Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs 2011: Food & Drink

Main Line Today’s readers and critics pick their favorites.

Readers’ Picks
(page 2-5)

Critics’ Picks
(pages 6-34)



Readers’ Picks

Best BYO: Saffron Indian Kitchen. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Appetizers >>>
Glenmorgan Bar & Grill

593 E. Lancaster Ave., St. Davids; (610) 341-3188,

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Bakery >>> Bakery House
604 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 525-4139.

Brew/Gastro Pub >>> Iron Hill Restaurant & Brewery
Various locations,

Burger >>> Classic Diner
352 Lancaster Ave., Malvern; (610) 725-0515,

BYO (Online poll) >>> Saffron Indian Kitchen
145 Montgomery Ave., Bala Cynwyd; (484) 278-4112,

BYO in Philadelphia >>> Mercato
1216 Spruce St., Philadelphia; (215) 985-2962,

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Best Cheesesteaks: Our Deli & Meats. (Photo by Steve Legato)Cheesesteaks >>> Our Deli & Meats
41 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli; (610) 296-3350,

Chef >>> Peter Gilmore, Gilmore’s
133 E. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 431-2800,

Deli >>> John’s Village Markets
Various locations,

Gourmet Market >>> Whole Foods
Various locations,

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Happy Hour >>> TJ’s Restaurant & Drinkery
35 Paoli Plaza, Paoli; (610) 725-0100,

Hoagies >>> Primo Hoagies
Various locations,

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Alfredo’s Paccheri alla Napoletana. (Photo by Steve Legato)Neighborhood Bar >>> McShea’s
242 Haverford Ave., Narberth; (610) 667-0510,

New Restaurant (Online poll) >>> Alfredo
668 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn; (610) 640-2962,

New Restaurant in Philadelphia >>>
The Dandelion

124 S. 18th St., Philadelphia; (215) 558-2500,

Pizza >>> New Wayne Pizza
109 S. Wayne Ave., Wayne, (610) 688-2301.

Restaurant (Online Poll) >>>
Verdad Restaurant & Tequila Bar

818 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 520-9100,

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Best New Restaurant in Philadelphia: The Dandelion, featuring here its House Blend burger. (Photo by Steve Legato)

Seafood >>> Hill’s Quality Seafood
Various locations,

Steakhouse >>> Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
555 E. Lancaster Ave., Radnor; (610) 688-9463,

Vegetarian Dishes >>> Siamese Princess
36 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, (610) 896-2755.

Wine List >>> Teca
38 E. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 738-8244,

View Critics’ Picks here.

Critics’ Picks

Affordable Health Foods >>> Trader Joe’s
There’s a reason why tumbleweeds pass through the health-food aisles of big-box supermarkets while Trader Joe’s customers are fighting for parking spaces. Whether you’re in the market for tofu or cereal, the TJ’s brand is simply cheaper. Various locations,

After-Dinner Drink >>> Matador’s Flaming Spanish Coffee
Prepared tableside, Matador’s hottest conversation piece combines freshly brewed coffee, Kahlúa, brandy, Bacardi 151, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set ablaze and topped with vanilla whipped cream, this attention-getter is half dessert, half cocktail, complete heaven. 110 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne; (610) 688-6282,

Alfresco Dining (Brunch or Lunch) >>> Firecreek Restaurant + Bar
There may be no better way to enjoy a bubbly mimosa or crisp wedge salad than on the deck at Firecreek overlooking the Brandywine. The calm atmosphere sets the tone for a laid-back brunch or lunch date, and the building’s rustic-meets-modern design helps make this one of the hottest spots with the coolest breeze in the area. 20 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown; (610) 269-6000,

Alfresco Dining (Dinner) >>> Tango
When the warm weather beckons, so does Tango’s wraparound patio. The relaxed yet urbane atmosphere, comfy seating and canopied trackside environs are the perfect match for Tango’s contemporary American cuisine. 39 Morris Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 526-9500,

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Alfresco Happy Hour >>> Chanticleer Garden
Friday nights at Chanticleer are one of the Main Line’s best-kept summer secrets. The gardens stay open until 8 p.m., and you can bring along a picnic meal and your favorite adult beverage to enjoy while kicking back on 35 exceptional acres. 786 Church Road, Wayne; (610) 687-4163,

Alternative to Burgers and Fries >>> Kibbi Platter at The Mediterranean
Lean ground lamb is mixed with onions and spices, layered with caramelized onions and pine nuts, and baked to tasty, aromatic perfection. Served with yogurt, hummus and salad, it puts that Quarter Pounder to shame. 150 W. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 431-7074,

Antipasto Plate >>> Restaurant Alba
It changes daily, so you never know what chef Sean Weinberg will be highlighting, but you can rest assured that the $15-per-person antipasto starter will be a stunning five- to six-item tasting of cheeses, veggies, seafood and/or meats. 7 W. King St., Malvern; (610) 644-4009,

Appetizer >>> Fried Artichoke Hearts at Bar Savona
Savory, crispy and highly addictive, Savona’s golden fried artichoke hearts with lemon zest and sea salt would make a great entrée. Maybe we’ll order more than one next time. 100 Old Gulph Road, Gulph Mills; (610) 520-1200,

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Appetizer to Bring to a Party >>> Pico de Gallo at 320 Market Café
Get ready to be inundated with “Where did you get this?” from guests after they’ve tasted this delicious concoction of avocado, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, red onion and tomatoes. Just be sure to buy more than one container. 713 S. Chester Road, Swarthmore; (610) 328-7211,

Asian Grocery Store >>> Maido!
You’ll find plenty of surprises at this eclectic Narberth gem, from the bountiful selection of tofu and beverages to DVDs, books and fresh produce. The lunch deals aren’t to be missed, especially Asian comfort-food staples like yakisoba, miso soup and chicken curry. 36 N. Narberth Ave., Narberth; (610) 747-0557,

