At this point I’ve written several posts specifically about how to eat and drink your way to obesity in Lancaster, and this post is going to be no different. There really is plenty to do besides eat and drink in Lancaster, however it is home to some very good food, very good beer, and it seems like every time I go back to visit, another few restaurants, shops, and bars have opened, practically begging me to try them, (not to mention getting my fill of old favorites).
My last visit to Lancaster was mid-June, to celebrate my mother’s last day of school (she’s a teacher for those of you whose own teachers failed them on the use of context clues). I had a Friday off, she had a day free, and had been bugging me to take her to Lancaster for the past few weeks, since I’d been recently with a friend and had shared several pictures on Instagram, and she herself has Instagram, as she fancies herself to be not like the other moms, but a cool one. Lancaster is a perfect day trip from Scranton. It’s a 2.5 hour drive, so it’s easy to get there early, have a full day, and then be back at a reasonable hour; it’s really a great trip anywhere within a 2-3 hour driving range. Our game plan was to arrive around noon, walk around a couple of places, and be back on the road for 6 or 7, because she had something planned for the next morning, and I had a wedding.
Our first stop was Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, 20 minutes north of downtown Lancaster. I’d always heard good things about Waltz, but avoided it myself the five years I called Lancaster home, as I was teaching English at Manheim Central High School, just a couple miles down the road during that time. Being a young teacher always means struggling with student boundaries and winning respect, so I tended to avoid anywhere one of them might see me in any state of intoxication.
I grew up in a very rural setting, so don’t get all hot and bothered by pastoral-type landscapes, but Lancaster is objectively very pretty. I think part of this is because its farms and fields seem so, well, landscaped. Everything is neat. Everything is well maintained. Everything looks like a painting of a farmscape. It makes for some very visually arresting scenery, and Waltz Vineyards was a perfect place to take that in. The winery is on the top of a hill just outside Manheim (it’s very well marked with signs everywhere if your GPS, like mine, was being weird). I’m not a big wine person, so I don’t want to comment on their selection (everything I had was either “not too bad” or “not too awful”), but I did like that they had a large selection of cheese and chocolate to accompany the tasting. My mom ended up getting a bottle, and if we didn’t have other places to go, we might’ve gotten two glasses and sat outside. I’d actually be open to returning here to do just that, either for a casual visit, or on one of the nights they host movies or bands.
Instead of going right down to Lancaster, we decided to stop in Lititz to do some shopping (and of course, more eating). Lititz is just north of Lancaster, and a destination in its own right, being named “Coolest Small Town” by Budget Traveler back in 2013 (a fact they’re very proud of-it’s still plastered everywhere, including that website if you clicked the link). Keeping with this superlative theme, the Bulls Head bar , somewhere I spent enough time when I lived down here, has recently been named “best craft beer bar in PA,” by craftbeer.com, and so there’s currently new banners all over proclaiming that.
Despite frequenting the Bull’s Head back in the day, utilizing both Lititz’s driving range and Weis Markets on a semi-regular basis, and going to the Appalachian Brewing Company location there a couple of times, I never really walked around downtown, where, if shopping is your thing, you could probably kill a good 2-3 hours, so this was something new for me. We walked into a couple of stores to satiate my mother, but aside from a pretty decent cupcake shop, nothing to really report here, that is until we stumbled upon the Rooster St. Butcher’s. As soon as we drove down water street and saw the “Meat, Shop, Eat” sign, I knew it’d be love.
Rooster Street Butcher is an artisanal butcher shop that actually opened in Elizabethtown my last year in Lancaster, which I remember really wanting to visit (they had all sorts of cool butcher-inspired classes advertised back then), but since I was getting ready to move home, I didn’t have the time. Since then, they’ve opened a stall in Lancaster Central Market, and opened this new shop in Lititz, which includes fresh, locally produced produce available for purchase, a menu of sandwiches, a phenomenal looking charcuterie board I would have sampled if I wasn’t with my mother (she pretty much only eats chicken), and still holds classes from time to time. If anyone out there is one of the people who purchases Christmas gifts for me: get my a butchering class. I’d love it, and then probably never actually use any of the skills I learned, but love it nonetheless. I bought some burgers, and a menagerie of brats, some which ended up being good, some just ok. The spicy sheep burgers though? Excellent. I would pick those up on a weekly basis if I still lived down there, especially because this is located just off of what was then my daily commute. I wish there was somewhere like this close to me. I’d spend so much time and money there.
We headed to Lancaster afterwards, and here there’s really not going to be a lot of new things to report, as I hit a lot of old favorites. We had lunch at Lancaster Brewing Company, one of my favorite places downtown to grab a few pints and some food. I did try a new beer, Grapefruit Cream Ale, which was in my opinion, one of their few misses, but also had a chocolate strawberry beer, which is Lancaster Double Chocolate Milk Stout, mixed with their excellent Strawberry Cream Ale, a mix which you could only purchase in house (I’ve tried to replicate this at home, but to no avail). After lunch, we walked around Central Market for a bit, and bought way too many pastries, and I stopped for a solo beverage at Spring House taproom, while my mom did a bit more shopping.
We stopped for a drink on the roof of Tellus 360, and then hit our best (and only new) find of the day, the newly opened Barbaret Bakery immediately next door, a French inspired bakery underneath the also new French-inspired 26 East bistro. I’ve never had a better macaron ever. Seriously. They were $1.95 for a cookie the size of a nickel, and I easily would have bought between 10-20. I wish I had some photos to show you, but these bad boys did not last long.
Anyone else out there reading been to Lancaster recently? Where are some of your favorite places to eat or drink? Next time I’m in town I really want to try dinner at the American Bar and Grille (they’ve updated their menu since I’ve been there and it looks phenomenal), or the Horse Inn, as I’ve read good things. There’s also the Black Forest Brewery out in Ephrata that opened after I left, as well as POUR, which I’ve drank in before, but never ate at. I’ll stop now.