Tim K. of Phoenixville writes: Can you suggest any really good gastropubs in the western suburbs?
When I think about the term gastropub, three distinct restaurant characteristics come to mind—conviviality, creativity and affordability—followed quickly by two menu descriptors—hearty and local.
Unlike the more typical American tavern, which may offer decent to very good food, a pub should lack pretension yet contain substance through an imaginative chef-driven menu in order to gain that “gastro” title.
Furthermore, there should be beer—lots of it. The more crafted the selection, the better. Pubs score extra points if consideration is also given to an interesting wine list, which shows remembrance that some patrons prefer grapes over grains.
Below is a list of three tried-and-true gastropubs. Each one excels in offering a great-food-meets-craft-beer experience. I follow them up with a couple of other good local operations: restaurants that may or may not be actual “gastropubs” yet do extremely well at providing a decidedly hoppy experience—with tasty food to match.
Teresa’s Next Door
124 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne; (610) 293-9909, teresas-cafe.com
As I scanned over the sleek, blue granite bar, stylish cherrywood booths and dark slate floor, my first thought upon entering Teresa’s Next Door was, “Where are the TVs?” No ranting ESPN commentators in their closed-captioned screaming-silence greeted me—thankfully. I just saw lots of happily consuming diners. Co-owner Andrew Dickerson later explained: “Not having televisions was a conscious decision. They give everyone a cramped neck, and people get hypnotized by a muted TV set. Instead, we encourage conversation.”
The sister site to Dickerson’s cozy Italian Teresa’s Café, this “next door” operation has become known as one of the best gastropubs west of the city line, thanks to the ever-revolving selection of 26 draft beers (200 by the bottle) and a Belgian-centric menu that offers classics like garlicky mussels, steak frites and braised rabbit-loin “bunny bites.” This gastro-package is made complete with a well-thought-out wine list, a glassy parade of bar-top bottles to impress most any oenophile.
In short, Teresa’s Next Door always provides great food, drink and conversation, without the incessant NFL highlights reel running overhead.
822 Fayette St., Conshohocken; (484) 532-7300, thestoneroserestaurant.com
One part gastropub and one part neighborhood taproom, this way-popular yet decidedly diminutive storefront in downtown Conshy has become the default watering hole for corporate lunch-timers. And after work, they pour out of their glass office towers and into the StoneRose for a raucous happy hour.
The StoneRose also has something special for the dinnertime trade. Executive chef Jason Mase’s tender, juicy touches all pair perfectly with a long list of local craft beers. The highlights include braised short ribs over mac-and-cheese, pan-seared sweet diver scallops and crispy fried pork belly. Go hungry, and get thirsty. You may have to wait awhile for your table, but it will be well worth it.
Craft Ale House
708 W. Ridge Pike, Limerick; (484) 932-8180, craftalehouse.com
This one could’ve been, simply, “The Ale House,” just like so many nearby dives before it. Instead, owner Gary Fry went the “craft” route, focusing on a round-robin of beery ambrosia. Know that Fry isn’t messing around; his kitchen is serious about doing things the right way. Crispy fish-and-chips, a killer Italian roast pork sandwich, buttermilk tenders, amazing hand-cut fries—they are some of the tasty testaments to this pursuit of true gastro-ness.
Aim the car up Route 422 toward those steaming power-plant smokestacks in Limerick. Craft Ale House is practically under their looming shadows. It’s a definite find along the hinterlands.
Other Pub Notables
TJ’s Restaurant & Drinkery
35 Paoli Plaza, Paoli; (610) 725-0100, tjseveryday.com
Suggestion: Try the “arrogant chipotle chili,” Hop Devil Buffalo wings, or one of the Main Line’s best burgers.
The Pub of Penn Valley
863 Montgomery Ave., Narberth; (610) 664-1901, pubofpennvalley.com
Suggestion: The fried pierogies are yummy, and patrons swear by the sautéed calves’ liver with onions and bacon.
Have fun getting gastro, Tim. Please let me know where you end up.
Share your favorite gastropub by commenting below.