Authentic Italian >>> Franco’s Osteria
Meat entrées take center stage at Franco’s. Well-executed traditional favorites like veal saltimbocca, pork Milanese and chicken Parmigiana pair nicely with a crisp Moretti draft and the classic Italian tunes wafting through the terrace. 3900 City Ave., Philadelphia; (215) 473-3900,

Bagels >>> Custom Bagels
Cliché or not, these bagels are the best thing since sliced bread. The shop offers new flavors at a frequent rate for a vast variety of palate-pleasers made fresh every morning. 15 S. Olive St., Media; (610) 891-6761,

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Bakery for Special Diets >>> Main Line Baking Company
Located at the Wynnewood Train Station, this gluten-free outpost makes it easy for anyone to enjoy sweets without feeling deprived. Everything is worth a try, from traditional celebration cakes to the incredibly moist muffins. 75 E. Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood; (215) 292-4200,

Bakery Worth the Drive >>> Night Kitchen Bakery
Elaborate cakes and pretty desserts don’t always taste as good as they look, but the impressive creations at this 25-year-old institution have it all. The specialty cakes are divine, but we’re partial to the pies—with their perfectly flaky crusts—the fudge brownies and the yummy breakfast treats. 7725 Germantown Ave., Chestnut Hill; (215) 248-9235,

Bar Menu >>> White Dog Cafe
It may take some gentle pushing to get there, but once you find a seat at the bar, you’ll be rewarded with refined, seasonal, locally sourced dishes. The Meadow Run lamb sliders pair well with a local brew, and the fried Lancaster pickles or truffle Parmesan fries are perfect for groups. 200 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 225-3700,

Biscuits and Gravy >>> Dixie Picnic
Offering Southern comfort food at its unadulterated, made-from-scratch best, Dixie Picnic could’ve found its way onto our list for any number of things, including the sublime potato salad or its signature dessert, the Upcake (a winner last year). Our latest DP indulgence: fluffy homemade biscuits covered in a meaty sausage gravy. Make time for a nap afterwards. 215 Lancaster Ave., Malvern; (484) 320-8024,

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Bread >>> Agiato Bread Company at Main Street Market
A good roll and a crusty baguette are never hard to find when you’re Jim McAlesse, the man behind the delicious bread at Stephen Starr’s Parc on Rittenhouse Square. Now, McAlesse has his own bakery in Manayunk, where you’ll find him doling out crusty rolls and baguettes with crispy exteriors and chewy, airy insides. 4345 Main St., Manayunk; (215) 482-9500,

Breakfast Sandwiches >>> Casey’s Seafood Grille & Pub
Just the way Dad makes ’em, Casey’s create-your-own breakfast sandwiches are the perfect Sunday starter. The constant: one large grade-A egg, any style. You choose the cheese, the meat and the bread. 3529 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square; (610) 353-1212,

Brunch >>> Nudy’s
Try something sweet, like fruit-and-whipped-cream-topped Belgian waffles. Or opt for the crab Benedict (with asparagus and hollandaise) or a signature omelet. Everything is downright delicious—and affordable. 292 E. Conestoga Road, Devon; (610) 687-1345,

Brunch in Philadelphia (Casual) >>> Café Estelle
Café Estelle’s unpretentious environs, bottomless cups of organic, locally roasted coffee and sustainable practices are enough to recommend it. Then there’s the food: Everything from the pastries and bread to the bacon, turkey, mozzarella, mayo and club soda are made on site. We can’t get enough of the stuffed French toast, the breakfast pizzas and the homemade cinnamon buns. 444 N. Fourth St., Philadelphia; (215) 925-5080,

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Best Brunch in Philadelphia (Elegant): Lacroix. (Photo by Steve Legato)Brunch in Philadelphia (Elegant) >>> Lacroix
An edible work of art, Sunday brunch at Lacroix is an exceptional showcase of unique offerings, from the hors d’oeuvres and entrées to the beautiful dessert table. Somewhere between the raw bar and the chocolate fountain, you’ll need that second Bloody Mary. Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia; (215) 546-9000,

Burger >>> The Stone Rose Restaurant
A good burger shouldn’t be tricky, and The Stone Rose has a simple combination that works: grilled Angus beef topped with onions, bacon and Cooper sharp American cheese on a toasted challah bun. Complex? Hardly. Satisfying? You bet. 822 Fayette St., Conshohocken;, (484) 532-7300.

BYO >>> Sola
Innovative and sophisticated, this unassuming Lancaster Avenue spot has a knack for marrying quality seasonal ingredients with clever, European-influenced preparations. We love just about everything, from the espresso-braised short ribs to the mouthwatering house-made desserts. 614 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 526-0123,

BYO in Philadelphia >>> Koo Zee Doo
Portuguese cuisine is far from being the next “it” cuisine in Philly, but we’re still abuzz over this cozy little Northern Liberties eatery. Dishes are served family style, so the simple, authentic ingredients and spices can shine. Standouts include the roasted suckling pig and the seafood-and-bean stew. 614 N. Second St., Philadelphia; (215) 923-8080,

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Best Candy Emporium: Edwards-Freeman Nut Co. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Candy Emporium >>> Edwards-Freeman Nut Co.
We cherish this old-time gem for its variety—from hard, gummy, powdery and chocolaty to fruity, nutty, minty and sweet-and-sour. Molasses, vanilla and other ingredients make for great candy making, too. 441 E. Hector St., Conshohocken; (610) 828-7441,

Caterer >>> J. Scott Catering
It’s no coincidence that this full-service Malvern institution finds its way onto our winners list time and time again. If there’s a celebration to be had, they should be at the top of your list, as well. No matter how intimate or grand the occasion, the J. Scott team has you covered. 189 Pennsylvania Ave., Malvern; (610) 725-9420,

