Isaac’s Downtown and Pickle Bar sits off the street almost immediately after passing Lancaster’s main downtown square on Queen St. While finding parking along the busy commercial street may prove a difficult task, the trouble is well worth the experience.
Even as a native of Lancaster County, I was unaware the only Isaac’s locations are in Lancaster and its surrounding counties, so I attempted to experience the restaurant as someone originally from the realm outside of Isaac’s availability.
Phil Wenger and Isaac Williams created the original Isaac’s in the 1980s and today the restaurant still retains some tell-tale signs of the time period, including its sunglass-wearing, neon pink flamingo mascot and other neon shades distributed throughout the décor. More recently, Isaac’s has incorporated more modern pieces, including classic artwork hung above some of the booths. Overall, it offers a friendly atmosphere with warm lighting.
On this particular day, I walked through the vestibule into a casual atmosphere and was almost immediately seated at a window-side booth among the restaurant’s expansive seating options. Isaac’s does have 19 locations, but it doesn’t have a chain restaurant feeling like, say, a McDonalds. While it doesn’t have a mom-and-pop restaurant feel either, it does feel welcoming and down to earth.
Within a few moments of being seated, our server introduced himself and placed a dish of pickled cucumbers, carrots, and cauliflower on the table before taking our drink orders. This Isaac’s appetizer is slightly vinegary and bitter for my taste, but has endured the years as tradition.
The restaurant offers a variety of typical deli sandwiches and sides, but with a twist: the sandwiches are named after birds. On the brightly colored menu you will find items such as a Gooney Bird (turkey, mushrooms, and Muenster cheese), a Phoenix (ham, pineapple, and provolone), and a Flaming Chicken (buffalo sauce and bleu cheese with chicken strips). They also offer deli salads, such as their broccoli salad with raisins or pasta salad. Most important on the menu, however, is their renowned pepperjack tomato soup. Served with seasoned croutons, this soup is a must on a cold day.
For this lunch, I ordered one of Isaac’s flatbread sandwiches: the Magpie. This sandwich comes on a grilled flatbread with grilled chicken strips, bacon, provolone cheese, spinach, and a ranch-pesto dressing and, in typical deli style, it is served with a side of assorted chips. While the presentation was not quite perfect (a few chips were dangerously close to toppling off the plate), the flavors were absolutely up to par.
I expected the dressing to be either overcome by ranch or hardly at all, but the dressing had a perfect balance between the usual ranch flavor and a garlic-basil taste. The pesto sauce was actually considerably rich and I ended up taking home the second half of the flatbread.
Overall, Isaac’s provides a unique lunchtime experience, offering delicious dishes and a relaxing atmosphere. The food encompasses multiple flavors while still following the traditions of a typical deli. Most importantly, the service is outstanding; friendly, knowledgeable, and speedy staff made themselves available throughout my lunching experience.
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