The secret to the fire-kissed Peruvian chicken at Barbacoa is its 12-hour brine, followed by 90 minutes in a rotisserie heated by hardwoods and aged coal. The result: Incredibly tender meat cloaked in crunchy, flavor-packed skin. The rest of the menu is all-American: beef brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs, cornbread pudding and more. 64 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore, (610) 642-0600, barbacoaud.com.
Locavore fanaticism may have contributed to the demise of fancy, French-heavy food culture. But that hasn’t deterred Francis Trzeciack, whose Birchrunville Store Cafe continues to swagger with the utmost Parisian elegance, trumpeting upscale bistro-style dishes that defy trends. Think goat-cheese soufflé, smoked-salmon napoleon, cognac-accented veal tenderloin, rosemary-infused rack of lamb, and white chocolate crème brûlée. 1403 Hollow Road, Chester Springs, (610) 827-9002, birchrunvillestorecafe.com.
Some like it hot
New Orleans native John Mims has set up shop once again in the same Narberth spot that helped kick-start his Cajun-Creole rep back in 2006. At Carmine’s Creole Act Two, his signature bayou staples (shrimp-and-crawfish étouffée, she-crab bisque, roux-based seafood gumbo) remain, and all are executed with as much panache as ever. 232 Woodbine Ave., Narberth, (610) 660-0160, carminesacttwo.com.
Delightfully unfussy, the family-run Don Gabriel Restaurant is as authentic as Mexican street food gets in the burbs. Standouts include the savory beef-tongue tortas with pickled jalapeños, the cocoa-fused dried-pepper mole, made-to-order guacamole, and the spicy beef-tripe stew (weekends only). 611 W. Strasburg Road, West Chester, (610) 431-3212, dongabrielrestaurant.com.
Dinner and a show
Tucked away on the east end of residential Brookline Boulevard, Kristen and Philip Ferro’s Edgewood Cafe & BYOB is a thoughtful neighborhood bistro with fire-engine-red walls, 54 seats, lively entertainment every Friday and Saturday, and—best of all—some razor-sharp skills in the kitchen. Start with the house-smoked, cabernet-braised short-rib flatbread, and be sure to save room for the house-made white-chocolate cheesecake. 1304 Edgewood Road, Havertown, (484) 453-8851, edgewoodrestaurant.com.
For food snobs
Thankfully for Main Line foodies, Gianluca Demontis and Rosemarie Tran chose Bryn Mawr as the place for Fraschetta, an off-shoot of their wildly popular Center City eatery, Melograno. Multiple antipasti courses and inspired entrées—like balsamic-tinged swordfish and the meat-heavy grigliata mista (pork sausage, lamb skewers and chicken thigh over polenta)—captivate first-timers and compel repeat visits. 816 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 525-1007.
And now for something new
It’s worth a trip to Pottstown for a run-in with this year’s BYOB sleeper. Inside Henry’s Café & Fine Groceries, chef Frank Raski charms guests with his larger-than-life personality and a superbly executed, seafood-heavy menu that changes weekly. A recent tasting included conch chowder; snapper, walleye and veal ragout; and Chilean sea bass with braised fennel. We’ll be back—and so will you. 20 S. Charlotte St., Pottstown, (610) 326-0069.
Like to share?
Just off the main drag in downtown Media, Mike and Ginny Hackett’s rustic-chic House serves three unforgettable meals a day, comprised of indulgent, upscale com-fort foods. The best plan is to approach the menu tapas-style, nibbling through a cheese board with triple-crème brie and drunken goat cheese, digging into the truffle-and-Gruyere mac-and-cheese, and savoring the hearty kale-and-cheddar-stuffed meatloaf. And save room for the cherry-and-chocolate cookies, served with a glass organic whole milk. 110 S. Jackson St., Media, (610) 566-2505, eatathouse.com.
The royal treatment
The low-key culinary pioneer of the suburbs, chef Andrew Deery continues to offer gastronomic delights to adventurous palates at Majolica. Vibrant yet tangible, his ever-changing, six- to eight-course tasting menus are a step above the rest, executed provocatively and thoughtfully. Recent highlights include Moulard duck breast with cocoa pasta, Arctic char with fennel-and-citrus salad, and a bittersweet chocolate soufflé with house-made, salted caramel ice cream. 258 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (610) 917-0962, majolicarestaurant.com.
