Taste West Chester - Fall 2022

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AUG/SEPT 2022Produced & Published by The WC Press WEST CHESTER THE BEST CHARCUTERIE like this plate by LIMONCELLO RISTORANTE plus neighborhood hangs, cheap eats & more good food news inside.

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#TASTEWC We’re printing our favorite photos from our fans

Back of House STAFF common ground, Jamesexperience.”Beard

Today’s Menu

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SAVOR A SLICE

The best ways to burn ten bucks in the borough DINING OUT Sampling some of our town's best meals. @Mercato DÎNER À DEUX Date night in West Chester. @Opa Taverna PHOTO HUNT Find the five changes, win a gift card

The best foods served between slices of bread. @ Blazin Jay's SAY CHEESE Exploring West Chester's chacuterie scene FORM & FUNCTION

Kate Chadwick introduces the issue

ADVERTISING MANAGER Nick Vecchio nick@thewcpress.com

A mong the many blessings I count in my life, one pushes its way to the forefront on a regu lar basis: people love to feed me. From the time I was a scrawny kid growing up in an Italian neighborhood in West Philly—as a member of one of only three Irish families in a three-block radius—it’s been a thing. Mrs. Garzarella on 63rd Street, the mother of my then best friend, started breaking out the provisions every time I crossed their threshold. And it wasn’t “Here’s a bowl of chips for you girls.” It was homemade pasta with home made sauce via the tomatoes her husband grew in their postage stamp-sized garden. She’d pull giant hunks of cheeses, a big bowl of salad, salami and prosciutto, and leftover meatballs the size of tennis balls out of their seeming clown car of a refrigerator. Her grasp of English was shaky, her husband’s nearly nonexistent, but they said two things constantly: “Sit down. Eat something.” As I write this, some 40+ years later, I’m at home with the coffee brewing, awaiting a friend who will arrive bearing breakfast sandwiches. I have all the fixins to make my own, and in fact they’re one of my few culinary specialties, but hell yes: you can feed me.

PUBLISHER Dan Mathers dan@thewcpress.com MANAGING EDITOR Kate Chadwick kchadwick@thewcpress.com

Dining out with the young ones in tow. @ Sedona Taphouse TWO TIMERS

A man once opened my refrigerator and announced, “This looks like it was stocked by a 10-year-old.” Another once told me I had the eating habits of a 15-year-old boy. Not wrong, entirely, either of them. A friend visiting my home for the first time responded “whatever you’re hav ing” when I asked him if he’d like something to eat. He was served a PB&J and a glass of chocolate milk. Hence my love of dining out—even a couple of decades as a waitress couldn’t beat it out of me. Roast me a chicken, grill me a steak, make me an omelet, please and thank you. I love the whole experience of food being prepared and served and enjoyed (and no dishes to do after), whether a deux, with a group, or flying solo. And if we’re on a date and you know me well enough, you go right ahead and order for me. I make enough decisions in a day. I’m a feminist to the core, but food is a love lan guage that transcends roles.

—kate@tastewestchester.com

TASTE West Chester is the food-only spinoff of The WC Press It’s mailed to 3,000+ local readers and dropped off to more than 200 locations in and around the borough. For a free subscription, mailed or digital, visit thewcpress.com/subscribe

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Jesse Piersol jpiersol@thewcpress.com Danielle Davies ddavies@thewcpress.com

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER & STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Erik Weber @westchesterviews

The most important meal of the day. @ Turks Head SMALL FRIES

“Food is our

The borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces. @ Four Dogs Tavern CHEAP EATS

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In this issue we visit Opa for Date Night, where we take a culinary jaunt to Greece. Fair warning: I was instantly hungry after I read this. Are you just heading out for a drink? Take a break from the handcrafted/ bespoke cocktail scene for a cold beer at one of the OG neighborhood bars here in the borough. And if you are a grazer, like me, our Say Cheese feature is a must-read, highlighting the red-hot trend of charcuterie boards, laden with those cheeses, meats, and accoutrements that I started eating ‘round Mrs. Garzarella’s table at the age of eight. Maybe the next time my friend comes over I’ll upgrade him from PB&J to meat, cheese & fruit. I hope you savor this issue of Taste, and we thank you for reading it.

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a universal

Visiting WC’s OG Watering Holes ON A ROLL

There’s no such thing as bad pizza — some are just better than others BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS

Letter from the Editor

CONTRIBUTORS Becca Boyd bboyd@thewcpress.com Andrea Mason amason@thewcpress.com DJ Romeo romeo@thewcpress.com John Reshetar jreshetar@thewcpress.com Marjorie Preston mpreston@thewcpress.com

Rams Head Bar & Grill wins a second Chef’s Best competition CONNECTING THE SPOTS

Step One: Scan this code Step Two: Provide an address Step Three: Get this magazine mailed to your home for free.

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PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 11 @tastewc #tastewc Like and follow us on social media, then tag us in your posts for a chance get your work published here. Our favorite image each month () will earn its photographer a gift card to @saloon151. @saloon151 @yorisbakerywc @chefsetharnold @mercatowc @greystoneoysterbar@catheyscoffee @opatavernawc @sidebarwc 

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A classic slice from a classic joint. Benny's has been in business for decades, and they do it by keeping things simple and delicious. This isn't just a sprinkling of sausage — we're talking a saucy slice with thick, greasy slabs of sausage in every bite.

BBQ Chicken

Classic taste of summer, right here. Four Dogs covers this perfect crust with local heirloom tomatoes (tis the season!), gooey hunks of wet mozzarella and whole leaves of fresh basil, all of which is topped with a bit of pesto and just the right amount of balsamic.

Savor a Slice

photos ERIK WEBER

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

Four Dogs Tavern

Benny's Caprese Salad

@westchesterviews

On top of the classic thicky, crispy Greek-style crust, New Haven mound hunks of grilled chicken and layer on the cheese, all to be topped with a drizzle of sweet and savory barbecue sauce. New Haven Sausage

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The most important meal of the day can also be the most delicious way to start it.

There’s even a flora-filled patio set directly adjacent to the storefront. The owners, once fully settled, have plans to offer NA/AA meetings and photog

Over the past five years Jeremiah has worked with the Lamont brothers, updating their media and marketing in what was and is a solid, long-stand ing company: a fourth-generation cof fee wholesaler that provides carefully selected, micro-roasted beans from trusted farms to many West Chester establishments, including Penn’s Table, Market Street Grill, Roots, and Yori’s. Without a face for their name, those of us outside the restaurant business may not have even heard of this local roaster (located just outside the borough). We had, however, heard of Fenn’s Coffee shop (originally Fennario’s Coffee and Tobacco), which had been a fixture on Church Street for what seems like for ever. If you’ve had coffee at Fenn’s, then you’ve had Lamont coffee. Though Fenn’s didn’t make it through the rough patch the pandemic intro duced, devotees can scratch the itch (and find so much more) at Turks Head Café. Not only has the coffee remained unchanged, the head barista and man ager of Fenn’s, Brian Smith, is still serv ing it up with a smile. Truth be told you won’t find another coffee shop around that can boast a barista with 30 years of experience. Though Brian and the beans (possible band name??) haven’t changed, a lot has. Upon purchase, Jer emiah and the three Lamont brothers rolled up their sleeves for five months of rehab to brighten the (let’s face it)

...a fourth-generation coffee wholesaler that provides carefully selected, microroasted beans from trusted farms to many West Chester establishments, including Penn’s Table, Market Street Grill, Roots, and Yori’s... If you’ve had coffee at Fenn’s, then you’ve had Lamont coffee.

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This Month: Turk’s Head Café

For Jeremiah Kane and the Lamont brothers, opening a coffee shop in their hometown is a dream come true. The storefront is just months old, but the Lamont family has been in the cof fee business for over 60 years. Turks Head Café is, in fact, a culmination of moving parts, years of honed exper tise, and an others-centered approach to community that sets this space, and these people, apart from the rest.

dark and dreary interior and though the space isn’t large, it’s now being used to its full potential. All bright white, gleaming black and natural wood bars and tables—not to mention some noticeably hip lighting—it feels warm and inviting. The second floor, previ ously used for live music, is now a cozy space, dotted with potted succulents and meant for quiet conversations.

Breakfast of Champions

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photos & story BECCA BOYD @homebeccanomics

All bright white, gleaming black and natural wood bars and tables—not to mention some noticeably hip lighting—it feels warm and inviting. The second floor, previously used for live music, is now a cozy space, dotted with potted succulents and meant for quiet conversations. There’s even a flora-filled patio set directly adjacent to the storefront. Supporting local businesses is important, and they offer delicious glu ten-free and vegan baked goods from Aunt Kim’s bakery, based in Kennett. This is a serious coffee shop that boasts seriously good coffee, and then some. The most inviting, accepting environ ment I’ve felt in a long time headed up by hard-working, West Chester-born and -bred men trying to create a com munity where isolation sometimes seems easier, Turks Head Coffee is a welcome addition to the breakfast beat.

