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Oct 24, 2012 12:24 PM

Anything new in Lancaster?

I get into Lancaster often and I'm always on the lookout for good dining spots. Most recently I've been to Annie Bailey's several times (liked it), Iron Hill (liked it), John Jeffries (very good), Gibralter (very good), Belvedere (wasn't impressed), Checkers Bistro (so-so) and Lancaster Brewing Co. (not bad). Also the Strasburg Inn (even with a $25 dining coupon it wasn't worth it). Haven't yet been to Maison, but it's more of a fine dining ($$$) spot and I'll try it for a special occasion. The Loft is on my list, and I'll probably get there soon. What else have I missed that I ought to try? Is there any good Italian food to be had in town? What about Asian? I don't want to venture further west than the city of Lancaster; east is fine. Thanks!

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  1. Italian is not Lancaster's strong point. Our favorite, which is a good but not great red sauce place is Fiorentinos in the Airport Terminal(Off the Lititz Pike-Route 501).

    The strory is similar on Asian. Rice and Noodles is a good vietmamese place. Wasabi is a surprisingly good Sushi place on Route 272 in The Kendig Square shoping center in Willow Street south of the city.

    For Chinese I have yet to find a really good place. Yangs, on Route 272 just north of the city is a good no frills place as far as the Chinese American classics are concerned.

    None of these will have anywhere near the Ambiance of the places you mentioned in your post.

    15 Replies
    1. re: brookquarry

      Agree with brookquarry's suggestions 100%. No Italian, just forget it. Or, go to Harrisburg and eat at Bricco or Mangia Qui. In fact, we love Trattoria Fratelli in Lebanon for Italian.

      Asian: Sukothai on Harrisburg Ave. gets mixed reviews. I enjoyed it, but admit I don't really know Thai food. Rice and Noodles is absolutely our favorite Asian restaurant, and my husband's college roommate/close friend is Vietnamese, so we trust ourselves a bit more as good judges of quality Vietnamese food. I keep reading about Khom Eggroll Palace. Can't believe we haven't been yet, we talk about it all the time. It's a little hole in the wall on James St. not far from the hospital. I've never had great Chinese in the area, it is all typical Chinese-American take out type food. Other ethnic, I love Addisu's Ethiopian in a strip mall on Dillerville Rd. near Harrisburg Ave.

      Have you tried Fenz? I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan. I'm more about food than atmosphere. The place is extremely popular with young professionals out together and it is a fun space. The food wasn't bad, by any means, I just felt it missed the mark for the price. But others really like it. Definitely go to Ma(i)son. Worth every penny. For something different, go to The Fridge if you are there over lunch, they have great gourmet pizzas, but sell out early.

      I've read good reviews of Character's Pub under new chef/owner Meghan Young. But, haven't been. It's on my list.

      Keep us posted about where you try, I always love hearing the reviews!

      1. re: centralpadiner

        Agree with giving Ma(i)son a try. Its currently one of my favorite restaurants...anywhere. Its a BYO (small corkage), so you can save some money on wine. Also, down the street, is Pour. Great selection of wines and beers, cured meats, cheeses, and smaller entrees. Great place for a drink and a bite to eat. Love their duck fat fries.

        1. re: sballard

          I didn't know (or maybe I'd just forgotten) that Ma(i)son is BYO. Here in southern Chester County, BYOs are everywhere and that's often a consideration when we're trying to decide where to go for dinner. For the price of two bad glasses of wine, we can share a very decent bottle that we've brought ourselves. Thanks for the reminder.

          1. re: CindyJ

            Yeah, I think its one of the only BYOs in Lancaster serving high end food. The problem is that the food is so good any money we save bringing our own wine usually goes to buying more food. With Tax/Tip, we usually end up spending about $100 for the two of us for 2 apps, 2 entrees, and a shared dessert.

            1. re: sballard

              That's really not so much for a great meal, especially with tax & tip. I think I'd be inclined to check the menu online and bring a couple of bottles of wine that would pair well with apps and entrees. It really is a huge savings to BYO. Maybe the BYO trend will move west from Philly and the western 'burbs into Lancaster.

        2. re: centralpadiner

          Thanks, centralpa! I always look forward to your input regarding the Lancaster area. I ought to mention that I've found $25 dining certificates for John J. Jeffries for as low as $2 (although not recently).

