Lancaster County Restaurants Are Shattering Common Conceptions of the Area’s Culinary Outlook
There’s something of a food revolution that’s been unfolding in nearby Lancaster County for several years.
Numerous in-county dining options continue to satisfy the hunger for traditional Pennsylvania Dutch fare. They are masters at bedrock dishes like chicken corn soup, Amish potato salad, apple dumplings, and shoo-fly pie.
But stirring in the background — and gaining prominence — are restaurants trying something just a little different, including the following threesome in Lancaster City.
And diners from Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties (and beyond) are taking note.
The Upscale Side
Proof Lancaster (30 North Queen Street), for example, is surprising guests with its tony setting, eclectic menu, and elevated bar choices.
That latter advantage is something that Marissa Swailes, Proof’s general manager, is particularly happy to highlight.
“Down this beautiful stairwell is a very lush lounge area that has spirits, cocktails, and wines from all over the globe,” she said.
“You can get a Lebanese whiskey; you can get a Portuguese gin; you can get a wine that’s from Israel.
“And I know that you can’t get that anywhere else in Lancaster.
“The fact that we have all of those different things from around the world gives it a nice, global aspect,” she summarized.
Accompanying those libations is a menu that leverages Lancaster County’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables but augments them using a wider geographic reach.
The Proof Lancaster menu, for example, has fresh oysters brought in from Prince Edward Island, Canada.
“I’m so very happy we are able to bring something so elevated to the Lancaster area,” Swailes said.
Luxury steakhouse 401 Prime, 401 North Prince Street, Lancaster, is also succeeding in the county’s emerging fine-dining space.
“401 Prime was really birthed upon the idea of a luxury, modern, city steakhouse. That’s what we really envisioned to create in the space,” said John Costanzo, one of its managing partners.
Costanzo had the advantage of taking over the site of a former restaurant that had closed.
Fortunately, he inherited a lush interior, meaning Costanzo and his colleagues merely needed to tweak the design to fit the brand. He described the renovation process as, “… let’s take something that looks like it belongs in New York City and put it in Lancaster County.”
It’s a culinary outlook Costanzo and his collaborators wholly believed in.
“We really loved to run with that idea, tying in the Lancaster County culture, being very meat-and-potatoes forward,” he said. “We figured the steakhouse concept would be perfect.”
Chef Daniel LeBoon — who started cooking at age eight for his father’s catering company and was a Le Bec Fin intern in Philadelphia — imbues the menu with international excellence, Wagyu beef, for example.
The 401 Prime dining experience is positioned to be impressive but not stodgy.
“We wanted to create a very inviting space,” Constanzo related. “A little bit of something for everyone. A fun date night out. Or business dinner. That’s really the destination.”
Dialing Back the Formal; Cranking Up the Fun
Patrons seeking a more casual — but nonetheless out-of-the-ordinary — dining experience in Lancaster will find it at Decades (438 North Queen Street).
Tony Gorick, Decades’ sales and events manager, traced its history.
“What started as a nostalgic idea between childhood friends transformed into Decades,” he said.
It’s a full-service restaurant and bar, augmented by a six-lane bowling alley and a retro arcade.
Gorick calls it, “… the perfect spot for connection and fun.”
Both the bar and the kitchen offer unexpected pleasures.
In the former category is a tequila flight comprised of interesting flavors that include pickled mango. And a wide assortment of mocktails and seltzers, for patrons preferring a little less punch.
From the latter are the first-rate vegan dishes.
“Our chef is intentional about having vegan options on our menu without sacrificing any flavor experience or quality,” Gorick said. “With items like our Nashville Hot Vegan Sandwich and our popular Vegan Beef Curry Bites, we’re proud to have an array of choices for guests looking for any and all types of cuisine.”
Further expansion of the Decades experience is under consideration. It is expected to take shape as an outdoor dining option this summer (with yard games) and a focus on the wedding trade.
Full information on these components of the Lancaster County food experience is available on the Discover Lancaster website.
Food and beverage are just some of the appealing aspects of Lancaster County in the summertime.
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