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Ok. I'm resurrecting this thread and turning it serious because my folks live in Lancaster and I've eaten a couple of really nice places up that way with them.

Most recently and most memorably was over the fourth of July weekend at the Bistro at the Netherlands Inn and Spa. We had a lovely dinner with cocktails and several glasses of wine, including salad and appetizers for three.

The food was excellent. The space was lovely. The service was flawless. We had a lovely time and the restaurant easily rivalled far more expensive establishments in the Washington, DC area. I would happily go back there anytime.

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Arguably the best potato chips in America are available in the area between Lancaster and Reading: "Original Good's." There are two Good's potato chips, both fried in lard-actually there are 11 or 12 potato chip brands that are fried in lard and a local "chain" of about four markets called Darrenkamps's carried all of them Gibble's has a brand which is very similar to Original Good's where the chips are curled at the edges. They are NOT called Gibble's; rather something like Kurly Krisp or a name which is similar. Very, very difficult to find; still Original Good's which are as obscure as any are better. This is the link to their website and, yes, you really can order them over the internet and have them delivered. Don't mess with the bbq or the salt 'n vinegar. Just get the original plain, fried in lard crispy, curly chips which are absolutely awesome.

http://www.goodschips.com/

Shoofly Pie: the best shoofly pie that I've had (and I've had a LOT) is the wet bottom shoofly pie baked in house at the Darrenkamp's on route 222 just south of Lancaster.

For restaurants my wife and I accidentally found a steak house called the Log Cabin which in a real log cabin and remarkably good. We would go back. I am not a fan of any of the Plain and Fancy, Good and Plenty, etc. places. Over the years I've been to far too many of them and, with the possible exception several years ago of Groff's Farm, would not go back to any of them unless I wanted to really binge.

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I grew up just over the border in Berks County and have spent a great deal of time in Lancaster. For a true Amish experience, you have to reserve a dinner for the seven sweets and sours at the home of an Amish family. More and more are no longer serving, as the State of PA health department has come down hard on the in-home meal concept, but some families still provide the meals. Many are also B and B's. One just has to remember that the food of the Amish is plain and simple few if any spices and ingredients that are easily found - comfort food like no other. The Log Cabin has been for many years a standard for family celebrations for us. As far as potato chips are concerned, I like Good's, but nothing compares to Dieffenbach's batches of seconds - made with the potatoes with a higher sugar content and only sold from the factory a few days each week. I have fond memories of holding the big potato chip can under the conveyor belt as the chips fell in as they were cooked. Sublime... Dieffenbach's is located on Rt. 419 north of Womelsdorf, PA (can't be found on every map...), but I believe now sells some chips in local stores. Finally, for anyone traveling in that area on a Friday, go to the Green Dragon farmer's market in Ephrata - by 10 in the morning you can have home made soft pretzels, funnel cakes, birch beer soda (and sasparilla if you are lucky), peorgies, sweet bologna, shoo fly pie, pig's maw (if you have to ask you don't want it) and (at least in the past) some great fried rice made by Hmong refugees.

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My favorite restaurant in Lancaster is The Loft. My family and I have always enjoyed ourselves there. Great Manhattan cocktails, Chimay Bleue ale, shad roe in season, prime beef, venison, lobster, etc..... what's not to like. If you have any special requests, you can call and talk to Chef Gunter Backhaus. He has always been very accommodating.

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Okay, here's a challenge -- I need to find a restaurant for dinner in or near York, PA (Gettysburg and Hanover are nearby) for a group of about 15 to 20 people, including kids from about age 8 to 18. The only requirements are good food, moderately priced, not a chain and if the wine list is decent that would be a big plus. A private room is not necessary. The food does not have to be fancy -- ie a place that has burgers on the menu would be fine, as long as they are good burgers and as long as the place is not just a burger joint.

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Okay, here's a challenge -- I need to find a restaurant for dinner in or near York, PA (Gettysburg and Hanover are nearby) for a group of about 15 to 20 people, including kids from about age 8 to 18. The only requirements are good food, moderately priced, not a chain and if the wine list is decent that would be a big plus. A private room is not necessary. The food does not have to be fancy -- ie a place that has burgers on the menu would be fine, as long as they are good burgers and as long as the place is not just a burger joint.

You might have to call ahead for them to be able to handle such a large group, but I would think Bel Paese would fit the bill for you. Good prices, great food and a decent winelist to boot. Contact info below... By the way, the Gamberi alla Nadia is fantastic.

1201 Memory Lane Ext

York, Pennsylvania 17402-9608 ph: 717.840.4040

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Went up to Lancaster, Bird In Hand, and Intercourse, PA yesterday to go to The Field of Screams for Halloween. Our decided to make a day of it and see the Amish countryside. I think that because the Amish are supposed to be without sin, they rely on food as their vice- rich and sweet food.

We started at the Farmer's Market at Bird in Hand to grab some light lunch and snacks. We had some handmade fresh pretzels, some freshly squeezed cider- both apple and cherry apple, and some bites of homemade pecan bread.

The whole market had plenty of samples of jams- loved the rhubarb and carrot, cheeses, meats, and desserts.

My cousin purchased some scrapple, Canadian bacon, and sweet bologna. We also tried some delicious beef jerky from the butcher stand at the market.

We then drove to Intercourse to visit the Kitchen Kettle Village. They had the Jarring Kitchen there where you could sample a wide variety of pickled items- Chow Chow, relishes, salsas, jams. We also stopped by the Smokehouse shop- a smaller butcher store. The location had a lot more tourists as well as tourist prices - $6 for 12 pack of birch beer!

