In this ninth annual Dining Guide with the Best of the Best, we’ve surveyed and researched and sampled through breakfast, lunch, tea-time, drinks, dinner and dessert, all to bring you insight into the many delicious choices you have in County Lines Country.
Dining out in a great restaurant surrounded by family and friends is one of life’s pure joys. Here’s hoping you do it often in 2013 and that we can help you do it well. Enjoy!
Yellow Springs Inn
1657 Art School Rd., Chester Springs
610-827-7477 / YellowSpringsCatering.com
A new fine dining destination lights up historic Yellow Springs, known for its iron-rich waters, Revolutionary War hospital, and thriving art center. This special occasion restaurant, with catering, is indeed a hidden gem—in fact, we missed its 2011 reopening. Still managed by restaurateur Charlie Orlando, it retains its elegant Victorian-era décor, and has a kitchen that’s a family affair: Charlie’s wife, Barbara, is chef, with help from brother, Ricky, and sister-in-law, Janet.
With a mission to surpass expectations, The Inn partners with local farms and uses humanely raised meat, including Piedmontese Beef (healthful, tender and flavorful), plus freshest seafood and exotic game. Stars from a recent menu: Duck and Chestnuts in Pastry, Lobster Moussiline, Mélange ala Maison (Piedmontese filet mignon, shitake sauce, crab & lobster cake, roasted corn sauce), Pheasant (with foie gras and Marsala wine sauce), Bete Noire (flourless chocolate cake with crème Anglaise). BYO. Dinner, Wed.-Sat.
Spasso Italian Grill
1 W. State St., Media
610-565-7803 / SpassoItalianGrill.com/Media
Media diners applauded the addition of another fine eatery along State Street’s restaurant row in Spasso Italian Grill, an offshoot of the popular Old City spot known for “comfort food from Italy.” Taking over the stately brick building that Brodeur’s vacated in 2009, Spasso has been embraced for its rustic Italian dishes served amid dark wood and warm-walled ambiance. Melt-in-your-mouth homemade pastas impress, including Penne Spasso (bacon, mushrooms and peas in pink cream sauce). With 19 antipasti choices—hot and cold—daily specials ranging from Monday’s lasagna to Sunday’s Braciole di Manzo, and noteworthy calamari, veal porcini and shrimp risotto, there’s a full menu to satisfy your yearning for solid Italian cooking. Perfect before heading to the Media Theatre or during Media’s Dining Under the Stars.
102 E. State St., Kennett Square
610-444-3277 / ByrsaBistro.com
A new addition to the lively dining scene in Kennett Square, Byrsa Bistro, which describes itself as a “House of Gourmet and Western Mediterranean Cuisine,” stakes out a flavorful group of culinary influences—French, Spanish, Italian, Tunisian, Moroccan. Owner Ahmed Chraga, who frequently chats with diners, hails from Tunisia and included tiles and painted scenes from his home country to add to the cozy, warm vibe of the space accented with brick and stone interior walls. A varied menu includes examples from the western Mediterranean with the paella getting special kudos from diners, along with the four-course Chef’s Tasting Table (Tues., Wed., Thurs., $32). An exciting new BYO choice.
PLACES TO WATCH
5812 Kennett Pike, Centerville, DE
302-656-9776 / BuckleysTavern.com
The cheers reverberated when this traditional hot spot reopened after being closed for most of 2012. Its new owners did a good job updating and polishing the 1817 historic, upscale tavern, long a roadside attraction in quaint Centreville. Regulars high-fived when they saw that its charms remain intact and its spirit endures. So do old faves like the ground sirloin Buckley Burger, House-battered Fish and Chips, and Thai Noodle Soup. Welcomed new offerings include Braised Lamb Shanks, Hudson Valley Foie Gras and comfort-food specials, including Chicken Pot Pie on Monday and Shepherd’s Pie on Tuesday. It was wise not to mess with the popular Sunday Pajama Brunch, offering 50 percent off your bill if you wear your PJs. Comfort and tradition prevail.
Bordley House Grille
Broad Run Golfer’s Course
1520 Tattersall Way, West Chester
610-738-4410 / BordleyHouseGrille.com
Golfers are gone for the season, making snagging a fireside table at the Bordely House Grille easier so you can sample Chef Jamie Nefe’s cooking in this 18th-century Chester County farmhouse once owned by Judge John Beale Bordely, dean of modern farming. Inspired by Bordely’s spirit, the menu promises local, seasonal dishes, some ingredients coming from their own garden—though they note they won’t make their own salt. With Family Night, Taco Tuesday, Thirsty Thursday, the energy level is high. More buzz comes from the double win at Chester County’s Mac & Cheese Cookoff, where their mushroom, goat cheese, rosemary version wooed both judges and crowds. Add duck tacos, turduken, meat loaf, grilled mahi and more for a short menu that’s well above par—but in a good way.
BEST NEW VENTURES
4755 West Chester Pk., Newtown Square
610-353-5353 / AzieSoutheast.com
Following Parker’s Prime and Sangkee Noodle Bowl at the Edgemont Square Shopping Center location, Azie Southeast, part of Win Signature Restaurants, combines Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai cuisines on their new menu. You’ll find Authentic Street Pad Thai, Kobe Fried Rice, Massaman Curry, Hot Shumai (Azie’s version of mac & cheese), plus mu shu quesadillas for the kids. Try the extensive drink menu during Happy Hour (everyday, 4:30 to 6:30) featuring seasonal infused drinks with ingredients from local Mill Hollow Farm (think pumpkin and apple for fall), classic cocktails (Sazerac, Pimm’s Cup), plus local craft beers and more. For lunch, dinner, and movie tickets, too!
Limoncello Chester Springs
499 Uwchlan Ave., Chester Springs
610-524-3112 / LimoncelloCS.com
When Limoncello opened in early December, it was great news for area residents who love the lusty flavors of well-prepared Southern Italian cuisine. The hard-working Mingrino family’s second restaurant is a larger version of its bustling Limoncello in West Chester, with the same hospitality and broad menu. Look for Provolone-stuffed Sweet Sausages, Chicken Limoncello with crab and asparagus, Veal Chop Parmesan, Salmon Stuffed with Crab Imperial. Many pizza choices, like Mediterranean with spinach and feta, plus super pasta creations, salads and soups. Don’t miss the winning Luncheon Buffet, a star attraction in West Chester.
Jack’s Steaks & Shakes
16 E. Gay St., West Chester / 610-436-1222
“Upping the steaks” comes to mind when a vegetarian veteran restaurateur opens a cheesesteak spot in a historic building in West Chester. We’ve been driving by the eco-rehabbed 1883 building for years awaiting the opening of Jack McFadden’s eponymous steak and shake shop. With the Turks Head and The Gables among his former projects, McFadden’s focus on cheesesteaks was a surprise. And surprises abound. No whiz here, instead goat cheese, plus American, provolone, cheddar and four special “steaks”—New Zealand Grass-Fed Beef, Line-Caught Ahi Tuna, Kennett Square Portobello Mushroom, and Free-Range Chicken—complemented by toppings, sauces, sides. Shakes are great, made with lowfat yogurt. Ditto the twice-cooked, well-seasoned, crisp outside/creamy inside fries and mayonnaise-less cole slaw. And burgers. Takeout window is open to 3 a.m. weekends, for extra time to check them out.
629 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne
610-254-0777 / O-Toro.com
After last year’s crowd of new Wayne restaurants, the action continues with the fall opening of O-toro, by the newish landmark Americana branch in the former Paddock space on Lancaster Ave. Featuring Wine-Sushi-Tapas, O-toro’s bar, restaurant and sushi bar are warm and inviting, with a bamboo bar for sampling the extensive wine list, deep red and black dining room to try 20 tapas, and sushi bar for watching prep of rolls, from white tiger rolls, signature O-toro roll and chef-recommended Godfather roll (tuna, avocado, cucumber, with prosciutto, mango, horseradish). Manager Rob Kowalchik takes pride in the Enomatic wine dispenser, which seals 24 open bottles for by-the-glass pours and plans Sunday wine classes. Wine Down Wednesdays and special half-price lunch sushi. Ready, set, sushi!
PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT
Fresh Ideas Market
573 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn
610-633-9277 / ShopFreshIdeas.com
Fresh Ideas Market, Meredith Coyle’s (Aneu Bistro) successor store to the departed Yang’s Market, is a great addition to Berwyn. Airy, spacious and bright, it offers coffee and pastries, specialty sandwiches, prepared soups, salads, pastas, main courses and hors d’ouevres—all excellent. We sampled many and recommend all. Check the weekly specials and recipes online. The fruits and vegetables are high quality and beautifully displayed in baskets, with chalkboards adding a homey touch. Zsa’s Ice Cream (especially the buttermilk-lemon) is unbelievable.
Wyebrook Farm Market
150 Wyebrook Rd., Honey Brook
610-942-7480 / WyebrookFarm.com
“Know where your food comes from,” says Wyebrook Farm owner Dean Carlson, former bond trader, now owner of this Honeybrooke farm, market, on-site butcher shop and café, featuring beef, pork and poultry raised there, plus eggs, local produce and cheese (Doe Run Farm, Birchrun Hills Farm, Hillside Pastures, and Conebella Farm). The market (open Fri., 3 to 7 (except in winter); Sat. & Sun, 11 to 6) and café (open Sat. & Sun., 11 to 5) offer selections featuring meat straight from the farm. The addition this fall of farm dinners and events like hosting the Chester County Cheese Artisans make this a place that’s getting some buzz.
Birchrunville Store Café
1403 Hollow Rd., Birchrunville
610-827-9002 / BirchrunvilleStoreCafe.com
Make reservations now at this perennial top pick by everyone from Craig LaBan (three bells), Philly Mag (top 50), Zagat (29/30 for food), us (always a Best), and the locals who make their next reservation as they leave. This destination-dining star delivers sublime food in a country-charming setting at the end of a bucolic drive through Chester County’s rolling hills (you might see a fox). Chef Francis Trzeciak’s French-Italian dishes let natural flavors and quality seasonal ingredients shine in his changing menu. From November’s Tasting Menu: Edamame and mascarpone ravioli with lobster and beurre fondue; Cod cheek poached in saffron and lemon confit broth, with shitake and scallion; Bourbon-pecan panna cotta with blueberry coulis. Philly Mag’s 2012 Best Restaurant in the Suburbs. Taste why.
Funky Lil’ Kitchen
232 King St., Pottstown
610-326-7400 / FunkyLilKitchen.com
If you’re near Pottstown, a stop at Funky Lil’ Kitchen is a must, provided it’s dinner time, Wednesday to Saturday, and there’s space in this 30-seat former luncheonette, plus courtyard seating. Even if you’re not nearby, a pilgrimage to Pottstown is worthwhile to enjoy the eclectic tastes that Chef/owner Michael Falcone serves up. The limited, inventive menu (4 to 5 entrées and apps) relies on locally sourced ingredients and celebrates them at special Farm Market dinners, like one for Birchrun Hills Farm this summer. Sea scallops get raves, as do duck tacos with caramelized onions, portabella mushrooms, boursin cheese and sweet red wine syrup. Take along four friends and you can sample the entire menu!
BEST CHEF’S TABLE
102 W. State St., Kennett Square
610-444-8255 / TalulasTable.com
The superbly planned and prepared dinners at Talula’s esteemed Farm Table are manna for serious foodies. Yes, reservations must be made exactly one year ahead, but it’s totally worth the wait. Your party of 10 to 12 has the whole place to yourselves to relax and enjoy the well-paced feast of hors d’oeuvres followed by eight courses. Portion sizes are perfect and the stylish presentations invariably spark conversation. The savvy staff’s brief descriptions of each course enhance the experience. Examples from the autumn menu: Mustard-dusted Salmon with glazed beets and buttery sauerkraut; Roasted Venison Loin with sweet potatoes, poblano and pumpkin seeds. BYO, with pairing suggestions on the website. Reserve now—for next year.
BEST CHEF’S TASTING
258 Bridge St., Phoenixville
610-917-0962 / MajolicaRestaurant.com
Celebrating eight years leading the restaurant renaissance in Phoenixville, Majolica continues to impress with everything it does—innovative menu, loyalty to local foods, cooking demonstrations (newly added veg/vegan cooking), specialty dinners, expanded hours, BYO. All done with casual ease, sustained enthusiasm and creative surprises. Where else does the Spanish octopus get raves? More raves: White corn chowder over crab (or lobster on the tasting menu); Uni, ponzu, quail egg yolk and sriracha; Coffee Cardamom Pots de Crème spiced doughnuts. With a chef as accomplished as Andrew Deery, choose the Chef’s Tasting Menu to enjoy some of Majolica’s most exceptional menu items and original dishes (6 or 8 courses; $55 or $75). Meals that dreams are made of.
Avalon Pasta Bistro
78 West Lancaster Ave., Downingtown
610-873-4200 / PastaBistro.com
There’s so much going on in this still-new, family-oriented BYO in Downingtown, where Chef/owner John Brandt-Lee lives: Sunday Suppers, where kids under 5 eat free; a cutting board cart at the Exton Mall; fundraisers for needy families; cooking demos; bake-at-home pasta dinners; and the complimentary beer and sangria. But our favorite is the Chef’s Tastings—tapas style service of three plates ($35) for maximum sharing: one homemade pasta dish and two other choices (flatbreads, antipasti). Some recent picks: Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes with parmesan and truffle oil, Baby Meatballs with san marzano tomatoes, Autumn Panzanella with figs, pickled red onions and shaved ricotta saluta. The seasonal menu changed often, which doubles the fun.
105 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown
484-237-8179 / AmanisBYOB.com
Johnson and Wales grad Jonathan Aman pulled off a hat trick by winning three consecutive Best Chef titles at the Chester County Restaurant Festival in September. Here’s his lineup of winners: 1) Fried Wontons stuffed with pan seared foie gras, chanterelle and blue foot mushrooms served with a porcini and truffle sea salt dusted diver scallop, with beet puree. 2) Seared Halibut with a pumpkin butter and hazelnut crust, finished with whiskey molasses glaze, served with pommes frites and honey/thyme scented root vegetables. 3) Champagne mangos, gooseberries and strawberries with goat cheese and lemon verbena whipped cream layered with cinnamon-sugar phyllo. Three reasons to visit Amani’s in Downingtown.
BEST LOCAL, SEASONAL
7 W. King St., Malvern
610-644-4009 / RestaurantAlba.com
“Locavores’ delight” is an apt description of Restaurant Alba for its many years at the forefront on sustainable cooking. A casually elegant restaurant featuring hand-crafted, locally grown artisan foods simply prepared and cooked over a wood burning grill is what they deliver. An Open Table Diner’s Choice, Alba again wowed Inquirer’s Craig LaBan, who noted it “has matured into one of the suburbs’ best restaurants.” Chef Sean Weinberg’s Italian-inspired dishes delight, as do special events and seasonal menus, like September’s Harvest Menu. Try Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu and Parmigiano Reggiano, Pork Belly Pasta, or hearty Grass-Fed “Braciole.” A carefully curated Italian wine list is the perfect complement. Great grappas, too.
Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar
Glen Eagle Square, West Chester Pk., Glen Mills
610-358-1005 / HarvestSeasonalGrill.com
The kitchen’s working relationship with 75-plus area farmers drives the menu and the staff. Try appetizers like Butternut Squash Soup and a Local Farmers’ Cheese Plate and hearty entrées like Cashew Pork with apples and Braised Short Ribs. Also Grilled Portobello Burger and Salmon BLT. Most choices under 500 calories. Organic wines and beers, too. The earthy décor is a perfect match.
White Dog Café
200 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne
610-225-3700 / WhiteDog.com
Continuing the legacy of the original White Dog in Philadelphia, the Wayne branch maintains allegiance to sustainability of its meat and produce from local farms. You can get a Bloody Mary Bloodhound (heirloom tomato juice), fried Lititz pickles, Autumn Farmers Market Salad, and nine local cheeses for your cheese plate. But this is far from granola-ville. As befits a trendy Main Line hotspot, the décor ranges from whimsical (dog portraits on the walls) to Martha-Stewart perfect in the kitchen with bright copper pots. For brunch, lunch, dinner and a happening happy hour (small plates are a hit). Just make reservations.
