York’s Food Community Flourishes with History, Culture, And Cuisine
Guest blogger and food connoisseur Michael Vyskocil celebrates York’s finest food options
I grew up cooking and eating great food. The smell of tomato sauce and oregano will always make me think about my mom and her lasagna. When I was younger, I experienced what fresh carrots and salad greens taste like freshly picked from my next-door neighbor’s backyard garden. Over time, I’ve learned that food communicates a meaning that goes far beyond the ingredients we see on our plates. You don’t have to look any farther than York County, Pennsylvania, to discover that meaning for yourself.
As a York County resident for more than 27 years, I’ve watched the food scene in this community blend history, culture, and personality in its cuisine. Our region’s Pennsylvania Dutch influences can be seen in the whoopie pies and chicken corn soup that natives and newcomers alike can’t miss at any community gathering. And I would venture to say that nearly every family with roots in the region has recipes for these Pennsylvania Dutch specialties and more in their physical or virtual recipe boxes.
Complementing this heritage cooking, foods from other cultures are becoming more and more a part of the dining scene, and over the past several years, downtown York has become a foodie destination to explore the cuisines of different cultures. Since beginning in 2016, Taste Test: A Restaurant Incubator, located in downtown York’s Royal Square district, has worked with aspiring restaurateurs to bring innovative culinary concepts to the public: from Nacho Cabra and Paco’s Tacos to the Cambodian-French fusion flair of Po’s Kitchen. Each month, you can venture down to 101–105 S. Duke St. and not only “taste test” dishes from these concepts but also vote and offer feedback on concepts you believe should be a permanent part of the downtown York food community.
In 2017, Hamir’s Indian Fusion secured its permanent downtown home at 24 S. George St. Through Taste Test, Chef Hamir Patel was able to realize the dream of creating his brick-and-mortar restaurant that delivers his own creative interpretations of Indian cuisine infused with flavors from around the world. And Hamir’s Indian Fusion is but only one of many cultural food discoveries you can make in downtown York. Picalonga Sabor Tropical, World Grills, Esaan Thai Restaurant, Tutoni’s, and Mi Caldero bring dishes such as chillo en escabeche, panang curry, calamari with onion crudo, and shrimp empanadillas to downtown diners.
As a food connoisseur myself, I take inspiration for my own cooking from the menus of the great chefs of York, and the city itself is blessed with the talents of some remarkable culinary professionals. These individuals include Chef Abby Shelley of Rockfish Public House, Executive Chef Shawn Conway of White Rose Bar & Grill, Executive Chef George Sheffer of Victor’s, Chefs Nicole and Sean Austin of The Copper Crust, Executive Chef Darrell Tobin of the Blue Moon Restaurant, Chef Sean Arnold of The Left Bank, and scores of others too numerous to mention here. These individuals are fueling York’s food community with their dedication to delivering top-class dining experiences the likes of which you’d find at some of the great restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. No longer do you have to travel for hours to find top-caliber restaurants.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the food heritage that makes the ingredients for these different cuisines possible: York County’s agricultural heritage.
One of the first things I’d suggest that any professional relocating to York County do is to take some time over a weekend, drive down the county’s rural routes, and witness something I’ve come to love about living and working here. The farms, fields, and orchards in York County supply the farm-to-table produce that you can purchase only miles from where it was grown. Establishments such as Wyndridge Farm of Dallastown, with its farm-crafted beer and crafty ciders, and Brown’s Orchards & Farm Markets of Loganville, with its exceptional produce, are places you can go to experience that inimitable freshness firsthand. We as a county have a lot to be grateful for as we preserve and support these family-owned farm operations that offer everyone who lives and works in York County some of the best produce you can bring to the table.
What would life be without some libations? York County has those covered for us too. Vineyards at places such as Allegro Winery in Brogue and craft beer settings such as Warehouse Gourmet of Hanover and Collusion Tap Works, Mudhook Brewing, Crystal Ball Brewing, Holy Hound Taproom, and Liquid Hero in downtown York put York County on the map for its beverages. Cocktail enthusiasts, too, can find some expert mixologists at places such as John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville and Revival Social Club in downtown York where drinks become like art forms in a glass.
Something I also admire about York’s community is its dedication to training the next generation of food and hospitality professionals to assume future roles in York’s food community. Partnerships such as those fostered by York College’s Center for Community Engagement and the Department of Hospitality, Recreation, and Sport Management provide ways for young adults to meet with and work with York’s hospitality professionals even before they graduate from college.
As our community welcomes more professional talent to York to live, work, and play, may we remember to savor each bite, be thankful for the foods that nurture us, and acknowledge those who work in the food and beverage industry in York County each day.
And now I’m ready to start tasting. Let’s eat!