A little romance
With its dimly lit dining rooms lined with exposed brick, Marly’s is an ideal setting for date night. Co-owner/chef Michael Favacchia’s quarterly menu boasts refined modern-American dishes with Italian and Asian influences. Sophisticated surprises include crab-and-lemongrass wontons with a sambal-red miso emulsion, panko-crusted jumbo lump crab cakes in a pool of ponzu, and grits infused with Manchego cheese, shrimp and bacon. Seal the deal with the peanut-butter bread pudding. 108 Bridge St., Phoenixville (610) 933-7471, marlysrestaurant.com.
Secret dinner club
Martin’s Kitchen arrives by way of acclaimed chef Martin Gagné. After years on the international circuit, Gagné is now offering a private one-table-per-night dining experience at his historic La Maison in sleepy Coventryville. The menus are impeccably prepared with classic French influences for an intimate culinary encounter like no other. Dinner Thursday-Saturday only; reservations required. 1470 Old Ridge Road, Coventryville, (484) 680-1193, martinskitchen.com.
Sabrina Lutz introduced her Tuscan-inspired home-turned-restaurant back in 2011. Orangery at Glen Isle is spacious yet intimate—proper with its white linens, but also unpretentious with its mismatched china. The Old World Italian menu highlights fresh seasonal offerings, with ingredients from an on-site garden. One 6:30 p.m. seating Thursday-Saturday. 130 S. Lloyd Ave., Downingtown, (484) 401-5554, orangeryatglenisle.com.
Early last fall, Lacroix alum Ben Thomas moved to the Main Line to debut Restaurant Cerise, a tasteful Euro bistro he operated with his wife, Elena, a Villanova native. Thomas’ breathtaking Sunday feast will take your breath away—chicken liver pates alongside gooey hunks of brie and crusty baguette; kale salad and shirred eggs; cherry clafoutis; and much more. The weekly prix-fixe dinner menu is equally stunning. 1011 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, (610) 527-4400, restaurantcerise.com.
Chester County locavores have a champion in chef Dan Cellucci, whose Roots Cafe is fast becoming a culinary pacesetter for modern-day farm-to-table dining in the area. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus at his farmhouse-style bistro change weekly, like any seasonal restaurant’s should. A dinnertime stunner: smoked-trout carbonara crowned with a yolky egg. 133 E. Gay St., West Chester, (610) 455-0100, rootscafewc.com.
For the indecisive
Those on the prowl for Indian curry by way of Bangkok will relish Spice Indian Thai Bistro’s eclectic mix of lively starters, clay-oven specialties (a heavenly saffron chicken with cashews) and traditional dishes (lamb vindaloo, drunken noodles). Where the Thai repertoire is less refined, the southern Indian dishes are a few steps ahead. 113 W. Market St., West Chester; 4843 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, (610) 356-5262, spicebyob.com.
Pad Thai advocacy
Around here, Nui Kullanna is the unquestioned queen of modern-day Thai cuisine, reinventing classic dishes that appeal to adventurous suburban palates. At Thai L’Elephant, you’ll discover sautéed duck, lobster in sweet chili paste, sweet-and-tangy noodles, and myriad curries. The recent addition of chef Ken Dumrongkitmun is keeping Kullanna on her toes. Together, they’re challenging the authenticity of the Americanized Thai concept with a vibrancy that may burn a little, but is so worth it. 301 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (610) 935-8613, thailelephant.com.
For the pizza purist
Frank Nattle taps Italy for all the necessary ingredients for Neapolitan perfection—00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, even the wood-burning oven, constructed with Mount Vesuvius stone. Vecchia Pizzeria Napoletana is little more than a row of tables surrounded by walls hung with trattoria-style murals. Turns out it’s the ideal atmosphere for enjoying a fine-tuned, minimalist margherita. Nattle’s hardest-working pie is the Covaccino, a paper-light white piled high with mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, shaved Parmigiana Reggiano, arugula, garlic and olive oil. 249 Bridge St., Phoenixville, N. Wayne Ave., Wayne (coming soon), (610) 933-1355, vecchiapizzeria.com.
At Yanako, Nongyao “Moon” Krapugthong’s bi-level eatery, the attention to detail is impeccable, from the authentic noodle selections and slow-cooked teriyaki options, to the fine-tuned bento boxes and whimsically wrapped maki rolls. Upstairs, the copper-wrapped, communal table is perfect for large parties, offering great views of the restaurant’s Zen-like atrium. A front-of-house tatami table packs just as much appeal. Request the yellowtail-stuffed, tempura-battered Seven Seas. 4255 Main St., Manayunk, (267) 297-8151, theyanako.com.