Best of the Chains
333 Belrose Bar & Grill
Not much changes at this Radnor mainstay, and that’s just the way we like it. You can’t go wrong with the consistently fresh, straightforward and flavorful menu prepared by chef Carlo deMarco. Juicy steaks and seasonal wines will keep you cozy when the weather outside is frightful, and the outdoor patio seating in warmer months is an elegant detour from the dining room. 333 Belrose Lane, Radnor; (610) 293-1000, 333belrose.com.
A la Maison
A la Maison stays true to its name and delivers an experience that feels just like home, even if mom wasn’t a French gourmet. The sunlit dining room, sophisticated ambiance and rustic comfort food combine for an unpretentious departure from formality that will please Francophile and newbie alike. Try the beef short ribs—and don’t forget to BYO. C’est parfait! 53 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore; (484) 412-8009, alamaisonbistro.com.
Impeccably Italian and thoroughly satisfying, Avalon features exceptional local cheese and salumi selections, including a creamy Lancaster County blue and duck prosciutto from Bucks County. The chef’s table is the best seat in the house, perfect for special-occasion dinners with friends and family. If you plan on visiting this month, be sure to snag a seat by the stone fireplace and order some saffron cioppino to shake off the winter chill. 312 S. High St., West Chester; (610) 436-4100, avalonrestaurant.net.
Loaded with city flair—minus the parking and traffic woes—Media’s East-meets-West showpiece is sure to please any appetite, adventurous or reserved. Sushi fans love the exotic maki rolls, while the perpetually undecided can make a meal out of first-class appetizers like crispy rock shrimp tempura, Kobe beef seared on hot rocks, and miso chicken lettuce cups. 217 W. State St., Media; (610) 566-4750, azie-restaurant.com.
Bar Savona’s swanky Mediterranean vibe and top-notch service combine to make even the most casual diners feel like VIPs. Weather permitting, try your best to grab a table on the newly renovated terrace, a romantic spot ideal for lingering over a Purple Haze or Raspberry Fuego cocktail. 100 Old Gulph Road, Gulph Mills; (610) 520-1200, savonarestaurant.com.
Birchrunville Store Cafe
If you’re looking for a perfect date-night spot, look no further than the Birchrunville Store Cafe. With only a handful of tables and plenty of candlelight to go around, the service is personal and the setting intimate. Meat lovers can indulge in French-Italian spins on culinary classics like Kobe beef, Chilean sea bass and Black Angus strip steak. 1403 Hollow Road, Birchrunville; (610) 827-9002, birchrunvillestorecafe.com.
Bistro on the Brandywine
Brandywine Prime’s little sister delivers the same bold flavors and quality meats in a more relaxed environment. Steakhouse classics with a French accent are the name of the game here—but also be on the lookout for unconventional menu items like the pinot noir pizza, made with portobello mushrooms, Boursin cheese and an impossibly velvety wine reduction. 1623 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford; (610) 388-8090, bistroonthebrandywine.com.
Blackfish’s acclaimed menu changes daily, its selections as varied as they are decadent. From oysters to pumpkin soup to Scottish salmon, there’s something for every discerning taste. The truly adventurous will delight in the four-course prix-fixe menu, which has been known to feature lobster, foie gras and beef, plus melt-in-your-mouth desserts. 119 Fayette St., Conshohocken; (610) 397-0888, blackfishrestaurant.com.
The fact that it’s in a strip mall doesn’t deter the likes of Tory Burch and Shane Victorino from gushing over Blue Fin. Another diehard “Blue Finner” was heard saying, “It’s by far the greatest restaurant I’ve ever been to.” If you’re craving an array of sushi and über-fresh seafood, set aside the menu and allow owner Yong Kim to prepare a stellar “chef’s choice” meal. Just tell him what you don’t like, and he’ll focus on your faves. 1017 Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, (610) 277-3917.
Home to one of the state’s largest wine cellars, the Dilworthtown Inn is a repeat winner of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. From rare to local, the remarkable selection is the perfect complement to the candlelit, 18th-century ambiance and carefully crafted American cuisine, with a menu that changes weekly. If you’re looking for something a bit more casual, head next door to the inn’s Blue Pear Bistro for savory yet sophisticated comfort food, including barbecue beef short ribs and chestnut fettuccine. 1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester; (610) 399-1390, dilworthtown.com.
