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Restaurants in Lancaster

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Jessiet Dec 6, 2013 07:07 AM

Can anyone recommend some good places to eat in Lancaster City or Lancaster County? There are quite a few restaurants that have opened in the last few years, but I would like some specific recommendations. I am interested in all kinds of dining: fine, mid-range, mom-and-pop places, you name it. To my knowledge, there is not a restaurant of any kind that serves good, fresh seafood. Thanks for helping.

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    bugablue13 RE: Jessiet Dec 6, 2013 08:26 AM

    I like to hit Miller's or Hershey Farm restaurant, both buffets. They always have some sort of baked fish and cold shrimp. It's fun to shop in the little bakeshops in the lobby. The food is really good on the buffet. They are so busy it's always fresh.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bugablue13
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      Jessiet RE: bugablue13 Dec 6, 2013 08:54 AM

      I've been to both, but don't care for them much. Have you been to Dienner's? For that type of restaurant, I don't think they can be beat. Thanks for the input!

    2. sal_acid RE: Jessiet Dec 6, 2013 09:46 AM

      Hershey's and Miller's are big buffets, expensive if you eat normal human portions, and not at all exceptional. Great for feeding a busload of New Yorkers shopping at the outlets.

      1. Bacchus101 RE: Jessiet Dec 6, 2013 12:36 PM

        Good information copied from another post:
        centralpadiner Aug 21, 2013 01:20 PM
        John J. Jeffries by a landslide, IMO. Pressroom and Belvedere are not on the same level. Not BAD places, just not the kind of food you get at JJJ. If you want the same level as JJJ, look to Gibraltar or Ma(i)son... and now, Citronelle as a newcomer to town.

        I found centralpadiner's rec of JJJ a good one. Both she and sal acid seem to have a handle on what is good in Lancaster. One of my favorites is the Stock Yard Inn with high quality food in updated environs, and good, friendly service. It is old school but with a very updated menu and refreshed facility.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bacchus101
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          Jessiet RE: Bacchus101 Dec 6, 2013 07:52 PM

          Very good recommendations--I've heard of most of these places, and have eaten at a few, but it's been a long time. Gibraltar has always been a good choice (especially for seafood). I really need to try JJJ, Maison, and Citronelle. Stock Yard Inn is very, very good, as you say, and again, very fine seafood, which we love. Thanks.

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          centralpadiner RE: Jessiet Dec 6, 2013 04:01 PM

          You can get wonderful seafood at Gibralter across from F&M college. Citronelle is a new restaurant in the city. I've only been once, but really enjoyed. They just began a prix fixe menu on Thursday nights. It is a small place so reservations are a must. Both of these are fine dining establishments in downtown Lancaster. Stockyard is just north of the city. It is a classic steak house. A little old fashioned, but does a good job at all the standbys you'd expect from a steak house.

          For local eats, I prefer sending people to Oregon Dairy. I avoid buffets in general. Order off the menu, and ask about the PA Dutch specialties to get what they are best at. Even better, go for breakfast. Order off the entrees and you'll get an included donut from their bakery and cold glass of whole milk straight from their dairy.

          I'm not sure what you mean by "mid range." When in area of downtown, around lunchtime, we almost always hit Rice and Noodles for Vietnamese. It is our favorite family owned place.

          We like McCleary's Public House for relaxed dining, music and decent food. But, it is on the western edge of the county in Marietta and not many tourists head that way.

          For lunches, I often recommend Isaac's. Isaac's is a regional chain that serves creative sandwiches, soups, salads, etc. There are numerous locations, including downtown, just east of the city on Greenfield Rd., in Strasburg, north of the city on Manheim Pike, and west of the city at Centerville Rd. so it should always be easy to find one, and while some locations are a little better than others, they are typically reliable.

          It sounds like you've dined in the area before. If you tell us what you liked and not liked in the past, it may help us guide you a little better.

          25 Replies
          1. re: centralpadiner
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            Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 6, 2013 08:12 PM

            Thank you for this helpful input. I actually live in Lancaster County, but have had a protracted chronic illness which has kept me from dining out much for quite a few years; now that I am improving, I want to try some of the places recommended. I have been to some of the older, well established ones before, and would agree with your assessments. I am quite anxious to try some of the newer ones. Have you personally been to Maison?

            I sometimes watch "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", and would love to know of a place that is moderately priced, owned by people who are passionate about quality ingredients, have pride in their cooking, and obviously serve wonderful food. Maybe there is no such place. Seems a little ironic though, in Lancaster County, with its bountiful produce, dairy farms, chicken and beef growers, that no such place would exist. I dreamed, at one time of owning just such a place but that time, unfortunately, has passed.

            My dilemma is that I am an extremely avid foodie and cook (have over 700 cookbooks), and become somewhat annoyed at going out to a nice high end restaurant, paying a lot for a meal, and thinking how much better I could have made it at home. I'm sure some of you can relate. My real, pie-in-the-sky wish would be for a place where I can get great, really great food, and be able to dress casually. Price is not that important, really. Does such a place even exist?

            1. re: Jessiet
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              centralpadiner RE: Jessiet Dec 7, 2013 05:21 AM

              I have been to Ma(i)son, but it has been 2 yrs. We had plans to go with friends a few weeks ago, but their sitter fell through and we didn't make it. I still hear great things and follow their specials on FB . . . which just makes me want to go back all the more. I think JJJ is pretty good and you really don't have to dress super fancy there. I would say business casual is fine. Even nice jeans and a blouse.

              I watch "Triple D" as my kids call it, too. I honestly think often about what type of place in our area could be on that show, and come up empty every time. I just don't think it exists.

