Lancaster Review: A Welcome Sense of Normalcy
· 9 min. read
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For a moment it seemed like how it used to be.
I was invited to The Lancaster Taphouse's new downtown location for a pre-opening last weekend. The restaurant is in the old Capitol restaurant, one of my favourite places to eat in Regina. I liked the Capitol not only for the food and atmosphere but for the décor. I especially liked the mural on the back wall of the restaurant that showed how the old Capitol theatre used to look.
I was a little worried that when The Lancaster opened, they would replace this mural, but thankfully they kept it. They also added much more too.
The new décor is sharp and modern, with black furniture legs, white table-tops, red leather seats, and wooden walls and flooring. The lighting is diverse but equally spread through the restaurant, with pocket-lights behind the counter and the main thoroughfare, and unique round light fixtures above the tables. There are also twin lamps above each table too, which makes each setting more intimate.
In any other time, a restaurant like this would flourish. But these days, due to the ongoing pandemic, restaurants are struggling. Before the pandemic hit, the restaurant industry was one of the toughest to operate in. They have razor-thin margins, constantly changing products, and critics like me giving them a hard time. But during COVID-19, restaurants were hit even harder; too hard, even. Restaurants are no longer the bustling hub of the community they once were. People no longer cram shoulder-to-shoulder with beers in their hands like before. No, people need to be separated and isolated. This is also a double-edged sword: if restaurants do not do this, they get fined and shut down. If restaurants do do this, they are running at a lower capacity and their already thin margins can bleed to red.
The Lancaster is a small restaurant, and reducing the capacity is not an option. Instead, they have installed plastic barriers between each of the booths and tables, putting each person inside their own cubicle. For some, this might be a bit off-putting, but for others, like myself, it was nice. I like the idea of going out to eat and having some privacy.
I have only sat down in a handful of restaurants since March, and this is the first time I have encountered these plastic-walled cubicles. I know other people have been dealing with them for months, so this is not new by any means, but this is the first time I have seen them, and I thought they were great.
Something else that is great about The Lancaster is the food. They are a staple restaurant in Regina, and their food is universally delicious. They have everything from the iconic "Bangers ?n Mash" to their "Bacon and Coconut Ginger Brussel Sprouts" to their "New York Street Pizza" and even a wide variety of burgers. I have also been told their soft pretzels are mouth-watering.
But I chose to go with their "Chicken Schnitzel Burger" instead. This house-breaded burger comes with Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, greens, and sauerkraut on a brioche bun. It is one of their most famous dishes and between being ordered and being on my table, it was ready in less than ten minutes.
The burger was fantastic. It was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a nice spicy zap from the mustard. Sauerkraut can be hit-or-miss sometimes, but this was the perfect amount of sour for the burger.
But the best thing about it was the first bite. I have grown accustomed to lukewarm delivery food or pre-heated food from the oven. I don't remember the last time I had a burger fresh out of the frier. The heat, the crunch, the spice, the sour, the texture, and the delightfully soft, yet crisp bun in my hands? My God, I do not know the last time I ate a burger in a restaurant!
The burger was good ? do not get me wrong ? but the nostalgia of normalcy hit me like a brick. I am just eating a burger in a restaurant. It is something that I have done a hundred thousand times before. But it has been such a long time. Such a long, long time.
Without saying much more, I inhaled that burger.
Moving on to the side, I decided to mix it up and try their "Roasted Potato Corn Chowder". It is another popular dish of theirs. The last time I had chowder was in Prince Edward Island, so it was interesting to see how they made it here. The chowder had a nice creamy base with most of the potatoes near the bottom and corn near the top. I do not remember if there was bacon in the chowder too, but as they also sell a dish called "Bacon and Roasted Potato Corn Chowder", I wouldn't be surprised if they added some.
I would order the chowder again, but I might ask for fewer green onions. I like onions in moderation, but I felt there was too much in the chowder and that it took away from the taste of the roasted potatoes. Being said, it was still very tasty.
For a drink, I decided to try the famous Rebellion Lentil Beer. I have heard good things about the beer since it was introduced over a year ago, but the idea of swapping out barley for lentils sounds odd to me. I decided to give it a shot and support our local lentil industry, and honestly, it tasted exactly the same. The beer was foamy, tasty, and looked and smelled exactly like regular beer. The difference might not be noticeable, but for people with celiac disease or with gluten intolerance, a lentil beer is the perfect alternative drink.
For dessert, I ordered their "NYC Cheesecake", which is topped with local prairie cherries and whip cream. You can never go wrong with cheesecake and it was as sweet, creamy, and delicious as you expected. I have no complaints other than there was not enough of it? but then again, is there ever enough cheesecake?
All in all, The Lancaster Taphouse's new downtown location is fantastic. It is close, convenient, affordable, and delicious. It is a safe place to go with your friends, share a pizza or poutine, make some memories, and support a local business. The restaurant is clean, classy, sharp, and makes some excellent, mouth-watering food.
But saying all that doesn't make it too special. I expected this level of excellence already. But I did not expect how much I missed it. The Lancaster Taphouse is how food should be. I missed going to places like The Lancaster, and it hurts me to see when places like it close. If you are thinking about taking a night off cooking, consider dropping by ? or ordering their food online. I'm sure they'll appreciate it, and you might just walk away with a new favourite dish.
Have you ever been to The Lancaster, either the new or older ones? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!
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Categories: Canada, COVID-19, Regina, Saskatchewan