Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2009

Our readers and critics pick their favorites.

(page 7 of 21)

Food & Drink (Critics)

Sushi: Bluefin

Manned by a handsome group of young, knife-wielding itamaes, Bluefin continues to wow its devoted clientele with new twists on old favorites, artful presentations, and a steady influx of unusual fish. The spicy tuna sundae—ruby red maguro with avocado and spicy sauce—reigns as the house specialty. For something new, try the grilled eel served over rice. 1017 Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, (610) 277-3917,

Sushi and Chinese in One: Z.Wei
The tricky part about Asian cuisine is finding a spot that not only does great in-house work, but also excels at takeout. Z.Wei compiles the best items from Chinese and sushi menus, presenting a broad range of options for on-the-go diners who have trouble deciding what they crave. Whiteland Towne Center, 163 W. Lincoln Highway, Exton, (610) 363-1850,

Take-Home Meatballs: Luigi & Giovanni
Italians are a straightforward bunch, so it’s no surprise that the chefs at this popular specialty market/deli pass on fussy, unpronounceable ingredients in favor of good homestyle recipes—just like Grandma used to make (sometimes better) and like they’re still making in South Philly. There’s nothing in these meatballs but pork, veal and beef, so they’re full of flavor and flawlessly moist. Don’t forget the sauce, the Provolone and the long roll. 3601 Chapel Road, Newtown Square, (610) 353-2080,

Tofu for Meat Eaters: Pei Wei Asian Diner

Tofu is a hard sell for carnivores, but Pei Wei serves up a pan-fried palate pleaser. Long, thin strips of this ancient meat substitute are cut from a baked five-spice block, leaving a tasty brown frame to each slice. We recommend Mandarin Kung Pao—with its chile-seared soy sauce, scallions, snap peas, carrots and peanuts—to enhance the tofu’s natural flavor. It’s addicting. 950 Baltimore Pike, Springfield, (610) 549-9060,

Tea Room: A Taste of Britain

This quaint teahouse has sustained a devoted audience despite location changes and economic downturns. Must be the delicious nibbles—old-school, petite and oh-so-cute tea sandwiches, precisely crafted with sophisticated fillings. You’ll also find a selection of larger sandwiches and salads, comfort fare like chicken potpie and quiche, and decadent sweets. And if you want loose tea, there’s plenty of that—more than 41 blends. 40 Berkeley Road, Devon, (610) 971-0390,

Traditional Pizza: Garrett Hill Pizza
This casual pizzeria is a lifesaver for Villanova students and busy moms, who buzz in and out with plain cheese, margarita, barbecue chicken, chicken parm, chicken fajita, white, or any other pie variety they might dream up. Great sauce, thin but hearty crust, and a disdain for canned mushrooms make this one of our favorite pizza spots. 910 Conestoga Road, Rosemont, (610) 525-8813, (610) 525-8814,

Traditional Sichuan and Taiwanese Cuisine: Han Dynasty
Sichuan-inspired and milder, Taiwanese cuisine take center stage at this unassuming Chinese restaurant tucked into an inconspicuous strip mall just off of a busy stretch of Route 100. For starters, try the generously stuffed steamed dumplings (moist, tender and even better with a dash of chili oil) or the spicy, stir-fried calamari. For more curious diners, there’s cold rabbit in chili oil, cold beef and tripe in hot sauce, and pork belly with preserved vegetables. 260 N. Pottstown Pike, Exton, (610) 524-4002,

Twist on a Philly Tradition: The Cheesesteak Egg Rolls at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
What can we say about these fully loaded, bite-size cheesesteaks wrapped in a crispy wonton and served with a zesty dipping sauce—other than “yum”? Oh, and please pass that pitcher of our favorite Iron Hill beer. Various locations,

Brian McConnell of Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Unsung Brewmeister: Brian McConnell at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery

You can knock this local brewhouse for being a chain, but Rock Bottom’s brewmasters are among the best. One such fellow is Media’s Brian McConnell, who’s hailed by local beer expert Lew Bryson as “talented and oft-overlooked.” Personable and passionate, McConnell has been quietly winning accolades. Most recently, his Barleywine won a gold medal at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. 1001 King of Prussia Plaza, King of Prussia, (610) 230-2739,

Unsung Main Line Haunt:
Roach & O’Brien

Yes, Virginia, there is a real bar on the Main Line—not a club, not a disco, and not just for the college crowd—just a straight-up, old-school establishment. And, oh, if those walls could talk. Regulars praise the prices, the socio-economically diverse crowd, great burgers and bar food, darts, beers, and friendly service. 560 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford, (610) 527-6308

Veggie Burger: MilkBoy Coffee

Neither mushy nor over-flattened, MilkBoy’s all-natural, no-filler veggie burger packs a produce punch. Topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese (vegan, if you prefer) and vegan Thousand Island dressing, all between a Kaiser roll (or any style bread you’d like), this generous take on an oft-overlooked and underappreciated meat alternative makes a whopping first impression. 2 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, (610) 645-5269,

Wine List Restaurant: Taquet
It just wouldn’t be summer without a night—or three—spent sipping wine and nibbling sophisticated appetizers on the porch at Restaurant Taquet. No matter what else comes to town, this humble, cozy hideaway offers one of the most relaxing dining and drinking experiences on the Main Line. The wine list is 180 bottles long, with a fine selection of French and American labels. Elsewhere, the by-the-glass offerings equate to about 27 (if you count champagne and dessert wines). 139 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 687-5005,

Wine List in Philadelphia: Ristorante Panorama at Penn’s View Hotel

Located in the boutique-chic Penn’s View Hotel, this Old City trattoria boasts a vast and distinctive wine list. Choose from more than 530 vintages on the Proprietor’s Reserve List (ranging in price from $100 to $900); 27 flight combinations; by-the-glass pours from 150 labels; and select “vertical” collections (different vintages of the same wine). But Panorama’s biggest claim to fame may well be its custom-built preservation and dispensing system. 14 N. Front St., Philadelphia, (215) 922-7800,

Shopping & Service (Critics) on page 8 ...
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