When non-residents think of Lancaster County, they most likely picture horse-drawn buggies and buffet restaurants. But Lancaster residents know that their city is becoming an increasingly trendy place to eat and drink, especially when it comes to beer. Several restaurants in downtown Lancaster have a delicious selection of craft beers, whether the beer is bottled or their own brews.
Tucked into a small building on Mulberry Street is The Fridge, which quickly became a popular place to get craft beer after it opened in 2011. The restaurant is named The Fridge because of its enormous refrigerator case with over 400 bottles and cans of beer from around the world. Beer enthusiasts can also order a beer on tap, which range from as close as Pennsylvania or as far away as Belgium.
In 2014, The Fridge made USA Today's list of the 39 most iconic college town restaurants in the United States, in addition to being chosen as one of the 14 best craft beer places in the nation by The Happy Hour Guys.
The Fridge's menu includes flatbread pizzas, soups and salads, all of which are made with local food. A flight of what's on tap, paired with cheeses hand-picked by The Fridge's knowledgeable staff, is a special treat.
The small size of the restaurant, and its wood and leather furnishings, lend to the cozy atmosphere, especially during cold months when a fire crackles in the corner chimney.
Taproom by Spring House Brewing
The Taproom on King Street opened after Matt Keasey, founder of the Spring House Brewing Company, decided the barn on his property could no longer accommodate his customers. In July, Spring House opened another brewpub at 209 Hazel St., Lancaster. The Taproom's brewing spirit remains the same, with small batches and lots of experimentation, but having locations in downtown Lancaster means more people can enjoy Spring House beers, like The Astounding She-Monster (Mango IPA) and Atomic Raygun (Imperial Red).
The Taproom's menu includes small plates, wraps, salads and snacks, as well as dishes that are cooked up with whatever is fresh and local. Customers can sit in the intimate dining room or, in warmer weather, enjoy the outdoor seating area.
Federal Taphouse on North Queen Street has an ever-rotating menu of beers, including several from local breweries, like Troegs Brewing Company in Hershey. Federal Taphouse keeps several beers on draft, while also offering customers dozens of bottled beers. Serious beer drinkers can purchase a Federal Taphouse growler, filled with their favorite beer on tap.
The two-story restaurant has a delicious food menu, as well, like the Bibb Salad that's topped with a red wine vinaigrette yummy enough to be bottled. Customers looking to avoid the dinner crowd can enjoy lunch in their sunny dining room.
Iron Hill on Harrisburg Avenue is not only a success as a casual upscale restaurant, but also as a brewery that offers seasonal beers. Iron Hill's experienced brewers create a variety of beers throughout the year, including their deliciously hoppy Ore House IPA. Iron Hill fans especially look forward to their fall seasonal beers, like their Ichabod Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Patrons are welcome to taste a beer on tap before ordering their selection.
Iron Hill's menu has typical American fare, but the dishes are fresh and delicious, especially their Naked Burger Salad or Pan Seared Nantucket Sea Scallops. Iron Hill's large bar area and small plates also make it a popular night-time destination.
Cork & Cap
The Cork & Cap Restaurant on New Holland Avenue is known as an upscale restaurant in a renovated cork factory. The rotating beer selection, including local beers on tap, make the Cork & Cap one of the best places for craft beer in Lancaster. Beer enthusiasts can drink traditional favorites, like Lancaster Brewing Co.'s Milk Stout, or try a beer from a different craft brewery, like The Duck-Rabbit in North Carolina.
Cork & Cap's menu looks typical at first glance, offering caprese salad and New York strip steak. A closer look at the menu reveals more creative dishes, like grilled watermelon salad and meatloaf with three-cheese macaroni, all made with local ingredients.
Between the delicious beer selection and the interesting menu, it's no wonder Lancaster County Magazine readers chose the Cork & Cap for Best New Restaurant when it opened in 2010.
Reader's choice: Hunger-N-Thirst
Hunger and Thirst Craft Beer and Provisions on Landis Avenue offers 24 craft beers on tap and more than 200 beers (in four display coolers) in its bottle shop. The restaurant offers lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch menu. Stay up to date with brews and food specials on the Hunger-N-Thirst Facebook page.