Thursday, March 28 2024 11:33

Lancaster’s Countryside Cosmopolitan

Written by Emily Hart
Photo: Discover Lancaster/Gabe McMullen

If it’s been a while since you’ve visited Lancaster, there’s something you should know about: its Korean donuts. (Really!) One bite from SeoulMates Korean Kitchen — the new restaurant on Mulberry Street in Lancaster City — and you’re hooked.

This delightful discovery is just one more reason the area is becoming a destination for a wide range of foods and cultures, including and beyond Pennsylvania Dutch.



For newbies, K-food is Korean cuisine, a growing worldwide trend fueled by the love of K-pop stars, music and movies. Meals feature marinated barbecued meat, short-grain rice and vegetables. Planting the cuisine on Lancaster’s map is Chef-owner Rebekah Walls. Born in Korea and adopted by Americans, she came home to Lancaster after living on East and West Coasts and brought fresh food and Korean culture with her.

SeoulMates Korean Kitchen

SeoulMates offers flavors as vibrant as its décor — wooden tables with royal purple packages of chopsticks and red napkins, and green stools at a gleaming counter beneath large globe lights. Korean fried chicken with a little kick, bulgogi (delightful strips of marinated beef) and dumplings topped with sesame seeds to be dipped in kimchi vinaigrette come served with a smile. Walls says she’s most proud of the seven-course Korean dinners offered by reservation on Monday nights — full tasting meals in vegan and meat options.

Can’t eat another mouthful or running out of time? Order Korean donuts to go. My travel buddy and I did. Straight from the oven, they were warm and lightly fragrant. Oh-so-soft with perfect consistency. Light as a feather, yet without pockets of air. Rolled in cinnamon sugar, the donuts were irresistible. I took my first bite before starting the car’s ignition. They didn’t make it as far as the county line.

Miles of Tastes, Steps Away

Passenger Coffee

Find a buoyant vibe and friendly people at Passenger Coffee on King Street in Lancaster City. On Saturdays, the café hops from doors open to closed. Watch your tea as it travels from tongs to pretty cup, where loose leaves steep. Prepared in the ancient Chinese Gongfu tradition, the leaves for the golden liquid in my cup — Himalayan Shiiba Green — came from Nepal’s Jun Chiyabari (translated “Moonlit Tea Garden”). It tastes as deep and rich as fresh tea in Nepal and northeastern India, rarely found here. A sip of the coffee is equally good. It’s obvious why Food & Wine magazine has called it the Best Coffee Shop and Best Coffee Roaster in Pennsylvania.

Shot & Bottle

Step out Passenger’s back door into the alley where a boy in the crowd of onlookers spontaneously dances to live music. Along Lancaster Central Market, stroll past a Bike It fleet waiting for riders and up to the Visitors Center. People-watch from the brick wall: hungry patrons popping into Shot & Bottle for a curated menu of food and drink, shoppers making their way to nearby boutiques and bakeries, and a couple carrying fresh blooms as pink as their hair from Market Flowers.

Another stop for shoppers is Zanzibar — not in the Indian Ocean, but also on King Street. Select boutique clothing, unique gifts and artsy greeting cards that will leave you doubled over with laughter.

Barbaret Bistro and Café

For luscious French flair, head to Barbaret Bistro and Café. Colorful hibiscus and green tea truffles, rainbow macarons and desserts — the Azure flourless chocolate cake, vanilla crème brûleé with a deep blue mirror glaze or the Costa Rica with praline crunch — are all splendid. If you fancy something other than desserts for a whole meal — no judgment if you don’t — take a seat. Chef Barbaret’s vast experience and studies in France are evident at a table laden with warm crispy chicken sandwiches or Provençal tartine of melted cheeses and herbs on bread with light crunchy edges.

Lancaster Central Market

An international food fiesta awaits back at Lancaster Central Market. Explore the day’s fare. Will it be empanadas, Thai fried rice, Middle Eastern hummus or Philly cheesesteaks? Or local chow chow, sausages, shoo-fly pies or stroopies dipped in chocolate? Maybe snickerdoodle-flavored Italian biscotti is it! Market stands also offer flowers and home goods.

Up and Away … to the Outskirts

Looking for “microadventures” in your backyard? That’s fun the New York Times dubbed trips minutes away from home but often overlooked and designed so you discover and appreciate what’s in front of your nose. Play tourist. View Amish farms, rolling hills and tiny towns from the back seat of Aaron and Jessica’s Horse-drawn Buggies in Intercourse or the basket of a hot air balloon.

Lancaster Balloon Rides

Lancaster Balloon Rides in Bird-in-Hand offers exhilarating county overviews with private or shared tours. Landlubbers can also watch a launch and capture a “glow” in photos at the annual Lancaster Hot Air Balloon Festival, scheduled for September 12–15 later this year.

At Intercourse gather local wares. Next to busy Kitchen Kettle Village — where Amish crafts include wooden rocking horses, kitchenware, quilts and quilting supplies — the lines at Immergut Pretzels are a testament to the popularity of their soft, salted, twisted dough.


For another microadventure, find calm at one of the area’s spas.

In an 1800s home, The Spa at the Inn at Intercourse Village offers simplicity, soothing music, fountains in every room and services to leave you renewed. Book an individual or couple’s massage or a Japanese-inspired facial including manuka honey cleansing and scalp massage.

Stay for the night on the property. The Inn offers romantic four-poster or sleigh beds, whirlpool tubs and toasty fires.

Another option is the Serenity Day Spa at the Best Western at Intercourse Village Inn and Suites. Massages and facials wash away stress or weariness from the day’s travels. Healthy spa lunches invigorate.

The Spa at Leola Village

From Lancaster City, pass Pleasure Road to visit The Inn at Leola. A sizeable spa, named Destinations, sits alongside rooms, suites and casual restaurant Osteria Avanti offering Italian food with local ingredients, including from their garden. Destinations expanded a few years ago with a lovely nail salon steps away from the hair salon and three additional treatment rooms for massages. Between services for hair, nails or massage, bask in the lounge for men or quiet tea room.

Tippling Rooms Fit for Royalty

Our Town Brewery

For some noble brews and cocktails, head to Prince and Queen Streets back in Lancaster City.

If you like, hang out with the beer aging in the barrels of Our Town Brewery on North Prince Street. The eatery’s menu is designed to pair with beer and partners with local talent — Commissary Kitchen, Star Rock Farms, Grandview Vineyard and Pine View Dairy for smash burgers, sundaes and Bavarian pretzels with obatzda beer cheese. Tune in for live music, murder mysteries and other events.

Waltz Vineyards. Photo: Discover Lancaster/Gabe McMullen

On North Queen, at Isaac’s Craft Kitchen and Brewery, enjoy flatbread pizzas or classic Reubens and club sandwiches with kettle-cooked chips and handcrafted beer. Go for the Hoptimist, a hazy IPA, or a cranberry and orange Red Rose City Sour named for the 14th-century royal rose emblem of the English location that gave the Pennsylvania town its name.

After a balloon ride, toast the day with a wine flight and local artisan cheeses at Waltz Vineyards in Manheim. Italian winemaking technology and a European-style tasting room round out a cosmopolitan microadventure without leaving Pennsylvania.


Return to Chester County after a day or weekend filled with delights. You might just feel as glowing as a balloon at dusk, effervescent as whirlpool bubbles and light as that Korean donut.

For help planning your trip to our neighbor county, check out and