Taste West Chester - Spring 2024

Page 1

Letter from the Editor

Kate Chadwick introduces the issue

If you live to be a certain age, you will see many things go in and out of fashion. This can be actual styles of clothing—think tie dye, highwaisted jeans, round eyeglasses and, um … crocs. Or social ones, as benign as the return board and card games, as ferocious as political protests in the streets. See also: hairstyles, exercise fads, movie genres. Even astrology—an interest of mine for almost 50 of my (nearly) 60 years. It originated in the third millennium BC, and in my lifetime, was hugely popular in the 1960s70s—and is certainly having a moment in the present day.

But perhaps the best examples of trends can be found in what we eat and drink. Coffee shops are certainly in vogue now like never before—and hooray for that. And remember during Covid when half the people on your social feeds were baking bread? Veganism, gluten-free, and organic diets are all popular now—for some people, no doubt, permanently, and for others, simply the latest fad.

In a recent conversation with a 20-something friend, I mentioned that when I was their age, I often drank flaming shots of 151. A blank stare ensued. Me: “You know! The Bacardi rum, real high alcohol content! You set it on fire and slam it!” A quick google search and what do you know? Nearly 18 years of sobriety later and I was unaware that 151 was discontinued in 2016, apparently a consequence of numerous lawsuits. Hooray for that, too. Not all trends are positive.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen several moratoriums issued on carbs. The Atkins Diet in particular seemed to be popular—or at least talked about—for what feels like decades. Me? I wasn’t listening—not because I’ve never been much of a trend follower, but because I like carbs. I love sandwiches and for sandwiches, you need bread. And since sobriety, I have developed a sweet tooth, which is not uncommon—it’s my body looking for the carbs from all the beer I drank. But despite all appearances to the contrary if you know me personally (or have ever waited on me in a restaurant), I don’t subsist entirely on them.

While this issue was taking shape, I realized that much of the content was based around carbs. There’s Jesse Piersol’s feature story about the bread bakers around town, and Kanan Gole’s pizza tour piece. Our New in Town business is Rosie’s Little Donuts—possibly some of the best donuts I’ve ever had, and I know donuts. Our recurring columns have you covered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and dining out whether on a date or with the kids in tow.

Indulge yourself with us a little in this issue—within reason! Life is sweet. And thank you for reading Taste —kate@tastewestchester.com

Back of House STAFF


Dan Mathers



Kate Chadwick kchadwick@thewcpress.com


Nick Vecchio nick@thewcpress.com


Jesse Piersol


Becca Boyd bboyd@thewcpress.com

TASTE West Chester is the food-only spinoff of The WC Press. It’s mailed to 3,500+ local readers and dropped off to more than 200 locations. For a free subscription, mailed or digital, visit thewcpress.com/subscribe

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” -Virgina Woolf


Erik Weber @westchesterviews


Kanan Gole


Andrea Mason amason@thewcpress.com

DJ Romeo romeo@thewcpress.com

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Today’s Menu


We’re printing our favorite photos from our fans


The most important meal of the day. @ DK Diner


Dining out with the young ones in tow. @ Market Street Grill


All the best slices from all the best spots ON A ROLL

The best sandwiches in town. @Sedona Taphouse


The bread business in the borough


The borough’s best kitchens and dining spaces. @Brickette Lounge


We sample the newest spots on the dining scene. @Rose's Little Donuts


Sampling some of our town's best meals. @Bierhaul


The best cookbooks at West Chester Public Library


Dinner for two with quality time and quality food. @Bar Avalon


Find the five changes, win a gift card

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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.

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Breakfast of Champions

The most important meal of the day can also be

the most delicious way to start it.

This Month: DK Diner

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and I won’t lie, it feels like I walked over a ledge and my body doesn’t work like it did mere months ago. However, walking into DK Diner, noting the sign that reads “From 1952” and taking in the instantly comforting, homegrown feel of an authentic diner made me feel like a spring chicken. I felt welcomed, well taken care of and I’m so happy to say that my meal was downright delicious (as were the bites I stole from my daughter’s plate).

What is it about servers at diners? They’re always calm and collected, ever moving and seem like they could pull off an effortlessly cool wink at any moment. The service was on point, and I think I drained 11 club sodas so that’s saying something.

Vince Mackey, owner since 2010 (but prior employee since 1987) came around front to discuss the menu. Save the steak and eggs, you’d be hard pressed to find an order over $10, and I especially loved how easy the menu would be to navigate with kids. Bowl of frosted flakes? A single pancake? Home fries? You could order them all and still be under ten dollars. This feels like a great time to mention that DK diner has parking; not having to unload the stroller from the car is a game changer and sets this spot apart from our other wonderful borough breakfast spots.

Vince guided me towards ordering an omelet, so I went with turkey sausage, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and feta. The egg itself was paper thin— almost crepe-like, which is how I prefer my omelets. The veggies were cooked down and plentiful, the turkey sausage tender and the feta (my favorite cheese for omelets) rounded out the flavor beautifully. I had a choice of potatoes and went with the classic, with onions (though they also offer hash browns). They brought out hot sauce and ketchup without our asking; this place is a well-oiled machine and trust me, I’ve had too many experiences where

this is not the case, so I find great value in consistency.

My daughter ordered a single chocolate chip pancake which came with a smiling face of whipped cream, with bacon on the side. When I so generously offered to cut her pancake up for her, I couldn’t help but steal a bite or two and can I just say, it was one of the fluffiest, subtly sweet bites of breakfast heaven I’ve had in a while. My mouth is watering as I write this. When I inevitably return, I want to try their Eggs Benedict or the homemade creamed chipped beef (as a child I knew this as SOS—if you know, you know), which was a favorite dish growing up in my house.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that my mother-in-law has taken my kids here for years on lunch dates; they’re open 6am-2pm. They order grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes—for a combined total of less than $10—sit at a booth and enjoy a bit of nostalgia that I can confidently say will never fade, at least when they’re turning out food this delicious.

photos & story BECCA BOYD @homebeccanomics

Small Fries

Some suggestions on the best destinations when dining out with the young ones in tow. This Month: Market Street Grill

I’ve had the honor and privilege of being called “Dad” for almost six years now — so I’m getting the hang of it — but I had no idea what I’d actually signed up for; it turns out one of the hardest parts of being a parent is feeding these little humans all the time. Feeding them is a whole thing: it’s preparing what they’re going to eat, debating or bartering with them to eat, cleaning their mess up after they eat and then repeating this process every single time they eat. Luckily for us, at an early age we unknowingly trained our kids on how much fun (and how much less work) dining out can be, especially in a place like West Chester. When venturing from our den we’re normally a table of four — me, my wife Shannon and our kids Olivia and Zac. But Daddy-Daughter Dates have become a thing of late. Dads’ have such a purpose when it comes to their daughters’ lives and hearts, and making my daughter feel loved doesn’t have to be an extravagant or materialistic effort, but just a daily choice to make her feel seen and heard. So when she says “Daddy, I think we should go get Minnie Mouse Pancakes from that place I like in town.” I have no problem fulfilling that request, because that place is Market Street Grill, one of my personal favorites for multiple reasons.