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 17 raphy classes, showcase up-and-com ing artists’ work, and encourage live music as much as possible. They pic ture a community space for people to come learn, share ideas, and get lost in conversations. To make new con nections. There’s zero concern to “turn over tables;” instead there’s outright encouragement to “hang out as long as youMostwant.”popular for their nitro cold brew and nitro teas (think improved mouth feel, easier to digest and more caffeine), they also offer some fantastic breakfast options. From a honey-driz zled avocado toast to tender muffins and crunchy biscotti from Bagel Bis tro, my best suggestion is the mango smoothie. Cool and creamy, full of fresh fruit, and with some whey added, it’s a complete breakfast on the go.

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Any parent knows feeding the little mon sters as soon as possible makes for a more enjoyable experience; toddlers get hangry.

Shannon’s sliders looked like a magazine cover and my meal was everything I imag ined it to be and more; since that fateful visit I’ve returned twice to order that same dish. The only thing better than the food here might be the service. David Trout, who runs the show, is very hands-on, and if you’ve dined here before there’s a good chance you’ve met him. He’s checking in with patrons, delivering food and ensuring everyone is enjoying their time and experi ence at Overall,Sedona.thetime together was a perfect night out with our little family. Everyone left with full bellies, a great mood and the desire to return soon. Spending time with our kids is a priority, and when we can do that at a place like Sedona Taphouse — a new(er) place in town that is welcoming to everyone and has everything we didn’t even know we liked — it makes those memories all the sweeter.

While she dipped her buttermilk-breaded chicken tenders into her tomato-sugar sauce, I wrangled with which dish was going to satisfy. Shannon ordered what she always does, the Kobe beef sliders: two mini burgers made with Eagyu beef, Ver mont cheddar, a house-made sauce and caramelized onions along with a side of Brussels sprouts is “hands down the best in town.” Pressure was on me to order, and I pulled an audible and went with some thing new, the crab-stuffed shrimp: large shrimp stuffed with jumbo lump crabmeat, fresh spinach and lemon butter served with a side of garlic whipped potatoes. It just seemed to jump out at me last minute saying, “Get in my belly.”

Some suggestions on the best destinations when dining out with the young ones in tow. This Month: Sedona Taphouse

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 19 story & photo NICK VECCHIO @djromeo24

The dreaded question, “What are we having for dinner tonight?” has plagued my wife Shannon and I since we started dating. I often feel like Noah from The Notebook begging her to answer me: “What do you want!?” Over the years we’ve improved our selection process with a few go-to options, like Sedona Taphouse. Since it opened in 2021, my little army of blondes has spent many early evenings indulging in delicious meals, quality cock tails and a welcoming vibe. We have a lot to consider before head ing out now that we’re a party of four. Our little guy Zachary is almost 9 months old and has been thrown right into the experi ence of dining, just like we did with his big sister. One of the most important things we have to consider is space, and Sedona has plenty of it. Plus they’ve got changing tables in both the men’s and women’s rooms, which is surprisingly rare in down town West Chester. There’s also a wide variety of fresh tasty food with a huge beer selection. That’s why Sedona regularly wins our dining debates. Upon entering, we were warmly greeted and promptly seated. Considering we have enough bags and equipment for a camping trip, the wait staff all worked together to give us the perfect spot where we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. Our 4 year old Olivia, feeling right at home, kicked off her san dals and began to color on her kid’s menu. Without even lifting her crayon from the page, she ordered “chicken fingers, fries and an apple juice… with extra ketchup, please.” I went with a “Cloudy” (the local mononym for Levante Brewing Company’s Cloudy & Cumbersome NEIPA) and Shan non went with the house cabernet and — of course — a round of waters. We have literally tried every mouth-wa tering appetizer on the menu, and you can’t go wrong, but our personal favorites are the bacon-wrapped scallops and the seared ahi tuna. Trust me: eat more apps at Sedona, and you will lead a happier life. Within minutes, Olivia’s food arrived while we were still ordering our entrees.

Small Fries

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Two- Timers Rams Head Bar & Grill Wins a Second Chef’s Best Competition Lamb Lollies with balsamicchimichurrihomemadeandreduction

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For almost a decade, the Annual Chef’s Best Competition, which benefits ACT in Faith of Greater West Chester, has celebrated a variety of winning appetizers from some of our favorite restaurants in the borough and surrounding areas. Win ners have included places like Sidebar and Mercato to Saloon 151 and Spence Café, among others. The winners of the 2019 competition, Rams Head Bar & Grill, joined the ranks of defending champions when the event was reinstated after a Covid-induced twoyear hiatus. And for the first time ever, the defending champions took home a sec ond“Wewin.came in ready to defend our title,” says James Jones, Chef at Rams Head. “And we’re thrilled to continue our win ning streak. We’re ready to return next year with our elevated comfort food and high-quality ingredients.” Rams Head was in good company during this year’s competition, a modifi cation from the traditional one-night only, in-person event to a six-week restaurant tour that lasted from April 11 to May 26, tweaked to accommodate COVID restric tions. Among the entries this year: The Split Rail Tavern, with crispy pork belly with Korean BBQ sauce, kimchi, samba cucumbers and peanuts; Opa Taverna, with hummus and pita; and Slow Hand, with deviled eggs with blackened shrimp and crispy shallots. “We are super excited about the win,” says Tonni Hill, Manager at Rams Head. “It was a different experience this year and it felt like a great first step in returning to normalcy, to see our customers and get to share the food with everyone. We had really tough competition and it’s always nice to be included with such well-re spected locations.” The winning appetizer from Rams Head? Lamb Lollies with homemade chi michurri and balsamic reduction. “The lamb was something new we’d put on the menu, but even when we were doing our menu changes, we thought we had put something good and special together,” says Hill. “We were all really in love with that dish and thought it would be a great representation of Rams Head. It’s just such a showstopper—everyone loves it. I’m not usually a lamb person either, but it’s been impressing everybody.” Rams Head’s 2019 winner was an Asian Pork Taco, an item that’s currently available on Taco Tuesdays—lamb lollies are available daily. The most important thing for Rams Head is providing quality options for new and existing customers.

“Our strategy is really just to highlight our menu items,” says Hill, about how they select what to enter in the competi tion. “They already invited us back for next year, so hopefully we’ll go for win number three.”The expectation is that the event will revert to a one-night fundraiser next year. And though it was a considerable change from the usual format, the fundraiser was still quite successful.

“This year, we sold 68 tickets and raised $10,000,” says Hallie Romanowski, exec Manager Tonni Hill and chef James Jones of Ram’s Head proudly pose after winning this year’s Chef’s Best competition.

“”“”

“With pandemic concerns still preva lent this year, we wanted to support the local restaurants by encouraging in-per son dining,” says Denise Antonelli, ACT in Faith Board President. “And while every one appreciated this option, our support ers have told us they love the experience of being together, in a single location, so they can watch the chefs compete in real time while they support ACT in Faith. We look forward to returning to that one-of-akind experience in 2023!”

Though the event this year raised thou sands of dollars, thanks in part to Chef’s Best 2022 Lead sponsors Gawthrop Greenwood, PC and FPA Wealth Manage ment; Bronze sponsors Liz and Bob Burk holder, Rita and Mike McGuane, Cheryl Monturo and Vince Paul, and Barb and Jim Snyder; and Ruby sponsors Amy and Jim Hemphill, Susan and Joe Karas, Hal lie and Ed Romanowski, and Robyn Mills and Ronald Longley, everyone seems to be looking forward to 2023 and the return of a full-scale, in-person event, designed to fundraise, but also promote area restau rants.“We keep it small and boutique because that way the restaurants get a lot more attention,” says Romanowski. “Instead of having a dozen restaurants with chips and salsa kind of stuff, it gives participating

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 23 restaurants an opportunity to showcase an appetizer portion of something. They decorate their table, hand out menus and recipes, and get to talk to people.”

