Having only dined inside at a restaurant once since March, Justin and I used this opportunity for a few days in Lancaster to try as many new places as we could, since the last few months have been sorely lacking in that category. We kicked off our trip in style at The Belvedere Inn, located in Lancaster City. This is a place that I have seen advertised for years, and it has quite a following. Many have even called it the best restaurant in Lancaster. I would need a second visit to confirm that, but we definitely got started off on the right foot. It had been such a long time since we had a fine dining experience, and it was nice to get dressed up to go out for a change.
The interior of The Belvedere is magnificent. You walk in and are greeted by a large staircase. You can tell immediately that the building is over a hundred years old. To the left of the front door is the kitchen. To the right there is a semi-vacant bar due to COVID restrictions in Pennsylvania (they had a few tables lined up near the bar, but you cannot sit directly at the bar as of this post). There is a dining room towards the back and an upstairs dining area/lounge with a second bar. We were seated in this upstairs area, and had to walk down a long dimly lit hallway in order to get there. This gave it a hidden feeling much like a speakeasy. This lounge was beautifully decorated in modern style, and while quite large, there were only a few tables placed there. These were adequately spaced, with plexiglass dividers in between. Thankfully I thought to make a reservation earlier in the day or perhaps we would not have been able to get in.
Our server was Will who was friendly and attentive. He also doubled as the bartender. I started off with a gin martini while Justin had one of the house special cocktails, a Coconut Mojito. We enjoyed ours both, and I thought my martini was expertly crafted. It had a different flavor than what I was used to— so different, in fact, that I even asked what vermouth was used (I was told Carpano). I stuck with these the rest of the night, while Justin switched over to Chardonnay.
For appetizers, we relied on some of the reviews we had read. The one that stood out the most was the “Belvie Bread”, which was a sliced baguette topped with a sundried tomato aioli and melted parmesan. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of sundried tomatoes, but this was delicious. There was a creaminess to the aioli, which was perfectly accompanied by the bite of the parmesan. Our other app was the wedge salad, which was topped with a plentiful amount of bacon, gorgonzola cheese, toasted pistachios, and a warm bacon dressing. This managed to be savory and hearty yet light at the same time.
For entrees, I had a filet mignon staring at me from the menu, so I went with that. It was cooked to perfection at the medium rare I requested. It was accompanied with a large portion of asparagus (one of my favorite vegetables) and potato dauphinoise, which was like a gratin. The steak was the best I have had in a long time. It may even be the best filet mignon I’ve ever had. It was melt-in-your mouth tender and well-seasoned. The asparagus had been sautéed and I think there were over 20 of them. The potatoes, while having great texture, could have used a bit more seasoning. But the steak is what mattered, and I commend them on the job they did.
Justin ordered the braised short rib which was slow-cooked for four hours in a tomato-madeira herb sauce. He said it was cooked perfectly, and I observed how it was fork-tender. He said that while the sauce poured on top was delicious, the short rib itself without the sauce was bland. He also added a similar complaint about his mac-and-cheese that came with it: in both look and texture it was fine, but it could have used some more seasoning.
Even though we were stuffed at this point, we still ordered dessert. This was vacation. We decided on the chocolate chip butterscotch bread pudding. Topped with Gifford’s vanilla ice cream, we both enjoyed it very much.
Our experience at The Belvedere Inn was outstanding for a lot of reasons. Aside from great food, excellent cocktails, impeccable service, and an unbeatable atmosphere, it was nice to just feel normal after so many months of eating home. Based solely on my experience alone (especially the steak— I find it harder and harder to get a perfectly cooked steak nowadays), I might have gone with a 5 star review. But each write-up must be all-encompassing of every diner present. For that, I will go slightly lower with a 4.5 out of 5 stars. This, in itself, is quite an accomplishment for a first-time visit. The Belvedere is a place that I would definitely go back to again. As a visitor, I could see coming here one night during every trip to Lancaster. If I was local, I could easily see this becoming a spot for special occasions. I wish we got to experience this place in pre-COVID times and had a chance to enjoy their beautiful bar. Job well done to all involved!
The Belvedere Inn is located at 402 North Queen Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.