We stopped at a couple farmhouses on the Old Philadelphia Pike- we picked up some homemade root beer that was stronger than commercial root beer. I got a homemade pumpkin pie. My cousin got a frozen chicken pie.

In Intercourse, I really liked the Stoltzfus Meats store- They are a regional butcher in Lancaster County. There we also picked up some Good's chips. Across the street, I also liked the Intercourse Canning company- less crowded than Jarring Kitchen. I liked their lime pickles, the pickled garlic cloves, and red beet eggs.

For dinner we went to the Stoltzfus Farm Restaurant. I liked their motto- "Meating you is our pleasure". The food is served family style and all you can eat. I really loved their homemade ham loaf. They also had potato filling- a dish that was like mashed potato and stuffing. Other favorites were their buttered noodles, the chicken gravy, and the pepper cabbage.

For dessert, I liked my cherry crumb pie.

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spent the weekend hanging with Thomas the Tank in Strasbourg and happened upon a great little Mexican place in Lancaster....

Its called Cocina Mexicana and is a tiny little place in downtown Lancaster (which I must say has a great little vibe to it and appears to have undergone significant regeneration in recent years with a host of new restaurants, hotels and a new college of music (or at least a new building).

Sets about 20 people tops.....not fancy, think cefateria style surroundings and presentations but cheap and probably better than 90% of the "Mexican" food available in DC. Tacos start at about $2 and are generously filled with a choice of toppings (I had beef tongue, chorizo and a third with steak, avocado and cactus). Lots of Mexican sodas as well as some home made juices and horchata. Kids menu prices included quesadilla, taco and chicken and were also about $2.

If we're looking for a comparison, imho this place is way better in terms of taste the Taqueria Nacionale.

If you're in the area you could do a lot worse.

Cocina Mexicana 47 N. Prince Street Lancaster, PA 17603

717-393-9193

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Spent the past weekend in the Strasburg area, and I can dutifully report that, as smorgasbords go, the Hershey Farm Inn on Rt. 896 is about as good as it gets in terms of quality. (For quantity, head to Shady Maple about 7 miles away.) I variously dined on chicken corn soup, chicken pot pie, ham meatballs, meatloaf, pork and sauerkraut, barbecued chicken and pickled red beet eggs. Granted, if I ate this way for two weeks I would gain 25 lbs. and come down with scurvy, but this is comfort food Pennsylvania Dutch style. I didn't even bother to go to the dessert island, and it was loaded with treats.

Please note that the Whoopie Pie Festival is coming up in a few weeks -- one of Lancaster's strange delicacies. Don't believe me? Go to:

http://www.whoopiepiefestival.com/

Had breakfast at Katie's Kitchen, which advertises authentic Amish food, also on Rt. 896. Trust me, you haven't lived until you have enjoyed the "Dutch Scramble" -- a scramble of canned mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, scrapple, eggs and cheese. I had a side of ham, just to make it properly balanced. In true Pennsylvania style, I doused it with ketchup. And also in true Lancaster style, the mushrooms are canned because, after all, Kennett Square is a good 30 minute drive. This meal stays with you a while....

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I worked at Hershey Farm washing dishes when it first opened and Ed Hershey was the owner. I've been there off-and-on since then and the food has been steadily going downhill... way downhill. Granted I haven't been there for about two years, so maybe it's improved. I grew up near Gap, PA and I can tell you most of the smorgasbord stuff is crap (except for Hershey's back in the day). Not sure how Shady Maple is "quantity" since Hershey's is all you can eat also.

My strongest recommendation if you want a healthy dose of Lancaster County/Amish/Mennonite food and culture is to go to the Green Dragon in Ephrata. It's only open on Friday's and I'm telling you that place hasn't changed since I was a kid. At night it's really hopping... especially in early October when the weather is great and there's lots of produce being sold. There's a huge area just for the Amish to park their buggies. The place that makes soft pretzels from scratch has been there for at least 40 years. One "new" product they've introduced is the "pretzel dog" which has become my favorite. The had it long before Auntie Anne (aka, Anne Byler).

kensei

Spent the past weekend in the Strasburg area, and I can dutifully report that, as smorgasbords go, the Hershey Farm Inn on Rt. 896 is about as good as it gets in terms of quality. (For quantity, head to Shady Maple about 7 miles away.) I variously dined on chicken corn soup, chicken pot pie, ham meatballs, meatloaf, pork and sauerkraut, barbecued chicken and pickled red beet eggs. Granted, if I ate this way for two weeks I would gain 25 lbs. and come down with scurvy, but this is comfort food Pennsylvania Dutch style. I didn't even bother to go to the dessert island, and it was loaded with treats.

Please note that the Whoopie Pie Festival is coming up in a few weeks -- one of Lancaster's strange delicacies. Don't believe me? Go to:

http://www.whoopiepiefestival.com/

Had breakfast at Katie's Kitchen, which advertises authentic Amish food, also on Rt. 896. Trust me, you haven't lived until you have enjoyed the "Dutch Scramble" -- a scramble of canned mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, scrapple, eggs and cheese. I had a side of ham, just to make it properly balanced. In true Pennsylvania style, I doused it with ketchup. And also in true Lancaster style, the mushrooms are canned because, after all, Kennett Square is a good 30 minute drive. This meal stays with you a while....

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I should note, in full disclosure, that I grew up in Lancaster and still have family there. I escaped about 35 years ago, but I still recall the highest compliment for a meal was "That was good - not spicy at all"....and, of course, after eating too much, you must declare "I'm all over-et". The Air Force rescued me in the late 1970s and I tasted my first jalapeno pepper in San Antonio in 1977 at a Church's Fried Chicken 'restaurant'. I thought a lightning bolt flew down my throat and that the top of my head was going to fall off. Now I eat them like candy.