Cheese Selection >>> Narberth Cheese Co.
It’s not as big or as well known as other area cheese shops, but you’ll never leave this tiny place disappointed. From triple-cream Brie and Taleggio to Époisses and Manchego, owner Sohelia Sobhano offers enough selections to keep the pickiest turophile happy. 217 Haverford Ave., Narberth; (610) 667-3663,

Cheesesteaks >>> Berwyn Pizza
This family-owned gem has been serving western Main Liners for more than three decades. And while the thick-crust pizza is excellent, the steaks are what keep us coming back. The meat-to-cheese ratio is not for the dairy-squeamish, but multiple generations of loyal customers wouldn’t have it any other way. 1026 E. Lancaster Ave., Berwyn; (610) 647-6339,

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Chef >>> Chip Roman, Blackfish and Mica
There’s a reason this Drexel University-trained chef is always in the media: He’s just that good. Chip Roman’s consistent innovation, respect for seasonal ingredients and flawless execution make a meal at his restaurants a true culinary event. 119 Fayette St., Conshohocken; (610) 397-0888,; 8609 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia; (267) 335-3912,

Sangkee Asian Bistro’s wok-tossed shrimp. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Chicken Cheesesteaks >>> Main Line Pizza
This menu favorite is made with lean white-meat chicken and properly smothered in your choice of melted cheese. The Buffalo chicken version doesn’t disappoint, with plenty of scrumptious blue cheese and hot sauce. 233 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 687-4008,

Chicken Salad >>> Elegance Café
Substantial chunks of tender white meat hold their own against the mayo (there’s never too much), herbs and spices. Or spice things up a bit with the tarragon or curry chicken salad. 15 Paoli Shopping Center, Paoli, (610) 640-0404; 131 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne, (610) 687-5454;

Chinese >>> Sangkee Asian Bistro
If you plan on eating here on a Sunday night, go early. The lines are a testament to the excellence of Sangkee’s delicious noodle soups, traditional Chinese dishes, and lighter, more creative departures from your everyday chicken with mixed vegetables. Try the steamed Shanghai juice buns and wok shrimp. 339 E. Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood; (610) 658-0618,

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Chinese with National Clout >>> Yangming
Michael Wei and his team at Yangming garnered national recognition when they placed first in Chinese Restaurant News’ seventh annual Top 100 Chinese Restaurants Awards among 45,000 eateries around the country. Tell us something we didn’t already know. 1051 Conestoga Road, Bryn Mawr; (610) 527-3200,

Cocktail >>> Bird of Paradise, Verdad Restaurant & Tequila Bar
Tequila blanco is mixed with crème de cacao, amaretto, coconut milk and chocolate for a rich but not-too-creamy drink we’ll take over a milkshake any day. So good, you’ll want one before and after dinner. 818 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 520-9100,

Coffee Spot for Main Line Moms >>> Green Bean Coffee
Once the kiddies are off to school, Main Line moms converge at Green Bean to dish on the latest gossip. The tasty joe is from Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. Owners Tammin Kim and Brian Storey worked together at high-end Berwyn eatery Nectar, so it’s no surprise that their café—its menu filled with sophisticated soups, salads and sandwiches—is fast becoming the “it” place for a casual lunch. 358 Righters Mill Road, Gladwyne; (484) 412-8266,

Cup of Coffee >>> Town Hall Coffee
An obsessive precision is afforded each cup of hand-poured coffee at Town Hall, from the temperature of the water to the amount of ground goodness that goes into each cup. The organic, sustainable beans are sourced from micro-roasters around the country. 358 Montgomery Ave., Merion Station; (484) 270-8041,

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Date-Night Restaurant >>> Birchrunville Store Café
A Saturday night without the kids calls for something a little more special than your usual beer-and-burger haunt (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This Chester County BYO is small, intimate and beautiful by candlelight. The French-Italian menu is fresh, seasonal and perfect for sharing. 1403 Hollow Road, Birchrunville; (610) 827-9002,

Best Dessert: Snickers Pie, Ryan Christopher’s. (Photo by Steve Legato)Dessert >>> Snickers Pie, Ryan Christopher’s
Co-owner Phyllis Klaumenzer makes every bit of this luscious indulgence—with its chocolate cookie crust and mile-high creamy center—from scratch. Just dive in, and work it off later. 245 Woodbine Ave., Narberth; (610) 664-9282,

Dining Deal >>> Old Guard House Inn
This 200-year-old institution is known for its classic menu. Sunday to Thursday, the Guard House’s “Three Courses for $30” special woos thriftier diners with dishes like lobster pizza, crab cakes and filet for nearly half the price. 953 Youngsford Road, Gladwyne; (610) 649-9708,

Eggs >>> Family Cow Farm at Bala Cynwyd Farmers Market
You’ve had one egg, you’ve had them all, right? Wrong. Once you see the near-neon-orange shade of these yolks (the color they should be) and taste the almost-buttery richness, you may never go back to store-bought. Belmont Avenue and St. Asaphs Road, Bala Cynwyd,

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Family Restaurant >>> Ron’s Original Bar & Grille
Grownups may think they’re getting all the attention at Ron’s, but young diners have their say, too. You can’t go wrong with the reasonable prices, large kids’ menu and “petite” portions of favorites like spaghetti and meatballs. 74 E. Uwchlan Ave., Exton; (610) 594-9900,

French Fries >>> Fresco Pizza Grill
Perfectly salty, not-too-thick yet not-too-thin, Fresco’s fresh-cut french fries are “fine fast food” at its best. Ordered for takeout, they arrive hot and without a bit of sogginess. Shops at Springton Point, 228 S. Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square; (610) 356-4171,

