Article featured in The Inquirer.

It’s an hour and a half due west of Philadelphia, not really that much farther than some of our suburbs. But Lancaster and its surrounding countryside is very much a distinctive place,  a unique blend of historic city charm and idyllic farmland rusticity that’s now experiencing a booming scene of sophisticated restaurants to counter the old shoofly kitsch of its Pennsylvania Dutch tourist trade.

Lancaster has always been the agricultural heart of the Mid-Atlantic. But it has grown into a culinary destination in its own right because of a push to take ownership of homegrown treasures that once were exclusively sent to pedigreed kitchens in bigger cities, with the boost of a local audience that has enthusiastically embraced some cosmopolitan dining concepts. The seeds of that movement were clear in my last visit four years ago. A recent weekend jaunt with three more notable meals proved that spirit has only flourished.

One of the best wood-fired Italian trattorias in Pennsylvania? A jewel box French patisserie with a rainbow of macarons, exquisite pastries, and bistro fare that could be mistaken for a corner of Lyon? Or how about a whole-animal butcher turning pasture-fed local meats into top-notch salumi and steaks cooked to order for a casual meal just beyond the retail case? It’s all happening in the Lancaster region now. In fact, my 36-hour stay was hardly enough to partake of all the recent arrivals. I’m still determined to grab a cocktail and burger at the no-reservations Horse Inn speakeasy on my next visit, and perhaps some island fare at breezy Callaloo Trinidadian Kitchen.

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