The five basic food groups of Amish and Mennonite cooking are chicken, corn, flour, sugar and butter. Nonetheless, this is good and hearty grub, and there are places in Lancaster County like the Leola Restaurant that know what they're doing.

I'm happy to refer Rockwellians to family's favorite places to eat in Lancaster County. I doubt that the Michelin Guide will begin coverage anytime soon, but there are a few surprises lurking here and there....

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I'm going to be driving up to Harrisburg tomorrow ... any must-stop food places? Mostly thinking of things to pick up to go - probably won't have a meal - but anything to make the drive worthwhile would be helpful! Thanks...

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Lancaster is a good 30 minutes out of the way of your route, but if you're looking for an interesting meal on the high end, I can recommend john.j.jeffries without hesitation....

http://www.johnjjeffries.com/

In fact, it's on the Old Harrisburg Pike, so it's a very direct 30 minutes out of your way.

I think, in all honesty, that this is one of the more interesting restaurants east of the Mississippi right now. It all starts with Lancaster County and its immediate environs, a somewhat undiscovered oasis of all that is good about growing produce and raising animals -- not because it's all-of-a-sudden trendy, but because they've done it that way for centuries and they don't know it's cool. You're going to get farm-to-table organic deliciousness with every bite.

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Anyone have any new info on the Lancaster area? Going up to Strasburg to do a train weekend in a couple weeks for the kids and want to try something beyond the all you can eat, though we'll probably do that at least once too.

Sorry I saw this well after your trip, but please give a report. When you're with kids, Strasburg has a corner store with ice cream and penny candy, more or less in the town square. Depending on when you're there in the fall, the local firehouses feature chicken corn soup festivals. My favorite was always at the Lampeter-Strasburg fire hall.

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Had to cancel the October trip but did actually go up over the New Year. Ended up eating two dinners at the Doubletree resort where we were staying to maximize pool time for the kids. Food was decent for a Doubletree, though I pretty much stuck with bar food getting wings one night and fish and chips the other. For lunch one day we ate at Isaacs since it was closest to the Railroad museum. Gumbo was the soup of the day which I got since I wasn't too hungry. Was surprisingly spicy and though not the best I've had, satisfying on a cold day.

On Saturday, the day we left, we went to Central Market and then ate at the Pressroom which was just across the street. I had the mussels with fries, though disappointing the fries had to be ordered in addition to the fries. The best deal was the kids meal my son got with cheese pizza which seemed to be an adult size portion ad kids price.

Had hoped to eat at John Jeffries where we ate a few years ago when it was just our daughter and us, but couldn't get a reservation on the Friday we were there.

For anyone else planning to go up with kids, make sure to do your trip before January 1 because a lot of stuff closes after that for the season. For example the train wasn't running.

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The kids are 5 & 3.  Would they have more fun at Dutch Wonderland or Sesame Place?  Where's a good place to stay if we only spend 1 night, resort with decent restaurant on-site preferred.

Thanks.

"Dutch Wonderland or Sesame Place?" on tripadvisor.com

"Dutch Wonderland vs. Sesame Place" on amusement-parks.wanderbat.com

"Dutch Wonderland or Sesame Street Place in June?" on fodors.com

"Sesame Place or Dutch Wonderland????" on city-data.com

"Sesame Place, Crayola Crayon Factory, Dutch Wonderland" by Jill Berry on musingsbyme.com

"Sesame Place or Dutch Wonderland" on disboards.com

"Dutch Wonderland vs. Sesame Place for 2-Year-Old?" on dcurbanmom.com

If you go to Dutch Wonderland, you can go to Good 'n' Plenty in Bird in Hand and gorge on fried chicken served family style (coupons online). Comfort Suites in Lancaster would be a nice hotel for a family of four. Other options:

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I suspect the rooms in Langhorne will be more expensive:

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Not sure how much travel you've done up here, but when I come, my goals are somewhat modest: "edible food" and "clean linens." If you take the side roads coming home, you're more likely to see carriages - once I even drove past a house where a bunch of Amish were having a party, playing volleyball in the backyard (hats, beards, and everything).

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We have two boys, 4 & 6 years old. Dutch Wonderland is perfect for kids that age.

  • It's a small park - you can literally walk across it in 5 minutes
  • Lines are very short
  • It's nestled in the trees, so sun overexposure isn't a problem
  • The rides are perfect for the ages you have
  • Parking couldn't be easier (and it's free, unless you pay for unnecessary "VIP" parking)

We usually make it a day trip, but we stayed once at Eden Resort in Lancaster and it was wonderful. They have a really nice kiddy pool area. http://www.edenresort.com/ We bought a Groupon and got the room for a very good price.

Although we didn't eat there due to our schedule, Rice & Noodles is supposed to be phenomenal. It was opened by a family from New Orleans who was displaced by Katrina and set up shop in Lancaster.

I can't speak highly of the food in the park. After a couple of disappointing experiences, we now pack a picnic lunch and eat in the pavilion right outside.

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Chiming in -- I grew up in Lancaster, and I still have family there.

Dutch Wonderland is OK but touristy. It's like a mini-Disneyland take on what "Pennsylvania Dutch" might look like to tourists who have never been there before. If that's how you want to entertain your kids for a few hours, then also consider the 45 minute trip to Hershey Park.