Now, I’m not going to list all of those reasons because there are a lot of them, but my #1 reason is simple: The Bruno. Two fried eggs, hash browns, cheddar cheese and the most mouthwatering spicy andouille gravy, all in a wrap. It’s something I dream about nights before a planned visit. I recently found out it got its name when local celeb Chef Darla made it for a former kitchenmate, Justin Bruno. He loved it so much that he ate it every day for the next month.

I’m not sure you knew this, but kindergartens get a LOT of days of from school nowadays, so on a recent one Liv and I dropped Zac off at daycare and rolled into town with rumbling bellies,

excitement and a sweet Taylor Swift / Katy Perry mix bumpin’ on the radio. Upon entering MSG we, as usual, were greeted with a familiar smiling face and sat down surrounded by colorful local art and smells of delicious grub and coffee.

Being a regular has its perks. With a simple nod to our server — and not even a glance at the menu — our order was placed, and we were served two waters, a coffee and of course a chocolate milk. Within minutes a powdered sugar-covered masterpiece of a pancake in the shape of Minnie Mouse — with a bow made out of berries and a side of syrup — appeared in front of Liv, much to her delight. My Bruno arrived shortly after (always with a side of Sriracha), and I am not sure which one of us was more excited.

It’s moments like this I cherish. Seeing her so excited is fuel for my life. Being able to sit down with her one-on-one, enjoy a meal together, speak encouragement, explain the truth and answer her many questions is priceless.

The cherry on top for me has been being able to share these memories in places that have been part of my past. For years The WC Press offices were a block away, making coffee, breakfast and a quick status meeting a great start to the daily routine for our publisher, Dan, and I. With COVID turning us fully remote, and Dan seeking out warmer weather, that routine is gone, but now I look forward to many more days like this one with my kid, in a place that’s already special to me and is becoming special to her.

PUBLISHED BY THE WC PRESS 9 story & photo NICK VECCHIO @djromeo24

W e s t Chester Pizza T o ru

story KANAN GOL E p h otos ERIK WEBER

a night out on the town, for gathering with friends and family, and if you need a quick slice between running errands.

Whether you’re looking for a classic cheese pie or pepperoni slice, or you’re in search of adventurous toppings like mozzarella sticks, hot honey, or pineapples (yes—counts as adventurous), or you just want the perfect ratio of sauce to cheese to meat, you’ll find it at one of 14 pizza-dedicated shops in the borough. Here is a quick roundup of their stories and offerings.

America’s Pie

323 E. GAY STE. B2A

Since 2010, siblings Matthew Reed and Becky Sciarrino have been serving pizzas at this East Gay Street location.

mozzarella, honey Dijon mustard, Cajun chicken, and pepper jack cheese, a topping combination found nowhere else in West Chester. Their menu encompasses a wide array of pizza styles and includes everything from hand-tossed to Sicilian to Brooklyn to gluten-free.

Must-Try Pie: New Orleans

Mozzarella, honey dijon mustard, cajun chicken and pepper jack cheese

Benny’s Pizzeria


Benny’s is a Church Street institution that opened in 1959. They have a typical pizza shop menu, but are also known for their community atmosphere. Stop by for their Meat Lovers and clas-

sic pepperoni, as well as their excellent strombolis. Sadly, the famous Sal Inzone, Benny’s former owner, passed away in 2022. His son-in-law Matteo Pellerito now owns the place. “Sal was friendly with everyone, he was like the unofficial mayor of West Chester—he’d do anything for anyone,” says Pellerito. “Benny’s is a staple of West Chester. We’ve been here for so long, and we’re going to be here for a lot longer.” Visit their website to read an earlier interview from The WC Press with brothers Joe and Sal Inzone, which highlights how Benny’s gives back to the West Chester community.

Must-Try Pie: Stuffed Steak

All the ingredients of a cheesesteak, wrapped in pizza dough


try The Munchies, loaded with crispy chicken, French fries, jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, and bacon—topped with ranch. Or try the Baked Ziti, with ricotta cheese, homemade marinara, topped with mozzarella, parmesan, and chopped parsley. The Upside Down, Chicken Bacon Ranch, and Chipotle Chicken are also popular pies, but Chris’s has also received rave reviews about their crispy cheese slice. Decisions, decisions!

Must-Try Pie: The Munchies

Crispy chicken, french fries, jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, and bacon

Brothers Pizza and Pasta


Located just outside the borough in Bradford Plaza, this shop serves pizzas that are made with the same recipes Michael DelVescovo’s uncle used when he started the shop in 1991. DelVescovo

grew up helping at Brothers and bought it in 2014 because “it was a thriving business, and [he] was looking to get out on [his] own in the entrepreneurial field.” They are known for their traditional white slice. “We thrive on consistency. Folks come in for all sorts of slices, like a Sicilian or a white slice, and they know what they are getting because it has been the same for 30+ years,” says DelVescovo. If you are thinking about gourmet options, the Brothers Special is topped with pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, onions, black olives, mushrooms, and optional anchovies. Or try the Goat Cheese Pizza with chopped ham, purple onions, and mild goat cheese. Brothers is invested in the community, known as consistent sponsors of school and league events.

Must-Try Pie: Brothers Special Topped with pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, onions, black olives, mushrooms, and optional anchovies.

Lorenzo and Son’s


Lorenzo’s sits right in the heart of the borough, on the corner of Gay and High Streets, and is famous for their large slices. The shop is also a beloved institution in Philadelphia, where their first location sits on South Street. Their Philly ties run deep; they have a history with the Wells Fargo Center and other stadiums and are also known to give back to the Philly community through Philabundance. If you’re in the city, try their Philly taco, a cheesesteak wrapped in a cheese pizza slice. The family owns five locations in Florida, Philadelphia, and West Chester. Owner Giuseppe Pulizzi bought the abandoned WC building and created the Ram Runner, a hat tip to the university, with buffalo chicken, ranch, and mozzarella. But, with their roots in Philadelphia, their most famous pizza



Saucey’s has a line out their Market Street door on Friday and Saturday nights, but owner Chris Patille considers their pizza as much a creative expression as it is a late-night indulgence. Try their most-ordered pie, the Sweet and Sassy, which has house-made sweet Thai chili sauce, cheese, and chicken topped with ranch. Or try their wildest creation, the 420, with mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, and French fries. Patille bought the business from the original owner in 2022. “After graduating from college, my friends and I would grab dinner once a month, and we’d always end up at Saucey’s at the end of the night.” When he learned it was up for sale, he ventured into the restaurant

House-made sweet Thai chili sauce, cheese, and chicken topped with ranch

Amore Pizza


Due to its proximity to West Chester University’s campus, Amore is particularly popular with students. They’ve been on High Street for 31 years and are known for their buffalo chicken, Sicilian, margarita, and their homage to the area, the Kennett Square, with a variety of mushrooms of course, alongside mozzarella cheese and sauce. Giovanni Visceglia owns the restaurant alongside Serafin Bermeo. “Students love it, we have a lot of connections with the university. Anytime they have an event, they come to us to cater,” says Visceglia. They also

have locations in New Jersey, and their wings recipe is the same at all locations. For five years in a row, Amore’s wings were declared the best wings of South Jersey, so be sure to grab some to pair

Must-Try Pie: Buffalo Chicken

Grilled or crispy chicken, mozzarella cheese, buffalo sauce & side blue cheese

Pizza West Chester


This East Market Street establishment has the most unique setup of the group. They do not have a phone number or a website. They only sell whole pies— no slices—and they only take cash. That said, we were one of a couple of groups waiting for a pizza order on a recent Friday afternoon, and the one that walked in behind us bought the last pie before they sold out at 2:30pm. There is often a line out the door and they tend to sell out quickly—probably a reason for that!

