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Upscale Grown Up Dining in Lancaster

Hi all.

Would appreciate some guidance on finding an upscale restuarant for grown ups in the Lanscaster. A group of my friends (5 couples in all) are planning to meet in January to celebrate surviving the holiday crush. Half of us live in the Hershey area, half in Philly. One is a vegetarian. None of us are from Lancaster but would like the meet in the middle for an evening a good wine, good food and good fellowship. Some place with round tables or least intimate seating would be a bonus. Thanks in advance for your expertise!

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  1. My current fave for fine dining in Lancaster right now is John J. Jeffries, at the Lancaster Arts Hotel
    It also happens to be located in a beautiful boutique hotel, if any one in your group were interested in an overnight stay.

    1. John J Jeffries is very good, but your vegetarian friend will hate you. Not a single vegetarian entree on the menu. Try Gibraltar, you're friend will be happier with the menu, you will all get a terrific meal, and if I remember, they have round 6-top tables.


      1 Reply
      1. re: frackit

        I guess I just don't understand everyone's fascination with Gibralter, but it's been a few years so perhaps I should give it another try. And, looking at the menu, the gnocchi was the only truly vegetarian entree - although, better than none.
        Thinking more about the vegetarian issue, I'm going to recommend Culturas, the tapas restaurant upstairs at El Serrano. I had a fantastic meal there with a large group of adults, and there are many options for all types of diners.


      2. The Fenz is near John J Jeffries as is good as well. More lively atmosphere but very good food. More funky than most of Lancaster restaurants

        2 Replies
        1. re: phillydinner25

          Thanks so much for the quick responses! A friend here at work also suggested Josephines (Marietta area, I think) and Carr's. Any thoughts?

          Very interested in exploring the Fenz - is it loud?

          Thanks again

          1. re: suzanne0115

            Josephine's is fantastic however, it will be significantly closer to you, in Hershey, than your friends in Philly. If they don't mind, it is a really lovely restaurant - but you may need to talk to someone about accommodating a large group.

        2. John J. Jeffries is our favorite restaurant in Central PA. The menu is mostly local grass fed organic meats. The produce is local organic with many farmers growing in green houses throughout the winter. They have a large vegetarian following also. There are always vegetarian options on the menu. Our vegetarian friends often comment about there use of organic sprouted whole grains and beans that are incorporated into the vegetable entries. A vegetarian friend ate there last week with us. She had a baby kale, escarole, wild mushrooms with sweet potato and cauliflower puree and sprouted organic quinoa. It was delightful. The past few times we were there they seemed to be getting a draw from New York, Philly, and DC.

          1. Strawberry Hill: http://www.strawberryhillrestaurant.c...
            Very creative and tasty menu items, especially seasonal appetizers. Not sure there is anything vegetarian though. Best known for their amazing wine selection. My husband and I love it here, and frequent it, although it is a special occassion place where we usually fret about how much is leaving our wallet.

            It is one of my favorites, although they haven't changed their menu (significantly) in over a year. Very nice "gourmet" appetizers, and the fish specials never fail to be delicious and well-prepared. We also very much like their bar -nice cocktails. Service can be hit or miss, but one of our very favorite waiters in the city works here.

            Yep - I think it is too loud. We much prefer the after dinner bar scene here, than the food. Having said that, the food is above average. My husband drools over the steak diane. The crowd is becoming increasingly blue-hair around dinner time.

            The Belvedere Inn
            Another one of our favorites. Might struggle with the vegetarian. Their menu changes frequently to match the ingredients to what tastes best. We love their soups. I almost always order their specials, knowing that they will be very tasty (although usually the most expensive option). The service is very nice, and the atmosphere is lovely, decorated in rich tones and dim (although not too dim) lighting.

            JJJ (John J Jeffries
            )Our favorite thing to do here is to get several small plates and some organic cocktails. The atmosphere is a little to open and loud for a romantic meal, and you may have trouble hearing the person who is furthest from you in a group of 5. I am surprised to hear that another poster doesn't think they have vegetarian food. Get 3 small veggie only plates. You won't be disappointed. Best known for their local/sustainable menu. They have great relationships with local farmers and purveyors. We never miss the cheese plate (surprising how good local cheese can be), and if they have the mint chocolate homemade ice cream - DO NOT SKIP IT! (We may be addicted). Another nice feature is their reasonably priced tasting menu, which you can pair with wine or beer. Kinda cool, huh? And, great waiters!