My recommendation to anyone who wants to see Lancaster County and the Pennsylvania Dutch lifestyle is to get a map and hit the back roads of eastern Lancaster County. You'll find Amish buggies on the roads, Amish kids playing in the fields, horse- and mule-drawn farm equipment being used in real life, actual, sustainable, organic, farm-to-table agriculture (they don't know it's "cool"), and plenty of roadside stands with fresh produce (and an "honor system" bucket to drop your money in). You might stumble across a community barbecue, where the local Amish families are collecting money to pay the medical bills for someone who was injured or sick, and where you will eat no better barbecued chicken on this or any other planet. You'll pass many houses where quilts are for sale, or woodworking is for sale, or better yet, baked goods are for sale.

Two absolutely safe bets for anyone who wants to get a real taste of Lancaster County:

  • Go to Strasburg, and take a ride on the Strasburg railroad through Lancaster County. It's beautiful. After (or before) the railroad, hang out in downtown Strasburg (it's a borough of about 3000 people) and eat the fresh ice cream in the Strasburg Country Store.
  • Go to East Earl, and head to Shady Maple. It is Lancaster in a nutshell. Shady Maple is a single family owned "Wegman's on steroids" kind of place, of which Lancaster County has quite a few. It's all of a supermarket -- but it defies that description -- and a gift shop and a smorgasbord all rolled into one. And it even has mini-barn to tether and water the horses for the buggies that come there to shop and eat. You won't see a lot of chain supermarkets in Lancaster because Shady Maple, and Stouffer's of Kissel Hill, and John Herr's in Millersville, and Musser's and Darrenkamp's and many others all invented the concept of the single family owned food market. The quality of the food at these places is amazing, and the prices indicate that they don't realize a commercial world outside of Lancaster even exists.

Lancaster is an interesting place, only about two and a half hours from Washington DC, and seemingly on the other side of the world. But tourist Lancaster and real Lancaster are two different things, and I suggest you seek out the latter.

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What a great write-up, Kibbeh! Makes me want to go asap!

My own dealings with an Amish farmer in Lancaster County, from whom I get fresh, wholesome, sustainably produced food on a weekly basis, lead me to add a caution. When you're touring Amish Country, DO NOT photograph Amish people. Animals and equipment are OK, but not the people.

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What a great write-up, Kibbeh! Makes me want to go asap!

My own dealings with an Amish farmer in Lancaster County, from whom I get fresh, wholesome, sustainably produced food on a weekly basis, lead me to add a caution. When you're touring Amish Country, DO NOT photograph Amish people. Animals and equipment are OK, but not the people.

I used to get up there twice a month in the summer. Just put a cooler in the trunk and go hit the farm stands on the sides of the roads, stock up on 30-50% lower cost groceries at Shady Maple or Stouffer's, and plow into a good smorgasbord prior to coming home....

And yes, don't photograph the Amish people's faces....but that only applies to the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites....there are less conservative sects, and they don't mind it as much. You can always just ask them.

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Chiming in -- I grew up in Lancaster, and I still have family there.

Dutch Wonderland is OK but touristy. It's like a mini-Disneyland take on what "Pennsylvania Dutch" might look like to tourists who have never been there before. If that's how you want to entertain your kids for a few hours, then also consider the 45 minute trip to Hershey Park.

My recommendation to anyone who wants to see Lancaster County and the Pennsylvania Dutch lifestyle is to get a map and hit the back roads of eastern Lancaster County. You'll find Amish buggies on the roads, Amish kids playing in the fields, horse- and mule-drawn farm equipment being used in real life, actual, sustainable, organic, farm-to-table agriculture (they don't know it's "cool"), and plenty of roadside stands with fresh produce (and an "honor system" bucket to drop your money in). You might stumble across a community barbecue, where the local Amish families are collecting money to pay the medical bills for someone who was injured or sick, and where you will eat no better barbecued chicken on this or any other planet. You'll pass many houses where quilts are for sale, or woodworking is for sale, or better yet, baked goods are for sale.

Two absolutely safe bets for anyone who wants to get a real taste of Lancaster County:

  • Go to Strasburg, and take a ride on the Strasburg railroad through Lancaster County. It's beautiful. After (or before) the railroad, hang out in downtown Strasburg (it's a borough of about 3000 people) and eat the fresh ice cream in the Strasburg Country Store.
  • Go to East Earl, and head to Shady Maple. It is Lancaster in a nutshell. Shady Maple is a single family owned "Wegman's on steroids" kind of place, of which Lancaster County has quite a few. It's all of a supermarket -- but it defies that description -- and a gift shop and a smorgasbord all rolled into one. And it even has mini-barn to tether and water the horses for the buggies that come there to shop and eat. You won't see a lot of chain supermarkets in Lancaster because Shady Maple, and Stouffer's of Kissel Hill, and John Herr's in Millersville, and Musser's and Darrenkamp's and many others all invented the concept of the single family owned food market. The quality of the food at these places is amazing, and the prices indicate that they don't realize a commercial world outside of Lancaster even exists.

Lancaster is an interesting place, only about two and a half hours from Washington DC, and seemingly on the other side of the world. But tourist Lancaster and real Lancaster are two different things, and I suggest you seek out the latter.

Thanks for the write up, KN.  Probably from the 70's to the early 2000's I visited there many many times, specifically one family on State Street, quite near Franklin and Marshall.  Ate many meals that were described as "local".   Yep...chicken, it was ever present.  Toured the countryside in the manner you described above.  Some of the country side scenes were astonishing views in a long ago history.  Quite fascinating.

Ah...but there was one food to which I never grew accustomed  or enjoyed, yet was served it quite frequently and I never voiced my objections-->  scrapple.

From my perspective one could scrap scapple.  It wouldn't be missed.

