Taste West Chester - Spring/Summer 2020

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Produced & Published by The WC Press



In The Kitchen Meet the minds at

ROOTS CAFÉ crafting incredible cuisine like this HOT CHICKEN SANDWICH


We sample all the best dishes at SIDE BAR & RESTAURANT

OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN We make a quick trip out to FOUR DOGS TAVERN to sit on the patio and enjoy a spring breeze

FRESH & LOCAL An introduction to West Chester’s CSA FARMS & CO-OPS

Back of House

STAFF PUBLISHER Dan Mathers dan@tastewestchester.com

ADVERTISING MANAGER Nick Vecchio nick@tastewestchester.com

MANAGING EDITOR Kate Chadwick kchadwick@tastewestchester.com

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER & STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Erik Weber erik@tastewestchester.com GRAPHIC DESIGNER Nazarena Luzzi Castro nazarenaluzzi.com Produced in Partnership with


“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” J.R.R Tolkien

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Becca Boyd homebeccanomics.com Andrea Mason andreamasondesign.com Jesse Piersol jessepiersol@gmail.com Danielle Davies Danielle@danielledavies.com Published By... The WC PRESS & Mathers productions, LLC 24 W Market St, Ste 4 West Chester, PA 19382 mathersproductions.com 610-344-3463 TASTE West Chester is distributed free of charge to more than 250 businesses in West Chester, PA. To find out more, visit our website at tastewestchester.com

Today’s Menu 7 #TASTEWC Our favorite social media posts from fans are getting printed OUT 9 DINING Sampling the best meals the the boroughs premier destinations OF CHAMPIONS 13 BREAKFAST The most important meal of the day and a delcious way to start it THE KITCHEN 14 IN A view behind the scenes at West Chester’s dining desinations THE BAR 25 BEHIND Discussing life behind bars with the borough’s best-know faces A SLICE 27 SAVOR There’s no such thing as bad pizza, but some are better than others SEASON 29 IN An introduction to securing truly local produce this spring THEIR REACH 39 EXPANDING Love Again Local breaks into wholesale and retail FRY 41 SMALL Suggestions on dining out with the young ones in tow A ROLL 43 ON Sampling the best foods served between slices of bread OF TOWN 45 OUTSKIRTS A trip to an area eatery beyond the borders of the borough & FUNCTION 53 FORM Exploring the design concepts of our borough’s best kitchens



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JUNE/JULY 2020 Contact Nick@thewcpress.com 4


The Elephant in the Room Dan Mathers addresses the obvious issue at hand


ood and bev has always been a demanding industry. Nearly 60% of restaurants fail within the first year and 80% close within five. By comparison, only 20% of businesses in other sectors shutter in year one. Combine those failure rates with a pandemic and government-mandated shutdowns for bars, plus massive limitations on restaurants, and an already difficult job becomes that much harder. Even incredibly well-established spots will be feeling the stress. The impact goes far beyond the owners considering creative ways to keep themselves afloat. As we assembled this issue in mid-March, layoffs had already begun. Plenty of West Chester’s most familiar faces found themselves filing for unemployment. As a community with an expansive food-service industry, this town will feel the effects more acutely than others. Each economic downturn hits certain segments harder than others. Anyone reading this column almost certainly has memories of the impact that the Great Recession had on housing and construction. In this case, it’s service-based businesses that will undoubtedly be hit the hardest — especially those that seem non-essential when budgets begin to tighten. So, what can you do? As of our print date, many restaurants in town are offering takeout and delivery services. If you’re lucky enough to have a stable job that’s unlikely to start cutting pay in the near future, I encourage you to substitute your usual dining out for delivery. While you won’t enjoy the luxury of table service, maybe helping sustain a small business will serve as consolation. If you have fears of infection, keep this in mind: professional kitchens are, by law, some of the cleanest places on the planet. Everything is triple-washed and sanitized... everything. So, the odds of you picking up coronavirus from your cuisine are minimal. Because the details of our social distancing policies are rapidly shifting, it’s important to note that — if restaurants are forced to stop selling food — you can still help by purchasing gift cards. Gift cards give businesses cash flow when revenue’s low and can help carry them through until the spectre of disease disappears. Even if a place appears closed, try reaching out through their website. I don’t intend to downplay the danger of this virus. As much as we urge everyone to take caution and be safe, I also urge you to imagine how you’d feel finding that your favorite restaurant couldn’t make rent. This may seem like a silly plea at a time when people are fighting for their lives, but consider the long-term impacts of eschewing our eateries. If 15% of restaurants are failing in good years, it’s not difficult to envision that number multiplying in an epidemic. Our town has roughly 80 eateries. Can you imagine if 25 of them disappeared in the coming weeks? Obviously the lives of the people in this community are priority number one, but I’m asking you to also consider the impacts on the landscape of West Chester if we allow our restaurant industry to succumb to COVID. —dan@tastewestchester.com PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS






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Sesame Seared tuna with Siracusa cream cheese potato latkas

Dining Out Sampling some of the borough’s best meals in West Chester’s premier dinner destinations. My friend Amy and I rolled into Side Bar for dinner and drinks on a drizzly evening in late February. It was Fat Tuesday, so we sampled some Side Bar standards as well as a few specials and a brand new menu addition. The Vibe Our host led us to a high-top table in the downstairs dining room right in front of a crackling fire in the brick fireplace, lending an especially cozy touch to our damp winter outing. The crowd was eclectic: a solo guy with tattoos hunched over a beer at one end of the bar, while local business types mingled at the other end. By 6:30pm, the room was humming with millennial couples and small groups of friends. Page, our server, cheerfully indulged our barrage of questions. While I love spicy,

bold flavors and novelty, Amy has a tamer palate, and Page skillfully used our preferences to recommend a winning roundup of both drinks and dishes. The Drinks Side Bar prides itself on the selection of its continually rotating beer list that no one else in town has—or can even get—such as several from Tired Hands Brewery in Ardmore. After a fairly lengthy consultation with Page about our likes and dislikes in flavors and textures, we settled on a four-item flight that included Tired Hands’ Alien Church, a cloudy, grapefruity NEIPA whose 7.0% ABV gave it a balance of both levity and gravitas. The other beer in our flight was a sour, the Rodenbach Grand Cru 2017. If one could drink a Sherlock Holmes mystery, it would taste like this beer: tart and dark, with a lovely amber hue and caramel, balsamic fragrance. Rounding out our flight were two hard ciders: the effervescent, lightweight Original Sin and its counterpoint, the surprisingly hearty, full-bodied Downeast White wit cider.

Since it was Fat Tuesday, we threw in a cocktail, too—perpetual Side Bar favorite Bright Days, a citrusy blend of champagne, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, and Ketel One’s grapefruit and rose botanical vodka. The Apps In the spirit of King Cake, we focused on foods that were filled with surprises, like new-menu-addition potato and ham croquettes, which arrived atop a bed of wilted spinach and garlicky mashed potato puree. Inside their crispy fried coating was a blend of ham and more garlic mashed potatoes. The surprising note of sage popped out immediately and made me lament the dearth of dishes that feature this pungent herb. (Full disclosure: I’m not a particular fan of ham, but these were delicious, and when we packed up our leftovers after dinner, this plate was the only one with nothing left on it.) We couldn’t resist a flight of the trio of mac and cheese offerings on the specials menu. With their creamy house-recipe mac and cheese as a base, Side Bar offers a constant assortment of creative takes on this beloved comfort food. Tonight’s spe-





cials were the Al Pastor, a chili-colored concoction with braised short rib throughout and a slight kick. The second of the mac trio was mixed crab and asparagus for a mild, rich, version with a hint of the ocean—easily our favorite of the three. Lastly, Breakfast Meats incorporated scrapple and ham, along with diced tomatoes, for a whimsical and hearty alternative. I took some home to reheat for breakfast alongside homemade waffles. Lastly, Page insisted we try the short rib and mushroom dumplings, her favorite thing on the menu. It’s no surprise why—the dumplings feature a zing from sriracha sauce on top, along with a sprinkling of crunchy peanuts, all of which melts into a filling of smoky short rib, mushrooms, and cream cheese.

