Eatin’ in Lancaster, PA

December 20, 2010 at 11:55 PM Leave a comment

Lancaster is a cute little town in Eastern Pennsylvania that has a decided artistic bend. Filled with galleries and interesting shops, it might be easy to dismiss the city as a backwoods outpost, but Franklin and Marshall College seems to have raised the bar all around. It is actually a nice place to visit and Jeff needs to travel there periodically for work. Because of that, he has had the opportunity to sample some of the local food.

After two visits, a favorite is clear. Fenz Restaurant & Latenight is a cozy two-story bar and dining room with a menu full of comfortable food. During the last visit he enjoyed a wonderfully crisp, roasted chicken with sage, mushroom stuffing. Nothing but bare wing bones were left on the plate. This was preceded by a great potato leek soup and some delightful deviled eggs. The pot-du-crème dessert was rich and flavorful. This is place to dine if you have only one night in Lancaster.

Also intriguing is John J. Jeffries located in the Lancaster Arts Hotel (also very interesting) Based on the principal of supporting small organic local farms, the menu is filled with small and large plates. Jeff enjoyed a fresh salad topped with local goat cheese and a fabulous bowl of grass-fed beef chili topped with crème fraîche and local made white cheddar. They also have a nice Pennsylvania made (yes, Pennsylvania, USA) pinot noir wine. Try it! It is quite good. Bon Appetit Magazine recently dubbed this place as the center of a new trend, “Nouveau Dutch,” the blending of contemporary cooking and down-home Pennsylvania Dutch culinary sensibility. If it was earlier and if he needed more food, other things sounded tempting. The idea of sleeping on a full stomach quickly offset the temptation. The only menu downside was a bit too heavy reliance on beef. As the menu changes, here’s hoping for a wider variety. Past season menu samples indicate just that. Your timing may be better than Jeff’s.

Checkers Bistro offers a nice collection of bistro foods, well prepared and flavorful. The place seems to always be crowded and is likely due to the wide variety of soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches and full meals. You can’t go wrong with most anything.

Less successful was Gibraltar. Jeff started with the Arugula and Endive Salad topped with candied walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. The vinaigrette was sweet-tart and promoted some plate scraping. Because of the cool evening, the Pappardelle Cassoulet sounded perfect. It was just a bit watery for his liking. The duck confit and cannelloni beans were tasty and worked well with the wide noodles, but the cubed bacon was fatty and a bit off-putting when scooped up. For a highly rated establishment that had a decent crowd mid-week, Jeff expected more. The guess is that this was a HOT restaurant five years ago and is living off past glories. Consider one of the other places. 

It is always fun to have a small town surprise you with interesting and tasty food. Lancaster does just that. If you find yourself in eastern Pennsylvania, stop in Lancaster. You’ll enjoy the food!

http://www.fenzrestaurant.com/ 398 Harrisburg Avenue Lancaster, PA 17603 717-735-6999

http://www.johnjjeffries.com/ 300 Harrisburg Avenue Lancaster, PA 17603 717-431-3307

http://www.checkersbistro.com/ 300 West James Street Lancaster, PA 17603 717-509-1069

http://www.kearesrestaurants.com/gibraltar/ 931 Harrisburg Avenue Lancaster, PA 17603 717-397-2790

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