I’m going to make the bold statement that at the moment, Lancaster is 100% the coolest city in Pennsylvania…that no one’s ever heard of.
Hear me out. Whenever I tell people I used to live in Lancaster, the most common reaction still is to ask if I lived by the Amish. Most people are surprised to find out that Lancaster isn’t just a county, but a city as well. And they seem even more surprised when I tell them how much I loved living there, and when I explain all the awesome things there always were to do, explore, eat, and drink. If they have been there before, it’s as a child, and they did an Amish Buggy Tour, or ate at Shady Maple. Even those people are surprised when I tell them I lived a very urban existence in Lancaster. I tell them I can’t believe they’ve never been, because it’s so cool, but average Pennsylvanian doesn’t seem to realize Lancaster city is cool, because they don’t even realize that Lancaster city exists.
When I first moved to Lancaster, I unfortunately didn’t think it was that great. I also didn’t realize it existed before my move. Anyway, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this misplaced disdain before. I was young and stupid, and didn’t give Lancaster a real chance that first year. When it became clear I’d be there a second year, I told myself I was going to have to start exploring, and found places like the Central Market, Lancaster Brew Co. & Stubby’s. This place is pretty cool, I thought. I began to enjoy living here, and every year I was there, it seemed like not only did I stumble across new spots to explore, but that all sorts of new breweries, shops, restaurants, markets, and events begin to pop up. When I left Lancaster, I was certain it had reached an apex of cool.
I was wrong.
Each time I came back down to visit, there are more and more positive additions to downtown Lancaster. Every town I come down, and think I’m not going to be impressed, it just happens again. And I keep waiting to go down and revel in the familiar, and not be blown away by the new, but that hasn’t yet happened. I was lucky enough to spend a few hours there a couple of weeks ago, and once again left telling everyone I ran into over the course of the next few days, how cool Lancaster is, and how they have to plan a visit ASAP.
Here’s what I did:
Upon arriving in Lancaster, I headed immediately to Springhouse Taproom. Lancaster has a great beer scene, and Springhouse is my favorite brewery. Luckily, the rest of the state has started to pick up on this, and so Springhouse Beer, and LBC beer is readily available where I’m at now. My favorite small town bar recently had LBC milk stout on special and I was elated. Springhouse is always coming up with great new stuff though, so I wanted to see what they had on tap. I had “Juicy Joop,” a fruity IPA, that was very tasty. I sat at the bar by their King St. window, and enjoyed a great new beer with one of my old favorite views.
I finished my beer, and did a little shopping in the are surrounding Central Market. I stopped at Ric’s Bread and picked up some home made English Muffins, which I love, and miss, and then stumbled upon two new stores. The first was Ellicott and Company, on Market Street, just up the block from Springhouse. Ellicott & Co. definitely errs on the hipster side of cool, but nothing about it made me want to roll my eyes, or piss it off by throwing Justin Bieber on the jukebox. The crux of the shop is that they sell all local/handmade goods, and there was plenty of knic-nacs and clothing items to peruse. I’m lucky I only had one Juicy Joop, because otherwise I might’ve got a bit wild. I found this awesome tee-shirt superimposed with a street map of Lancaster’s downtown, which I bought without hesitation.
Foxduck Print was the second find. It’s a graphic design company, which super topically makes t-shirts celebrating Lancaster. And these are not corny, oversized tourist trap T’s, but rather quality T-shirts one would actually wear. I didn’t purchase anything, because I was trying to be responsible, but will more likely get something of theirs online sometime soon.
Then I stopped back in and had another Juicy Joop. Whoops.
While I was at Springhouse, I overheard some gentleman talking about the new cidery that just opened, so quickly googled that, and realized it was less than a block away. I walked over, parked myself at the bar, and asked for a sample flight. I also asked when they’d opened, since I’d never heard of them before, and I generally keep up with the comings and going of the area. The answer was yesterday, which explained that. I’m happy to report that Levengoods of Lancaster makes four very tasty ciders. My favorite was the cherry. I also like, and think it’s smart, that they have a few local beers on tap. The place is on the small side, but looks like it’d be a cool place to hang out. I chatted with the guy tending bar a bit. Like me, he wasn’t from here, and we talked about how much Lancaster had grown since we’d settled in.
My next stop was Tellus 360, because it was a gorgeous day, and I’m a fan of their roof deck. I’ve seen Tellus blossom from a small store selling reclaimed woods, to the behemoth it is today, and like Lancaster, didn’t think it could top itself. Again, I was wrong. The roof deck, which I’ve spent ample time on, has completely transformed from a small bar and sitting area that occupies the front of the building, to an absolutely gorgeous fully occupied roof with a full bar, plenty of seating, and private, dare I say almost cabana style booths. This was when I officially started texting people that Lancaster has reached peak coolness.
I had three stops, and two more discoveries to make.
I’ll get the old one out of the way first. I went to LBC to get one of their chocolate-strawberry beers. It’s a mix of their strawberry wheat ale, and their chocolate milk stout, and try as I have, to replicate it with the bottles at home, it does not work. You need to get this from the source. It is out of control good.
The first new discovery was that the Cigar Bar located next door to Springhouse, was not just a Cigar Bar, but a fully functioning bar, with an interesting looking Latin influenced menu (ok, so scrub interesting, their food looks really good). The second was the Horse Inn, a Lancaster landmark that has been open forever, but shuttered down for a couple of years, which happened to be the ones I spent living just blocks away. I had an excellent cheeseburger (seriously, probably a top-10 cheeseburger experience), and enjoyed their “$2.00 surprise beer” gimmick more than I should’ve.
Seriously though Lancaster, when are you going to stop? I feel like it’s not anytime soon. I also feel like a Horse Inn t-shirt is what I should get from Foxduck, and it didn’t even take a Springhouse beer buzz to make that decision.