Side Bar prides itself on the selection of its continually rotating beer list that no one else in town has—or can even get—such as several from Tired Hands Brewery in Ardmore. The Entrees For our entrees, Amy and I both wanted something classic from the menu. Page asked if either of us were a fan of spicy food. YES. ME. Accordingly, she suggested the Inferno burger, which has been on their menu since Side Bar opened their doors. Manager Jon noted that “very bad things would happen if we ever took this off the menu.” Ghost chili cheese oozed out of the center of the burger, which is generally served medium or well for a proper melt on the cheese filling, but I ordered mine medium rare, a decision that Page supported. And because ghost peppers alone aren’t hot enough (just kidding—they top out at more than 1 million Scoville heat units), the Inferno also has a layer of pickled jalapeno slices on the bottom. The spicy edge is softened a bit with a honey hot BBQ sauce and the pillowy brioche bun. On the spicy scale, I would rate this at about a 5 out of 10 on first bite, but the magic really happens after a few minutes, when the initial slow burn spreads and intensifies. For the side, I chose sweet potato tots, and the little round orbs of crispy, sweet goodness were the perfect companion. At the other end of the spice spectrum is Amy, who laughed as she watched me sweat and fan myself after diving into my burger. She opted for another Side Bar classic: the hummus chicken salad, a fresh spin on the classic Greek salad, with grilled chicken served atop crispy romaine, kalamata olives, feta cubes, roasted red peppers, and a tangy vinaigrette. What sets this salad apart, however, is the dollop of thick and creamy house-made hummus. Unlike most types of hummus, Side Bar’s iteration is whipped, which lends it an almost buttery texture. The salad was flanked by wedges of warm pita bread, which Amy said added the perfect touch. As I write this review several days after our night out, I’m still dreaming of those crispy ham and potato croquettes and their lingering soft sage presence. Put them on your agenda the next time you visit Side Bar. photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story JESSE PIERSOL @JESSEPIERSOL





Breakfast of Champions The most important meal of the day can also be the most delicious way to start it. “West Chester’s a hard town to crack,” explains Krissy Flynn, manager and part-owner at The Classic Diner on Gay Street. Lucky for us, Krissy and her partner, Tom Farrell, have been able to not only survive, but thrive here. Tom opened their Malvern location in 1995, and it was an instant hit. While scouting a second location, their friend and local real estate developer/restaurateur Jack McFadden showed them this space, and it was love at first sight. Exposed beams, stone walls, and wrought iron banisters bespoke their signature clean, industrial style; they added white beadboard, and The Classic Diner opened its West Chester doors in 2014. Their locally sourced ingredients, like thick-cut bacon, and their generous portions, fresh fruit, and scratch bakery ensure

full and happy patrons. They accepted Ram Bucks to bring in students and established BYOB for mimosa-sipping special-occasion brunchers. West Chester is a town of loyalists, and it was a bit of a slow start for the new location. Dauntless, the owners made small changes and additions that paved the way for their present success. The switch to Lavazza upgraded “diner coffee” to “show-stopping coffee,” and it’s the best brew I’ve had in a long time. The gluten sensitive can order their French toast on Taffet’s quinoa bread, delivered daily, and an ever-evolving menu showcases what’s seasonally fresh. Not in the mood to go out? With Door Dash, your strawberry and Nutella French toast is just an order away. The best part of dining in-house, though, is eating off your friends’ plates as well as your own. The menu at Classic Diner is as clean, classy, and straightforward as their design. The diner food you want, i.e. buttermilk pancakes and Taylor Pork Roll, tuna melts and corned beef Reubens, are front and center, but foodies will find themselves mired in indecision. Customizing options abound: add a smear

of basil pesto to your roasted pepper and egg sandwich, or include filet tips, goat cheese, and fresh herbs in your three-egg omelette. Don’t think you’re a caviar fan? Pair it with the bite of red onion and bright, fresh dill cream cheese in the Norwegian smoked salmon and bagel. Although Classic is known for breakfast, don’t overlook their lunch. The Ahi tuna BLT with lemon chive mayonnaise seriously raises the bar, but what really caught my palate was the seasonal Cobb salad; yes, I’ll take their bacon any way I can get it. The owners’ forward thinking and desire to serve the freshest, most delicious food available has made The Classic Diner’s dream a reality. It even extends to the art on the walls: the black and white photographs are by local artist Darcie Goldberg. In some shots you may recognize local West Chester inhabitants, holding written expressions of their own dreams. Visit this spot soon to see Tom and Krissy’s dream realized, and reap the benefit of their hard work: a really, really good meal. photo & story BECCA @homebeccanomics




In the Kitchen at Roots Café with chefs Dan Merola and JT Hearn

A view behind the scenes at West Chester’s dining desinations, and a chat with the people who run them. photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story JESSE @jessepiersol







f I’m making something, and I’m not happy with it, it goes in the trash. We don’t tweak it,” says Roots Café co-owner and chef John “JT” Hearn. Fellow chef (and other half of the business partnership) Dan Merola, confirms that JT’s words are not an empty threat. “Just this morning, I was licking the icing off a cake because I knew he was going to throw it out. We want people to have the best they’ve ever had when they come to Roots.” Their steaks are all locally sourced. Chicken comes from a farm in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania and costs three times as much of that offered at other restaurants. They’ve got a guy who drops off a case of mushrooms with his truck, pulling up in the alley so they can buy stuff out the back door. On the first page of the menu alone, more than 90% of the items are local. “It’s supporting local business, which is better for the environment, too,” Dan says. “There are lots of ways restaurants can save money. It’s way easier to open a bag rather than cut things up by hand,” he continues. “But people would rather pay for quality. I think it ties into the ‘buy local’ angle of ethics, which is especially important for a town like West Chester.” “If it was all about cost, we could save money,” JT affirms. “But we like cooking food we like to eat. If you have really great ingredients, you don’t have to do a lot to them.” The relentless pursuit of quality is what unites these two friends who have taken the plunge into restaurant ownership together. In addition to breathing new life into Roots, they’ve taken the café’s offerings to the next level. And that’s just the beginning.

A Shared Approach Dan, 30, and JT, 31, grew up together, both attending Upper Darby High School. Years later, their paths would collide again when they were both following parallel paths within the restaurant industry. JT vividly remembers being eight and making omelets with onions and roasted garlic, and his mom yelling at him for not cleaning up the kitchen. She

had a small catering business then, and the intrepid youth would fill raviolis and make gnocchis to help out. “All the front work nobody wants,” he laughs. One day, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse was at a local bookstore signing his newly released kids’ cookbook, and JT was in line, clutching his copy. “I said, ‘I want to do that.’” From there, he worked in dozens of kitchens, including a stint at La Cabra Brewing as head chef, where he ran into Dan again, who was working as a sous chef.