              I'd consider checking out McCleary's. It might fit what you are looking for. Check their website and go on a night without musical entertainment, or just early enough to avoid it. It is probably our most frequent place to dine, living on this side of the county. I would be lying if I said that in the 50 or more times I've been there I've never been disappointed with the food. That's just the odds, I think. Sometimes a special isn't what you thought it would be, or there is an off night, etc. It's a casual but not "cheap" place. So I consider it mid-range. It doesn't break our bank to eat there once a month, but as a family of 4 would not spend that every week. I almost always get the seared tuna - either the app or entree portion. It is my favorite thing on the menu. But on our last visit, it was prime rib night. I got the small portion, but still only ate half. It was really good and made an excellent lunch the next day as well. It might be the kind of place you are looking for. Family owned by Lancaster Co. folks, Freddy and Dani are the young couple there running the place. Her parents bankrolled the venture and are still financially involved. In fact, her father made his money as an exec with Clair Bros. and he's the one that brings in the musical acts, from what I understand...

              Anyway, "really great food" is so subjective, it is hard to say. I don't think you really have to dress all that fancy in today's world to go to Citronelle or Ma(i)son and I think I've had some really great food at both places.

              I haven't been myself, but a new cafe, Commonwealth on Queen, hosts pop-up restaurants some evenings. They are almost always on weeknights and not convenient for us, or just too short notice to get it together and make it. But it sounds intriguing to me.

              1. re: centralpadiner
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                Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 8, 2013 08:36 AM

                What is a "pop-up restaurant"? I went to their web site, and don't quite understand the concept. We will definitely check out McCleary's; their menu sounds promising, and I've come to trust your judgment. I am very excited to try it! Also planning on trying both Citronelle and Maison, but I'm sure their atmosphere is not quite as casual, may save those for a more special occasion. Thank you so much for your input!

                1. re: Jessiet
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                  centralpadiner RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 11:51 AM

                  A pop-up is where an up and coming chef, caterer, food truck business, etc. utilizes their space to host a restaurant style meal for one night. I think it sounds fun. But like I said, the schedule rarely would work out for us.

                  I definitely consider Citronelle and Maison special occasion places. McCleary's is the most likely place for us to go on a "I don't feel like cooking" night, unless we just throw in the towel and order pizza or Chinese.

                  Around here, so much depends on where you are. We are obviously western county. If my husband can get home early enough, we'll even make the trek to Home 231 for a nice but not particularly special "don't feel like cooking" night. That's in Harrisburg. But I would be unfamiliar with similar type places elsewhere.

                  My dad and other relatives in Lebanon would often say Trattoria Fratelli. My cousin in Lititz might choose Appalachian Brewing - but they are young and don't mind the noise. When we lived there when the kids were very young, Capriccio's Cafe worked well for us. My IL's live south of Lititz and MIL likes to go to Mojo for Asian. I haven't heard too much about the new places in that development between East Pete and Wetherburn (Richmond Sq?), but they might be worth looking into. The farther east in the county you go, the less I am familiar with. But, I think it just takes trying a few places out in your general area and accepting a lot of misses to find a hit you feel good going to again and again.

              2. re: Jessiet
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                Chowrin RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 06:54 AM

                Yes, of course such places exist.
                On Orange for one.
                El Serrano for another (I've only ordered chifa from here, wouldn't necessary recommend Mexican).

                1. re: Chowrin
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                  Jessiet RE: Chowrin Dec 8, 2013 07:10 AM

                  I haven't heard of "On Orange". Can't agree on El Serrano; think the building is lovely, but the food, not so much.

                  1. re: Chowrin
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                    centralpadiner RE: Chowrin Dec 8, 2013 08:30 AM

                    Neither of those places is the type to be featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, which is what I was referring to.

                    I've actually never made it to On Orange. I'd like to. I prefer the food upstairs in Culturas to El Serrano, personally. That place is almost so large, that I find it overwhelming.

                    1. re: centralpadiner
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                      Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 8, 2013 09:25 AM

                      Must try Culturas--so you recommend it? It's tapas, right?

                      1. re: Jessiet
                        CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 09:29 AM

                        ...and which leads me to ask, is there good, authentic Mexican food in Lancaster? El Serrano just doesn't make the cut.

                        1. re: CindyJ
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                          centralpadiner RE: CindyJ Dec 8, 2013 11:55 AM

                          Good question. I have yet to find something I am consistently happy with.

                          1. re: centralpadiner
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                            Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 8, 2013 12:24 PM

                            Can't think of one! I lived for a time i SanDiego, so I have a very high standard for Mexican. To me, the litmus test for a good Mexican place is their enchilada sauce. To be authentic, it must be made primarily with chile puree, and not too much of anything else. I don't know how far I'd have to travel to find one like that -- maybe Texas? Unfortunately, I am both a purist and perfectionist, so I'm really happiest when I can make all these things myself. Unfortunately, my health doesn't always cooperate. (In case you're curious -- Lyme Disease is a horrible thing!)

                            1. re: Jessiet
                              CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 01:39 PM

                              I live in Southern Chester County and we have a few really good, authentic Mexican restaurants. That has everything to do with the substantial Latino population in and around Kennett Square. We've got some great Mexican grocery stores, too.

                              And yes, I'm aware of the long-lasting effects of Lyme Disease -- deer ticks are a miserable fact of life in my area. I'm glad to hear that your health is improving.

                              1. re: CindyJ
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                                Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 8, 2013 01:53 PM

                                I would love a few names, please! You're probably only 40 minutes from us. I've been to at least one of the grocery stores when I was in the area, and picked up some locally made tortillas.

