Oregon Pike travelers have been looking at the sign for years, literally. In 2013, when signs reading, “Coming Soon,” were met by curious chatter on the street, it was apparent that people couldn’t wait for Charcoals Bar & Grill to open at 701 Olde Hickory Rd. in Lancaster. The new watering hole opened in August, and I finally got a chance to see what co-owner John Katras (also of Alley Kat) had done with the space on the corner of this tiny commercial strip of shops in The Village Square of Olde Hickory.
Immediately I could tell this place had been completely gutted to make a bar and grill, and I assume this is the reason it took Charcoals so long to open. Everything is new and the two-roomed space shines with freshness. The front room features a large U-shaped bar with approximately 20 stools, five high-tops, and window seating for four small groups, while a room off to the right of the main entrance offers more of a dining room feel. Charcoals has the feel of a neighborhood bar (albeit without a traditional neighborhood).
When I sat down to have a beer I was greeted by the bartender as well as some happy customers to my left. After one guest heard I was there for just one drink, but would take a look at the menu, he bought a round of shots for the bar. I was introduced to Sex with an Alligator; this smooth tasting, yet dangerously named concoction is made up of Midori melon liqueur, Jägermeister, Chambord, and sour mix. Later, while looking to replicate the bevvy at home, I found several recipes omitting the sour mix—good idea.
Charcoals has a pretty standard lineup of beer on tap, which includes mass-produced and craft brews. But the most unusual draft offering is wine. During my visit, staff members were slinging PIO Pinot Grigio from the system, but I later learned the wines rotate; so, what you see this week may not be on tap next week.
I took a gander at the menu. At first it looked like pretty standard, pub-style fare, and then I saw something out of the ordinary: a lobster roll. Having lived in Maine for several years, I could only speculate on its authenticity. Mentioning my suspicions to the bartender, he assured me the lobster roll was the biggest selling item on the menu. Who knew? A well-crafted New England tradition here in Lancaster County! Charcoals even uses a split top hot dog roll—an authentic necessity—for the sandwich. And in case you’re wondering, yes, as its name implies, Charcoals does use charcoal as the main heat source for their selection of burgers and steak entrees.
Recently, Charcoals started serving lunch. Check the chalkboard at the end of the bar for their “perfect pairings,” which will consist of a reduced price menu item and a discounted drink—wine, beer, or seasonal cocktail.
Charcoals Bar & Grill, 701 Old Hickory Rd., Lancaster
11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily