By David Jones
Well, we had 239 meals out in restaurants this year. My best of list is ‘only’ based on these visits and is concentrated on the establishments that I reviewed during the year. This means that many of the out-of-state places that could have walked away with some of the categories have been eliminated to concentrate on establishments likely to be available to our weekly readers.
The best of also does ‘not’ include visits from previous years. This year’s visits included restaurants in Maine, Florida, the Outer Banks, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Seattle. While these restaurants were not included in the Best of 2015, they were used as a measuring stick to judge the best in our local area.
Meals included everything from donuts and pastries for breakfast, to 7 course chef menus accompanied by beer or wine. We had a variety of cuisines, from Chinese to Indian to Italian to Greek, sushi, Japanese, and of course brew pubs.
Since more than 10% of all of our meals were at Brew pubs and another 10% at craft beer pubs, I’d have to say, for us, it was the year of the craft brews.
The difference between a brew pub and a craft beer pub is having the brewing facilities on the premises and usually in full view from the pub. To classify as a craft beer pub for me you have to serve a generous number of beers from tap. At this time in Pennsylvania there are 243 craft breweries. Not all of them offer food, but many allow you to bring your own food or order take out to be delivered. Another option is the food trucks that many brew pubs have on site.
Best Craft Beer Pub
The best craft beer pub with food that I visited this year in Chester County is the Station Taproom in Downingtown. They have plenty of good choices on a rotating basis and the food here is quite creative.
I’ll give honorable mention to Red Star Craft House in Exton. The Drafting Room in Exton is another standout. The really good craft beer pubs have an electronic beer menu board that tells you everything you need to know about each brew, including when the keg was tapped, how much is left in the tap, the ABV and ABU, serving sizes and cost per serving.
Craft Beer Brew Pub
I have to say I’m very encouraged by the new Victory pub in Parkesburg. Although they are still getting their feet set, they’ve had an impressive start that puts them firmly in the game. I’ve been to Victory’s pubs in Kennett and Downingtown and for my money Parkesburg is the starship for this brand.
Downingtown is likewise log-jammed by the bar. Trying to get to the dining area or from there to the restrooms is a bit more of a hassle than I care for.
If I’m just looking at the best of class in all of my travels this year I have to say that award goes to Iron Hill in West Chester. This is traditionally award winning beer and very good German-inspired cuisine. While many others excel in beer or food, very few do both as well as Iron Hill.
At Iron Hill you get the sense and feeling of a brewery, but also the comfort and delicious food of a nice restaurant.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some mention to Happy Valley Brewing Company in State College as well as Troegs in Hershey, Pa. Although both of these are out of our immediate area, they are well worth looking up if you find yourself in Hershey or State College.
Here, I have to give the nod to the Little Chef in the West End of Coatesville. The Little Chef is an icon in West End and with a significant update of the entire interior this year, they’re set to go well into the future with good food to please any palate. You can’t go wrong here for lunch or dinner either.
For a little out-of-the-area tease why not go south to Baltimore and visit the Paper Moon Diner. The food here is absolutely terrific and the atmosphere will blow you away. It’s a very special treat and literally around the corner from the Art Museum, which has free admission and worth a full day of exploration.
Best Ethnic Food
My favorite for 2015 is Taqueria Moroleon just south of Avondale on Route 41. They’ve been a little inconsistent at times, but we went there for Cinco de Mayo and really enjoyed ourselves.
We went to a few places this year that could have walked away with this category if the food was a good match to the intimacy of the environment. With that in mind, the place that did it all quite well for us was the Farmhouse outside of Avondale in Southern Chester County.
It’s quiet, low lighting and secluded tables let you totally relax and enjoy the very fine dining experience. To celebrate any special occasion you can’t go wrong at the Farmhouse.
I have to give the nod again to the Little Chef. With their daily specials you can get dinner for 2 with tax and a 20% tip for under $25. We also enjoyed Claire’s in Morgantown and Rino’s in Exton.
Best at any cost
We really had a very good meal at the Black Lab Bistro in Phoenixville. It was quiet and intimate and the service was very good. They also are BYOB. The prices at the Black Lab are not nearly as high as some of the other fine food establishments, but the quality is definitely there.
Although I didn’t specifically review The Birchrunville Store Café or Sovana Bistro in Unionville this year, I did dine at both restaurants this year and have reviewed both in past years. They continue to put a first class experience on the table and deserve honorable mention.
Best new establishment
We like the new Pomodoro’s on Chestnut Street in Downingtown. This is already a great neighborhood gem that packs them in almost every night. We had 2 terrific dinners here and at a very reasonable price.
2015 was a terrific year for those of us who love to eat out. Within an hour’s drive of Parkesburg there are literally hundreds and hundreds of restaurants to try. We’re hoping for good things from Ethel Rose following their early 2016 grand opening in Parkesburg.
We all have our favorites and these are just a few of mine. We’ll be back on the road in Florida starting January 1st and hanging out there as snowbirds till early April. I have been lucky enough (with a lot of hard work in the gym, in the pool and on the bike) to end the year at the same weight that I started.
Each year this becomes more and more challenging. Lin and I will both be giving up desserts and sweets for Lent once again this year. Hopefully, by the time April rolls around again, I’ll be in shape for a new round of reviews. This is the end of my fourth year reviewing restaurants and I have yet to repeat a review.
With all of the places I’ve yet to visit I’m really looking forward to 2016. I hope to visit more in Kennett Square and Phoenixville since there are so many places in each town I’ve yet to try.
I want to thank you all for checking out our reviews during 2015. Have a safe and warm winter and I hope you’ll come back to our reviews when we start up again in April. Ciao!