get enough breakfast (they serve it all day). Their menu is as inspiring as their quotes on the chalkboards that surround the dining areas. The pulled pork, chicken, and bacon are all smoked on site. The desserts. soups, salad dressings and the jams – all home-made. One of the most creative places we love to eat. About 20 minutes away in Leola. Closed Mondays and Sundays at 3.
Hunger n Thirst – This restaurant is modern, fun and serves up great food. If you like beer, you’ll have to explore the Bottle Shop – stocked with over 200 beers from all over the world. We loved the asparagus soup, asparagus fries, and the Proscuitto Pannini. Located in Lancaster City, they are closed on Mondays.
Iron Hill Brewery – We’ve always liked this restaurant in West Chester, and now there’s one in downtown Lancaster – right across from Franklin and Marshall. A fun, lively place with creative salads, pizzas and appetizers, and, yes, great beer. Modern with nice wood, lots of windows and open space. They cater to the college crowd. Open Sundays. About 25 minutes from the inn.
Johnny’s Bar and Steakhouse – Located behind Kyma, a popular seafood restaurant, this New York style eatery is an interesting place for drinks and munchies. Bruce really likes the old movies that are playing on the TV’s, so if you have a movie nut, be sure you seat them facing away from the TV…if you want to have any conversation at dinner besides “shssh – this is the good part”. Try the Santa Fe Chicken Salad or the Ahi Tuna appetizer. The steaks are to die for. Open Sundays. About 15 minutes from the inn.
Katy’s Kitchen – This Amish-owned restaurant is just down the street from Sight and Sound Theater. It’s clean, inexpensive and good. Most meals are for hearty appetites…but be sure to leave room for their home-made desserts. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Kyma Seafood Grill – Only aboout ten minutes from the inn, but you’ll feel as if you’re visiting the Greek Islands – vivid colors on the walls and stunning photographs of white houses. The pictures that are on display throughout the restaurant were taken by the owners. We loved the she-crab soup, broiled salmon and the crab-stuffed shrimp and filet combo.They also have an outdoor deck in the warmer months.Not a seafood lover? No problem – the steaks are just as good as their partner restaurant, Johnny’s – (see above). Be sure to notice the lights in the Martini room. Closed Mondays.
La Borimex – Less than ten minutes from the inn, this is a very casual restaurant/grocery store that serves up pretty darn authentic food, not Tex-Mex. We eat here at least once a week! Be sure to order the guacamole and anything with the green sauce. You can also shop for your favorite peppers while you wait! Eat on their deck or get carry-out and enjoy the food on the porch at The Artist’s Inn! Closed Sundays.
Lancaster Brewing Company – Casual, fun and lively restaurant in downtown Lancaster serving hand-crafted ales and lagers. The strawberry-wheat is my favorite. We’ve had lots of meals here – the blueberry/chevre salad with macadamia nuts, scallops with wild mushroom ravioli and (any of the) pizzas are our favorites! Bar is open until 2, restaurant until 10. For a great history of beer in Lancaster, read their history page. Ask us about our coupon for this restaurant.
Osteria Avanti – With only 12 tables, this warm small restaurant (part of the Inn at Leola Village) delivers great tastes. We loved the olives in the marinated and roasted eggplant and Brushetta Antipasti, the Penne Pasta with Wilbur’s Dark Chocolate and the Rigatoni with Rustic Tomato Sauce and Grandma’s Meatballs. Tradition meats creativity in a yummy way. A carafe of the house Valpollicella and a basket of their home-made breads complete the meal. Open every day but Monday and only 20 minutes from the inn.
The Peanut Bar – Casual, fun, noisy and good food – this is the place that first started the tradition of throwing peanut shells on the floor – in 1935! You can get anything here – from great Buffalo Wings to New York Jewish Corned Beef on Rye to Vegetarian Lasagna. There’s a long bar in the front room, lots of desserts and plenty of waiters with personality. Not to be missed if you are anywhere near Reading! About 25 minutes from the Inn.
The Pressroom – Housed in a historic building, this was once part of our local newspaper. It’s decorated in old headlines and makes for interesting conversation. We like their pasta presentations – especially the stuffed eggplant. In warmer months, there’s a great patio with a fountain and live music on Thursday nights.
Shady Maple Smorgasbord – The biggest buffet in Lancaster County. Reasonable prices, good quality and plenty of food – a great way to see what you think of chow-chow, shoo-fly pie, dried corn and other Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. There’s something here for everyone – from their seafood nights to prime rib. Just three miles from the inn. The best part is that they never rush you – and you have your own table or booth. Closed on Sundays.
Spyro Gyros – This tiny restaurant in downtown Lancaster offers authentic Greek food and lots of salads. Casual and fun with free wi-fi at the bar. We recommend the Meze Platter – it’s enough for two with all your favorites – dynamite hummus, wheat pitas, stuffed grape leaves, good olives, Greek salad, lamb kabobs and spanikopita. Breakfast and lunch only – 397-3939.
The Tomcat Cafe – We discovered this quaint spot by accident and now go back on a regular basis. Creative food, generous portions, wonderful combinations, and great music make this restaurant a winner. We loved the sweet potato, carrot and cumin soup, the crab mac ‘n cheese, Swimmin’ Upstream, Blue Dog Tuna, and the Deep South Pork Loin. They serve breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Saturday, brunch on Sunday.
The Udder Choice – Fun place to stop for burgers and sandwiches and, of course, ice cream. All the meats are roasted on site and soups are home-made. They have the greatest collection of antique ice cream scoops that we’ve ever seen. Just on the other side of Ephrata – about 15 minutes from the inn. (717-733-4300)
Union Barrel Works – Housed in a restored historic building, this brewery has great beer and food to match. The sampler of beers is the way to go if you aren’t sure of which to get – our favorites were the Wobbly Bob Dopplebock and Uncle Fester – these are both rich, full-bodied with beautiful color – none of that watery light stuff. Everything we had from the Olive Tapenade to the Crab and Alligator Jambalaya, the Trout and Wild Rice Soup, the Grilled Portobello and Pesto sandwich on homemade Focaccia, Chicken Sandwiches, Burgers, was good. We especially like the sweet potato fries – served with maple syrup. The brewery is located in Reamstown, just 15 minutes from the inn.
There are many other local restaurants – if you have a favorite that you think we should include, please let us know!