                        2. re: Jessiet
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                          centralpadiner RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 11:52 AM

                          Yes, it is not traditional Spanish Tapas. It is small plates with a S. American flavor. We enjoy it very much, especially with a group.

                      2. re: Chowrin
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                        Jessiet RE: Chowrin Dec 8, 2013 08:42 AM

                        Well, that was rude of me! I really do appreciate your input; thank you. I will check out "On Orange". What kind of a place is it? Casual atmosphere, I assume. What kind of food?

                        1. re: Jessiet
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                          Chowrin RE: Jessiet Dec 9, 2013 06:46 AM

                          I had it down as a good breakfast place.

                          For actual DDD food, the Lancaster Public Market has ya covered (so, some places don't do the Divey atmosphere...)

                          1. re: Chowrin
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                            centralpadiner RE: Chowrin Dec 9, 2013 07:34 AM

                            Do you mean Central Market, or is there a place called Public Market I've never heard of?

                            1. re: centralpadiner
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                              Chowrin RE: centralpadiner Dec 9, 2013 08:08 AM

                              Yeah, I mean the central market.
                              ;-)

                              1. re: Chowrin
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                                centralpadiner RE: Chowrin Dec 9, 2013 01:11 PM

                                Damn, I was hoping for a new restaurant CALLED Public Market. . . . oh well.

                                Still don't see how it fits the "D,D,D" bill. I think Jessie is looking for a neighborhood. upscale diner type place that she can go to once or twice a week without breaking the bank and still have good food. I actually think most of our diners and "family restaurants" are kinda weak, so I understand her struggle.

                                Still wearing my thinking cap on this . . .

                                Jessie - have you been to Brickerville House? It's latest iteration is more diner like. We do a monthly family breakfast there, so I can't really comment on dinner service. I do know that the owners used to own the Soda Jerk in Hummelstown and we enjoyed the Soda Jerk under their proprietorship more than we do now. Have you been to Oregon Dairy? I think that is one of the better "family restaurants" around. Because of our location we will go to Country Table if in the mood for that type of food. It is kinda a B-, but fits the bill sometimes.

                                But I think you need eastern county . . . Is there anyplace heading the other direction? Gap? Down into Chester Co.?

                                1. re: centralpadiner
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                                  Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 9, 2013 03:04 PM

                                  I haven't been to Brickerville House. I'll check it out. Oregon Dairy is just so-so, in my opinion, though once in a great while, go there to get a "Pennsy Dutch" fix. I must be really, really fussy. Really don't like Country Table. Seems blah to me. I think these kinds of places lack the foodie enthusiasm and good food in a Triple D place. Did you see my post on Ciro's? Wondering if you know anything about it. Thanks for all the thoughts. Pretty often, my husband will come home from work, and we'll want to eat out, and we won't have a clue where to go. Pathetic, in a town this size. So then, it's usually take-out from Wasabi (we're close by) or the drive to Saigon Cafe for take-out.

                                  1. re: centralpadiner
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                                    Chowrin RE: centralpadiner Dec 9, 2013 06:19 PM

                                    I don't watch a ton of TV, but the way I figure,
                                    A card table with a single artisan baker -- making better
                                    bread than I can get in Pittsburgh? That's impressive.

                                    It's maybe not the diner ambiance. But it fits the bill of "good food, cheap, skip the white tablecloths"

                                    1. re: Chowrin
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                                      centralpadiner RE: Chowrin Dec 10, 2013 04:38 AM

                                      True!

                                      1. re: Chowrin
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                                        Jessiet RE: Chowrin Dec 10, 2013 04:46 AM

                                        What am I missing here? Was this someone on Triple D? And where are they???

                                        1. re: Jessiet
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                                          centralpadiner RE: Jessiet Dec 10, 2013 05:32 AM

                                          No, I think Chowrin is just saying that you can get good, foodie food at Central Market stands. I'm not sure which baker she is specifically referring to (I like Thom's) but her point is that you can get very quality stuff there. It's just not a restaurant -- which is what you need, or are looking for.

                                          1. re: centralpadiner
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                                            Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 10, 2013 05:39 AM

                                            I really need to get out more! :)

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                        centralpadiner RE: Jessiet Dec 6, 2013 04:06 PM

                        I reviewed several Lancaster restaurants on my "date week" thread. Federal Taphouse might appeal for city dining that is mid-range.

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/912375

                        27 Replies
                        1. re: centralpadiner
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                          Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 6, 2013 08:35 PM

                          Enjoyed reading your reviews of these places. Don't do "noisy" too well, I'm afraid, so several of these wouldn't work for me. "Just here for the food, Ma'am"!

                          1. re: Jessiet
                            Bacchus101 RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 07:55 AM

                            Just a comment on your question regarding " a place where you can get great, really great food and dress casual". Yes, most certainly there are those places. The new normal even for very good restaurants, with a few exceptions in major east coast cities, is nice casual. How one defines that is however a bit subjective. It does mean no tie required, often no jacket required. Usually collarless shirts (tee shirts) or shorts are not allowed. Not all that familiar with the Lancaster dress codes but at JJJ last summer I did find a very relaxed dress code, actually a bit much for me but that is my take on tee shirts and shorts. There are many places in both Philadelphia and New York that I would not go with out a jacket, others dressed nicely do. I find no tie required anywhere unless an event at the restaurant is specified black or white tie or tie required. Interestingly I have often found dress codes requiring a jacket and or tie in the dinning room of better country clubs for meals other than lunch. The new norm is nice causal at most restaurants.