The annual event may be an exciting night out for residents of the borough, but it’s also the signature fundraiser of ACT of Faith of Greater West Chester. Founded in 2010, the 501c3 interfaith organization seeks to empower un- and under-em ployed West Chester residents to stabilize their households and build toward sus tainability. Services provided by ACT in Faith include eviction and utility shut-off prevention, employment support services, personal care and household items, food staples, and homemade frozen meals available to all shoppers at its Community Cupboard. And fundraising goes a long way.In 2021, ACT in Faith served 396 households, 658 adults and 373 children. Additionally, 3,822 “Heat & Eat” meals were distributed, 298 households were served by the Community Cupboard, 50 evictions were prevented, and 1,645 basic needs services were provided. The Chef’s Best fundraiser is also meant to give back.

utive director of ACT in Faith. “In person, we raise $25,000 to $30,000. And we usually sell between 170 and 210 tickets.” Due to Covid changes, this year, instead of having representatives from each of the four participating restaurants in one venue, with a room full of hungry voters, a $50 ticket entitled diners to one coupon for each of the four restaurants on the tour, each of which offered a free signature appetizer to patrons taking part in the contest. And just like every other year, patrons had the ability to vote for the “Best of Chef’s Best,” a serious decision. “A couple of years ago, it came down to one spoon,” says Romanowski of the spoons used to cast votes.

“The mission for our fundraiser is keep ing it restaurant-focused so we continue to support the local community,” says Romanowski. “I mean, a lot of our folks that we help end up working at restau rants.”

photos ACT IN FAITH @actinfaith story danieLLe davies @DANIELLEDAVIESWRITES

To fund the mission of ACT in Faith of Greater West Chester, make an individual or corporate donation at ACTinFaithGWC.org.

Much More than Beer Yes, Ram’s Head has an awesome draft selection, and yes, they have great cocktails, but what really elevates this gastro pub is the grub. We keep it small and boutique because that way the restaurants get a lot more attention. Instead of having a dozen restaurants with chips and salsa kind of stuff, it gives participating restaurants an opportunity to showcase an appetizer portion of something. Hallie Romanowski

Connecting Visiting WC’s OG Watering Holes spotsthe

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Jake's Bar

In addition to his classic tales involving complex characters and the brutal real ity of nature, he was never one to shy away from a good drink in public. So, it got me thinking: what does his quote mean, really? Maybe what Heming way meant was how he imagined we should present ourselves in society. Think about it. When we sit at a table, with or without company, we are often hidden. We’re in our own private bub ble, shielded and isolated. But when we stand, we become visible to the world. We are participating with society under a common bond when standing at a bar. Hemingway visited a number of bars, bright and dark, crowded and intimate. Fast forward a few decades: I wonder what he’d have to say about their rise in popularity. There seems to be no end to the types of bars and pubs out there, especially how many have arrived on the scene recently. They each have their own personality, so some stand out more than others. Perhaps it turns into a beauty contest in the eyes of food and beverage critics as well as curious patrons; the most sophisticated, largest, and highly rated establishments survive. But what about the bars that aren’t so visible? The holes in the wall, the weathered shacks, the neighborhood hangs? Some of the best bars are the low-key, unpretentious, even unglamou rous establishments that don’t shy away from their true identity. They are what they are, and it’s embraced by not just the staff but the regulars. We’re talking about the kinds of places where you can stop by right from work and no one cares what you're wearing or what you order. And it just so happens that, in this town, there’s a few such beloved spots that have been doing it for decades... Before you hit up downtown, con sider a short walk over on South Mat lack Street to step inside Jake’s Bar, home of the $1 beer—literally! Once you enter, the very first thing I guaran tee you’ll notice is every inch of wall space covered with neon beer signs, both of foreign and domestic brands. They add distinct character and provide a multi-colored radiance throughout the space. Sports is the theme here, judging by the overhead championship banner that reads “Jake’s Bar Final Four 2021” and a few pieces of memorabilia dedi cated to the Philadelphia Flyers. In addi tion to that and the electric glow, there’s entertainment in the form of shuffle board and a jukebox equipped with your favorite retro hits. It can get tight in there, so either come early for happy hour or plan your day or night accord

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 27 E rnest Hemingway was once quoted as saying “Never sit at a table when you can stand at a bar.”

There's something timeless and alluring about the space, not to mention their T-shirts are essentially the official merchandise of the borough.

Jake’s Bar has boxes of confiscated fake IDs from over the years and it’s quite a collection. A running joke is that the one box on display is just from this week! So, if you are old enough to drink, don’t for get your ID. You will be carded, unless you’re older than the hills. While sitting, not standing this time, I got the chance to speak with local res ident Rane Simmons, a regular at Jake’s Bar and a contractor with Black Dog Painting....“Thisis a place for locals and hard workers, less for college kids. I come here because of Dwayne over there and the shuf fleboard”, he laughs. “I painted this bar. I even painted Dwayne’s house and the owner’s place! It’s the place to be.”

“ArethereanyplacesyouvisitbesidesJake’s?”

“It’s pretty down in the summer months. You have college kids that go home or go on vacation. Fall is the busiest season. I come here on Wednesdays when it’s chill. No way would I come here on a Friday or Saturday—it gets crazy!”

“They have a crowd switch every day. From 8 am till 12 pm—you have your older crowd in the morning then it switches over around 2 pm when you’ve got people just coming off a shift from work.”

“IsitusuallyayoungercrowdatJake’s?”

Jitters Sports Bar

“I’ll probably go to Square Bar later tonight. Check them out when you get a chance.” ingly. Capacity limit is only 68. Oh, and it's cash-only here, but if you happen to forget, no need to fret! There’s an ATM inside for your convenience. This bar operates at a high energy level. It’s well maintained, even for an average night (I visited on a Wednes day), and there’s a good rhythm and flow when the pace quickens. For regulars and locals, it’s all part of the game. For first timers, it helps to be on your toes. Know what you want and how much of it you want. Something else caught my attention when delving into the energy of Jake’s—they don’t mess around here. While I was enjoying my Coors Light, one young patron decided to drink directly out of a pitcher without a glass and Dwayne, the bartender on duty, shut it down right away even after a few words were exchanged. That was some thing I took away from my first experi ence: no nonsense, strict accountabil ity, and a tightly run ship. If you follow this formula, it’ll be peaches and cream. Otherwise, take it somewhere else. And here’s a free piece of advice for anyone who isn’t old enough to drink legally: if you bring a fake ID, you will regret it.

True to the name, Jitters always has the game on, and they've been sporting the exposed brick facade since before it was cool.

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best“Whenwouldyousayisthetimetogo?”

After a pit stop in the bathroom and a wave goodbye, I took a 10-minute walk north on Gay Street and crossed over onto Patton Avenue. At the corner of Patton and Chestnut Street you will find another landmark: Square Bar. Of the three destinations, Square Bar has the largest serving bar as it takes cen ter stage right in the middle of the room (and the bar itself is not square). Around the main attraction you’ll find plenty of additional seating to go with the beer signs, jukebox, and slot machines.

This place has some distinguishable traits that catch the eye and transport

Jitters Sports Bar

One of the few slot machines you'll see in a bar outside of Vegas — Jitters' idea of "gaming" is old school.

“Whenisyourbusiesttimeoftheyear?”

“Whattypeofdrinkspecialsdoyouoffer?”

“We don’t have $1 drink nights, but we do have awesome happy hour specials. Taco Tuesdays, Slider Wednesdays, and Chees esteak Fridays are every week in addition to $1 off all draft beers.”

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 29 Before I left, I said farewell to Dwayne at the bar and got a firm handshake in response, a common trend I noticed with other departing customers. My only minor suggestion would be to replace the lock for the men’s bathroom, which was broken. Other than that, it’s worth a visit. I mean, you can’t beat $1 beer if you fancy a cold brewski after a hard day’s labor. The night was still young leaving Jake’s, so I ventured back into the heart of West Chester and found my next destination in Jitters Sports Bar on Gay Street. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled when looking for it—the front door entrance almost blends in with the historic brick encompassing the street—a hidden gem in plain sight! It was once known as Turk’s Head Tavern until roughly 1985 when the name was changed. Thirty-seven years later, here we are. Right off the bat, I felt the sense of walking inside a traditional sports bar, but much more relaxed. The lights were low, everyone was deep into their conversations, and the slot machine was occupied. Jitters is well equipped to handle larger crowds—capacity level is 91—as there are multiple tables and stools in addition to the bar. Feeling hun gry? They’ve got you covered. It may be a simple menu, but these aren’t courtesy peanuts offered as a quick pick-me-up. The kitchen is open for business. Why not have a meal with your beer while you sit back and enjoy a ball game? While enjoying my Stella Artois I got to chat with Cam Taylor, the bartender that night. He’s been serving drinks and meals at Jitters since 2013 and has plenty to share, including facts about Turk’s Head Tavern...

“Weekends are definitely the busiest, just like the rest of the town.”