Frozen Yogurt >>> Whirled Peace
Ditch the cone and fill your cup with passion fruit, mango, red velvet or honeydew frozen yogurt for a (relatively) guilt-free way to beat the heat. Top it off with Whirled Peace’s endless treats spread. 111 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, (484) 318-7735; 4321 Main St., Manayunk, (215) 487-0489;

Gluten-Free Pizza >>> Mom’s Bake at Home Pizza
Thanks to Mom’s, those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy family pizza night, too. Opt for the gluten-free crust, add your favorite toppings, and bake at home. 4007 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square; (610) 356-4099,

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Gyros >>> De Starr’s Restaurant & Bar
This might be the epitome of a no-frills eatery, but don’t be fooled. The authentic Mediterranean cuisine reigns supreme over fancier lunch and dinner options. The gyros are the house specialty, with luscious pieces of lamb, chewy bread and cool, creamy tzatziki sauce—they’re the perfect alternative to any ho-hum hoagie. 112 E. Gay St., West Chester, (610) 692-4160.

Happy Hour >>> Twenty9
Like a little variety with your happy hour? There’s a new deal of the day from 5 to 7 p.m. all week long at this Malvern hotspot, and you can pick your poison knowing you’ll get a good bargain on just about anything. A free buffet, two rounds at half price, $3 beer bottles and $5 mixed drinks are just a few of the generous bar offerings available. 16 Great Valley Parkway, Malvern; (610) 251-9229,

Happy Hour Special >>> Generations Restaurant
This is the best BOGO deal in town, especially if you have a pocketful of spare change. Weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Drawing Room, it’s one round of penny drinks after the first round, good for any pour of your picking. 9 State Road, Media; (610) 565-8212,

Happy Hour with the Girls >>> Stella Blu
Stella Blu’s hip, cozy bar is the perfect place to gather with the ladies and dish on the latest dirt “Real Housewives of the Main Line”style while sipping on one of many martinis and noshing on favorites like the restaurant’s signature lobster mac ’n’ cheese. 101 Ford St., West Conshohocken; (610) 825-7060,

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Healthy Pizza >>> Original Eagle Pizza
Under new management since January 2008, this neighborhood favorite prides itself on cleanliness, high-quality ingredients and health consciousness, going as far as consulting the late Mimi Murray, Bryn Mawr College’s former dietician. Original Eagle uses Wisconsin cheeses for a lower-fat pizza. The sinful toppings are up to you. 2343 Haverford Road, Ardmore; (610) 896-6140,

Best Hidden Gem: Becca’s Restaurant. (Photo by Steve Legato)Hidden Gem >>> Becca’s Restaurant
An 18th-century structure (thought to be a stop on the Underground Railroad) is home to this charming BYO, which features seasonal, organic and local products. Chef Robert Bahm’s passion for food is evident in thoughtfully prepared dishes like vanilla butter-poached lobster and the reasonably priced six-course tasting menu. 19 S. Whitehorse Road, Phoenixville; (484) 924-8502,

Homemade Hummus >>>
Armenian Delight

Armenian Delight’s creamy homemade hummus has a tangy kick that goes perfectly with warm pita bread. We’re still wondering what that secret ingredient is. (Mustard?) Just don’t plan a big dinner—you won’t be able to resist hefty globs of this delicious dip pre-mealtime. 2591 West Chester Pike, Broomall, (610) 353-7711.

Homemade Ice Cream >>> Scooped Ice Cream
Blended daily, this shop’s flavors feature local, farm-fresh ingredients, plus organic chocolate and nuts from around the globe. We love the rocky road, creamy peach and cherry chip. 100 S. High St., West Chester; (484) 358-7099; 130 Pottstown Pike, Eagle, (610) 458-8209;

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Insurgent Cuisine >>> Indian
Oh, how jealous we’ve been of Philadelphians and their plethora of delicious Indian options. But there is cause for hope. The past year has been an exciting one, with local additions Tiffin, Ekta and Saffron Indian Kitchen (pictured) offering authentic cuisine that can compete with almost anything in Center City. Saffron Indian Kitchen, 145 Montgomery Ave., Bala Cynwyd, (484) 278-4112,; Tiffin, 847 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 525-0800; 50 E. Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood, (610) 642-3344,; Ekta, 1003 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 581-7070,

Italian Hoagie >>> John’s Village Markets Delicatessen
John’s debunks the notion that a great sandwich has to be loaded down with ingredients. Its classic Italian hoagie is generous without being gut-bustingly dense. Thinly sliced Dietz & Watson Genoa salami, capicola and peppered ham is layered with Provolone and veggies on a long Amoroso’s roll. Various locations,

Local Produce >>> Swarthmore Co-op
It doesn’t get more local than the Co-op. Shoppers can check the store’s website at the beginning of the week to see what local and organic produce will be available at the store. Loads of fruits and veggies are always available, but you can be sure that, during peach and corn season, the crates will be stocked with fresh-off-the-farm goodness. 341 Dartmouth Ave., Swarthmore; (610) 543-9805,

Lunch Buffet >>> Ekta
This isn’t your typical all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. The stream of piping-hot dishes coming out of the kitchen is continuous, so you know the food is always fresh. Easily some of the best Indian food around—and, at just $9.99, it’s a steal. 1003 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 581-7070,

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Lunch Deal >>> Parker’s Prime Steakhouse
The $15 “Lunch Set” special, includes a starter of mixed greens, truffle fries or a spicy tuna roll, plus an array of entrée choices, including scallops, salmon or steak. Service is fast and consistent because, unfortunately, you do have to go back to the office. 4755 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square; (610) 353-5353,

Lunch with the Ladies >>> Terrain at Styer’s
You’ll have no problem rounding up your gals for lunch at Terrain at Styer’s. The menu is beyond impressive, featuring innovative, locally sourced dishes. Start with an artisan cheese plate filled with local varieties, followed by a grilled organic chicken salad or the grass-fed hanger steak. 914 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills; (610) 459-2400,

