Lovin’ Lancaster

Our roundup of food finds in the Pennsylvania city includes market stands, factory tours and farm-to-table restaurants

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The vibrant scene in the city of Lancaster includes street musicians, vintage clothing shops, historic buildings, art galleries and lots of culinary spots, from Hammonds Pretzel Bakery (top left) to the Lancaster Central Market (bottom left). Photos by Stephen Walker; pretzel photo by Huong Fralin

The Lancaster countryside may be known for its Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbords and shoofly pies, but if you explore the city of Lancaster, you’ll find an eclectic mix of hip and historic restaurants and food venues.

Over the last 10 years or so, the city of about 60,000 has become an intriguing melting pot, with a dynamic eating, arts and shopping scene, and a strong locavore sensibility. Food-wise, there’s a little bit of everything, from upscale restaurants, chic coffee shops and Asian noodle bars to a pickle store and a pretzel factory.

The focal food spot is the Lancaster Central Market, which was established at the city’s founding in 1730 and is the country’s oldest farmers market. First operated as an open-air facility, the downtown market continues to be located in the building it’s occupied since 1889, a large, ornate brick-and-stone structure with terra-cotta towers. The market has evolved, and with more than 60 stalls it’s a combination of old and new. There are Amish and Mennonite farmers whose families go back decades, as well as newbie vendors selling artisan charcuterie, and ethnic stalls offering everything from Puerto Rican sandwiches to African chickpea cakes.

Here are some of the must-see, must-eat offerings (for a full directory, visit centralmarketlancaster.com/directory; the market is open 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday):

Central Market 

The German Deli (Stand 1) 
Top selections of sausage, ham, salami and German cheese can be found at Heidi and Henner Steinle’s stand, not to mention herring, dumplings, sauerkraut and more. Stop here if only to meet Heidi—a real character who loves to chat—and to buy a skinny and smoky salami stick to snack on while shopping.

Heidi Steinle of The German Deli is among the friendly proprietors at the market. Photo by Stephen Walker

Groff’s Vegetables (Stand 10),
Thomas Produce (Stand 14),
Stoner’s Homegrown Vegetables (Stand 20)
These are the longest-running produce stands in the market, operated by generations of local family farmers. The Groffs have been selling at the market since 1946; the Thomas clan has been coming since 1927; and the Stoner family wins the prize with 120 years.

Multiple generations of the Thomas family run their market produce stand. Photo by Stephen Walker

Havana Juice (Stand 11)
For lunch, opt for one of the ethnic stalls such as Havana Juice, owned by Cuban-born Rene Diaz, who cooks up big chunks of super-tender roast pork, along with flavorful rice and beans, and fried sweet plantains. To wash it all down, try pressed sugarcane juice, coconut water or a mamey smoothie made with the Latin American fruit.

Havana Juice owner Rene Diaz sells Cuban fare, including roast pork sandwiches and fruit smoothies. Photo by Stephen Walker

SweetHearts of Lancaster County (Stand 26)
An innocuous dipper, celery takes on a new life at this Lititz, Pennsylvania, company, which sells a meaty, less stringy and far more flavorful version of the veggie. The celery plants are “aged” for six weeks at 70 degrees, causing the outer stalks to rot and fall off, resulting in a sweet inner portion.

Long’s Horseradish (Stand 39)
The Longs have been making horseradish for a long time—since 1902, to be exact. Michael Long has been bottling it at the market and selling it there for the past 27 years, hand-grinding the hard root, adding vinegar and water, and scooping it into jars. “Horseradish is very versatile,” says Long, who suggests mixing it into barbecue sauce, meatloaf, deviled eggs or chicken salad, or coating it on roast beef while it cooks for an “amazing gravy.”

Stoltzfus Homestyle Bakery (Stand 52)
Daniel Stoltzfus, a friendly fellow and former farmer, sells sweets—including whoopie pies and the oblong-shaped doughnuts called Long Johns—from Achenbach’s Pastries, a longtime Lancaster-area bakery. (For a lighter sugar load, select a plain pretzel-shaped doughnut.) Stoltzfus also sells locally made preserved goods, such as jams, jellies, spiced watermelon rind and a terrific chow chow (pickled vegetable relish).

Linden Dale Farm (Stand 60)
With the help of their six children, Andrew and Mary Mellinger produce and sell a host of goat’s milk products, including cheese (chèvre, feta, Gouda, Romano and more), Swiss-style and Greek-style yogurts, and, of course, just the milk. It’s all accomplished on Linden Dale Farm, a seventh-generation operation that’s been in the Mellinger family since 1816. In 2005, Andrew and Mary sold their dairy cows and started building a herd of goats, and the results are delicious.

Goat’s milk products are the focus of Linden Dale Farm. Photo by Stephen Walker

Rooster Street Butcher (Stand 68)
Tony Page—a former chef at Emeril Lagasse’s Emeril’s Chop House at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem—and his wife, Kristina, own a whole-animal butcher shop and counter service restaurant in nearby Lititz, offering hormone- and antibiotic-free meats from local farms. (If you go, it’s a no-brainer—get a charcuterie plate.) The market stand sells fresh cuts, as well as the Pages’ housemade deli meats, sausages and cured products.

Rooster Street Butcher employee Amy Crystle with a bowl of homemade sausage. Photo by Stephen Walker
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