I thought I was excited for Restaurant Week York (and I am, I am)—but let’s be real, I live blocks away from literally every single restaurant participating in Lancaster City Restaurant Week, and I will burn off every calorie I eat sprinting from one to the next.
LCRW (March 1–6) feels like it’s always been here, but that’s probably just because I moved back to the area around the time of the inaugural event four years ago. Back then, just 10 restaurants, mostly in the immediate Penn Square area, participated. But last year, 38 participated. With more new restaurants opening in the city every year, there are more and more options to get out there and enjoy the city spirit for any diet. I talked to one of the LCRW organizers, Chris Trendler, to get the scoop on what makes this year’s event great.
“There’s so much variety these days,” says Trendler. “You could go to three different restaurants in one day and have totally different concepts about food each time.”
He’s right – you can go super affordable with a $10 lunch, to uber fancy with a $40 dinner, and in many genres of food: French, homegrown beer, Mexican, classic pub fare, Moroccan, sticky desserts, the list goes on.
No matter what corners of the world the recipes come from, LCRW, in true American style, is a by-the-people, for-the-people kind of event, organized by those steeped in the Lancaster food scene.
“We are truly a committee-based group of downtown restaurant owners. Some of us no longer work downtown, but have stayed a part of this idea because we take such pride and find it important,” says Trendler.
As the diner in this picture, you get to reap the benefits of tasty specials at attractive prices; but, as Trendler says, “It might sound like a big party, but it’s really a lot of work. These are very dedicated and passionate individuals.”
If you hail from York or Harrisburg, it’s well worth the trip to come grab a bite, though you should check on reservations at your chosen spots before venturing forth. Get some ideas by reading the sample specials below, and check out www.lancastercityrestaurantweek.com for more info and an up-to-date list of participants and menus.
38 N Christian St
Characters is offering up both lunch and dinner specials on their most crowd-pleasing items. For lunch, try one of a selection of signature salads—like buffalo chicken salad, cobb salad, or a tuna salad platter—for $10.
The dinner specials, says Meghan Young, owner and executive chef, “will combine value with some of Characters’ most popular comfort foods”—$20 dinners like beer-battered cod fish n’ chips, grass fed beef meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese Veracruzano.
26 E King St
New on the scene, Bistro Barbaret has hearty 3-course meal options for both lunch ($25) and dinner ($35). Choose from a selection of starters, main dishes such as salmon amandine or mushroom fettuccine, and delectable desserts.
“They’re all good, depending on what people like. [For the appetizers], try the country pate with house jam; it has a very rustic style,” says Cédric Barberet, owner.
201 W Walnut St
Bring a friend, loved one, or tolerable acquaintance—whatever floats your frugal boat—to Rachel’s to take advantage of their pair menu, which for $25 offers two savory crepes, two cups of soup or side salads, and a Nutella crepe for dessert.
“We’re encouraging people to take time to dine with a good friend, a family member, a significant other, coworker, whoever!” says owner Rachel Adams.
302 N Plum St
Fresh, local, and sustainable are the keywords at LBC. For restaurant week, chef Pietro Vasile and his crew are offering an array of popular dishes, including parmesan-crusted chicken breast, stuffed porkloin, and grilled swordfish.
And it doesn’t end there: “Save room for dessert—like our house crème brulee made with one of our crafted beers, or double chocolate milk stout, just to name two. Cheers!” says Brent Eshelman, general manager.
110 W Orange St
Citronelle has gone above and beyond with its 3-course menu for $39, offering a small selection of choices that should still please a variety of diets. It includes a wild mushroom bisque soup or shaved winter pear salad, an entrée, and house-made ice cream or vegan sorbet.
One entrée should catch your eye even if you’re a meat lover: “Our bisteeya is a very flavorful Moroccan-inspired vegan dish, loaded with seasonal vegetables; it’s a nice balance of creamy and crunchy textures as well as sweet, spicy, and savory flavors,” says Susan Louie, co-owner with chef Rafael Perez.
301 N Queen St
These guys wanted to get as many of their signature items onto the restaurant week specials list as possible. For breakfast, they’re offering a signature breakfast sandwich, such as the pepperjack biscuit, plus a latte for $10. For lunch, any sandwich or salad plus a cold beverage and a cookie is also just $10.
“[Restaurant Week] brings people from all over the county into the city and gives city dwellers the best reason to try something new,” says Rachael Vieni Reinmiller, co-owner. “We are always excited for people to give us a try and find out why sourcing local ingredients creates unique flavors and combinations.”
