While Ben Franklin would probably be staggered at the size of a modern Pennsylvania Dutch meal or smorgasbord, he'd recognize everything in it -- you'll find the same baked goods, meat and poultry, and fruit and vegetables that were offered here in Colonial times. The Amish way of life calls for substantial, long-cooking dishes, rich in butter and cream. Don't look for crisp vegetables -- if they're not creamed, they're thoroughly boiled. The baked goods are renowned, with shoofly pie, a crumb-topped concoction of molasses and sweet dough (hence its attraction to flies), being the most famous.
Included here are representative family-style and smorgasbord dining spots, as well as restaurants that update local ingredients. Family style means that you'll be eating with a group of 10 or 12, and heaping platters of food will be delivered to your long table, course after course. At a smorgasbord, you fill your own plate at central food stations, with unlimited refills. Prices are fixed per person at both.
And when looking for a meal, don't neglect the signs along the road, or "Community Event" listings in the Thursday "Weekend" section of the Lancaster New Era (or check the "Entertainment" link at www.lancasteronline.com), for church or firehouse breakfasts or dinners. These generally charge a minimal amount for an abundance of home-style food, and they're great chances to meet the locals. Annual festivals include the Sertoma Club's enormous chicken barbecue at Long's Park in Lancaster (www.lancastersertomabbq.com) and New Holland's Summer Fest, featuring the Pennsylvania State Championship BBQ cook-off (www.nhsummerfest.org). Downtown Lancaster restaurants offer everything from California mission-style burritos at Señorita Burrita (tel. 717/283-0940) to local and organic cuisine at John J. Jeffries (tel. 717/431-3307; www.johnjjeffries.com).
Of the many fine eateries found in downtown Lancaster, standouts include Carr's Restaurant, across from Central Market at 50 W. Grant St. (tel. 717/299-7090; www.carrsrestaurant.com), featuring creatively prepared local meats and produce and an extensive wine selection. In 2010, Carr's opened Crush Winebar right upstairs (you walk through it to the restaurant), serving tapas and pouring award-winning wines. Character's Pub, tucked in an alleylike side street at 38 N. Christian St. (tel. 717/735-7788), is well worth tracking down for its sophisticated casual fare and fun atmosphere. If you're looking for restaurants with a great nightlife, try the Belvedere Inn, 402 N. Queen St. (tel. 717/394-2422; www.belvedereinn.biz). The second floor of this opulent grand Victorian restaurant is home to Crazy Shirley's, a sexy, red-drenched piano bar and lounge with fabulous cocktails and live jazz or blues on weekends. A relative newcomer to the nightlife scene, Rosa Rosa Late Jazz (tel. 717/509-3970; www.rosarosalatejazz.com) is situated in Rosa Rosa Italian Ristorante and brings locally and internationally known jazz acts on weekends. Annie Bailey's, a traditional Irish pub at 28-30 E. King St. (tel. 717/393-4000; www.anniebaileysirishpub.com), offers a variety of live bands and an enormous deck that draws happy crowds in summer. Brewpub fans can head to an outpost of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, 781 Harrisburg Pike (tel. 717/291-9800; www.ironhillbrewery.com/lancaster), or the hometown favorite, Lancaster Brewing Company, 302 N. Plum St. (tel. 717/391-6258; www.lancasterbrewing.com), with excellent food and finely crafted brews served in a rustic former tobacco warehouse.
Dining with the Amish -- Joining an Amish family for dinner is a wonderful, enlightening experience that can personally acquaint you with these hospitable people. You'll be treated to lively, informative conversation and hearty, home cooking that's likely to include handcrafted pickles and baked goods. Remember, these are people's homes, not restaurants, so you can't just call for reservations (that would be illegal). However, some country innkeepers who are friendly with their Amish neighbors can help arrange a dinner "invitation" for registered guests, and you may discreetly offer an envelope with a cash "gift" to your Amish hosts. Places with such Amish connections include the elegant and romantic E. J. Bowman House, 2674 Lititz Pike (Rte. 501; tel. 877/519-1776 or 717/519-0808; www.ejbowmanhouse.com), and the more bucolic Eby's Pequea Bed & Breakfast Farm with two locations in Gordonville, one at 345 Belmont Rd. and the second at 459a Queen Rd. (tel. 717/768-3615; www.ebyfarm.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.