Lancaster next week...Are we on the right track?
We visited Lancaster about 3 years ago for a convention, and we pretty much ate at one place the entire time (see below). I did some research on the boards, and I found a couple of other places. Is there anywhere else we should visit while we're here at the convention this year?
All of us are foodies from Los Angeles so we have some level of expectation, but we can survive in Lancaster for five days (the other part of our trip we'll be in Philly :0)
Two of us are Vegan; not every place needs to have vegan options, but i'd be nice to have 1-2 other vegan places than the Vietnamese place.
Lanvina Vietnamese Restaurant (this is where we ate 5 days in a row last time)
What else I found:
The Belvedere Inn
Olive & Jasmine Asian Bistro
Cafe Chocolate of Lititz
Taj Mahal Indian Restraurant
The Udder Choice (probably too far)
Anywhere else you would recommend?
Olive & Jasmine Asian Bistro is wonderful and everyone going to the outlets or somewhere in vicinity of the area should stop by this place. The food quality is superb. Yumm.....the Roti Canai, Malaysian Beef Satay, and their Jungle Roll are the most tasty and beautifully presented foods that I have came across. The staff is also very well trained to meet the demands of the customers and serving with quality service. The building itself is as interesting as their food, their design, furniture, and decorations help create a romantic and elegant atmosphere; including their restroom which surpasses any 5 stars hotel bathroom. All the luxurious things that you can in this incredible restaurant located in a small town like Lancaster is fascinating.
I think Rice & Noodles is a better choice for Vietnamese than Lanvina. Lanvina has closed one of their locations and the one that's left is pretty dismal.
Effie Ophelia is a great choice for dinner, but avoid weekend nights. It's small and they have a crazy reservation system.
There's a fine little Mexican place downtown called Cocina Mexicana. Nothing fancy but good authentic food. Love the soups and special entrees, although I'm not sure how it would work out for vegans.
Taj Mahal is still the only Indian restaurant around, but fortunately they do a good job.
Actually, there's a brand new Indian restaurant on Columbia Avenue in the Travelodge where 3 Crowns used to be. From the reviews I've heard from friends, they have a lunch buffet that rivals Taj Mahal and the food is much better. It's on my list of things to try.
As far as Lemongrass, I've never been impressed with it. Rice and Noodles is definitely superior, in my humble opinion.
I agree with the review on Effie's - I had what was quite possibly the best meal I've ever eaten in Lancaster there. Definitely worth trying to get in, plus it's BYOB.
Gibraltars used to be a top restaurant for me, but unfortunately has declined in service and food. Although the atmosphere is still there, I find the rest to be lacking.
For my money, the best all purpose, yet still absolutely fantastic restaurant in Lancaster is Checker's on the corner of Mulberry and James Street. The food is moderately priced, yet everything is absolutely fantastic. The owners are there daily and make sure that everyone has a great dining experience. If they have a daily fish special, order it. Every single one I've tried has been absolutely fantastic. Give Checkers a try - I promise you won't be disappointed!
I would personally scratch Issac's - not anything special, although once upon a time...
Also, I second the rec for one of the brewery restaurants. There are several within maybe 30 min drive including Lancaster, Stoudts, and perhaps Bube's, and Victory (maybe 45 min).
Good grief, no one mentions Strawberry Hill! It's the best restaurant in central Pennsylvania. I've been there four times and it's outstanding. Closed until dinnertime, and small, so make a reservation. Don't miss it.
Lancaster Brewing Company is good and reliable; more than just burgers though that's probably the best bet. Stoudt's (20 miles NE of city in Adamstown) is fine for beer but its steaks are overpriced IMHO. It's part of a big antiquing district and is the only real nice restaurant up there so it's crowded and expensive.
Downtown is getting better. Lots of art galleries and decent craft shops. On a Saturday morning you can graze in the Central Market, which is fun. The whole county is there. Coffee shops are around the corner on Prince Street, the Purple Mug (older and funkier) and Prince St. Cafe which is more stylish.
Diners-- reliable for breakfast--- Oregon Dairy on Route 272 and Jennie's on 30 just east of the outlet mall strip. The latter has no no-smoking section for some reason but if you want an authentic Pa. Dutch breakfast (get the scrapple and don't ask what's in it) go there. Pancakes as big as tires.
Gibraltar, mentioned above, by F&M is an excellent Mediterranean restaurant, more like somewhere you would find in suburban Philly or Baltimore than you'd expect here. The truth is that while Lancaster is know for the Amish culture and the touristy stuff connected to it, it's actually a booming sububan-type edge city that's probably the fastest-growing area in the state. So you have to look harder through all the chain restaurants to find the gems. But they are there.