Must-Try Pie: Plain or Pepperoni That's it. Those are the options.


Riggtown Oven


Eric and Dana Seaman opened Riggtown Oven in 2000. Stop by and try their cauliflower crust gluten-free option, as well as that crispy thin-crust pizza—it’s perfect for those who fold their slices. Try The Big Dog stuffed-crust steak pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage, marinara sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Or go for their specialty, the Honey Mustard Chicken, which includes homemade honey mustard, chicken fingers, and mozzarella. Check out their website, too, and read some fascinating history of the Riggtown neighborhood at the edge of the borough.

Must-Try Pie: Honey Mustard Chicken

Homemade honey mustard, chicken fingers, and mozzarella

ica from Greece in 1969. In 1970, they turned the bakery into the original New Haven Pizza, moving to their current North Church Street brick-and-mortar location in 2010. The shop is still run by the Bottos and “New Haven prides themselves on serving original Greek pizza (feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, spinach), alongside an entire menu of fresh-cooked, made-to-order items, all at reasonable prices.” Be sure to also try their Gyro White, with gyro meat, olives, onions, tomatoes, pizza cheese, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. In addition to pizza shop fare, there’s a selection of gyros and a large collection of imported and domestic beer.

Must-Try Pie: Gyro White

Gyro meat, olives, onions, tomatoes, pizza cheese, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce

their House pizza is loaded with pepper oni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and sweet pepper. However, alongside their quintessential classic pizza shop menu, they are also known for having a wide array of rare craft beers. The owner and staff are true beer connoisseurs, so stop in for your pizza and beer pairings.

Must-Try Pie: House Pizza Pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and sweet pepper

West Chester Pizza Cafe


This pizza house opened in 2020. They offer a large menu of white and red pizzas with traditional Italian ingredients used creatively. For example, try their Pesta-roni which is topped with Cup n Char pepperoni and finished with


pizza, try the Picante, with sopressata salami, fresh mozzarella, cherry peppers, and Mike’s Hot Honey. Or go for the Shrimp Fra Diavlo, including mozzarella, grandma sauce, shrimp, and chili flakes. Finally, there is the Meatball Firecracker, topped with house meatballs, whipped ricotta, and a chili crisp. Their many white pizza options include the Morty, with garlic spread, mozzarella, ricotta, mortadella, crumbled pistachio. With their BYOB set up and outdoor patio with live music, the Cafe is a wonderful option for summer pizza cravings.

Must-Try Pie: Pesto-roni Cup ‘n’ Char pepperoni, finished with house pesto

Tomato Shack

Salad and Pizza Co.

(formerly the Couch Tomato)


Located right on Gay Street, the Tomato Shack is known for fresh, local ingredients served in healthy salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. Anything on

the menu can be customized to your preference. Their gluten-free crust, which took 12 years to perfect, won Philly.com’s “Best gluten-free pizza” and USA Today’s 4th best gluten-free pizza in the entire country. Their regular crust is equally loved because of its quality and freshness. “We have secured a relationship with a local farm in Lancaster that grows and mills fresh wheat for our pizza dough and ships it to us by the pallet every two weeks, which maintains the freshest-possible flour that you could ask for,” says Craig Mosmen, co-owner of the Tomato Shack with Michael Cassano. Try their new Bela Napoli with organic dough, tomato sauce, farmers cheese, sweetcream fresh mozzarella, basil, and Grana Padano parmesan. Another hot seller is the Coach Tony with pepperoni, fresh basil, and a hot honey drizzle.

Must-Try Pie: Bela Napoli

Organic dough, tomato sauce, farmers cheese, sweet-cream fresh mozzarella, basil, and Grana Padano parmesan


Las Vegas Pizza


This is one of West Chester’s oldest pizza shops. Owner Antonio Schiano is proud of his pizza and committed to serving the best for the community. Their menu is one of a classic pizza joint, including strombolis, pasta, sandwiches, subs, and burgers. Schiano notes that the pizza is made in the Sicilian style, with a spongy bread base, and it’s particularly popular. The dough is made daily, with a gluten-free crust also available. The pizza is priced by toppings. Schiano’s is perhaps the only place in West Chester that offers grandma pizza, a Long Island-style pizza with a crispy crust. After you’ve had a pie, Schiano suggests dessert with cannoli or sfogliatella, a Neapolitan shell-shaped pastry (also known as lobster tails), one of their not-your-typical pizza shop offerings.

Must-Try Pie: Sausage

Sometimes you just need the classics

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On a Roll

Sampling all of the borough’s best foods served between slices of bread. This Month: Sedona Taphouse

On this blustery, cool Monday morning when I head over to Sedona Taphouse, there aren’t many people out and about on Gay Street. Perhaps that’s because everybody is already at Sedona for lunch. At just before noon, almost all the booths and tables are occupied. Still, the ambiance is quiet and intimate, with the budding trees and the fountains of 44 West framed by the tall windows of the main dining area.

I am in high spirits. Owner Dave Trout has recommended the grilled rockfish artisan sandwich for me to try, which is especially exciting because fish of any kind does not often find its way into On a Roll. Mild rockfish, combined with the citrusy flavors of the toppings, make this a perfect sandwich for the coming warmer months.

The Sandwich

The first noteworthy aspect of the grilled rockfish artisan sandwich is its size. The menu describes it as “towering,” and it is. Bring a big appetite or be prepared to take half of it home. Although the size is what I would call massive, this is not heavy comfort food. The generous slab of fish is light and flaky and melts in the mouth. Bringing a bright, slightly spicy note is a pineapple mango salsa whose citrusy tang is balanced by the creamy, house-made cilantro lime remoulade. Topping it all off is a smattering of fried onions, with the slender, crispy rings offering a pleasing crunch amidst the otherwise soft elements. (Note: Try not to eat all the onion rings off the sandwich separately, as tempting as it is. Leave at least a couple of them on there.)

It’s tough choosing a side from the list of possibilities, which includes several different kinds of grilled vegetables, three types of fries, mashed potatoes, and several salads, along with soup. It’s the beginning of spring, though, and I’m in the mood for asparagus, which is just coming into season. The tender spears

Rockfish Artisan Sandwich

Grilled roackfish, house cilantro-lime remoulade, pineapple mango salsa, greens, tomato, crispy fried onion, toasted potato bun

are served grilled, with a pleasant smoky presence.

The Roll

Our roll today is a lofty, split-top potato bun, which is a nice break from the ubiquitous brioche rolls that have been dominating the dishes described in this column. The roll has a soft, tender crumb and a gentle sweet flavor that does not interfere with the rest of the ingredients. It is subtle without being undetectable. Grill marks and the accompanying hint of smoke adorn the

cut sides of the bun.

