Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2009

Our readers and critics pick their favorites.




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Food & Drink (Critics)


Italian Lunch Buffet: Fellini’s Café
Huge portions and reasonable prices have given this humble Italian BYO a reputation as the go-to trattoria for pasta lovers of all ages. But what regulars really like is the weekday lunch deal: $8.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring two pastas, a chicken entrée, mussels, veggies, soup, and two salads. 19 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, (610) 644-6767

Indian Cuisine: Khajuraho

It’s been 13 years since Bharat Luthra first started tempting us with the exotic flavors—and erotic statuary—of Khajuraho, Northern India’s mecca of edible and physical sensuality. With a name chosen to convey parallel enjoyment of food and flesh, this Khajuraho is less racy than it sounds, an ode to the aromas and textures that make up Luthra’s homestyle Indian fare. The weekend lunch buffet is one of the best—and tastiest—deals in town. Ardmore Plaza, 12 Greenfield Ave., Ardmore, (610) 896-7200, khajurahoindia.com

Kids’ Menu: McKenzie Brew House
Kids are picky eaters—but ever-so-pleased picky eaters at McKenzie. Tots to teens can enjoy a rare variety, from grapes and buttered noodles to pigs in a blanket, London Broil and kids’ calamari. The classics are there, too—like chicken fingers, grilled cheese and pizza. All in all, a very happy meal. 240 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, (610) 296-2222, mckenziebrewhouse.com

Local Food Champion: Sean Weinberg at Restaurant Alba
Restaurant Alba’s seasonally driven, fire-inspired chef must’ve had parents who prodded him to be a leader, not a follower. Long before the local food movement was considered cool, he was combing the countryside for organic, free-range, hormone-free, locally grown or produced ingredients. A farmer’s best friend, Weinberg has done more than his share to bridge the gap between farm and table, and to turn customers on to some of the freshest, most delicious food in Chester and Lancaster counties. 7 W. King St., Malvern, (610) 644-4009, restaurantalba.com

Local Treat Gone National: Johnnie’s Dog House
See story. 11 Louella Court, Wayne, (484) 582-0151; Philadelphia International Airport, (215) 815-4044, johnniesdoghouse.com

Lox by the Pound: Genuardi’s
The nova goes for $20.99 per pound, kippered $16.99. Devotees recommend calling ahead for this “steal”—especially at the St. Davids location, home to slicer extraordinaire Aaron Blumenthal. What’s the big deal? You try slicing this soft, bony fish without making salmon salad. 550 E. Lancaster Ave., St. Davids, (610) 989-0781; 50 E. Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood, (610) 896-4540, genuardis.com

Lunch Deal: $10.95 Indian/Thai Special at Spice Indian Thai Bistro
On the Indian end of things, we can’t get enough of the sneakily spicy lamb vindaloo, the creamy, tomato-y chicken tikka masala, and the fragrant, spicy tandoor-cooked Indian butter chicken makhani—all served with fluffy basmati rice. For Thai, it’s a crispy roll stuffed with ground chicken, bean thread and veggies; so-bad-for-you fried cracker crisp; and pungent curry made with beef, chicken or shrimp—and, for our palates, a little extra spice. 4843 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, (610) 356-5262

Lunch Stop Between Errands: Così
From Così’s signature Tuscan bread to fresh, made-to-order salads and sandwiches, this is fast food that’s actually good for you. Everything is marked with nutritional information to help diners make smart choices; low-cal substitutions are noted. The quick, friendly service, brightly lit interior and free Wi-Fi draws a diverse crowd of moms and kids, business types, students, and others looking for reasonably priced food on the go. Various locations, getcosi.com

Mexican Food on a Budget: Don Gabriel’s

The no-frills curb appeal of Don Gabriel’s hasn’t scared off adventurous foodies who rave about its affordable, simple, refreshingly authentic Mexican cuisine. We love the overstuffed $2 tacos and $5 burritos; the enormous enchiladas, rellenos and fajitas; and the Pastor Burrito, peppery-sweet pulled pork in a spicy sauce with pineapples. 611 W. Strasburg Road, West Chester, (610) 431-3212

Microbrew: General Lafayette Inn

This rustic, seven-barrel brewhouse (the fourth oldest tavern in the country) is best known for its Chocolate Thunder Porter, kick-your-butt Raspberry Mead-Ale and hearty Sunday brunches. The beers here are big—especially the Abbey Blonde, which has been known to send some patrons home stumbling. Hats off to brewmaster Christopher Leonard and his accomplice, Russ Czajka. 646 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill, (610) 941-0600, generallafayette.com

Modern Mexican with Star-Chef Flair: Distrito

Jose Garces’ hip, neon-emblazoned Mexican eatery has become the destination for whimsical but refined Mexican fare and an amazing assortment of tequila and margaritas. Everything is worth the trip—from the five types of ceviche to the skirt-steak nachos, yellowtail tuna tacos, pork belly mole, jumbo lump crab enchiladas and more. 3945 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, (215) 222-1657, distritorestaurant.com