Mexican With a View >>> Más Mexicali Cantina
On warm summer nights, Más’ rooftop is not only the best place to gather with your besties in downtown West Chester—it’s the only place. Enhance your viewing pleasure with a pitcher of killer margaritas and a round of Más’ signature Kitchen Sink burritos. 102 E. Market St., West Chester; (610) 918-6280,

Milkshake >>> Elevation Burger
Fresh-scooped vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream is whirled into a delicious frenzy, and additions like fresh bananas, Oreo cookies, pineapple and Key lime can be thrown in for a little something extra. 50 E. Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood; (610) 645-7704,

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Most Anticipated Arrival >>> DiBruno Bros. at Ardmore Farmers Market
This Italian specialty mecca has blended so seamlessly into the lineup at Ardmore Farmers Market that it’s easy to forget that it’s only been around since April. Counters of meats, pasta, coffee, cheeses (including fresh mozzarella made on the premises) and prepared goods to-go make DiBruno’s one-stop shopping at its best. Suburban Square, Ardmore; (484) 416-3311,

Mushrooms >>> The Mushroom Cap
It’s no exaggeration to say that Kathi Lafferty’s business mushroomed back to life in 2004, when she opted to focus on her signature snack. Made of dried mushrooms, Snack N Shrooms debuted at a local bar, where patrons loved the crunchy, low-fat alternative to chips. Lafferty now makes batches at home and spends her shop hours filling orders for fresh mushrooms and related products. 114 W. State St., Kennett Square; (610) 444-8484,

Neighborhood Bar >>>
Best Neighborhood Bar: Side Bar & Restaurant. (Photo by Steve Legato)Side Bar & Restaurant
Remember Vincent’s? In just a little over a year, Side Bar has done wonders in burying the memory of its predecessor. You’ll find none of that spot’s contrived French Quarter-style ambiance here. Just bold colors and high ceilings, hearty, slightly upscale tavern fare (think wild boar bangers and mash and braised short rib bolognese), a three-bar layout (one upstairs) and a superior craft beer selection that have quickly made this place the go-to joint for courthouse types and borough locals alike. 10 E. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 429-8297,

Neighborhood Eatery >>> Gemelli
It’s the only restaurant in the area that makes a killer venison bolognese, plus equally creative yet homey Italian dishes. Comfortable and relaxed, Gemelli is everything a neighborhood spot should be. Owner Clark Gilbert has just relocated from Narberth to Manayunk, and his former BYO now has a full bar. 4161 Main St., Manayunk, (610) 660-0160,

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New Grocery Store >>> Main Street Market
With artisan bread and pastries from Agiato Bread Company, local produce, fresh coffee, meat from local farms, prepared foods, and all your essential groceries, this spot is the best thing to happen to Main Street in a while. Bypass your overcrowded, under-stocked supermarket without missing a beat. 4345 Main St., Philadelphia; (215) 482-9500,

New Restaurant in Philadelphia >>> Barbuzzo
Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran are the queens of 13th Street, and the addition of Barbuzzo to the Philadelphia dining scene has elevated their status even further. The Mediterranean kitchen and bar sends out some of the freshest, most thoughtfully prepared food out there. The pizzas are scrumptious, and the $13 antipasti plate is a satisfying meal in itself. 110 S. 13th St., Philadelphia; (215) 546-9300,

New Sandwich Shop >>> Sarcone’s Deli
This Philly favorite has a new home in the western suburbs. You could play it safe with the traditional Italian hoagie, or mix things up with the Junkyard Special, recently featured on the Food Network’s the Best Thing I Ever Ate—and it’s easy to see why: Turkey, prosciutto, sautéed spinach, roasted peppers, sharp Provolone and mozzarella on homemade bread sounds pretty good to us. 230 W. Market St., West Chester; (610) 430-2023,

New Sports Bar >>> Chubby Balboa’s
A Vegas-inspired alternative to your typical pitchers-’n’-wings sports-bar atmosphere, Chubby Balboa’s boasts over-the-top architectural touches like colonnades, arches and a carved-in-granite look. VIP touches include couch seating, upscale specialty drinks, 17 beers on tap and atypical menu items like paella. Chubby’s also scores points with its all-you-can-eat specials and 25-cent wings on Wednesdays. 200 Town Centre Drive, Glen Mills; (610) 558-4130,

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New Sweets Guru: Cakes & Candies by Maryellen. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)New Sweets Guru >>> Cakes & Candies by Maryellen
Two words: cake pops—insanely moist cake enclosed in a thick chocolate shell for a crunchy-soft combo that’s simply not to be missed. There’s vanilla and chocolate, of course, but why not try the chocolate-chip banana, pumpkin spice or pink champagne? Better yet, just try them all, along with the cookies, cupcakes, brownies and more. 1332 West Chester Pike, West Chester, (484) 266-0710,

Night Out for Wine Connoisseurs >>> Monthly Wine Dinners at Georges’
You have to love a dining event that’s this out of the ordinary. Oh, and there’s vino involved. The monthly wine dinners at Georges’ center around a theme (Spanish wines, champagne, etc.) or a specific winery. A multicourse meal is created around it, and wine paired with each course. 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 964-2588,

Oysters >>> Riverstone Café
There aren’t too many restaurants in Chester County (or anywhere else around here) that can match Riverstone’s impressive oyster selection, with its 25 varieties. Wednesday nights, it’s “Buck a Shuck” until the tasty gems run out. 143 W. Lincoln Highway, Exton; (610) 594-2233,

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Best Panini: Martini’s Italian Market. (Photo by Steve Legato)Panini >>> Martini’s Italian Market
The hoagies and hot sandwiches are great and all. But the panini is what Martini’s does best. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them, each named after a member of the owner’s family and loaded with tasty ingredients like Italian tuna, marinated artichokes, mozzarella and broccoli rabe—all of it sandwiched between crusty ciabatta bread before hitting the grill. 17 Paoli Plaza, Paoli Village Shoppes, Paoli; (610) 644-3800,