FYI, the rockfish sandwich is also available on a gluten-free bun.

Finishing Up

Although the desserts at Sedona are always tempting, this day after St. Patrick’s Day called for a big mug of French press coffee to finish things off.

For anyone avoiding fish, Dave recommends the crispy chicken sandwich, which is one of the most popular offerings on the menu. With its signature hot honey glaze, it is served on the same potato bun as the grilled rockfish. It’s delicious, and Sedona Tap House has taken a ubiquitous, trendy sandwich and made it their own. It’s kind of a thing with them.



story jesse piersoL



MAKING dough

Bread Business in the Borough



JuliaChild famously wondered, “How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” Certainly, bread making has evolved since that episode of her cooking show aired in the 1960s. Supermarkets today locate fancy loaves in not one, but several dedicated areas of the store to tempt customers with the next big thing, or old-world classics that have stood the test of time. Ancient grains, alternative flours, seeds with superpowers sourced from all corners of the world…are there any high-quality local varieties?

We roamed around the borough and found the story of some surprising loaves available at our favorite purveyors. And unlike everyone who dipped their hands into bread making during the summer of 2020, each of these bakeries in West Chester have been honing their craft for decades, or even longer.

The average American consumes 53 pounds of bread each year, according to the website “History of Bread.” From hearty loaves to hamburger buns, dessert breads to baguettes, downtown West Chester stands ready to fill the quota.

Yori’s Church Street



It’s easy to assume that Yori’s Bakery has always been here. “Twelve years,” laughs owner Dave Yori. “My wife and I started it in 2012. A lot of people are surprised that we haven’t been here forever. It does have that vibe and feel of an old school bakery, though.”

When Yori first started out, he offered loaves of classic white and whole wheat bread every day. “I’d make 10 loaves, and sell maybe eight, for $4 or $5 each,” he says. Although he would have a few customers who would purchase them on a regular basis, it wasn’t enough to sustain his efforts, especially considering that as a bakery, he wasn’t repurposing unused bread into sandwiches or other items like a restaurant or bigger store might. “Other places,” he notes, “if they’re not selling it, they’re making it into other things."

And so he turned his full attention to his original passion: “I always wanted

Seasonal Selection

Yori's is a must-stop for everything from Irish soda bread to danishes. Depending on the holiday or the time of year, you'll find a revolving selections of breads & baked goods.

to have an old school bakery, like from 100 years ago, offering donuts and Danish,” Yori recalls. “People don’t see this type of bakery out this way a lot.

I love West Chester, and I got into it because I like to work.”

In addition to the physical work of baking, he also enjoys the business aspect. Today, the whole family is involved. In addition to his wife, his retired parents help out at the bakery, along with several cousins. “It’s a family business,” he says.

He offers a number of signature holiday breads during the various seasons. His Easter bread is a rich, yeast-raised beauty braided into a loaf and shaped into a circle, available with either icing


or sprinkles on top. “Traditionally, we do it with anise seed, South Philly style, but also without,” he says. “A little bit of orange zest in it to brighten it up for a fresh flavor.” As a sweet dessert-type bread, Yori says, it works in the morning or after dinner. His favorite way to enjoy it is to just cut it up and eat it. It comes in a one-pound loaf, which he says packs up nicely for holiday gatherings. During the Easter season, he’ll make hundreds of them, and encourages ordering ahead to secure a loaf.

Dave has several products available during the winter holiday season. Stollen is a German Christmas bread flavored with orange and lemon zest and dotted throughout with candied cherries and two kinds of raisins. “I bake it off and brush it with clarified butter, and then hit it with powdered sugar or icing,” he says. His traditional roundtop dinner rolls are especially popular around Thanksgiving, when he will bake upwards of 200 dozen of them.

He bakes Challah bread for Jewish holidays. The rich, egg-based braided bread comes in a big, long loaf. “It’s not

Stacking Bread

Carlino's has an extensive selection of fresh-baked goods on display, but our favorite move at this Italian market is snagging a loaf of... well, Italian.

sweet, but rich with so many egg yolks,” he describes. “It’s good for French toast. Almost like brioche, but instead of butter you’re using egg yolks.”

For St. Patrick’s Day, Irish soda bread is a big seller. The quick bread, leavened with baking powder and soda rather than yeast, is “almost like a big biscuit,” according to Yori. Made of flour, sugar, and a little bit of butter, it is flavored with caraway seed and raisins. It’s baked in a one-pound loaf and scored with a cross on top; Yori likes a slice of it with butter in the morning.

Summertime offerings aim to take backyard gatherings up a notch. Yori recommends his cornbread for seasonal barbecues or toasting. And for anyone

looking to really impress, he suggests showing up to the party with a batch of Yori’s homemade hamburger and hot dog buns. “It’s a cool little thing to have out in the store that’s unexpected,” he says. “Everybody’s used to buying the packs at the supermarket. But this is not a mass-produced bun. They’re made with a soft, rich, yeast-raised dough.”

In today’s economy, the bakery business is not for the faint of heart. “Lots have gone out of business,” Yori laments. “Grandkids don’t want to take it over. Old school bakeries have gone out.” One of the latest casualties is Rillings Bucks County Bakery in Warminster, which recently closed up shop after 120 years in business because the grandkids didn’t want to take it over.

Owning a bakery is hard work. “It's a labor of love,” says Yori. “You’ve gotta love it.”

Fresh Out The Oven:


Easter bread, Irish soda bread, stollen, dinner rolls, classic hamburger and hot dog rolls, Challah bread, pretzel rolls, cornbread




A trip to Carlino’s for one thing often results in a shopping bag (or two) containing everything. With display cases that show off a dazzling array of gourmet prepared foods, cheeses, and desserts, it can be easy to overlook the basic bliss of their breads.

The origin story of their loaves and other baked goods begins in Abruzzo, Italy, where cousins of the Carlino family have made authentic regional breads for generations. “They came and helped us import state-of-the-art ovens,” shares Carlino’s President Pat Carlino. “They taught our bakers techniques on how to produce the breads to match what they baked in their bakery.”

The taste of Carlino’s breads varies by the way they knead the dough, the method of baking, the temperature it was baked, and its steaming method, explains Angela Carlino Milani, Chief Operating Officer at Carlino’s. She adds, “The inside of our Italian loaves are light, airy and fluffy with a crispy, crunchy

outside.” Erin Coffey, Marketing Manager at Carlino’s, continues, “Our stateof-the-art ovens ensure that each loaf comes out perfectly light and crunchy every time. We also hand knead all of our breads and rolls daily.”

An aspect that sets apart bread making at Carlino’s from other bakeries is their dedication to high-quality ingredients. Ed Pinkos, Head Bread Baker says, “We are passionate about using clean ingredients. Our breads are made simple with unbleached and unbromated flour, purified water, ‘Lievito Madre,’ which translates to ‘Mother Yeast’ salt, and of course love.”

Coffey says the typical bread customers are mothers and fathers buying bread for their children and family. “They generally purchase loaves of bread for dinner and rolls for lunches during the week,” she notes.

