Edgewood Café & BYOB
Location: 1304 Edgewood Road, Havertown
Contact: (484) 453-8851, edgewoodrestaurant.com.
Cuisine: American with Italian accents.
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5-8 p.m.
Extras: Live entertainment Friday and Saturday, 7-10 p.m. Reservations strongly recommended on weekdays and required Friday and Saturday for two seatings, 6-6:30 p.m. and 8-8:30 p.m.
Driving through my old stomping grounds recently, I discovered a place that was wholly new to me in the pleasant residential east end of Brookline Boulevard. Edgewood Café & BYOB is a 54-seat yearling operated by newlyweds Kristen and Philip Ferro. It’s the sort of cautionary, invest-it-all, work-80-hours-a-week-then-cross-your-fingers restaurant story we’ve all heard before. Philip has been cooking locally for 17 years. Kristen, until recently, had no experience in the business. Together, they’ve found a cute little place that’s full of potential. In the process, they’ve chosen to ignore the oft-postulated 90-percent failure rate that looms over any start-up food operation. “Hey, we could do this,” they rationalized.
And they have quite nicely.
The Ferros took a dingy former deli space on the boulevard’s quiet Edgewood Road corner, gutted it, and then, through hard work (and multiple trips to Home Depot), transformed it into a respectable, comfortable venue.
Walls are painted fire-engine red, and the ceiling is coated black, giving dinner a dimly lit ambiance. Somehow, the Ferros were able to fit a small yet serviceable kitchen off to one side of the café, which is separated from the dining room by a wall. Along the other sidewall is a series of wooden booths purchased several years ago from the former Boathouse restaurant in Malvern upon its demise. The acquisitions were stored away and then reconditioned.
Edgewood has remained under the radar, for sure—unless you’re a lucky local who knows about Philip’s well-executed American cuisine with strong Italian influences. “All of the menu items come from family recipes we pooled together,” says Kristen. “Phil creates the main menu and specials, and I do all of the desserts, which are homemade.”
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The café succeeds mostly due to the surprisingly sophisticated, well-crafted dishes coming from its energized micro-kitchen. Its short ribs have a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and an intoxicating smokiness (thanks to Philip’s smoker out back) to complement the caramelized fried onion rings and Gorgonzola cream that top the filling flatbread appetizer. It’s no wonder this starter is a best seller.
The crispy Parmesan-panko crust of the truffle mac-and-cheese gives way with the effortless slice of a spoon, as it pushes past wild mushrooms and down into the molten core of penne, smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Comforting is an understatement when it comes to this dish.
Ditto the Parmesan-crusted chicken entrée, served over gnocchi—the tender breast and pillowy pasta blanketed by a South Philly red gravy made from flash-roasted plum tomatoes. Another family recipe, the (almost) filler-free jumbo lump crab cakes come with Old Bay mashed potatoes and an herbed rémoulade.
The evening’s fish special—fresh salmon stuffed with crabmeat, ladled with a tomato-butter sauce, and teamed up with asparagus and a rich risotto—was a justifiable $26. In fact, everything on the menu—including my bacon-wrapped filet ($28)—was fairly priced. The lone disappointment was our underwhelming wedge salad, its iceberg lettuce a semi-dry husk, the chopped tomatoes anemic, and the promised bacon hardly evident.
As mentioned, Kristen makes all desserts in-house. With its buttery crust, her white-chocolate cheesecake is a notable rendition. Then there’s her tiramisu—nothing less than a rectangular, cocoa-dusted cumulous cloud.
Service was friendly and proficient; the four young waitresses seemed to have every table covered. We marveled over how surprisingly easy it was to converse in such a small, buzzing space, although the lighting—or lack thereof—presented a challenge. Thankfully, I had a trusty penlight to scan the menu. Other diners around us were using the light from their cell phones.
The Skinny: Edgewood Café’s exceptional cuisine has wooed a multitude of locals (and those from points nearby), who appear to be flocking to this wonderful BYOB. Now, everyone can get in on Havertown’s delicious little secret—and perhaps the Ferros can join the elite 10 percent of successful restaurateurs who remain in business for years to come.