                            1. re: Bacchus101
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                              Jessiet RE: Bacchus101 Dec 8, 2013 08:23 AM

                              Thank you for your input, Bacchus101. I've been away from the dining out scene for about 20 years, so it sounds like the dress codes have changed quite a lot in that time, and that's wonderful (though I would agree with you re: the tee shirts and shorts). There are least a few places I need to try locally that purport to have very good food, and I'm anxious to try those. Wish there were more, though! Still looking for a "Triple D" kind of place, too. You know, a place to pop in and eat on the spur of the moment when I just don't want to cook at home.

                          2. re: centralpadiner
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                            Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Dec 9, 2013 08:47 AM

                            I am wondering if any of you have been to Ciro's? A couple of people have recommended it, but I don't know much about it, except that it's Italian. What do you think?

                            1. re: Jessiet
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                              centralpadiner RE: Jessiet Dec 9, 2013 01:11 PM

                              That is one of the Richmond Sq. options. I have never been or really heard anything about it, sorry.

                              1. re: Jessiet
                                CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 9, 2013 02:03 PM

                                I've been looking for decent Italian in Lancaster; maybe Ciro's is worth a try. It's a bit further than I usually travel on my weekly treks to Lancaster, but the menu looks pretty decent. I think I'll add it to my "try this place" list.

                                1. re: Jessiet
                                  CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 12, 2013 05:41 AM

                                  So we had dinner at Ciro's last night. My older-than-old GPS didn't even have Richmond Square on its maps but my phone got me there.

                                  It was okay -- not raveworthy, but okay. We shared an entree-size grilled romaine and pancetta salad for an app. I had the chicken marsala that came with a side of pasta, my husband had chicken picante, also served with pasta. Between the two, he made the better choice. There were a couple of inedibly tough mushroom stems in my dish. Dinner was fine, service was good -- not rushed. The restaurant itself is pleasant, and it was fairly busy last night. There's an open kitchen, which is interesting. Will we go back...? Maybe. I think if I were in a mood to travel back to that area, I'd be more likely to check out the Asian spot that's just up the street -- Blue Orchid.

                                  1. re: CindyJ
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                                    Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 12, 2013 05:51 AM

                                    So glad to know that you tried it--I've been wanting to go; several of my friends said it was really, really good. However, I am more prone to believe a CHOWer than them, since they are not died-in-the-wool foodies. We will probably try it after Christmas. Thanks for the input. Have you been to Trattoria Fratelli (Lebanon County)? We were there a long time ago, and enjoyed it (with a few exceptions). I'm pretty fussy, what can I say?

                                    1. re: Jessiet
                                      CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 12, 2013 10:00 AM

                                      It's possible that, compared to the other Italian food choices in the Lancaster area, Ciro's is "really, really good."

                                      No, I haven't been to Trattoria Fratelli. Without going into the whys and wherefores of it, my husband and I have dinner just about every week in Lancaster because of logistical circumstances. I live in southern Chester County, so Lebanon Co is a bit far from here.

                                      1. re: CindyJ
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                                        Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 12, 2013 11:05 AM

                                        You're right; our choices for Italian are very limited, sad to say. I don't think the bread at Fratelli was very good; not crusty enough, but as I say, it's been a long time. I understand your logistical problem. Do you go to The Whip? One of my daughter's favorites. In my mind, too many inebriated diners; otherwise, good food.

                                        1. re: Jessiet
                                          CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 12, 2013 01:22 PM

                                          I've been to the Whip many times. I do like their burgers and some of their entrees, but some of their food is really heavy -- fish & chips and their shepherd's pie, for example. I haven't noticed too many inebriated diners, although there are often a good number of Unionville-area locals having a good time.

                                          1. re: CindyJ
                                            sal_acid RE: CindyJ Dec 12, 2013 03:30 PM

                                            The Whip is a good but imperfect place. Its a reproduction of a British pub and looks the part. Lots of beers...no cocktails IIRC, and a menu with a bunch of fairly heavy UK comfort food. On a warm night the patio is lovely. On a cold night the pub is warm and just right. Lots of horsey women if they are your prey.

                                            But the parking sucks and the servers aren't great and it isn't cheap and the food is British pub chow.

                                            For me, lunch on a rainy day is just right. Dinner usually pisses me off for one reason or another.

                                            1. re: sal_acid
                                              CindyJ RE: sal_acid Dec 13, 2013 05:58 AM

                                              The U'ville "horsey set" likes to claim the Whip as their own, and the local residents have been bickering about the parking situation since the place opened. NOT that there's not miles and miles of parking available on the road -- more a matter of NIMBY.

                                              1. re: CindyJ
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                                                Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 13, 2013 10:58 AM

                                                Good to know the "score"!

                                              2. re: sal_acid
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                                                Jessiet RE: sal_acid Dec 13, 2013 10:58 AM

                                                Succinct!

                                                1. re: sal_acid
                                                  Bacchus101 RE: sal_acid Dec 17, 2013 06:53 AM

                                                  sal, has there been an addition of parking, in the last year or two, around the house directly next? Even with that the parking is definitely a problem. "...horsey women if they are your prey"..geez never thought of it that way. I have been fortunate to always have very good servers but have heard others complain. I have yet to find a better burger in the Philadelphia area. If one is looking for cheap this is not the place, exactly right. I too would rather lunch there. To quote the great Brit, Yogi Berra, " It is so busy no one goes there any more"

                                                  Footnote...With the name "the Whip" the decor, the horse racing tvs it would rather say the establishment claimed/ solicited the horsey set. As a unidentifiable horse owner ( never there in boots, britches or helmet) I have not noticed an equestrian takeover.