In the Carlino’s markets, they slice their baguettes, coat the slices with oil, season them, and then toast them to make crostini. They also use their fresh focaccia bread to make croutons. “Our ciabatta bread is great sliced, toasted on

The Best Scone in Town:

Mimi’s Tea Cottage


Are scones bread? Although the subject of some spirited debate on Reddit, scones are generally categorized as “quick breads” due to how they rise during baking as a result of chemical leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda (as opposed to biological leaveners like yeast). Biscuits share the quick bread designation, too.

Regardless, good scones are a worthwhile indulgence, and thankfully, Mimi’s Tea Cottage is serving up some fine examples. Karen Klein, owner of Mimi’s, describes the texture of her scones as moist and light, and not dense. “Our scones are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside,” she says. “A lot of scones are dry and crumbly, but ours are very moist.” She opines that the best way to enjoy them is served warm with clotted cream, lemon curd, and strawberry jam. “Yum,” she swoons.

Customers can usually find three different flavors of scones at the tea cottage. Blueberry and chocolate chip scones are always available, plus a third flavor that changes each month. March featured lemon poppyseed, while February’s offering was white chocolate cranberry. “Every day it really varies as to which is the best seller,” Klein reflects, “as everyone has a different palate.” Gluten-free options are available in both blueberry and chocolate chip.

While Mimi’s does offer scones to go, as well as custom orders for offsite events when ordered ahead of time, Klein encourages customers to enjoy them in their native habitat of the tea cottage. “We offer a full afternoon tea service,” she explains, “and three out of four options on our menu include a scone as part of the order.”

Bread, but make it sweet. It’s a win-win.


a BBQ grill, and topped with our homemade bruschetta and a drizzle of our balsamic,” says Coffey. “We also enjoy our bread along with any fresh pasta dish with Carlino’s Marinara sauce.”

Fresh Out The Oven:

Round Italian Loaf, Semolina Italian Loaf, Panella Semolina Loaf, Italian Baguettes, Semolina Baguette, Energy Bread, Sourdough Bread, Philly Hoagie Rolls, Parker House Rolls, Football Rolls, Seeded Semolina Football Rolls, Ciabatta Rolls and Loaves, Dinner Rolls, and more.

La Baguette Magique


At the end of January, fans of La Baguette Magique’s baguettes and loaves were forced to weather an emergency when the French bakery’s deck oven broke beyond repair. For nearly two weeks, customers waited until a replacement arrived on February 15, rejoicing on Facebook when their beloved purveyor posted a photo of the newly delivered oven in its packaging.


veux tous

les pains!


our French, but La Baguette Magique makes the best damn French bread this side of the Atlantic.

Without a doubt, the baguettes are the biggest seller here. Head baker Scott Weymiller shares the process of crafting the slender loaf. “A traditional baguette technique, updated with some local flour and tweaked to become our baguette,” he says. “This baguette uses pre-fermented dough and takes three days to create.”

Scott asserts that its texture is what really sets it apart, being both light and crisp. Google Reviews Local Guide and French bakery aficionado Kenneth Smith concurs. In a post from 10 months ago, Smith writes, “I ate some variation of bread every morning in Vietnam. La Baguette Magique in WC is excellent. That baguette was unreal, the bread is so airy, yet crisp.”

Scott says that the typical baguette customer “is anyone, as it’s a utilitarian bread, and a bread for the people.” His favorite way to enjoy it is simple. “I think with soft cheese or good olive oil is the best,” he offers. “Better yet, with fresh goat cheese and lots of olive oil.”

In addition to the traditional and several seeded varieties of the baguette, the bakery also makes a “country” loaf, which is a rustic sourdough bread, as well as a whole wheat loaf made with spelt and sunflower seeds.

La Baguette Magique inspires passion of other kinds, too. “My fiancé quietly proposed here, and it was one of the best experiences of my life,” writes customer Evie Godin in a Google Review from December 2023. “The atmosphere and quiet contentment that can be felt through each lovingly made baked good combine into a refuge from the chaos of the outside world.”

Fresh Out The Oven:

Plain baguettes, seeded baguettes, country loaf, whole wheat spelt and sunflower seeds.


Form & Function

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

Brickette Lounge is the BBQ joint that West Chester needed. When you walk through their doors, you will be instantly transported to a Texas dive bar with their lively country music and ambiance. Talking with pitmaster Dan Pennypacker and one of their interior designers, Cira James, it is clear why Brickette should a must-vist for delicious food, drink, and fun.

In November 2022 Brickette Lounge reopened its doors via 3West Hospitality. One of the owners, Cortney McCullough, worked side by side with local designer Cira James to breathe fresh air back into "The Brick” without taking away too much from its original character. They started by traveling with the owners to all their favorite Texas haunts, dive bars, and BBQ joints to pull inspiration and create our own

special honky-tonk here in West Chester. Cortney and Cira then scoured local flea markets and antique shops for wall decor and accessories.

On every visit to the Brickette you’ll discover something new that you’ve never seen before and quirky conversation pieces as you share a drink or meal. When observing the space, you can admire the talent it to make a room appear effortless. The thoughtfully selected wall decor that is hung as though it was collected over time. The beautiful red velvet curtains draped along the stage walls were added to help put focus on the talented musicians. Cortney and Cira kept the wood paneled walls and the iconic Brickette Lounge signage out front, which set the stage for the rest of the design. A few favorite items are the 1940s refurbished shuffleboard table and an amazing original event poster from the early days of the Brickette Lounge found in the basement. It's reframed and is now placed prominently in the front.

The BBQ here is not to be missed. Dan said you won’t find propane or electric grills here; everything is made on smokers using white oak. For lunch he recommends The Brick sandwich with the mac ‘n' cheese and cowboy beans sides. For din-

ner, their platters have a bit of everything, and it’s the best way to try their favorites. All their sauces are house made, and you can tell they did their research on authentic Texas BBQ. In the mood for something sweet? Try the s’mores cookies, brownies, and banana pudding. Dan notes they have a happy hour from 4pm-6pm Monday to Friday; the Ranch Water is a favorite drink.

Besides their food and ambiance, the entertainment will keep you coming back. They have a great lineup of country and rock, not to mention their dedicated Grateful Dead Night and blues bands. Monday nights are for line dancing where an instructor will teach all patrons from beginners to advanced. In the warmer months they fill their back area with picnic tables, fire pits, a back bar, and TVs.

Being at Brickette feels like home. Its no-fuss atmosphere and tasty BBQ will keep you returning for more. They are located at 1339 Pottstown Pike. Lunch is served from 11am-4pm and dinner is from 4pm- 2am or until they sell out (which they normally do so get there fast).

@andreamasondesign photo
andrea mason


Rose’s Little Donuts has been a twinkle in the eyes of Beth and Justin Campbell since 2015, when they moved back to West Chester to raise their kids after almost a decade in Philadelphia. “We've always loved the town, and it instantly felt like home,” says Beth Campbell. “We've always dreamed of opening a donut shop, and even wrote a business plan for it nine years ago. We love visiting donut shops in other places when we travel, and it always felt like West Chester was missing one.”