        3. re: brookquarry

          We finally got over to Rice & Noodles. It's an interesting find. The place was filled, but our wait for a table was short -- maybe 10 minutes -- and after having our meal we understood why -- it's more like Asian fast food than sit-down dining. NO ambiance, paper napkins, and closely-placed tables. We were the only table that had wine, even though their website mentions that it's BYOB. And, during the time we were seated, the table next to us turned over twice.

          All that said, we really did enjoy the food. We shared an order of spring rolls for an appetizer. I had the vermicelli lettuce wraps with beef for my entree and my husband had a chicken stir fry.

          So... as they say, "It is what it is." Yes, we'll probably return, and if we do, we'll do things just a little differently. We won't order our apps until after we've uncorked our wine. And we won't order our entrees until after we've finished our apps.

          The people seated next to us said they like the Saigon Cafe on Manheim Pike. I'm wondering if anyone has anything to say about it. Better, worse or about the same as Rice & Noodles?

          1. re: CindyJ

            Saigon Cafe is on the list, but we never seem to make it there, so I can't compare.

            Rice and Noodles is kind of known as one of the "nicer" Vietnamese restaurants in the area, so I always assume the others are more "hole in the wall-ish." As for your complaints of quick service, tables close together and paper napkins. Well, that pretty much describes every pho place I've been to from the well known Eden Center in Northern Va. to Montreal, Canada, so I guess I'm not quite sure what you were expecting. I'm not saying you are wrong, your description is quite correct. I'm just wondering why your expectations were for something more.

            If you are seeking a finer dining style experience, The Greenfield Inn is on the eastern side of the city. I can't personally recommend because I've never gone (I live on the western end of the county) but it is popular with many. A more old school, but still good experience is The Stockyard. They've been there forever, so not "new" by any means, but you don't list it as a place you've been. Best for red meat lovers.

            I hope you get a chance to try Ma(i)son, and I hope it meets your expectations. If you ever decide to try Character's Pub, post a review, I still hope to get there, but we have a couple good pubs in my part of the county, so not something we go downtown for.

            1. re: centralpadiner

              It wasn't so much that I had an "expectation," and I certainly didn't expect fine dining, but you can tell when you're being rushed through a meal at a restaurant, and that was our experience. I've had that happen at high-end restaurants as well. It could well be that the folks who go to Rice & Noodles want to be in and out in 20 minutes.

              I noticed the Stockyard Inn across the street when I was pulling out of the parking lot. No, I've never been, and after a glance at the menu I probably won't be any time soon. I see what you mean about "old school." For the prices they're charging I know I can have a nice meal at John Jeffries. Maison is still on my "must try" list for the next special occasion meal we have in Lancaster.

              1. re: CindyJ

                I've been to both Saigon Cafe and Rice And Noodles many times. I really like the food at both, but tend to enjoy eating at Saigon Cafe more. I think part of the reason is what you are getting at. Saigon Cafe is a little roomier with the tables a little more spread out, a little larger, and I've never felt rushed to get through a meal. In fact, I think the service at Saigon is a little slower and less efficient than R&N. I've brought wine to Saigon and have seen others do so as well. Its still very casual but feels less rushed and less claustrophobic than R&N. Give Saigon a try, I think you'll like it.

              2. re: centralpadiner

                We made it over to Saigon Cafe last night, and it was really interesting. First let me say it's much less a "hole-in-the-wall than Rice & Noodles. The tables actually have table cloths (okay, the cloths are covered with a glass top, but still...) and they're spaced nicely.

                The menu is really large and offers a nice variety of what appear to be authentically prepared Vietnamese dishes. Let me say that everything we ordered was very good, BUT, it became clear to us that we didn't know what we were doing when we ordered and even after the food was brought to us. We ended up ordering two soup dishes, although not intentionally. One was served with the broth in the bowl; the other was served with the broth in a separate bowl, and the server told us they were not supposed to be combined, but rather, eaten separately.

                Also, a stir fry dish came with rice papers that were in a special 2-section holder. One section kept the rice papers dry; the other section had hot water. The people seated next to us were watching (probably with some amusement) as we tried to figure out what we were supposed to do, and offered some "instruction," telling us to take the rice paper, spin it around in the water, remove it quickly, then use it as a wrapper for the stir fry.