Dan caught the cooking bug when he was eight years old, burning grilled cheese sandwiches in the family kitchen. He learned how to cook (the right way) at the venerable Clam Tavern in Clifton Heights, where he started as a dishwasher. After only two months, the chef started teaching him the fundamentals, like how to bread things for frying and how to roast meat. “They’ve been making the same things since the 1970s,” says Dan. “It’s where I learned about using quality ingredients.”





It didn’t take him long to realize he had a real knack for cooking, and that he loved it, but he still decided to go to college. “In the middle of my philosophy degree at West Chester University, you know, you do a lot of thinking about yourself. I was going to school to get out of the kitchen, but I spent $40,000 learning that I wanted to stay in the kitchen. It was a discovery worth every penny!” In 2013, Dan came on board as a head chef at Roots, where he stayed until 2017. During that time, he dreamed of something bigger. “We’ve both always had that entrepreneurial bug. We tried to start side businesses, always coming up with new inventions and thinking about what we could do to get out of somebody else’s kitchen,” he recalls. Roots’ original owner, Dan Cellucci, thought the two friends had what it took to make a partnership work, and they all started the process of taking over in April 2018. In spring 2019 they completed the final paperwork to make it official.

Pork Belly Benedict Start with house-cured and smoked pork belly and serve it up on house-made corn bread that’s light and sweet to offset the richness of the pork belly The joy they infuse in their workday manifests in the food. “We want to have fun,” says JT. “If you hate what you do, you wake up miserable every day. I’ve had salaries that were really nice but not worth the headache.” They describe themselves as two friends running a successful business, although they contrast—but in good ways. One way their contrasts merge for success is in their approach to the menu. “We try to change the menu seasonally,” JT explains “If we’re thinking of changing up the menu in two weeks, for instance, we’ll both create a full sep-

arate menu on our own. Then we’ll sit down and take elements from one person’s ideas or dish until we have one final version.” Their contributions end up on the final version as a 50/50 split. “It just always works out that way,” says Dan. “We don’t try. If the other person disagrees, but is passionate about it, then you compromise and do it.” JT concurs. “We have disagreements, but it’s never to the point that I don’t look forward to seeing him the next day. For me, there is no other venture I want to do without Dan.” They’ve been adjusting to the workload, which is significant, given that Roots offers three meals a day for all seven days of the week. “For almost a year, it was both of us for all three meals,” Dan says. “But now we can split it up. We’ve gotten to the point where we can say ‘hey we’re working together today’ and it’s cool.”



Friendly rivalry keeps the spark in their work, too. “When we have special dinners, for example,” says JT, “we’ll keep track to see who has the best-selling dessert.” They both agree on their favorite sweet item, though. “We have the best donut ever,” he asserts. “It is soft and pillowy, sweet and yeasty. You don’t want to do anything to it. Maybe sprinkle it with a little cinnamon sugar.”

The Food Roots boasts a mix of customers who like to indulge and who are health conscious. Take, for example, the pork belly benedict, which is one for the indulgent crowd. They start with house-cured and smoked pork belly and serve it up on JT’s new, improved corn bread. “It is our recipe, and it’s designed for the pork belly specifically. I mix it by hand in two hotel pans, which makes it more cohesive for the meat. “We wanted something lighter and a little sweeter to offset the richness of the pork belly,” he says. Topping it off are apple compote, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. Another popular item is the hot chicken sandwich. They pound out the chicken breast and drop it into a brine of hot pepper juice, their signature sea20

soning blend, and milk, where it marinates for 24 hours. Before frying, it gets dredged in their sweet-salty herb mix, a custom in-house blend featuring 27 herbs and spices. Served on a brioche bun toasted with butter and spicy pickles, the sauce is the kicker. “Our house buffalo sauce is better than KFC!” Dan jokes. It’s a combination of peppers, tomato paste, cocoa powder, hoisin and soy sauces and other secret ingredients. Viscosity is key. “I want it to coat,” says JT, “and to stick to the chicken. It is one of our signature sauces.” The sauce is so popular that customers frequently request a bottle to take home with them, prompting the duo to make plans to bottle and sell the sauce separately. “I’ve never worked at a place where people wanted to buy the hot sauce and salad dressing,” says Dan. Their signature seasoning blend is another custom flavor. “Rather than salt and pepper, we use five ingredients that go into the potatoes and omelets,” he notes. “If recipes call for salt, this is what goes in it. If you just put salt and pepper on potatoes, you can do that at home. People come here for something special. Little touches like that, other restaurants won’t do. We’re not the prettiest or most elegant restaurant, because we’re


“We’ve both always had that entrepreneurial bug. We tried to start side businesses, always coming up with new inventions and thinking about what can we do to get out of somebody else’s kitchen...” focused on the food. We want customers to be walking out of here remembering the food, saying, ‘I crave it and have to go back.’” Since the beginning, Roots has always had a hyper-local food focus. “It was always a good brunch spot,” says Dan. “Now it’s a must-go destination if you’re traveling in Pennsylvania. When people come in and want my advice on choosing between four or five things, I have a really hard time helping them decide. Because the whole menu is good.” He notes that they’re not big on offering a daily steak or brunch special, “because everything on the menu should be special. If we get a special ingredient, then we’ll showcase it and make a special. We might get hold of incredible strip steaks, so we’ll make a simple steak and eggs with potatoes to showcase those steaks.”

“Healthy people love the superfood hash,” says Dan. In fact, that’s what former U.S. Women’s Soccer Team member Heather Mitts ordered up and posted for her 90,000 Instagram followers along with the caption “Breakfast of Champions.”

Tools and Tips When the duo took over Roots, one of their first tasks was to invest in equipment, including better knives, slotted spoons, and whisks. Their go-to knives are made by Shun, a Japanese brand known for keeping its sharp steel edge longer than competitors. “It has a better-feeling handle, too, meaning you can cut longer and your wrist doesn’t hurt,” says JT. “I have this heavy German steel Dalstrong knife. It’s a monster. I cut five onions, and I want my other knife.” What else should the well-equipped home kitchen have? Dan and JT agree. An immersion circulator, which is used for sous vide cooking. “Everyone should have it,” says Dan. An immersion circulator clips to the inside of a pot of water into which you insert vacuum-sealed meats. It heats and circulates the water in the pot, cooking everything floating in that water to an exact temperature. “It’s

What else should the wellequipped home kitchen have? Dan and JT agree. An immersion circulator, which is used for sous vide cooking. “Everyone should have it...” what makes our chicken breast come out so tender and juicy, with its distinctive tooth feel. It’s really consistent. We both have them at home.” Dan pulls out his phone to demonstrate the app that he uses to control it. Seasonings are another essential yet underappreciated element of cooking. When asked about one ingredient that everyone should have in their own kitchen, Dan barely lets the question sink in before proffering the answer: Salt. “It brings the flavors out. It’s not there to suck the moisture out of your food; it’s there to make your food taste good.” JT jumps in to further expound on the nature of flavor. “There are three levels of flavor—sweet, salty, and savory. You can tell instantly when something is off. Everything should have multiple levels.”