The ”Rose” in Rose’s Little Donuts is Justin’s mother, who passed away in 2014. “She loved to bake and had a cake business on the side while Justin was growing up,” recalls Beth. “Everyone knew her as the head lunch lady at Paxon Hollow Middle School in Broomall, and she also answered the phones at QVC in West Chester. She

loved to make traditional Armenian baked goods for family events. The shop's name is a way to honor her memory.”

The Donuts

The Lilliputian size of the donuts stands apart from competitors. “Our donuts are ‘little,’” Beth describes. “They are 2-3 bite size but pack a lot of flavor.”

The cake base is the same for all their traditional donuts and is delicious without any adornment, but customers can choose to add a layer of icing, or premium toppings with enough variety to appeal to anyone’s taste buds. “Our vegan base has a slightly more ‘old fashioned’ flavor over our standard vanilla base, but it is of the same caliber and quality of our other options,” says Beth. On weekends and special events and holidays, they often make a third batter such as chocolate, pumpkin, or apple cinnamon cake donuts.

A Family Affair

The husband and wife duo behind the brand — Beth & Justin Campbell — named their shop after Justin's mother who passed away in 2014.

Roses’ Donuts travel in style, too. “We sell our donuts in square ‘pizza’ boxes because we want them to be sturdy,” she says, “and people find that whimsical.” The donuts are available in any amount, but Roses’ offers discounts for quantities of four, nine, or 16. They also sell a catering box that holds 36 donuts.

Beth points to the Peanut Butter Lovers' and Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate varieties as customer favorites. “Although anytime we feature an Oreo topping (vanilla Oreo or strawberry Oreo),” she adds, “it always sells well.”


The Digs

Beth and Justin turned their aspirations for a donut shop into reality in 2022, when they fell in love with the building for sale at 22 North Darlington Street. “With one, and then two young kids, it wasn’t the time to make that leap,” Beth says, “but when this building went up for sale, we knew it was the right spot! We spent over a year renovating the building and making the shop of our dreams.”

Fortunately, the pair had a pretty similar vision for their shop. They collaborated with local designer Charlie Layton to develop their logo and brand, and then continued the process with him to customize the mural in the shop and even the wallpaper in the bathroom. “I really enjoyed making the final decisions on the tile work in our space to bring it all together,” Beth recalls. Her father is a woodworker and made the standing bar counter and their "to-go" shelf in his basement workshop from locally sourced lumber, with the daughter and dad duo traveling to Lancaster together to pick out the wood for the shop.

The Drinks

Beth and Justin have always been big fans of Philly-based ReAnimator Coffee Roasters, and wanted to be able to offer their specialty coffee in West Chester. They have developed a robust menu of coffee drinks focused on more classic preparations, such as a dry cappuccino (thick layer of smooth milk foam on top), espresso macchiato (espresso with a dollop of steamed milk), cortado (equal parts espresso and milk), as well as the more familiar latte items.

Beth loves coffee, but doesn’t always tolerate caffeine, so she wanted to make sure that they had a solid menu of tea options. Enter Rishi tea, along with their companion concentrates and tea sachets, and the Campbells found the perfect fit for their tea menu. They recently introduced matcha to their menu, too. “One of our baristas thinks it might be the best matcha in West Chester,” Beth shares. “It’s really smooth and doesn’t get bitter like some matchas.” All their bar drinks are available with whole milk, almond milk, or oat milk.

They also offer drip coffee with a smooth and classic light/medium roast during the week and brew a darker roast on the weekends.

The Dynamic

Beth grew up in West Chester and enjoys working out regularly with her friends at Orange Theory Fitness in Bradford Square. Her main hobby outside of the shop is creating pottery, with some of her creations on display in the shop. Although she hasn’t had much time to make more since the shop opened, she hopes to get back into it this spring.

Originally from Newtown Square, Justin enjoys playing soccer three times a week, and coaches for the Penn Fusion recreational league. The Campbell family can be found at almost every Philadelphia Union home game and enjoys traveling together. Their two kids attend Hillsdale Elementary,

and their two large dogs are happiest when they’re sitting on the couch with them.

Beth and Justin recognize that running a successful enterprise such as Rose’s is a team effort. “We have really amazing staff that are already able to run the shop without us being present if needed, and we have enough employees so that everyone gets a break throughout the week,” Beth offers. “There is still so much to do every day when running a business, but we are making a point of planning a few vacations this year to give us a true break and are so grateful that our staff can help us make that happen.” One of the reasons they close at 2pm is to ensure that afternoons and evenings are for family and personal time for everyone.


Dining Out

Sampling some of the borough’s best meals in West Chester’s premier dinner destinations. This Month: Bierhaul

Bierhaul Farmhouse is all over the map—in the best possible way. Are you looking for family-friendly dining that satisfies every palate? Check. How about a place where you can bring your pups? Check. Sprawling spaces to eat, drink, and be merry, both indoors and out? Check and check. The owner is Irish, his restaurateur partner is French, the cuisine includes nods to both and the German food that might be front of mind when you think of the word “bierhaul.” Although there’s also excellent pizza… let’s just go ahead and call the cuisine here “American, but also global.”

And while it’s presently (physically) on the map in neighboring Thornton, just over the Delco/Chesco line, by the time you read this their second location,

Bierhaul Townhouse, will be open at the site of the former Split Rail Tavern on N. Walnut Street in the borough. We could not wait, however, and paid a visit to the flagship location to whet our appetites. The things we do in the interest of R and D… you’re welcome.

A little background: James Mulally and his business partner, Loic Barnieu, opened here in late 2022 at the site of the former Pace One Restaurant & Country Inn. Any fears that they would have had difficulty filling those iconic shoes were put to rest almost right out of the gate, as my son Myles and I can attest based on our visit. The place—a 150-seat bar and restaurant with outdoor dining options—was positively humming when we arrived promptly at 5pm on an early spring Wednesday night. The owners have managed to easily sway us American locals with their collective European sensibilities. And menus. And beers. And ambience.

We opted to sit outside, given the warm and sunny late afternoon, and we were rewarded immediately when the couple at the table next to us was seated

Dining Outside, Just Outside

Bierhaul’s Townhouse location on Walnut Street opened this March, but their OG spot — just outside town in Thorndale — is worth the trip, if just for the al fresco dining.

along with their dog (a King Charles spaniel – there was an intense conversation underway by the humans, so I did not catch his name, but he brought his own cushion and was a very good boy throughout his visit).

But I digress, as I always do when dogs are involved. Our excellent server, Bryanna, arrived to greet us and take our drink order. Even teetotalers like us can take advantage of the outstanding selections of beers here! We ordered a Free Wave Hazy IPA from Athletic Brewing Co.—I love seeing Athletic’s beverages when I’m out and about; nonalcoholic beverages are all they do, and they do it well. Our second brew was a Bitburger


Balsamic Fig Caprese

Heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, pesto-marinated ciliengine, balsamic-soaked figs, marinated cherry tomatoes, balsamic glaze and fresh basil.

0.0 Premium Pils, an excellent German import that I’m glad to have been introduced to here. We ended up swapping after the first sips—someone is not an IPA fan; the other is absolutely an equal opportunity n/a beer guy. Okay it’s me—I’m the beer guy.

If you’re an actual beer aficionado, by the way, this place is your Xanadu. People travel to drink some of the selections James gets in on draft here, and an updated list is always available on their website. The cans and bottles are also rotated in and out on a regular basis. This is not the kind of stuff you’re going to find at your corner tavern.