108 W Orange St
On Wednesday, March 2, On Orange will offer a special $20 3-course Mexican dinner. Owner Melissa Watro says that it was a big hit last year, when a chicken enchilada was the star of the meal, but this year she’s trying something new with a pozole, a traditional hominy and meat stew. The other courses are still TBD, but they’re sure to pack solid Latin American flavor, so stop by for the one-night-only event.
2 E King St
Those who already regularly enjoy the Grille’s lunches will be delighted by their lunch special: a reduced $10 price on their express lunch menu and double punches on the lunch club loyalty card. But even if you aren’t racking up points you can still fully appreciate the solid options like modern salmon Nicoise salad, the creamy roasted tomato soup and smoked turkey and pepperjack grilled cheese combo, or a steak sandwich. Or go big with the 3-course $30 spring-themed dinner menu.
“Some dinner selections will be warm roasted beet and goat cheese salad with baby arugula and honey-ginger vinaigrette, and asparagus and watercress bisque with crab and preserved lemon,” says chef Ben Ash.
300 W James St
For dinner at Mulberry Social, says owner Carl Vitale, “We’re going to create a special menu for all the guests that come in so they can choose the 3-course $30 menu or a la carte items.” Appetizer options will include wild mushroom fritters and frito misto (mixed fry), which is tempura-battered veggies and calamari with dipping sauces.
“Our homemade pastas will definitely be highlighted; that’s our specialty,” says Vitale. On the menu and a big hit lately is the vegetarian cavatelli with roasted cauliflower, eggplant, capers, and golden raisins.
540 E Fulton St
New owners Matt and Starla Russell have decided to do a 2 for $20 appetizer and entrée combo deal for the week. You get your pick of a hot soup or a cool farmer’s salad to lead off your meal, followed by choice of tips and toast, shrimp and grits, or a local vegetable plate.
If you want your mouth to water, listen to Starla describe the tips and toast: “The tenderloin tips are marinated with garlic and herbs, grilled to perfection, and finished with beef fat. They are then placed on top of Alfred and Sam’s toasted French bread and finished with our house-made red wine demi glace.”
500 W Lemon St
With the weather unpredictable as ever, ice cream may not sound like the thing to eat, but Splits & Giggles is offering a cozy welcome and a warm meal to go with theirs. For $20 you and a friend get two paninis, two sides of homemade soup, and two scoops of ice cream—not enough to freeze you.
“We don’t know what soups we’ll be featuring yet, [but] it’s the perfect low key meal for two people,” says owner Dave Brown.
25 N Queen St
At the downtown Isaac’s location only, you and a friend can get a classic sampling of Isaac’s history with their $20 deal of a selection of two pretzel sandwiches and two cups of fresh made-from-scratch soup.
“I would have to say we’re the original restaurant to have pretzel sandwiches, probably, in the US,” says marketing coordinator Johnny Roberts. He explained that they came about by mistake back in 1994 when a bread delivery to one location included a leftover box of soft pretzels. The manager made what became the Salty Eagle for his staff, which went over extremely well. After about a year of developing the perfect pretzel roll, pretzel sandwiches were formally introduced to the menu.
“Pretzel rolls have always been a standard at Isaacs, and that’s why we wanted to use them as the feature,” says Roberts. “The Mallard is my all-time favorite. It’s got roast beef, Ikey’s sauce, and bacon, and it just all plays together so well.”
26-28 W King St
At the Pressroom, choose a salad and 8-inch pizza for lunch for $10, or an appetizer and entrée for dinner for $20, from a restaurant week menu featuring many of the Pressroom’s popular dishes. I had one of the funghi pizzas lately, so I can attest it’s a solid choice.
“For us it’s … about our amazing little town’s hospitality scene and creating more buzz about its awesomeness through collective efforts. It is about driving a broader demographic into town that may not normally venture this way,” says general manager Rob Commero. “So we put together our menu and paired a few items for both lunch and dinner to create price points that are an attractive value.”
136 N Prince St
From 11–2 Tuesday through Saturday, stop by for the $10 lunch special that is sure to tickle your sweet tooth and warm you up: you’ll get a cup of soup, two tea savories (egg salad on white and spinach en croute), a French macaron, and a cup of hot tea. Owner Donna Lussier is also putting together a Sunday Brunch special that she’s still working on, so stay tuned.