Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2009

Our readers and critics pick their favorites.




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Food & Drink (Critics)


Place for a Private Party in Philadelphia: Osteria

Osteria’s secluded, rustic-chic wine room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, farmhouse-style furnishings and sienna-hued walls, can accommodate 30 for a sit-down meal and 45 for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The four-season patio is equally charming, and it can handle 50 seated and 75 for stand-up celebrations. The wonderful selection of wines, paired with the culinary creations of either Marc Vetri or Jeff Michaud, will leave you feeling like you just spent the weekend in Tuscany. 640 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, (215) 763-0920, osteriaphilly.com

Place for a Romantic Meal: Birchrunville Store Café
It’s easy to be swept off your feet at Chester County’s most revered culinary destination—especially when you’re tucked away in one of the corner tables at this homey country store with your significant other, a primo bottle of wine and one of chef Francis Trzeciak’s inspired preparations. Be sure to indulge in the warm butterscotch cake with caramel gelato, and bring along some port to make the moment last. 1403 Hollow Road, Birchrunville, (610) 827-9002, birchrunvillestorecafe.com

Place for an Intimate Wedding: Pond
Shielded from bustling (though convenient) Lancaster Avenue, couples find newlywed bliss on Pond’s lovely, landscaped property. From the drifting resident swans and sparkling lighted bridge to the four-season garden and charming fireplaces, this smaller-capacity wedding and reception venue creates a truly private and memorable experience. Add chef/owner Abde Dahrouch’s fine French and Mediterranean fare to the mix, and it’s love at first bite. 175 King of Prussia Road, Radnor, (610) 293-9411, pondrestaurant.com

Place to Buy Artisanal Bread on a Budget: LeBus Bakery
If you’re in the mood for fresh-from-the-oven muffins, hearty breads or crispy croissants, it’s well worth the trek to LeBus Bakery’s outlet store. Tucked into a suite of nondescript industrial buildings off Shoemaker Road in King of Prussia, the outlet sells overstock from the day’s bakery run. For the best selection, get there mid-morning. Grab a cup of coffee while you make up your mind about which mouthwatering creation to take home. 479 Shoemaker Road, King of Prussia, (610) 337-1444, lebusbakery.com

Place to Dine Alone: Tango
The bartenders at this train-side restaurant understand your “just want to be alone” mood, so give them the look and sidle up to the bar on one of the more private stools farthest away from the action. Eat to your heart’s content without having to stop chewing before you speak, and slyly take in all the conversation—which is sure to be intriguing with this old-guard Main Line crowd. 39 Morris Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 526-9500, tastetango.com

Place to Dine at the Mall: California Café
Shopping at one of the biggest malls in the nation can do a number on your wallet and your appetite. With its trendy dining room, impressive dishes like crab-crusted tilapia and filet mignon (with Gorgonzola smashed potatoes), and a cocktail list filled with a variety of yummy martinis and margaritas, California Café makes you forget where you are. KOP … remember? 160 N. Gulph Road, Suite 5203, King of Prussia, (610) 354-8686, californiacafe.com

Place to Dine with Your Undergrad: The Grog
Any college kid can tolerate an impromptu visit from Mom and Dad if a meal at the Grog is part of the deal. The restaurant’s laid-back vibe and plasma televisions should provide enough of a calming distraction as you try to grill them about their grades. Younger diners gravitate toward one of the Grog’s signature burgers (with a side of Old Bay fries); adults appreciate more sophisticated dishes like filet au poivre, Atlantic salmon and tuna steak. 863 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 527-5870

Place to Eat and Stay: Mendenhall Inn Restaurant

Located between Longwood Gardens and Winterthur Museum, this Brandywine Valley inn offers several romantic—and educational—getaway packages that include a hot buffet breakfast, a bottle of house champagne and a box of Godiva chocolates. Two packages include admission to area museums or the Chaddsford Winery, a five-course dinner featuring Mendenhall’s renowned continental fare and signature Maryland crab soup, plus a complimentary glass of wine. 323 Kennett Pike (Route 52), Mendenhall, (610) 388-1181, mendenhallinn.com

Place to Kiss and Make Up: Duling-Kurtz House

A Main Line tradition for special occasions and weddings, the Duling-Kurtz House overflows with three centuries’ worth of history and charm. A $225 overnight package includes a four-course dinner for two, with soup or the Duling-Kurtz house salad, choice of entrée, and dessert. Celebrate your arrival with a bottle of house champagne for an additional $25. 146 S. Whitford Road, Exton, (610) 524-1830, dulingkurtz.com

