Plough shepherd's pie

A deconstructed shepherd’s pie with beef cheek ragu, crispy onions, a fricassee of spring vegetables and potato foam is the featured LCRW menu item at Plough.

This time last year, Lancaster city was a ghost town. In the early weeks of the pandemic, its vibrant restaurant scene went mostly dark, the result of state-mandated restrictions to curtail the spread of coronavirus. It’s been a long year for the restaurant community, to say the least.

With Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent moves to lift significant restrictions on dining and alcohol sales, Lancaster City Restaurant Week, which kicks off April 12, is poised to be as close to normal as we’ve seen since before the pandemic.

This restaurant week in particular, says LCRW Chairman Chris Trendler, feels particularly potent.

“Supporting restaurants right now is critical,” Trendler wrote in an email. “We are only now seeing restaurant usage return to levels that are more sustainable for the industry. We’ve all been treading water at best for over a year and things are now starting to move in the right direction.”

As with previous years, participating restaurants are offering a mix of deals and special menu items, but what’s notable this year is how those promotions apply to takeout orders, which have been a lifeline for so many restaurants. Himalayan Curry and Grill, which continues carryout-only service, is offering a “dinner for two” deal, including a choice of two appetizers and two entrees for $40.

Similarly, Souvlaki Boys is running a lamb souvlaki special (price not known at press time) that sounds perfect for a carryout picnic.

Restaurants with sit-down dining include Bistro Barberet with a three-course option for $35; The Imperial with three courses for $40 (including many vegan-friendly items); and Lancaster Brewing Company with dinner for two for $40.

Ryan McQuillan, executive chef at Plough and The Exchange, told LNP | LancasterOnline that “restaurant week coincides perfectly with the transition to spring, when we start working with more local produce.” His featured dish next week is a deconstructed shepherd’s pie with a beef cheek ragu, crispy onions, a fricassee of spring vegetables and a potato foam ($24).

If this is your first time dining out in a year, you should expect some changes across the board, says Trendler, who is also a partner at Decades. Every part of the dining experience takes more time, including being seated at your table.

“We all want our guests and staff to be and feel safe and the amount of information that guests may not be informed of prior to arriving can be a process just to relay and get them to a table,” Trendler said.

One way diners can help is to make reservations, says Trendler.

“Planning ahead by making reservations, being timely and following the rules of each restaurant are additional ways the public can support right now,” he said. “We are all looking forward to warmer weather, outside seating, easing restrictions and more vaccinations.”

Restaurant week continues through April 18. For a full list of restaurants, and other details, visit lancastercityrestaurantweek.com

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