Firecreek Restaurant + Bar
American, Latin, Asian and Italian flavors meld vibrantly at Firecreek, mirroring the lively atmosphere of the restaurant itself. The interior pairs the unrefined surfaces of this former paper mill with elegant colors and textures, and a fabulous al fresco bar and lounge offer panoramic views of the Brandywine River. If you’re lucky enough to come on a night when prime rib is available, take the plunge. 20 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown; (610) 269-6000, firecreek-restaurant.com.
Don’t let its small size fool you—seasoned chef Clark Gilbert’s labor of love packs a serious punch with its divine Italian fare and cozy, classy dining room. The service is seamless, and the seafood offerings and succulent pasta dishes are an omnivore’s delight, not to mention generous and affordable. We don’t mind the complimentary limoncello, either. 232 Woodbine Ave., Narberth; (610) 660-0160, gemellinarberth.com.
Georges Perrier offers a gentler, more dressed-down take on French and American cuisine here on the Main Line. Bouillabaisse and escargot share menu space with brick-oven pizza and Black Angus burgers; brunch features prime rib, in addition to the expected breakfast favorites; and the in-house bakery produces more than 15 varieties of artisan bread. We can’t get enough of the cheesesteak spring roll appetizer. Eagle Village Shops, 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; georgesonthemainline.com, (610) 964-2588.
There are no twists and turns to be found at Le Bec-Fin alum Peter Gilmore’s West Chester bastion of authentic French cuisine. Entrées like luscious galette de crabe with lemon buerre blanc and slow-braised lamb shank are the closest you’re likely to come to Parisian fine dining without a passport. And the pumpkin-spiced sticky bread pudding with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce is a flawless finish. 133 E. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 431-2800, gilmoresrestaurant.com.
High Street Caffe
The perfect place to satisfy that alligator craving, High Street Caffe plates everything from the exotic to the familiar in its New Orleans-inspired, Cajun-spiced kitchen. A spoonful of the andouille gumbo and a nibble on a firecracker crawfish tail will do more than just feed your appetite—it’ll raise your temperature and keep you coming back for more. 322 S. High St., West Chester; (610) 696-7435, highstreetcaffe.com.
Jake’s and Cooper’s Wine Bar
The focus of Jake’s and Cooper’s is twofold: Dish up all that is local and organic, and have fantastic wines at hand. Labels are hand-selected by general manager Cyril Addison and chef Bruce Cooper, and the menu stays true to its promise of sustainability without skimping on taste and texture. Need proof? Try the creamy butternut squash mac-and-cheese. 4365-67 Main St., Manayunk; (215) 483-0444, jakesrestaurant.com.
Kaya’s Fusion Cuisine
Michael and Jessica Hawthorne, the husband-and-wife team behind this eco-friendly BYO, define the “fusion” as “contemporary American with global influences.” On the menu, that’s translated to innovative starters like margarita mussels in tequila lime sauce and panko-crusted calamari, plus delectable entrées like edamame gnocchi and pan-seared duck breast with Gruyère polenta, caramelized onions and a pinot noir demi-glace. Be sure to leave room for a slice of Grandma’s award-winning chocolate-chip cheesecake. 5 Brookline Blvd., Havertown; (610) 446-2780, kayascuisine.com.
Spicy and almost sinful, the Indian fare at Khajuraho has been tempting Main Liners for 14 years. The sweat-inducing shrimp vindaloo, cinnamon-laced chai and savory lamb kebabs keep us coming back. Settle in amidst the (tastefully) erotic décor for an intimate dinner, or swing by for the lunch buffet—one of the yummiest deals in town. 12 Greenfield Ave., Ardmore; (610) 896-7200, khajurahoindia.com.
Lourdas Greek Taverna
Connoisseurs of Greek cuisine swear by the authentic food at this intimate BYO, whether it’s the savory spanakopitas (spinach and feta cheese wrapped in phyllo dough) or the heavenly baklava. More intricate flavors shine through in specialties like paidakia (grilled lamb chops) and the hearty moussaka (grilled eggplant baked with beef and béchamel sauce). 50 N. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 520-0288, lourdasgreektaverna.com.