Place to Mix a Six (Pack): Gullifty’s
Owner Gene Johnson has been serving up a noble selection of draught and bottled beer for more than three decades. His best idea yet: “Mix Your Six” to-go packs, a clever marketing move aimed at customers looking for a little adventure and a great gift idea. There’s also a suggested menu (for those of us who haven’t passed “Beer 101”) that includes his and hers lists. With a selection of more than 130 beers to choose from, getting bored with your brew is not likely. 1149 Lancaster Ave., Rosemont, (610) 525-1851, gulliftys.com

Place to Please All Palates and Budgets: Spamps Restaurant

There’s something for everyone at this family-run steaks, sushi and pasta restaurant. That makes it a good option for groups and for picky kids who can never agree on anything. The menu boasts heaping bowls of linguini and clams or mussels, eggplant Parmesan, herb-roasted chicken with portobello mushrooms, and other $15 dinners. Pricier fare includes the jumbo-lump-topped filet and the ahi tuna steak. 16 E. First Ave., Conshohocken, (610) 825-4155, spampsrestaurant.com

Place to Prep for a Party (High-End): Whole Foods
Hit the flower bins before heading straight to the locally supported produce section, where you can also grab a variety of nuts and other crunchy nibbles. Then load up on peel-and-eat shrimp, smoked salmon, tasty gazpacho soup and roasted chicken. The latter is perfect in a pasta salad with grilled radicchio, leeks, corn, sun-dried tomatoes, chunks of hormone-free bacon and kalamata olives. Various locations, wholefoodsmarket.com

Place to Prep for a Party (on a Budget): Trader Joe’s
Whipping up summery fare is a breeze with TJ’s fully cooked baby-back ribs or citrus-marinated pork carnitas (don’t forget the taco shells) topped with smoky garlic chipotle or tangy corn salsa. Pasta fans can opt for a heaping bowl of lemon pappardelle, chunks of balsamic or lemon grilled chicken, feta cheese crumbles, and a jar of marinated grilled veggies, or bruschetta. We could go on and on. Various locations, traderjoes.com

Place to Relive Your College Days: Kelly’s
Unlike some other college bars along Lancaster Avenue—which are too small and too dark—Kelly’s has plenty of seating for lunch, dinner or happy hour. The second floor has a lounge area with leather couches and flat-screen TVs, and another dining space. The younger crowd typically arrives en masse after 11 p.m., so there’s plenty of time to catch up with friends after dinner. 1107 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 520-9344, kellystaproom.com

Place to Take an Out-of-Town Client: XIX at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue

First-time visitors will love you for showing them Center City from this perspective—looking out from the 19th floor of the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue. Architecturally stunning and seafood-centric, XIX serves sophisticated cuisine in an opulent dining room with a panoramic view of the city, a more casual café, and a swanky bar. It also has one of the most spectacular outdoor public balconies in all of Philadelphia. 200 S. Broad St., Philadelphia,  (215) 893-1234, parkphiladelphia.hyatt.com

Place to Unwind after Work: Cedar Hollow Inn
Cedar Hollow Inn’s relaxed atmosphere and nightly beer specials offer a welcome respite for Great Valley’s frazzled corporate minions. When it’s time to eat, there’s Monday’s all-you-can-eat king crab legs. And on Tuesday, purchase two dinner entrées and get a bottle of wine for half price. Deals like these should make the rest of your workweek go down a little easier. 2455 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, (610) 296-9006, cedarhollowinn.com

Pork Sandwich: McCloskey’s Restaurant

Kick it old-school with a long roll, Provolone and house-made gravy. Or take it gourmet, served on a panini with a generous handful of spring mix and a pleasantly bracing swoosh of Craisin horseradish. For dinner, this monster comes with a side of fries—so if you’re planning on going to McCloskey’s at night, you might want to skip lunch. 17 Cricket Ave., Ardmore, (610) 642-9280

Power Lunch in Philadelphia: 10 Arts

It’s hard not to feel like a highroller when you’re sipping a swanky cocktail and nibbling upscale lunch fare courtesy of celebrity chef Eric Ripert and leading lady Jennifer Carroll. Stealthily negotiate your next big deal over wild boar prosciutto, a braised pork belly BLT, a fish burger, a grilled flatiron steak, or an ample side of macaroni ham and cheese for two—all beneath the Ritz’s magnificent rotunda or in the opulent dining room. 10 Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia, (215) 523-8273, 10arts.com
 

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