Set in a historic former firehouse on Church Street, slightly off downtown West Chester’s beaten path, Slow Hand transports diners into the not-so-distant past. Upstairs, the dimly lit throwback lounge boasts mod bar stools, shag-carpeted footstools and other quirky 1960s furnishings. A twangy soundtrack heavy on Little Feat, the Allman Brothers Band and other ’70s acts somehow meshes perfectly with various whimsical touches of ’80s kitsch—like paintings of Tom Selleck and Mr. T.
Debuting this past spring, Slow Hand is the impressive work of Josh McCullough and Craig Russell, whose combined kitchen portfolio includes experience at the Red Store in Cape May, N.J., and Philadelphia’s Will BYOB, Le Bec-Fin and Time (where they first met). The classy urban roadhouse concept coincides with Russell’s regularly evolving menu of affordable, locally sourced bar food. A recent salad with kale grown in Gap featured smoked hen-of-the-wood mushrooms from Kennett Square. Another shareable: charred carrots with yogurt, pine nuts and a dusting of sumac.
Heartier dishes include Southern-style comfort staples like Nashville hot chicken wings and slider-like Belly Bombers.The twin ham croquettes are double-breaded for extra crunch, the crust yielding to a hot gush of Gruyère and fontina for a different look and feel, dayboat scallops are served with chorizo vinaigrette and leeks. Made with line-caught mahi-mahi, the fish and chips get a nice French twist with a side of sauce gribiche. Preserved mustard and pickles accompany a simple smoked trout rillette. For dessert, we tried the moist rhubarb chocolate cake dotted with swirls of lemongrass-seasoned sweet cream.
In keeping with the retro theme, Slow Hand’s slick bar area features a portrait of a young Conway Twitty. In fact, the restaurant’s name is a nod to the musician’s cover of the Pointer Sisters hit of the same name. The bar is well stocked, with close to 20 brews on tap, a nice selection of wines by the glass, and draft sangria. Specialty cocktails include blackberry mojitos and a tasty Old Fashioned.
An elevated yet unpretentious old-school bar vibe is one of Slow Hand’s greatest assets. But it’s offbeat cool can prove a little confusing for newbies not in the know. Once you get that sorted out, you’ll want to spend some time basking in the hip quotient before your meal. And with a menu this strong, Slow Hand could easily become the borough’s quintessential grown-up hub for drinks and grub.