2011 Restaurant Redux

by artfuldiner on December 27, 2011

in Opinion, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Listed below are synopses of the twelve (12) Pennsylvania restaurants reviewed during 2011. Complete reviews of these establishments may be accessed at www.artfuldiner.com/Philly.html.


aneu-interiorANEU BISTRO & WINE BAR, 575 Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn, Pa, (610) 251-9600, www.aneubistro.com: After extensive interior renovations – the installation of an attractive cream & ivory marble-topped bar, and a completely revamped menu – the former Meridith’s emerged as Aneu, which, roughly translated from the Greek, means “without.” Despite these cosmetic changes, however, a number of the problems that plagued the old Meridith’s have remained to haunt Aneu. At times the service seems like organized chaos; and the food, American bistro fare, is very much a “mixed bag.” And these latter inconsistencies are particularly disconcerting, as the kitchen is obviously capable of turning out first-rate cuisine. But despite these shortcomings, it’s difficult not to like Aneu. And since this review was originally published in February, hopefully, should you decide to pay a call, many of these issues will have been resolved.


ANTIGUA GUATEMALA, 119 South Main Street, Phoenixville, PA, (610) 935-2700: Making its debut on June 26, 2010, Antigua Guatemala is presided over by chef/proprietor Angel Salguero and his extended family. Casual is obviously the name of the game here, in ambiance (paper napkins & colorful plastic tablecloths prevail), as well as in attitude (our waitress was a dedicated disciple of the “You Guys” school of food service epistemology). Be that as it may, the restaurant will certainly provide diners with an enjoyable – albeit slightly innocuous – introduction to its indigenous cuisine. So forget any notions you have about incinerating your delicate nether regions; unlike Mexican vittles, which can be rather spicy, Guatemalan cuisine tends to be on the bland side… particularly at Antigua, where many of the offerings are WOEFULLY under-seasoned. On the other hand, portion sizes are prodigious and the prices ridiculously low. Stick with items like the Guatemalan-style steak, fire-grilled chicken, fajitas, and the incredibly sumptuous black bean purée and you can’t go wrong. BYOB.


birchrunville-interior2BIRCHRUNVILLE STORE CAFÉ, 1403 Hollow Road, Birchrunville, PA, (610) 827-9002, www.birchrunvillestorecafe.com: The Birchrunville Store Café has been highly praised by restaurant critics and the dining public alike… and generally with good reason. The setting, of course, pure bucolic bliss, is obviously a big draw. Twelve wooden tables, lace trimmings, and a plethoric variety of melting candles set off set off the cozy dining area. But it is chef/proprietor Francis Trzeciak’s innovative French/Italian cuisine that draws patrons over the meadow and through the woods into the hinterlands and continues to make reservations exceedingly difficult to snare. During two visits, I encountered only one or two faux pas – like a tough and fatty porterhouse of veal, for instance – but, for the most part, Mr. Trzeciak’s preparations and presentations are impeccable. The restaurant accepts cash or check only; no credit cards. BYOB.


COPPERFIELD INN AT LAKESIDE, 594 Ridge Pike, Limerick, PA, (484) 938-7082, www.copperfieldinn.net: The Copperfield is, in reality, two restaurants in one. With its spacious ballroom, it caters to the birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, banquets crowd… On the other hand, its cozy bar/dining room is just right for couples and small groups who wish to enjoy a casual lunch or dinner. And the food, like the restaurant itself, is something of a dichotomy. Lunch here has been excellent, with first-rate sandwiches and burgers leading the way. Dinner offerings, however, fall short of the mark. The homemade meatloaf, for example, was drowned beneath a cloyingly sweet barbecue sauce and the mushroom ravioli was decidedly chewy and its red and yellow pepper sauces the bland leading the bland. Service, like the food, appears to be the luck of the draw. It can be right on the money or slower than a herd of turtles. Stop in for lunch and you probably won’t be disappointed. Definitely your call.