The Farmhouse Bistro
39 Conestoga Rd., Malvern
610-647-8060 / TheFarmhouseBistro.com
It’s an ideal setting and set-up. The inviting Farmhouse Bistro and People’s Light & Theatre share space in a large complex, so it takes just minutes to get to your seats after dinner or Sunday brunch. In its 38th season, the professional nonprofit theater thrives. Since 2011 it has owned the Farmhouse Bistro, and collaborations have been effectively amped up. Some of The Farmhouse’s historic assets are incorporated into its contemporary décor. You’ll give a standing ovation to its country-French cuisine. Recommended: Charcuterie, Cabernet-braised Short Ribs and Wild Mushroom Penne. Also delectable, seasonal salads and desserts, including Flourless Chocolate Torte and Apple Tart Tatin. The Farmhouse Bistro serves dinner and Sunday brunch, whether or not there’s a show next door.
Deep Blue Bar and Grill
111 West 11th St., Wilmington
302-777-2040 / DeepBlueBarAndGrill.com
Its proximity to Wilmington’s DuPont Playhouse makes it a natural for theater-goers; its excellent Prix Fixe Pre-Theater menu makes it popular. Attentive service assures you make curtain call. Three courses for $35 include options like Baked Oysters or New England Clam Chowder; Chicken Paillard, Crab Cake or Grilled Swordfish; Cinnamon-spiced Cheesecake or Pear Brandy Sorbetto. Bravo.
696 Unionville Rd., Kennett Square
610-444-5600 / SovanaBistro.com
It’s easy to enjoy this classy bistro that so comfortably incorporates the spirit and flavors of its European counterparts. Farm-to-table sourcing is a religion here and the place to go whether you’re looking for a good nosh, a great pizza or a big-deal dinner. Winners include Tuna Tartare, Apple Salad or house-made pastas like Spinach & Goat Cheese Ravioli. Also popular: Pennsylvania Trout and Day Boat Scallops. From the seasonal menu: Swallow Hill Farm Squash Salad, Pork Carnitas with autumn salsa and House-Ground Beef Slider. BYO or order from the good selection of wine and beer. Liquid-center Butterscotch Cake and Local Apple Turnover with Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream speak for themselves. Several cheese plates, too.
Styer’s Garden Café
Terrain at Styers
914 Baltimore Pk., Glen Mills
610-459-2400 / ShopTerrain.com
For a casual meal in a magical setting, head for Terrain at Styer’s, part of the Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie group. Eat under the stars, on the terrace or in the antique greenhouse surrounded by stage-set details—bread baked in flower pots, drinks in Mason jars, bills presented in botanical books—that make this such a pleasurable experience. Brunch, lunch and dinner are locally sourced, so the seasonal menu changes often at this BYO. But expect fresh, organic salads, seasonal soups (butternut squash with a drizzle of pumpkin oil), trendy sandwiches (ahi BLTs, tarragon lobster rolls), and all things local mushroom (portabello sandwiches and risottos get raves). And you can shop as you wander through the garden store.
BEST AL FRESCO DINING
Firecreek Restaurant & Bar
20 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown
610-269-6000 / Firecreek-Restaurant.com
Al fresco dining gets kicked up a notch when the Brandywine River, a 200-year-old converted mill and live jazz provide the background you find on the patio of Firecreek in Downingtown. Though the interior gets high marks for its mix of details from the conversion and sleek modern design, we suggest you snag one of the 100-plus seats on the custom-built patio for happy hour (special martini menu) when the bar menu is available at special prices. Duck tacos, wild boar sliders and more show owner Chef Carlo deMarco’s influence (from 333 Belrose). Weather permitting, of course.
Media’s Dining Under the Stars
Downtown Media on State Street
Yes, we’ve noted this great outdoor summer event before, but it’s a special treat. A wide variety of restaurants along State Street set up tables on the sidewalks and streets with music and entertainment adding to the ambiance. Mark Wednesday summer nights in Media for Dining Under the Stars. Awesome al fresco.
BEST ROOFTOP DINING
Más Mexicali Cantina
102 E. Market St., West Chester
610-918-6280 / MasMexicali.com
On West Chester’s only rooftop dining destination, get a bird’s-eye view of the Borough’s many charms while sipping a super fresh-shaken margarita and noshing on tasty quesadillas. Or enjoy dinner on the attractive third-floor rooftop where rustic fieldstone walls define the bar area and bright red umbrellas shade the tables. The colorful, high-energy vibes that are part of the restaurant’s DNA extend from the first floor up to the top. Tempting dinner options include Honey-Chipotle Salmon and Pasilla Braised Short Ribs, plus multiple varieties of sizzling fajitas, burritos, tacos, chimichangas and enchiladas. Now if Spring would just hurry up and get here….
BEST FAMILY DINING
Ron’s Original Bar & Grille
74 E. Uwchlan Ave., Exton
610-594-9900 / RonsOriginal.com
The menu is huge, the flavors big and happy, the bar overflowing with choices and people, and the family-friendly personality upbeat. After 22 years, it’s still going strong with owner Ron Inverso focusing on healthy cooking and on treating everyone like family. Soups start with stocks made in house and turkey sandwiches made with slices from fresh breasts roasted daily. Italian favorites like Veal Parmagiana and homestyle Spinach Lasagna have many fans. Entrée highlights include Teriyaki Stir Fry, Grilled Salmon, Creole Shrimp and Black Angus Strip Steak. The expansive children’s menu includes all the usual plus Pasta with Meatball and Apple Slices. Lots of tempting desserts and kid-friendly activities.
108 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne / 610-687-6558
For a dozen years, Molly and Chef Christopher Todd have created a family-friendly oasis in Wayne. Called “A Neighborhood Place,” it’s got a little bit of everything for breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks (open until 1 a.m.) to make the whole family happy. Whether it’s nachos, three styles of fresh Scottish Salmon, pasta with butter from the extensive kid’s menu, or something special from the gluten-free menu, their fresh ingredients from the Lancaster Fresh Farm Coop make you want to sign up for the Chris Club rewards program. Lunch specials at $6.95, served from 11 to 5 in a comfy casual atmosphere. Happy days!
BEST DINNER TO GO
50 Foundry Way, Malvern / 484-913-9600
600 Commerce Dr., Collegeville / 484-902-1500
1056 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown
610-518-7800 / Wegmans.com
If you’re lucky enough to have one of these super supermarkets in your shopping vicinity, know that the rest of us suffer from Wegmans envy. And never more than at 5 p.m., when we need something really good for dinner—immediately. There’s a banquet of options. Consider Organic Boneless Rack of Lamb with pesto and panko, Roasted Cauliflower with Delicata squash and baby spinach, or Roasted Lobster Tails with shallot/thyme butter. If you want something more casual, the salad bar abounds with good choices, as does the Asian Foods bar, along with sushi, pizza and flatbread creations. Follow your nose to the aromatic breads in the bakery department, but be forewarned, the tempting desserts will be hard to resist. An then there’s The Pub!
352 W. Lancaster Ave., Malvern
610-725-0515 / TheClassicDinerPA.com
More classy than classic diner, this Main Line landmark has been serving up the best breakfasts in a relaxed setting since 1995, 7 days a week, 6 a.m. until 3 p.m.—that’s a lot of breakfasts (plus lunches, catering, takeout, retail, but we digress). For options, ponder 14 ways for Eggs Any Way (pork roll to egg whites), 30 ways to customize your omelette (American cheese to lobster tail), award-winning Eggs Benedict or savory French toast (peanut butter & banana or pear & cinnamon cream). Plus tons of classic sides (try thick-cut bacon, then take some home), homemade granola, chocolate milk to chai latte, and lunch dishes like Parmesan crusted chicken over saffron risotto. Best meal of your day.
BEST PLACE TO CELEBRATE
The Green Room at the Hotel du Pont
11th & Market Sts., Wilmington
302-594-3154 / HotelDuPont.com
Life’s memorable moments (a proposal, say) and achievements (a big promotion, congratulations) deserve a grand, iconic place to celebrate. The gracious Green Room at the Hotel du Pont is ideal, especially in 2013, when it’s celebrating its own major milestone—a Centennial. The stately setting impresses with its carved oak paneling, high coffered ceilings, gold chandeliers, richly upholstered wingback chairs and original art work. Make a reservation for lunch, Sunday brunch or dinner. You’ll savor the seasonally inspired French cuisine featuring dinner appetizers like Pumpkin Bisque or Roasted Beet Napoleon and entrées like Crispy Magret Duck Breast, Pan-seared Verlasso Salmon, and Grilled Veal Chop. Delectable desserts. It will be an affair to remember.
