White Dog Café 3.0

The restaurant brings its same farmhouse charm and all-local menu to Haverford.

Since buying the White Dog Cafe from founder Judy Wicks in 2009, Marty Grims has looked to the suburbs to expand his local-food concept’s footprint.

First came Wayne in 2010, which quickly developed acclaim for its impeccable brunch and be-seen, dog-themed atmosphere. Now, White Dog 3.0 has blossomed in Haverford Square.

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The collaboration between Balongue Design and David Semerjian Builders created a small-town charm that beams from its residential locale. Life-size iron dogs greet guests at the main entrance, while neighborly dressings—a rainbow of window boxes, well-groomed plants, café tables—dot the façade.

raspberry-almond tart//photos by steve legato

 from left: service with some style; the bar

Among the three farmhouse-style spaces inside, the familiar White Dog energy comes alive. Warm wood paneling is coupled with masculine vintage accents. Whimsical fabrics and prints wrap mismatched furniture. Colander chandeliers sprinkle beams of light throughout. The White Dog staples are there, too, including large-format paintings of regal dogs by Philly artist Jay McClellan.

The mantra of sustainability trumpets from an all-local menu, spotlighting select humanely raised animals and produce sourced only from farms within 50 miles. Specific to Grims’ newest kitchen is chef Mike Selser, who has clocked many years at all three White Dogs.

Respect for sustainability runs especially strong in the raw bar menu, which features a rotating mix of East Coast- and West Coast-sourced oysters that get lively with black-pepper mignonette. The salmon crudo is intricately composed and vibrant in flavor and texture—our favorite of the night. As if miraculously placed with the flick of tweezers, paper-thin jalapeño slices and radishes were tucked aside pickled ramps and a pool of quality lemon olive oil.

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from left: White Dog’s take on ham and cheese; Scottish salmon crudo with jalapeño, citrus, watermelon radish and lemon olive oil

The Green Meadow steak tartare, crafted from the farm’s hand-butchered beef, was equally memorable, arriving atop crisp flatbread crackers and crowned with a golden, still-in-the-shell quail egg. We continued our love of cauliflower by sampling the curried, roasted variety. Firm and satisfying, it graced a pillow of dill yogurt. Golden raisins relieved the spice.

Wholesome pastas, interesting seafood, and generous cuts of protein complete the menu, each an inventive twist on a classic—Bolognese with basil-whipped ricotta, rainbow trout with tahini vinaigrette, and roast chicken with spicy tomato jam.

Dedication to garden-based compositions spills over to the bar menu, where drinks are assembled with additives like black-pepper strawberries, rose water, and long hot peppers. Though creative, the barkeeps may have gone too off-center with their summer cocktail, the Rouse, which muddles earthy beets with egg whites and Fortis gin. We’ll stick with the well-curated beer selection, built solely on those varieties brewed within 300 miles.

White Dog Cafe’s wild Alaskan halibut.

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THE SKINNY: Be prepared for more from Marty Grims in 2015. He’s bought another behemoth of a former restaurant—once Peppercorn and Georges’—in Wayne’s Eagle Village Shops. We’re certainly eager to experience his next act. For now, though, we’re happy with this Haverford charmer.

WHITE DOG CAFE  379 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, (610) 896-4556. 
Cuisine: Farm-fresh, local contemporary American. 
Cost: $25-$35. 
Attire: Stylishly casual. 
Atmosphere: Modern farmhouse with a touch of whimsy and an air of pretension. 
Hours: Lunch and brunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday. Dinner: 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. 
Extras: Weekend brunch. 

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