For such a small city, Lancaster, Pennsylvania packs a real punch in terms of excellent places to eat. Sample some of the best restaurants downtown with this DIY food tour of Lancaster!
Over the course of the last decade, the small city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has seen a real renaissance. My sister, Brooke, lived downtown from 2009-2011 while attending nursing school, and she often lamented that there were so few places to eat, shop, or go for an evening out. Now, the streets of Lancaster City are lined with tasty restaurants, fun antique and artisan shops, boutiques, galleries, and other fun things to do.
Brooke, whom you might remember from our mother-daughter trips to Belize and Puerto Rico, moved back to downtown Lancaster a couple of years ago. Since then, she has made up for lost time by immersing herself in the Lancaster food scene. It’s not unusual for me to open up my Instagram to find that she’s sent me a mouthwatering post from another new restaurant, and I’m frequently jealous of her easy access to a wide variety of different cuisines.
Because the list of places that we wanted to try together had grown so long – and because I knew it would make a fun blog post – we decided to create our own little food tour of Lancaster! We plotted out a route to some of the best casual eateries in the Red Rose City and spent the afternoon strolling the streets and sampling the goods. Below you’ll find our finished product: a full itinerary for a walking food tour, complete with suggestions for what to order and other tips for having a tasty time!
While Brooke and I did hit all the restaurants below during our tour, I have arranged the stops in what I feel will be the most convenient and logical order for a visitor to the city to undertake them. You’ll start at New Holland Coffee Company on King Street, which is around the corner from two different parking garages and practically across the street from the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square. There are lots of hotels and places to stay in Lancaster, but the Marriott is one of the most convenient (and also where M and I had our wedding reception!).
So what are you waiting for? Grab a few friends, throw on some comfy shoes and stretchy pants, and have a blast trying some of the best restaurants in Lancaster!
A DIY Food Tour of Lancaster, PA
How Far Will I Walk?
If you do the full circuit with no deviations or detours, you’ll walk about 1.5 miles in total.
How Much Will it Cost?
Brooke and I averaged one appetizer/small plate per location and purchased a cocktail apiece at one of the stops. We also tipped at every place, including the couple for which we did takeout. Our total bill, including tips, came out to a little over $130, or about $65 per person. This is roughly in line with the cost of many guided food tours, though your total may vary depending on which dishes you choose, whether or not you order drinks, and how generously you tip.
Start: New Holland Coffee Company
Lancaster is blessed with numerous great coffee shops, and you should start your DIY food tour at one of the best. New Holland Coffee Company not only makes a great cup of joe but emphasizes a warm, welcoming atmosphere. While I am not personally a coffee drinker, Brooke took advantage of our tour to grab a cup to go.
If you’d like a more ambitious start to your food tour of Lancaster, New Holland also has a delicious food menu.
29 East King Street. Open until 9:00 PM except on Sundays, when they close at 3:00 PM.
Stop 2: Old San Juan Latin Cuisine & Rum Bar
Next up, it’s time for some fantastic Puerto Rican food at Old San Juan. We relived our girls’ trip to Puerto Rico with some empanadas (hers was pork, mine was chicken) and sweet plantains. Both were excellent, and we had trouble not ordering the rest of the menu.
Brooke and I hit this delightful spot a little later in our own tour, so we also indulged in cocktails while we ate. She had a coconut mojito, while I enjoyed a “Latin Passion” – a rum-based passionfruit concoction that was on special that day.
25 West King Street. Dinner only Monday-Thursday, but open 12:00 – 10:00 PM Friday through Sunday.
Stop 3: Sprout Rice & Noodles Vietnamese Eatery
A newish sister restaurant to the well-established Rice & Noodles outside the city, Sprout offers bright, fresh Vietnamese cuisine. Our pork and shrimp spring rolls provided a tasty change of pace from the Puerto Rican fare we’d just enjoyed, and the hoisin peanut dipping sauce was especially yummy.
58 North Prince Street. Open until 6:45 PM Monday to Saturday. Closed Sundays.
Stop 4: Cocina Mexicana
Heading back to Latin America, your next stop is around the corner at Cocina Mexicana. You’ll find all your Mexican favorites here: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, etc. We chose to split a pair of sopes with pork.
112 North Water Street. Open until 8 PM Monday through Thursday and until 9 PM Friday and Saturday. Closed on Sundays.
Stop 5: Rachel's Cafe and Creperie
One of the most beloved restaurants downtown, Rachel’s is the place to go for delicious sweet or savory crepes. Brooke and I chose to split the Mediterranean crepe, which came loaded with hummus, spinach, feta, diced tomatoes, red onion, and olives on a curry-infused crepe. Yum!
With their tasty menu of breakfast crepes and early closing time of 3:00 PM, Rachel’s would also make a great starting point for your DIY food tour of Lancaster. Avoid long wait times by calling ahead, or order takeout and enjoy it on a bench in nearby Northwest Corridor Linear Park on Lemon Street, like we did!
201 West Walnut Street. Open 8 AM – 3 PM. Closed on Mondays.
Stop 6: Callaloo Trinidadian Kitchen
Callaloo was one of the restaurants Brooke was most excited for me to try, as it has quickly become one of her favorite places to eat in Lancaster. It was my first time trying Trinidadian food, and I was far from disappointed. We had the doubles – a street food consisting of fried bread, curried chickpeas, cucumber chutney, and a tamarind and cilantro sauce – as well as their fried chicken bao buns. The former was my favorite of the two, the latter is one of Brooke’s favorite takeout treats in Lancaster.