Foxfire at The Stone Barn
55 Upland Road (Rte. 842), Kennett Square
610-347-2414 / TheStoneBarn.com
The big, historic barn—charming, comfortable and surrounded by rolling country hills—is the perfect place to chill out and dig in to the hearty food on this expansive buffet. Chef Ray Maxwell, a fervent “buy local” advocate, orchestrates the terrific spread. Only you can figure out whether to start with a slice of Roast Beef at one of the carving stations or a breakfast feature like Creamed Chipped Beef or Belgian Waffles. The list goes on: Fresh Fruit, Fresh and House-smoked Seafood, Omelette Station including Eggs Benedict, and various hot entrées featuring chicken or seafood, complete with sides. Remember to pace yourself and leave room for dessert. The Fruit Pies will warm your heart.
2105 Kimberton Rd., Kimberton
610-933-8148 / KimbertonInn.com
For brunch in the charming town of Kimberton (near Phoenixville), the 200-year-old Kimberton Inn delivers highly praised food, service and ambiance, with multiple fireplaces, oriental rugs and original artwork, including a John Pierce painting of the historic site. Enjoying a menu offering three courses of traditional favorites (Eggs Benedict, Belgian Waffle, French Toast) or a power lunch (Pork Loin, Crab Cake), diners also extol the warm homemade sticky buns and really great coffee. And, who can pass up a selection called “Probably the Best Salad You Will Ever Have”? For chocoholics, they make their own Belgian chocolate ice cream. So much to love.
9 N. Walnut St., West Chester
610-436-6230 / LimoncelloWC.com
You can count on it. Every Monday through Saturday, hungry folks will line up at this busy downtown West Chester favorite, eager for the super Southern Italian specialties on the extensive buffet. It’s the most popular lunch in town. Hands down. For $9.95 (soft drink included) you get to select from a tempting array of gourmet pizzas, four stromboli creations, four salads and two pasta specials. There are chicken specials, too, and fresh fish like Salmon Puttenesca, which gets rave reviews, as does the Veal Chop Parmesan. Regulars would rebel if the Sausages and Peppers were taken off the table. The busiest day is Friday, so plan accordingly.
BEST DESSERTS / SWEETS
Sponsored by Chester County Community Foundation
Waterloo Gardens, 200 N. Whitford Rd., Exton
For those of us who believe a meal without dessert is a mistake, the Sweet Charity fundraiser sponsored by Chester County Community Foundation, is our high holy day. About 20 of Chester County’s finest pastry chefs showcase delectable creations among Waterloo Gardens’ blossoms, March 19, for an event when giving never tasted so good. A sample from 2012: Candy Sushi with Ginger Creme Anglaise, Truffle Razz Pizzazz, Chocolate Fleur de Sel Caramel Cake with a Malted Pretzel Crunch (pictured). Find out what’s new and sweet this year.
Cakes & Candies by Maryellen
1332 B West Chester Pk., West Chester
Cakepops. That’s what attracted crowds to the County Lines table at the Chester County Restaurant Festival, West Chester Chili Cookoff, and Media’s Dining Under the Stars. We’re fans of this full-service bakery’s mini-cupcakes (margarita, pink champagne, red velvet), custom cakes (see the amazing portfolio), and chocolate-covered strawberries. But it’s the cakepops that send out a vibe that draws those with a sweet tooth. If you don’t see Maryellen’s truck at a local event, head for her shop east of West Chester. Here’s hoping the rumor of an in-town location is true!
BEST TEA ROOM
The Lincoln Room
28 W. Market St., West Chester
610-696-2102 / LincolnRoomWestChester.com
Add to the charm of a visit to West Chester with a stop for lunch or tea at the Lincoln Room, nestled in the Borough’s oldest commercial building known for its connection to our 16th president (ask owner Susan Johnstone). For perfectly brewed loose-leaf tea and light fare—quiche, scones, soups, salads, and, of course, tea sandwiches—this is a totally civilized experience. Try the Tea for Two, three-plate tower with selections like chicken salad, mushroom and bacon, garden vegetable, apricot and Brie tea sandwiches, with apple cinnamon scones, brownies, gingerbread cookies, carrot cake, and bread pudding for dessert. Fondue Fridays, monthly birthday celebrations, including the best place to celebrate Abe’s birthday. Honest!
A Taste of Britain
503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne
610-971-0390 / ATasteOfBritainInWayne.com
If you didn’t discover A Taste of Britain during the London Olympics or Royal wedding, come for the return of “Downton Abbey.” This café and tearoom, with full service catering and British products, has continued to improve since moving from Berkeley Road to nearby Eagle Village Shops. Now under new ownership, it serves up award-winning scones (specials each month), tea sandwiches, soups, salads, frittas, panini, pastries, and of course, 40 types of tea (Taylor’s of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold, anyone?). Put on your fascinator (or not, it’s casual) and try British favorites: Cornish Pasties, Ploughman’s Platter, Spotted Dick Pudding with Treacle Sauce and Warm Custard. All jolly good!
BEST WINE LIST
100 Old Gulph Rd., Gulph Mills
610-520-1200 / SavonaRestaurant.com
Whether you choose the elegant dining room, sleek white marble bar, upstairs wine lounge or downstairs stone-walled wine cellar, sophisticated tastes of Executive Chef Andrew Masciangelo’s cooking are complemented by over 1,300 wines hand selected by former Master Sommelier, Melissa Monosoff, now at Pioneer Wine Company in Dallas. The sample wine list extends to 44 pages, with vintage and non-vintage champagne selections, two full pages of white Burgundies, plus more French whites. Here’s hoping the replacement sommelier fares better than the replacements for the NFL refs. Note: Savona opened a Scarsdale branch spring 2012.
BEST WINE BAR
1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington DE
302-655-9463 / DomaineHudson.com
The raves continue to roll in for the New American cuisine at this refined neighborhood restaurant with an award-winning wine list of 450+ selections. Also, dozens of craft beers and super cocktails, including “Prohibition-style” drinks. Settle into one of the inviting banquettes and enjoy small-plate servings matched with small pours of wine. This allows endless opportunities to explore wine pairings. The fresh, inventive fare includes tempting creations like Veal Breast Confit with hand-cut pappardelle, Lobster Risotto with saffron nage, and Grilled Berkshire Pork Loin with cranberry/walnut stuffing. Leave room for the excellent artisanal cheese plates and the delectable desserts. The $35 prix fixe dinner is a winner, as is the tasting menu.
BEST WINE TASTING
Brandywine Valley Wine Trail
Various Locations in Chester County
Pennsylvania’s moderate climate and rolling terrain make it one of the best East Coast areas for wine, now boasting 150-some wineries and 11 wine trails. With a passport from our local Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, you get two chances to taste the terroir of area wines as you drive the trail—in March you taste the developing vintages and in September there’s the Harvest festival. Make it a mini-vacation with a Sip and Stay Getaway at participating B&Bs or hotels. View scenic vineyards, tour the cellars, taste current vintages, relax with a glass of wine, enjoy the many other attractions our area has to offer.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
3 W. Gay St., West Chester / 610-738-9600
30 E. State St., Media / 610-627-9000
620 S. Justison St., Wilmington / 302-472-2739
130 E. Bridge St., Phoenixville / 610-983-9333
781 Harrisburg Pk., Lancaster / 717-291-9800
Newark / North Wales / IronHillBrewery.com
Several Iron Hill brews won top honors in a recent competition of 799 breweries from all over the world. Regular customers of the classy/casual group weren’t surprised. And they give equal top billing to its New American fare and to its staffers, who are knowledgeable, courteous and efficient. The extensive menu offers a wide variety of winning dishes. On its Healthy Selections list is Moroccan Salmon served with red-onion jam, parsnip-potato mash, broccoli and scallion sauce. Delicious. Other favorites include Moules and Frites, Seafood Pot Pie, Meatloaf, Fish and Chips and Mac ‘n Cheese. Signature Egg Rolls headline the appetizers. And there are several Burger and salads choices, too. And beer.
