Restaurant Review #237: Prince St. Cafe (Lancaster, PA)

They say it is hard to get a good pizza in Pennsylvania. As for me, it has been difficult to get good coffee! Diners aside, which put out competent coffee similar to what I can get here in New Jersey, the Keystone State’s cafe scene seems to be a bit lacking. Justin and I were looking to get a coffee after lunch last week in the City of Lancaster. This being a new area for us to explore, and us determined to find a place on our own without any help on the Internet, we stumbled into the Prince Street Cafe. This was a prime location, directly across the street from the historic Fulton Opera House. Further down the street was the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. This had to be the place for coffee, right? 

Coffee and the flowers Justin got me for Valentine’s Day

Our experience with cafe coffee in Pennsylvania has not been great. A place called The Joint in Bethlehem was an absolute mess on one of our earlier trips. We were both hoping the Prince St. Cafe would redeem the state’s coffee brewing in our eyes. When we walked in, I was impressed. It was a Thursday afternoon and the place was packed. The clientele was a mix of businessmen and young people on laptops. This could have been New Jersey. I ordered a simple regular coffee and then Justin asked for an iced macchiato. That’s when the worker behind the counter rather snobbishly said, “Oh no, you mean a latte.” Justin then responded, “No, I mean a macchiato with ice.” The conversation continued, “Well, our macchiato is hot. We don’t do it like Starbucks here. I could put it on ice but that probably wouldn’t taste very good.” Justin then agreed to get the hot macchiato.

My coffee came out first and we had a seat. The worker said they would bring his over. I am someone who drinks coffee black and without any sugar 95% of the time. On my first sip, I knew this would not be happening. The flavor was strong—the kind of taste that makes it seem burnt without actually being burnt. It was brutishly and unnecessarily robust. The aftertaste was a bitter one. I’ve tasted this before, across Pennsylvania and even some back-areas of New Jersey. I don’t know when it ever became normal to produce this kind of coffee as “gourmet”. Either way, I added some cream and sugar and it became passable. I threw it out with about a quarter of the cup left. It was Justin’s macchiato that encountered the real problems.

A lady brought it over. It was a tiny, minuscule cup. It was actually funny how it resembled a dollhouse scale-model of a coffee cup. You could hold it with two fingers and your pinky out. When he took the lid off, he looked down and was disappointed. The flavor was not there. He asked if I would bring him some cinnamon and sugar so he could doctor it up. Once again, it was too bitter for its own good.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of the Prince Street Cafe. I certainly felt like I was in the city. We managed to get a high-top table overlooking the Fulton. These vibes will bring up the final score just a tad. They had a full menu but we did not eat since we were just coming from lunch. Would I be willing to give it another try? Maybe, but with so many other places around, it might be a while before that happens. I wanted so badly to like this, but in the end I’m going to give them 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Prince St. Cafe is located at 15 North Prince Street in Lancaster, PA

Click here for more in my Travel PA 2019 series.

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