                                                  1. re: Bacchus101
                                                    Bacchus101 RE: Bacchus101 Dec 17, 2013 07:07 AM

                                                    BTW, if one is interested in making the great traverse if you go on a Tuesday parking is not a problem. The problem is the place is strangely closed on Tuesdays.

                                                    1. re: Bacchus101
                                                      sal_acid RE: Bacchus101 Dec 17, 2013 02:22 PM

                                                      Perhaps I've been there on hunt days. At least one day was when I was there. Lots 'o britches, tweed.

                                                      Parking is as bad as ever as far as I know.

                                                      You are right about the burgers. Their potato/cheddar soup, an occasional special, is great too.

                                                      1. re: sal_acid
                                                        Bacchus101 RE: sal_acid Dec 21, 2013 08:19 AM

                                                        Could have been a hunt or show. No argument here that there is/can be a significant group of riders. Guess the times I have been there I have not found them any more obstreperous or inebriated than any group one might find making merry at a pub. Admittedly my sampling of this event is somewhat limited to the few times a month I get there. Yes love the soup!

                                                        1. re: Bacchus101
                                                          sal_acid RE: Bacchus101 Dec 21, 2013 09:05 PM

                                                          You are there more than I.

                                                          I was tipped off on the place by the polo crowd who seem to be a bunch of bon vivants and good sports and fine company in general.

                                                          1. re: sal_acid
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                                                            Jessiet RE: sal_acid Dec 22, 2013 05:10 AM

                                                            We seem to have gotten a bit off the subject here. Any more comments on Lancaster County restaurants?

                                                            1. re: Jessiet
                                                              Bacchus101 RE: Jessiet Dec 22, 2013 06:36 AM

                                                              Fortunately for those in Lancaster Co. within minutes of crossing the county line to the east one can find some very good and interesting dining options; a number have been represented here. The additional comments regarding same are with and for those who might be interested in venturing into very near by establishments. If briefly crossing the county line is off subject, mea culpa.

                                                              1. re: Bacchus101
                                                                CindyJ RE: Bacchus101 Dec 22, 2013 06:58 AM

                                                                What would you consider as some examples of "very good and interesting dining options" that are within minutes of crossing the county line to the east? Maybe I don't know exactly where the county line is, but to my way of thinking, the distance between Lancaster and decent dining spots to the east is at least a half-hour's drive. Of the restaurants discussed here, the Whip is probably the closest to Lancaster County, but even that's a bit of a drive, and from Lancaster proper it's at least 30-40 minutes. Once you leave the outlet area, whether you're traveling east on Rt. 30 or Rt. 340, there's just not much of anything (except, of course, beautiful farmland). Or am I missing something?

                                                                1. re: CindyJ
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                                                                  Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 22, 2013 10:12 AM

                                                                  Agree, CindyJ. If someone wishes to begin a discussion on Chester County restaurants, that's fine. The focus on this one should be primarily Lancaster County.

                                                                  1. re: CindyJ
                                                                    Bacchus101 RE: CindyJ Dec 23, 2013 04:20 AM

                                                                    Yes as Jesslet suggest lets enforce those Lancaster Co. lines; as approval has been granted to start another thread. We will be sure going forward to limit all to only establishments therein. Based on those instructions what you may be missing will have to stay missed. No room for anything "out of the box" in Lancaster County.

                                                                    1. re: Bacchus101
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                                                                      Jessiet RE: Bacchus101 Dec 23, 2013 05:48 AM

                                                                      Merry Christmas, Bacchus101!

                                                              2. re: sal_acid
                                                                Bacchus101 RE: sal_acid Dec 22, 2013 06:26 AM

                                                                Ahh yes the polo crowd = bon vivants for sure!

                                        2. CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 08:58 AM

                                          "My real, pie-in-the-sky wish would be for a place where I can get great, really great food, and be able to dress casually. Price is not that important, really. Does such a place even exist?"

                                          I'd go out on a limb and say that your wish can be fulfilled at Ma(i)son. IMHO, food preparation and presentation are a cut above what I've come to expect in the Lancaster area. Also, the fact that it's BYO is a big plus for me. I haven't yet tried Citronelle, but my expectation is that it will be on par with Ma(i)son.

                                          Coming in at a close second for fine food in a relatively casual setting is JJJ. And for seafood, here's another vote for Gibraltar.

                                          In the category of mom-and-pop well-priced restaurants, we like Saigon Cafe for Vietnamese -- their soups are a full meal and quite good, and we prefer the atmosphere and service there to what we've found at Rice & Noodles.

                                          We recently discovered the Federal Taphouse and have enjoyed both the food and the vast beer selections available.

                                          I'm not a fan of the big buffets. Like sal_acid, I regard them more as tourist attractions than places that care about the food they serve.

                                          A couple of mid-range, okay quality places we go to regularly are Iron Hill Brewery and Annie Bailey's.

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: CindyJ
                                            j
                                            Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 8, 2013 12:00 PM

                                            Thanks, CindyJ. More and more excited to try Ma(i)son, then Citronelle. Agree totally on Saigon Cafe--we go there regularly for take-out. Federal Taphouse could be a bit problematic for me, having some difficulties with loudness. Agree also on buffets, with the exception of Dienners. Their food is exactly like the kind I grew up on; I think the quality of their entrees is very good; not so much for desserts. What can I say -- I'm a Pennsy Dutch girl! At least that is my roots; I have found so many other cuisines that, in my mind, are better. But don't we always hold a special place in our hearts for the comforts of what we knew as a child? I have been to Iron Hill and Annie Bailey's and would agree they are just "okay". Thanks for your input! It's really good when places keep being mentioned over and over; makes you sit up and take note! Also too bad there is not any good Mexican food place. I've learned to make my own though, for just this reason, and even taught some classes in "Tex Mex" some years back. So, when the urge comes on strong, I pull out the homemade enchilada sauce from the freezer, make some refried beans, and sometimes, do some chiles rellenos, as well. Good eats!

