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Where Are the 'Hidden-Gem' Restaurants?

Right here! The Main Line hospitality guru shares eight of his favorite “secret” restaurants.

Louise U. of Broomall writes: I’ve lived in this area for my entire life (65 years young) and have dined at so many of the same places. Do you have any “hidden gem” restaurants to share? (Affordable ones, please!)

Hi Louise,

Don’t you just love those off-the-radar restaurant finds? To me, there’s nothing like a special discovery, the unassuming eatery that has remained fairly clandestine, even during these times of celebrity chefs and online foodie hyperactivity. Here are a few of my favorite local gems. Visit and enjoy, but shhh—they’re our little secret!
Café Rende
1053 Dekalb Pike, Bridgeport; (610) 275-2330,
On the fringe of workaday Bridgeport sits this cute gift shop/lunch spot, where owner Pam Rende and her father, Bob, offer weekday lunches in a whimsical cottage setting. The fare is simple but good, with a daily selection of three light and healthy sandwiches, plus wraps and salads—each denoted with a Weight Watchers point counter. In the mood for tasty soups? Bob’s turkey chili is delish. Café Rende is also perfect for baby showers and such.
Becca’s Restaurant
19 S. Whitehorse Road, Phoenixville; (484) 924-8502,
Word has yet to fully spread about chef/owner Robert Bahm and this outstanding charmer. His menu offers seasonal, organic inspirations at lunch and dinnertime. The historic enclave formally housed the Twin Bays Café. With several private rooms, affordable pricing and ample parking, this BYOB is a must-know for local restaurant-goers.
Allegria Ristorante Italiano
The Whip Tavern's grilled filet mignon with Stilton cheese and smoked bacon risotto. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)8 Welsh Pool Road, Exton; (610) 524-6060,
Some call it “the little pink place behind Ron’s,” but this cozy house/restaurant is quite the mystery to others—even local residents. Owners Salvatore and Giuseppa D’Aprano reside upstairs. He’s the chef, and she serves their homey Italian specialties, including tender veal, fresh fish and a toothsome risotto.
The Whip Tavern
1383 N. Chatham Road, Coatesville; (610) 383-0600,
It’s not that you don’t know about this authentic English tavern; rather, you may not have braved a trek along winding hunt-country roads for hearty, satisfying fare that includes shepherd’s pie, Guinness lamb stew, and the comfort-food classic, Beef on Weck. The Whip pours a fine selection of beers and offers pub conviviality by a working fireplace—both coaxing reasons to make that trip.
The Station Bistro
1300 Hares Hill Road, Kimberton; (610) 933-1147,
With its thick, stone walls, piney ceiling beams and blue granite flooring, this adorable café charms the village gentry from breakfast to dinner. Owners Nancy and Craig Miller take a creative, affordable approach to their colonial BYOB. Sure, their New American cuisines offer vast deliciousness, but what you wouldn’t expect are the best smoked beef ribs this side of the big city, thanks to Craig’s heavy-duty smoker and those special homemade sauces.
Casmar Café
101 E. Seventh Ave., Conshohocken, (610) 828-3849
Most of the workers who populate Conshy’s office towers have never heard of this side-street café—and why should they have? It’s just a dive-y shot-and-beer joint, where the best decoration is a buzzing neon beer sign and the menu of simple soups, salads, sandwiches and platters won’t win any culinary awards. Still, there’s untold substance to that menu. The sandwiches and salads are huge and fresh. The cheesesteak absolutely rocks. And the Casmar chili, albeit unfancy, is a true yardstick of saucy beef-and-bean-dom. The Casmar is as “Conshy classic” as it gets, including its food.
The Café at Radnor Court
259 Radnor-Chester Road, Radnor,
Radnor Court is a corporate center with something different inside: aroma! Garlic, basil and tomatoes resonate through the spacious atrium one day, then cheeses or fresh-baked breads the next. Where most take-out office cafeterias are just a meat slicer and a fridge of premade salads, this diminutive counter provides scratch-made soups (some of the best you’ll find on the Main Line), wraps and daily specials. It’s why so many nearby corporate types flock here at lunchtime, and then leave so happy.
Fresco Pizza Grill
228 S. Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square; (610) 356-4171,
The inevitable follow-up to “Is the place any good?” is usually “Would you order the fish?” If yes, it’s pretty much a sure bet that the rest of the menu is fair game. Indeed, I’ve ordered Fresco’s fish: a fresh bowl of broth-y mussels, a plate of tender grilled calamari, and a delightful Parmesan-encrusted rockfish. And so many other items are on the menu at this family-friendly, fresco-filled eatery: pastas, panini, bountiful salads, and yummy stone-fired pizzas, which are homemade down to the dough and sauce.

Hospitably Yours,

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