“The clientele. We have a built-in quality to our usual crowd here. While it tends to drop off during major holidays, we still have our crowd. Of course, we get newcomers but it’s a place for working stiffs. That’s what I am; a working stiff.” Short, sweet, and to the point. More importantly, honest, and unapologetic. After my drink, I said my respectful goodbye and received another firm handshake from Cam. Two for two! Great sense of professionalism and another well-run establishment.

“Whatisthebestpartaboutworkinghere?”

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“Whatsortofdrinkspecialsdoyouoffer?”

“September to end of January, that’s our busiest time of the year, especially during the annual restaurant festival in West Chester. Very busy in the winter months, as we’re referred to as a ‘snow bar.’ Good food, people, and Whileatmosphere.”mydeparture didn’t end with a handshake (two for three—so close!), I got a great feeling of acceptance here. I may not have been a regular or a famil iar face at any of these spots, but I was treated like a valued customer. It’s what keeps the old and new generations coming back year after year. History preserves these proud, unabashed busi nesses for a reason: it’s the people that create their Hemingwaylegacy.stood up for them in the past; perhaps we should do the same.

Square Bar Frank Weidman's been managing this fixture of the Northeast Quadrant of the borough for 17 years.

“You get a lot of first responders who come here after a shift, and a commu nity of locals who come together.” Every one here was incredibly polite, no one felt like a stranger, and even when a bar glass broke, no blame or tempers flared up. Patrons and employees pitched in to resolve the issue in an instant. I got to speak with Frank Weidman, manager of Square Bar for the last 17 years.

“Whenisyourbusiesttimeoftheyear?”

you back to…well, simpler days. Tiffany glass shades decorate the ceiling with bright hues and the walls tell a colorful tale of their own with murals depicting our favorite dog breeds hanging out at a bar with a beer in their paws and a smile on their jowls. Always a classic and fun to behold. American, German, and Canadian memorabilia are displayed on the wood paneling off one end to the back shelves above the entrance. You’d think you just traveled back to the 70s. Speaking of which—Square Bar has been in business for a whopping 70 years! The young and old here have plenty of memories to share. “It’s the neighborhood bar,” said a patron I chat ted with who asked not to be named.

“WhatmakesSquareBarstandoutamongtheothers?” “Customers. We got a great group of regulars who come here through the tenure of owners we’ve had in 70 years. It’s been over one year since we went under new management. As they’ve said, it’s the quintessen tial neighborhood bar people look forward to.”

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 31 photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story john reshetar @JOHNKRESHETAR

“Our most popular drink is what’s called The Citywide, which is a shot of Jim Beam and PBR for $5. We always collaborate with the cooks in the kitchen for new food specials. We have a weekday happy hour from 4-6pm.”

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PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 33 Is there a better way to punctuate the day than with a hot chicken sandwich?

The Roll Buttered and then grilled, the sturdy bri oche roll has enough density to stand up to a delayed eating, and it is large enough to hold the generous six-ounce breast that extends just beyond the border. “It’s a heavier duty bun,” explains Gary. “We needed something to handle a bigger sandwich. You can’t put it on any old ham burger bun.” The roll also holds up well to both the moistness of the chicken and the dollop of J’s Hot Mayo sauce slathered on it. Although several sauces are available, J’s Hot is the most popular choice, a signature house blend that combines seasoning with several different peppers, including chile andBlazin’chipotle.J’s rolls have a fan base all their own. Gary notes that one of their similar rolls—a New England-style hot dog bun— is so beloved that customers order them as sides. Buttered and grilled just like the round rolls, they are also used for kids’ sandwiches that feature chicken tenders, cheese, and pickles.

Blazin’ J’s started out in Lancaster just over two years ago, and when the original owners considered expanding into York or Harrisburg, Gary Danehower had another idea: downtown West Chester. A native of Glen Mills, he became a partner in the enterprise and opened the West Ches ter location on May 26. “I knew these were good seasonings and flavorings,” he recalls, “And everybody loves a chicken sandwich.”TheJ’sWay hot chicken sandwich is an ideal lunchtime choice. On a soggy Thurs day, I scored a parking meter right out front with seven minutes remaining, and I ordered two sandwiches and was back in my car before it expired. The sandwich is perfect for another reason, too: Between the sauce and the spicy oil, hot chicken sandwiches often require several napkins and a clean shirt after eating. Not this one, which comes wrapped halfway around in cheerful red and white checkered paper, perfect for one handing it while driving without the need for an outfit change or car cleaning afterward. (I know this because I may or may not have eaten half of it on the drive home after a busy and breakfast-free morning.)Along with a dollop of spicy mayobased sauce, the signature J’s Way fea tures two ripple-cut pickle slices and pep per jack cheese. The chicken is available chargrilled as well as fried.

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The popular side for everything at Blazin’ J’s is an order of seasoned fries, which are hand cut in small batches from fresh potatoes throughout the day. And then there is the Belgian waffle, which has been a surprising hit. “I figured that I knew West Chester, and salads would be a big hit,” says Gary. “But it turns out everyone is going crazy for the waffles.” This time of year, their biggest drink seller is a blue raspberry lemonade, visually dramatic with the denser blue ingredients drifting to the bottom of the glass. a Roll

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photo

Spice It Up The heat comes from three separate sources: The pepper jack cheese, the sauce on the chicken, and the mayo sauce on top. To increase the heat, choices extend all the way up to the Carolina Reaper-infused Blazed Up sauce, which Gary says is so hot he sometimes sees people almost crying from its intensity. Their sauces are made with butter, honey, and seasonings, and Gary points out that it’s not true Nashville hot chicken. “Lots of true Nashville chicken uses oil-based sauce,” he says. Personally, I love spicy foods, and it is rare that I bump up against the upper limit of my heat tolerance. The signature spice on my J’s Way sandwich offered the per fect amount of everyday heat. It got my attention without putting me in distress, and half an hour later I was still enjoying the pleasantly tingly reminder of a deli ciousWouldmeal.I be interested in taking it up a notch? Sure. And Gary has a plan for that, which is firing up my next sandwich with a single dose of Blazed Up sauce. “I have a guy from the courthouse who comes and knows to say, ‘hit me twice,’” laughs Gary. “I think I’ll hit yours once.”

On

Sampling all of the borough’s best foods served between slices of bread. This Month: Blazin J's ERIK WEBER story jesse piersoL

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CHEESE say

CharcuterieWestExploringChester'sScene

What is sharp and mild, smooth and crunchy, sweet yet savory, and altogether mouth-watering? It’s char cuterie, a centuries-old culinary tradition that’s been reimagined by a new genera tion of foodies. But this newest trend is no flash in the pan. Charcuterie (the French term trans lates roughly to “cured pork” or “pork butcher”) derives from a 500-year-old culinary process that originated in medi eval Europe. In an era before refrigeration, people preserved fresh meats through brining, pickling, smoking, or salting. The cured meat could then be consumed at leisure, sometimes over the course of months.Thelatter-day charcuterie board starts with meat, then piles on assorted cheeses, nuts, seeds, olives, artisan breads, and dips. With a flavor for every taste bud, these artfully assembled boards have become a staple of weddings and show ers, corporate meet-and-greets, picnics, barbecues, and any place hungry people meet to eat.

Picture Perfect According to a 2020 article in Business Insider, the charcuterie craze began with millennials, who can’t resist uploading gorgeous food pics to Instagram and other social media platforms. The boards are ideal subjects: colorful as well as tasteful, a feast both for the eyes and the appetite. The food phenomenon has propelled some practitioners to the status of "charcuterie influencer" (yes, that is a real thing). In the pantheon of charcuterie influ encers, Marissa Mullen may have been the first superstar. In her 2020 book, That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life, she said the boards “can be an important form of artistic self-care, like flower arranging or meditative coloring books—but you can eat the Someresults!”canny creatives have taken the trend even further, offering char cuterie-based team-building courses (one is called Cheesed to Meat You—bad pun intended).DanielBerkowitz is president of Oak & Olive, a West Chester-based wholesaler of charcuterie boards and other home enter tainment accessories (shopoakandolive. com). He isn’t surprised that the trend grew despite Covid—or perhaps because of Covid.“Especially during the shutdowns, with people being home all the time, there were more cooking shows, more chef shows, more cake and bakery shows—a gazil lion of them, along with a huge increase in home entertaining. And part of that is charcuterie boards. We’ve been in busi ness for over 20 years, and in the last two years, we’ve definitely seen a shift in the marketplace toward more creative dining andThepresentation.”not-so-secret secret of the char cuterie board? Its infinite variety. Along with the basics—like prosciutto, pepper oni, mortadella, confit, and other savory sliced meats—the typical board features Oak & Olive

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This West Chester-based company ships charcuterie accessories — from oak planks to insulated food carriers — to retailers around the country. (also featured on the previous page)

The selection of meats and other fix ings at Carlino’s is equally vast. “It really depends on what you like, a salami or a nice soppressata. There are meats enrobed in wine or truffles or sea salt. Those defi nitely go on a nice board. You could add sweets if you want. We always like to put in a candied almond or Marcona almond, which have a great crunch. Definitely use either honey or jam.” All these competing sensations— sweet and sharp, light, and dense, soft and crusty—work together to make a fabulous fingertip feast. “It's a party,” Carlino says. “A party in your mouth.”

