When people hear the words “Lancaster, Pennsylvania,” they usually think of a few choice things: quilts, cows, barnstorming, and the Amish. It is my mission to break this stereotype because it’s only going to a college out of state that has made me realize just how fantastic my hometown can be. It’s busting with international culture, lively entertainment, great people, and a lot of booze and baked goods.
Johanna Caruthers is a senior English major at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She likes unicorns, baking, poetry, and roller skating.
The Best Home for Francophones
309 N. Queen Street // (717) 399-3515
Crepes make everything taste better. Period. End of argument. In addition, crepes taste better when they are eaten in a small cafe that is decorated in Toulouse Lautrec and playing Edith Piaf. Therefore, Rachel’s Creperie is the perfect place in Lancaster to enjoy this particular French fare. The menu has a wide range of choices for any palate to explore; the cooks in the kitchen can, and will seemingly put anything on a crepe. There are breakfast crepes stuffed with eggs, cheese and various pork products (we’re talking high-quality French sausage, not Spam). There are also signature crepes that mix together decadent ingredients such as smoked salmon, brie, and red pepper hummus. The pride of the restaurant has to be the dessert crepes, many of which include the a thick coat of Nutella, a chocolate and hazelnut spread. The food isn’t the only thing that keeps people coming back. The atmosphere is particularly Parisian, with high cabaret tables perfect for a date night or a solo lunch for one.
Must Order: Tarragon-Infused Ham and Brie Crepe
The Best Place for Catch Up on Your Reading
Pemberley Tea Shop
443 N. Mulberry Street // (717) 394-4840
For those (poor) readers who don’t recognize the literary allusion in the name, Pemberley is the name of Mr. Darcy’s mammoth estate in Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. And for those (again, poor) readers who don’t know who Mr. Darcy is, he is one-half of the ultimate romance of all time. Don’t fret if you aren’t familiar with Austen’s novel because Pemberley Tea Shop proves to be one of the best places to catch up on any essential reading your schooling may have glossed over. The quiet atmosphere lends itself quite well to thinking, reading, and polite conversation. Small tables have their own unique place settings, no one teacup matching another. The menu of teas available is impressive and they pair extremely well with the small sandwiches and baked goods that are made fresh by their small staff every day, including pasta salads, fluffy quiches, and even artisan pizzas. Previously, they were only open until 4:00 PM on weekdays but they have newly extended their hours on Thursday nights, a perfect opportunity to crack the spine on that book you swore to read months ago.
Must Order: Fresh tomato and leek frittata, Kenya black tea
The Best Place in Town, Period.
Lancaster Central Market
23 N. Market Street
Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday are sacred in Lancaster City. These three days are the only mornings that Central Market is open. While some may think this bothersome, the dedicated farmer’s market crowd understands that scarcity is what makes something worthwhile. The market is the country’s oldest continuously operating farmer’s market, which is great because if there were three months out of the year that it was closed, serious rioting would ensue. Individual stands sell a wide array of products, from traditional Pennsylvania Dutch fare to delicate Italian desserts, hand-stitched pot-holders and aprons to eco-friendly soy candles, and triple shot espressos to unicorn sugar cookies. One doesn’t even have to buy anything to enjoy the experience of market; sometimes the best part of the market is the people that you meet. Each vendor has a story and is more than willing to share it, and the demographic of customers provides countless hours of people-watching, which makes getting up at 6:00 AM completely worth it.
Must Order: Cardamon cookies from Saifie’s Middle Eastern Food, unicorn magic cookies from Wendy Jo’s Homemade, Fluffernutter Latte at Mean Cup
The Best Place to Call “Om”
Evolution Power Yoga
398 Harrisburg Avenue // (717) 391-1060
The idea of yoga in a heated studio can be particularly intimidating. The image of a person getting all bent up into strange positions and being told to hold these poses while sweat trickles off his or her nose is not a welcoming thought to most. However, after all of the hustling and bustling the above stops are going to cause, relaxation is the one thing you’re probably going to need. At Evolution, they don’t care about your level of experience or past knowledge of yoga. All the instructors wish to provide is a place of playful practice and deep meditation. Every teacher is very enthusiastic about helping their students reach their fullest potential, while also helping them rest their overworked minds. The classes available include traditional vinyasa yoga, as well as classes for children and courses strictly used for meditation and breath control. Oh, and the heat is one of the most helpful factors, allowing your muscle to stretch further and purifying the body through tremendous amounts of sweating. It may not be pretty, but it’s totally worth it.
The Best Place for the Lactose Tolerant
Carmen and David’s Creamery
25 N. Prince Street
It just makes sense that a county full of farmland and cows is also home to some pretty bangin’ ice cream. While there are Cold Stones and Maggie Moos in the area, Carmen and David’s Creamery is the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae. First of all, every ice cream they offer is made in the shop, which adheres to the theme of food freshness in Lancaster. This would be pretty impressive even if they only provided the usual gamut of flavors. However, their menu boasts more than two dozen unique flavors. You can take your favorites home in pints or quarts or enjoy your snack in the colorful sitting areas that feel more like your living room than a restaurant. The ice cream is served in a dish or a cone with all of the toppings given free of charge. Carmen and David go the extra mile to preserve the magic of ice cream, which keeps their customers coming back again and again. Endless free samples doesn’t hurt either.
