April 07, 2010

Primal Food in Lancaster, PA

One of the challenges of eating out is finding restaurants that use food sources and practices that are consistent with the primal way of eating. A few restaurants use grass-fed beef or use foods with the vague "organic" label, but very few present the whole package - locally sourced, properly raised, and properly prepared.  My daughter and I ate at such a restaurant last night in Lancaster, PA.  Lancaster County is better known for its Amish community, but locals know that Lancaster City has a great selection of shops, restaurants, and boutiques that give the city a unique artsy feel.  One of those restaurants is John J. Jeffries, located in the Lancaster Arts Hotel.  The Hotel is a treasure in its own right featuring the works of local artists in its 63 rooms built in an old tobacco warehouse.  It's a popular spot to stay for parents of nearby Franklin & Marshall College students and is within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the college.  John J. Jeffries was a local tobacco inspector in 1890, whose name was found on an inspection stamp among the floor beams during renovations.  Parking is easy and if the weather is nice, there is a lovely terrace behind the restaurant.

Their philosophy as stated on their website: John J. Jeffries website

"We've designed our menu based on local, seasonal, sustainable and organic agriculture and delicious recipes. Please join us and taste the difference of local farm-to-table sustainable cuisine in one of Lancaster's best fine dining retaurants.
As the Chefs and Owners of John J Jeffries, we believe you will find our passion for supporting local businesses and preserving the land we live on, to be contagiously obvious in how we run our restaurant.
All of our meats are raised locally, confinement-free on fresh green grass pastures. No hormones, antibiotics, steroids or forced-fertilization occurs.
Our produce is local organic or chemical free. We use local grass fed cream, butter and eggs.
We also provide sustainable seafood and support sustainable fisheries and their communities. By doing so, we are encouraging a shift in consumer demand away from overexploited fisheries and unhealthy fish farming practices.
Our water for drinking and cooking is filtered through an in-house carbon and reverse osmosis system.
Our coffee is organic fair trade and locally roasted in small batches.
At John J. Jeffries we also believe in sustainability for all the good folks that work with us. Medical insurance is provided to all of our full-time staff, and a family meal is prepared for all staff daily."
Very little tweaking needs to be done to get a primal or gluten-free meal here. The menu is fairly simple, featuring small plates, large plates, and desserts. There is an extensive wine and drink list and a large selection of artisanal beers. Some of my choices were not 100% primal, but I certainly could have made them that way.  The staff was extraordinarily helpful in making sure we got what we wanted.

I started my meal with Pork Belly Love - a small square of crispy pork belly from local correctly-raised Tamworth pigs, atop a small amount of apple compote dressed with local maple syrup.  Where else can you order pork belly in a restaurant?  The original version comes with french toast which I asked the kitchen to hold.  I could have skipped the compote as well, but it was not overly sweet and you could eat as much or as little as you wanted.  Delicious!  My daughter ordered Farmer Livengood's Fried Potatoes.  She's not totally primal (more gluten-free).  Tiny fingerlings cut in half, fried in what tasted like fresh peanut oil with an Aioli Herb mayonnaise.  Worth the starch expenditure.  She ordered a ginger martini and I ordered a cosmos - both were quite potent.

For the main course, she ordered the Pan Roasted Pork Loin.  It came with risotto, which I would have skipped, but the loin itself was huge!  She said it was unbelievably good and took half of it home to her college apartment.  I had the Pan Roasted Salmon with a spinach, oyster and beech mushroom, and beurre blanc reduction sauce.  Again a generous portion (part of which also went home with daughter).  We wanted to save some room for dessert, so held back on eating the entire portions.

We topped the meal off with coffee and dessert.  I got a black tea creme brulee (yeah, sue me) and she got the ice cream sampler minus cookie.  The chili chocolate ice cream was delicious with a nice bite of hotness after the first creamy bite.  The coffee is fair trade, organic, and french-pressed.  We sat on the very nice terrace on an unseasonably warm April night.  The entire experience was a delight.  

For those looking for more primal selections, there are raw beef carpaccio and tartares, fresh local greens salads, grass-fed and pastured-raised meats of all kinds.  The waitstaff is eager to please and pass on requests to the chefs.  You could easily go 100% primal here.  Individually, the plates are inexpensive.  We went all out and ordered just about every course we could, so our bill was a bit on the expensive side, but well worth every penny. We will definitely return and if you are ever in Lancaster, PA this is well-worth the side trip to find.  Wish I had taken pictures of the meal but there are plenty on the website link above.  Here is a list from the website of their local sources.  I think it is well worth repeating it here.  Go to the JJJ website for links.

Organic Heirloom Produce, Killer Tomatoes

Cressbrook Farm: Larry Herr, Lancaster PA
Grass Fed Beef

Galen Glen Winery
Notable PA Organic Wines

Keswick Creamery
Delicious Organic Cheeses

Organic Acres: Gordonville PA and Central Market
An organic cooperative of 35 Amish and Mennonite Farmers in Lancaster County
Organic Free Range Brown Eggs, Grass Fed Organic Dairy, Organic Free Range Chicken, Local Cheese

Natural by Nature: West Grove PA
Organic Grass Fed Butter

Friendly Farms: Aaron Stolzfus, Lancaster PA
Organic Pond Raised Ducks

Davie Stolzfus: Lititz PA
Organic Pond Raised Ducks

Livengood’s Farm: Lancaster PA
Organic Produce

Jamison Farm: Latrobe PA
Slow rise bread with Organic Flours

College Coffee Roasters:
Mountville PA
Organic Fair Trade Coffee

Space To Grow: Lancaster PA
An Urban Garden Center
Pemberly Tea Shop: Lancaster PA
Organic Fair Trade Tea

C&L Bison Farm: Crist Fisher, Quarryville PA
Grass Fed Bison

Meadow Run Farm: Lititz PA
Pastured Black Tamworth Hogs

Green Meadow Farm: Gap PA
Minimum Impact Farming
Produce, Microgreens, Herbs

Paradise Organics: Paradise PA
Raw Artisan Cheeses

Highland Farm: Coatesville PA
Raw Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Pinnacle Ridge Winery: Kutztown PA
Promotes social, environmental and financial sustainability in Lancaster and York Counties

Buy Fresh Buy Local PA
A National Initiative by FoodRoutes Network to Promote Locally Grown Foods

GreenLine Paper Company: York PA
Office Supplies and Paper

Brogue Hydroponics: Brogue PA
Naturally Grown Lettuces, Herbs
and Garnishes


  1. i absolutely love JJJ! great atmosphere, and a true pioneering spirit.

  2. lol- I love your "yeah, sue me" comment. No judgement from me. I have no problem with an occasional treat, as long as it has no wheat, cause that's the main thing that really sets off my joint pain. I've recently had my first Pork Belly at POUR in Lancaster City, which was amazing. I just moved back to PA and I've heard a lot about this place, I can't wait to try it!