BEST BREW PUB
Victory Brewing Company
420 Acorn Ln., Downingtown
610-873-0881 / VictoryBeer.com
Although the beer is the draw at this Downingtown-based brewery/brewpub—to be joined in mid-2013 by a Parkesburg site—the food gets respect from a crowd that appreciates the variety and the menu’s beer-pairing suggestions, plus the imagination to offer Victory Beer and Yoga (this past Dec. 1). With 300 seats and a 60-foot bar, there’s plenty of room to showcase 11 year-round and 9 seasonal brews with 24 rotating on tap. The menu ranges from Wings of Victory to Edamame Hummus, with plenty of apps, sandwiches (BBQ’s a fave) and pizzas, plus salads, sea scallops and even spaghetti to make everyone happy. Their house-made ice creams pay homage to the beer—Hopped Up Devil and Storm King Crunch. Locally brewed, locally loved.
Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery
520 Kimberton Rd. (Rt. 113), Phoenixville
610-935-4540 / SlyFoxBeer.com
331 Circle of Progress Dr., Pottstown
Phoenixville’s site is the mainstay for Sly Fox fans looking to pair their favorite brews with a snack or a meal (Potttown’s Tasting Room has a limited menu to allow flexibility in beer pairing). A two-page menu (with heart-healthy and vegetarian options) offers many choices, from the usual nachos, wings and quesadillas to Belgian-based mussels and Bravarian-style pub pretzels, plus sandwiches, burgers and pizza, to dinners from meat loaf to prime rib. Servers will suggest pairings to help you sample—over 100 beers since they opened in 1995, some available year-round, others are seasonals, occasional brews or special one-time releases. Beerlectable.
BEST BEER SELECTION
Teresa’s Next Door
126 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne
610-293-9909 / Teresas-Cafe.com
The best selection of the best craft beers served in the appropriate glassware: that’s the Spark Notes version of why local beer snobs can hold their heads high and invite Center City quaffers to visit the gastropub that is TND. Gulden Draak, Brouwkot Netebuk, Lamme Goedzak are just a few choices drawn at random from the selection available at press time. Belgian influences carry over to the eclectic menu, with choices like Witloof (braised Belgian endive wrapped in ham), Waterzooi (Belgian seafood stew), and Stoemp (Belgian mash of potatoes, turnips, celery root, leeks, and more). There are mussels, game burgers, or tamer options like salads and cheese boards, and perfect pomme frites. A shrine to beer drinking, with a surprisingly good wine list.
BEST BAR FOR OVER 30s
139 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne
610-977-0600 / ParamourWayne.com
It didn’t take long for its shiny new personality to become a magnet after the Wayne Hotel introduced this stylish restaurant and bar in late 2011. The buzz spread quickly that everyone was meeting in Paramour’s Bistro Bar, especially those who like to dissect trending news with friends old and new while sipping martinis, craft beers or a glass of great cabernet. Creative cocktail choices abound, like the Apricot Ginger gem with ginger syrup and macerated apricots. The Build-Your-Own cocktail menu lets you decide what goes into your “Smash, Daisy, Fizz or Sour.” What fun! For dinner, you can take a few steps back and settle into one of the circular booths with high backs that provide privacy.
BEST BAR FOR UNDER 30s
124 W. Gay St., West Chester
610-344-3934 / Ryans-Pub.com
Pat and Paul Ryan put their name on this neighborhood spot delivering quality food and drink in a lively atmosphere. For over ten years, Ryan’s has been bringing in crowds from nearby West Chester University and others who live and work in the Borough. With Karaoke Night, Wing Night, all kinds of drink specials, and an extensive menu, the demographic extends beyond the college and post-college crowds in the bar with big screen TVs, quieter second floor dining, and outdoor deck. There’s all the great expected pub food including Country Pub Platters (Shepherd’s Pie), plenty of apps, tons of sandwiches, healthy salad options, and upscale entrées (tuna, scallops, prime rib). And plenty of beer.
BEST NEW AMERICAN
1701 W. Doe Run Rd., Unionville
610-347-2227 / CatherinesRestaurant.com
There’s a lot of charm to go around and to enjoy at Catherine’s, comfortably ensconced in a former general store in the middle of horse country. The eclectic menu appeals with its mix of upscale comfort foods and familiar favorites with a twist. Wild Mushroom & Lump Crab Soup salutes local specialties while scoring with appreciative customers. It’s a long-time favorite. A winning appetizer is Goat Cheese Ravioli with smoked scallops and sun-dried tomatoes. How could it miss? Notable entrées: Blackened Tuna Steak with fire-roasted poblanos and smoky pepita cream, and Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with tart cherry reduction. Among the delectable house-made desserts, prepared daily, are Blueberry Bread Pudding, Tiramisu Mousse Bombe and Key Lime Pie.
Ella’s American Bistro
214 Sugartown Rd., Wayne
610-964-3552 / EllasAmericanBistro.com
Named after the matriarch of the owners’ family, who gets her own cocktail (champagne and St. Germain Elderflower liqueur), Ella’s mixes charm and sophistication in a casually elegant bar and dining room decked out with rough wood, white table clothes, family heirlooms and equestrian details. Enjoy an innovative menu from Chef Chad Jajczyk with plenty of specials for repeat visits. A recent housemade Flatbread, with rootbeer braised shortrib, Swiss chard, pearl onions, potato herb sauce was a hit. As were Foie Gras “PB & J,” Grilled Moonfish, Grilled Tomahawk Pork Chop, and Pan Seared Fluke. For brunch, pair a BLT Bloody Mary with Sweet Potato Pancakes with homemade marshmallow fluff, maple syrup. Yum.
BEST AMERICAN NOUVELLE
Krazy Kats Restaurant
Inn at Montchanin Village
528 Montchanin Rd., Wilmington
302-888-4200 / KrazyKatsRestaurant.com
Its whimsically wild-side personality illustrates how fine dining needn’t be boring. The playful animal-themed décor delights, especially the classy portraits of cats and dogs in formal military dress. Housed in a renovated blacksmith’s shop, this upscale charmer is part of the highly rated Montchanin Inn in Delaware’s Chateau Country. Appetizer winners include Butternut Squash and Pear Soup, Brandy Poached Lobster, and Braised Short Rib with Gnocchi. Appealing entrées: Pan-seared Colossal Shrimp with lobster-bacon ravioli, Coriander-seared Ahi Tuna with yuzu tapioca pudding, Cocoa Nib-Crusted Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope with chestnut gnocchi, and Herb-roasted Beef Tenderloin. Even the side dishes, like Roasted Foraged Mushrooms and White Truffle Pomme Puree, appeal.
BEST AMERICAN/ INTERNATIONAL
The Orchard Restaurant
503 Orchard Ave., Kennett Square
610-388-1100 / TheOrchardBYOB.com
A hidden BYO gem in Kennett Square wows foodies with what Chef Trevisani understatedly calls “well-dressed comfort food,” evolved from French influences to celebrate a more native style country dining. For three years, Open Table diners voted The Orchard among the Top 100 American restaurants, recognizing the craft of food elevated to art. You’ll find the best of area dining at this elegant, intimate dining room with a carefully curated, seasonal menu. Recent choices: Kennett Square Mushroom Soup with truffle oil, cocoa powder, pea tendrils; Dayboat Sea Scallops with tomato confit, Niçoise tapenade, chive oil, saffron burre blanc; Chocolate Tastings. Amuse bouche (like rosemary gelato with olive oil cake) and palate cleaners are special treats, as is the chef’s tasting menu.
BEST AMERICAN / CONTINENTAL
The Farmhouse Restaurant
At Loch Nairn Golf Club
524 McCue Rd., Avondale
610-268-2235 / lngolf.com
Classy country charm runneth over in this restored 18th-century farmhouse, where a comfortable clutter of baskets, dried-flower arrangements, old farm implements and decoys are natural conversation starters. Handsome oriental carpets, candles flickering on crisp linens and servers clad in black and white enhance the refined side. Tempting classic dishes, both Continental and American, have broad appeal. Some highlights: Welsh Oyster Stew, Exotic Mushroom Tart and Escargots as starters, followed by Long Island Duck with a sweet-and-sour pomegranate sauce, North Atlantic Salmon steamed with leeks and spinach in a white wine/saffron broth and an elegant combo of Veal Tenderloin and Lobster sautéed with oyster mushrooms and white wine. It’s hard to resist the homey desserts, especially the fruit tarts.