On to the main event: food. And we were very hungry after a long and busy

day running errands in the borough. In fact, it was one of those “so hungry that everything on the menu looks amazing” kind of situation. We solved this problem by ordering way more food than we typically would have, with the idea that we’d have plenty to take home. This worked out well: I ate for three days from this outing. One of the contributing factors here was the scope of the menu, and by that I don’t mean the size. We’ve all been in a diner late at night and the menu is eight pages long and it’s like an encyclopedic list of “all the foods you can get at a diner.” In this case, Biehaul’s food offerings are all over that map I was talking about earlier—in a great way.

Bearing in mind my publisher’s standing admonition of “don’t get a cheeseburger,” his way of mocking my meat-and-potatoes inclinations, my eye of course went directly to the Smashburger, listed under “Chef’s Favorites.” Despite its tempting description of white cheddar cheese, special sauce, house pickles, grilled onion, tomato, and shredded lettuce on a pub beer bun, I moved on... but will 100% order this on my next visit.

Fried Green Tomatoes with burrata, honey, balsamic, pork belly, red pickled onions and arugula

Starting at the beginning, in the Charcuterie, Cheese, and Shareables section, we found some standard favorites like wings and hummus, but taken up a notch. The hummus is made with roasted beetroot; the wings are grilled and available in half a dozen flavors. I was leaning towards the chicken lemongrass potstickers, but in the end we opted for a couple of salads—two takes on the tomato: Fried Green Tomatoes and Balsamic Fig Caprese. The former was truly excellent: large beefy tomatoes, fried to a crispy outside, topped with a big soft creamy pillow of burrata, drizzled with honey and balsamic. The dish was finished with a scattering of arugula and pickled onions, but what really set it apart were the tiny cubes of crisp pork belly. This dish was a case study in balanced flavors.



Reuben Cheesesteak
Brisket pastrami, kraut, gruyere & house Russian dressing on a pretzel roll

As for the caprese—holy presentation, Batman! If we eat with our eyes, this was a visual feast. While it contained some of the same elements of the Fried Green Tomatoes, it was an “in the raw’’ version. Large juicy slabs of sliced yellow and red beefsteak tomatoes were festooned with basil confetti and played peekaboo with pesto-marinated ciliengine (those tiny mozzarella balls) and balsamic soaked figs. Outstanding.

Given the size of the salads, I decided to go with a sandwich as my entrée, while Myles opted for, well… an entrée for his entrée. I’m a huge fan of cheesesteaks; ditto of reubens. And given my Philly childhood, I’m a sucker for soft pretzels—I could eat one every day. So the Reuben Cheesesteak—brisket pastrami and gruyere served on a pretzel roll with house-made Russian dress-

ing, was a lock—although I must admit that I nearly ordered the Inglorious Bratwurst based on the name alone. (I Iater learned that James was responsible for this and other bon mots on the menu, and I tip my writer’s hat to him.) I managed to resist the generous serving of fries, somehow, but Myles helped with those. We spent most of this meal eating off each other’s plates, in fact.

Myles ordered the Pork Schnitzel, a perfectly portioned piece of pork loin with just the right amount of breading—tender and flavorful with a bit of crunch—and served with a side salad dress in white balsamic. It’s a good thing he was eating my fries, because I couldn’t keep my fork out of the German potato salad that accompanied it— absolutely bangin.’ Potato salad is an art form. I’ll die on this hill. And Bierhaul’s is art.

The place was packed by the time we called it quits, and the lovely Bryanna brought us boxes. We skipped dessert but we did…order a pizza. Yes, that’s right—I said it. It was partly the number of pies we saw going past us to other

Pork Schnitzel

Breaded pork loin, white balsamic salad, pickled red onions, German potato salad, side demi

tables. It was partly that we were so into the caprese salad that we just saw the pizza as a logical next step, opting for the Burrata Margarita. And it was partly James’s menu caption for the pizza section of the menu, The Passion of the Crust. What can I say? I’m charmed by words. And burrata, apparently.

In addition to their new hot spot in the borough, the team here is converting the upper floors of this location into a small hotel. Because why not? With all these people here eating and drinking, all these dogs and kids, they’re right at home. The empire is small and local in scale, the vision is global in scope. Bierhaul is on the map.



story Kate chadwicK



On the Shelf

Some of the best cookbooks at West Chester Public Library, as reviewed by foodie & library director Victoria Dow

Cooking in Real Life: Delicious & Doable Recipes for Every Day

I-only-have-half-an-hour recipes, make-stuff-ahead recipes, scale-upfor-a-crowd recipes, leftovers-for-lunch recipes are all to be found in this new (as in “it really just hit the shelves”) cookbook. Feed the family. Feed your guests. Feed yourself.

Rhett & Link Present: The Mythical Cookbook

w/ noah galuten

Yes, it’s the Good Mythical Morning, Mythical Kitchen cookbook with fabulous stuff like Spam™ Jalapeño Poppers complete with detailed directions and good kitchen advice (do “not burn your face off with molten jalapeño spam cheese”). Seriously, what is not to like about Bacon Cheeseburger Lasagna or Funnel Cake Grilled Cheese?

Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook

This one is for those of us who bingewatched the Great British Baking Show and still miss Mary Berry. The cookbook is jam-packed with recipes, all with US measures, and tips to help you create the perfect dish. Includes the Victoria Sandwich Cake, a Christmas pudding, Simnel Cake, and profiteroles for you kitchen anglophiles.

Tasting History

by max miller w/ ann volkwein

This one is for those of us who like to read cookbooks (yes, that’s a thing). Discover what the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans ate; the origins of lasagna and Simnel Cake (see above); and much more. The authors cover the Ancient World, the British Isles, Continental Europe, the Near & Far East, and the New World. Recipes are included.

Madame Fromage’s Adventures in Cheese: How to Explore It, Pair It, and Love It, From the Creamiest Bries to the Funkiest Blues

Need I say more?



a Pro: Recipes & Tips for Home Cooks—a

Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

She has such a great attitude towards cooking, and genuinely wants the home cook to succeed at what they try. Lots of yummy recipes with little tips along with advice on make-aheadand-freeze dishes.


The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook

Terry Hope Romero

Definitely one of the go-to cookbooks for anyone interested in or wanting to learn more about vegan cooking. Includes lots of kitchen tips; gluten- and soy-free recipes indicated, and suggestions for pairing dishes to make a full meal.

story wc pUbLic Library @WCPLPHOTOS


Date Night

Dinner for two at some of our favorite spots for quality time and quality food. This Month: Bar Avalon

West Chester really is incredible in the diversity it provides diners. You can find city-quality fine dining at several locations, and family-friendly, consistent crowd pleasers are in abundance. Chef and owner John Brandt-Lee has managed to lead his restaurant through nearly 24 years of providing West Chester diners with creative, delicious food and drinks in a down-to-earth yet classy environment, making it an ideal date night for any occasion.