Patio >>> Newtown Grill
October through April, there’s no better place to grab a romantic dinner or cozy lunch than outside at Newtown Grill. It’s the perfect al fresco atmosphere for a casual meal with a twist of sophistication. 191 S. Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square; (610) 356-9700,

Pizza >>> Bella Italia
It’s not just college students exiting Brownie’s on a Friday night that love Bella Italia. The pies at this corner pizza shop are consistently excellent. The crust is nice and thin, the sauce sweet enough, with just the right amount of cheese as to not make everything overly greasy. Nothing fancy—just great pizza. The Sicilian pie is our fave. 12 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore; (610) 649-1700,

Place for Beer Connoisseurs >>> Wegmans
You kind of forget you’re in a giant grocery store when you’re knocking back a pint of craft beer with a burger at the Pub in Wegmans’ popular Market Café. Pick up a mix-and-match six-pack, or take home a growler of your favorite beer on tap. Various locations,

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Place for the Calorie-Conscious >>> Hummus
Veggies, lean proteins and grains make up the bulk of this Mediterranean eatery’s menu. The grilled salmon, Greek and Israeli salads are light and packed with heart-healthy vegetables. Sandwiches are served in a pita or wrap, and topped with hummus and veggies. 18 Greenfield Ave., Ardmore; (610) 645-9500,

Place to Get Your Oil Fix: A Taste of Olive. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Place to Get Your Oil Fix >>>
A Taste of Olive

Truffle, red wine, pomegranate and vanilla are just some of the flavors found within the countless bottles of oils and vinegars at this gourmet emporium. The experts here have hit on some impeccable combinations. We’re partial to the “The Soother.” Its sweet lemon olive oil and honey ginger balsamic vinegar blend is perfect for a summer salad. 26 S. High St., West Chester, (610) 429-0292; 22 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, (610) 642-1123;

Place to Grab a Cup of Tea >>> Lotus Farm to Table
Each cup at Lotus is packed with a dose of good health. Try the lavender-infused green Happy Tea for a dose of tranquility and relaxation. Or kick back with a cup of Anji White to boost your immune system. 112 W. State St., Media; (610) 565-5554,

Place to Grab a Healthy Bite >>> Sweetgreen
At Sweetgreen, Kennett Square mushrooms and other locally sourced ingredients speckle the delicious salads, wraps and yogurts—custom made to suit any taste or nutritional need. The menu is especially great for vegetarian and vegan diets. 68 Coulter Ave., Ardmore; (610) 642-9400,

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Pop-Up Restaurant Stand >>>
Susanna Foo’s Foo to Go at Lancaster County Farmers Market

At this well-received addition to the Lancaster County Farmers Market, Foo’s Asian-fusion favorites—like her to-die-for dumplings and Kung Pao Chicken—are all precooked. Simply reheat for an easy, delicious meal at home. 389 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 688-9856,

Power Lunch >>> 333 Belrose
Unobtrusive service, reasonable prices and a modestly elegant yet easygoing atmosphere make this popular dinner spot the perfect place for a midday business meeting, employee celebration or casual lunch with coworkers. Menu standouts include the Belrose Chicken Salad, the Left Coast Fish Tacos, and the wood-grilled Angus burger with Vermont cheddar and garlic fries. 333 Belrose Lane, Radnor; (610) 293-1000,

Pub Food That’s Better Than Pub Food >>> Penn Valley Pub
You’ll be hard pressed to find another local bar offering the usual burger-and-wings fare, plus a not-so-pub-like roasted duck in a brandy apricot sauce and lobster ravioli with crab meat in a vodka cream sauce. 863 Montgomery Ave., Narberth; (610) 664-1901,

Quick Business Lunch >>> Express Lunch at Nectar
For only $12.95, you can’t beat the Express Lunch at Nectar. A choice of soup or salad (like the Kennet Square mushroom soup with goat cheese, or the celery-root-and-apple salad with crispy potato dumplings) is a yummy precursor to the Vietnamese beef tenderloin sandwich or the lobster fried rice—just two of the many tasty sandwich and entrée offerings. Well worth risking an extended lunch break. 1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn; (610) 725-9000,

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Best Raw Chocolate: Oasis Living Cuisine. (Photo by Steve Legato)Raw Chocolate >>> Oasis Living Cuisine
Chocolate may not be the healthiest snack option out there, but if you’re going to indulge, go raw at Oasis Living Cuisine. Try one of their decadent chocolate cherry truffles or mint chip chocolate bars, and you won’t believe you’re on your best dietary behavior. 134 Lancaster Ave., Frazer; (610) 647-9797,

Red Velvet Cupcakes >>> Cupcakes Gourmet
“Love at first bite” is the only way to describe our unconditional adoration for these plush, crimson beauties. More than 3,000 are baked each week to keep up with the overwhelming demand—and for good reason. Super-moist (with a hint of the finest Belgian cocoa powder) and topped with a rich, white cream-cheese frosting, these decadent treats are so delish, we can never stop at just one. Various locations,

Restaurant Cookbook >>>
Lourdas: A Greek Family Cookbook

Maybe your grandmother wasn’t Greek, but you can still cook like she was with the help of Lourdas: A Greek Family Cookbook. Part recipe treasure trove and part history lesson, the cookbook is a tribute to author Marina Kamilatos’ Greek upbringing and the rich culinary tradition found in the kitchen of her Bryn Mawr eatery. Lourdas Greek Taverna, 50 N. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 520-0288,

