Literary City Guide | Lancaster, PA

Lancaster fits, and when something fits it is a good idea to keep to it, if you have work to do.
— Rita Wellman, “Pen Portraits: Charles Demuth: Artist” December 1931 in Letters of Charles Demuth: American Artist, 1883-1935

Tour Guide: Liza Munk

Liz Bio

Liza recently finished her undergrad coursework at Franklin and Marshall College, and plans to begin graduate studies in ethnomusicology this coming fall, 2014. When not studying Middle Eastern and Bahá’í-engendered musics, Liza is a shameless bookworm, and finally filled her floor-to-ceiling bookshelf this winter.  (Photos by Liza Munk)


Relationship to Lancaster: Recent alumna of Franklin and Marshall College

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: J. K. Rowling

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Anthony Bourdain

Writing soundtrack: Movie soundtracks, like How to Train Your Dragon or Amélie.

Pen or Pencil: Depends – pen for permanence, pencil for note taking.

Coffee or Tea: Coffee almost always wins.

Paperback or Hardback: Both, in abundance

Good Reads


Dogstar Books. As an excellent independent bookstore, Dogstar strikes a successful balance between newer titles and collector’s items. Their new space still has creaky wooden floors and overstuffed shelves, but has added an art gallery, and hosts readings throughout the year. 


Shadek-Fackenthal Library. Franklin and Marshall’s main academic library has a diverse collection of over half a million volumes, including a particular strength in art books. It’s easy to get lost in its three stories, but don’t miss the academy room: the most stately study space in the building.  


Emerging Writer’s Festival. Every spring, Franklin and Marshall College Hosts this three-day festival to celebrate five young authors and their promising new work. Expect craft talks, readings, and parties – this is F&M lit at their finest. 

Philadelphia Alumni Writers House. As the literary home of Franklin and Marshall College, the Writer’s House hosts frequent readings and craft talks throughout the academic year, while serving as a model of literary community for campuses across the country.   


Thaddeus Stevens Gravesite. Lancaster is brimming with history. Exhibit A: You’ll find Thaddeus Stevens, hero of the Civil Rights Amendment, buried in Shreiner-Concord Cemetery right in the city, the only burial site open to all races at the time. Here’s the inscription on his headstone:

"I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited as to race, by charter rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life, equality of man before his Creator."

It seems everybody, who is anybody at all in Lancaster, has turtle soup on the Fourth of July.
— Henry McBride, in a letter to Florine Stettheimer, Letters of Charles Demuth: American Artist, 1883-1935

Good Eats


Mean Cup. Lancaster has local coffee shop down. As the newest addition to the collection, the city is still buzzing about this one – located close to the Franklin and Marshall campus, Mean Cup has plenty of seating, awesome coffee, and quirk. 

Chestnut Hill Café. The hipster favorite, CHC has one of the best coffee shop vibes I’ve ever encountered. Though the tables fill quickly on the weekends, their food menu keeps you comfy all day while finishing that pesky paper.  

Prince Street Café. Nestled right near Carmen and David’s Creamery, Prince Street has a great downtown location, stays open late, and shows off a dangerous dessert case.  I hear they sell the best frozen hot chocolate in Lancaster.


Rice and Noodles. My favorite dinner place in the city – I order a salad bowl filled with noodles, veggies, and peanut sauce at this tiny Vietnamese restaurant every time. Eat early, or you may wait quite a while for a table.

Gypsy Kitchen. For a weekday lunch or Friday/Saturday dinner, I highly recommend this pop-up restaurant located within the Lancaster Theological Seminary Campus. The venue screams Harry Potter, and the food perfectly balances flavors – try classics like the black bean quesadilla.

Skinny Park Juice. Currently one of Lancaster’s best-kept secrets, Skinny Park serves a West Coast-style menu, complete with ingenious smoothie recipes and fresh-squeezed juice, along with regular lunch fair. [August 2016 Update: 

Rijuice. While they do not have a brick and mortar store, their delicious juices are available at various cafes and shops in the city. In fact, Rijuice is slowly expanding into Philadelphia.

On Orange. This nook serves the most delicious Swedish pancakes (made with oats) – a worthy brunch or lunch spot!


Carmen and David’s Creamery. For the best ice cream in Lancaster, go here. Their zany list of flavors rotates seasonally. My favorites include chocolate chip banana bread, pumpkin pie, and toasted coconut. [August 2016 Update: Unfortunately, Carmen & David's Creamery closed their downtown retail location in 2015, moving to a wholesale operation. Luckily, you can still find their ice cream at various businesses throughout Lancaster!]

Rachel’s Creperie. There is perhaps nothing better than the fresh berry cheesecake crepe at Rachel's. Their team makes each dinner and dessert crepe to order, and finds amazing uses for Nutella in the coffee bar.  

Cupcake Truck. I celebrated last Valentine’s Day by buying strawberry cupcakes from Lancaster’s roving sweets vendor. Result: three very happy single ladies.


Liza's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: Every time I left my front door at Franklin and Marshall College, I passed the Lancaster Theological Seminary. Its towering brownstone church – a shifting palette for the day’s light – defines the small campus.

2. Favorite place to write: Mean Cup. Previously a stand in Lancaster’s Central Market, their café version opened in fall 2013, and quickly became a Lancaster institution. I practically moved in during final exam period, sustained by great natural light, an artsy atmosphere, strong coffee, and delicious brownies. 

3. Favorite museum: You’ll find the North Museum of natural history and science tucked on a corner of Buchanon Park. It’s like a very condensed version of Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History, featuring over 1,000 mounted North American birds, a massive anaconda skin – plenty to fascinate children and curious adults.  

4. Favorite coffee shop: Favorite coffee shop: It’s a tie: Mean Cup and Chestnut Hill Café. The former –more seating available, more caffeinated coffee, hilarious and friendly baristas. The latter – delicious full breakfast and lunch menu, exploding with character.

5. Favorite thing about Lancaster: Lancaster’s food scene. Central Market – the oldest continually operated farmer’s market in the country – can be your introduction to a city that values fresh, local ingredients and knows how to use them.