THE SCENE: It’s been two decades since I’ve stopped by 629 W. Lancaster Ave. That was well before the Main Line could claim any kind of dining scene outside Villa Strafford, L’Auberge and Taquet—when a night out meant either hanging out with divorcées and well-to-do 20-somethings at the Wayne Hotel, or kicking it old-school at places like Smokey Joe’s and the Main Lion (the ’80s incarnation at the above address).
The local bar scene has gotten a lot more upscale since then, as has the corner of Lancaster and Old Eagle School Road. Its latest tenant, The Paddock at Devon, comes courtesy of partners Steve Finley of Finley Catering (Crystal Tea Room, Ballroom at the Ben) and Joe Carney of Carney’s in Cape May, N.J.
The doors opened last November, and judging by the weekend crowds, The Paddock is quickly becoming Main Liners’ watering hole of choice.
The restaurant’s focal point is an enormous rectangular bar, accented overhead with skylights and tricked out with a granite top, sleek, cushioned high-back stools, and a half-dozen flat-screen televisions. There’s also plenty of space surrounding the bar—and that’s a good thing, since crowds have been six-deep on weekends.
In the main dining room, a wall-length mural and divider crafted out of horseshoes pay homage to the paddock theme. Narrow slate “bricks” and Tuscan shades of yellow and rust echo Main Line stone homes and garden walls. At the bar’s dining tables, vivid green seats add a contemporary flair.
The private dining room is more traditional, with a fireplace, linen-topped tables, plush chairs and carpeting. There’s also a semiprivate dining area with retractable doors that open to the bar—so guests can be part of the action, but not in the middle of it—and a large flat-screen TV. Expect crowds of all ages—everything from families with young kids to seniors sipping martinis.
THE FOOD: Executive chef Jeffrey Ebert hails from Finley Catering—and he definitely knows his way around a burger. Both times we ordered them, they arrived in a perfect state of medium-rare—charred on the outside and pink throughout—and plenty big. Even better, the staff doesn’t get bent out of shape over special topping requests—or when you ask to swap fries for a salad.
Speaking of fries, there are three different kinds, plus the crispy house fries that come with sandwiches and burgers. The crab fries—with slivers of actual crab meat—are a fine idea; they’d be a sure hit if the kitchen amped up the Old Bay and crab portions. The creamy Mornay dipping sauce works, but a spicy rémoulade or aioli would be even better. The truffle fries are also a nice idea, but some thinly shredded Parmesan cheese would be the perfect accompaniment.
I enjoyed the tuna entrée—a massive piece of coriander-crusted Ahi napped with a spice-garlic sauce and served with glistening, al dente shiitake mushrooms and wakame (seaweed) salad. The Norwegian salmon was a tasty but petite combination of sautéed spinach, roasted peppers and Gruyère cheese—all dressed with the same Mornay sauce that accompanies the crab fries.
Salads are popular at The Paddock for good reason. They’re sizable and come in various tasty amalgamations, including the Paddock Cobb (house-roasted turkey, bacon, eggs, avocado, cheddar and bleu cheese tossed in a roasted tomato vinaigrette) and the Italian Hoagie (all the usual suspects, minus the roll). Add a modest portion of salmon or shrimp to the Caesar and spinach salads for another $5.
We would’ve enjoyed sampling the cheesesteak spring rolls, but they never arrived at our table—nor did the Jack Daniel’s BBQ tenders. The linguini pescatore arrived with a fair portion of mussels, clams, tiger shrimp and calamari, but its white sauce was bland.
I haven’t sampled the crab-and-corn chowder that I’ve been hearing about. But if you’re going in that direction, the buzz has been positive.
THE EXPERIENCE: One visit to The Paddock began with a well-meaning, courteous server trying to remove a puddle of wax from the center of the table. He had sanitation on his mind and went at it with some type of solvent that wound up dispersing the wax all over the table. Honestly, I felt bad for the guy—and after his efforts were unsuccessful, we were moved to another table.
Throughout the meal, several items were simply forgotten, and no one acknowledged the oversights. The items weren’t on the bill, so we left it alone. Though it didn’t ruin the meal, it did leave us shaking our heads.
THE SKINNY: A lot of action awaits at The Paddock—especially on weekends, when there’s live music and dancing. Even during the week, special events abound—like sushi, prime rib and family nights, karaoke, Quizzo, and happy hours.
A typical Saturday night showcases the many facets of this unpretentious spot. Flirting, talking and laughing are the norm at the bar, a family dynamic isn’t out of the ordinary in the main dining room, a mix of couples and groups typically fills the semiprivate area, and private parties occur with regularity. Clearly, local crowds are embracing The Paddock.
Along with a few tweaks to the food and service, the beer list would benefit from a few more unique—and local—options. The paddock theme could be played up more in the décor and menu. Riding crops, worn saddles, stirrups and vintage shots of the Devon Horse Show wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Done right, the horsy angle would add character and personality to this already personable spot.
Location: 629 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 687-3533, devonpaddock.com
Cost: Entrées $15-$23, sandwiches and burgers $8-$10
Atmosphere: Low-key and unstuffy
Hours: 11 a.m.-12 a.m. daily; Sunday brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Extras: Dancing, entertainment, fireplace, late-night menu, private party facilities