Giving Back Given the intensive schedule for the pair of entrepreneurs, it might be easy to forget about giving back to the larger community. But on Mondays, Dan spends the evening teaching elementary and middle school kids in Coatesville school district to cook. On a recent day, he brought Brussels sprouts from the Roots kitchen. “The point is to teach healthy food tastes good. Ideally, maybe develop it into a camp.” And who knows—there may be a star in the making. “There’s one kid who’s maybe 10 who must cook at home,” Dan shares. “When you have a group of kids, things tend to get rowdy. But he always knows what ingredients are, and really pays attention.” With garden season coming up, the Roots crew is brainstorming ways to involve the kids who are standouts with gardening tasks at the restaurant. “Our garden out back is entirely edible,” says Dan. “If there’s a flower out there, you can eat it... although they’re still mostly visual.” And while it’s small, it still provides an opportunity to learn and practice valuable skills. “We can have the kids take eggshells and crush them up and put them in the soil we use for the garden,” he says.





JT does his part as well, having recently directed the efforts to coordinate and feed 350 people at numerous events for The Salvation Army.

The Future Dan and JT have big plans for 2020, including a Roots food truck. But perhaps the most exciting thing going on at Roots is happening upstairs. “Space is a big issue for us,” says JT. “We don’t have a happy hour or a place to sit at the bar.” Currently, Roots can serve 30 customers in the dining room and another 35 outside on the patio in the warmer months. Later in 2020, the pair will open their new second-floor dining area, which will include a cocktail bar. Once the expansion is done, they’ll finally have a space for private room rentals to accommodate weddings, showers, and graduation parties, with the renovated space

Currently, Roots can serve 30 customers in the dining room, and another 35 outside on the patio... Later in 2020, the pair will open their new secondfloor dining area... adding a whopping 41 seats to Roots’ current capacity. “The aesthetic will be simplicity with natural woods. Modern earth,” says JT. “Lots of plants, exposed wood. Simple and natural to show off your food and drinks.” They will offer standard beers but also a selection of craft beers and boutique wines, along with cocktails designed with taste, texture, and “wow factor.” “Dissolving sugar cubes, smoke, burning orange peels, toasting marshmallows, smoking glasses,” JT envisions. “Making our own bitters and infusions. Instead of buying a vanilla vodka, we’ll have our own infusion on display where you can

see the vanilla beans. Ice cubes with blueberries in them that melt to form a cocktail from the cube itself.” “Today’s experience is less about branding and more about lifestyle. I feel like Roots brought awareness to that whole movement,” says Dan. “I’ll wear a Bluebird Distillery t-shirt when I’m working the floor sometimes because it gives them some promotion too.” Even in these uncertain times, the future remains bright for the best friends in the kitchen at Roots. In the words of JT’s childhood inspiration, Emeril Lagasse, “I’m working harder than ever now, and I’m putting on my pants the same as I always have. I just get up every day and try to do a little better than the day before, and that is to run a great restaurant with great food, great wine, and great service. That’s my philosophy.” It is a philosophy that may help guide us all.



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Behind the Bar with

Natalie Buettner

Discussing the details of a life behind bars with one of the borough’s best-known faces. How long have you been a Split Rail? Since the day it opened — July 17, 2015 How’d you end up there? The original manager was a friend of mine who I knew from working at Congress Hall in Cape May. I was trying to get out of this business — I even had an application for Trader Joe’s ready to hand in — but I saw him out, and he offered me a job I couldn’t pass up. And you have regrets about remaining in the industry? Absolutely not. Why? I really enjoy customer service. It’s almost a leisure activity. Most of the time you’re waiting on people who are happy to be out and about. Is there anything in particular about Split Rail that adds to that? I think we’ve

found a niche in the community. West Chester was lacking a place for people who wanted to go out and still get that bar atmosphere without being surrounded by college kids. Is it difficult to keep pace with all the new drafts and drinks? Yeah, it’s tough to keep up with the different breweries and what’s popular. Sometimes you even find that the customers are the ones educating you, which makes it fun. It can’t be easy. I was nervous at first, despite being so outgoing. You feel you’re on stage back here, but the more comfortable you get, the easier it is. What helped you get more comfortable? I love cooking, and when I realized making craft cocktails was a bit like cooking, a spark went off. Have any favorite drinks? A staple on our menu, the Paper Plane, is fun to make, and it’s surprising for drinkers. It’s two Italian aperitifs — Aperol and Averna — with bourbon and lemon juice. Most people expect the flavors you’d get from something more like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, but it has a taste I’d describe as more like a lemonade-iced tea. We also

have three different gin drinks, one which changes seasonally depending on the available fruit. We use unique ingredients like kaffir lime, which is traditionally in Thai dishes. We pair that with elderflower tonic and strawberries and a London gin. But it’s not just about the drinks here, right? Our chef, Justin, worked five years at Le Bec Fin — he’s extremely creative and talented. Along with sous chef Brian, they’re always coming up with fun specials that are easy to sell. Do you enjoy giving suggestions on food and drink pairings? I’m always very excited when someone asks me to help decide how they enjoy their meal. Gimme your go-to pairing right now. I’m often working brunch, so I recommend the shrimp and grits paired with our Bloody Mary. Once a week Sean Brown makes all of our syrups and bloody mix from scratch — keeping in theme with our scratch kitchen — and you can taste the difference. photo ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews interview DAN @thewcpress






Savor a Slice There’s no such thing as a bad pizza, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t a cut above.

New Haven House Special With pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and olives, the freshness of the ingredients makes for a great take on a classic Supreme.

photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews

Couch Tomato American Pie Boasting roasted garlic spread, grana padano, farmers cheese, ricotta, tomato and fresh rosemary with an agave drizzle, our staff vegan expert Jamie Jones says, “If there was one food that could tempt me to indulge in cheese, it would be this.”

Rize Fig Jam Savory, salty and sweet, this pie is a staff favorite, featuring mozzarella, ricotta, bacon, caramelized onions and organic fig jam. PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS




story DANIELLE DAVIES @danielledavieswrites

Freshest of the Fresh An introduction to local CSAs and information on securing truly local produce this spring. PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS



n the age of the internet, it’s easy to become a little disconnected— from people, from activities, even from food. After all, when there’s an app for everything from your daily horoscope and local newspaper to online classes and virtual friend meet-ups, it’s easy to see how we can become at least a little bit removed from what’s happening around us. As we complete food orders via Amazon Prime or Shoprite from Home—no doubt modern conveniences that this writer couldn’t live without—we also lose touch with our food. Not the eating of it (there’s still no app that can chew and digest a burger for you), but with the origins, growing and seasonality of the things we call breakfast, lunch and dinner. As spring approaches, it’s a good time to take notice of not just the green leaves, yellow forsythia and vibrant flowers that dot our landscape, but the lettuces and herbs that are the some of the first edible harbingers of the season. And while grocery stores abound with brightly colored varieties of fruits and vegetables, this is your chance to dig in a little deeper and find out exactly where your food is coming from. Not interested, or able, to plant your own garden? A definitive lack of green thumbs? You can still get the freshest of the fresh foods, and learn a bit about where they’re coming from, by participating in a CSA. According to Wikipedia, a CSA, short for community-supported agriculture, is “a system that connects the producer and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms.” What that means for you, the consumer, is that by paying a farm or group of farms up front—thus providing some of the income needed to actually plant and grow crops—you get a portion of those crops during the harvest season. This system enables us as consumers to have a direct link to our food, reduce our carbon footprint, have access to some unexpected deliciousness, and even support local farmers. A win-win-win all around. Lucky for us, we’ve got some wonderful CSAs in the West Chester area. 30

Pick-Your-Own Highland Orchards might be known for the fall festitivities, but their CSA is a great way to secure produce all year. And while they’ve all got vegetables and fruits that are screaming summer, they’re each a little bit different.