                                            1. re: Jessiet
                                              CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 01:54 PM

                                              Funny thing about Dienner's -- I pass right by there every week on my way to Lancaster. Ooooh... now that I've looked at their website I'm thinking that maybe I've looked at it before. They close at 6:00 PM during the week. Their hours just don't work with my schedule.

                                              1. re: CindyJ
                                                j
                                                Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 8, 2013 02:21 PM

                                                Yes, we normally eat late--8 to 9PM, so have to really bustle to get there before they close. Many Amish work there (which unfortunately, isn't necessarily a ringing endorsement), and my mouth is watering right now thinking about their fried chicken, mashed potatoes, baked limas, oh, and noodles with browned butter!

                                              2. re: Jessiet
                                                Bacchus101 RE: Jessiet Dec 8, 2013 02:59 PM

                                                Jessiet, It is a challenge finding good Mexican food in Pennsylvania, I am sure somewhere there is some but I surely donot know where. Strangely I have found some chains offer as close to good as I can find here. Chevy's which has a restaurant on every other block in Silicon Valley (offices there when living in SF) offers good enough but not great food and had an east coast outpost in Princeton. Other than that it is "random luck" in finding ones good spot. Love the TexMex too, good spots seem to be omnipresent in the Southwest. You have the best answer which is just "do it yourself". If you find a spot you like for Mexican please let me know. With your experience and knowledge I would highly regard your opinion.

                                                1. re: Bacchus101
                                                  sal_acid RE: Bacchus101 Dec 8, 2013 03:17 PM

                                                  I'm not one who likes Mexican food that much, but you might want to try Taqueria Moroleone in Kaolin/Avondale. There are always big crowds there and I've been told it is great. Its on Rt 41 almost into DE.

                                                  1. re: sal_acid
                                                    j
                                                    Jessiet RE: sal_acid Dec 8, 2013 04:22 PM

                                                    I'll be checking that out! Thanks for the tip!

                                                    1. re: sal_acid
                                                      CindyJ RE: sal_acid Dec 9, 2013 01:54 PM

                                                      Taqueria Moroleone my go-to Mexican place and I think it really is quite good. Very ample portions at very reasonable prices. Call ahead if you're going on a Friday or Saturday evening.

                                                      1. re: CindyJ
                                                        j
                                                        Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 9, 2013 03:48 PM

                                                        Oh. My. Goodness! I just checked out their menu--can't wait to go there! Do they have a stand-out item? Sounds w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l! Thank you. I'll let you know how we like it!

                                                        1. re: Jessiet
                                                          CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 9, 2013 04:01 PM

                                                          My two favorites are the fajitas and the chicken chimichanga, but I don't think I've ever had anything I didn't like there. A lot of the dishes look similar to other dishes although there are subtle differences. After you've had a chance to try Taqueria, let me know what you think.

                                                          1. re: CindyJ
                                                            c
                                                            centralpadiner RE: CindyJ Dec 9, 2013 04:22 PM

                                                            HA! I just checked the website. I've been there! My brother lives in Newark and he and his wife love that place. We went for his birthday once. So, another vote for that. In general, I think that area has lots of Mexican food options - or at least it always seems that way when we are on our way to their house...

                                                  2. re: Jessiet
                                                    a
                                                    ahab RE: Jessiet Dec 16, 2013 06:51 PM

                                                    La Borimex in Ephrata is probably the best Mexican we've had in the area. (Not exactly a lot of competition, I know.) Very casual place, a dozen or so tables in a Mexican store. Some hits, some misses, but misses are easily forgiven since we're happy to have a option other than the typical PA chain Mexican.

                                                    1. re: ahab
                                                      j
                                                      Jessiet RE: ahab Dec 17, 2013 07:04 AM

                                                      It's worth a try. I am surprised to not see more enchiladas on their menu. Am wondering if they do a red chile sauce on anything.

                                                      1. re: Jessiet
                                                        a
                                                        ahab RE: Jessiet Dec 18, 2013 06:29 PM

                                                        Not sure about the red chile sauce. I like their tacos, especially campechano (steak and chorizo). The alambre was good. Did have some tender grilled steak once that wasn't quite so tender. But fajitas have been good. And their two house salsas, red and green, are great.

                                                  3. re: CindyJ
                                                    c
                                                    centralpadiner RE: CindyJ Dec 8, 2013 12:02 PM

                                                    I agree with everything Cindy says here. Well . . . except that Saigon Cafe is better than Rice and Noodles. ;) But we've had that discussion before.

                                                    1. re: centralpadiner
                                                      CindyJ RE: centralpadiner Dec 8, 2013 01:44 PM

                                                      Time out, CentralPA -- I didn't say Saigon Cafe is BETTER -- only that I prefer the service and ambience to R&N :-) The tables are spaced more comfortably and you don't feel like you're being hurried through a meal at SC. We have learned, though, in both places, to order one course at a time. We order apps; when we're finished with them, THAT'S when we place our entree orders.

                                                  4. s
                                                    sballard RE: Jessiet Dec 10, 2013 01:08 PM

                                                    I have to concur with everyone's recommendations of Ma(i)son, JJJ, Gibraltar, and Citronelle. They are all fine restaurants and you couldn't really go wrong with any of them. However, I also tend to treat them as special occasion restaurants.

