Strasburg’s Fireside Tavern offers the best of all worlds. The warm, casual atmosphere provides the backdrop for a wide-ranging menu and top-notch service. Plus, the views of picturesque farmland are stunning.
“We combine casual dining with impeccable service and outstanding food,” says Stephanie Kirkessner, who with her husband, Steve, partner with David Haines as owners of Fireside Tavern. “This truly is a place where friends gather – we have a lot of ‘regulars’ as well as visitors,” she notes, referring to guests who arrive on foot from the surrounding neighborhoods and those who travel to Strasburg from all over the country to experience railroading and admire the preserved Colonial and Victorian homes that line Main Street.
They’re not only hands-on owners, but they’re also familiar names in the local restaurant scene. Steve and David collaborated years ago when David owned Lancaster’s Harmony Inn (now The Belvedere Inn) and Steve was the restaurant’s chef. Together they went on to open D&S Brasserie. After selling the restaurant, they found they missed being a part of the industry and partnered to open Fireside Tavern in June 2008.
The restaurant makes its home in a mellow brick Colonial-inspired building that echoes Strasburg’s heritage. There are three dining areas on the main level, each of which boasts a working fireplace. The main dining room to the left of the entrance lobby seats about 200. A smaller dining area and the tavern are located to the right of the lobby.
The tavern is home to the bar, which is adorned with the mugs belonging to Mug Club members. Unique wooden signs (each with its own story) decorate the walls. There’s a casual seating area by the fireplace as well as high-top tables for dining. It also opens onto an enclosed patio area. “The tavern is our most requested seating area; people love the atmosphere there, particularly the enclosed patio area. Even on a gray winter day, it’s filled with light,” Stephanie says. Steve points out that the adjacent deck is popular for warm-weather dining.
The menu offers an array of appetizers, lite fare options, sandwiches and burgers, soups, salads and entrées. Soups are made on the premises and include Dave’s chili and the restaurant’s signature tomato bisque, which uses the original recipe that Steve and Dave created for D&S Brasserie.
Crab cakes (including gluten-free versions) are a house favorite. Dave notes that because the salmon is smoked in-house, items such as the smoked salmon (appetizer), smoked salmon BLT salad and apricot salmon (entrée) are also popular with guests. Other entrées cover the taste spectrum and include steaks, ribs, catfish jambalaya, shrimp scampi, shepherd’s pie and roasted lemon/tarragon chicken.
Seasonal ingredients highlight chef’s specials. “That’s where the chef gets to showcase his expertise as well as local, seasonal ingredients. We have relationships with a lot of local farms,” Dave explains. Additionally, there are daily specials (for example, Prime Rib & Fireside Crushes on Thursdays) and weekend specials (including a barbecue dinner for July).
Last, but not least, there’s also a selection of taste-tempting desserts that include locally made ice cream and the signature Fireside Dream – a chocolate fudge-like dessert smothered with chocolate ganache and drizzled with white chocolate.
Menu items are complemented by the tavern’s selection of brews – including 14 draft brews and a selection of bottled craft beers from such regional breweries as St. Boniface, Lancaster Brewing, Troegs, Victory, Dogfish and Yards. Bottled domestic and imports are also available. The wine list includes local selections from Waltz Vineyards in Manheim and WayVine in Chester County.
For meeting and banquet purposes, Fireside Tavern can accommodate such gatherings on the second floor of the restaurant. The Willows at Historic Strasburg, which is located in an adjacent building, is tailored to weddings and other social events. Taking its name from the majestic tree that stands in the field behind the venue, The Willows features a beautifully landscaped courtyard for outdoor ceremonies and festivities and a ballroom whose amenities include a marble dance floor and fireplaces at either end. Two hotels – Clarion Inn and Holiday Inn Express – are located next to the property.
Looking ahead, Fireside Tavern also offers a Thanksgiving Day buffet in the ballroom. While it may only be July, it’s never too early to make reservations (which are required). “We have a lot of people who come back year after year. When we see ‘regulars’ at the restaurant or at our holiday buffets, it’s a huge compliment to what we do, as well as our staff,” Dave says, noting that Fireside boasts many long-term employees.
Fireside Tavern is located at 1500 Historic Drive, Strasburg. Hours are Sunday & Monday, 4-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Reservations accepted and preferred. Call 717-687-7979 or visit dsfireside.com or Facebook.