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Thanks for the write up, KN.  Probably from the 70's to the early 2000's I visited there many many times, specifically one family on State Street, quite near Franklin and Marshall.  Ate many meals that were described as "local".   Yep...chicken, it was ever present.  Toured the countryside in the manner you described above.  Some of the country side scenes were astonishing views in a long ago history.  Quite fascinating.

Ah...but there was one food to which I never grew accustomed  or enjoyed, yet was served it quite frequently and I never voiced my objections-->  scrapple.

From my perspective one could scrap scapple.  It wouldn't be missed.

Graduate of Franklin and Marshall here....my nephew moved from State Street to northern Virginia a few years ago for a job. I knew it well.

As to scrapple, it's an acquired taste. And I acquired it. Pan-fried with eggs is the way I like it.

I also like head cheese, which is all the leftover bits of the pig boiled together and allowed to jell into a mold.

As I mentioned previously, before it was "cool" these people figured out nose-to-tail eating, charcuterie, organic farming, and every other "new" food trend, and they did it decades ago. I grew up on "new" food trends in Lancaster, and I laugh when I see them just now being adopted by hipsters.

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For Father's Day, I'm taking the kids to Sesame Place, most because they know Elmo, and the Courtyard by Marriott, while not cheap, is nice, close by, and has a decent restaurant. We'll probably eat crap in the park anyway. Maybe later this summer we'll do Dutch Wonderland. Btw, I bought tickets for Sesame Place on Groupon for $35 each.

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What a great write-up, Kibbeh! Makes me want to go asap!

My own dealings with an Amish farmer in Lancaster County, from whom I get fresh, wholesome, sustainably produced food on a weekly basis, lead me to add a caution. When you're touring Amish Country, DO NOT photograph Amish people. Animals and equipment are OK, but not the people.

And another type of caution, courtesy of a visit to Dutch Country Farmers Market in Burtonsville:

They'll be at the old location through the end of August.

Soooo ... gotta love those smoked Amish chickens at Yoder's Bar-B-Que, right? ... Today while waiting for my order, I looked over at the back counter and saw, sitting among the raw chickens, an unopened package of chicken clearly marked ... Perdue.

Obviously, one cannot draw conclusions from a single package of chicken sitting on the counter, but at the very least it's funny (and in the unthinkable worst-case scenario, at least they're sourcing locally!) laugh.gif

Cheers,

Rocks.

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It's true that many Amish farmers use chemicals. The one from whom I buy my food has not used any chemicals on his farm for more than 15 years, probably close to 20. He had a misadventure with pesticides on his father's farm, and ultimately turned to the methods advocated by Joel Salatin. He laughed when he told us that his neighbors and family all thought he was nuts eschewing chemicals, but he did and it has paid off for him in being able to sell his products directly to a very discerning clientele, as opposed to selling wholesale to conglomerates.

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Chiming in -- I grew up in Lancaster, and I still have family there.

Dutch Wonderland is OK but touristy. It's like a mini-Disneyland take on what "Pennsylvania Dutch" might look like to tourists who have never been there before. If that's how you want to entertain your kids for a few hours, then also consider the 45 minute trip to Hershey Park.

My recommendation to anyone who wants to see Lancaster County and the Pennsylvania Dutch lifestyle is to get a map and hit the back roads of eastern Lancaster County. You'll find Amish buggies on the roads, Amish kids playing in the fields, horse- and mule-drawn farm equipment being used in real life, actual, sustainable, organic, farm-to-table agriculture (they don't know it's "cool"), and plenty of roadside stands with fresh produce (and an "honor system" bucket to drop your money in). You might stumble across a community barbecue, where the local Amish families are collecting money to pay the medical bills for someone who was injured or sick, and where you will eat no better barbecued chicken on this or any other planet. You'll pass many houses where quilts are for sale, or woodworking is for sale, or better yet, baked goods are for sale.

Two absolutely safe bets for anyone who wants to get a real taste of Lancaster County:

  • Go to Strasburg, and take a ride on the Strasburg railroad through Lancaster County. It's beautiful. After (or before) the railroad, hang out in downtown Strasburg (it's a borough of about 3000 people) and eat the fresh ice cream in the Strasburg Country Store.
  • Go to East Earl, and head to Shady Maple. It is Lancaster in a nutshell. Shady Maple is a single family owned "Wegman's on steroids" kind of place, of which Lancaster County has quite a few. It's all of a supermarket -- but it defies that description -- and a gift shop and a smorgasbord all rolled into one. And it even has mini-barn to tether and water the horses for the buggies that come there to shop and eat. You won't see a lot of chain supermarkets in Lancaster because Shady Maple, and Stouffer's of Kissel Hill, and John Herr's in Millersville, and Musser's and Darrenkamp's and many others all invented the concept of the single family owned food market. The quality of the food at these places is amazing, and the prices indicate that they don't realize a commercial world outside of Lancaster even exists.

Lancaster is an interesting place, only about two and a half hours from Washington DC, and seemingly on the other side of the world. But tourist Lancaster and real Lancaster are two different things, and I suggest you seek out the latter.

