Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2009

Our readers and critics pick their favorites.




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Food & Drink (Critics)


Al Fresco Dining: Brodeur’s on State Street
When the sun is shining, the outdoor tables at Brodeur’s are the best seats in the house. If you want to see and be seen, choose one on the restaurant’s front patio, where you have a front-row view of all the action in downtown Media. Or, if you prefer a meal in a more private setting, try the quaint dining area off to the side. 1 W. State St., Media, (610) 566-5515, brodeursonstatestreet.com

Al Fresco Dining in Philadelphia: 1225 RAW Sushi & Sake Lounge
Along with a flashy assortment of nigiri, maki and sake, RAW serves up some of the hottest seats in town on its outdoor courtyard. Brick walls, black wooden trellises, and sleek upholstered chairs and stools add swankiness to this hip yet relaxed sushi spot. 1225 Sansom St., Philadelphia, (215) 238-1903, rawlounge.net

Al Fresco Lunch: Susanna Foo Gourmet Kitchen
Potted trees, a towering brick wall adorned with festive strings of lights, and the soothing sound of running water make Susanna Foo’s twin patios a delightful midday retreat. For a light but robust lunch, try the grilled Vietnamese seafood salad, with jumbo lump crab meat, grilled prawns, calamari and avocado; or the spicy salmon and tuna maki with a side of damame. 555 E. Lancaster Ave., Radnor; (610) 688-8808, susannafoo.com

Appetizers: Brickside Grille
Brickside’s knockout appetizers set the pace for the great meal to come. Actually, their nachos—a pile of crisp tortilla chips in rainbow colors, served with refried beans, pepper Jack cheese and homemade salsa—are a meal in themselves. Drunken littleneck clams and Prince Edward Island mussels bring a taste of the sea, while a pronounced Asian flair is evident in the crunchy crab cakes and mini chicken egg rolls. Eagleview Town Center, 540 Wellington Square, Exton,  (610) 321-1600, bricksidegrille.com

Bakery: Sweet Potato Café & Bakery
Sweet Potato’s Jeff and Virginia Deal make everything from scratch, trimming the fat and the bad stuff from customers’ diets. Nothing is frozen, canned or artificial, so you can feel pretty good about downing one of their oversized muffins or sticky buns. 21 W. State St., Media, (610) 566-6791

Carmine's crab meat and smoked gouda tart with crab claws and Creole coulis (Photo by Steve Legato)Baklava: The Mediterranean
Once it hits the table, it’s a goner. But savoring the Mediterranean’s home-baked Lebanese baklava is a must. The moist, sticky honey, apple (in summer), chopped walnuts, pine nuts and pistachios cut through the flaky, sweet phyllo dough with just one intention: to turn off your mind and turn on the taste buds. Double your pleasure and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 150 W. Gay St., West Chester, (610) 431-7074

Bar Noshes: Carmine’s Creole Café & Blues Bar
Regulars can’t get enough of the crawfish spring rolls—moist, sweet bites tucked into a crispy, crunchy wonton wrapper and served with a light soy-based dipping sauce. Also irresistible are the tapas-size portions of étoufée and jambalaya, and sweet potato fries. 818 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 520-9100, carminescafeonline.com

Bartender: James Kennedy at Teikoku Restaurant
Known for his creative cocktails, impressive manners and all-American good looks, Marple native James Kennedy knows how to have a good time. His infamous sake bomb shooter, signature St. James, strawberry sake mojito, Tang margarita and Ginger’s Pearadise cocktail will be sorely missed this summer when he heads to Europe for a month. But he’ll be back. 5492 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, (610) 644-8270, teikokurestaurant.com

James Kennedy of Teikoku Restaurant (Photo by Heidi Reuter)Beer Selection: Ron’s Original Bar & Grille
Ron’s is about as close to Lushville as it gets—in a good way. The next time you’re having a bad day, point your compass west and drown your sorrows in any one of their 20 microbrews on tap, or 60-100 different bottles. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can always dive into a flight of scotch, vodka or tequila. Or take home a customized six-pack. 74 E. Uwchlan Ave., Exton, (610) 594-9900, ronsoriginal.com

Brand Extension: Alison two
A bigger, bolder version of her original Alison at Blue Bell just minutes up the road, Alison Barshak’s second coming has plenty of bells and whistles, including wine lockers for regulars (even though there’s a full bar). But it’s the food here that counts—and Barshak’s kitchen delivers plenty of one-two punches while retaining the organic energy of its older BYO sibling. 424 S. Bethlehem Pike, Fort Washington, (215) 591-0200, alisontwo.com

Brunch: Georges’
Every Sunday at 11 a.m., Georges’ rolls out the culinary red carpet, stocking its buffet with artisan breads, assorted cheeses, croissants and mini-tarts baked in-house, plus made-to-order omelets and fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Lunch-type fare includes steamed salmon and prime rib au jus, with side dishes like baby bok choy and pasta. Chances are you won’t be hungry for dinner. 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 964-2588, georgesonthemainline.com