Majolica is a long-standing gem in Phoenixville’s evolving downtown dining scene. Oddly enough, Andrew Deery’s eclectic cuisine—with its inventive New American and European influences and emphasis on freshness—really hit its stride after the economy tanked. Majolica briefly closed, only to reopen as a more affordable eatery. Welcome changes included a $30 prix-fixe meal on select weeknights, no corkage fee, and cooking demonstrations with Deery. 258 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (610) 917-0962, majolicarestaurant.com.
When it comes to Asian cuisine, Margaret Kuo’s sophisticated Wayne outpost offers the best of both worlds. Some of the freshest sushi on the Main Line can be had upstairs in the hip Akari Room. Or play it more traditional downstairs in the Dragon’s Lair room, where you can indulge in Chinese specialties like Kuo’s to-die-for Peking duck. Last year, the impressive wine list was honored with Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. 175 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 688-7200, margaretkuos.com.
No other Main Line restaurant can match Nectar’s chic vibe. Thankfully, the French-Asian fusion menu doesn’t disappoint, either. Arrive early to sample a Buddha Berry martini or lychee mojito. Dinner options include shrimp pad thai and beef tenderloin paired with succulent Nova Scotia lobster. The sushi is also stellar—particularly Nectar’s special rolls. We love the no-rice roll with yellowfin tuna, Alaskan wild salmon and striped bass. 1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn; (610) 725-9000, tastenectar.com.
Restaurant Alba’s stock rose even higher last year, when it added a full liquor license (though a BYO policy is still in effect). Chef/owner Sean Weinberg has been hailed for his championing of local, seasonal ingredients. His state-of-the-art wood-burning grill enhances the flavor of many of the dishes, including the slow-roasted suckling pig and the organic veal. Other highlights include the pumpkin ravioli and several homemade pasta dishes. 7 W. King St., Malvern; (610) 644-4009, restaurantalba.com.
Simon Pearce on the Brandywine
The powers-that-be at Simon Pearce made a major score when they hired chef Karen Nicolas, who’s occupied the kitchens at such acclaimed restaurants as New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Chicago’s Soul. Nicolas has made some welcome tweaks to the menu, without compromising the restaurant’s commitment to local farms and suppliers. Standouts include grass-fed beef loin, Lancaster pork belly, braised red grouper, and Pennsylvania duck. And the chocolate-peanut-fudge cake with butterscotch foam makes a delicious final impression. 1333 Lenape Road, West Chester; (610) 793-0949, simonpearce.com.
Chef/owner Nick Farrell offers an inspired take on the farm-to-table experience at Sovana Bistro, getting most of his ingredients from Chester County suppliers. Taking it a step further, his “100 mile” selections contain elements sourced from farms within that proximity to the restaurant. Kudos also to Farrell for his “Junior Foodies Menu”—with options like petite New York strip and house-made rigatoni—which recognizes that today’s kids want more than just chicken fingers and hot dogs. 696 Unionville Road, Kennett Square; (610) 444-5600, sovanabistro.com.
Stella Blu is known far and wide for its signature lobster mac-and-cheese, with generous hunks of Maine’s finest crustacean and an ultra-creamy blend of Asiago, Parmesan and goat cheeses. But there’s plenty more to keep us coming back to this popular bistro. Ample small-plate options—featuring mushroom ravioli, fried artichoke hearts, and lump crabmeat risotto—encourage sharing. And the entrée selection will satisfy any craving. Our favorites include the penne vodka and the pork tenderloin with applewood-smoked bacon. 101 Ford St., West Conshohocken; (610) 825-7060, stellablurestaurant.com.
Is it still worth waiting a year to eat at this internationally acclaimed spot? Judge for yourself. Gather seven to 11 of your favorite pals, pick a date, and make a reservation for one of Talula’s farm-table dinners. The culinary delights begin at 7 p.m., when you start to make your way through a four-hour, eight-course tasting menu of impossibly fresh, artfully prepared culinary bliss. 102 W. State St., Kennett Square; (610) 444-8255, talulastable.com.
Teikoku could be the forgotten middle child in the Win Signature family, which is perhaps more well known for its other restaurants, including Thai Pepper, Mikado, Azie, Parker’s Prime Steakhouse and Azie on Main. Teikoku’s more out-of-the-way location doesn’t help—but don’t let that deter you. Asian fusion standouts include the Thai seafood paella and sesame-crusted tuna—served Asian family style, so the whole table can share. And Teikoku’s sushi bar turns out unforgettable specialty rolls like the Godzilla, with shrimp tempura, eel, strawberries, avocado and crushed macadamia nuts. 5492 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square; (610) 644-8270, teikokurestaurant.com.
