Bloom Brings Southern Comfort to Northern Chester County

Photos by Ed Williams

With a kitchen staff that’s 90 percent women, Bloom is bringing comfort food staples like chicken and waffles to Philadelphia’s western suburbs.

A much-needed warm embrace has arrived in the northern corner of Chester County. As Bloom Southern Kitchen, the former Eagle Tavern now sports a fresh coat of white paint and a stunning mural of twisting vines and oversized poppies winding their way around the building—the work of local artist Ellie McIntosh. “There’s no real story as to how we chose the name of this place,” says co-partner David Backhus. “We wanted something that sounded fresh and organic.”

Bloom’s Chicken and Waffles

Backhus teamed up with chef Michael Falcone to introduce Oori’s Korean barbecue to Pottstown a year ago. This time, he’s partnered with Tim Cone for an eatery that exudes ambition and heart with its Low Country-inspired plates. Gone is the tavern’s dimly lit 1859 interior, which has been swapped for a brighter, airier rustic vibe. The bar serves as a waiting area for diners until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Relocated from its original location to an opposing wall, it features cushy slate-colored club chairs and benches.

With its hardwood floors, white-washed brick walls, quilt-patterned foil wallpaper and brass cube chandeliers, the main dining room is warm and spacious. Windows are undraped, with oversized rustic accessories on their deep sills. Chunky wooden benches, sand-colored upholstered settees and farm-style chairs (by local artisan Brenda Shirk) lend additional charm. “Southern hospitality is what sets us apart in this area,” Backus says. “We want guests to feel comfortable here from beginning to end.”

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Chef de cuisine Natasha Yruel is a northern California transplant who recently worked her magic at the nearby Brandywine Branch Distillery. With a kitchen staff that’s 90 percent women, Yruel has implemented an aggressive recycling program. “We compost all of our kitchen scraps to local farms as feed, and we recycle all of our fryer oil to local farms, as well,” she says.

Yruel also maintains solid relationships with local farms and purveyors. A lunchtime nod to locavores, the BLT features Benton’s bacon with fried green tomatoes from Pottstown’s Broadwing and Knee High farms. It comes with either fries or ham-flavored apple-cider-braised collard greens from Knee High and Gap’s Green Meadow Farm.

The dinner menu’s cheese-and-charcuterie board focuses on regional varieties. For our visit, the selection included Tomme and Red Cat from Birchrun Hills Farm and Twisted Jack from the Farm at Doe Run—both Chester County purveyors. Accouterments included a “Shut My Mouth” Creole mustard with serious bite, and hot honey to drizzle on house-made buttermilk biscuits and crisp benne seed crackers. The pimento cheese ball, spicy deviled eggs and crab-and-mushroom hushpuppies put a distinct northern twist on Deep South favorites, and the house gumbo—loaded with shrimp, andouille and chicken—provides just the right kick.

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Entrée options include pan-roasted trout, a grass-fed double cheeseburger and a vegan farro bowl. The Cheerwine-braised boneless short ribs were fall-apart decadent, and the country-fried steak plate features a top-round cut, andouille gravy and seasonal vegetables. We eschewed restraint and went for the chicken and waffles. The heirloom breast and wing were brined for 24 hours, double-dredged in flour, fried, and heaped atop rosemary waffles, which come with Pennsylvania syrup and hot honey. Alas, the side of collard greens was a tad too vinegary for our taste.

The Charleston, with tequila, grapefruit, rosemary syrup and smoked sea salt

Cocktails are named after southern cities. The bourbon-based Louisville is served in a smoked white oak glass; the sweet/tart Charleston is as pretty as it is tasty; the Augusta blends a vodka-based drink with house-made tea and lemonade. For those who can even think about dessert, there’s sticky buns and banana pudding. The monkey bread is plenty for two, and you may even have enough to take home for breakfast the next day. Keep an eye out for a stacked strawberry shortcake debut this summer.

Related Article: Trailblazing Chester County Chef Andres Deery Recalibrates

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