BEST ASIAN FUSION
1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn
610-725-9000 / TasteNectar.com
When Philly Mag picks a Best Restaurant on the Main Line and Craig LaBan includes it as one of his favorites, diners should take notice. And dine at Nectar for fresh, seasonal, local and sustainable Asian Fusion delights, presented is a sleek, high-production-value dining room and hopping bar under the gaze of a benevolent Buddah. Local food sources and the freshest seafood support extensive sushi and sashmi selections. Some menu choices: Lobster Dumplings, red kuri Japanese pumpkin velouté, pea tops, soy glaze; Grilled Tea Smoked Skuna Bay Salmon, crispy Brussels sprouts, Japanese pumpkin dumplings. Though the mini-doughnuts dessert is still a star, consider the artisanal cheese plate selected by the unofficial ambassador for the Chester County Cheese Artisans (Chef Feury).
152 Lancaster Ave., Malvern
610-651-2836 / BunhaFaun.net
For a low-key choice, this Malvern BYO is a perennial pleaser (21 years) and consistently rated as a great value with excellent food (the same 25/30 from Zagat as Nectar). More French with Asian influences—the menu starts with French onion soup and escargot and includes oriental noodles—the specials are always worth trying (liver, trout) at the white-table-cloth, candle-lit tables. The duck, veal and rack of lamb garner kudos (many admit wanting to lick the plates), as do the Crème Brûlée and Tiramisu. Some fans hope the crowds keep driving past this former Dairy Queen, while others spread the word.
BEST CAJUN & CREOLE – TIE
Daddy Mims’ Creole BYOB
154 Bridge St., Phoenixville
610-935-1800 / DaddyMims.com
We’ve watched as this Creole BYO with Cajun/Caribbean influences established itself after arriving in Phoenixville in 2009. Fans of Carmine’s (Havertown, Narberth) knew what to expect, but the growing fan base shows that the word has spread, attracted by distinctive bold flavors and well-seasoned cooking of Chef/owner Johnny Mims. Creole cuisine is hard to find in these parts, so it’s gratifying when you need some Mardi Gras magic, you’ll find it here. Cheese grits, tuffle fries, and jumbo lump crabmeat & smoked gouda cheesecakes get raves, and the jambalaya and etouffee set the standard. There’s 24-hour braised Cajun-style pork shoulder and bourbon spiked cinnamon bread pudding that may bring the chef out to chat. We’ve heard a move is planned to the Columbia Hotel space.
High Street Caffé
22 S. High St., West Chester
610-696-7435 / HighStreetCaffe.com
With a full bar, music, “funky, eclectic atmosphere,” and wild game on its Creole fusion menu, High Street Caffé offers a different vibe in its purple party space, rockin’ on for 17 years. Among Chef Jay Wenner’s 20 appetizers and 30 entrées, you’ll find the classics (Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Crawfish or Crab Bisque) and something from the wild side (Rack of Wild Boar, Ostrich, Kangaroo, Alligator), Voodoo shrimp with XXX Spicy BBQ sauce, and Blackened tuna, chicken, snapper, catfish, crab cakes and scallops. Prix Fixe 3-course, lunch (Gator sausage Po’Boy or flatbread), extensive beer list (lots of Belgian, German, and Pennsylvania choices), inventive cocktails (Bananas Foster martini), Sunday jazz dinners, take-out, catering … what will they do next?
Haverford & Conestoga Rds., Bryn Mawr
610-527-3200 / YangmingRestaurant.com
It’s no surprise that this Main Line mainstay continues to thrive with its consistently excellent Asian and Western cuisine and high-style modern décor. It deserves the more than 40 “Best Chinese” awards granted by various area and national publications. The Peking Duck, carved tableside, is superb, as are the Crab Cakes with wine sauce, courtesy of two autonomous kitchens, one Chinese, one Western. Creations from the latter invariably surprise and please first-timers as do wickedly good desserts like Cappuccino Crème Brûlée and Tiramisu. Chinese favorites include Spicy Crispy Orange Beef and Mandarin Sweet and Sour Pork. Grilled Scottish Salmon is a showpiece for the Western chef, while Veal Escallops with Black Bean Sauce and rice wine makes fusion fans happy. Plus, Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
Margaret Kuo’s Restaurants
175 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne / 610 688-7200
190 Lancaster Ave., Malvern / 610-647-5488
4-6 W. State St., Media / 610-892-0115
Granite Run Mall, Media / 610-566-4110
For almost 40 years, Margaret Kuo’s four excellent Main Line and Delaware County restaurants have built a loyal following among those who appreciate authentic Chinese and, in later years, Japanese food. No matter what your neighborhood or mood, one of these four distinctive spots is a match—the original more formal spot in Granite Run Mall, the hipper State Street Media location, the elegant Wayne Chinese/Japanese two-stories, and the casual Malvern BYO. Peking Duck and Whole Fish Hunan Style are standouts, and Hot and Sour Soup and Steamed Dumplings get raves. Check the (very) Early Dinner Special at Wayne (Mon.-Fri., 4 to 5:30).
2 Waterview Rd., West Chester
484-887-0513 / MythosGreekRestaurant.com
Its sunny ambiance and savory Greek specialties will brighten your day. Large paintings that celebrate Greece’s sun-splashed islands set the stage for the great eats. Judicious seasoning—good olive oil, lemon, a few herbs—and expert char-grilling produce the ethnic cuisine’s distinctive flavors. Among the popular offerings designed for sharing is the Gyro Platter with marinated/char-grilled beef and lamb slices. It’s served with the traditional tzatziki yogurt sauce with chopped cucumber and dill. A skewered Souvlaki favorite is the char-grilled jumbo shrimp. More winners: Lamb Chops, Shish Kebabs, Moussaka (Greek lasagna) and lemony Avgolemono Soup. Delectable desserts include the classic Baklava, flaky and cinnamony. It gets an alpha.
208 W. State St., Media / 610-891-0400
5059 State Rd., Drexel Hill/ 484-452-8140
301 Byers Drive, Glen Mills / 484-841-6345
The opening last spring of its third location in Glen Mills shows just how popular its vibrant Northern Indian cuisine has become. Satisfying, healthy and fairly priced, it can be addictive. The colorful ethnic décor and fragrant aromas immediately put you in the mood for the tasty creations. The extensive luncheon buffet is perfect for sampling. When you order from the menu, you get to choose your spice level, from mild to wild. Umpteen vegetarian choices and terrific lamb creations like the Karahi prepared with a rich tomato sauce expertly seasoned with ginger and garlic. Try the Samosas, Tandoori preparations and Biryanis (rice specialties), too. Don’t miss the Mango Ice Cream or creamy, cardamom-flavored Rice Pudding with cashews and raisins.
BEST IRISH PUB
Kildare’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
18 W. Gay St., West Chester / 610-431-0770
Philadelphia, Manayunk, Scranton, PA
Newark, DE KildaresPub.com
A luck-of-the-Irish spirit thrives in these lively pubs, where many pints are raised, especially on weekends. The scene is set with a décor centered on furnishings direct from or inspired by Old Country pubs, as are the menus and even recipes. Add state-of-the-art bar and beer systems and the crowds can’t help but have a good time. Beyond the Guinness, there’s good all-American pub grub, too, with burgers, meatloaf and chicken potpie. Celtic specials include Shepherd’s Pie, Guinness Stew, Jameson BBQ Salmon, Bangers and Mash, Fish & Chips and Drunken Steak. Irish Breakfast features bangers, rashers, beans, roasted tomato, eggs, black and white pudding. Sunday Brunch and Family Nights, when kids eat free, are the tamest of multiple fun events.
4799 West Chester Pike, Edgemont
610-353-4871 / Mussotra.com
When diners raised on their Italian mother’s food pick this busy BYO as a favorite for hearty Southern Italian fare, it’s worth a visit. You’ll feel the Old World vibe as you pass wrought iron, marble and expected décor items, on your way to a menu of over a hundred items—antipasti, insalata, pasta (and more pasta), carne, panini, pizza, dessert and more. From Antipasto Giuseppe and Brasaola con Arugola Parmiggiano (thinly sliced cured beef, with arugula, Parmesan cheese) to pasta for every taste—Spaghetti Aglio Olio (fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil) to Penne Giuseppe (onions, Italian bacon, peas in a light cream). Many opt for the fresh fish selections, like the branzini.