                So there's a "learning curve" here, but we enjoyed the food and we'll definitely go back. I think before we return, though, I'll study the menu online. AND we'll know enough to ask questions about what we're ordering.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Thats funny. I've seen people get the stir fry with the rice paper wrappers and have always wanted to try it, but haven't been able to figure out which dish on the menu it is.

                  My favorite dishes there are the Grilled Pork Chop with fried egg and broken rice. And, the beef Pho with rare beef. Also very much like their fresh spring rolls.

                  1. re: sballard

                    I'm pretty sure the one we ordered that came with the rice papers was the Broken Jasmine Rice with Grilled Chicken (#69 on the menu).

                    A question about the Pho -- I've never eaten it out, but I did make it at home one time. The way I prepared it, the meat was sliced but not cooked before it was served. It was the heat of the broth that cooked the beef. Is that the way the beef for the pho is served at Saigon Cafe?

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      There are several options. You can get it with Rare Sliced Beef, Well Done Sliced Beef, Brisket, Tendons, Tripe and Beef Balls. You can do various combinations. If you order one of the ones with Rare Sliced Beef, they essentially put it on top of the soup right before it is brought out, so it is still very red and rare. Alternatively, you can order a side dish of rare sliced beef and add it in yourself. That is what I like to do. I order the one that comes with: Well done sliced beef, brisket, tendons, tripe, and beef balls, and I get a plate of rare beef on the side to add in myself.

                2. re: centralpadiner

                  What amazes me about the Stockyard Inn is that after all the years they have been in operation their standards for quality food and service are still high. I think "old school" is fair and in their case not pejorative. While we love all the new food experiences the Philadelphia food scene offers us, we always look forward to a visit to The Stockyard Inn when in Lancaster. BTW they serve one of the best burgers I have had anywhere!

            2. We finally made it over to Ma(i)son and, in a word -- WOW! Hands down the best restaurant we've been to in the Lancaster area. Interestingly enough, one of the things that kept me from going there was that whenever I'd look at their menu online, it always looked so small that it seemed that there'd be too few choices. But now, after having been there, I totally understand the reason for limiting the menu, and I have a new respect for the philosophy that keeps it small.

              Everything we had was delicious and beautifully prepared. My husband and I shared two starters -- the shaved Brussels sprouts salad and the handmade burrata. If there was fault to be found, it was that burrata really needs to be absolutely freshly made in order for the center to be creamy and runny. The burrata we were served was delicious, but it more resembled a wonderful, fresh mozzarella than burrata. The Brussels sprout salad was sooo good; I never knew that Brussels sprouts could be so delicious raw.

              For our entrees, I had the striped bass. I wish I knew how they got such a perfect sear on it without overcooking it. It was beautifully plated with escarole, white beans and crispy slices of something I couldn't quite identify -- maybe like tuiles, or maybe a fried bread. Yum! My husband had braised beef cheeks which were fall-apart tender. We shared a dessert that was almost like a deconstructed bread pudding with berries, made with panettone. And the bonus that accompanied this fabulous dining experience was that Ma(i)son is BYOB -- something we almost take for granted here in Chester County, where we live.

              I'm already looking forward to our next visit to Ma(i)son.

              1. Have had the opportunity to eat in Lancaster twice in the last week. First was at Loxley's which should be avoided at all costs, I don't care if you are dying of hunger, go to a chain or anywhere else instead. It is rare that I go somewhere and my food is inedible but this was. I had the slider sampler and he had the smokehouse burger. The only thing we sort of could eat was our crab dip, which for once a restaurant gave sufficient toasts to accommodate the amount of dip. Ended up there because fiancé had been before with work and said it would be quick and I was so hungry I didn't have a chance to check my phone. Would have gone to our usual Rice and Noodle but we had pho the day before.

                Last night we went to Checkers Bistro before the Jewel concert. It was ok. We did not have reservations and they had to check to see if they could accommodate us. A few tables sat empty the entire time we were there so we wondered about no shows. We did not drink but they appeared to have an extensive repertoire of specialty cocktails. The staffing was a bit odd as it seemed there was no dedicated bartender and a cook may have been bringing out our dishes. I would have also prefer a little less time in between our courses. We had notified them that we had a deadline but it was over 20 min between ends of courses to beginnings of the next.