Over the years I’ve had many date nights at Bar Avalon, located on Gay Street between Matlack and Walnut, and their patio is one of my favorites for al fresco dining. I’m also well acquainted with their appetizer and cocktail menu, as I’ve landed there many a Saturday night with friends. There’s nothing like melting over a Braised Short Rib Egg Roll with a second or third glass of Pinot in hand.

Those nights, always fun and sometimes a smidge blurry, are a far cry from this date at Bar Avalon: a simple date night with my husband Rich, early on a Tuesday. One of the many things that contributes to a couple’s compatibility is a similar approach to food. Let’s talk about our date for Happy Hour—which runs from 4-6pm Tuesday through Friday, and 2-4pm on Sunday afternoons.

Starting with cocktails: Home of the West Chester’s original Smoked Manhattan, Bar Avalon’s cocktails have always been avant garde and on point. I can attest to their strength, and Jen, the manager I met with, explained that their bartenders are instructed to use a jigger so that no matter who makes your drink, it tastes the same. I’m the person who asks the server everywhere I go, “Which is your least sweet cocktail?” I share this with Laura, a long-time patron of Bar Avalon who the eponymous cocktail “That Girl Laura” is named for. I’ve never found myself simultaneously

awed and jealous in such a combination, but getting a drink named for me is now on my bucket list. This cocktail was, in all seriousness, perfect. With Empress purple gin, Amaro Nonino, honey syrup, and lemon (garnished with a preserved lemon slice), it was so beautifully balanced that I would have ordered a second had it not been a Tuesday at 4pm. The next time I’m at Bar Avalon, my order will be this exact drink.

Lucas, the adorable bartender we chatted with, unwittingly planned my next date night location. Did you know that the bar seen from the windows facing the street is just one of two? The second is located far to your right upon entrance and draws a crowd “in the know” who want to enjoy a quieter meal, watch the bartender work, and

The Original Craft Cocktail Bar

Becca suggests the That Girl Laura, made with gin, amaro, honey and lemon, but the Blood Orange Margarita is always worth a try, too.

enjoy their date without distraction. The happy hour menu boasts fantastic options; I’ve had the Eggplant Chips, the Bacon Wrapped Dates, and the Truffle Fries on previous visits (all great choices). I sampled the Seared Rare Tuna on this date, and am sad to have missed it all these years. Expertly seared and encased in sesame seeds, it’s lay-


ered over a ginger soy sauce with crispy Brussels Sprout leaves, drizzled with chili oil. The leaves are hot and crisp, acting as an ideal accompaniment to the tender meat; the sauce is both tangy and rich, rounding out the flavors so that each bite is perfect.

If you’ve brought an appetite to your happy hour date, then the wood-fired Margherita pizza or pasta would hit; the Chicken Liver Mousse will be a part of my next order considering the recommender mentioned she “wanted to lick the bowl clean.” Bowl licking might be another reason to consider the back bar.

Chef John has owned and operated Bar Avalon for many years, first at his High Street location and now 10 years on Gay Street. The food is thoughtfully and creatively prepared, changing seasonally and catering to what diners love...

The next date to explore is for those celebrating a special occasion—be it a first date, an anniversary, or simply to talk to your spouse without being interrupted by questions from a six-year-old. To start, let’s bring on the beef. I sampled the Open Face Wellington, which consists of puff pastry topped with filet tips, smothered in a creamy sauce in which the flavors of roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions come together in that way they do. This dish is a family favorite of ours. Though I already mentioned the Short Rib Egg Roll, it’s truly not to be missed, so consider both orders.

With appetizers on the heavy side, consider for your entree the No Buns Burger Salad or the Tomato, Spinach, and Burrata pasta, with baby spinach, poached tomatoes, Marcona almonds, lemon olive oil, Burrata, and toasted breadcrumbs. This dish was pure comfort in a bowl, yet ideally portioned so it didn’t leave me with a heavy feeling. The pasta is mafaldine, which can best be described as long strands of the curly edge of lasagna noodles. It was different, fun, and memorable. The almonds

and toasted breadcrumbs provided a crunch, and with the acidic tomatoes balanced by the smooth, creamy Burrata, the dish was just so well done.

Jen mentioned that Bar Avalon has an intriguing number of first date couples that go on to marry and return for their anniversary dinner. If this doesn’t scream romance, what does? Not three kids, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, they’re beloved, and taking our kids out to dine at nicer restaurants is something my husband and I have started incorporating; table manners, server interactions, and menu know-how don’t come naturally.

This brings me to our final date, the family night out. If you dine out with me, you’ll learn that “family style” is what I

Seared Rare Tuna seared with sesame seeds, layered over a ginger soy sauce with crispy Brussels Sprout leaves and drizzled with chili oil

prefer, which just means that I’ll eat off your plate (much to my husband’s chagrin—he doesn’t like to share food). At my table, if I’m in charge, we’ll order a smattering from every category for a balanced meal in which there are no leftovers. Start with the Truffle Fries (my favorite in town) and the Fried Calamari—everyone gets a taste of that goodness. Next, an order of either the Pepperoni & Jalapeño or the Short Rib


and Fig Jam Pizzas, both authentically prepared in a wood burning pizza oven. Don’t sleep on their pizza here! I’d also have us split an order of Judy Foodie’s Short Rib Pasta Special, with shredded beef short ribs, mushrooms, caramelized onion, veal demi, and pappardelle. Remember Laura from my new favorite drink? She, together with Judy and Chef John, developed this dish that’s become a menu staple.

To round out our order with some veggies, I’d go with the Tuscan Shrimp and White Beans or the White Bean Ragout; encouraging kids to enjoy vegetables in the most delicious iteration will likely change their “hates” to “loves.” Now, this would be quite the feast, but we often order a dessert to share because they’re kids (and my best excuse to order dessert). Rich and I tasted the beignet, and though we enjoyed conversation during our date, we were silent during that portion of our meal except for mirroring oohs and aahs

back and forth. Light and airy, delicately fried with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of sweet glaze, this dish comes with five on the plate, perfect for the family to share.

Bonus: Being the least romantic date, at a family night outing you can unabashedly eat till you’re chock full, then finish with a long walk through town and a movie, cuddled up and blissfully content.

Chef John has owned and operated Bar Avalon for many years, first at his High Street location and now 10 years on Gay Street. The food is thoughtfully and creatively prepared, changing seasonally and catering to what diners love; considering he’s developed dishes with patrons shows how eager he is to put out the best possible product that his diners crave. The ambience is classy and cozy, the lighting perfectly dim and romantic, and the tables are spaced enough to enjoy quiet conversation but close enough to feel homey. With live


Light and delicately fried with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of sweet glaze

music on the weekends on the patio, there’s no better place to enjoy a warm spring evening. Perhaps you’re needing a sans reservation, early date at the bar, perfect for stealing time together to people watch.

Maybe it’s a first date that you hope turns into the love of your life (this is trending per Jen), or simply a family night out to explore what good food really is, you won’t go wrong at Bar Avalon. Main takeaways? Try the “That Girl Laura” with an order of Seared Rare Tuna and finish with the beignet. You’re welcome.

photos & story BECCA BOYD @homebeccanomics


If you can spot the five differences in these two photos of a beautiful spring picnic, email your answers to contests@thewcpress.com, and you’ve got a chance to win a Saloon 151 gift certificate.


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