Must Order: Salted Carmel Cone (with rainbow sprinkles, of course)
The Best Place to Park Your Gondola
La Dolce Vita Courthouse Bakery
9 N. Duke Street // (717) 239-5101
Much like Rachel’s, when you step through the squeaky wooden door of this shop, it’s as if you stepped into Narnia. While there is no Mr. Tumnus greeting you with a red umbrella, there are enough brightly lit glass cases full of delicious treats to transport you from downtown Dutch country to a small Italian village. Each of these cases contains different types of delicacies: the first has heavy cheesecakes, colorful fruit tarts, and exploding cannolis, the second contains all forms of pastel-washed cookies, and the third holds fluffy danishes and crisp elephant ears the size of your face. The gurgle and hiss of the pumping expresso machine pairs well with the soft sounds of the Three Tenors playing from the kitchen. While the baked goods are the creme de la creme of La Dolce Vita, they also offer light lunch plates and thick, creamy gelato, perfect for hot summer nights in the piazza of your mind.
Must Order: Profiterols
The Best Place for (Authentic) Mexican Cuisine
La Cocina Mexicana
47 N. Prince Street // (717) 393-9193
I know what you’re thinking: “You’re going to tell me my tastebuds are going to be transported around the world again, aren’t you?” And yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to say but trust me, the jetlag will be worth the trip. La Cocina Mexicana is not the normal Mexican restaurant because unlike the North Americanized Taco Bell and Chipotle, the chefs here produce traditional Central American cuisine (you didn’t think that Frito Burrito was legitimate, did you?). The restaurant is small and placed next to a seedy adult store which causes many passersby to do what they do best. However, taking the chance to stop in for a quick queso pays off. The dishes are relatively light and the pricing is a pocketbook’s dream, making it that much more socially acceptable to order two or seven or eleven different items. And who doesn’t want more Mexican? Exactly.
Must Order: Enchiladas tapatias
The Best Place for a Quick Pint
Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub
28-30 E. King Street // (717) 393-4000
By this point in our Tasting Tongue Tour 2012, you are probably in need of a stiff drink, and everyone knows the best place for a good brew is an Irish pub. Annie’s brings the culture and liveliness of Dublin downtown. You’re greeted on the street by a large, hanging Guinness advertisement, the first piece of evidence that this place will treat you well. It’s loud inside, but not Greasy Spoon Loud or Dive Bar Loud. It’s the culminating noise of friendly conversation, quick cooking, and the clinks and clangs of silverware on place settings and tall glasses on the bar. And Annie’s offers more than just delicious booze (and believe me: there’s booze). They have an extensive menu of food found in most Kilkenny kitchens, including small plates of Galway Shrimp, thick slabs of steak, and signature dishes of bangers and mash and stout-soaked meatloaf. When you leave, you might be a bit tipsy, but the new friends you will make that night will be certain to help you home.
Must Order: Bangers and mash, and a pint of Guinness
The Best Place to Get Over a Hangover
The Fractured Prune
255 N. Queen Street // (717) 517-7113
In past experience, I’ve found that the best cure for a hangover is a delicate combination of carbohydrates, fat, sugar, and caffeine. The donuts found at The Fractured Prune provide all this, and are sometimes covered in rainbow sprinkles (which is a definite bonus). The bakers here are dedicated to the experience of donut euphoria. Their menu includes a lengthy list of signature donuts, all with creative names like O.C. Sand and Morning Buzz. And those names don’t disappoint: these breakfast cakes are dunked and dipped into various toppings and glazes, such as strawberry glaze, maple syrup, marshmallow, peanut butter chips, and coconut. Each donut is made-to-order, so the warm bites calm an alcohol-abused stomach. The shop’s mascot—a beat-up and broken prune person—makes the regretful imbiber feel like he or she is in good company, quelling the shame of having to wear sunglasses indoors.
Must Order: The Morning Buzz donut (mocha glaze, Oreo cookie crumbs)
The Best Place to Do the Time Warp Again
310 N. Queen Street // (717) 299-0827
I promised we weren’t traveling around the world anymore… but I didn’t say anything about traveling back in time. If Pinterest.com was a store, it would be Mommalicious. This vintage store reigns queen in all things cute, quirky, and crafty. In the front half of the shop, old peeling cabinets display hand-crafted merchandise created by local artists and designers. They have an almost obscene amount of kitschy stationary and cards, making any holiday or birthday that much more celebratory, and glass cases chock full of vintage candies, including Unicorn lollipops, Lemonheads, and Clove chewing gum. The back half of the store is where the space-time continuum gets a little muddled. The merchandise includes quality pieces from all over the twentieth century (I lusted over a pair of 1930’s dance heels for over a month). In addition to the fabulous wardrobe pieces, they also sell scarves, ties, handbags and pillbox hats. However, I must provide a warning with this review: you may walk out of the joint looking like a member of the Draper household. If you can’t handle the admirers and the longing stares, proceed with caution.