                                                    Another one I'll throw in is Pour on Prince. I think of it as kind of a grastropub. I find it to have a very comfortable atmosphere, small menu with good food (The Duck-Fat fries are awesome) and good drinks. I also very much enjoy their charcuterie and cheese selection.

                                                    In terms of DDD type places, there is one that comes to mind as having the potential to some day end up on that show. Its the new place in Mount Joy, called Zuckfoltzfus (I hate the name). They brew their own beer, and have a very small menu that rotates every 2 weeks. All of the food is fresh and everything is made in house. They make a lot of dishes that are pretty original and not all that common in these parts. So far, everything I've had there has been really well done. Their beer is very tasty as well. It is very casual, small, but also comfortable.

                                                    Also, in Mount Joy, on Main Street near the square, there is a little Mexican place that I've very much enjoyed.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: sballard
                                                      j
                                                      Jessiet RE: sballard Dec 10, 2013 02:35 PM

                                                      Their menu sounds very interesting, though, as you say, quite small. We will definitely put that one on the list; promising. My grandson enjoys Pour. I will have to try that as well. Duck-fat fries; how can that be bad?? Do you know the name of the Mexican place? Getting some very good tips here. Thank you very, very much!

                                                      1. re: Jessiet
                                                        s
                                                        sballard RE: Jessiet Dec 11, 2013 08:24 AM

                                                        Mexican place is called Tres Hermanos. It used to be a little grocery store/restaurant, but they remodeled a few years ago and now it is just a restaurant. Its pretty small, but doesn't get too crowded. Address is: 79 E. Main St, Mount Joy, pa.

                                                        There have been several occasions that I've had a wonderful dinner at Ma(i)son, then walked down the street to Pour to have duck fat fries for dessert.

                                                    2. CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 18, 2013 05:42 AM

                                                      Ahhhh... another Wednesday, another search for dinner dining inspiration. I wish there were some decent restaurants in the vicinity of the outlet mecca. Or even just one.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: CindyJ
                                                        sal_acid RE: CindyJ Dec 18, 2013 05:48 AM

                                                        I had a beautiful dinner last night at Wm & Merry. Charcuterie plate followed by a pork tenderloin with a spanish chorizo sauce and sweet potatoes. But this is nowhere near the outlets. Burger King perhaps?

                                                        1. re: sal_acid
                                                          CindyJ RE: sal_acid Dec 18, 2013 06:45 AM

                                                          W&M is a stone's throw from where I live. We've only been there once, but we'll definitely go back. We really did enjoy it -- food, service, ambience -- all excellent.

                                                          There used to be a place called Asian Bistro in the outlet area, and that was most often our mid-week, mid-way dinner spot. We especially liked that it was BYO. But they closed a couple of years ago. I could never understand why places like Applebees and the Texas Roadhouse, in the same location as Asian Bistro, had lines out the door while the Bistro could barely fill a half-dozen tables. Oh, well...

                                                          BK, eh? I'd sooner go to Olive Garden.

                                                          1. re: CindyJ
                                                            j
                                                            Jessiet RE: CindyJ Dec 18, 2013 07:46 AM

                                                            Asian Bistro was definitely superior to Applebee's, but had other problems. 1) food was good, but inconsistent. 2) some of the waitstaff wouldn't leave customers alone to enjoy their meals--a real chatterbox, and somewhat annoying. Still, too bad they couldn't make it .

                                                            1. re: Jessiet
                                                              CindyJ RE: Jessiet Dec 18, 2013 08:28 AM

                                                              "some of the waitstaff wouldn't leave customers alone to enjoy their meals--a real chatterbox, and somewhat annoying..."

                                                              I know EXACTLY what you mean. We'd often end up with the owner/chef AND the server/hostess sitting with us, or standing alongside our table chatting. There were times when we decided ahead of time that we wouldn't allow ourselves to be drawn into a conversation with them. In the last year or so that the restaurant was there, the food had become noticeably inconsistent, and it was pretty obvious that they wouldn't be able to sustain the business for much longer.

                                                      2. m
                                                        mizzyfreak7 RE: Jessiet Jan 11, 2014 10:01 PM

                                                        Hi Jessie- It seems like you've received many excellent recommendations, so I'd just like to add a few more to your list- Cocina Mexicana on Prince Street, Fenz Restaurant and Bar, and Checkers Bistro. For breakfast/lunch- Grand Central Bagel, Isaac's, and Taj Mahal (for the buffet). I'm new to chowhound and it seems like you've been around and may have already been to these locations, but they're some of my faves!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: mizzyfreak7
                                                          j
                                                          Jessiet RE: mizzyfreak7 Jan 12, 2014 08:28 AM

                                                          I've been to several of them, but not others. Is Fenz still open? I thought they had closed. Thanks so much for the recommendations. We are regulars at the Taj Mahal buffet. It's consistently good, with excellent service, and a great price! Welcome to chowhound!

                                                          1. re: Jessiet
                                                            m
                                                            mizzyfreak7 RE: Jessiet Jan 12, 2014 10:25 AM

                                                            Yes, as far as I know- I haven't been there in a while but their webpage seems to indicate that they're still operational. Thanks so much for the welcome, and enjoy the many excellent opportunities Lancaster has for great eats!

