The Belvedere Inn simply has it all – great food, creative cocktails, stunning décor, a knowledgeable staff, a friendly bar, outdoor dining, weekend musical entertainment and a touch of history. Added together, they account for the fact that as the Belvedere celebrates its 20th anniversary, it remains one of Lancaster’s favorite restaurants.
This city restaurant takes its name for the widow’s walk – or belvedere – an architectural element that frequently topped 19th century buildings, notably those built in coastal areas. The belvedere-topped brick building in which The Belvedere makes its home dates to 1869. It was built as a town residence for John Rohrer, a Strasburg-area tobacco tycoon, who also owned The Rohrer House, a hotel that was once located at the comer of West Chestnut and North Queen streets. “Rohrer used this property for entertaining. We’ve kept that tradition going,” says Dean Oberholtzer, who opened the Belvedere in July 1998. Prior to that, it was home to another Lancaster favorite, The Harmony Inn.
Beautifully decorated in true Victorian fashion, the first floor is dedicated to the bar area and dining room. Housed in the original dining room and kitchen of the home, the dining area features warm, rich colors of black and gold, with touches of red. Work by local artists graces the walls. A marble-framed fireplace is the focal point of the raised area of the dining room. Another fireplace graces the lower level. Both are accented by tall, white pillar candles. The high ceilings provide a spacious, lofty feeling that’s further enhanced by mirrors that are scattered throughout the area. Large mirrors are also found in the black-and-gold themed bar, while framed mirrors of various sizes and shapes are placed along the wall of the entry hallway.
The second floor is home to Crazy Shirley’s Lounge, a jazz bar/piano lounge. It’s named after long-time associate and staff member Shirley Fultineer, who Dean notes is semi-retired, but puts in an appearance periodically. “Everyone knows Shirley, and they ask about her,” he says. The space also serves as a private dining area for business meetings and private parties including rehearsal dinners, birthdays and anniversaries. The room has its own bar and boasts a baby grand piano. The décor features warm red tones and mirror-filled walls.
Crazy Shirley’s shares the second floor with an outdoor deck. Dean’s love of gardening is especially evident here, as the lush plantings are not only inviting, but they’re well-tended. Lighting and a fountain add to the ambiance. “The deck has a great view. It’s filled with plants, and a fountain adds to the charm. People like to sit on the deck whenever the weather’s warm enough – we had some people dining there for lunch on some warm days in March. We do have patio heaters for the cooler nights. As long as it’s warm, the deck is open,” Dean notes.
The deck represents the seasonal décor for which The Belvedere is renowned. Dean loves each and every holiday, and all of them are celebrated in style. The Christmas décor is not to be missed, which is why long-time customers have standing reservations for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
In celebration of the restaurant’s 20th anniversary, a “Best of The Belvedere” menu will be offered this summer. Dean notes that in addition to offering seasonally inspired menus, he’s proud of the fact that from day one, the focus has always been on locally grown and raised ingredients. No doubt, the Grilled Caesar Salad – The Belvedere’s signature item – will top the “Best of” menu. Another will be a carry-over from the winter menu – Seafood Fondue, which is comprised of crawfish, shrimp, smoked bay scallops, Reggiano cheese, cream cheese and baked sourdough brushed with shallot oil. “It’s a great thing to share. It’s savory and filling, too,” he comments.
Chef Chad Corradino has created an array of salads, sandwiches and entrées for the lunch menu. Chef Corinna Killian’s dinner menu features a mix of traditional favorites such as filet and salmon with a modern spin.
There are also “feature nights” – Kobe burgers are $2 on Mondays; small plates are $5 on Wednesdays at the bar; and a $10-gourmet pasta special and half-price house wine are available on Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. at the bar. The Belvedere also offers a late-night Happy Hour from 10 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday.
The Belvedere is also known for its extensive bar menu that features cocktails (including martinis), wine and a changing array of draft beer. “The Belvedere is more than just a restaurant,” Dean observes. “We have a special niche – people come in and have a drink followed by dinner, or dinner and a drink and then go upstairs to have a martini and listen to jazz. First Friday is still one of the busiest days of the month for us,” he adds.
In reflecting on The Belvedere’s success, he credits the “friendliness of the staff and the fact that our food is consistently great.”
The Belvedere Inn is located at 402 North Queen Street, Lancaster. Lunch is served 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dinner is served 5-11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5 p.m.-midnight, Friday and Saturday. Bar hours are 11 a.m.- 2 a.m., Monday through Friday, and 5 p.m.- 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Crazy Shirley’s is open 7 p.m.- 2 a.m., Wednesday and Thursday, and 5 p.m.- 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Reservations are recommended, particularly for weekend dining. Call 717-394-2422 or visit belvederelancaster.com and Facebook.