WEST CHESTER COOPERATIVE The West Chester Cooperative is a member-owned grocery store in West Chester Borough, in the making. The brainchild of Suzanne Adams and currently under the leadership of President and Member Owner #4, Marnie Rhen, the West Chester Co-op


has been working toward their goal of a borough-located, member-owned and well-stocked grocery store for six years. “A co-op is a community owned organization developed to fulfill the needs of the community, owned by individual members of the community,” says Rhen, who has been involved in the initiative since the beginning. To help bring awareness to the co-op initiative, they started running a CSA program five years ago. The West Chester Co-op CSA program gets their produce and meats from different local purveyors, including Crawford Organics in East Earl for certified local produce; pastured meat from Katt & Mathy Farms in Cochranville; Pastured Birds from Keiser’s Pheasantry in Glen Rock; and Bloomsberry Honey from Chadds Ford. While those places are all over Penn-

sylvania, your drive won’t be. By signing up for the CSA program at West Chester Co-op, your local and sustainable food will be delivered to the borough every Tuesday at Holy Trinity Church, and is available for pickup from 3 to 7p.m. To make things even more convenient— and is there anything more convenient than having a packed-up grocery order that includes the best of the best from around the area?—there is no parking required. CSA members only need to pull into the church’s driveway off of West Union and the packaged food is just a few steps away. So how does it work? First, know that each vendor has its own buying program, which means you don’t have to be a member of the West Chester Co-op to purchase their products. However, becoming a member of the West Chester Cooperative has its own benefits, not least of all the discount provided to members through each vendor—2% at Crawford Organics and at Katt & Mathy Farms; 5% at Keiser’s Pheasantry and Bloomsberry Honey. In addition, the West Chester Co-op website acts as a hub for the four vendors that make up the CSA, providing onestop shopping as well as a one-stop pickup for members. By taking part in the CSA, members are helping to support local farms and growers. And the reward is an abundance of options for getting absurdly fresh food. For starters, members can choose to purchase from some, or all, of the vendors. From there, members can opt in to certain buying seasons. For Crawford Farms, which provides the produce for West Chester Co-op, there is an Early Start CSA that runs for four weeks in the month of April, followed by a Spring/ Summer CSA running from May through August, and more through the year. The Early Start is a great option for people just joining their first CSA, since it doesn’t include a lengthy period of time or an overwhelming amount of produce. The harvest expectations for the Early Start CSA include greens and herbs like spinach, arugula, cilantro, lettuce, and kale, as well as beets, bok choy, carrots, chard, popcorn, potatoes, radishes, spring onions, and sweet potatoes. Each standard box contains seven

or eight items, and mini boxes contain five or six items. For those craving summer—and the produce that comes with it—the 16-week Spring/Summer CSA program is fresh produce galore. Harvests include things like strawberries, broccoli, cabbage and scallions in addition to the aforementioned veggies in April and May; green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, corn and more in June and July; and peppers, pears, garlic, concord grapes, cherry tomatoes, watermelon and more in August. For the meat and poultry CSA options, items can be ordered individually, so members aren’t required to purchase a separate freezer to store everything. Need a chicken or meat for a Sunday night dinner? You can order a single hen or porterhouse steak. For those who participate, the benefits extend far past CSA membership, however. Becoming a member of the West Chester Co-op—a one time $400 fee paid at once or in $25 monthly installments—gives members ownership and a say in how the store is run,

Co-op CSA Joining the West Chester Co-op’s CSA doesn’t give you access to just one farm but a weekly pickup with a mixed bag of PA-based specialty farms and vendors. discounts, patronage dividends, and voting privileges once the store opens, a goal that Wren hopes will come to fruition within the next year. Wren sees the store as something that will fill a need, acting as a hub for the borough community as well as providing a walkable option for groceries. “The economic model of a food co-op is that the money stays in our community,” says Wren, of the $17 million that West Chester annually spends on groceries—usually at corporate stores like Giant and Shoprite.

HIGHLAND ORCHARDS Highland Orchards is the mac daddy of the local farm and CSA programs,





with an operation that, while family owned, is chock-full of activities, from a seasonal pop-up wine and beer garden to pancake breakfasts to hayrides to the Easter Bunny. The history of Highland Orchards goes back to 1832, when Clark Webster bought land in Delaware. Generations later, in 1940, John Webster gave the farmland the name Highland Orchards and purchased the Pennsylvania land— now the Highland Orchards we know and love in West Chester—in 1941. At that time, the West Chester farm primarily grew apples.


“A farm is really a community of people. We are very community based, and try to make it very engaging, talking to our neighbors and finding out what they need...”


As the farm was passed down through the generations—John’s daughter Elizabeth Hodge took over with her husband in the 1950s, and their kids took over management in 1986—it was greatly expanded. These days, the farm grows a variety of fruits including—but not limited to—peaches, strawberries, cherries, black and red raspberries and sweet corn. As a full working farm, the High-

land Orchards CSA program works quite differently from the CSA offered by West Chester Cooperative. Highland Orchards offers a gift card. The reloadable card enables card members to receive special discounted prices on Highland’s Pick Your Own, as well as on freshly picked (but not by you) fruits and vegetables, goodies from the bakery, and additional items at the Farm Market and Bakery. If you’re thinking about participating in this program, do it now—there’s a special 10% discount (purchase a $500 CSA gift card and save $50, etc.) on any CSA card that ends on May 1. While you don’t need a CSA card to purchase from the Highland Orchards Farm Market and Bakery or to go fruit picking, the CSA card provides users with discounts, and continuity—if you know you have money on your card, you’re more likely to keep going back to pick the next available fruit. This isn’t a tiny field of fruit, either. At Highland, the orchard contains a big selection of crops, and the pick-yourown program continues to grow in popularity, with shuttles taking guests to the far ends of the orchard to pick their fruit. “Things have changed,” says Art Whitehair, the Events Coordinator at Highland Orchards. “People used to pick and can. Now it’s really recreational. We drive them out in shuttles that look like safari trucks—it’s like an adventure.”

Extended Season Even as early as March, CSA members at Highland Orchards had access to these weekly windfalls. With some crops a 10- or 15-minute drive from the entrance, it’s an adventure indeed. But it’s worth it. “The benefit is that you really can’t get it any fresher than when you pick it yourself,” says Whitehair. While dates are approximate, and weather conditions and demand determine the true supply of fruits and vegetables available for picking, the general schedule includes rhubarb from mid-May to mid-August; strawberries for most of June; sweet cherries from early to mid-June; pie (sour) cherries from mid to late June; black and red raspberries in late June; blueberries in most of July; peaches from mid-July to early September; plums from late July to August; sweet corn from late July to early September; blackberries in most of August; nectarines in mid-August; pears from late August to mid-September; fall red raspberries from late August until frost; pumpkins from mid-September through October; and finally apples, from mid-July through October. If you’d rather skip the picking, the next best bet for freshness is to visit the





Highland Orchards Farm Market and Bakery, where you can also use your CSA card. In addition to produce from Highland Orchards, the Farm Market includes produce from neighboring farms that focus more on vegetables, as well as jams, jellies, cheese, butter, milk, canning supplies, flowers, local honey, and even gifts. Visit the Farm Market for no other reason than to figure out what to do with all of the fruit you’ve picked… our advice is to let the pie selection at Highland Orchards guide you. Whether it’s Strawberry Rhubarb, Peach Praline, Lemon Blueberry, Apple, Sweet Potato Crunch or any of the other scrumptious flavors, the bakery utilizes just about every variety of fruit available on the farm. Orders for pies—as well as their “Philly’s Best” Apple Cider Donuts—can even be placed in advance. In addition to their own baked goods, the bakery also carries gluten-free items: Freedom Mini donuts and Sunset Park Gluten-Free cookies, brownies and whoopie pies. The Highland Orchards CSA program

is less about the convenience of a box of freshly picked vegetables, and more about the community activities that a pre-paid card ensure you’ll get to: from spring growing tours to story and pick activities, Highland Orchards is as much a farm as it is the perfect spot for a family activity.

