Unique Pennsylvania Dining Experience 43 Feet Under

Catacombs Restaurant is an upscale restaurant 43 feet underground and the most unique restaurant I have ever visited. When I was in the Lancaster / Mount Joy, PA area, I wanted to take a Catacombs tour. I had read about it and even mentioned in a few articles so I wanted to visit it and see what it was for myself.

Several stories below street level, the Catacombs is in the aging cellars of Bube Brewery at Mount Joy.

The brasserie itself is a fun place to enjoy great food, live music, and a variety of options and events to appeal to the most fussy visitors. But the Catacombs are an enchanting experience not to be missed.

Bube’s Brewery organized a dinner in the catacombs and a tour during our visit. All opinions are mine.

Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

The story

Alois Bube, a young German immigrant who was an apprentice brewer before coming to America, got a job in the small Mount Joy brewery. German-style lager was all the rage at the time and the demand was huge. Alois saw a great business opportunity and, with financial help from a neighbor, bought the brewery in 1876.

He expanded the Bube’s brewery and added the Victorian Central Hotel to accommodate guests and use it as a family residence. His excellent reputation as a brewer and businessman helped him build a very successful business. Until one day tragedy struck, and Mr. Bube passed away at the age of 57.

Even though his Brewery closed before Prohibition, the wealth he had accumulated allowed his family to continue living on the property for over 40 years. But they did little maintenance to the building.

When the family sold the property it was in need of repairs and the restoration began in 1968.

After an 84-year hiatus, Bube’s started brewing beer again in 2001.

Today, Bube’s Brewery, including the Catacombs, is believed to be the only one of hundreds of lager-era breweries still operating in the United States.

Old barrels at the Bube brewery
Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

The experience

Upon entering Bube, you are greeted by a host. When you visit the bar or one of the street level dining areas, you are escorted to your table. If you have a reservation for the catacombs, you are guided for a pre-meal tour of the historic brewery. (Others can have a tour on request.)

During your visit, the guide explains what the different rooms and equipment were used for. In the brewery area you will find artifacts including gigantic wooden barrels once used to age the brew. There are also original Bube beer bottles, antique butter churns and frying pans.

The old brewery was created with a “vertical design”. Hot beer was pumped out of the kettle to the upper level where it cooled, then fermented in the room below, then down one level for conditioning and down to the catacombs for aging.

As you descend into the catacombs, you are surrounded by stone walls on the way to the unique upscale dining room. An evening here enjoying the tour and the catacombs is an unforgettable experience.

Tables at Bube's brewery
Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

The catacombs

When you get to the catacombs you are 43 feet below street level and in a series of stone arches. The 19th century cellar nestled under the historic brasserie offers a unique candlelit atmosphere.

Dimly lit cellars have string lights draped over the dining rooms in addition to candles. Stone walls surround you and some of the protruding stones have candles set on them.

It is an intimate and romantic atmosphere with elegantly set tables for two and four people.

Soft music plays in the background.

Servers have been assigned to the Catacombs area. I found the fact that there were no stupid waiters and the kitchen was at street level especially interesting, so the staff had to climb the stairs to get the food and haul it 43 feet up. catacombs for each order.

A meal at Bube's brasserie
Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

The menu

The gourmet menu includes a variety of gourmet starters as well as some traditional German and American dishes. The menu is written in German and English.

During our visit, our host ordered several entrees to share. My favorite was the roasted asparagus.

I ordered the delicious grilled pork chops with apple cider dressing frosting, served with tender green beans and a baked potato. My husband ordered a seafood pasta starter which included linguini pasta mixed with a lobster tail, scallops, shrimp, crab and mussels in an alfredo sauce which he reported as superb.

We shared a piece of decadent chocolate cake with a drizzled hot fudge frosting for dessert.

Dining room at Bube's brewery
Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

Other restaurants at Bube’s

The other areas of Bube’s have a shared menu that is different from the Catacombs gourmet menu. I ate both in the Catacombs and in the BottlingWorks and both were delicious.

Beer and soft drinks were once bottled in the current BottlingWorks restaurant and tavern.

Biergarten at Bube's brewery
Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

An outdoor drinking garden, the Biergarten, is adjacent to BottlingWorks. The large original boiler and the chimney used to produce steam for the old brewery are located in the middle of the Biergarten. Meals and drinks are served in the garden under the shade of the trees.

The original barrel repair room is now known as the Cooper Shed. It is an extension of the BottlingWorks restaurant which is best suited for large parties or groups and offers a quieter atmosphere.

Formerly the original dining rooms and bar of the Victorian hotel part of Bube’s Brasserie, the Alois hosts special events such as mystery dinners and private events.

Dance hall at Bube's brewery
Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

The hotel

The Central Hotel, built in the 1880s, was a state-of-the-art accommodation facility. The hotel would have the first flush toilets in Mount Joy.

The hotel is still open, with eight of the original rooms decorated in a unique theme.

Bube Brewery
Photo credit: Brasserie Bube

Special events

Bube has something going on all the time. Some of the events are his famous murder mystery dinners, karaoke, and quiz nights.

Theatrical festivals are often organized in the catacombs. The enchanted environment of the storybook is perfect for the special dinner with live actors creating a memorable evening for the attendees.

The brewery and catacombs are said to be haunted, and they host ghost tours and paranormal investigations. Ghostbusters visited Bube’s and confirmed there was paranormal activity. When I visited I didn’t see anything scary, but I could definitely understand why it could be haunted.

If a visit to a unique restaurant is on your to-do list, Catacombs is perfect. A charming place for a special occasion dinner or a romantic evening, the Catacombs will be one of the most unique restaurants you have ever experienced.

Pro tip: There are no elevators. To get to the Catacombs you need to be able to walk up and down steps, and once in the Catacombs the lighting is dim. (Remember, your phone has a flashlight to help you read the menu.)

Other culinary experiences available in Pennsylvania:

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