30 Dishes You Must Try
These delectable meals are our favorites this fall.
Limoncello’s Triple Chocolate Mousse//All photos by Steve Legato.
It was no easy task, coaxing our critics to narrow down their favorites to a manageable short list. But after much handwringing and vetting, here they are. Our apologies to the chefs whose dishes we may have inadvertently excluded. Rest assured, another list of 30 is already in the works.
Ariano Restaurante Italiano
Roasted to perfection and kissed with smoke, the Ariano Irpino features fresh portobello mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, broccoli rabe and asparagus. The pronounced flavors of garlic and olive oil make this vegetarian-friendly appetizer a serious standout. Shaved Parmesan seals the deal.
114 S. Olive St., Media, (610) 892-6944.
Artisanal Cheese Plate
The essence of a superior cheese course is that it’s greater than the sum of its parts. Autograph’s rendition is at once varied and cohesive. Honey figs, Marcona almonds, port cherries, crostini and jam accompany a selection of fine artisan cheeses that offer a complementary textural contrast.
503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 964-2588.
Atlantic Wild Tuna Tartare
Blue Pear Bistro
This refined mash-up of flavors and execution truly accentuates its headliner. For an Asian-inspired take on the French classic, melt-in-your-mouth wild tuna is paired with creamy avocado. Soy vinaigrette and baby greens provide the perfect punchy counterpoint.
275 Brintons Bridge Road, West Chester, (610) 399-9812.
The Gables at Chadds Ford’s Shrimp-N-Grits Martini
The Gables at Chadds Ford
This Northern twist on a Southern favorite hinges on the addition of earthy local mushrooms and bacon, married with bell pepper, white-cheddar grits and succulent shrimp. Served in a martini glass for extra panache, it’s an impeccable mix of umami, sweetness and saltiness.
423 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-7700.
General Warren Inne
The best Caesar salads are prepared tableside—and that’s exactly how the General Warren delivers this exquisite classic. The culinary drama of watching your salad take shape revolves around the freshly made dressing, assembled with an authentic combination of anchovies and egg.
9 Old Lancaster Road, Malvern, (610) 296-3637.
Wontons in Chili Oil
An alluringly full-flavored Szechuan chili oil envelopes tender, fresh wontons filled with perfectly seasoned minced pork. The garlic, scallions and Szechuan peppercorn meld with the tangy black vinegar for just the right balance of salty and sweet. Order two servings, and keep the sauce for drizzling over the rest of your meal.
4356 Main St., Philadelphia, (215) 508-2066.
Chicken Liver Mousse
The charcuterie at MacGregor Mann’s rootsy yet modern eatery has always been first-class, and our pick may be the star of the bunch. The mousse’s etheral creaminess finds perfect harmony with the rye bread and tart huckleberries. And the addition of deviled egg yolk and root-beer mustard makes this a playful Pennsylvania Dutch riff on French tradition.
100 Ridge Road, Glen Mills, (484) 574-8041.
These deliciously old-school meatballs are conceived simply enough, with ground beef and seasonings. Quick searing browns them just enough, before they’re slowly braised in stock, then served with ricotta, red sauce and crostini. The end result is uncommonly tender and succulent, with serious depth of flavor. Vegetarians will delight in the meatless rendition.
20 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, (610) 269-6000.
The Barrel Wine Bar
A great bruschetta is the perfect start to a meal—and an on-point accompaniment to a great bottle of wine. The Barrel’s version nails it, with fresh mozzarella and basil, diced tomatoes, minced garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil atop tender focaccia. This familiar starter benefits from the expert touch needed to keep all its elements in balance.
222 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (610) 933-3399.
Campbell’s Brussel Sprouts
This dish is so delish, it has to be part of the reason why Brussels sprouts are trendy again. No matter what your opinion of them, Campbell’s Place will make you a convert to this unassuming brassica. The kitchen deep-fries the tiny cabbage-like nuggets until they’re crisp and golden brown, then tosses them in an earthy blue-cheese vinaigrette.
8337 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, (215) 242-1818.
Murasaki’s Spicy Maki Combination
Apple Walnut Café
This Americanized rendition of the croque monsieur layers slices of roast turkey, Virginia baked ham and Swiss cheese between slices of eggy brioche French toast. The sandwich is then lightly grilled and dusted with powdered sugar. With its crispy crunch and oozy cheese, Apple Walnut’s Monte Cristo is the perfect answer to: What’s for brunch?
2924 West Chester Pike, Broomall, (610) 353-1384.
Aroma Mediterranean Cuisine
The centerpiece is the thinly sliced, slow-roasted lamb, enticingly seasoned and packed with flavor. It’s accompanied by fragrant rice and a choice of side—muhammara, baba ghanoush, tzatziki are among the choices. For a grain-free option, switch out the rice for Aroma’s grilled vegetables.
10104 Valley Forge Circle, King of Prussia, (610) 337-9300.
Peanut Butter & Banana Stuffed French Toast
The Classic Diner
When the craving for comfort hits, look no further than this decadent breakfast treat—eggy, crispy-edged French toast filled with banana slices and peanut butter. Honey drizzled on top offers an aromatic punch and a unifying sweetness.
352 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, (610) 725-0515; 16 E. Gay St., West Chester, (484) 947-0809.
