Restaurants have been opening in record numbers throughout Lancaster County. At the same time, there are those gems that have been in business for decades, the sort of places where staff and customers are on a first-name basis. One of those is The Pantry.
The Pantry, which is located on Marietta Avenue between Rohrerstown and Centerville, has been owned and operated by the Kardiasmenos family since 1998. Actually, there’s been a restaurant at the site for longer than that. “People still come in who remember when it was The Farmer’s Daughter or an ice cream shop,” says Pete Kardiasmenos, one of the restaurant’s owners. Indeed, some of today’s customers were introduced to The Pantry by their parents or grandparents. Pete says even some of the staff were first introduced to the restaurant as kids.
What keeps people coming back to The Pantry? “We’re known for our breakfast,” Pete says. “People come here because of the hearty, freshly prepared food and an experience that’s consistently great. We’re family-owned; either my sister or I am here at all times, and we make sure our guests are happy with their experience.”
The family ingredient began with Mary and John Kardiasmenos, who launched the restaurant. They retired about two years ago and passed it on to the second generation – son, Pete, and daughter, Helen Kardiasmenos, both of whom grew up in the restaurant business. Pete says he learned to cook at the grill alongside his dad. “Mom and Dad divide their time between Greece and here,” Pete says. “When they’re in town, sometimes they’ll pop in to say ‘hi’ to some of our ‘regulars.’”
The Pantry seats 62 inside and about 35 on the seasonal outdoor patio. Inside seating is at tables in two rooms. There’s lots of natural light, and laminate wood floors and an autumn-yellow color scheme add a cozy feel. “The front room is an addition. We kept the spaces where the windows were located and added translucent dividers to give it a more open feel but maintain privacy for our guests,” Pete explains.
The menu, which Pete helped to create nearly a decade ago, features breakfast and lunch classics, some with a twist. Breakfast is available until 2 p.m.; lunch items are available starting at 11 a.m. “The menu’s been working, but we do add some new things periodically,” Pete explains. “Crepes are one of the newest additions. We’re also introducing gluten-free and health-conscious options,” he adds.
Fresh ingredients are used to prepare food; local in-season ingredients are used as much as possible. Pete says he will sometimes obtain items at Root’s Market, and the restaurant works with a number of local purveyors such as Ric’s Bread.
Signature skillets are top sellers. They include the Greek Island (two eggs scrambled with spinach, tomato, onion and feta cheese); Southwest (two eggs scrambled with onion, pepper, ham and cheddar and topped with sour cream and salsa), and a create-your-own skillet. “Skillets are a popular thing in a number of restaurants now, but we’ve been doing them for a while,” Pete remarks.
Crepes with fresh fruit are another popular item, as is the baked oatmeal with fresh fruit and/or frozen yogurt topping. “It’s very popular and is one of our signature items,” he says.
In the fall, pumpkin pancakes are on the menu and are quite a draw for diners.
As for lunch, the menu features salads, burgers, an array of sandwiches and two platters.
Additionally, menu items are prepared fresh to order. “If someone comes in who has a food allergy or dietary need, we’ll make something that works for them even if it isn’t on the menu,” Pete says.
Take-outs are available, and although The Pantry doesn’t do catering per se, items such as the cranberry chicken salad are available to take home in quarts.
Pete and Helen are looking to the future. The two have plans to expand The Pantry’s social media presence, as well as offer online ordering and catering.
“Our main focus is to make sure everyone is happy,” he says.
The Pantry Restaurant, 2715 Marietta Ave., Lancaster. Hours are 6 a.m.-to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday and 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Breakfast menu items are available until 2 p.m. Lunch items are available beginning at 11 a.m. Take-out available. 717-898-6034.