“That became our tradition, every two weeks,” Lavasseur recalls. “Other peo ple got wind of it, and soon I had my first random person call and say, ‘Hey, can you make one of these for us?’ At that point, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, is this like a thing?” (Yes, this is most certainly a thing.)

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You could spend weeks sampling a few cheeses every day and never try everything on offer at Carlino's.

an array of cheeses: hunks of hard, chop ping-block cheeses, like aged, smoked gouda or asiago; semi-soft cheeses like Havarti and muenster; and ooey-gooey varieties like Boursin, brie, fontina, and camembert.Potsofhoney or jam add a touch of sweetness. Pickles, olives, tapenades, pesto, and mustards bring in the tart and briny notes. For texture and crunch, add a garden of crudites alongside baguettes, breadsticks, bruschetta, and crackers. Many charcutiers finish with a sprinkling of nuts or chocolates, clusters of fresh grapes, other fresh and dried fruits, and even sprigs of herbs and fresh flowers (edi ble or Theotherwise).resultcan be “almost too pretty to eat,” says Nick Carlino, chief marketing officer for Carlino’s Specialty Foods, West Chester’s uber-food market. The operative word is “almost.” On any given day, Carlino’s offers 200 varieties of cheese alone, imported from around the world. They include go-to Ital ian staples, like provolone, mozzarella, and a tangy 24-month aged Parmesan Reg giano, as well as English cheddars and rich, double- and triple-cream French varieties (made by adding extra cream before the milk“Wecurds).have local cheeses from farms in Chester County and creameries in Phila delphia,” says Carlino, plus other domes tics like Wisconsin gorgonzola and ched dar. “Our cheese-mongers do a great job of sourcing new products, just to give our regular customers more choice.” (Yes, you heard right—cheese-mongering is also an actualCarlino’sthing.)serves up specialty and exotic cheeses, too, like fruited Stiltons that can be made with cranberry, mango, or pine apple (“Oh, so delicious,” says Carlino). Often, these cheeses can be pretty pun gent, which is a plus or a minus, depend ing on the nearest nose. For some gas tronomes, the more “le pew” a cheese, the more they like it. But the same strong aromas make other cheese-lovers cringe. “Yes, people stray from some of the stinkier cheeses, which is a shame,” says Carlino. “We have a lot of really good bleu cheeses, for instance—some so soft and delicate, you have to use an ice cream scoop to scoop them out. If people can get past the smell of the stronger varieties, they change their perception. The cheeses are just that good.”

Tastefully Yours

Lavasseur’s new venture, Olive & Meadow (oliveandmeadow.com),

Covid put the kibosh on a lot of hotel and resort buffets. After all, who wants to pile up their plate while staring through a sneeze guard? But the shutdowns of recent years were incubators for charcuterie as a business venture. Just ask Ariel Lavasseur. Like most of the rest of us, the onetime financial ser vices manager was sent home to ride out the viral outbreak. “I was bored,” she says. But she wasn’t idle for long. “I have a degree in hospitality management, and I always entertained. When we couldn’t have anybody over, I went a little stir crazy. That’s when I started making charcuterie trays.”To keep busy, she then offered the boards as gifts to housebound friends— leaving them on doorsteps, then conduct ing virtual happy hours on Zoom.

Carlino's Market

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PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 39 became so successful, so quickly, she recently left her corporate position to become a full-time charcutier. In addition to preparing and delivering the boards, she also conducts private, home-based char cuterie workshops, and partners on similar how-to events with Grace Winery in Glen Mills and the 2SP Brewery, with a tasting room in Aston. Her kitchen, based at Arti sans Exchange in West Chester, serves the greater Philadelphia area as well as New Jersey shore points.

For more information, visit marvelwoodworking.com.

it takes to create fans of colorful cheese slices, sunbursts of fruit slices, and slices of ham or salami folded to resemble flower petals. Practice makes perfect, says Lavas seur—and having filled more than 500 orders in a span of six months, she now has the production process down. She also offers themed boards, like a Chocolate Dream Board (with cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, and other confections), and a cocktail garnish board (with pre-sliced wedges of lemon, lime, and orange, plus olives for martinis and bloody Marys). Ahhh.

Ariel LeVasseur, Olive and Meadow“”“”

Lavasseur credits her unexpected sec ond career to the something-for-everyone appeal of the charcuterie board, and the Chairman of the Boards Gregg Marvel of West Chester spent 30 years as a data integration consultant for Fortune 500 companies. The high-pressure, high-flying job kept him on the road four days out of five, until a blood clot cost him the vision in one eye. That’s when Marvel began his second act, crafting fine furniture from a workshop in his basement.

At first, the pastime was a hobby, strictly leisure, pleasure, and personal satisfaction. But in 2013, it became a business. Marvel Woodworking now turns out farmhouse tables, liveedge bar tops, custom cabinets, one-ofa-kind planters, and elaborate, multitiered jewelry cases. Marvel’s domestic woods start as big slabs shipped from a friend’s Elkton, Maryland sawmill.

So, what are her charcuterie musts? “While my business concept makes every thing customizable, I personally build a board with a hard and soft cheese and a savory or fruity cheese, so the flavors all balance,” says Levasseur. “Rich dark choc olate adds a sweet element to the board, and of course, chocolate, wine, and cheese all go Shetogether.”findsroom for salted caramels or pistachio toffee—"they’re not heavy, like candy”—adds nuts and seasonal fruits like berries, then piles crackers on the side. The completed boards are almost like sculpture, or a beautiful landscape. They are also labor-intensive: consider the time While my business concept makes everything customizable, I personally build a board with a hard and soft cheese and a savory or fruity cheese, so the flavors all balance.

Once a customer asked Marvel to make use of a beloved, ancient tree that had fallen on the family’s property.

“The tree had a kind of sentimental value,” says Marvel, who was happy to accommodate. That old tree yielded 18 charcuterie boards, which were then distributed to members of the customer’s family. “I feel good about everything I build,” says Marvel. “It’s nice to stamp your name on something that should be around for 50 or 75 years. My work is going to outlast me, that’s for sure.”

To make use of off-cut pieces, the designer makes whimsical fish-shaped wooden trivets, pig-shaped serving trays, and charcuterie boards. The latter are chiefly made of ash and walnut, light and dark woods that provide a pleasing contrast.

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beauty of the presentation. “I always say you eat with your eyes first. And this is a completely edible work of art.”

Olive & Meadow’s parchment-wrapped grazing tables serve as many as 50 people (kitchen tables and islands work well for this purpose). But Lavasseur also offers so-called “charcuterie cups” for those who prefer individual servings. Likewise, Carli no’s offers a “grazing box,” which serves between four to six people, can easily be toted to a picnic or the beach, and makes a thoughtful hostess gift.

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 41 photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story marjorie preston @MARJORIE.PRESTON.54

Ditto Limoncello Restaurant’s South Philly antipasto platter, which features 17-month prima donna cheese, sixmonth pecorino Toscana, marinated fresh mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, Calabrese salami, and fresh fruit and bread.Tobe sure, charcuterie boards are hav ing a moment. They are definitely a thing. And it looks like they will continue to be. Dining Out In the borough, charcuterie options abound, but some of our favorites include these options from Mercato (L) with pungent cheeses and fresh fruits, and Limoncello (R) with cured meats and creamy burrata.

Safely Graze

For safety’s sake, as you prepare your charcuterie board, keep all foods separate and sealed in airtight containers, prior to assembly on party day. If you include a fatty meat, slip a small piece of parchment beneath the slices. And if you’re serving apples and pears, soak them first in lemon juice, then pat dry before placing them on the board. The citrus not only keeps the fruit from browning, but it also adds a little extra zip to the taste.

As for perishability, charcuterie boards “do last in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours, but that is the absolute shelf life,” says Lavas seur. Be sure to keep nuts on the side. “Once nuts touch fruit or cheese, they start to take on their moisture.”