The Best Place for A Little Night Music
The Fulton Opera House
12 N. Prince Street // (717) 397-7425
I have been a self-proclaimed theater geek for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, whenever I talk to other theater geeks about shows, they all usually seem to have a heavy bias in favor of New York City. Now, I’ll give the Big Apple its due respect; American theater culture has blossomed tremendously, all thanks to the good folks on Broadway. However, this doesn’t mean the only worthwhile acting happens only on that avenue. Enter, stage right: the Fulton Opera House. The Fulton provides fantastic talent, breathtaking set design, and moving musical accompaniment at the fraction of the cost of Broadway tickets. They do a wide array of shows, from funny musicals to captivating foreign dramas to traditional Shakespearian plays. They have special events planned throughout the run of a show, too, such as wine tastings and philosophical discussions which happen after the curtain’s dropped in one of the plush lounge areas. With culture right here at your fingertips, New York may be a wonderful town, but it’s a heck of a trip to get there. Especially by horse and buggy.
The Best Place for Bisque
The Pottery Works
16 W Orange Street // (717) 299-9963
Just how crepes make everything taste better and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s love story is flawless, it’s a well-known fact that all meals and snacks are best eaten off of a real plate. In college, it’s easy to get sucked into a paper and styrofoam rut. I once knew a guy who would only use disposable plasticware because then there were no dishes for him to do. Yeah, I wasn’t friends with this guy for long. And if we think about it rationally, disposable things become expensive and are ecologically harmful. The Pottery Works is here to help in our plight. They have shelves and shelves of unpainted bisque pieces of pottery, just waiting for your creative genius to grace them with greatness. They have plates, mugs, cocktail glasses, and ice cream bowls but if kitchen items aren’t your jam, they also have dragons, piggy banks, picture frames, and Disney princesses at the ready. They have special nights where they take percentages off pieces, too. For example, Bring Your Own Bottle Night knocks your total down if you bring a bottle of wine to share while you paint. Need I convince you any more that this is a pretty awesome place?
The Best Place to Shake Your Bonbon
50 N. Queen Street // (717) 207-0224
This adorable little shop is for those with a serious sweet tooth. I like to think of it as the workshop of Willie Wonka’s French chocolatier cousin. It’s all frills and sweetness, from the pastel decorating scheme to the personalized gift wrap each customer receives at check out, regardless of the fact that you’re probably going to devour the chocolate the moment you get out of the door. To your left, you are greeted by an entire wall of truffles in countless flavors, including champagne and mimosa. Further down, you’ll find brick-sized pieces of fudge, marshmallow wands, and the classiest rice krispie treats the world has ever seen. Oh, and there’s some serious chocolate happening, too.
Must Order: Champagne truffles, S’mores Crispycakes
The Best Place to Work on Your Next Bestseller
Prince Street Cafe
15 N. Prince Street // (717) 397-1505
I always feel extremely untalented whenever I visit Prince Street. Walking in, I’m faced with people examining slides from their recent gallery opening, scribbling furiously into journals with different color ballpoint pens, or contemplating with a small group the purpose of life. And this talent is not only seen in the customers; the chefs behind the counter create fresh and delicious sandwiches, salads, and soups. They take pride in carefully layering mile-high yogurt parfaits and bake complex treats that delight both the eye and the mouth. Being the cool downtown cafe that it is, Prince Street offers many vegan, vegatarian, and gluten-free options. The expresso bar is fully stocked and the staff thinks up new drinks for every holiday or change of season. The atmosphere is warm, complete with light wood floors and intimate cabaret tables. And on top of it all, everyone here is incredibly hip, from their appreciation for flannel to the ironic beards to the cat-eye readers. Although the crowd sometimes makes me feel inadequate, I go there in hopes that their collective brilliance will rub off on me, and for a really spectacular mocha.
Must order: Cream of Carrot and Ginger soup, Cinnamon Sugar coffee smoothie
The Best Place to Be a Little Monster
915 Plum Street // (717) 293-9432
Little known fact: Lady Gaga is dating someone from the Lancaster area. Another little known fact: she was spotted tossing back Jameson at The 915 over the holiday season. For me, that was the main reason I checked out this spot. However, I was delightfully surprised by the sports bar overall. Sometimes, a girl has had enough of the cutesy cafes and small boutiques and just needs the raucous feel of a downtown bar. They don’t mess around with their liquor here: if you wanted a vodka-whiskey-rum-formaldehyde shot, lit on fire and served in an ash tray, they’d probably give it to you (actually, probably not because that breaks a lot of health violations but you get the point). The bartenders also know that the best thing to pair with alcohol is greasy appetizers, like flatbread pizza slices and hot wings. Although not the best place to bring your book club, you should definitely put your high heels on and check out this joint. Who knows who you’ll see…
Must Order: Classic cheesesteak sub