                We ordered the prosciutto and fig pizza and the duck tacos to start, we enjoyed both and took home half the pizza. I would have like to try some of the other pizzas but my fiancé is a tad picky. For entrees I had the pappardelle bolognese which was very good although a few of the noodle stuck together it had a lovely flavor. My fiancé had the steak frites. We both thought the steak was a little bland, he apart asked for s and p. Overall we were pleased with our meals. I think the steak frites was a bit over prices for the finished product but it was cooked perfectly to the requested medium rare which we find hard to come by. Because it was our first visit we were given a 10$ gift certificate to use on our next visit. Living in Carlisle we most likely will not be using it anytime soon if at all because we are looking for other things to try.

                1. Someone just told me about a relatively new gastropub called Hunger-n-Thirst. Has anyone been? I'm not able to get onto their website for some reason, and I'd appreciate some first-hand info. Thanks.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Not yet, but "both kids at camp week" is coming up soon and there are several new places in Lancaster that my husband and I plan to try. Hunger and Thirst is top of the list. Not sure why you are having trouble with the website.


                    Also on the list is Citronelle, which I am very excited about. A BYO French bistro in Lancaster? Hoping it's great!


                    The other new lancaster spot we want to get to is Federal Taphouse. I know there is the original one in Harrisburg, but we've never been there, so thought we'd check out the Lancaster version.


                    We have 6 nights! (can you tell we wait all year for camp week) So for a cheaper night out we will check out Himalayan Curry and Grill and stick to the Nepalese dishes on the menu, rather than the Indian. (although, we haven't done Indian in a while either.


                    We have a gift certificate to Char's in Harrisburg, so that will be one night as well . . . . that leaves one more night. Hmmm...

                    1. re: centralpadiner

                      This is a pretty exciting itinerary. Glad to hear that you have some free time. Which of the Nepalese things have you enjoyed on the menu? (I'm with you on not having any Indian in a while - maybe next week!)

                      1. re: mookleknuck

                        We've never been, so I don't know about the Nepalese dishes yet, but that's the whole idea of the week - try out new places OR go to those places we almost never get to because they aren't kid friendly (and that's pretty rare, because there are very few places we won't take our kids who are now 10 and 12 - only the most formal or expensive, or truly have nothing that would make them happy.)

                        I'm such a food geek that I get all giddy even thinking about it. LOL!

                        1. re: centralpadiner

                          Look forward to any honorable mentions, even if it's just for the area. Have fun!!

                      2. re: centralpadiner

                        >>Not sure why you are having trouble with the website.<<

                        I tried it again today and was able to see it. Maybe they were doing maintenance yesterday.

                        Citronelle has me excited. BYO always scores extra points in my book. And if the food is good, it's a dining home run!

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          I hope to be reporting back with a positive review in a few weeks!

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            I'll be interested in your report. I looked over Citronella's menu and to be honest, nothing jumped out at me as a WOWIE.and the prices looked high

                            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                              True enough, FCF, but when I'm seeking out places in Lancaster -- and I'm there for dinner just about every week -- there aren't the great choices that we're lucky to have closer to home. Also, BYOs with good food -- which get BIG points from me -- are scarce out there.

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                When I'm out that way, it is usually more lunch type places rather than dinner, so I gravitate toward the diner/roadfood places. One I have been meaning to try is that diner that is on Rte 30 right before you get into all the malls (Jennies?) There are always lots of cars/trucks which is a good sign.

                                I think it is almost across the street from the Sunoco station. Always seems to be the wrong time of day when I pass

                                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                  I know the place you're talking about. I've never been there but you're right about the trucks in the parking lot. If I'm not mistaken, I think there have been a few favorable reports about Jennie's here on CH.

                                  Another diner-like place that I was always curious about but never visited was one on Rt. 41, just south of Rt. 30, that had a big sign outside that said, "Some of our food is good." I think that place is gone now.

                      3. When I was growing up in Lancaster, half a century and more ago, we'd splurge for dinner by going out to the YMCA cafeteria. (I still remember their chicken croquettes.) You'd expect better in the county seat of a prime agricultural area. Things may have improved a bit since then, but the companies like Armstrong Cork, Hamilton Watch, Slaymaker Lock, etc. that might have had a positive influence are gone. Even the Y's cafeteria is no more.