THORNBURY FARMS Just like the West Chester Cooperative CSA is about building a community grocery store, and the Highland Orchards CSA focuses on farm tours and activities, Thornbury Farms has its own unique draw: its history. Thornbury Farm was founded in 1709 with a stone house that was the first quarried home in Pennsylvania. The house has been added to approximately every 80 years, and among its many claims to fame are that it was used as the first public library in Chester County, and as a stop on the Underground Railroad. If that’s not enough, according to Randell Spackman, owner of Thornbury, the farm is the site of part of the Revolutionary War Battle of Brandywine.

Vegetable Bounty Thornbury Farms has extensive greenhouses that allow them to get a jump on the growing season. “The back field is protected under a permanent easement,” says Spackman. “It’s a historic site…it was the largest battle of the American Revolution.” During parts of the American Revolution, the barn at Thornbury was used to hold prisoners, while the house was used as a hospital. And when people died, as they do in war, they were buried on the property. As such, Thornbury has been featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters on the SyFy Channel. A history aficionado, Spackman combines his knowledge of the past with his love of the farm, noting that both things require a sense of past and a respect for the land. Part of keeping a family farm growing, explains Spackman, is to make it engaging, giving the community a reason to visit. Hence the CSA program as well as





the tours and events that are often held at Thornbury. “A farm is really a community of people. We are very community based, and try to make it very engaging, talking to our neighbors and finding out what they need,” says Spackman, adding, “We also want the farm to be a focal point for history.” Spackman has been offering the CSA program at Thornbury for about a decade, in an effort to keep the farm alive and engage the local community. “Everyone goes to box stores,” says Spackman. “We want people to realize how important it is to support a local farm. The CSA is a way for people to help farmers get started on the growing season, buying seeds, etc. The people pay up front and then each week they get a portion of the produce grown on the farm or with other farms. We’re all in this together; people can learn what it takes to grow a head of lettuce.” With over a hundred participating members, the Thornbury Farm CSA

About the Experience Making the trip out to Thornbury Farms is rewarding in more ways than simply collecting fresh produce — the farm is a destination in itself. program starts the first Thursday in June with pickups for members through October. In addition to the selection of produce that guests can pick up— Thornbury generally has all the produce out with a list of how many of each item can be taken home by CSA members each week—CSA members can get discounts at the Thornbury Farm Market, which is open on weekends, as well as on-site classes and demonstrations. The classes are another thing that sets Thornbury apart. In addition to classes on planting, Thornbury will host things like a Bread and Brewing Class, where bread is baked in a historic bee-

hive oven and beer is brewed colonial style over a fire, just like Thomas Jefferson used to brew; a big party on July 3, known as Treason Day, which celebrates the last day under the King’s rule; as well as classes on soil health and history. Just as other organizations work with multiple vendors to provide diversification for their customers, so too does Thornbury, which provides produce from other farms at their farm market. “You have to diversify,” says Spackman. “People won’t come in for a hundred pounds of peas.”

BECOME A MEMBER It’s spring. Time to try some new recipes and use the freshest of fruits and veggies. And while you can certainly make do at a regular grocery store, in the spirit of spring, try something new. Joining a CSA will help a local farm, provide you with the freshest of foods, and very likely teach you something along the way.





Expanding their Reach Love Again Local breaks into wholesale and retail “We don’t really want a plan B, we don’t want to do something else,” says Elena Mascherino, owner and founder of West Chester’s unique vegan sandwich shop, Love Again Local. Along with vegan butcher and store manager Abe Koffenberger, it doesn’t seem like they’ll have to worry about a plan B, as the bustling eatery gears up to launch their new line of vegan deli meats. The meat is made from a wheat-based protein, seitan, which is different from Beyond and Impossible, two major plantbased meat options that use pea and soy protein. And it is double-cooked, which adds aroma and reduces grease. Their artisan, small-batch technique makes it taste better than store-brand alternatives and “adds a bit of a personal touch that’s

kind of charming,” says Abe. To start, LAL will wholesale to local shops, such as pizza shops that already use vegan cheese and want to add vegan meats. Five “meats” — pepperoni, turkey, pastrami, ham and cuban pork — will be sold to local retailers first. They plan expanding further to include products such as cheese, dressings, and soups, all branded as LAL Brand Vegan Deli. Beyond West Chester, they’re targeting V Marks the Shop in Philly, Newark Natural Foods in Delaware, and Kimberton Whole Foods, as well as other co-ops and small grocery stores. “People really love to make sandwiches out of it,” Elena said. “We definitely see that there is a market for it.” As of press time, the new deli line will have a soft launch in March and will be tested out in a few select locations before a full release in April. Since its beginning, Love Again Local’s creations have “floored a lot of non-vegan people,” Elena says, and they hope that their new deli line will continue to attract vegans and non-vegans alike. They try to make the experience like an authentic deli, and, with the obvious exception

of all their plant-based sandwiches, “it’s all classic and familiar,” Elena says. One of the aspects that they stand by is their dedication to a positive work environment and enjoying what they do. “We wouldn’t be doing it if we weren’t having fun,” Elena says, and their positive outlook extends to their goal to have their customers leave with a smile. What’s next for the enterprising team of Love Again Local? “Conquer the entire universe,” Abe jokes in Elena’s direction. In that pursuit of world domination, they hope to open subsequent restaurants in different locations, with an eventual production facility for all of their house-made items. Elena says, “We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re good at figuring it out.” Their humble outlook and passion for food and customers has turned this local vegan shop into something larger, and, much like Abe describes their new meat products, has become “something more unique in itself.” photo ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story ALISON @ali.roll