Burger: TJ’s Everyday Restaurant & Drinkery
At TJ’s Everyday, the spotlight frequently falls on a beer selection that stretches off into the horizon. But those brews serve as the perfect complement to the Paoli taproom’s hearty (and substantial) burgers. They’re available five ways and feature everything from a Cajun-seasoned patty to one with blue cheese, Rauchbier barbecue sauce, bacon and cheddar cheese reminiscent of a backyard cookout in heaven. 35 Paoli Plaza, Paoli, (610) 725-0100, tjseveryday.com

Butcher: Ivan Heebner Meats
Based in Kulpsville, Montgomery County, Heebner Meats’ traveling butcher shop is well stocked with beef, pork, veal and lamb. It’s been the go-to source for countless Main Line holiday gatherings, special occasions and summer barbecues. Lancaster County Farmers Market, 389 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 687-0307, lancastercountyfarmersmarket.com

BYO: Sovana Bistro
A French bistro with an Italian soul, Sovana has a farm-to-table mindset and respect for the land, and its kitchen operates on the premise that classic techniques never go out of style. Eclectic would be a fair assessment of the Mediterranean-inspired menu. Its signature pizzas are prepared in a gas-fired hearth that utilizes water-soaked wood chips—its distinct aroma pervades the restaurant. The tapas-style antipasto of the day weaves sweet-sour-salty tastes and a variety of textures into savory combinations. 696 Unionville Road, Suite 8, Kennett Square, (610) 444-5600, sovanabistro.com

BYO in Philadelphia: Little Fish
Over the past year, Little Fish chef/owner Mike Stollenwerk’s straightforward, expertly prepared seafood dishes have earned accolades from the likes of Bon Appétit. Culinary highlights include skate with spinach spaetzle, pancetta vinaigrette and toasted breadcrumbs; and Loch Duart salmon with ramps, Yukon gold potatoes, and poached egg vinaigrette. And at $28 per person, the Sunday five-course prix-fixe special is one of the best deals in town. 600 Catherine St., Philadelphia, (215) 413-3464, littlefishphilly.com

BYO Mexican Restaurant: La Tolteca
There’s nothing nouveau or trendy about La Tolteca’s no-nonsense Mexican cuisine. Just hefty portions at reasonable prices, fresh ingredients, traditional sauces with bite and character, and an easygoing staff that couldn’t be more accommodating. Bring your own bottle of tequila, and they’ll even provide the margarita mix—and remember to eat. May we suggest one of the luscious enchilada combos or, if you’re really hungry, the carnitas—tender hunks of pork perfect for piling into a warm, homemade flour tortilla. 907 High St., West Chester, (610) 429-8101

Cajun-Creole Cuisine: High Street Caffé
When it comes to bringing the flavors of NOLA to the Main Line, nobody does it better than West Chester’s High Street Caffé. Whether you’re going for the honest-to-God jambalaya, the blackened crab cakes or the andouille-laden Cajun linguini—not to mention the exotics like alligator and bison—you’ll leave with your palate entertained and your spirits raised. 322 S. High St., West Chester, (610) 696-7435, highstreetcaffe.com

Cheesesteaks: Pie in the Sky Restaurant
A cheesesteak done right: finely chopped meat and onions, diced fresh and fried to perfection—all held together by a velvety-perfect layer of melted cheese. Thanks to the soft (but never soggy) roll, every bites finds the steamy, mouthwatering center. And Pie in the Sky subtly shows off its expertise by wrapping all takeout steaks in foil—a too-often-dismissed gesture. 102 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 293-1390, pieintheskyofwayne.com

Sola chef David Clouser (Photo by Steve Legato)Chef: Sola’s David Clouser
It’s year three in the reincarnated life of Bryn Mawr’s Sola, and chef/partner David Clouser is busting out like a perennial garden at full tilt. His seasonally inspired cuisine supports local farmers, and his sophisticated palate brings us all kinds of delectable dishes—like espresso-braised short ribs and wild Tasmanian salmon. 614 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 526-0123, solabyob.com

Chef Dinners: The Café at Terrain at Styer’s

One Thursday a month, chef David Berg breaks from the routine with a decadent chef’s dinner that typically runs $45 a person and features seasonal, eclectic combinations of locally grown vegetables, sustainable fish, all-natural meats and intoxicating desserts. 914 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, (610) 459-2400, terrainathome.com

Chicken Salad: Elegance Bakery & Café

Easy on the mayo and heavy on freshness, Elegance Bakery & Café mingles hearty chunks of home-baked chicken breast with a myriad of ingredients, from pecans, celery, grapes and apples, to spinach, bowtie pasta, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. Sandwich the contents between Elegance’s homemade bread and rolls, and you’ll be lamenting your last bite. 82 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, (610) 640-0404, elegancecafe.com
 

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