This, all of this. It was so interesting driving around the county, being immersed in cornfields, and seeing rolling hill after rolling hill dotted with pin-neat barns and silos. We saw locals plowing with animals, getting around in buggies and on bikes, and also participating in ordinary life at stores and restaurants. We tried a couple smorgasbords - in the correct order. Yoder's then Shady Maple. We thought Yoder's was a big enough buffet, with endless kinds preparations of potatoes and other carbs, but Shady Maple is a behemoth of a restaurant and complex with fascinating people watching. Big people, small people, tourists, locals, and families, families, families, all packing away mountains of food. This is a place that had to get rid of its gastric-bypass discount! Instead, they have tips and deals on their website for guests that have had the surgery so they can come other folks and enjoy. The food at both places was fine - all the good, plain, Sunday dinner/Thanksgiving/Easter/comfort-eating dishes you can imagine. At Yoder's you can order a la carte if you don't feel like stuffing yourself. Shady Maple has a few really fun flourishes - Turkey Hill ice cream dispenser, local, cane-sugar soda machine (sarsaparilla! red birch beer!), a whipped topping machine, and lots of ladies willing to cut you a slice of the pies/cakes ready to come out for display, if the bordering-on-obscene variety of desserts doesn't appeal. Eating at two smorgasbords within a few days wasn't a terribly good idea - I felt heavy and dull for the rest of the week, but it was quite an experience!

We had sandwiches and ice cream at the Udder Choice in Ephrata, which is an old-fashioned, cute, and CHEAP spot for a meal, snack, or treat. The sandwiches are simple and satisfying, so I wouldn't get the salad, which is iceberg lettuce and tasteless tomato purgatory. The ice cream is acceptably creamy and a little chewy, just about the way I like my ordinary ice cream. We went back the next night for a second round of sundaes and banana splits.

Phoenix Noodle House in Ephrara was a place I really wanted to like, but all our dishes (spring rolls, pad se ew, pho) had overcooked, bland noodles :( Avoid.

Aromas Del Sur, however, is an exciting find. It's a family-run Colombian restaurant also in Ephrata, and all the family members will happily chat you up as long as you're willing to talk. We had empanadas which are different from those that I'd encountered before. They are a smaller and deep-fried but have flavorful, savory fillings. The bandeja paisa is a big plate of typical fare, with excellent beans and plantains, a tasty chorizo sausage, and slightly overdone pork belly strip and beef steak, all topped with an egg. With an extra cup of their spicy-but-not-hot salsa, it's a wonderful antidote to the the 5 food groups of Lancaster (salt, sugar, flour, corn, and chicken) :)

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Aromas Del Sur, however, is an exciting find. It's a family-run Colombian restaurant also in Ephrata, and all the family members will happily chat you up as long as you're willing to talk. We had empanadas which are different from those that I'd encountered before. They are a smaller and deep-fried but have flavorful, savory fillings. The bandeja paisa is a big plate of typical fare, with excellent beans and plantains, a tasty chorizo sausage, and slightly overdone pork belly strip and beef steak, all topped with an egg. With an extra cup of their spicy-but-not-hot salsa, it's a wonderful antidote to the the 5 food groups of Lancaster (salt, sugar, flour, corn, and chicken) :)

You can add ketchup to those food groups too. And don't forget dairy.

I hardly ventured out of Lancaster until my early 20s, so I didn't realize that scrapple and head cheese hadn't yet caught on across America, let alone would eventually become "cool." To us, it was totally natural to shop at the farm markets and roadside stands for the freshest produce and the hand-carved cuts of meat, not knowing that the rest of the country would catch on a few decades later. Corn that was picked an hour ago, usually about 15 ears for a dollar, and tomatoes that exploded in flavor -- we took these for granted. Today, it's like hipsters invented all of these things....

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You can add ketchup to those food groups too. And don't forget dairy.

 that scrapple ...................................................... would eventually become "cool."

To us, it was totally natural to shop at the farm markets and roadside stands for the freshest produce and the hand-carved cuts of meat, not knowing that the rest of the country would catch on a few decades later. Corn that was picked an hour ago, usually about 15 ears for a dollar, and tomatoes that exploded in flavor -- we took these for granted. Today, it's like hipsters invented all of these things....

Scrapple--> cool.  Never in my household.   How many times did I visit Lancaster, stay at the home of the parents of my best friend, and have scrapple for breakfast????    Too many.  Too many times after the first.  (and I was there a lot)--just great great great people.  The best.   I would never ever have complained.  Even if they weren't the best...but they were heads and shoulders better than the best.

I was and am WAY too polite to have ever said to them what I thought of that god for bidden miserable scrapple.  But I have to shout it out.....SCRAPPLE  --> never cool in my household!!!!!!!!

The rest of Lancaster---Cool.  Scrapple--> NEVER

(rant over)   :D

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On 4/28/2015 at 11:50 AM, Beto said:

Although we didn't eat there due to our schedule, Rice & Noodles is supposed to be phenomenal. It was opened by a family from New Orleans who was displaced by Katrina and set up shop in Lancaster.

My exposure to Thai is not wide, but I will quickly second this recommendation.  Rice & Noodles serves the best pho I have tasted.  I think some of the other options (maybe a spring roll?) were less impressive, but they do not stick well in the memory.  My last trip there was probably a good 18 months ago.

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Spent the weekend at Country Inn & Suites, across the street from  Dutch Wonderland.  I think we rode every form of transportation - pony, train, monorail, gondola, ski lift thingy - nothing that remotely elevated my pulse.  My biggest regret - not making a dinner reservation.  Every sit down joint on the main drag had people waiting outside.  70 minutes to eat at TX Roadhouse - hell no.  We ended up eating shit the first night.  I then made reservation for our second night at Checkers Bistro in Lancaster. ''Twas actually very good.  Parpardelle was firm and the roast chicken was moist. 

Country Inn was great- thin walls but separate bedroom from living space let the kids go to bed early while I worked over my liver.  

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Knead in Broad Street Market is the best pizza we've sampled in central PA, by far.  Still not at best of MoCo level, but I'm glad to have found our local pizza place.

