Day Trip Destinations and Local Eateries in Lancaster and the Hocking Hills Region
With millions of visitors each year, Lancaster and the Hocking Hills region should be at the top of every Ohioan’s road trip list. Lancaster’s recently revitalized, charming downtown and the Hocking Hills’ awe-inspiring natural wonders lend themselves to a relaxing getaway that is enhanced by the abundant fresh fare found along the way.
I am bombarded on a daily basis with social media posts from friends about The Well in Lancaster, and for good reason. Its vegan/vegetarian-friendly menu is completely gluten-free, making it unique to the city. Co-owner Aaron Leu says, “Our menu is creatively wholesome, splashed with the best bounty of the local land, handpicked and often piled high on our countertops. We are inspired by the local growers’ produce.”
Their direct-trade coffee grown in Kenya and South America is roasted in-house and perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or cozy meeting, accompanied by the option of organic milk or house-made almond milk.
A block away is Keller Market House, a nonprofit marketplace with big plans for the future. The majority of vendors are local consigners with bakery goods, produce, meats, jams, jellies and salsas. Additionally, they carry milk, cheeses, craft beer and fresh cut flowers. Every product in the shop is from an Ohio business with 80% of vendors residing in Fairfield County and surrounding areas.
“This is new for Lancaster and Fairfield County. It is developing as we go along. There has been a pent-up demand for local products. We have had a lot of community support,” states Brad Grywalski, general manager. Brad is passionate about the business, explaining that Keller Market House aims to be a food hub for the community, with community classes underway and future plans for a shared kitchen space for vendors.
Long-time Lancaster institution Shaw’s Restaurant has been transformed into owner and executive chef Susie Krutsch’s newest vision. Recent interior renovations changed the restaurant into a brighter, more casual atmosphere including a bakery, bar and restaurant.
Susie shares her concept, “There is still American [cuisine] with global touches. We continue to feature our steaks, fresh seafood and award-winning wine list. We wanted to make it more approachable with pastas, pizzas, veggie burgers and rice bowls with different proteins. The bar menu is a little bit different with more appetizers. The bakery has American-style pastries, including birthday cakes, cupcakes, cookies, croissants, caramels, brittles, chewing gum. The bakery has wine bottles to go and wine by the glass. Come with girlfriends!”
The feminine Mable & Grace Bakery and Confections is named after her grandmother and great-grandmother and the rowdier Harry’s Bar after Harry Shaw, adding a distinctly personal touch to the additions. From homemade confections and affordable artisan breads in the bakery, a spirited bar and classic restaurant, Shaw’s continues to serve downtown Lancaster in an even greater capacity.
From Lancaster, take a short drive down Route 33 to Nelsonville to visit the Rhapsody Restaurant. Owned by Hocking College, the restaurant gives students in culinary and hospitality programs real-world training alongside permanent restaurant staff. Executive head chef Jason Simon dishes, “Working with students is very rewarding. It is a great chance to give back and help young chefs on their journey like so many have done for me.” Rhapsody’s menu exposes students to flavorful Appalachian cuisine with produce from Chester Hill Produce Auction and local Amish growers, as well as Cleveland-raised proteins.
Lake lovers need look no further than Lake Hope Lodge to dine on made-from-scratch dishes while overlooking the lake. Their core menu highlights meats smoked in-house, such as their popular brisket, as well as pulled pork, prime rib and ribs on the weekend. Of the menu, chef/partner Matt Rapposelli says, “We do everything in-house and from scratch. We make our own rolls, breads, pizza dough, etc.” Even their spiced powders and herb mixes are made onsite.
In the wake of last year’s tragedy, when sister location Hocking Hills Dining Lodge burned down, Lake Hope Lodge has extended its hours and is now open seven days a week, with a special brunch on Sundays from 10am–2pm.
For upscale, health-driven dining in a laidback atmosphere, visit Kindred Spirits restaurant at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. Rustic wood cabins form the restaurant and owner Ellen Grinsfelder notes, “The original 1840s cabin is the heart of the cooking quarters. You’ll find executive chef Abby Cole behind the stove in an open kitchen.” Enjoy wine and organic beer pairings with the summer dinner menu that includes tantalizing items such as poached Arctic char and smoked duck ravioli. Always innovating, Kindred Spirits has added small plates, so diners can order multiple dishes to share. Reservations are required except for Casual Fridays, which feature a bistro-style menu and live music.
Hocking Hills Winery, where I have passed many an enjoyable evening, is the perfect place to unwind after a day of hiking through the surrounding trails. Sample wines at the tasting bar made onsite from the property’s vineyard and grapes imported from Washington, California, Oregon and South America.
Of the new 2017 wines, CEO Blaine Davidson exclaims, “One is a chardonnay, which is dry and buttery with a touch of oak. Our two new red wines are out on the floor—Hocking River Red and Rock House Rouge. Both are sweet wine blends and have proven very popular.” For a special treat, try one of their wine slushies served in mason jars that can be taken back for a relaxing summer evening in a nearby cabin.
203 S. Broad St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130
123 N. Broad St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130
Keller Market House
134 S. Columbus St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130
21190 State Route 374, Logan, Ohio 43138
Lake Hope Lodge
27331 State Route 278, McArthur, Ohio 45651
18 Public Square, Nelsonville, Ohio 43130
Hocking Hills Winery
30402 Freeman Rd., Logan, Ohio 43138