BEER, BARS AND WINE
Best Wine Bar
Domaine Hudson Wine Bar
1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington
302-655-9463 / DomaineHudson.com
You may know that Domaine Hudson’s wine list has garnered accolades from Open Table (Top 100 Wine Lists in the U.S.), Wine Spectator, Zagat, Delaware’s Reader’s Choice, and County Lines. What you may not know is that they combine a sense of humor with their knowledge of the vines. With 450 selections of rare, boutique and vintage wines, including 40 choices by the glass or in flights (1.5, 3 or 5 oz. pours), they curate tastings with themes like Italian Masterpieces, Que Syrah Syrah, Cabernet Cabaret and Pinot Envy. Plus more serious selections from Burgundy, Piedmont and sparklers, of course. Combine with an artisanal cheese or charcuterie plate for perfection.
Best Local Wine
700 Folly Hill Rd., Kennett Square
484-899-8013 / GalerEstate.com
The Brandywine Valley boasts a special microclimate giving local vineyards an ideal environment for growing grapes and developing a wine industry. Galer Estate (formerly Folly Hill Winery, near Longwood Gardens) has recently attracted attention by earning key awards to add to the 90-some others. Besting the best of California vino, Galer garnered the 2015 Gold Medal from the International Eastern Wine Competition in Sonoma for their 2014 un-oaked Chardonnay and Silver for their 2014 Pinot Gris. They’ve also won Best of Show, Double Gold and Gold Medals for ice wines, and had Craig LaBan anoint their rosé “as close as we get to a taste of Provence in the Brandywine.”
Best Bar for Meeting Friends
White Dog Café
200 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne / 610-225-3700
379 Lancaster Ave., Haverford / 610-896-4556
Polished wood beams, chandeliers fashioned from wine bottles and a wall of lovable canine portraits make this clubby chic bar the ideal spot to meet friends, reconnect and raise a glass. Libations with a local twist: farm-to-table cocktails, a mostly American wine list, plus Pennsylvania beers on tap. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 weekdays with a menu that includes half-price wine bottles and favorite comfort foods: mac ‘n’ cheese, tuna tartare, truffle parmesan fries and double cheddar burger. Check out the newish Haverford location, too. Cheers!
Best Happy Hour
Tavola Restaurant + Bar
400 W. Sproul Rd., Springfield
610-543-2100 / Tavolas.com
The patio looks like your dream patio—spacious, with sofas and seating for a crowd, colorful umbrellas, fire pits, heat lamps and glass enclosure when needed, all overlooking a perfectly manicured lawn (in this case a golf course). A top spot for drinks with friends, say from 4 to 6 in the afternoon. Changing Happy Hour specials—from green apple sangria to $3 Shock Tops to $6 Dark Horse Cabernet—mean repeat visits. The menu has all kinds of light fare to make it your happiest hour: tacos, sliders, wings, nachos, panini, wood-fired pizzas. Late fall Tavola had an Uber special. What more can you want?
Best Brew Pubs
Victory Brewing Company
420 Acorn Ln., Downingtown / 610-873-0881
650 W. Cypress St., Kennett Square / 484-730-1870
3127 Lower Valley Rd., Parkesburg
484-718-5080 / VictoryBeer.com
Adjacent to the brewery, available for a tour, it’s one of our favorite places. There are about two dozen ever-changing beers on tap—Golden Monkey, Storm King Imperial Stout—two others on a hand pump—like Hop Devil, Headwaters—and more in bottles—think Helios, Happy Quad. There are always a great seasonal cheeses and charcuterie boards. Small and main plates—buffalo chicken, enchiladas, Polish sausage, roast beef, shrimp and grits—are favorites and more than filling. And don’t miss the Victory Ice Cream. Venture beyond the Downingtown home spot and try Victory’s new brewpubs—in Kennett Square and Parkesburg.
142 E. Market St., West Chester
484-947-2503 / BoxcarBrewingCompany.com
On Market Street, east of High in West Chester, you can pull in after work, before dinner, or any other time for that matter. It’s Community Supported Beer at Boxcar Brewpub and at the brewery on Westtown Road. Pull up to the bar, order one of Boxcar’s beers, like 1492 American Pale Ale, Coal Runner Stout or an Imperial Mango Ginger draft. It’s fresh, batch brewed, much as Jamie Robinson and Jason Kohser dreamed it up in Jamie’s kitchen. If you’re hungry, order from the brewpub’s expanding and evolving menu—snacks, salads, small and large plates. The kids will love the giant Jenga, T.V., retro video games and claw machine. On weekends, stop by for live music.
Best Beer Selection To Go
Pinocchio’s Beer Garden To Go
31 E. Baltimore Ave., Media
610-566-7767 / PinBeer.com
How about 1000 specialty beers, 200 craft beers, 25 rotating on tap, plus mix-and-match six packs, growlers and on-site tastings? It’s enough selection to make a Beer Advocate fanboy advocate for the personalized service from Tim Volikas and his knowledgeable yet patient staff. With 60 years in the business, Pinocchio’s—one of the first pizzeria’s around—grew the Beer Garden from a modest start. So, next time you want to try six different pumpkin beers, satisfy finicky friends or learn to distinguish an APA from an IPA, head to the beer mecca in Media. Also a perfect stop before dining in a local BYOB. Pinocchio’s, no lie.
207 W. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown
484-593-0560 / StationTaproom.com
From the exterior, it may not attract your attention, but the line outside gives away its popularity. Inside, everybody knows your name! Or should, if you appreciate good food and drink. The truffle fries are legendary. So are the Carolina-style pulled pork and Thai red curry that gets raves from regulars. But a big draw is the well-curated beer lists—over 30 beers in bottles (up to $35 for 22 oz. of Firestone Walker Double DPA) and five to ten on tap, plus more than 30 brands of whiskey and single-malt scotch. And a world-class rating from the Beer Advocate. The Station Taproom is by the R5, so no need to Uber home.
The Whip Tavern
1383 N. Chatham Rd., West Marlborough
610-383-0600 / TheWhipTavern.com
With a new Executive Chef—Anne Coll, from Susannah Foo Gourmet Kitchen and Meritage—and ten years under its belt, this traditional English pub is better than ever. Coll is sourcing many ingredients locally and tweaking dishes to perfection. Try the Doe Run Cheese plate, Welsh rarebit and bubble and squeak. Follow up with fish and chips, bangers and mash or a seafood curry that visiting Brits deem authentic. Dessert: sticky toffee pudding. Sample The Whip’s selection of British and American beers and ciders. Ambiance is pure Chester County horse country with views of Doe Run Creek.