            1 Reply
            1. re: armartin

              sorry guys, i was basing my 'no vegetarian' statement on the menu they have posted on their site..which has no vegetarian entrees. i know many restaurants dont' keep that menu up to date..sounds like this is one of them

            2. All the suggested restaurants suggested below are great, one that I didn't notice listed and is a little newer to Lancaster is Effie Ophelia, on Prince Street. It's a small place no reservations, BYOB and is closed on Monday's.
              www.effieophelia.com (nice website with updated menus and pricing).
              I've yet to try it a vegetarian friend of mine really enjoyed!
              Have fun here, it's a great city with a fun and active First Friday Arts night each month.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Travgal

                Effie Ophelia is fantastic! It is a little on the small side, but it has a big city feel. The food and presentation is incredible. The seafood entrees are what attracted me, and I was blown away with how good the food was. Can't wait to get back there.

                1. re: Fool for Food

                  I love Effie Ophelia, and it certainly meets the criteria for good vegetarian eats, but I didn't mention it because I believe they don't accept parties larger than 6 (yes, it is THAT small). The original post stated they are a group of 10.

              2. I would highly recommend Gibraltar. Well located, easy parking, large tables and wonderful, creative food...hands down the best restaurant in the Lancaster area for food and service. My best friend is a vegetarian and the Chefs at Gibraltar always prepare something amazing for her, and to the comment that the menu never changes, we dine there once or twice a month and the menu changes constantly…perhaps they don’t update their website. They also have a great wine list and very friendly sommelier.

                John Jeffries is overpriced and the food and service has been underwhelming on two recent visits. Although I appreciate the local farm to table concept, sometimes grass feed beef from Lititz is simply not as good as usda prime beef from Nebraska…especially if you are paying the same price.

                As much as my husband and I want to love Effie Ophelia and the idea of a good BYOB, the food never seems as well conceived or executed as it should be. Its also way to small and cramped for a group of 10.

                Another really nice spot is the Belvedere, which is more known as a night spot than a restaurant, but their food is quite good. I’m not sure they could handle 10 people since the dining room is very small.

                Carr’s is another one of our favs in downtown Lancaster with good food and service. Like Gibraltar, Carr’s utilizes excellent and seasonal ingredients and the service is usually quite good.

                Happy New Year & Bon Appétit !

                1. I lived in Lancaster for 4 year while attending Franklin and Marshall, and thus have been to MANY of the restaurants downtown to avoid D-Hall food... For some reason Gibralter never really did it for me, for lunch they are great, but I never had an outstanding dinner there...The Lancaster Arts Hotel is AMAZING, great microbrew selection also... I would stay away from Fenz if you are going to be there while school is in session, it tends to be fully of fratty guys trying to impress sorority girls... My absolute favorite restaurant in Lancaster is The Press Room... I'm surprised no one has mentioned it, and a little nervous now b/c i haven't been back in about 2 years... Further, Strawberry Hill is also very good, and you might want to check out the Log Cabin.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: itown

                    The Log Cabin is no longer open

                  2. I'm hoping the original poster is out there to report on where they ended up. Good review? Bad review?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: centralpadiner

                      Sorry for the MASSIVE delay - just catching up on old posts - we ended up at FENZ. We loved the atmosphere, the staff was lovely. Started the evening with very good cocktails at the bar - I was actually surprised at how small the bar area was given the website and a couple of recommendations. Nevertheless, it was a really enjoyable way to start the evening, mostly made so by the great demeanor of the bartender. We ended up having to wait a VERY long time for one couple who got lost (and actually never ended up getting there). The wait staff was extremely accommodating, despite the fact that I'm sure they probably had to scramble to address other reservations we ended up pushing back. The food was good - not knock your socks off amazing - but good. My husband ordered the steak diane (based on reco from armartin above) and enjoyed the meal. I don't even remember what I ordered - so I guess that says enough. I do remember being pleasantly surprised by the fried pickles appetizer, and distinctly disappointed in the dessert - which basically included one of everything on the dessert menu, which we all passed with multiple spoons and forks. All in all, a very nice evening, made so by a staff that treated us very well despite our completely wrecking their reservation schedule and an adequate meal offering.

                      1. re: suzanne0115

                        They have a very small bar downstairs, and a larger one upstairs.

                      2. Can't beat the Horse Inn, or the Stockyard Inn (although the Stockyards are no longer there.)