creeds-barCREED’S SEAFOOD & STEAKS, 499 North Gulph Road, King of Prussia, PA, (610) 265-2550, www.creedskop.com: I first reviewed Creed’s over seven years ago; and the food and service have remained models of consistency. The convivial bar/lounge is the perfect spot to enjoy a preprandial libation, as designer martinis are much in evidence, along with a smattering of foreign & domestic brews and some very nice wine selections by the glass. Among the starters, the dirty blond ale steamed mussels are something of a must. Plump and succulent, they swim to table in a flavorful broth embellished with house-smoked andouille sausage, caramelized sweet onions, fresh tomatoes, and tri-colored peppers. When it comes to entrées, both red meat and finny fare may be matched up with sauces of your choice, and all are served up with equal aplomb. There is absolutely no question that dining at Creed’s is an expensive proposition – and seems to get more expensive with every visit – but this is one restaurant that most assuredly gives you your money’s worth… and, in my opinion, infinitely more.


FISH. 1708 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, PA, (215) 545-9600, www.fishphilly.com: fish., the middle sibling of Chef Mike Stollenwerk’s triptych of casual seafood eateries, is domiciled in the diminutive two-room townhouse that was home to the long-running Astral Plane. The tiny 9-stool bar serves up a host of exotic libations, boutique brews, and several excellent wines by the glass. Mr. Stollenwerk’s approach to seafood is innovative – perhaps “quirky” would be a better word – to say the least. Oxymoronically, for example, while fish. Is sea-centric to the core, the chef has a rather odd habit of incorporating various meats into his recipes. But such an idiosyncratic approach to cuisine has its liabilities as well as its assets; and a number of his beautifully conceived dishes are either hopelessly convoluted or simply sabotaged by too much of a good thing. Mr. Stollenwerk is obviously extremely talented, and his culinary creations are often inspiring… but sometimes more is less… and less is more.


KRAZY KAT’S RESTAURANT, The Inn at Montchanin Village, Route 100 & Kirk Road, Montchanin, DE, (302) 888-4200, www.krazykatsrestaurant.com: Ensconced within the posh precincts of the Inn at Montchanin Village, a lovingly restored 19th century hamlet replete with 28 luxury guestrooms & suites, Krazy Kat’s exterior seems perfectly normal… Cross the threshold, however, and you appear to have entered a galaxy far, far away, as the interior is furbished with a variety of portraits of cats (and dogs) adorned in various shades of sartorial finery; and the cushy upholstered chairs are decked out in faux animal skins. Bizarre…? Definitely different. But don’t be fooled by Krazy Kat’s whimsical feline (and canine) decor, there’s some serious eclectic cookery going on here, which continues to make this restaurant an exceedingly popular dining destination. So if you happen to find yourself anywhere in the vicinity – or are simply in the mood for an enjoyable gastronomic sojourn – Krazy Kat’s is definitely worth a visit.


pepperoncini-sotto-exteriorPEPPERONCINI SOTTO, 184 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, PA (484) 924-8429, www.pepperoncinirestaurant.com/sotto: Pepperoncini Sotto is the younger – and slightly more spacious – sibling of Pepperoncini in Conshohocken. Sotto in Italian means “under.” And, in this sense, the establishment is surely well named, as it is tucked away deep within the bowels of the Mainstay Hotel. Tables here are large and well spaced, and the kitchen sends forth a plethoric variety of hearty Italian classics. And you have the option of going the traditional appetizer/entrée route or mixing and matching a number of small plates to constitute your meal. Pizza, though, is an absolute must. It is of the crispy thin crust variety and topped with a mozzarella blend of cheese, fresh herb marinara, and a host of extras. If you enjoy authentic Italian cuisine served up in generous portions backed by personable service and reasonable prices, Pepperoncini Sotto should be high on your culinary agenda. Just one caveat: The restaurant is situated in an old building and it is NOT handicapped accessible.


