Restaurant Review #290: The Imperial (Lancaster, PA)

Who would have thought that Lancaster City would be so dead during lunchtime on a Thursday? After about an hour of walking around and seeing how limited our options were, we walked into The Imperial, which is attached to a hotel. Not ever being a fan of hotel restaurants, we figured we might as well eat here since it was a long walk back to our car. Ironically enough, this settling is exactly how I would term eating at this restaurant: a last resort.

We should have known better after seeing not a single soul in the place. Before we were seated, the host took our names and numbers for contact tracing purposes. Being alone in the restaurant meant that we were social distanced to the max. I wish I could say the food made the experience worth it, but it did not. The menu is an eclectic one: Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, and more. I ordered the fish tacos and Justin had the falafel wrap on roti. While waiting for the food, I took time to admire the decor of The Imperial. The bar towards the front door was beautiful, but alas, vacant. Every part of the design from the floor to the fixtures to the walls were modern, elegant, and sleek. But as I’ve said a few times on this blog before, you don’t go to a restaurant to stare at walls.

My fish tacos were set down and looked decent enough. But one bite in and I knew there was something not right. There was no flavor. None at all. Thankfully this meant no fishiness, so maybe it was fresh, but there could have been no fish in there at all and it would have tasted the same. There were two kinds of sauces used: a red one on the bottom and a type of murky green on top. Both did not look anything like “salsa” and were bland. The red sauce was watery, which you can see in the above picture, and had a Worcestershire-like tinge to it (the only way to describe its bizarre flavor) while the green sauce tasted like nothing. The lettuce was limp and there was no cheese. Had they used a slaw of some kind for crunch and cheese (because what tacos don’t have cheese?), I might have been able to forgive this shoddy, miserable excuse for a taco.

The one upside? The homemade potato chips were amazing. Like the fries on Justin’s plate, they were fresh, hot, and lightly hinted with rosemary without being overpowering. His fries too were the high-point of his meal, in my eyes. While he thought his falafel wrap was good, I took a bite and found nothing I could praise them on. It looked appetizing, with nice grill marks/char on the roti, but had no flavor. The interior of the falafel balls were cold, meaning they were probably frozen and not left in the fryer long enough.

What else is there to say? I surely was not expecting the A-team in the kitchen on a Thursday at 1:30, but this food was the most uninspired I have had in a long time. The worst of our trip. I mean, I have remarked on my disdain for hotel restaurants in the past, and this place could go right next to the dictionary definition of what I don’t like about them. I am giving The Imperial a 2.5 out of 5 stars for the simple reason that Justin liked his meal and the fries/chips were great. Without those items, this would have been much lower.

The Imperial is located at 26 East Chestnut Street in Lancaster, PA.

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