As for board care and maintenance, Berkowitz recommends hand washing and drying (no dishwashers, please). And the website Charcuterie-boards. com suggests seasoning your board with walnut oil, hemp oil, tung oil, flaxseed oil, or food-grade mineral oil, and occasional finishing with a butcher-block wax. Oak & Olive features 15 full pages of serving planks and charcuterie boards, many crafted by Pennsylvania Dutch woodworkers of domestic hardwoods like walnut, cherry, and maple. Oak & Olive also offers smaller boards of Capri, Amalfi and Verdi marble that are ideal for serving a charcuterie spread—just pop the board into the freezer, and the chilled marble will help keep everything fresh. If you don’t feel like serving at home, or just need a night on the town, the menu at Mercato Ristorante and Bar offers what is essentially a charcuterie board. It’s called the Artisan and Salume ria Cheese Board, with three imported meats, three artisan cheeses, candied walnuts, balsamic honey, peach bacon marmalade, and fruit in season.

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Four Dogs Tavern story andrea mason @andreamasondesign photo ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews

Four Dogs Tavern and Marshalton Inn is a rare find — somewhere with delicious food and an ambiance that's a true reflec tion of the history of the space.

In the quaint village of Marshallton lies Four Dogs Tavern and Marshalton Inn, owned by West Chester native and chef David Cox. Although they share a sim ilar menu, once you step inside you will discover each has its own unique ambi ance that is rich with history. From fun and casual to a more private and elegant atmosphere, they each offer something for everyone. They’re charming both inside and outside, and the food is just as memo rable. I sat down with one of the managers, Sarah Webster, and she shared why these two gems are a local favorite. In the early 1800s the village of Mar shallton was a popular rest area for people going to and from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh. Travelers would stop at the stables (which is now Four Dogs Tavern) and Marshalton Inn for food and rest. The

Owner David Cox has traveled the world picking up flavors and techniques that make his dishes both beautiful and memorable. Cox takes special care to use seasonal ingredients and has relationships with local farms, which you’ll see plenty of on your scenic drive out to Marshallton. Start your meal with a range of shared plates. Sarah says the crab nachos and charred octopus are not to be missed. Main dishes like the Rigatoni Bolognese and Blackened Tuna are big crowd pleas ers. The desserts are made in house by pastry chef Wendy Cox. You can't leave without trying her lemon meringue ice cream pie! Pair your plates with their large selec tion of beer, wine, and specialty cocktails. Try their Four Dogs Tavern Brew, a juicy IPA from the local Stolen Sun Brewery, and delicious seasonal cocktails like the sandia margarita and strawberry rhubarb cocktail, just to name a few.

Exploring the design concepts of our borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces. This Month:

Form & Function

exterior of Four Dogs still has the appear ance of an old stable, but the interior has been transformed into a two-story restau rant with a comfortable cabin feel. There is so much warmth with the different textures like the stone walls and knotted wood paneling. Two inviting fireplaces keep customers cozy during the winter months. Outside is a gorgeous patio with ample seating, surrounded by tranquil nature and accented by twinkling lights. It’s a picture-perfect scene with live music playing and family and friends gathering. Even friendly dogs can relax here with their owners.Marshalton Inn offers a quieter, more romantic ambiance with dim lighting and smaller, more intimate spaces with multiple fireplaces. Wendy Cox, who is David’s wife, has thoughtfully decorated these rooms with antique colonial furni ture, lighting, and decor. You are instantly transported back to the 1800s as your eye wanders over the unique layers of the spaces, from the oriental rugs to the art work. Wendy decorated these two restau rants with an eye towards paying homage to the important history of the spot, while also giving it a tasteful updated look.

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eats CHEAP the best ways to burn ten bucks Brother’s Pizza’s pasta fagioli soup with garlic bread is always a solid choice

Penn’s Table

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On a hot and hazy Thursday morning before the July 4th weekend, downtown West Chester is laid back and mellow. It’s always been fun to sit outside on a beautiful day at Penn’s Table, but espe cially so now with the fountain in front of the 44 West building at the intersec tion. Across the street, people read and socialize at the smattering of tables set up in the plaza. I kind of have a hankering for a break fast sandwich, but after talking with my server Madison, I choose the Number 1. What sold me was her description of the home fries: cubed rather than shredded, seasoned and a bit different from the offerings at other establishments. Per fection! Crispy and salty with a hint of spice, and a few blistered skins clinging to some of the pieces. They are made with a waxy rather than starchy potato variety, which is just how I like them.

My eggs are over easy, delivered hot with a squishy yolk that meanders over to the home fries. Sopping up the egg

Some breakfast spots turn over tables as fast as possible to maximize profits. Not so here, where — while the service is quick — everyone is so friendly that it’s common to find folks sitting at the bar chatting with customers and staff.

BREAKFAST

These days, you’ve gotta milk a dollar out of every dime,” writes Gayle Forman in her 2010 novel Where She Went. Her words ring especially true today, when it can cost more than $100 to gas up a vehicle.Wholesale food costs were 17% higher in March of this year than the same time last year, as cited from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by Tovia Smith in the May 11, 2022, episode of NPR’s Morning Edition. And food isn’t the only reason for the increasing prices and slimmer margins, with average hourly earnings for restaurant and bar employ ees rising 15% in the prior year, more than any other year on record. In that same Morning Edition epi sode, Joseph Charles, owner of Rock City Pizza in Boston, tells Smith that he has a tougher time now than he did when indoor dining was banned in March 2020, when he changed his busi ness model by hustling pizzas and subs out the window to masked customers waiting on the sidewalk. “Inflation is just ridiculous now,” Charles tells Smith. “It’s harder to do business than it was in the pandemic. It is.” For these reasons and more, it can be tempting to hunker down and cook at home instead of eating out. But restau rants need patrons more than ever. So, we took to the streets—well, Gay Street, mostly—to find a compromise between saving money and feeding the borough’s lifeblood of restaurants. Here, we share some examples of the bounty that 10 bucks can buy for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner.

Penn’s Table 100 W. Gay Street

Gryphon’s avocado toast ($8) fea tures mashed avocado, olive oil, lime, radish, and urfa biber (a dried Turkish chili pepper with a smoky, raisin-like taste). Or there is the fig and camem bert toast ($6), which includes fig jam, Old Chatham Farms camembert cheese, and saba (a syrupy Italian condiment made from unfermented grape juice).

The vibe inside Lorenzo’s is casual, open, and bright, with a row of stools

The coffee is strong and not too hot, served with plenty of cream in a proper diner-style ceramic mug. I linger over a couple of free refills, because why not?

Gryphon Café

and when you need to mix it up... Gryphon Café

If a grab-n-go breakfast is necessary, the $6 breakfast sandwich is an option, featuring one egg and a slice of Amer ican cheese on either white, rye, or wheat toast, or an English muffin, Kaiser roll, bagel, or croissant. For anyone not in the mood for eggs, Madison says that the old-fashioned oatmeal is another popular breakfast item. Priced at $6, it includes one of the following toppings in the price: apple cinnamon, blueberries, brown sugar, cinnamon raisin, cranber ries, walnuts, or bananas.

Lunch can be simple and quick and still have a touch of gourmet. Lorenzo’s is known for their gigantic 28” pizzas, and that’s where we stop for lunch today. At the counter, Julia recommends a deli cious and popular topping combination: ricotta, tomatoes, and pesto. The top pings are what adorn their personal size pizza called the Nonna. A slice is $4.50 with toppings $1 each, so for $7.50, I score a meal-worthy slice with three choices.Thecolors and flavors are perfect for a summer day. Red tomatoes and green pesto make for a cheerful presentation. Dollops of creamy ricotta mix with the pesto for a bit of flair and citrusy goodness.

LUNCH

Lorenzo and Sons Pizza 27 N. High Street

Madison says that of the three jobs she’s worked in downtown West Ches ter, this one is her favorite, because the owners treat everyone like family, a practice that I would say extends to the customers too.

NumberCOST1:$7.50Coffee:$3

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111 W. Gay Street

Avocado toast may have once been the source of many a millenial meme, but it’s since become a staple of American breakfast. Gryphon’s takes on the toast offer classic, sweet and savory options. yolk is possible with myriad options, but the task is probably best accomplished with white, wheat, rye toast, or an English muffin. There are also croissants or several types of bagels or be a rebel like me and go for cinnamon raisin toast, a food I always forget about until some one mentions it. It is crunchy, sweet, and magical when topped with the justmelted butter served alongside.

Lorenzo’s crafts a classic pizza crust with enough heft to stand up to moist ingredients without getting sticky. Even with its impressive real estate, the slice is easy to pick up, and not too thick for any one inclined to fold it in half.

“”“”sticky.

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 49 along the window facing Gay Street. A seating area on the second floor offers a quiet retreat from the noise and exuber ance of lunchtime in West Chester.