Small Fry Some suggestions on the best destinations when dining out with the young ones in tow. Taking your toddler out to eat can be a special kind of chaos. Any parent who has experienced one of these little monsters knows the acronym PITA all too well. Our little princess Olivia (21 months) has recently graduated from size three diapers to size four and has developed quite the personality. She’s already smarter than me (she got it from her momma) and seems to be judging me with those adorable blue eyes. While she enjoys putting herself in time out, you can only imagine the trips into public we share together. Just recently she thought it would be fun to climb onto the table and try dancing. But in all seriousness, she has become a bit of a pain in the ass when we eat out. Things went from smooth sailing to rough seas quickly, and my wife Shannon and I have had to weather the storm and adjust our dining experiences to cater more to Olivia. While we’re never ever (ever) going to get that old life back, that doesn’t mean we won’t try. What we’ve realized is that eating at a restaurant with a toddler doesn’t have to be a nightmare! In fact, it can be downright... okay if you plan ahead. My wife Shannon and I came up with a tactical plan for a recent night out to Barnaby’s. Although we have all spent plenty of time consuming adult beverages on the patio, Barnaby’s is actually also a family-friendly juggernaut. Visiting on a Wednesday means it’s wing night (10 wings for only $5), plus kids eat free with the purchase of an entree! Wait, there’s more: $3 Yuengling pints. And if free food isn’t enough, the icing on the cake for the kiddos isn’t just the ice cream at the end of their meal, but the fact that Barnaby’s has a magician/ balloon artist every Wednesday and Thursday night to distract our little lady while we eat. Olivia was chowing down on her chicken fingers and fries — with extra ketchup, obviously — when roaming magician Arland approached our table. While he entertained Olivia by con-

structing a pink princess wand balloon, the adults at the table had a moment to indulge in their food without the threat of a water cup being thrown at a neighboring table. Not only did she absolutely love the balloon, but she really seemed interested and engaged with Arland. He is great with kids, and I can’t thank him enough for the 10 minutes of distraction. Barnaby’s has amazing specials every night of the week, and I highly recom-

mend taking a look at their website to find what makes the most sense for you. For my family, when the world gets back to normal, we will be frequenting on Wednesday or Thursday nights, not because Olivia’s meal is free, but because the overall experience was, well, freeing. story NICK @djromeo24


photo CHRISTOPHER @christopherjooones






The Shaved Prime Rib Sandwich from Pietro’s Prime brings the best of Pietro’s quality cuisine to an unassuming, conveniet and inexpensive lunch menu.

On a Roll Sampling all of the borough’s best foods served between slices of bread Pietro’s Prime has a reputation as a top-notch steakhouse, arguably THE place to go for a dinner that unwinds at a meandering pace, perfectly suited for enjoying their exceptional beef dishes. But what if the Pietro’s steak craving hits at lunchtime, when leisurely meals may not be possible? Enter their lunch menu, perhaps the best-kept secret in downtown West Chester. “For the convenience of our customers, we try to make it as fast as we can,” says Executive Chef and Proprietor Sean Powell. Options like soup and a half sandwich cater to the nearby courthouse crowd. I stopped by just before 1pm on a Saturday and the vibe was mellow, with a party in the back room and two couples arriving for a late lunch. From his post behind the bar, Gabriel didn’t hesitate

when I asked for the best sandwich on the menu, recommending the shaved prime rib sandwich. “It’s our biggest seller,” he said, “and it’s delicious.” Slowroasted prime rib is piled on a toasted brioche bun, topped with provolone and horseradish sauce and served with au jus. A side dish is included, so I let him talk me into his favorite—the sautéed spinach (he’s a health guy). Other options include French fries, onion rings, and perpetual hot seller smashed potatoes. I barely had five minutes to watch passersby out the window before Gabriel deposited my lunch in front of me. First impression: That’s a lot of food! For just $11, the sandwich was huge and there was enough spinach for leftovers. Let’s talk about the incredibly tender beef first, surprising considering it’s not sliced paper thin. Time and quality make the difference. “We slow roast our prime rib daily and shave it to order for each sandwich,” says Sean. “We only use prime cuts for all our meat, and we source them as locally as we can. We’re purchasing four times a week, and we

know what the best product is at any given time.” The in-house sauce is made from fresh ground horseradish root, vinegar, and cream, and Sean chooses aged provolone for its flavor profile, saying it “adds some extra oomph” to the beef. Capping it off is a Le Bus bun, sliced and toasted on the grill. “We let the heat of the meat melt the cheese, and then add a drizzle of the horseradish sauce to finish it.” And the au jus! It’s simmered for two days with beef bones and scraps along with some fresh herbs and spices. “We put it on the stove in the morning, take it off at night, remove the fat when it cools, then put it back on the stove to reduce for a second day,” he says. This is not a thrown-together-hastily sandwich. So enjoy the quality and ambiance of Pietro’s, and still return to your workday in the same amount of time your coworker took to microwave a frozen burrito and eat it at their desk. story & photo JESSE @jessepiersol






On the

Outskirts of Town Four Dogs Tavern is a destination worth the drive

story DANIELLE DAVIES @danielledavieswrites






he borough of West Chester is so loaded with restaurants, shops, art, culture, and things to do that it’s tempting to dig in to the 1.8 square miles and simply stay put. But while it’s easy to rely solely on what’s at your fingertips, staying in the borough—and missing out on the deliciousness and general vibe of Four Dogs Tavern in the historic village of Marshallton—would be a big mistake. In fact, the short trip—just four miles west—has all the makings for not just a visit, but a mini vacation. Along the picturesque and winding back roads of West Chester to a village steeped in history, a trip to Four Dogs Tavern is an easy drive, and just as easy an overnight getaway. With beer on the menu, a legendary Sunday brunch, and not one but two AirBnbs owned by David and Wendy Cox (David owns Four Dogs Tavern as well) within walking distance of it, there’s no reason to rush your visit. And please note: guests need to book the AirBnB in advance. Whether you’re heading there for an overnight or just a few hours, a trip to Four Dogs Tavern is worth your time. I

arrived for my own visit a few minutes early for a scheduled interview with chef and owner David Cox, and I took the opportunity to go peeking around the front of the tavern, making my way upstairs to a second floor eating area with a wrought iron railing surrounding the stairs, giving guests a nice view of the historic building. When General Manager Jeff Rubin found me, I was literally murmuring to myself, “Soooo charming.” While the food at Four Dogs Tavern is renowned—and we’ll get to that in a moment—the charm and history here really can’t be overstated. Back in the 1800s, when Strasburg Road was the main route between Pittsburgh and Philly, travelers would stop to dine at the Marshalton Inn, which incidentally, is still there and also owned by David Cox. [Editor’s note: we did not miss a typo here--the name of the inn was misspelled with one less “l” on the deed, and was never changed.] The building that is now Four Dogs Tavern originally served as the property’s sta-

Four Dogs offers an enormous patio for dining that is nothing short of fabulous. bles, often full of cows, horses, sheep and pigs. Later, it served as a series of shops that were located in the original animal stalls. It wasn’t until 1978 that the building became a restaurant, and while it became Four Dogs Tavern in 1996, the structure still retains echoes of the past, with wide plank flooring, a layout that includes multiple rooms, exposed beams, and a giant fireplace in what is now the bar. Lest you think the venue feels antiquated, think again. Instead, it’s a lively, bustling place full of character, with brightly written chalkboards announcing everything from happy hour to beers on tap; a cabinet of colorful Four Dogs Tavern t-shirts and sweatshirts for sale; and plenty of whimsical local artwork adorning the walls. Not to mention an enormous patio for dining that is nothing short of fabulous, with its own outdoor fireplace, bar, plenty of seating, and views that sometimes include fields of sunflowers.





Of course, a successful restaurant has to rely on more than a fun, historical and lively venue. Lucky for you—and anyone who heads to Four Dogs Tavern—Michelin Star-trained Chef David Cox is at the helm, creating mouth-watering and comforting American Brasserie fare seven days a week.

The structure still retains echoes of the past, with wide plank flooring, a layout that includes multiple rooms, exposed beams, and a giant fireplace in what is now the bar.

David became Chef and Owner of Four Dogs Tavern in 2006, but his history is a bit more involved than most restaurant owners. A graduate of the venerated culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University, David spent years learning to master French cooking techniques with some of the best chefs in the world, working at many renowned five-star hotels in Hawaii, California, Florida, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico before becoming the Executive Sous Chef at the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the Executive Chef at Picholine and Artisanal in New York City.

his extensive background in French cooking to the tiny village of Marshallton.

