Spoil Your Dinner and More with Tuktuk Lancaster
Note: As of February 2018, Tuktuk Lancaster has announced that they are suspending operations. This article has been left here for historical purposes.
As a Lancaster County resident and regular frequenter of the downtown area, I’ve heard a lot about Tuktuk Lancaster.
Over the summer of 2017, Timm and Kristina Wenger’s efforts to offer tuktuk tours in downtown Lancaster drew local attention and community support. After overcoming months of bureaucratic red tape, the bright red, three-wheeled vehicle now hums through town.
Inspired by tuk-tuk rides in Guatemala and driven by a passion for their hometown, Timm and Kristina decided wanted to use the eco-friendly automobiles for food and sightseeing tours of Lancaster City. Tuktuk Lancaster supplements the Taste the World Lancaster walking and sampling tours the Wengers have offered since 2009.
Tuktuk Lancaster currently offers three food tours, a city overview tour, and a tour with a refugee. After the 2017 season ends by Thanksgiving, the Wengers hope to work on adding date night tours and a six-pack tour in time for the start of the 2018 season in April.
On mild fall Friday evening, I had the opportunity to experience Tuktuk Lancaster’s Spoil-Your-Dinner Tour. This 40 minute, six restaurant tour is offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 4 p.m.
The tour company asks participants to arrive 10 minutes early at the intersection of East Chestnut and North Queen Streets, near Gallery Row. As for parking, the closest garages are located at Queen Street Station and Duke Street. However, I recommend the metered street parking as on-street parking is free after 6 p.m.
Upon my friend and I’s arrival at that meeting point, we were greeted by Timm Wenger who happened to be our guide for the evening. We chose between menu options at three of our destinations, signed a waiver form, and were on our way.
The tour started with a quick overview of the city, giving the restaurants time to prepare and the riders time to adjust to the tuktuk. Even as Lancaster natives, my friend and I learned new and interesting information about the city.
As for adjusting to riding in a tuktuk, the electric vehicle’s open air sides made me feel very much amidst the Friday traffic. But I enjoyed that atmosphere as my friend and I could interact with those out and about for the evening. We were also blessed with beautiful weather, but even on cooler days the tuktuk contains heated seats and blankets.
After that introduction, we began the food portion of Tuktuk Lancaster’s Spoil-Your-Dinner Tour:
The theme of this tour was evident from the beginning as we started by picking up dessert from Souvlaki Boys. As our driver and guide, Wenger hopped out of the tuktuk to grab baklava from the authentic Greek restaurant.
From the first bite, this pastry took me by surprise. Rather than consolidating the sweetness to the almond and walnut center, even the flaky layers of phyllo dough were saturated with rich honey-based syrup.
Eating the baklava while the tuktuk was in motion presented a challenge, and one that my friend and I humorously never quite conquered over the course of our tour.
For more information about this authentic Greek grill, go to Souvlaki Boys’ website.
Even before we had a chance to wipe delighted smiles off our faces, we arrived at The Fridge. Wenger parked the tuktuk in front of the restaurant’s outdoor bar seating, giving us the chance to talk to the patrons enjoying the mild November weather.
Our pizzas came out hot, and the first crack open of the carryout boxes wafted a flavorful aroma up to our noses and ignited our appetites. My friend chose the Margherita pizza while I opted for the Mushroom & Kale variety.
Both thin crust pizzas offered an artisan vibe and neither disappointed in terms of flavor. The Mushroom & Kale pizza really wowed us between the substantial slivers of mushroom, roasted kale, and gruyere cheese.
For more information about this bottle shop and pizza cafe, go to The Fridge’s website.
Callaloo Trinidadian Kitchen
The next pitstop on the Tuktuk Lancaster tour was Callaloo Trinidadian Restaurant. While the restaurant does not open for the evening until 5 p.m., we had the opportunity to spoil our dinner on their pineapple chow.
Both the spicy and regular versions of this Trinidadian dish can only be described as an edible explosion of sunshine. Garlic and cilantro paired well with the fruit’s acidity, making the dish both sweet and savory.
This fresh dish provided a rest from the heavy dishes offered at other stops on the Spoil-Your-Dinner tour. Also, this restaurant and dish were a delicious ethnic discovery.
For more information about this creatively authentic food destination, go to Callalloo Trinidadian Kitchen’s website.
Almaz Ethiopian Restaurant
Our largest break between stops occurred during the drive across town from Calloloo to Almaz Ethiopian Restaurant. Wenger offered information about Lancaster City along the way, and particularly highlighted the positive influence of refugees who live in the downtown area.
Without Tuktuk Lancaster, I’m not sure I would have ever ventured to this Ethiopian restaurant. We again had the option between regular or spicy, this time in the form of fries. Even as someone without a high spice tolerance, I would definitely recommend the spicy version as the berbere spice made these handcut fries even more special.
At this stop we also received lentil sanbusas. The hearty lentils contrasted the crisp wrapper nicely. However, neither were overly flavorful, which makes for another reason to get the spicy berbere fries.
For more information about this African restaurant, go to Almaz Ethiopian Restaurant’s website.
Himalayan Curry & Grill
Full disclosure, I have visited the Himalayan Curry & Grill a couple times before and have already fallen in love with their Nepalese and Indian cuisine. Wenger said the restaurant owners sometimes surprise Tuktuk Lancaster participants with their menu items, but that they always provide generous servings.
On the evening of our tour, the Himalayan served us one of my favorites: Chicken Tikka Masala with basmati rice. The brilliantly orange and subtly sweet sauce soaks delightfully into the grains. Sizable portions of chicken complement, rather than overpower, their sauce and rice counterparts.
For more information about this Nepalese and Indian cuisine, go to Himalyan Curry & Grill’s website.
Overall Thoughts on Tuktuk Lancaster’s Spoil-Your-Dinner Tour
I don’t think a delighted smile left the faces of my friend and I throughout Tuktuk Lancaster’s Spoil-Your-Dinner Tour. The 40 minutes seemed to fly by, particularly after my recent experience on the three-hour Come Eat Lititz food tour.
With that being said, I enjoyed every minute of the tour and would certainly take another to gain a deeper understanding of Lancaster City and further explore its culinary scene.
Between the fast pace of the Tuktuk Lancaster tour and the impressive serving sizes, we compiled a substantial amount of leftovers. Each Spoil-Your-Dinner participant receives a carrying box for leftovers, which also contains napkins and a Stroopie from the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe.
If you participate in this food tour, you will need some time afterward to sit down and process the amazing experience that just took place. After getting a taste of Lancaster through the tour, you will probably want to soak in the city a little longer anyway. I recommend finding a good people-watching location — my friend and I snagged a spot in the town’s center at the intersection of Queen and King Streets — to slowly enjoy the rest of your food.
This tour also inspired me to revisit each food destination to see the inside of the unique restaurants. Perhaps that is part of the genius of Tuktuk Lancaster — a company that gives both tourists and locals an overview of the cultural and culinary destinations in downtown Lancaster and encourages them to explore it for themselves.
For more information and to book your tour, visit TuktukLancaster.com.
Note: My participation in the Spoil-Your-Dinner tour was hosted by Tuktuk Lancaster. However, the opinions expressed in this article are my own.