                                                        2. w
                                                          Worldwide Diner RE: Jessiet Apr 28, 2014 06:32 PM

                                                          I'm a little confused. People have recommended Gibraltar and then bemoaned the lack of good Italian. Is Gibraltar not Italian enough or not good? I have reservation at JJJ but I'm thinking about switching to Gibraltar because I love seafood. Can anyone comment on the pasta at Gibraltar, especially the lobster fettucine? Setting aside personal preference for the type of food, is one restaurant really better than the other?

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Worldwide Diner
                                                            m
                                                            mizzyfreak7 RE: Worldwide Diner Apr 28, 2014 07:26 PM

                                                            I would say Gibraltar is more Mediterranean as opposed to Italian. Seafood is definitely their specialty, and they have some Asian fusion elements as well. If seafood is what you want, Gibraltar may be your best bet. JJJ has a stronger emphasis on farm-to-table, and fish is not a huge industry in this area, so there is not much focus on seafood on their menu. In my recent experience (Gibraltar has evolved over the years), the dining experience at these two restaurants is very similar. I would argue that the chefs at JJJ show greater creativity than those at Gibraltar, and this is particularly apparent through the seasonal menu. However, our family has been eating at Gibraltar for years, and find them to be a reliable, classic standard in the area. Hope this info helps you in your decision-making, and if you have any questions, just let me know.

                                                            1. re: mizzyfreak7
                                                              c
                                                              centralpadiner RE: mizzyfreak7 Apr 29, 2014 05:23 AM

                                                              I just want to say that I agree with everything Mizzy said 100%. When I think of Gibraltar, I do not think of Italian at all, but I do think of wonderful seafood.

                                                              I don't think I could say that one is necessarily better than the other, because they are so different.

                                                              1. re: centralpadiner
                                                                j
                                                                Jessiet RE: centralpadiner Apr 29, 2014 06:50 AM

                                                                Agree!

                                                          2. w
                                                            Worldwide Diner RE: Jessiet May 4, 2014 08:54 AM

                                                            JJJ was pretty good. I had some razor clams, shrimp & grits, and beef & scallop carpaccio. Only complaint is the razor clams - they should've removed the guts.

                                                            I also went to the Fridge and Hunger 'n Thirst, hoping to watch the NBA play-offs - no luck. I was thinking good food, great beer, and sports - but I guess they don't mix.

                                                            1. q
                                                              QuakerInBoston RE: Jessiet May 29, 2014 09:02 AM

                                                              Not to bag on the area, but I lived in Lancaster for 4 years and I do not miss the lack of dining options. I grew up in Philly and now live in Boston. Granted they are 10x+ as big as Lancaster, but going from tons of options to few options back to tons of options really makes you appreciate what a big city can offer.

                                                              I read Craig Laban's article and it made it seem like there was a huge culinary revival happening in Lancaster but then only focuses on the two restaurants repeated here (JJJ and Ma(i)son) as the prime examples. I'm glad the city is adding more, as I spent some pretty important years of my life there, and it holds a special place with me to this day.

                                                              When I was last living in the area (10ish years ago) Haydn Zug's was the "fine dining" choice for many/most for celebrations. Apparently it closed?

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: QuakerInBoston
                                                                a
                                                                ahab RE: QuakerInBoston Jun 4, 2014 01:10 PM

                                                                Well, with the addition of these restaurants and some others, dining certainly has improved in Lancaster since you lived in the area. A huge revival? I don't know. But it's more than just JJJ and Maison. Options are obviously still far more limited than in larger cities like Philly and Boston. But then options in Philly and Boston are more limited than in NY and LA... So, living in Lancaster (or anywhere), you make the most of what you have. In Lancaster, you pick up fresh organic vegetables from a co-op a couple of miles from your home on the farm where they were grown. You buy your meat from another nearby farm where the animals were raised and you know what they were fed. You cook a little more, eat out a little less, make some trips to Philly, NY, and DC, and appreciate when a good new restaurant comes along close to home.

                                                                1. re: ahab
                                                                  j
                                                                  Jessiet RE: ahab Jun 4, 2014 03:21 PM

                                                                  Nice post, ahab! Things are definitely changing in Lancaster; in fact, an article in Philly.com states that the "Lancaster food scene is totally happening". He even compares its vibe to Brooklyn! The thrust of the article is that Lancaster has long grown, bred and raised wonderful and unique product that had been previously shipped to Philadelphia, New York, and other places as well. Wonderful heirloom and organic veg, organic poultry and grass-fed beef, lamb, venison, etc. In fact, Lancaster has some of the finest soil in the United States! Finally, a restaurateur figured out that with all the wonderful meats and vegetables right here, a fine restaurant would be a very good idea indeed. I had long lamented the food scene in my hometown of Lancaster, but it is indeed changing. There is even a new rye distillery called Thistle Finch. Another noteworthy restaurant is Citronnelle, an upscale dining eatery that is very good. I have so often, in the past, eaten at a "fine dining" establishment only to wish I had stayed home and cooked a much finer meal in my own kitchen. That is changing and I, for one, am so glad. Go Lancaster!

                                                                2. re: QuakerInBoston
                                                                  j
                                                                  Jessiet RE: QuakerInBoston Jun 4, 2014 03:27 PM

                                                                  I want to mention that though the article only mentions several upscale eateries, there are many, many more options in Lancaster now. It seems every time I drive downtown, I am surprised by some new restaurant that I hadn't seen before. If you haven't been in Lancaster in ten years, you would be very surprised at the changes in this area. I believe this will continue, now that Lancaster has had a chance to savor really good food. I don't know about Haydn Zug's. It was never that good, in my opinion; highly overrated. That said, there is no comparison to the options available in a large city such as Boston, and you are indeed blessed to live there!

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