The Harrisburg branch of Mission BBQ is pretty good, possibly as good as Official BBQ and Burgers before the ownership switch.  My ribs are still way better though.

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On 8/13/2005 at 3:33 PM, MichelleW said:

Ok. I'm resurrecting this thread and turning it serious because my folks live in Lancaster and I've eaten a couple of really nice places up that way with them.
 

Skimmed several posts here.There are some delicious bits in this thread. 

 

On 7/19/2010 at 12:46 PM, Kibbee Nayee said:

Lancaster is a good 30 minutes out of the way of your route, but if you're looking for an interesting meal on the high end, I can recommend john.j.jeffries without hesitation....

http://www.johnjjeffries.com/

In fact, it's on the Old Harrisburg Pike, so it's a very direct 30 minutes out of your way.

I think, in all honesty, that this is one of the more interesting restaurants east of the Mississippi right now. It all starts with Lancaster County and its immediate environs, a somewhat undiscovered oasis of all that is good about growing produce and raising animals -- not because it's all-of-a-sudden trendy, but because they've done it that way for centuries and they don't know it's cool. You're going to get farm-to-table organic deliciousness with every bite.

I might add that this restaurant  is the Chez Panisse of Lancaster County. It was my first stop, and taste of Lancaster which led me on a path to find all of the culinary gems the city has available. Lancaster is certainly worth a trip if you happen to reside outside of Philadelphia, or are looking for a day trip in the Mid Atlantic region. I highly recommend it.

 

More than Amish,

kat

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On 1/18/2018 at 9:46 AM, kitkatpaddywak said:

I could talk for days on all the Markets in Lancaster County. There are thousands of them.

When you drive through the small towns near these markets, they are full of people wearing acid washed jeans from the early 90s and late 80s......

 

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On 4/28/2015 at 9:45 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

For Father's Day, I'm taking the kids to Sesame Place, most because they know Elmo, and the Courtyard by Marriott, while not cheap, is nice, close by, and has a decent restaurant. We'll probably eat crap in the park anyway. Maybe later this summer we'll do Dutch Wonderland. Btw, I bought tickets for Sesame Place on Groupon for $35 each.

If you make your way in toward Jersey anytime soon, I may recommend Crayola Factory in Easton. And as far as places to eat, there are some great spots in Easton Public Market, and a quaint downtown.

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Since moving back to the area, I am in continual awe of the richness of culture and sites Lancaster County has to offer. Ranging from the bounty that is offered at Lancaster Central Market, to the range of cuisine that is available at an abundance of spots throughout  the city. Although the mystique of the Amish Community is what draws travelers to Lancaster County , there is a group of people that are looking to expand what you may think you know about their not so sleepy city.  Lokal pronouced , "lou-call" is looking beyond the traditional tour, but rather curating experiences through out the region of Lancaster County which mostly run under 3 hours, and one that spans 4 hours that centers around the movie, "Witness". 

I recently had an opportunity to speak to Phil Lapp, both founder and brand ambassador, of Lokal Experiences. He shared with me what led to creating a different platform of tourism for the Lancaster County. He was often asked to offer tours to people visiting the area, and took it beyond the standard Amish offerings that are often advertised all over town. The rich history of Lancaster County is what he focused on, and his father had a connection to the film, Witness, that was filmed on an actual Amish Farm. This gave birth to what will become, "the Witness Experience", which will be launching next month. I will be attending the launch of the Witness Experience , and will report back .  The experiences are featured on the website as well as listed on Airbnb. From what I know, Airbnb only features this service in major cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc, so having this feature is a healthy indication that the road for Lancaster, Pa to become a destination city is well on its way. 

Lititz is another area that soon may become another reason to visit this area of Pennsylvania. The live production campus of Rock Lititz has gained a bit of notoriety in the last few years. Bands from the likes of the Rolling Stones, and musicians arrive here to run sound checks, and practice their sets before heading out on tour. Recently, both Taylor Swift as well as Ariana Grande were spotted in Lancaster. The recent opening of Hotel Rock Lititz has certainly become a go to spot with design features tied into live production details, and while you are there be sure to dine at Per Diem

I have said this many times over. There is so much to explore in Lancaster County, and with the  ambitions Lokal Experiences , you may come to see the Amish, but stay to experience the bounty beyond what you may expect. 

 

Explore Lancaster,

kat

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13 minutes ago, curiouskitkatt said:

Explore Lancaster,

kat

Thanks for calling out my hometown. I grew up there, and while it has certainly changed over the years, it retains a charm that I haven't seen in very many places across the country.

A few points to add:

  • If you haven't taken a day trip to Lancaster in July-August-September with a cooler in your car, you are missing out on some of the best produce and meats within a 3 hour drive. In September, you can bring home a gallon of life-altering chicken corn soup, and Washington Boro tomatoes will make you spit out Jersey tomatoes.
  • In addition to Witness, the last 20 minutes of "Boys from Brazil" was filmed in Lancaster. The director, Franklin Schaffner, is a Franklin and Marshall grad, and gave the commencement speech when he was wrapping up the filming of the movie. (I am a Franklin and Marshall alumnus).
  • Before anyone knew anything about concert venue music, the Clair Brothers of Lititz invented it for the Rolling Stones and a number of other touring bands in the 1960s and 1970s. They gave birth to Rock Lititz, and as Kat points out, they host the great bands of the world for sound checks. In 1982, Bruce Springsteen did a surprise "pop-up" 20-minute set at the Village Nightclub in downtown Lancaster after working on the sound in Lititz. Imagine the crowd's reaction, and a few of my friends were in the audience.
  • The single-family-owned grocery markets dotted throughout Lancaster County have spoiled the local population. John Herr's in Millersville, Stouffer's of Kissel Hill, Shady Maple in East Earl, Oregon Dairy (on the Oregon Pike), Martin's in Ephrata, Yoder's in New Holland, and more ... Wegman's is a step down from these places, and yet Wegman's has just moved into Lancaster for some reason.