Margaret Kuo’s Restaurants
175 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne / 610-688-7200
190 Lancaster Ave., Malvern / 610-647-5488
4-6 State St., Media / 610-892-0115
Granite Run Mall, Media / 610-566-4110
With its elegant, contemporary décor, this is a perfect setting for the authentic Japanese creations that exemplify the food-as-art idea. The top-notch cuisine tastes every bit as good as it looks. Premium sushi is super fresh and equal to what you’d find in Tokyo. Maybe that’s why the Japanese consul general is a regular. Dishes designed for sharing include Shabu Shabu (sirloin, noodles and vegetables in clear broth) and Yosenabe (shrimp, scallops, Chilean sea bass, salmon and vegetables in clear broth). Appealing entrées: Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with orange miso sauce, Black Pepper Tuna, and Kinoli Filet Mignon Teriyaki. Also sushi feasts like the All-Yellowtail Sushi Dinner and Special Roll Combinations plus several Teriyaki and Tempura options.
Hana Japanese Restaurant
387 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne / 610-687-3320
A sushi pioneer when it opened more than 26 years ago, it’s established as a true Main Line tradition. Authentic preparations appeal, especially to long-term patrons of the small, simply decorated eatery. Varied sushi rolls never fail to please, and they’re a good value. Lunch patrons tout the Bento boxes. Sukiyaki, Tempura, Chicken Teriyaki and Udon Noodles score at any time.
1307 N. Scott St., Wilmington, DE
302-777-1800 / MoroRestaurant.com
It’s always fun to discover what enticing new creations Chef/owner Michael DiBianca has prepared at his city-chic restaurant in a neighborhood row-house. Inspired by traditional Mediterranean-style cuisine, he’s known as a passionate chef and avid wine collector with a super list. Recent small plate offerings: Seared Scallops with “roasted apple-crispy pumpkin ravioli-walnuts-30-year balsamic,” as written on the menu, and Tuna Tartar with “smashed avocado-soy-sea salt-spicy flying fish roe-crispy wonton.” Also Black Truffle Beef Tartar and Veal Agnolotti. Large plate choices include Grilled Wild Salmon, Pan-Seared Duck Breast, Slow-Braised Short Rib, and Coffee-Crusted Rib-eye Steak. And for dessert: Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie with vanilla gelato, and Caramelized Apple Cake with pistachio caramel. Wow.
150 W. Gay St., West Chester
610-431-7074 / TheMedWCPA.com
For what feels like a meal in the chef’s home and a menu that includes delectable choices from countries surrounding the Mediterranean, this small, appealing BYO offers more than its size suggests. Classic falafels, hummus, tabouli, baba ganouj (try an assortment to start) are there but the highlight is the fresh specials. Chef Joseph Andraos serves up fresh, wild seafood, homemade pastas, free-range beef, meat pie, spice pie, vegetable pie and the best baklava ever.
Señora’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine
505 E. Gay St., West Chester
When “authentic” is part of the name and the cooking, get ready for a satisfying meal at this much-loved Mexican BYO run by third-generation restaurateur Carmen Lytle. Freshness of ingredients is part of what sets Señora’s apart from area chains—even the chips and the four salsa choices. Add the perfect balance of spice and flavor that shine through in food that’s not overwhelmed with heat, along with warm and friendly service. Regulars enjoy the special Mole Poblano, Alas de Coyote (wings), Chori Queso, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Santa Fe Chicken Fajita, Chile Relleno, Quesadilla Fiesta and to-die-for Flan. Award-winning Mexican cuisine and a consistently satisfying dining experience.
907 S. High St., West Chester
610-420-8101 / LaTolteca.net
4701 Concord Pk., Wilmington
302-477-0433 / LasToltecas.com
With locations in West Chester and Delaware, these locally owned and operated restaurants have built a loyal following from locals, families and students from nearby West Chester University for over 20 years. The faithful are drawn by large portions of Mexican comfort food—nachos, quesadillas, chimichangas, tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas. Lunch menu (Special Lunch # 1; Chile relleno, fried beans, guacamole, salad and taco) and vegetarian offerings, too. Bring your own tequila and they’ll make a margarita. All bueno.
BEST UPSCALE MEXICAN – TIE
110 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne
484-580-8303 / MatadorRestaurante.com
Go for the Spanish/Mexican food, stay for the 120 types of tequila and mescal, 100-bottle wine list, popular margaritas, and sangrias. Billed as a “Spanish Mexican Tapas Tequila Bar,” tapas lovers—veg, chicken, meat and fish options—enjoy the sumptuous dark leather, heavy wood, Old World interior and upscale feel, which some say has hints of a Garces spot. There’s a lively bar with 4 to 5 p.m. Happy Hour with free tapas and Late Happy Hour (11 to 1 a.m., really!), plus relaxing patio for people watching. The drama of table-side prep of the featured guac gets high marks, as do the cerviche, paella, Flautas de Puerco (pulled pork, flour tortilla, smoked jalapeño crema), Pollo Fundido (grilled chicken in tequila scented Chihuahua cheese). Flamenco dancing on second Saturdays. Olé.
103 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne
484-580-8415 / Xilantro.com
Mexi-hip and mod-Mex were coined for this eye-catching, upscale newish spot for Mexican cuisine and tequila bar, with over 100 in stock, including Patron Platinum and many more obscure choices. The contemporary white interior accented with neon green creates the backdrop for a lively bar scene, outdoor patio and dining room serving lunch and dinner from the Serape restaurant group. Margaritas and Mexican beers are popular choices from the newly expanded bar menu and for Late Night Happy Hour, 8:30 to 11. Pato (braised duck), Pulpo (grilled octopus), and Camaron (shrimp) Fajitas served in a Lava Stone Bowl—also used for table-side prepped guac—Barbacoa leg of lamb, slow-braised with chile paste for seven hours inside a banana leaf, and Tlaxcala steak with chorizo sauce, over a crisp tortilla with Chihuahua cheese are top picks.
Alfredo’s Italian Pizza Kitchen
34-38 E Street Rd., West Chester
484-315-8685 / AlfredoPizzaKitchen.net
Opened in March by Alfredo Giannaccari, of Berwyn’s Alfredo Italian BYO and Newtown Grill, this new spot brings great pizza and other Italian standards to The Commons at Thornbury (Routes 202 & 926). Game to try all pizzas, we found something special in the Neapolitan-style thin crust perfection of the Margherita’s perfectly balanced red sauce and the white pizza’s simple display of the house-made mozzarella—plain pizzas being the best test of quality and authenticity. We’ll work our way through other options (BBQ chicken, Bianca with ricotta and spinach). Everything on the menu is under $15, for those seeking sandwiches, pastas or baked dishes.
The Whip Tavern
1383 N. Chatham Rd., West Marlborough
610-383-0600 / TheWhipTavern.com
Set in prime horse country, this friendly clubby/pubby spot is a magnet for folks seeking Brit-style food and drink. They toast the stellar list of brews, lagers, stouts and ciders. Shandy, too. Some of the brews brighten dishes like the Mussels steamed in Strongbow cider and gooey Welsh Rarebit swirled with Smithwick’s Irish Ale. English Specialties include Bangers & Mash and Fish and Chips fit for the Queen. Dinner entrées include a Fresh Catch, Beef Filet with foie gras, Chef’s Special Lamb with Bubble and Squeak (potato pancakes), Diver Scallops, and Rack of Wild Boar. Vintage horse-and-hound images grace the dark-paneled walls, and you can watch cricket matches on TV.
Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop
Various locations including Exton,
Glen Mills, Kennett Square
607 E. Market St., West Chester
610-719-0270 / Capriottis.com
The Bobbie—voted the “greatest sandwich in America” in a AOL poll—is Capriotti’s “Thanksgiving on a roll” signature sandwich (homemade turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mayo) named after the founders’ Aunt Bobbie, its creator. Some fans can’t order anything else on the menu of specials, salads, subs, sandwiches, hot stuff and kid’s meals. This is a shame because there’s lots of love—variety, taste and fun, with names like the Capastromi (hot pastrami), Cole Turkey, SlawBeJoe (homemade roast beef) for the specials sandwiches. Plus a great back story spanning 35 years since Capriotti’s started in Wilmington growing to a national chain from coast to coast. Vegetarian friendly, made to order, and sharing the passion one sandwich at a time.