The 3-taco entrée is offered for $7.99, with a choice of chicken, steak, or ground beef. I enjoy my tacos authentic street style (cilantro, onions, and salsa), Lorenzo’s crafts a classic pizza crust with enough heft to stand up to moist ingredients without getting

Tacos are one of the most popular items and are available singly or in mul tiples. Mimi, the owner, likes the chicken best, and although I am tempted, I feel pulled toward the steak, which she says is the most popular choice.

DINNER Taco Mar 122 E. Gay Street Taco Mar has been here on Gay Street for about 3 years, with options for indoor and outdoor dining as well as takeout. The décor and vibe are col orful and inviting. On the walls by the front counter are messages and draw ings from customers. In the dining room located toward the rear of the restaurant, it is quiet and intimate, in counterpoint to the brightly patterned ceramic tile counter that faces Gay Street through a large glass window. Outside, there are the bar-height tables and chairs, com plete with overhead twinkle lights for after dark.

Pretty much any slice from Lorenzo’s is a meal unto itself, but when you add roughly half a tomato worth of slices, hunks of fresh mozzarello and pesto to the pie, one slice might be too much!

Carlino’s Market 128 W. Market Street Grab a single serving of Carlino’s famous multigrain salad with top-shelf ingredients such as wild rice, kamut, wheatberry, barley, farro, pepper, car rots, cranberries, sliced almonds, and edamame tossed in a rice wine vinai grette for $8. With a fancy Italian soda, the tab is still under $10.

Lorenzo and Sons Pizza

I think of steak as typically toothsome and heavy, so I am impressed by how well this steak, chipped into tiny pieces, meshes with the light, citrusy flavors of lime and cilantro. A generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro and chopped onions adorn each taco, with a wedge of lime for squeezing and several thin radish slices perched on top. Tacos are served on corn tortillas.

Let’s pause for a moment to talk about the touch screen beverage dis penser, which lit up the face of every kid that came through the door while I was waiting for my slice. Brightly colored graphic bubbles for every beverage swirl around the screen, and flavors can be combined to create a unique beverage. It was a hot day, and my sweet-tart lem onade was ideal. For anyone looking to skip the crust, another option is an order of bacon cheese fries (smoked bacon and cheese whiz atop Lorenzo’s signature fries) for $8.25. COST Slice with 3 toppings: $7.50 Fountain soda: $3 and when you need to mix it up...

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photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story jesse piersoL @JESSEPIERSOL and when you need to mix it up... Brothers Pizza and Pasta 670 Downingtown Pike Enjoy a cup of Brothers’ homemade escarole or pasta fagioli soup for $3.75 along with an order of garlic bread for $4.75. Another light dinner option is the goat cheese toasts for $8.50, which consist of toasted Italian bread brushed with balsamic vinaigrette and then topped with goat cheese and scallions. Exercise discretion with the hot sauce—it is delicious but fiery. Even the red salsa has a mildkick.“”“”

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 51 with the other option being Americano (lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa, and Mexican crema). To take advantage of the $7.99 price point, fillings and top ping choices must be the same. Mimi includes salsa as well as hot sauce on the side, both of which are homemade. Exercise discretion with the hot sauce—it is delicious but fiery. Even the red salsa has a mild kick. A couple of other menu items keep the tab under $10. The bean, cheese, and tomato burrito for $6.99 consists of a flour tortilla that encases Taco Mar’s homemade bean, cheese, and tomato fill ing. The three-cheese quesadilla for $6.99 features a combination of 3 cheeses sand wiched between 2 flour tortillas. COST Steak tacos (3): $7.99 Bottled water: $1 Taco Mar Classic street tacos, done right. The beauty is in the simplicty — let that steak pop, with the bite of the onion and the aroma of the cilantro. Then feel free to douse it in house-made sauces.

Consisting of three large meat ball-sized croquettes, these are stuffed with shredded short rib, risotto, and mozzarella sitting atop a shallow pool of thick pomodoro sauce. It’s an automatic order for us here, and we dispatched it quickly. For my entrée, I felt a little Sampling some of the borough’s best meals in West Chester’s premier dinner destinations. This Month: Mercato

Full disclosure: when I think of din ing out, I don’t immediately think “Italian.” This is not due to any sort of aversion to Italian food, trust me. But as a single mom with two kids and two jobs (plus), I’ve thrown together a lot of pasta and Carlino’s meatballs—the latter are always in my freezer—and have ordered plenty of pizzas over the years. Often, we’ve had both in a given week. Granted, Carlino’s is hardly Chef Boyardee, but you get my drift. So, when it’s time to go out, I’m thinking about things that I don’t make at home (or can’t—I know my limitations). The only meat I usually keep in the house is chicken, so I tend to lean towards a nice cut of steak with a creative potato side and some fresh grilled veggies, or anything that takes more culinary talent, skill—and time! —than I can muster. And yes—I’m very much aware that Italian food stretches well beyond the pasta + pizza range, and we need look no further than Mercato Ristorante & Bar on Market Street for proof of that. Factor in my son, who, whenever din ing out in the borough is an option, will opt for Mercato. I don’t even have to ask him, really. That’s where we found ourselves on a sublime summer eve ning as June dwindled down. We abso lutely opted to sit outside—Mercato has been doing the outdoor seating thing since before it was cool—and a COVID-inspired necessity. It was one of those evenings where the light was just right, and the air was warm but not hot. The place was busy although it was early—maybe 5:30—and the patrons ran the gamut from young professionals to full families to one solo diner (with dog). Dining al fresco is always a lovely departure from the norm—one feels a bit transported to Europe, at least tem porarily. Fresh air, natural light, people watching…and dogs. You don’t need me to tell you that West Chester is a very dog-centric town, and dining along the Market Street sidewalk gives you front-

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 53

Myles typically orders a soda when we’re out, but in anticipation of a lot of food, stuck to water, while I ordered a Heineken 0.0. If you’re curious about N/A beers, this is one of the better ones, so kudos to either GM Chris Jones or whoever else may have decided to stock this beverage.

Dining Out row seat to a veritable parade of dogs. I’ll get back to this. After we were seated, Macy hustled over to greet us. I’m a decades-long veteran of the service industry, and I appreciate a good server. We had one in Macy. Friendly and upbeat but not pushy or hovering, she was efficient and knew her stuff, fielding questions and listing the specials with assurance.

Macy fetched us some bread, and it is superior; with a wedge of cheese, perhaps, I could make a meal of the bread alone. It’s dense and chewy, with a crunchy, crusty…crust, and served alongside a rich, tangy tomato pesto for dipping, a nice change of pace from butter or even olive oil. We also barely let poor Macy drop the bread before we were talking over each other to order the Arancini appetizer to share.

@KATEC616

PUBLISHED WC PRESS 55 protein was in order, and went with the Chicken Caprese: a boneless breast, topped with sliced eggplant, paper-thin pro sciutto, and melted mozzarella. It arrived topped with small, halved Roma tomatoes and a side of fresh veggies: crisp green beans, chunky julienned carrots, and perfectly cooked cauli flower (yes, I’m one of those weird cauliflower fans). chadwicK

BY THE

Myles was in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mode, and stuck with the short rib thing (I told you I don’t cook meat at home—it never tastes as good as when someone else cooks it!), and he opted for the Paccheri Napoletani. This rich dish is comprised of Mercato’s outstanding short rib ragu alongside wide homemade rigatoni. Pasta from scratch has a flavor all its own, doesn’t it? Something else I’ve never attempted in my own kitchen…maybe someday. Completely stuffed to the gills, we at first discussed pass ing on dessert. But Myles cannot resist crème brûlée—and no, I’ve never attempted that at home, either! –so he ordered Mercato’s homemade vanilla offering, which comes with Amerena cherry and a dusting of powdered sugar. From the perfect crunchy top to the bottom of the dish, it was exquisite (okay, I had a tiny taste, for research purposes). We made a pact right there to take a very long post-dinner walk around town.Speaking of walks—back to the dogs! If you know me you know I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like—every shape, size, age, and breed (with a particular soft spot for mutts). Whether they were trotting by on leashes for their evening constitu tional, or lying at their owners’ feet at a table, the dog-watch ing rivals the people-watching at Mercato. The sidewalk acts like a catwalk (wait, what?) as a canine rainbow gallops, lopes, prances, or meanders by, on full alert, what with all the food smells. And yes—I leaned out to pet every single one that I could reach. I’m that person. And great news: since our visit, at some point in mid-July, Mercato added a “puppy bites” menu, with “puptails,” “yappy meals,” and “treats” categories. So, it’s now officially a BYO pupper spot.

Mercato is open at 33 West Market Street for lunch and dinner seven days a week, brunch on Saturday and Sunday, takeout, and hosts private events. For menus and more infor mation, visit mercatowc.com.

photos ERIK WEBER @westchesterviews story Kate

Top-notch Italian food in a relaxed European atmosphere with excellent service, unrivaled people watching + dogs. What else do you need, really?