Yes, explore Lancaster.

KN

 

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1 hour ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

.

  • The single-family-owned grocery markets dotted throughout Lancaster County have spoiled the local population. John Herr's in Millersville, Stouffer's of Kissel Hill, Shady Maple in East Earl, Oregon Dairy (on the Oregon Pike), Martin's in Ephrata, Yoder's in New Holland, and more ... Wegman's is a step down from these places, and yet Wegman's has just moved into Lancaster for some reason.

Yes, explore Lancaster.

KN

 

I admit I was initially excited to see Wegman's move into Lancaster, but the more I have the opportunity of visiting these local grocery shops, the more I realize that the shine  of the big shops lose their appeal. Pine View is a fav, as well as all you have mentioned, and I think the tomato barn in Washington Borough is a gem. 

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On 5/28/2019 at 2:46 PM, curiouskitkatt said:

Since moving back to the area, I am in continual awe of the richness of culture and sites Lancaster County has to offer. Ranging from the bounty that is offered at Lancaster Central Market, to the range of cuisine that is available at an abundance of spots throughout  the city. Although the mystique of the Amish Community is what draws travelers to Lancaster County , there is a group of people that are looking to expand what you may think you know about their not so sleepy city.  Lokal pronouced , "lou-call" is looking beyond the traditional tour, but rather curating experiences through out the region of Lancaster County which mostly run under 3 hours, and one that spans 4 hours that centers around the movie, "Witness". 

I recently had an opportunity to speak to Phil Lapp, both founder and brand ambassador, of Lokal Experiences. He shared with me what led to creating a different platform of tourism for the Lancaster County. He was often asked to offer tours to people visiting the area, and took it beyond the standard Amish offerings that are often advertised all over town. The rich history of Lancaster County is what he focused on, and his father had a connection to the film, Witness, that was filmed on an actual Amish Farm. This gave birth to what will become, "the Witness Experience", which will be launching next month. I will be attending the launch of the Witness Experience , and will report back .  The experiences are featured on the website as well as listed on Airbnb. From what I know, Airbnb only features this service in major cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc, so having this feature is a healthy indication that the road for Lancaster, Pa to become a destination city is well on its way. 

Lititz is another area that soon may become another reason to visit this area of Pennsylvania. The live production campus of Rock Lititz has gained a bit of notoriety in the last few years. Bands from the likes of the Rolling Stones, and musicians arrive here to run sound checks, and practice their sets before heading out on tour. Recently, both Taylor Swift as well as Ariana Grande were spotted in Lancaster. The recent opening of Hotel Rock Lititz has certainly become a go to spot with design features tied into live production details, and while you are there be sure to dine at Per Diem

I have said this many times over. There is so much to explore in Lancaster County, and with the  ambitions Lokal Experiences , you may come to see the Amish, but stay to experience the bounty beyond what you may expect. 

 

Explore Lancaster,

kat

Experience-based company LoKal to offer 'Witness' screening, farm tour,  Lancasteronline.com

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On 5/28/2019 at 2:46 PM, curiouskitkatt said:

Since moving back to the area, I am in continual awe of the richness of culture and sites Lancaster County has to offer. Ranging from the bounty that is offered at Lancaster Central Market, to the range of cuisine that is available at an abundance of spots throughout  the city. Although the mystique of the Amish Community is what draws travelers to Lancaster County , there is a group of people that are looking to expand what you may think you know about their not so sleepy city.  Lokal pronouced , "lou-call" is looking beyond the traditional tour, but rather curating experiences through out the region of Lancaster County which mostly run under 3 hours, and one that spans 4 hours that centers around the movie, "Witness".

I recently had an opportunity to speak to Phil Lapp, both founder and brand ambassador, of Lokal Experiences. He shared with me what led to creating a different platform of tourism for the Lancaster County. He was often asked to offer tours to people visiting the area, and took it beyond the standard Amish offerings that are often advertised all over town. The rich history of Lancaster County is what he focused on, and his father had a connection to the film, Witness, that was filmed on an actual Amish Farm. This gave birth to what will become, "the Witness Experience", which will be launching next month. I will be attending the launch of the Witness Experience , and will report back .  The experiences are featured on the website as well as listed on Airbnb. From what I know, Airbnb only features this service in major cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc, so having this feature is a healthy indication that the road for Lancaster, Pa to become a destination city is well on its way. 

 

On Saturday, ‘experience’ the Lancaster County farm where Harrison Ford’s ‘Witness’ was filmed, www.inquirer.com 6-13-19

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Went to Lititz’s Fire and Ice Festival last week, the entire family enjoyed strolling the streets and sampling food trucks and the like. Think we will head back soon!

is Lititz an ideal home base  for exploring the rest of Lancaster County over a couple of days?

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5 hours ago, DaRiv18 said:

Went to Lititz’s Fire and Ice Festival last week, the entire family enjoyed strolling the streets and sampling food trucks and the like. Think we will head back soon!

is Lititz an ideal home base  for exploring the rest of Lancaster County over a couple of days?

I'm not sure about Lititz, but make sure you go for a lunch buffet at Good 'n' Plenty (in the town of Bird-in-Hand), and feast on their fried chicken - I was here (for the second or third time) just over a year ago, and it was a surprisingly wonderful buffet.

Screenshot 2020-02-25 at 01.29.35.png

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