Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2009

Our readers and critics pick their favorites.




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Food & Drink (Critics)


Chinese: Yangming

Yangming has long been considered one of the area’s top Chinese restaurants, but that moniker doesn’t really do it justice. The restaurant’s talented chefs routinely turn out creative Asian fusion cuisine that is mouthwateringly delicious. Perfect for a lunchtime getaway, dinner or family banquets. 1051 Conestoga Road, Bryn Mawr, (610) 527-3200, yangmingrestaurant.com

Chips and Dip: 320 Market Café
Closer to guacamole, 320’s velvety thick pico de gallo is packed with chunks of meaty avocado, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno and lime. The chips come without salt, and they’re thick and ultra-crispy. While sublime, this pairing barely skims the surface of the tantalizingly delicious inventory awaiting you at this popular Swarthmore specialty market. 713 S. Chester Road, Swarthmore, (610) 328-7211, the320marketcafe.com

Closest Thing to Mother’s Milk: Yum & Bum Natural Baby Market

More than a store, Yum and Bum is a state of mind—and a brilliant business concept. Its patrons are more than just customers; they’re a community of parents who share a passion for the healthiest sustainable products for their little ones. Its tidy shelves are stuffed with an array of biodegradable, eco- and health-conscious options, from all-natural baby food to adorable gift baskets. 105 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 688-9866, yumandbum.com

A cocktail at Pietro's Prime (Photo by Steve Legato)Cocktails: Pietro’s Prime

They pour a generous martini at West Chester’s premier steakhouse. Choose from a list of 23 innovative varieties that includes the Philly Twist—made with Bluecoat Philadelphia gin, midori, pineapple juice and a splash of sour—and the Frank, a blend of Stoli raspberry and orange vodkas, Cointreau and a squeeze of lime juice. Juicy non-martini options include the Pearberry Mojito (a fruitier take on the classic) and the Grapefruit Collins. 125 W. Market St., West Chester, (484) 760-6100, pietrosprime.com

Contemporary Asian: Auspicious
Lively, light and flavorful Asian dishes make up a moderately priced menu that’s got a little something for everyone, including the kids. Try the firecracker tilapia, Cantonese-style baby-back ribs, Sriracha Buffalo wings, Penang paella or mango chicken—or create your own stir-fry. 11 Cricket Ave., Ardmore, (610) 642-1858, mastersofkungfood.com

Creative Cakes: Cream Valley Farm Catering & Cakes
A background in pottery, costume design and decorative arts has translated into a steady cake business for Chester County’s Kristyn Marchus, who’s been baking since age 8. Whether you’re looking for a whimsical or a sophisticated cake—one that’s as good to eat as it is to look at—Marchus is up to the task. And her creative touch will have your guests “oohing” and “ahing” long after the last crumb has been snatched up. 786 Kulp Road, Pottstown, (610) 326-3982, creamvalleyfarm.com

Crêpes: La Belle Epoque Wine Bistro
Chef-owner Loic Barneau has transformed his quaint bistro into a snazzy wine bar with a chic new look, a full bar and an affordable by-the-glass wine list. What hasn’t changed is Barneau’s hearty buckwheat crêpes, made on a large griddle called a billig. Try the La St. Jacques, filled with pan-seared scallops and leek reduction, or the La Forestière, brimming with wild mushrooms, shallots and béchamel sauce. 38 W. State St., Media, (610) 566-6808, labellebistro.com

Charlestown Cooperative Farm's Lisa Wimble (Photo by Steve Legato)CSA: Charlestown Cooperative Farm
Founded by two of the area’s leading local food pioneers, Liz and Bill Anderson, this 40-acre noncertified organic vegetable CSA offers a wide variety of fresh-picked vegetables, flowers and herbs to its members—many of whom have waited up to two years to join. Along with a U-pick garden, the farm offers a variety of educational programs and internship opportunities for aspiring chefs. 2565 Charlestown Road, Phoenixville, (610) 917-0252, charlestowncooperativefarm.org

Bakers of Buffington pastry chef Amanda Brooks (Photo by Heidi Reuter)Decadent Cakes: Bakers of Buffington
While the moms at kids’ birthday parties tend to either shun dessert or lunge toward the first iced object they see, dads are the true taste-testers of a great birthday cake. To watch one put the first piece of a Bakers of Buffington creation in his mouth is a beautiful thing; it’s surprise, bliss and a bit of divine ecstasy all rolled into one. From the kiddie to the classy to the avant-garde, the decorations are stunning. You’ll never buy another supermarket birthday cake. 131 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, (610) 873-8033, bakersofbuffington.net

Double-Date Place: Teca
OK, so a Saturday night at Teca can be on the loud side. That’s why it’s best to ask another couple to join in the revelry at this boisterous-in-the-best-way, Euro-flavored eatery in downtown West Chester. Its Italian tapas-style appetizers and salads—all under $10—are perfect for sharing, and the wine list is impressive. And if all the convivial chatter gets a little overwhelming, you can always grab a table outside (weather permitting). 38 E. Gay St., West Chester, (610) 738-8244, tecawine.com

Eclectic Desserts: Majolica
This BYO has induced swoons with its revolving roster of luscious desserts. Chef/owner Andrew Deery has dazzled with pineapple sorbet, coconut tapioca and macadamia nut brittle; coffee cardamom or chocolate pots de crème with spiced doughnuts; fennel panna cotta with strawberries and aged balsamico; and fragrant shortbread cookies served with Meyer lemon curd and Earl Grey tea ice cream. 258 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (610) 917-0962, majolicarestaurant.com