From Left: The Desmond Hotel’s Lobster Roll; Aroma Mediterranean Cuisine’s Lamb Shawerma
The Desmond Hotel
While deceptively basic, the quintessential lobster roll hinges on top-notch ingredients, prepped and combined just right. For the Desmond’s version, an airy brioche cradles a generous helping of succulent Maine-lobster salad. House-made chips and a hearty cole slaw complete the plate. Skip the trip to Bar Harbor, and order this understated gem with a seasonal beer.
1 Liberty Blvd., Malvern, (610) 296-9800.
Seven-Hour Slow-Cooked Pork
Four Dogs Tavern
Never has the adage “when in Rome” been so true. For this house favorite, the Chester County institution heaps a generous hunk of fork-tender, slow-cooked pork, slathered in tangy house barbecue sauce, atop a bed of creamy, crisp cole slaw. It’s a hearty, decadent all-American entrée that’s so good, you’ll be tempted to order it every time. Good luck finishing it, though.
1300 W. Strasburg Road, West Chester, (610) 692-4367.
Malfatti (“Badly Made”)
La Porta Ristorante
La Porta’s half-pizza, half-stromboli creation is filled with fresh ricotta, salami, artichoke hearts and roasted-garlic oil. The play on textures, artfully charred dough and pronounced flavors makes this filling delicacy one of our favorites. It’s so good, in fact, that it makes us question the name … almost.
1192 Middletown Road, Media, (610) 358-5104.
Lotus Farm to Table
Like the produce and other goodies that comprise Lotus’ menu, dishes change with the seasons. But delicious renditions of this Italian standby can almost always be found gracing plates at this cozy eatery. It’s a consistently creamy, indulgent treat, accented with seasonal elements—hazelnuts and chevre, heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella. Invariably, the finished product does justice to the freshest ingredients available.
112 W. State St., Media, (610) 565-5554.
Wok Chili Tenderloin of Beef
Beef tenderloin is one of the most sought-after cuts, and this expert preparation—tender chunks of wok-fired meat covered in a savory brown sauce—makes us swoon. Thai basil, scallions and chili peppers bring aroma and heat, while Chinese broccoli tips add crunch. Bold, spicy and cohesive.
1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, (610) 725-9000.
Ropa vieja—or “old clothes”—refers to the look of the shredded meat in this dish. And like all authentic comfort food, it has humble beginnings. There’s nothing humble, however, about the intensity of this extra-special stew. Choose from slow-braised beef, pork or chicken, each in a seductively smoky tomato sauce. Our favorite is the pork and the way it intermingles so well with the rice, beans and chipotle-infused sauce.
232 Woodbine Ave., Narberth, (610) 660-0160.
Saffron Indian Kitchen
If, for you, Indian fare evokes images of richly spiced curries and enticing aromas, then the Murg Vindaloo is right in your wheelhouse. Saffron stews vinegar-marinated chicken with chilis, spices and potatoes, creating a fiery red sauce. Order some naan and raita to douse the flames. Indeed, this authentic Goan specialty is a heat freak’s version of culinary heaven.
145 Montgomery Ave., Bala Cynwyd, (484) 278-4112; 60 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, (215) 540-0237.
Split Rail Tavern’s Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwich//Photo courtesy of Split Rail Tavern.
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwich
Split Rail Tavern
By now, most everyone should know that brining enhances flavor and retains moisture. It’s a big reason why this chicken sandwich is so off-the charts delicious. Brined, battered and fried, it comes on a toasted bun with carrot-and-celery-root slaw, buttermilk dressing, and Jamaican-jerk barbecue sauce. Extra napkins are highly recommended.
15 N. Walnut St., West Chester, (484) 999-8805.
Spicy Maki Combination
Murasaki’s jewel-like presentations are equally exquisite in their appearance and taste. This exceptional combo is an exploration of fiery rolls done three ways—spicy salmon, crabmeat and tuna artfully wrapped in rice and nori for a vast palette of flavors, colors and textures.
475 E. Uwchlan Ave., Chester Springs, (484) 341-8362.
This stick-to-the-ribs crowd favorite is a must-try—especially if you’ve skipped lunch. Potato gnocchi is baked to perfection with sausage-and-tomato ragu, wilted beet greens and ricotta. The result is hearty, soulful and filling.
810 Glenbrook Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 525-4800.
Yellow Springs Inn
Chef Charlie Orlando treats modern ingredients with old-school flare. His veal medallions are a fetching union of free-range veal, oysters and Madeira-wine cream sauce, served with sweet-potato squares and grilled asparagus.
1657 Art School Road, Chester Springs, (610) 827-7477.
The Whip Tavern’s Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Toffee Pudding
The Whip Tavern
For this house classic, a sweet, richly browned date cake is topped with warm homemade toffee sauce and whipped cream. Add the optional ice cream to really appreciate the contrast of flavors and temperatures.
1383 N. Chatham Road, Coatesville, (610) 383-0600.
Triple Chocolate Mousse
A mousse is typically served as is, which is why this creation is so strikingly over-the-top. Limoncello layers dark-chocolate and white-chocolate mousse over a sponge base, coating it with, ahem, even more chocolate. And did we mention the chocolate shavings on top?
9 N. Walnut St., West Chester, (610) 436-6230.
White Dog Cafe
White Dog capitalizes on the allure of fresh doughnuts right from the fryer, dusting them with fair-trade cinnamon and cardamom, and serving them with a housemade crème anglaise. Not your average munchkins, to say the least.
200 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, (610) 225-3700.