Scotch, stogies and the tastes of the islands
From stogie-smoking Conestoga wagon drivers to the oldest (and now defunct) tobacco shop in the country, Lancaster is steeped in the history of cigars.
Demuth’s Tobacco Shop closed its doors on East King Street in 2010, but just a couple blocks away sits a new spot dedicated to cigars from around the world, along with healthy doses of Scotch, bourbon, wine, beer and Latin-inspired food.
Lancaster Cigar Bar – the brainchild of local entrepreneur Daniel Falcon – opened in early September, but its concept dates back several years ago when Falcon was introduced to fine cigars by a neighbor.
“We would sit out on the deck and have a couple of cigars and a few beers from time to time,” Falcon says. “One day, I wanted to go out and have a beer and a cigar at an establishment and couldn’t find a place.”
More than a year of research on cigar bars and three months of renovations of a former clothing store in the Hager Building resulted in a cozy-yet-roomy space, highlighted with stone wall accents, industrial concrete flooring and a soft gray palette.
A long Wednesday of editing and interviewing called for a relaxing drink and smoke. I arrived relatively early for the after-work crowd, having the bar to myself to admire my surroundings – comfortable modern leather lounge chairs (arranged in semi-concealed areas for private gatherings), high-top tables and a handmade lacquered-top bar.
The true feature I came to experience was the large walk-in humidor located in the back of the room – its large glass façade beckoning me to come take a peak at the cigar selection. Designed by Falcon himself, the humidor’s constructed with Spanish cedar shelving and enough space for 100 different cigar selections.
A choice of 65 different cigars was set in front of me – all premium hand-rolled from companies like Padron, CLE Cigars and Rocky Patel Platinum. Falcon – who stepped into the humidor to point out some of his favorites – personally chose all the cigars, and all carry a 90 or better rating from Cigar Aficionado magazine.
I sat down at the bar with my H. Upmann Maduro Robusto, snipping the end and lighting it with matches provided by an attentive bartender. A great cloud of smoke billowed (and immediately disappeared from the breezy and effective overhead ventilation system) as I puffed on the full-bodied cigar with hints of cocoa and coffee.
Cigar checked off my list, I skimmed the bar shelves lined with fine Scotches like The Macallan 18 Year, bourbons like Knob Creek and Jefferson Reserve and 11 varieties of wine. The drink menu was also tempting, featuring a dozen Latin-inspired drinks, including margaritas and martinis. Being more in a beer mood, I decided on a glass of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA – one of four beers on tap.
Settled in, I sat back and watched a replay of the Baltimore Orioles playoff victory over the Detroit Tigers on one of the four flat-screen TVs. Jazz and Cuban music added to the cigar bar atmosphere as a group of middle-aged women sat down to enjoy half-price martinis and glasses of wine as part of the ladies’ night specials.
Feeling a bit hungry, I was surprised to find a fairly extensive menu of Latin-inspired food dishes in a cigar bar. Created by chef Luis Cortes Jr., the menu features tapas selections, including chorizo, roasted pork and coffee-infused hanger steak, along with sliders, appetizers and entrees made with ingredients he sources from Lancaster Central Market directly across the street.
“There’s nothing better than knowing exactly where the ingredients come from and to know that they came locally,” Cortes says.
The braised pork cheeks with patty pan squash, pickled cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms and roasted garlic polenta caught my attention. Skillfully arranged in an artistic display that was almost too striking to disturb with my fork, I was treated to tender pork that melted in my mouth, complicated combinations of sweet and sour flavors and interesting textures.
At the suggestion of Cortes, I also tried his family-recipe-inspired coconut flan with toasted coconut and almond topping. It was a delicious mix between a flan and crème brulée, made with simple ingredients like sweet condensed milk, coconut milk and egg – no sugar added.
Cigars may carry the reputation as being “for the boys,” but Falcon has created a comfortable spot that caters not only to men and women alike, but also to the smoker and non-smoker at Lancaster Cigar Bar.
“Whether you’re a guy by yourself having a cigar, three or four guys hanging out together or a couple, it’s a place for anybody who wants to relax and smoke without being looked at like an outcast of society,” Falcon says.
• 25 West King Street, Lancaster; 553-5694
• Monday, 4-11 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.