Restaurant for a Sunday Fun Day >>> Derek’s
The folks at Derek’s know how to end the weekend on a high note. Unlimited Bloody Marys—or mimosas, if you prefer—accompany a brunch menu that features favorites like crab Benedict and brioche French toast. As if that wasn’t enough of a draw, all wines are half price for the entire day. 4411 Main St., Philadelphia; (215) 483-9400,

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Restaurant for Date Night and Overnight >>> Mendenhall Inn
Start date night with a candlelit dinner at Mendenhall Inn’s restaurant or a “Wine & Dine” special Fridays and Saturdays at Mendenhall Tavern. There’s also a variety of overnight packages. “Romantic Rendezvous” features a bottle of champagne, a dozen roses, chocolate-covered strawberries, a $100 dinner gift certificate, and a breakfast buffet. 323 Kennett Pike, Mendenhall; (610) 388-2100,

Restaurant for Kids (Lunch) >>> Ruby’s Diner
Sure, it can be a mob scene in the middle of summer or when area schools have a holiday, but parents and kids alike gravitate toward this popular diner—crowds and all—for the fun, relaxed atmosphere and great menu. There’s PB&J for the less adventurous, and kid-size turkey burgers and grilled chicken breasts for something healthier. Various locations,

Restaurant for Kids (Worth the Drive) >>> The Little Tree House
Not only is there ample space for your little ones to play, with wooden toys and structures to explore, but the food is really good. Brick-oven, whole-wheat pizzas, pasta dishes, soups and salads are comforting but not too heavy, and parents will love the healthy, organic (and affordable) options for kids. 10 W. Graver’s Lane, Chestnut Hill; (215) 247-3637,

Restaurant Revival >>> Bistro Evviva
George Wakim has listened to the people, opening a 50-seat bistro in an historic Narberth mansion that was once for private events only. The excellent service and upscale yet approachable French- and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine mesh perfectly with the cozy environs. A great place for dinner with friends, or to impress out-of-town guests. Bring a few bottles of your favorite wine to enjoy. 1236 Montgomery Ave., Narberth; (610) 667-1900,

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Salads >>> DiFabio’s 9th Street Market & Catering Co.
Go traditional Caesar one day and get funky the next with spring mix, mandarin oranges, feta, sweet roasted peppers, toasted almonds and homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Gotta love the crisp greens and fresh accessories, too. Dress it all up with homemade croutons, one of DiFabio’s unique dressings, and grilled, blackened or pistachio chicken. 1032 N. Providence Road, Media; (484) 444-0850,

School Food with a Conscience >>> Haverford College
From biodegradable products and reusable tableware to the expansion of the student garden and menus with healthy options and nutritional information, Haverford College is well ahead of the sustainability game. A student organization known as FOOD FIGHT even sponsors monthly, locally sourced dinners. 370 Lancaster Ave., Haverford; (610) 896-1000,

Seasonal Outdoor Farmers Market >>> West Chester Growers Market
Ditch the shopping carts and opt for a fresher take with the help of the West Chester Growers Market’s year-round farm-fresh spread. The handy calendar on its website lets you know what’s in season, and with more than 20 vendors, there’s more than enough ways to fill your basket. North Church and West Chestnut streets, West Chester,

Seat in the House >>> Chef’s Table at Avalon Restaurant
Seats at Chef John Brandt-Lee’s chef’s table are some of the hottest in town—and not just because you’re dining directly in front of the open kitchen. As billed, the multi-course, family-style Italian meal is prepared by Brandt-Lee himself, with diners’ tastes, preferences and wine choices in mind (it’s a BYO). Gather up to five friends or family members, and you’ve got yourself a special night out—and one delicious meal. 312 S. High St., West Chester; (610) 436-4100,

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Small Plates >>> Teca
True to its name (derived from the Italian discoteca), Teca offers more twists and turns than a Sicilian opera. Apparently, it’s not enough to offer an enticing mix of aged and fresh cheeses, cured hams, and specialty meats. Teca’s small plates must also have culinary spin. There’s grilled meats to be nibbled and seafood to be savored. The salads also satisfy, as do the fresh and fried tomatoes layered with buffalo and smoked mozzarella cheeses. 38 E. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 738-8244,

Special Occasion Place >>> Dilworthtown Inn
Candlelight and roaring fireplaces make this beautiful Inn one of the most romantic places to dine in the cold winter months. But a meal here is distinctive no matter what the season. The seafood-centered menu changes on a weekly basis and is always exceptional. You’ll be wined, dined—and in a hurry to come back. 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester; (610) 399-1390,

Specialty Desserts >>> Aux Petits Delices
The chocolates are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the French pastries are to die for. Whether it’s a seasonal fruit tart you’re after or an extra-special cake for an upcoming celebration, this tiny Wayne bakery will have your guests “mmm”ing all the way home. The Fraisier—a decadent version of an American strawberry shortcake—is highly recommended. 162 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 971-0300,

Specialty Pizza >>> Peace A Pizza
Variety abounds at this local chain, from the top-selling chicken Parmesan to the Philly cheesesteak. New gourmet options include the San Giovanni, a white pizza with smoked mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto. Various locations,

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Seasonal Microbrews >>> Victory Brewing Company
Whether it’s a refreshing Bavarian-style Sunrise Weissbier or a citrusy Moonglow Weizenbock, the seasonal selection at this award-winning Downingtown brewery and restaurant has you covered for summer—and fall, winter and spring, too. 420 Acorn Lane, Downingtown; (610) 873-0881,

Steakhouse >>> Capital Grille
No more trekking into Center City for a good piece of steak. Savor an expertly cooked Porterhouse, filet, Delmonico or New York strip in a friendly, classy, decidedly un-chain-like atmosphere. 236 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia; (610) 265-1415,

Sunday Brunch with Asian Flair >>> Azie
If you want a Sunday Brunch filled with all the usual suspects—eggs, hash browns, waffles—Azie’s got it. If you’re looking for all the above, plus a full array of sushi, seafood, egg rolls and more, Azie’s got that, too. You’ll wonder how you ever got by on Benedict and Bloodys alone. 217 W. State St., Media; (610) 566-4750,

Sushi >>> Gin Za
A favorite spot for Narberth and Penn Valley residents, Gin Za has some of the best sushi in the area—and it’s (still) reasonably priced. Whether dining in or taking out, the rolls are always excellent. (We can’t get enough of the crunchy spicy tuna.) The non-sushi options are great, too. 801 Montgomery Ave., Narberth; (610) 668-9959.

