Lavi BYOB is a Tiny But Formidable Comfort Food Haven

Created by high school best friends Khadijah Bush and Aziza Young, the Ardmore bistro specializes in regional American classics.

Khadijah Bush and chef Aziza Young have been best friends since their days at Cheltenham High School, where they graduated in 1999. This past September, they debuted their snug South Ardmore bistro, Lavi BYOB­—and they remain as close as ever, dishing up comfort food four nights a week, along with a traditional à la carte Sunday brunch.

Bush oversees the intimately soulful 30-seat dining room, while Young channels regional American classics from her partially open kitchen. Her mac and cheese is a revelatory cheddar-laden starter. And the Lowcountry-style shrimp and grits­—with its rich gravy—is a best-seller for a reason.

Lavi BYOB owners Khadijah Bush and Aziza Young.

Owners Khadijah Bush (right) and executive chef Aziza Young.

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Young’s dinner menu intuitively reflects the seasons. On a cold night, an impossibly tender short rib arrived tucked irresistibly into a fluffy hillside of mascarpone mashed potatoes.

Chicken and waffles at Lavi BYOB in Ardmore.

Chicken and waffles with Parmesan cheese sauce.

Menu offerings often highlight regional flavors—like the plump boneless Southern fried chicken served with braised kale. For gluten-free and vegan diners, options include a king oyster mushroom “scallop” stir fry. 

Related: 25 Best New Restaurants in Philadelphia’s Western Suburbs

Though tiny, Lavi has several unexpectedly expansive surprises. There’s a smattering of outside tables, plus a private back room with a long table for up to 10 guests. Also of note is a five-course chef’s tasting dinner held one Tuesday each month.

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Shrimp and grits at Lavi BYOB in Ardmore Lavi BYOB in Ardmore

Shrimp and grits. 

The pumpkin-hued dining room.

Lavi has a few fixable quirks to work out, like the draftiness and the noise when the restaurant is at capacity. On a recent visit, servers doubled their efforts by not pausing to clear the entire table during prior passes, and the otherwise delicious Moroccan lamb skewers arrived cool to the touch. And while the fried brie with pesto and spicy marinara was excellent, the accompanying crostini was burnt. But those negatives were nothing a scrumptious house-made chocolate layer cake couldn’t erase.

Roasted salmon with saffron rice and grilled asparagus at Lavi BYOB in Ardmore.

Roasted salmon with saffron rice and grilled asparagus.

Proving there’s more to the Ardmore restaurant scene than the higher profile establishments in the center of town, this unassuming little corner storefront is quietly becoming a neighborhood anchor. I’d imagine that, as Lavi’s enthusiastic owners continue to gain traction as local restaurateurs on the rise, so will their promising BYOB.

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1531 W. Wynnewood Road, Ardmore, (484) 413-2779.

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