“The sidewalk acts like a catwalk (wait, what?) as a canine rainbow gallops, lopes, prances, or meanders by, on full alert, what with all the food smells. And yes—I leaned out to pet every single one that I could reach. I’m that person. ”

Dîner à Deux date night in west chester

Awalk through the West Ches ter Borough offers a bevy of beckoning options, without question, but I recently had a din ing experience that was undoubtedly the most transportive. Transportive to where, you ask? The place would be Greece, and the restaurant would be Opa Taverna. As the Greek music played, the palms swayed in the breeze, and I tasted carefully crafted, dynam ically flavored cocktails and authentic, impossibly fresh, and perfectly cooked dishes, I felt as if I was thousands of miles away from my beloved little town. To be fair, I’ve never been to Greece, but if Opa Taverna can embody a whole country so deliciously in one meal, I can confidently move it up to first place on my bucket list. With cancelled flights right and left and the price of gas mak ing the “staycation” more appealing by the day, a date here might tempt for a pair of travel bugs (or anyone who appreciates fabulous food that’s decid edly untouched by American culture). ing the “staycation” more appealing by the day, a date here might tempt for a pair of travel bugs (or anyone who appreciates fabulous food that’s decid edly untouched by American culture).

The goal was always this; when you enter the doors at Opa, they want you to feel like you’re being welcomed into a family home in Greece, offered high quality food that is simply but excel lently prepared just for you, in a setting that is elegant and sophisticated with out a hint of pretension. Though we’ve all seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding and generalities can’t always be trusted, I was assured that in this case it’s true. Greek families want you to feel wel

58 @TASTEWC TASTEWESTCHESTER.COM

This beautiful cocktail features Mastiha liqueur, an alcohol derived from the sap of the mastic tree that grows on the Greek island of Chios.

WHAT TO ORDER: The Mastic Island, Opa Chips, Horiatiki, Roasted Lamb Shank. A walk through the West Chester Bor ough offers a bevy of beckoning options, without question, but I recently had a dining experience that was undoubt edly the most transportive. Transport ive to where, you ask? The place would be Greece, and the restaurant would be Opa Taverna. As the Greek music played, the palms swayed in the breeze, and I tasted carefully crafted, dynam ically flavored cocktails and authentic, impossibly fresh, and perfectly cooked dishes, I felt as if I was thousands of miles away from my beloved little town. To be fair, I’ve never been to Greece, but if Opa Taverna can embody a whole country so deliciously in one meal, I can confidently move it up to first place on my bucket list. With cancelled flights right and left and the price of gas mak

Relatively new to the restaurant scene, Opa started at a different loca tion and offered a much smaller menu, mostly take out. They’ve been in their current spot for three years now and obtained their liquor license in Janu ary of 2020 (not realizing, of course, that most of their cocktails would be imbibed “to go”). The two couples who own the restaurant fashioned the menu entirely in one of the owner’s kitchens; the recipes are authentic to what she has always cooked at home - recipes passed down generationally from one family member to the next. Turns out with food like this, a world-wide pan demic isn’t enough to thwart business. Take out was booming, so much so that they still have a tiny spot next to their dining room that stays quite busy, from

Opa Taverna LOCATION: Corner of Gay & Walnut BEST FOR: Foodies, Cocktail Connoisseurs, Travel Lovers.

Mastic Island

corporate events and hospitals to home cooks in need of a night off. The food is simple, but when simple is done right it’s a thing of beauty.

The grilled octopus is perfectly charred and served over hummus, and the Opa chips consist of thinsliced zucchini that’s battered, fried and salted. Don’t miss the Horiatiki, a traditional Greek salad with a big hunk of feta.

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 59 comed in their homes with humble hos pitality, and they want to “offer you lots and lots of food,” or so says Sofia, the manager at Opa and the mind behind the captivating cocktail menu. To start my time with her, she brought me a cocktail that looked like it should be ordered poolside but tasted like some thing I could drink seven of (I don’t like sweet). The Mastic Island contains a fla vor so authentically Greek, the tree it’s made from doesn’t grow anywhere else. Mastika liquor is made from the resin of the Mastic tree and has a naturally sweet, piney flavor that, when paired with the more familiar tropical flavors of pineapple, peach, and passion fruit, tasted “foreign” in the best imaginable way. The taste conjured the azure color of the Aegean Sea and started off the meal in a dreamy mindset. Next, I tasted a grilled octopus appetizer that was prepared simply over hummus (tender, a bit of char from the grill Another menu item that deserves a shout is the Horiatiki (just because you can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t order it; the wait staff is well versed in pointing). This traditional salad is made of roughly sliced red onion, tomato, bell pepper, pepperoncini peppers, cucumbers, and olives and topped with a thick wedge of Feta cheese. Each vegeta ble was somehow crisper and fresher than the next, and when simply dressed with a Greek olive oil and red wine vinaigrette, it more than hit the spot. Pro tip: though the bread isn’t technically a menu item, you can order it as a side. A traditional Greek table bread, it’s a bit dense with excellent chew, griddled with olive oil and a sprinkle of oregano—the perfect accoutrement to theAssalad.Sofia and I chatted through the menu, she pointed out a mistake I made in the past that, apparently, too many people make. The chicken or beef Gyro and yes, obviously the hummus was next level), topped with thinly sliced red onion, parsley, and oregano. I appreciated how “light” this seemed, especially considering the amount of Opa chips I ate, which was borderline embarrassing. Opa chips are made from paper-thin-sliced zucchini and eggplant, battered, lightly fried, and salted; if you need a talking break in your date, these chips will do the job, as not only will your brain not be able to produce anything beyond “wow, these are so good” but your mouth will be too busy chewing to talk. Up First

ished the leftovers and when we returned, we all agreed that the best bite of food on the table was this dish. Reminiscent of the Easter lamb cooking over a spit, this is a mustAfterorder.dinner drinks in a new location is the best way to extend a hot date, but its appeal weakens on a full stomach; that being said, if there’s a little space left, order the Bougatsa — flaky, buttery pastry filled with a semolina custard and a hint of cinnamon, it’s the ideal fin ish to the fantastic meal at this gem of a restaurant — it’s a mini holiday in its own right. your fork and knife but if that drumstick doesn’t end up between your fingers, we didn’t eat the same chicken. The oven lemon potatoes on the side accompany it perfectly and the proportions are just right. Again, welcoming, comfortable, ele gant but completely unpretentious.

This Australian lamb is ready to fall off the bone, and it and the potatoes it’s served over are coated with a reduction of the white wine braise in which the shank was roasted.

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 61 platter (pronounced “yeero”) entices due to its familiarity, and while it’s a delicious choice, it’s not quite special enough for date night. If you crave Gyro or Souvlaki, at least order the pork which is much more authentic. Gyro in Greece is equiv alent to the cheesesteak in Philly or the taco in Mexico - street food, best meant for on-the-go or late night. If special is what you want, look no further than the entrees.Most of the fish (except the tuna and swordfish, for obvious reasons) is served whole; grilled to order and finished in the oven. This is an impressive date order, for sure, but I was lucky enough to taste the Chicken Lemonato and the Roasted Lamb Shank and if I can illustrate to you how good both dishes are with a short story, it’s that I was back to the restaurant within days, family in tow, and ordered the Chicken Lemonato and the Roasted Lamb Shank. Chicken in many restaurants is considered a weak order; too often it’s precooked which renders it tough; hoo ray—not at Opa. The skin is crackling crisp and wildly flavorful with punchy lemon and a ton of oregano. You might start with

Now onto my favorite, the Roasted Lamb Shank. I’ve heard it said that most men would rather their date order a burger than a salad, and this lamb shank is the “burger” that could potentially seal the deal in the relationship. The meat abso lutely falls off the bone, no need for a knife, separating from bone and fat in a way that ensures that every bite is mouth-wa teringly delicious. The key is quality. Australian lamb, slow roasted for over four hours in a rosemary and white wine braise, which is then reduced to a luxuri ously silky sauce, used to coat the meat as well as the potatoes. There are onions in the mix which, when cooked down, lend a sweetness to the dish that is unmistakable and needed. Sofia says people comment weekly that it’s the “best lamb dish they’ve ever tasted” and I can wholeheartedly say the same. My husband and son demol photos & story BECCA BOYD @homebeccanomics Lamb Shank

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 63 If you can spot the five differences in these charcuterie boards from Oak & Olive (shopoakandolive.com), email your answers to contests@thewcpress.com, and you’ve got a chance to win a Saloon 151 gift certificate.

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