I don't think Chinese or Indian food is up to big-city standards but I've never had either in a long time in Lancaster County so maybe that's wrong. But you can get that anywhere.
The somewhat touristy Amish smorgasbord places are less numerous than before but IMHO the best one is Plain & Fancy, where they seat you at a table and serve you family-style. I ate there in 2006 and the food was better than I expected. Just prepare to wait. But it's not something to dismiss because thousands of others have preceded you in groups.
One other suggestion: I live in Baltimore, which is 90 minutes away. A day in that city is well worth it. But I visit Lancaster constantly because my wife and I are bicyclists and Lancaster County's farm roads are the best place for recreational cycling in the Mid-Atlantic states and maybe in the country. If you can possibly get yourself on a bicycle, you'll get a real appreciation for the area you can't get in a car.
It's a great place to visit and a real slice of America. Enjoy.
Bets for Vegans~
Olive & Jasmine (vegan sushi)
Rice and Noodles
The Goodie Shoppe (great vegan, vegetarian and other choices at Lancaster Central Market, fun place to visit, there is no sit down in the market but you can find a great bench or table at Stienman Park across the street) only open Tues, Fri & Saturday, for lunch only, get there early, they sell out.
other great food in Lancaster~
Taj Mahal (Indian)
Cappricio's (Italian, and by the way, Lombardos is just gross)
John Jeffries at the Lancaster Arts Hotel (feature local farm produce, meats, cheeses...)
good luck and good eating!
imabigeater...I agree with your recs above except for John Jeffries.....small portions
for the price you pay...foodie freinds were there 2 weeks ago and complained to the
waitperson that the music is very loud....her comment was.."well you know this IS
a hip establishment" !!!! so...if you're not hip and don't like very loud music to dine with...don't go !
Of the places you mentioned, here are the ones I've tried:
Isaac's - Good soup and ok sandwiches, but expensive for what you get. $30 for two sandwiches and two bowls of soup is too much.
Olive & Jasmine's - Good pan-Asian - Chinese, Japanese, sushi, Thai, etc - definitely vegetarian options, but I don't know about vegan.
Cafe Chocolate - I just had tea, but definitely not my style - friendly people, but pretentious and new agey.
Taj Mahal - I'm no authority on Indian food, but I like this place. They have a great buffet on Monday nights and a smaller one at lunchtime. Plenty of vegetarian options here, but again, I don't know about vegan.
The Udder Choice - Great pie and ice cream - so-so sandwiches - very inexpensive - probably not worth the trip from Lancaster city
For other somewhat casual places, I would add the following:
Doc Holiday's on Harrisburg Pike - cowboy-style steak house with very good prime rib, excellent fish & chips, and last night I had the best burger I've had in a long time. Not much there for a vegan, though.
Lombardo's on Harrisburg Pike - Best red sauce Italian in town. Don't miss the eggplant fries.
Rice & Noodles on Lititz Pike - Another Vietnamese place with fabulous pho.
Yang's on Lititz Pike - traditional Chinese, one of the best in Lancaster
Ichiban on Fruitville Pike - Sushi and hibachi
Bridgeport Family Restaurant - local joint - best and cheapest breakfast in town - outrageous blueberry pancakes
We travel to the Lancaster area at least one a year and just got back from our most recent trip. There is actually some great food in the area if you know where to look. You have some great options so far.
If you need vegan options, Cafe Chocolate in Lititz is an excellent choice. They have an all organic menu with many vegan options. The atmosphere is not fancy at all, but I recommend you bring a bottle of wine, ask for one of the tables out back and enjoy a relaxing night of good food. While in Lititz, definitely do some shopping (it is a very cute area) and head to Wilbur Chocolates. Also the General Sutter Inn in Lititz has a beautiful outdoor patio if you want to stop for drinks and snacks (my dinner there was not very sucessful).
I would also recommend the Cove in Lancaster. It is dfinitely off the beaten path, and it (amazingly) has a beautiful outdoor deck overlooking the water. Great fresh seafood.
Don't miss Doneckers in Ephrata if you are looking for upscale. Their chef tasting menu is AMAZING and is a bargain at $65pp, paired with wine.
Also, there are some great brewery restaurants, such as Stoudts in Adamstown and Lancaster Brewing in Lancaster, where you can get some great sandwiches and beer.