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Restaurants in Lancaster

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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  1. 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

      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. 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. 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

          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.

        2. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                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

                  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

                    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

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

                      1. re: Jessiet

                        ...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

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

                          1. re: centralpadiner

                            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

                              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

                                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

                          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

                        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

                          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

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

                            1. re: centralpadiner

                              Yeah, I mean the central market.
                              ;-)

                              1. re: Chowrin

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

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

                                        1. re: Jessiet

                                          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.

                      3. 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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                            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

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

                              1. re: Jessiet

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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: sal_acid

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                          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

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

                                                            1. re: Jessiet

                                                              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

                                                                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

                                                                  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

                                                                    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.

                                                              2. re: sal_acid

                                                                Ahh yes the polo crowd = bon vivants for sure!