McShea's owner Neil McShea (Photo by Steve Legato)Neighborhood Bar/Tavern: McShea’s
This popular Narberth hangout takes pride in its Irish heritage with warm hospitality and a fun atmosphere that makes for a relaxed drinking or dining experience. The menu includes a waistline-busting Sunday brunch, adventurous salads, sandwiches and Asian-inspired dishes, and a 16-ounce pan-seared prime rib. Take the McShea’s Beer Box challenge and earn a personalized mug. 242 Haverford Ave., Narberth, (610) 667-0510, mcsheas.com

Neighborhood Restaurant: Old Guard House Inn
Cozy, friendly and consistent, the Guard House never fails to warm customers’ bellies with its hearty German-Continental-American served fireside. Or grab a comfy seat at the bar, where you can savor Chef Albert’s cooking as you catch up with friends. 953 Youngsford Road, Gladwyne, (610) 649-9708, guardhouseinn.com

Sit & Stay Café at Braxton's Animal Works in Wayne (Photo by Steve Legato)New Addition to Haverford: Saxbys Coffee
An upscale coffee shop was long overdue in Haverford, so its no wonder Saxbys—the West Coast-born franchise—has been enjoying capacity crowds since brewing its first cup of locally roasted beans back in the fall. Spacious but cozy, with a secluded porch and free Wi-Fi, this latest Saxbys is the first to serve food. Along with healthy froyo (frozen yogurt) and all kinds of fresh fruit toppings, you’ll find an impressive variety of affordable breakfast fare, fresh lunchtime salads and sandwiches—including PB&J for the kids. 346 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, (484) 416-3781, saxbyscoffee.com


New Café for Dogs (and People): Sit & Stay Café at Braxton’s Animal Works
You won’t find coffee at this café—unless you bring it yourself. But then, dogs don’t drink java, do they? This quiet corner offers pets and their people a taste of the drink everyone needs—water—at table and floor level. The idea is to give animals and their companions a quiet, pet-friendly spot to gather, sit, read, chat and play “people” games like checkers. 620 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 688-0769, braxtons.com

Marty Grims of White Dog Café (Photo by Shane McCauley)News for Eco-Conscious Gourmands: White Dog Café
This year started with a bang for restaurant mogul Marty Grims, who rang in the New Year with the purchase of White Dog Café in University City. Now Grims is taking the concept west. The Wayne outpost will have outdoor dining, a full bar and the original’s same commitment to all-natural, humanely raised local ingredients, including grass-fed beef, free-range, hormone-free poultry, and sustainable fish. 200 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne

New Thai Restaurant: Jazmine Authentic Thai Cuisine
See review. 344 W. Gay St., West Chester, (610) 696-3332, jazminethai.com

North Carolina-Style Barbecue: Pig Out BBQ Pit

Kansans and Texans can brag all they like about their brisket, but when folks in the Carolinas say “barbecue,” they’re talking about pork. Pig Out BBQ Pit (in both its eat-in and take-out incarnations) excels at the pepper-and-vinegar-soaked pulled pork folks in North Carolina claim as theirs. The meat strikes a sublime balance between lean and moist, and boasts just enough heat on the back end to make you wish you could boast Southern roots of your own. 134 E. Gay St., West Chester, pigoutwestchester.com, (484) 887-8107; Pig Out Take Out, 138 Glen Mills Road, Glen Mills, (610) 361-8200, pigouttakeout.com

Place for a Casual Business Meeting: Market Street Grill
At this unassuming café, you’ll get all the space you need to talk shop, plus good eats on the cheap. Breakfast and lunch have always been Market Street’s thing, but they recently added a dinner menu (5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday). No entrée is over $15, and the low-key, unpretentious vibe can still be had for free. 6 W. Market St., West Chester, (610) 429-5328

Place for a Decadent Breakfast Date: Du Jour
Forget your usual bowl of cereal—this happening Haverford breakfast stop’s menu oozes decadence, with overstuffed omelets, smoked salmon eggs Benedict, scrambled egg sandwiches, coconut-crusted brioche French toast, and flavored pancakes. And the granite-topped community counter is a great place to strike up conversation if you’re dining alone. 379 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, (610) 896-4556, dujourmarket.com

Place for a Family Celebration: Trattoria Giuseppe
Reasonable prices, a diverse menu, and ample portions make this popular Italian restaurant a good choice for families—and its BYO status helps keep the cost in check. Depending on the size of your party, the semi-private dining room tucked behind brick arches is a perfect spot to hide from the usually very busy restaurant. Our one piece of advice: Be patient. A devoted clientele often amounts to slower-than-desirable service. But the food is well worth the wait. 4799 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, (610) 353-4871

Place for a Private Party: Nectar

Make a date for your next party at Nectar, which is easily one of the most posh restaurants on the Main Line. Rent the balcony that overlooks the main dining area, or one of the more private rooms. Then again, if you really want to wow your guests, the entire restaurant can accommodate you and 249 of your closest friends. 1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, (610) 725-9000, tastenectar.com
 

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