If you’re starting your Lancaster food tour around lunchtime, you may want to plan to make Callaloo your last stop. They don’t open until 5:00 PM, but the wait is worth it.
351 North Mulberry Street. Open 5:00 – 9:00 PM Tuesday through Thursday and 5:00 – 10:00 PM on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Stop 7: Cabalar Neighborhood Butcher and Eatery
If you skip one stop on your DIY food tour in Lancaster, it should absolutely not be Cabalar. In fact, you should probably drive to Lancaster right now just to eat there.
We hit Cabalar as the second-to-last stop on our food tour, and I was fully prepared to just split an order of their fried pickles and call it a day. Considering everything we’d eaten so far and the fact that we had one stop to go, I thought Brooke was a little nuts when she insisted we get a burger as well. I can’t tell you how glad I am that we did.
I don’t say this lightly: Cabalar was exceptional. Fantastic. Amazing. The best things we ate all day. From my first bite of fried pickles dipped in chipotle ranch to my last bite of the house special burger with aged cheddar and shaved onion, I was in heaven. My mouth couldn’t believe what was happening. I was ready to cancel the rest of the tour and just order a second round.
325 North Queen Street. Closed Monday through Wednesday. Open 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM Thursday and Sunday and 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM on Friday and Saturday.
Stop 8: Issei Noodle
A tasty change of pace after some heavier fare, Issei is the perfect spot to grab some vegetarian gyoza. These yummy dumplings made us feel a little better about getting some vegetables in, and it was one of our least expensive stops to boot.
If you have enough room in your stomach by this point in the tour, the ramen bowls looked and smelled fantastic.
44 North Queen Street. Open from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM and 4:00 – 8:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Last stop! Lancaster Cupcake
After all those delicious, savory dishes, you’re probably ready for something sweet! Luckily, the next and final stop on your Lancaster food tour is sinfully decadent Lancaster Cupcake.
Runners-up on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, Lancaster Cupcake has quickly become a Lancaster institution. Their downtown cafe is the perfect place to grab a sweet treat (or two, I’m not here to judge) to cap off your day of sampling! They have so many delicious cupcake flavors as well as ice cream, house-made lemonade, cookies, and cupcake splits: cupcakes cut in half and filled with soft serve. There are also plenty of gluten-free and vegan cupcake options if that’s your jam.
24 West Orange Street. Open 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM Monday through Thursday, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM Friday and Saturday, and 12:00 – 5:00 PM on Sunday.
Let’s be honest: Brooke and I could have included at least a dozen other great casual eateries in Lancaster on our tour if we had had the time and sufficient room in our stomachs. If you have more time and tummy space than us – or if you just want to swap out any of the restaurants above – here are three places I wish we could have included:
1.) Souvlaki Boys Grill
The only reason this delectable Greek eatery wasn’t included on Brooke’s and my schedule was that we’ve both already been there many times and we wanted to try some new places. Souvlaki Boys is one of Brooke’s go-to takeout spots and their Greek goodness would add some additional variety to your food tour. Their pita sandwiches are banging, and you can’t leave without having some of their mouthwatering baklava.
1 West James Street. Open Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM.
2.) Silantra Asian Street Kitchen
While the build-your-own-bowl format may make it a little more difficult to split dishes, Silantra is absolutely still worth a stop on your foodie adventure. At Silantra, you can create your own rice or noodle bowl full of organic, local ingredients, or you can go wild and have a “bing”: an Asian burrito wrapped in a scallion pancake. The possibilities are endless, and each one is delicious.
101 East King Street. Open Monday – Saturday from 11:30 AM – 7:00 PM. Closed on Sunday.
3.) The Exchange
If you’re looking to cap off your Lancaster food tour with a celebratory cocktail or other beverage, look no further than The Exchange. Located on the twelfth floor of the aforementioned Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, The Exchange offers panoramic views of the city and is especially pretty and atmospheric at night. Their craft cocktails are yummy, and there’s a good food menu as well if you have any room left!
Tips for Your DIY Lancaster Food Tour
- This should go without saying, but come hungry! If you choose to make all the stops on the tour, you’ll be eating at least nine to ten dishes.
- Similarly, pace yourself. There are so many delicious things to eat that you don’t want to be full by the third stop! Order small plates, vary the kinds/heaviness of the foods you order, and don’t be afraid to break up the eating by stopping into any of Lancaster’s awesome small shops and boutiques.
- Pay attention to opening and closing times, as not all of the restaurants above operate on the same schedule. The best days to do this tour would be Friday or Saturday, when all the stops are open for business.
- Call ahead for Rachel’s Creperie, as it will most likely have the longest wait time.
- Ordering takeout is also a good option if places are busy and it’s nice enough to eat outside.
- Wear comfortable shoes, especially if you’re doing the stops out of order or are planning to explore other small businesses during the tour. The loop above is only a mile and a half, but Brooke and I walked almost five and a half miles during our adventure!
- While it wasn’t terribly expensive doing the food tour with just two people, a party of three or four would be ideal! Having more people cuts down on expense at each location and/or allows you to sample more dishes without filling up.
- If you’re in town on a Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday, don’t miss a stroll through Central Market, the oldest continuously running public farmers’ market in the country. You could do a whole food tour just in that building!
- Pronounce Lancaster like a local: it’s “LANG-kiss-ter,” not “LAN-cass-ter.” 🙂
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