Twelves Grill & Café Review: A Drive-Worthy Dining Destination in West Grove

Tucked away in sleepy southern Chester County, Twelves Grill & Café is an American BYO bistro with enough potential to fill its 72 seats for the long haul.

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Twelves’ roasted Pennsylvania duck breast with duck-leg confit, duck-and-bacon sausage, red-onion marmalade and potatoes cooked in duck fat. (Photo by Steve Legato)
Twelves Grill & Café

Location: 10 Exchange Place, West Grove
Contact: (610) 869-4020,  
Cuisine: Seasonally inspired, (mostly) locally sourced New American fare.  
Cost: Lunch: $7-$10. Dinner: $9-$30.  
Attire: Stylishly casual.  
Atmosphere: Beautiful, old bank building with tasteful interior appointments.  
Hours: Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday 5-9 p.m.  
Extras: BYOB; $5 corkage fee waived for diners who bring wines produced in Pennsylvania or Delaware. Three-course lunch for $12 on the 12th of every month. Three-course prix-fixe dinner for $25 Tuesday-Thursday.

West Grove is a postage stamp of a rectangle with fewer than 3,000 people—a real sleeper of a Chester County town. There’s a notary, a gas station, a diner and a post office, along with late-19th-century stone-and-brick buildings and scores of quaint Victorian dwellings along old Baltimore Pike and enticing side streets.

Within its sedate, single-traffic-light business district is Twelves Grill & Café, residing comfortably inside the former National Bank of West Grove, a venerable stone monolith erected in 1883. By all indications, executive chef Tim Smith and his wife, Kristin, have found their dream restaurant. They opened Twelves in 2008, naming it in recognition of their birth dates, their first date and their wedding, all of which occurred on the 12th of the month. It’s been one lucky number for the Smiths—and a fortunate one for West Grovers, too.

Still, Twelves’ reputation for artful, affordable meals has remained relatively clandestine—not unlike its low-key civic surroundings. Indeed, the welcoming 72-seat BYOB has been largely over
shadowed by other notable dining options in the region, including Kennett Square’s Sovana Bistro and Catherine’s in Unionville. Slowly, though, the secret is getting out, and the Smiths are seeing a lot of new faces.

The former bank’s high ceilings, tall, deep-set windows, and subtle gold and bronze paint tones combine to create a serene atmosphere, even on a fairly busy Friday night.

Our evening began with a rich butternut squash soup, topped with cinnamon-flecked croutons—savory thanks to the tart sweetness of diced Granny Smith apples. The seasonal bounty continued in the form of a deeply satisfying, perfectly woodsy mushroom soup. A shared cheese board offered slices of goaty Humboldt Fog, an elegant cheddar-style Double Gloucester, and a creamy (though conventional) dab of herbed Alouette spread.

Smith’s impressive visual presentations reflect his roots, which include prior fine-dining experience at West Chester’s Dilworthtown Inn and the Farmhouse Restaurant in Avondale. I could both see and taste the finesse in his grilled filet medallions, accompanied by creamy mushroom risotto, buttermilk bleu cheese, and a red-wine pan reduction. Also excellent was an ample cut of rockfish under a ladling of tangy romesco sauce.

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