Verdad Restaurant and Tequila Bar
Your perception of Latin cuisine will never be the same after a meal at Verdad. Pomegranate guacamole with kiwi, strawberries and habañero, Kobe beef tacos and grilled octopus salad are just a few of the eclectic offerings from chef Nick Farina and company. Just don’t bypass the bar on your way in, with its more than 30 brands of tequila and a tempting selection of cocktails and sangria. 818 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 520-9100, verdadrestaurant.com.
The Capital Grille
Main Liners recently welcomed this venerable chain with open arms to KOP. It’s tough not to love the rich, mahogany paneling, art deco chandeliers and impeccable service (they didn’t win an Achievement of Excellence Award from the American Culinary Federation for nothing). Menu highlights include perfectly cooked dry-aged steaks, lobster-and-sherry bisque, and a massive wine list. 236 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia; (610) 265-1415, thecapitalgrille.com.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
If you like a little flash with your dinner, the 1,600-degree oven at Fleming’s puts on quite a performance, quickly sealing in the flavor of the restaurant’s signature dry-aged steaks. On the side, mashed potatoes are smothered in jalapeños and cheddar, and the mac-and-cheese is spiked with zesty chipotles. For an interactive element, go for a custom wine flight: 2-ounce pours of your choice, all perched on a display rack dubbed the Wine Vine. 555 E. Lancaster Ave., Radnor; (610) 688-9463, flemingssteakhouse.com.
Iron Hill Restaurant & Brewery
A chain with its heart—and headquarters—close to home, Delaware-based Iron Hill matches its award-winning handcrafted beers with consistently excellent casual cuisine. With one of the largest gluten-free menus in the area, a hefty selection of healthy entrées (don’t worry, they have chicken pot pie and meatloaf, too), plus a huge kids’ menu, you’ll never have to worry about someone not leaving full or happy. And be sure to check out the monthly microbrews and bottled reserve beers. Various locations, ironhillbrewery.com.
Legal Sea Foods
A family-owned seafood market-turned-chain, Legal Sea Foods feels more like a neighborhood spot than an East Coast powerhouse. It sources all fish from ecologically respectable fisheries; they banned trans fats before it was trendy to do so; and servers ask every diner about allergies and dietary restrictions before heading back to the kitchen—all practices that show a respect for customers and the food. And if their New England clam chowder is good enough for the presidential inauguration, then it’s good enough for us. 690 W. Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia; (610) 265-5566, legalseafoods.com.
Those still clinging to their New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds will find a kindred spirit in Seasons 52 and its fresh-can-be-fabulous philosophy. Focusing on seasonal ingredients and an ever-changing menu, the chefs go light on the oil, opting for preparations that emphasize flavor over fat. Nothing on the menu is more than 475 calories—even dessert. And low-sodium, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options are the norm. 160 N. Gulph Road, King of Prussia; (610) 992-1152, seasons52.com.
Cedar Hollow Inn
Located near Great Valley’s phalanx of corporate offices, Cedar Hollow boasts a New American menu that’s basically a vendetta against boring food. And though we can’t offer any scientific proof, the sublime Japanese sea bass (with Parmesan herb risotto, prawns and broccoli rabe) and the red snapper (stuffed with crab and mozzarella cheese, broiled with white wine and butter) might just extend your life expectancy if you eat them every day. 2455 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern; (610) 296-9006, cedarhollowinn.com.
D’Ignazio’s Towne House
The Towne House was founded in 1951 by Silvio “Babe” D’Ignazio in a pedestrian rowhouse, but more rooms were added as the years went by—and the restaurant has won so many awards that it practically needs a separate room to hold them all. Our favorite night is Thursday, when you can order a three-course dinner for just $19.99. 117 Veterans Square, Media; (610) 566-6141, townehouse.com.
Duling-Kurtz House & Country Inn
A Chester County treasure where blandness is never on the menu, Duling-Kurtz offers a selection that matches the Continental elegance of its setting. Regulars swear by the sautéed Scottish salmon with creamed celery root, brussels sprouts and horseradish sauce, as well as crêpes with lobster, crabmeat and a divine lobster-Brie sauce. 146 S. Whitford Road, Exton; (610) 524-1830, dulingkurtz.com.