SILVERSPOON CAFÉ, Eagle Village Shops, 503 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, PA, (610) 688-7646, www.silverspoonwayne.com: Sequestered away behind georges’ restaurant, this culinary gem is no secret to Main Line foodies. They know a good thing when they taste it; and they continue to pack the Silverspoon at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is a casually welcoming space. Large windows flood the restaurant with sunlight by day, while evenings are transformed into a relaxed candle-lit dining experience. The ever-changing seasonal American menu is always a treat; and executive chef Ron Silverberg has a talent for melding a variety of complementary & contrasting ingredients into exciting gastronomic gestalts. Everything at the Silverspoon Café is homemade, including the desserts. Cuisine of this quality, of course, is not inexpensive. But the fact that you may BYOB certainly helps to mitigate the upscale prices. Highly recommended on all counts.


spice-kitchen-papadumsSPICE KITCHEN, 2717 West Main Street, Trooper, PA, (610) 910-3535, www.spicekitchenonline.com: Domiciled in a Ridge Pike strip mall, the Spice Kitchen is one of the best Indian restaurants I have encountered in quite some time. The interior is simple & sedate, boasting handsome light & dark orange-tinted walls, crisp white tablecloths & maroon cloth napkins. And the food… It is pristinely fresh, made to order, and seductively seasoned. Among the appetizers, the chaats – the Indian equivalents of salad – are particularly noteworthy. The “Chicken 65,” generous chunks of boneless chicken breast marinated in a variety of red-tinged spices and yogurt flavored with curry leaves and ginger garlic, is another highly recommended prelude. Main courses continue the kitchen’s exemplary work. The lamb saag (spinach) is beautifully seasoned and the lamb is melt-in-your-mouth tender. And the chicken tikka masala – succulent pieces of boneless breast teamed with an addictively creamy tomato/onion sauce – is difficult to resist. BYOB.


THYME CAFÉ, 3120 Ridge Pike, Eagleville, PA (610) 539-0111, www.thymecafe.net: Housed in a rather generic structure on Ridge Pike, there’s nothing but a nondescript sign announcing the restaurant’s presence…There is, however, plenty of magic on the inside. You pass the take-out counter and hang a right into the chic but decidedly comfortable diminutive dining room decked out in contrasting white- and pumpkin-tinted walls. The eclectic menu has a bit of everything – from breakfast burritos to Korean tacos – and all are carefully and lovingly prepared. Since the restaurant’s debut, proprietor Andrew Lee has been serving breakfast & lunch; but he also recently inaugurated dinner service as well. And while this establishment is always worthy of a visit, it is, in my opinion, better suited to a casual breakfast or lunch than a more upscale evening rendezvous. The Thyme Café is a locally-owned, independent restaurant that offers patrons excellent food served in a casual, customer-friendly environment at reasonable prices. And those culinary commodities are increasingly difficult to come by in this fast food age of cookie cutter chain chophouses. BYOB.


washington-house-fried-dill-picklesWASHINGTON HOUSE, 136 North Main Street, Sellersville, PA (215) 257-3000, www.washingtonhouse.net: Built circa 1742 as a small frame farmhouse, the Washington House was subsequently purchased & significantly enlarged by Samuel Sellers; in 1856, “Sellers Tavern” was sold to the North Pennsylvania Railroad, which added the ornate Victorian bar and distinctive cupola. Patrons can actually check out the history of the building and the town by taking a nine station self-guided tour through the restaurant. Fortunately, when hunger pangs intrude upon historical pursuits, you find yourself in the right place. The menu is an eclectic amalgam with a pronounced Pennsylvania Dutch/German accent. The Wiener schnitzel, for example, is one of the best representatives I’ve sampled this side of the Atlantic; and the presentation of Prussian pork & caraway meatballs with noodles is utterly sumptuous. But if there is one dish that is not to be missed, it is surely the superlative side of fried dill pickles paired with a fabulously flavorful lemon-tarragon aïoli dipping sauce. The restaurant is also affiliated with the adjacent Sellersville Theater.


Bon Appétit!



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