» Don’t judge a book by its cover: The no-frills curb appeal of Don Gabriel’s (in an old Wawa at 611 W. Strasburg Road, West Chester, 610-431-3212) hasn’t scared off adventurous foodies who rave about its affordable, simple, refreshingly authentic Mexican cuisine. Customer favorites include the tacos al pastor and barbacoa, the spicy and smoky chipotle-laden chicken tinga, and the peppery-sweet pulled-pork burritos with pineapples. The Mexican sodas and juices also get a big thumbs-up. BYO and cash only.
» Reincarnation alert: Formerly Johnny K.’s Coastal Cuisine and the original Carmine’s, Kaya’s Fusion Cuisine (5 Brookline Blvd., Havertown; kayascuisine.com, 610-446-2780) is the lifelong dream of Michael Hawthorne, its self-taught chef and owner (with wife Jessica). Hawthorne keeps it local with ingredients from the Oakmont and Ardmore farmers’ markets. Bloggers give a shout-out to the panko-dusted crab cakes served over avocado, jalapeño and cilantro emulsion, and the menu has plenty of other showy offerings. Sous chef Mike Brown “came with the restaurant,” and the grandma behind the cheesecake is for real.