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Teas in a Historic Setting >>> The Lincoln Room
The particular grace and civility a tea room inspires is amplified by the Lincoln Room’s location in the ground floor of a circa-1884 Federal-style structure. Enjoy loose-leaf teas, freshly made scones and petite sandwiches (including vegetarian offerings) while taking in the historic ambiance. In 1860, the upstairs rooms housed a newspaper press where Abraham Lincoln’s autobiography (a first in
political “spin”) launched his career as America’s 16th president. 28 W. Market St., West Chester; (610) 696-2102,

Thai >>> Chiangmai
Despite its tiny digs, Chiangmai packs some serious flavor with its authentic Thai cuisine (spice levels ranging from mild to “raging fire”). The entrées are traditional, for the most part, but different enough to keep diners interested. The Mussaman Curry (chicken or beef in a red curry and peanut sauce with coconut milk, carrots, onions and potatoes) is a favorite among diners—us included. 180 Fayette St., Conshohocken; (610) 397-1757,

Thin-Crust Pizza >>> Uno Chicago Grill
Deep-dish, brick-oven, New York style, pepperoni, veggie—the choices are endless at this popular chain. But if you’re the thin-crust type, we challenge you to find a better, more varied selection than you’ll find at Uno. A regular or five-grain crust goes great with everything from eggplant and sausage to harvest vegetables and barbecue chicken. There’s also a new line of artisan thin-crust pies with add-ons like figs, broccoli rabe, wild mushrooms and goat cheese. Can’t have gluten? They have a crust for you, as well. Various locations,

Tomato Pie >>> Carlino’s Market
How can something so simple be so delicious? It’s all in the chunky tomato sauce (which is a secret recipe, by the way). The thick, soft dough—with just the right bit of crunch from the oven—soaks up a garlicky, sweet sauce that’s almost velvety from all that imported olive oil. Order it in a half- or full-pan size. The perfect party dish—and so good you won’t even miss the cheese. 2616 E. County Line Road, Ardmore; (610) 649-4046,

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Veggie Sandwich >>> Seven Stones Café
This seriously stacked “garden burger” hits the mark, in part, thanks to its delicious accessories, including baby spinach, pesto sauce, hummus and multigrain bread. Of course, a good sandwich is nothing without a quality core—and in this case, each bite is bliss. One here and one to-go, please. 22 S. Plum St., Media; (610) 627-2077.

Unconventional Pizza >>> PBandU
Peanut butter, bacon and chips on a pizza? This isn’t your everyday pie. This kid-friendly eatery is devoted to making sandwiches, snacks and, yes, pizza with that nutty, chunky or creamy pantry staple. Order a full or half pie with two yummy toppings like Nutella and bananas or fresh strawberries and honey. Why didn’t we think of this? 163 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (484) 367-7799,

Water Ice >>> Pop’s Homemade Italian Ice
This homemade recipe dates back to 1932, when “Pop” began selling his water ice in South Philly. Almost 80 years and four locations later, it’s stood the test of time. Made daily in more than 20 flavors, which rotate regularly. 150 W. Eagle Road, Havertown; (610) 789-7677,

Way to Eat like a Super Bowl Champ >>> Jake’s Frozen Custard
Indulge the way they do in Green Bay at Jake’s, which offers real Wisconsin-style brats, deep-fried cheese curds and creamy-rich frozen custard you have to taste to believe. Well worth giving your diet—and Eagles loyalties—a day off. 31 W. Lancaster Ave., Paoli; (610) 408-0145,

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Way to Fool Your Neighbors into Thinking You Can Bake >>> My House Cookies
Be ready to have My House Cookies on speed dial when a dinner party pops up. Trained pastry chef Marie Connell uses top-of-the-line ingredients for her seven kinds of homemade cookies (the Blackouts are sinful), six varieties of flaky, buttery scones and out-of-this-world fruit pies. Various locations, (610) 459-1869,

Wedding and Specialty Cakes >>> Bella’s Desserts
Whether you’re a classic, contemporary, quirky or cupcake-style couple, Bella’s Lauren Cortesi can create the perfect wedding cake. Choose from a wide variety of frostings, fillings and cake flavors, including vegan and gluten-free options. Bella’s artistic specialty cakes also sing. Is the birthday boy or girl a Phillies fan? One baseball-hat-shaped cake coming up. Honey Brook; (484) 467-1538,

Wine List >>> Margaret Kuo’s
Besides having excellent Chinese food, this popular Wayne eatery has one of the best wine lists in the area. With more than 175 labels from around the globe and 40 types of sake, Margaret and husband Warren (who’s formally trained in wine education) take great pride in providing diners with an eclectic selection without the huge mark-up typical of many restaurants. It’s ambitious—and that’s what makes it tops. 175 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 688-7200,

Worth the Drive >>> Funky Lil’ Kitchen
Pottstown isn’t exactly known for its cutting-edge dining scene, but chef Michael Falcone’s small and, yes, funky modern American BYO is reason enough to make the 30-minute trek down route 422. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by Falcone’s clever take on seasonal cuisine—so seasonal, in fact, that he often doesn’t know what the menu will be that night until he gets back from the farmers market. Delicious from start to finish, with top-notch service to boot. 232 King St., Pottstown; (610) 326-7400,

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