What it means at Four Dogs Tavern is that everything—and we mean everything—is made carefully, from scratch, using the best ingredients available. And that French cooking inspires everything David creates.

And while French staples like Wild Burgundy Snails in garlic butter ($12), Duck Terrine ($18), and a variety of cheese flights are definitely on the menu, so too are the things you’d find at any American tavern—chicken wings ($13), Caesar Salad ($12.50), a variety of flatbreads, and a Black Angus Burger with fries ($14.50)—done, of course, with a French flare.

Take, for example, the Rustic Nachos ($15.50). Instead of a plate of nachos that’s more messy pile than artful creation, with cheese on top and nowhere to be found at the bottom, the Rustic Nachos at Four Dogs Tavern is actually beautiful. Roasted and served on an elongated flat cedar board with cheese, pico de gallo and salsa verde, the made-for-the-table shared plate is as elegant as it is delicious.

“I would consider the menu to be French influenced and fundamentals that are geared to an American cuisine,” says David. “It has all the French theory in it, the background of good French cooking behind all the ingredients. I consider it American Brasserie.”

David mentions some signature dishes that are literally drool-inducing, things like the Crispy Chicken with gruyere whipped polenta and spinach ($25), shucked Wellfleet Oysters ($8), and Charcuterie boards full of sliced meats, cheeses, fresh and dried fruits,

It’s not every day a Manhattan chef takes on a small town restaurant, yet that’s exactly what David did when he returned to his native county—he grew up in West Chester—and Four Dogs Tavern, bringing

But what’s that mean for the average diner, who doesn’t necessarily recognize the place of origin of her Gruyere and Smoked Salmon sandwich ($16.50)?





Need To Know Happy Hours... Monday to Friday, 4-6pm

What’s Happening... Sundays Brunch from 10:30am to 2pm Bloody Mary bar & weekly specials available Live Music 6:30-9:30pm Thursdays Live music 7-10pm Fridays Live music 7-10pm

Make a trip of it...

Reserve one of their two AirBnBs

nuts, olives, bread and mustard ($49.50 for 2 to 3 people; $51.50 for 4 to 6 people). But he also keeps abreast of cooking and health trends, providing options for those with dietary restrictions. For vegans, there’s a Super Salad ($13.50) with berries, raw nuts and nutritional yeast; Grilled Avocado ($11) with unrefined Utah salt and pea tendrils; Crock of Hummus ($14.50) served with flatbread and crudité; and an Artisanal Vegan Burger ($17.50) made with toasted walnut and Swiss chard. For vegetarians, there’s the local favorite Grilled Margherita flatbread ($16), fondues, cheese plates, a variety of soups and salads, and Grilled Brie ($15.50) with a huckleberry gastrique and country toast that brings to mind just one word: Yum. If you’re gluten free, get yourself a flatbread. Each flatbread serves one to two people and can be made gluten free. In addition to the Grilled Margherita, there’s a Buffalo Chicken Flatbread ($17.50) with blue cheese and celery leaf, a California Flatbread ($16) with Brie, avocado and roasted peppers, and several others.

Michelin Star-trained Chef David Cox creates mouthwatering and comforting American Brasserie fare In addition to the lunch and dinner served seven days a week, Four Dogs Tavern has a popular Sunday brunch that includes Eggs Benedict ($12), and a Mushroom and Gruyere Omelette ($12), in addition to weekly specials. Of course, no matter when you show up, you’ll need something to drink. If you hit the Sunday brunch, be sure to indulge in the Bloody Mary Bar. Each order includes a carafe of Bloody Marys, two glasses, and your own cedar plank full of everything you might need to garnish your drink, including celery, skewered olives, bacon, peppers, asparagus and more. If beer is more your thing, you’re in luck at Four Dogs Tavern. In addition to 10 rotating craft beers on tap, the tavern features two constants: Guinness, and the Four Dogs Tavern Brew, made exclusively for them in collaboration with Stolen Sun Craft Brewing & Roasting Company.

The 6% ABV IPA was recently released in 16-ounce cans in a partnership with LaMancha Animal Rescue of Chester County; each can features a picture and profile of a dog available for rescue at LaMancha, and a percentage of proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit. On top of the partnership with LaMancha, David and Four Dogs Tavern are invested in the community in other ways, serving as the kickoff location for the Marshallton Triathlon; host location of the Marshallton Village Ghost Walk; and most recently, the host property of the Marshallton Village Heritage Center which, in addition to housing two bathrooms for when you’re waiting outside for your seat on the Four Dogs Tavern patio, tells the 250-year history of Marshallton Village and the Battle of Brandywine. I left Four Dogs Tavern determined not just to come back, but to make an overnight trip of it. While it’s absolutely accessible for a late afternoon lunch or dinner, there’s too much charm, history, beauty, and frankly, food, for me to hurry through Four Dogs Tavern and Marshallton Village.





Form & Function Exploring the design concepts of our borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces Opa Taverna will be celebrating their one-year anniversary this month at their location on the corner of Gay and Walnut Streets. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to step inside, be prepared to be amazed by the transformation. What used to house the wine bar Kreutz Creek Vineyards is now a Greek restaurant that is both tasty and tastefully renovated. Owner Konstantinos “Kosta” Botos explained why the renovation process at his place is unique. When searching for a designer, he looked no further than his own family and talented cousin Litsa Bottos of Design Corner in Athens. Walking into this eatery instantly transports you to the Mediterranean. All the materials are directly from Greece, from the lighting to the tile work. Kosta didn’t want the

traditional blue and white decor associated with Greece. The space is filled with harmonious natural elements that lend a more refined design, almost like you are eating amongst the ancient ruins. The stone walls, woven light fixtures, beautiful wood bar countertops, and geometric tile work on the bar are equally subtle and stunning. The comfortable seating areas include a social bar space, plenty of tables for small and large groups, and cozy booths. This is a spot where you can have a conversation with little interruption. The place next door is also Kosta’s, and serves double duty as their busy kitchen and food pickup area, keeping the restaurant side a quieter, more secluded experience. Kosta wanted this to be a place for anyone and everyone; during lunch you’ll find both the professional business crowd and local students eating here, and at night it’s a romantic night out, a girls night out, or a family night out spot. Kosta’s favorite part about the design? The doors that open out to the streets! When the weather is warm, the doors on both Gay and Walnut Streets open, with the fresh air pouring in and the smell of

Greek delights pouring out. Outdoor seating lines Gay Street for as magical an ambiance outside as inside. Greek music contributes to the idyllic atmosphere and the charming interior. And it’s no surprise after looking at their rave reviews that this place has amazing food. Begin with one of their delectable starters, like the spanakopita or the mouth-watering octopus. Then dive into a number of their popular meat platters, like their perfectly cooked pork chops, or try a traditional moussaka plate. Kosta’s personal favorite? The tsipoura, a baked, herbed fish dish. Finish the meal with their seemingly endless Greek dessert options, and you can pair your plate with the perfect Greek wine or beer. Make it a point to transport yourself to a real Mediterranean experience at Opa Taverna’s lovely surroundings by indulging in one of their classic dishes while sipping an Ouzo. The friendly people, fabulous food, and fresh decor will make it a place to keep coming back. story ANDREA MASON @andreamasondesign



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