In 2013, Budget Travel Magazine named Lititz, Pennsylvania “America’s Coolest Small Town.” Lititz beat the famous Watkins Glen, in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region, and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, along the Mississippi Sound and Gulf of Mexico.
Well, Lititz, located just north of Lancaster, is known for its shopping, history, charm and quaintness, and is still pretty cool today. And one of the coolest places in Lititz is the Blackworth Live Fire Grill in the downtown Wilbur Hotel.
As you probably know, a high-heat grill is the best way to grill fast-cooking foods right over an open fire. As you may know, the Hotel Wilbur in Lititz is very trendy and occupies part of the space of the former and huge Wilbur chocolate factory, which dates back to the 1930s.
The hotel is impressive; so is the Blackworth. The entrance to the restaurant from the street opens into a chic bar area next to a long dining room and a hallway that runs along the open kitchen lit by a roaring fire, along which you see the flames and feel the heat.
The atmosphere is warm and inviting, a mix of brick and wood and overhead lighting. Very modern, but very comfortable.
The staff is friendly and helpful. The menu is small, which I always take as a sign of freshness. And it is a delight. The focus is on local sourcing and, as our server noted, protein. The “whole fish”, for example, is only served on weekends. So basic foods, lots of meat, all creatively offered.
There’s a fun cocktail menu in the $12-$14 range that changes. When I visited, it included: “Cookin’ Cherry,” made with Bulleit Bourbon and house-smoked cherry simple syrup; “British Invasion,” made with Gunpowder Gin and rosemary simple syrup; a Sazerac made with Michter’s Rye. There is also a very nice selection of beers and exceptional wines by the glass or the bottle.
(I might note, by the way, that Lititz is a great day trip in the fall. And the Stoll & Wolfe Distillery, a few blocks from Blackworth, makes a great stop on a day trip. It has a cozy tasting room offering flights of its spirits, creative cocktails, snacks and bottle purchases (you can check it out at stollandwolfe.com.)
Blackworth’s entrees, priced at $5 for hot olives with orange zest, thyme and garlic, $18 for half a dozen East Coast oysters, included cold-roasted porchetta with mustard with grains, a classic six-piece shrimp cocktail, a beef tartare with shallots and watermelon radish, and lemongrass and ginger soup.
Our table tried an interesting and beautifully presented charred avocado appetizer ($10) with lime vinaigrette and puffed wild rice. Also, a baby arugula salad ($10) with creamy parmesan, which was big enough for two, three, maybe even four to share.
The “grill” selections are the heart of the place. They range from a $16 fire-grilled burger, proclaimed by one at our table “the best burger ever,” served with house sauce, lettuce, tomato and cheddar, to $180 for 36 ounces of Wagyu beef from Snake River Farm sliced.
You read correctly. That’s over two pounds of delicious protein served with sauces, and clearly enough for three or four or even more to share. There is also a doorman entrance. Same size, served the same way, for $160.
Or there’s the “Meat-Stravaganza,” wagyu, sausage, chicken, and pork mangalitsa, again a massive protein platter, easily shareable for $78.
Mangalitsa, known as the tastiest pork in the world, comes from a hairy pig. The Hungarian name means “pork with a lot of lard”. In other words, delicious.
Other grilled options include a seven-ounce salmon fillet ($19); 10 ounces of mangalitsa pork rubbed with coffee, maple syrup and cayenne pepper ($21); a thin 14-ounce slice of New York served with whole candied garlic ($27); a half-chicken dish called “Happy Chicken” ($22) with smoked paprika and a white wine sauce.
The person at our table who ordered this chicken was indeed delighted. I had the New York Strip, which was excellent. Everything is a la carte. Sides range from $4 to $11 and include fries or whipped potatoes, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, cornbread, peppers, and asparagus.
I found Blackworth an unexpected treat. A beautiful location, right next to Lititz Springs Park and the downtown Lititz Farmer’s Market.
If you are a meat lover this is your kind of place. You can even take the kids. There are usually two wood-fired pizzas on the menu, cheese or pepperoni, $12 and $15 respectively. If you’re planning a day trip in the fall, consider Lititz and consider including the Blackworth Grill.
BLACKWORTH LIVE FIRE GRILL
52 N. Broad Street, Lititz
Open daily for dinner from 4 p.m., Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; reservations recommended