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Taste the World Without Leaving Lancaster

In the fall of 2008, friends of our family treated us to a lovely meal at a small pupuseria* on the edge of downtown Lancaster. After the meal, I chatted with the owner, originally from El Salvador, about his restaurant and small grocery store. He explained his concern that the price of corn had recently tripled and that his supplier was ready to drop him because of the small size of his business. The next time I drove by, the building was boarded up.

restaurantlogomontageDue to that disappointment, my wife and I brainstormed how we could do our part to help promote other small, culturally themed restaurants in Lancaster. Some of these owners were already our friends, and since then we have befriended dozens more. Most of them had grown up in other countries, and brought their traditional dishes with them when they moved to Lancaster. Our community has grown incredibly from the richness of their foods and friendships.

On a beautiful evening in May 2009, we held our first Taste the World walking and sampling tour. The concept was simple: on a Friday evening, participants picked up their Taste the World passports that included a map and information about nine restaurants in downtown Lancaster. Individuals and small groups planned their own walking routes to visit the restaurants and received a serving of food at each. We sold all 250 tickets days before the actual event, with a waiting list of more than 30. Participants feasted on Greek gyros, Peruvian stuffed potatoes, California sushi, Dominican empanadas, Italian pizza, Colombian guava bread, Mexican taquitos, Italian fruit tarts, and French crepes.

I hope to never forget the thrill of walking downtown that evening. I loved seeing clusters of friends and families walking around together, laughing and enjoying a delicious, fun, and cultural experience in our favorite city. The event was so popular that we pulled together another tour in August of that year. We held three tours in the space of the next two years. Despite taking a year off in 2012, our fans didn’t forget us. At their request, we returned in 2013 and since then have held annual series of six or seven tours, monthly from spring to fall. Each tour is now based on a different theme, such as Signature Dishes, Seafood, Meat Dishes, Exotic Foods, Picnic Foods, Vegetarian Dishes, and Finger Foods.

Plans are underway for next year’s tours (resuming Friday, April 8, 2016), but in the meantime, second Fridays are still Taste the World Fridays. We invite everyone to visit cultural restaurants any time throughout the year, and especially on second Fridays. Some restaurants are providing special offers for customers who mention Taste the World on November 13, December 11, January 8, February 12, and March 11. Find details at www.tastetheworldlancaster.com and www.facebook.com/tastetheworldlancaster.

Quick facts:

  • Taste the World is now a partnership with the City of Lancaster Office of Promotion.
  • Taste the World grew out of Kids and Cultures, an educational company that helps teach children about world cultures, but is now its own entity.
  • More than 5,000 people have participated in the 26 tours held to date.
  • At the end of tours, participants are invited to vote for their favorites in different categories. La Dolce Vita Courthouse Bakery has won the most awards over the years with 30! Souvlaki Boys Grill holds the record for winning the most awards (five) at one event.
  • The pupuseria mentioned above is now the home of Flora’s.
  • Tickets for the 2016 walking and sampling series will be available in December at www.tastetheworldlancaster.com.

    Owners Cindy Lam and Sam Guo of Silantra Asian Street Kitchen (101 East King Street), show four awards they won, as voted by participants of the October walking and sampling tour this year.

    Owners Cindy Lam and Sam Guo of Silantra Asian Street Kitchen (101 East King Street), show four awards they won, as voted by participants of the October walking and sampling tour this year.

*A pupuseria is a restaurant specializing in pupusas: thick, handmade corn tortillas filled with savory ingredients such as cheese and seasoned ground meat.

Favorite Letters from Fans

An Adventure Worth Taking
October 2015

I wanted to fill you in on why this was such a meaningful thing for my husband and me. We have lived below the poverty level for most of our lives. Our usual meals consist of whatever is cheap and plentiful. Occasionally, we save up and splurge on a restaurant. But because of our very limited finances, we always stick to things we know, because we can’t afford to try something different on the chance that we won’t like it, and will leave hungry despite spending what to us is a fortune.

When our tax money came in, we decided to use some of it to splurge on season tickets to Taste the World. Our logic was that, even if we didn’t like one dish, we still had many others to try, so we shouldn’t walk away hungry. We weren’t disappointed! There were very few dishes that we didn’t like, and only 1 or 2 that we didn’t finish at all. And it gave us one night out a month where our only expense was the cost of parking.

Even when we were in a fairly dire situation financially, we knew we’d have Taste the World Friday to look forward to. It helped boost our morale a bit, too, since we could leave all of our stresses behind for one night, and just spend the time together enjoying each other’s company and some good food.

Now we know of many places we can eat for those times when we have a little extra money and need something besides spaghetti, and we don’t have to worry about wasting money on something we might not like, because we’ve had the opportunity to try it before we buy it.

I hope we have the money to do this again next year, and that you guys do this again next year. Anyway, thank you again! It was an adventure worth taking, and well worth the money we spent.

A Child’s Perspective
by Chloe, May 2011

Taste The World is a event where you walk around downtown Lancaster and try foods from all different countries. Thank goodness we didn’t have dinner before we got there! First, we went to Rachel’s Cafe and Creperie to get dulce de leche mini-crepe (which was delicious, I must add).  Next, we went to Building Character for Turkish desserts and had some really strong coffee.

On our way inside, we saw really cool Brazilian fighting/dancing. The dessert was very good, but the coffee was so strong my mom (who takes her coffee black) couldn’t drink it. After that, we went to Oriana cafe. There we received Moscow panini and a cup of iced chai tea. Mom and I loved them both. I am most likely going to get both of them again. The tea was my favorite of all of them, but a lot of them came in a close second! The panini was made out of Angus corned beef, swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut on the side.

Then, we went to Cocina Mexicana for pork tamales and horchata made with rice, cinnamon, and sugar. That was amazing. The pork tamales were made with corn meal flour dough, filled with pork in red sauce and steamed in a corn husk. It wasn’t my favorite. Guess what! My mom didn’t know how to eat it and didn’t know that you don’t eat the husk! So, she just took a good old bite of corn husk!

Next we walked to Caribbean Heat where we had coconut rice, Jamaican beef patties, and hibiscus juice. I liked the coconut rice. It had beans in it. I never eat beans! I also liked the beef patties. The juice was really too sweet. My mom was surprised to hear that. She liked the juice. Taste buds change completely every two weeks, so retry every thing you didn’t like in the last couple weeks.

Our stomachs were almost full, but we only had two more stops to go. So we went to Sakura Asian Fusion & Sushi Bar. There we could eat Crab rangoon. I think mom has a bigger palate than mine. Haha. Then we went for cream puffs at La Dolce Vita. Our third dessert of the night. A new record! Now this was in my palate!

By Timm Wenger, Taste the World

Dining, Events & Festivals, Family Friendly, Weekend