Harry’s Seafood Grill
101 S. Market St., Wilmington
302-777-1500 / HarrysSeafoodGrill.com
Everything here is the catch of the day, beginning with its cool riverside location (with lovely patio) and classy modern décor. It’s a star on Wilmington’s Riverfront, offering 75 wines by the glass and a large, updated-daily menu of imaginative seafood creations. Beyond its award-winning crab cakes, typical choices include Seafood Gumbo, Panko Fried Skate, Oven-roasted Cod and Pan-seared Black Grouper. Direct-from-Maine lobster ends up in several tempting preparations. There’s an Oyster Bar, and Sashimi and Ceviche offerings, each total six or more choices. For meat lovers: Slow-braised Short Ribs, Grilled Petite Filet & Scallops, and Grilled Chicken Breast. Super salads and appetizers, too.
BEST SMALL PLATES
38 E. Gay St., West Chester
610-738-8244 / TecaWC.com
A pretty, lively place with a crowd to match, Teca makes the most of its multi-floor space, with details like Murano glass lighting the warm mahogany wood, in a historic building in the heart of West Chester, serving panini, small plates, plus a full menu of Italian entrées, accompanied by a solid wine list. For tapas-style light fare served outside for people watching, or inside where you can do the same, try a selection of bruschette (from broccoli rabe to tomato), panini (Diablo’s spicy salamino, capocollo, hot cherry pepper, scamorza, ciabatta a fave), salads, cured meats and cheese, plus appetizers (fried or grilled calamari), nibbles and sides (olives and fries).
1147 Lititz Pk., Lancaster
717-394-7974 / StockyardInn.com
At this historic landmark—one of the country’s oldest continuously operating steakhouses—there’s no need to ask: Where’s the beef? It’s always prime time here with mouth-watering choices like a 14-ounce Sirloin Strip with demi-glace and gorgonzola topping, tender filets, 24-ounce porterhouses, meaty rib-eye steaks and perfect prime rib. It’s notable that nothing is pre-packaged, thanks to an experienced meat-cutter on staff. Several seafood classics are offered—Baked Jumbo Shrimp Stuffed with Lump Crabmeat is a signature dish—plus other meat and poultry choices, and a vegetarian pasta dish. Old World elegance defines every room of the popular restaurant. Large paintings of fox-hunting scenes stand out against forest-green walls in the main dining room, softly lit with colonial-style chandeliers.
Firebirds Wood-Fired Grill
Providence Town Center
Garnet Valley Plaza Center, 91 Wilmington-West Chester Pk., Chadds Ford
484-785-6880 / FirebirdsRestaurants.com
Its big personality and hearty fare draw hungry fans to the Colorado-themed, upscale/casual restaurant. The steaks, hand-cut daily and imbued with the flavor of a wood-fueled fire, rock. Consider the 12-ounce Center-cut Sirloin, New York Strip, Rib-eye, Pepper-crusted Sirloin or Chile-rubbed Delmonico. Recommended: the Blue Cheese Filet with tangy sauce and port mushrooms and the Herb-roasted Prime Rib.
BEST SEAFOOD & STEAK
Seven Stars Inn
300 Ridge Rd., Phoenixville
610-495-5205 / SevenStarsInn.com
Super-generous portions of popular steak and seafood classics match the exuberant décor of the Inn’s more than 200 years of welcoming visitors. Tiffany chandeliers, sturdy sideboards and Pennsylvania Dutch quilts recall the best of the past. The house specialty, Roast Western Prime Rib, slow roasted all day, averages 32-40 ounces! Or, you can feast on a variety of steaks, including Filet Brochette, and seafood specials like Poached Salmon, Chilean Sea Bass and Baked Jumbo Shrimp Stuffed with Crabmeat. Lobster Tails come broiled with drawn butter or stuffed with crabmeat and served with sautéed shrimp. Veal Oscar and Veal Parmigiana appeal, too. To-die-for desserts include Peach Melba, Molten Chocolate Lava Cake and Fried Banana Caramel Cheesecake. Seventh heaven!
5492 West Chester Pk., Newtown Square
610-644-8270 / TeikokuRestaurant.com
Sushilicious comes to mind as we ponder the sushi options at Teikoku, specializing in Japanese and Thai cuisine, where the zen-like ambiance adds to the experience. Serious attention shows in a menu offering sushi starters, chef’s choice combos, a la carte, specialty rolls and house rolls. Note the blue fin tuna lover option plus exotic yellow tail (kanpachi) and super white tuna (escolar) as a la carte choices. Specialty rolls: Volcano, California roll with spicy salmon aioli, masago, scallions, sriracha; Mexican, chicken tempura, lettuce, tomato, onion, in soy paper with tobiko, guacamole. Try the affiliates at Media’s Azie and Villanova’s Azie on Main.
Lily Asian Cuisine, Sushi & Grill
104 W. State St., Kennett Square
610-925-3700 / LilySushiAndGrill.com
Among the many reasons to visit Kennett Square, add Tuesdays at Lily’s to get your raw fish cravings satisfied with their all-you-can-eat sushi nights. Fans applaud their fresh fish and well-prepared rolls, with fanciful names like Fantastic, Fancy and Fashion rolls (shrimp tempura, topped with spicy tuna). Try Lily’s signature rolls, 10-piece sushi dinner ($16), sashimi or other Japanese dishes, like teriyaki and teppanyaki. For pan-Asian fans, this BYO has Pad Thai and curries, plus Chinese choices. Well presented, well prices, well appreciated.
BEST THAI – TIE
301 Bridge St. Phoenixville
610-935-8613 / ThaiLElephant.com
A beautiful tapestry glowing with gold threads sets the tone at this uptown restaurant happily settled into its historic building in Phoenixville. French-influenced Thai favorites get a particularly light and flavorful touch here, as do innovative interpretations like Mae-Nam, in which slender sticks of Granny Smith apple brighten this seafood feast. A favorite among several wok specialties, Himmapan combines chicken and shrimp with several vegetables and pineapple, topped with cashews. Other appealing entrées include Peppercorn Catfish, April Salmon, Shrimp and Scallops in a champagne sauce, and marinated Cornish Hen. You decide the degree of spiciness from “mild with a little sting” to “tongue and lips tingling.” The Thai Treasure appetizer assortment is recommended for first timers. And don’t miss the Coconut Ice Cream.
Thai Orchid Restaurant
556 W. Lancaster Ave., Berwyn
610-651-7840 / ThaiOrchidBerwyn.com
The strip mall location is out-stripped by the flavorful, full Thai menu, with traditional dishes and specials ($10.95 for a 3-course lunch). With a charming interior and attentive service, this BYO lets you pick your spice level (stimulating kick, tingling sensation, very hot, yet bearable). Start with Lemon Grass or Jasmine soup, then Thai, Buddah or Tulip dumplings (ground shrimp and crabmeat wrapped in a tulip shape, steamed, served with soy vinaigrette). For entrées, try the lamb specials, Thai Basil and Chu Chee Duck (crispy roasted duck with curry sauce, flavored with pineapple and basil), Green and Masaman Curry—all favorites. Plus an extensive vegetarian selections with bean curd or tofu in the Veggie Spicy Noodles.
BEST VEGETARIAN OPTIONS
128 Paoli Pike, Paoli
484-318-8047 / RedHoundGrille.com
Vegetarian diners looking for a change from ethnic restaurants were happy to find strong choices at Redhound Grille’s classic American food with a bit of a twist, using local, seasonal produce. Even their Facebook page highlights a veggie burger with hand-cut sweet potato fries. The Three-course Thursday special includes choices of veggie apps and entrées (Vegetarian Gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream sauce; Classic Mushroom Risotto). Good omens. The menu offers veggie quesadillas, grilled veggie sandwiches, four cheese or portabella ravioli, and that veggie burger—made with lentils, brown rice, peas, carrots, mushrooms and onions with a spicy Indian/Middle Eastern flavor, on a brioche roll. All served up in a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere, for when your carnivore friends want a burger.
82 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli
610-889-4870 / LeSaigon.com
This attractive BYO is the place to go when you need a fix of those intriguing flavors that make Vietnamese fare so appealing. From complex sauces—courtesy of that French influence—to savory noodle dishes, there’s something for everyone. Several versions of Pho, the popular noodle soup, appeal, as does the Corn/Crab Soup. A tasty standout: Boneless Tangerine Duck with crispy skin and citrusy sauce. Other favorites: Caramel Shrimp in Clay Pot, Sate Beef and Seafood Curry. Several char-broiled meat and seafood entrées, seasoned with lemon grass, shine. Desserts worth the calories include Caramel Custard, Banana Rice Pudding and Chocolate/Coffee Mousse. -CL-