General Warren Inne
This “inne” has been around since before George Washington ever heard of the Delaware River. Yet another palace of contemporary Continental gastronomy in Chester County’s history, it has wisely adjusted to the present by adding a recession-fighting three-courses-for-$30 option Mondays to Thursdays. It’s already become a family favorite in many local households. 9 Old Lancaster Road, Malvern; (610) 296-3637, generalwarren.com.
Mendenhall Inn Restaurant
The property on which the Mendenhall sits was settled in 1703. The restaurant was opened in 1968, and a 70-room hotel was added in 1990. One of several themed nights we’ve enjoyed is the “Wine & Dine” every Friday and Saturday, which offers roasted prime rib and a glass of red wine, or house-made crab cakes with a glass of white—all for just $19.99. 323 Kennett Pike (Route 52), Mendenhall; (610) 388-1181, mendenhallinn.com.
Formerly the Newtown Squire and then Alberto’s Authentic Italian Cuisine & Steakhouse, the Newtown Grill came about shortly after the recession hit in the autumn of 2008. The huge (300-plus seats) restaurant on a 4-acre property has long been a favorite venue for weddings, private parties and business meetings. But it’s also now a magnet for couples and foursomes thanks to its reasonably priced steaks and Italian dishes. For special occasions, reserve the wine cellar, built by European master bricklayers. 191 S. Newtown Square Road, Newtown Square; (610) 356-9700, thenewtowngrill.com.
Old Guard House Inn
Defined by a 200-year-old building resembling a log cabin, the Guard House has won every local award imaginable in the past few years. Zagat once wrote that diners “should be prepared to drop big bucks,” but that’s no longer the case. Owner/chef Albert Breuers has instituted a $30-for-three-courses policy Sunday to Thursday, which we’ve gladly taken advantage of many times. It’s one of the best dollar-stretching deals around. 953 Youngsford Road, Gladwyne; (610) 649-9708, guardhouseinn.com.
Ron’s Original Bar & Grille
Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary (though owner Ron Inverso insists, “We don’t look a day over 2”), Ron’s is known for its craft beers, live entertainment, and happy hours with half-price eats and $4 flavored martinis. Other draws are Pasta Date Night on Thursdays (two free desserts with two pasta dishes), seven hi-def TVs, plus $2 beers and discounted vittles during Eagles and Flyers games. 74 E. Uwchlan Ave., Exton; (610) 594-9900, ronsoriginal.com.
A fixture at the Bryn Mawr train station since 2000, Tango has pretty much been beehive busy since day one, thanks to an eclectic menu, its accessible location, beautifully appointed décor and reasonable prices. Its “preferred guest” program provides benefits for regulars, including a free entrée on your birthday (which we take advantage of every year). And Tango is environmentally friendly, with 88 panels on its roof supplying solar power. 39 Morris Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 526-9500, tastetango.com.
Much to the delight of diners in Chester County and beyond, Vickers owner Arturo Burigatto reopened this historic establishment in 2008. Thankfully, everything that made its exceptional culinary experience praiseworthy the first time around has been reinstated: sharp service, elegant dining rooms and great Continental cuisine. Menu highlights include Dover sole and steak Diane flambé, both prepared table-side. If you’re in the mood for something a little more low-key, try the Tavern Room, with its light-dinner menu. 192 E. Welsh Pool Road, Exton; (610) 363-7998, vickersrestaurant.com.
The Whip Tavern
This English-style pub in the middle of horse country offers some of the best classic comfort food in the region. With characteristic modesty, servers have been known to tell customers, “The British are renowned for their food, and our staff is renowned for its full set of teeth.” Executive chef Wyatt P. Lash Jr. prepares knockout Scotch eggs, Welsh rarebit, and bangers and mash—all with a jeweler’s precision. 1383 N. Chatham Road, Coatesville; (610) 383-0600, thewhiptavern.com.
If Yangming has one negative, it’s that its parking lot is usually full. Chinese Restaurant News named this 20-year-old spot the second best Chinese restaurant in the nation. Don’t miss the spectacular annual seven-course Chinese New Year Banquet ($49.95 per person) through Feb. 26. 1051 Conestoga Road, Bryn Mawr; (610) 527-3200, yangmingrestaurant.com.