Eco-Conscious Mexican: Chipotle Mexican Grill

At Chipotle, the meats are hormone- and antibiotic-free, and the produce is sourced from local growers. Two of its franchises are LEED certified, and all locations have sustainable practices in place and utilize recycled serving products. Chipotle even has recycling bins on the premises for customers to help them maintain their mission. Try the pork carnitas tacos with a side of corn salad and guacamole—and opt for the spicy salsa. Various locations, chipotle.com

Family Place: D’Ignazio’s Towne House

There’s no place like home—except at the Towne House. This ageless 1951 creation offers comfortable rooms perfect for holiday dinners and milestones big and small. Families love the $9.99 pasta nights and a well-varied kids’ menu. And the amicable staff is always the cherry on top at this family-owned and -operated neighborhood favorite. 117 Veterans Square, Media, (610) 566-6141, townehouse.com

Farmers’ Market: Phoenixville Farmers’ Market
More than just a place to stock up on locally grown, raised or produced meats, poultry, produce, cheese and other specialty items, Phoenixville Farmers’ Market is a community that promotes eating healthy, supporting the local economy and fostering friendships. Every week, there’s live music at 10 a.m.; on Second Saturdays, local artists join the market. Bridge Street and Taylor Alley, Phoenixville, phoenixvillefarmersmarket.org

First-Date Place: Azie
The Azie experience is like a night downtown without all the traffic, making it a welcomed choice for anxious first dates. Executive chef Takao Iinuma’s exquisite culinary creations—inspired by Japan, Thailand, France and Italy—are a total conversation starter. So let those butterflies go in the chic bar/lounge before moving to the charming dining room or the roof deck under the stars. 217-219 W. State St., Media, (610) 566-4750, azie-restaurant.com

A La Maison Bistro's French onion soup (Photo by Steve Legato)French Onion Soup:
A La Maison Bistro

Packed with sweet, caramelized onions slow-cooked in a rich chicken- and beef-based stock, this new BYO’s onion soup gratinée makes a stunning entrance in an antique-ish crock capped with a baguette hunk and lightly bronzed layer of Gruyère. All you need is a spoon—and a vintage cabernet. 53 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, (484) 412-8009, alamaisonbistro.com

Friday-Night Specials:
Patty Mac’s Café

Who knew that the place with the best breakfast chow in the neighborhood also offers exceptional dinners? Patty Mac’s chef Joseph Mascio—who deals flapjacks and home fries by day—turns out Friday-night deals like chicken Kiev, Caribbean-style catfish, crab cakes worthy of the Chesapeake, and milk-fed veal sautéed in white-wine sauce. 814 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, (610) 804-7383

Gourmet Pizza: Mom’s Bake at Home Pizza
When you can choose from a menu packed with more than 25 gourmet pies—like the Primo Prosciutto (with prosciutto, sweet onions, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese) and the Clams Casino (chopped clams, bell peppers and crispy bacon)—there’s no excuse for walking out of Mom’s with just a plain. Picky types can create their own from the more than 30 toppings. 4007 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, (610) 356-4099, momspizzanewtownsquare.com

Grilled Trout: Bistro on the Brandywine
Chef Seth Harvey takes fish to a whole new depth with this French bistro’s seasonal grilled Idaho brook trout: two plump, tender filets drizzled in a savory, warm bacon vinaigrette atop a baby-leaf spinach salad. A dish this easy to enjoy—and hard to forget—has to re-emerge on the fall menu (we hope). 1623 Baltimore Pike (Routes 1 & 100), Chadds Ford, (610) 388-8090, bistroonthebrandywine.com

Handmade Chocolates: The Painted Truffle

We were more than happy to dive into the box of chocolates one of our colleagues received as a gift. Beautifully decorated, impressive on the palate, rich, and as potent as a double-shot of Italian espresso, each creation has a unique, well-balanced flavor profile that will keep you guessing. (Don’t worry, there’s a cheat sheet.) The salty-sweet caramel will have you salivating, as will pretty much everything else thought up by chocolatier Tom Sciascia, who’s a painter in his spare time. (215) 996-0606, thepaintedtruffle.com

Happy Hour Specials: Totaro’s

Happy hour starts early at this illustrious Conshohocken watering hole: 3:30-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 3-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The bar menu has plenty of drink deals—$6 for a glass of premium wine and $5 martinis. But the best deals are tasty items like lobster mac ’n’ cheese—usually $16, but half off during happy hour. 729 E. Hector St., Conshohocken, (610) 828-9341, totaros.com

Homemade Ice Cream: La Michoacana Homemade Ice Cream

This unassuming Mexican ice cream shop scoops up all the attention with inventive flavors like avocado, corn (a surreal must-try) and even mushroom around September. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic like mint, which boasts both a velvety freshness and a brisk kick. 231 E. State St., Kennett Square, (610) 444-2996

Hot and Sour Soup: Hunan Restaurant

Made with a mix of chicken and vegetable broth seasoned with ground cayenne and white pepper, rice wine vinegar and soy, this special recipe includes sweet, shredded pork, crunchy bamboo shoots, Chinese black mushrooms and fresh eggs (added just when the soup begins to boil). Go for lunch or dinner—you’ll get a fresh batch each time. 47 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, (610) 642-3050

Hoagies: Our Deli & Meats
A great hoagie isn’t rocket science—though you could argue that this Paoli institution has the secret formula for the somewhat subjective balance of meats, cheese, condiments and roll. Granted, it’s tough to go wrong with Boar’s Head and Liscio’s Bakery in your corner, and these torpedo-shaped beauties are overstuffed with all the right ingredients (i.e. light on the veggies). And it can’t hurt to have a real butcher in the back—or that life-size Black Angus statue out front. 39 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, (610) 296-3350
 

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