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A night in Chestnut Hill...

I love Chestnut Hill but have always been disappointed with their restaurants. My husband and I headed out to Chestnut Hill this past Saturday and had a great time.

We had dinner at Cafe Barcelona and I highly recommend it. It is very small, with a shabby-chic atmosphere, and good if you are confortable sitting elbow to elbow with the other diners. service was a little slow, but extremely friendly. The menu includes a nice selection of traditional spanish tapas, a handful of entrees, and some salads and sandwiches. We shared a bunch of tapas and a paella. Tapas were very good, very homestyle tasting (i.e. not high concept like you's find at an upscale place like Amada). The standouts were goat cheese wrapped in ham and sauteed calamari in garlic and olive oil. The paella was tasty but not great, it seemed as if the rice was simply mixed with the meat and seafood after the fact (instead of baked together). We had very good perfiteroles for dessert. Our billl came to only $51, which is a geat value. It is a BYO so we split a bottle of wine. We will definitely go back.

We were thirsty for an after dinner drink so we headed over to the bar at the Chestnut Hill Hotel for a few drinks. We have gone ther on a few occasions on the past but, after Saturday, I will never go back. It was well after 9:00 when we got there, and it was fairly crowded because the game was on. A sever asked if we were having dinner and we responded we were just going to sit at the bar for drinks. My husband found an empty seat at the bar and as we were walking over, the "manager" tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to the door, and said "the exit is that way". Very rude. It was as if they did not want our business if we were only buying drinks.

Of course, we left, and headed over to Solaris. WE had some delicous martinis and the service was great. We spent nearly $50 so I'm glad that the Chestnut Hill Hotel did not get any of that money!

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  1. Thanks for the information. The behavior of the "manager" at the Chestnut Hill Hotel bar was a disgrace. After 9 pm I don't see any problem sitting at the bar just for drinks particularly in view of the high profit margin associated with liquor. You might want to call and ask to speak to the actual manager and let him/her know of this. Again thanks.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed Cafe Barcelona. Where on the hill is it?

      We've lived just outside CH for many years and really enjoy going there but we've been mystified as to why it doesn't seem to be able to attract outstanding restaurants. I think there are some "good" restaurants (Osaka, Cafette, Al Dana) but nothing that really stands out. I would really love to see some fine dining options there.

      Do you think CH dining for the most part is just average?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Den

        I forget the name of the cross street, but Cafe Barcelona is located on the corner, less than a block up from Solaris. There are some cafe tables outside, set up for outdoor seating in the warmer months. You can't miss it.

      2. Cafe Barcelona is at 6 East Hartwell Lane, just off Germantown Avenue, not at the corner. The reviewer described it very accurately, both its charms and drawbacks.

        1. Yes, Chestnut Hill is lacking in good restaurants. If you venture a little further down to Mt. Airy, you'll find a great restaurant serving "low country" southern cuisine with asian and other influences. Everything is fresh and delicious --from pulled pork to roast chicken to gumbo to sauteed greens and asian slaw. It's at Germantown and Carpenter -- across from the firehouse at 6825 Germantown Ave.

          The Chestnut Grill is a hole owned by a very rude man. But that's just my opinion.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hungry100

            hungry100 I assume that you are talking about geechie girl am I correct? If I am could you answer a question for me? Are the owners/chef of Gullah background as I believe the cuisine there is described? I plan to go anyway but I'd like to know.


          2. As a resident of East Mt. Airy for me the issue with the area (Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy/Germantown) in terms of restaurant selection can be attributed to the lack of young single professionals (who are a factor in driving new and interesting restaurants). The area to my observation is dominated by families which isn't a bad thing it just leads to certain kind of restaurants being promulgated.

            1. Hi Chinon00, yes, I neglected to name the restaurant, it is, in fact, GeeChee Girl. I don't believe the owner, Valerie, is of Gullah descent, but that is what the food is based on. Word of warning -- service tends to be less than stellar (or even average), but the food is worth it. Enjoy, and try to save room for dessert.

              You can check their menu, etc, at: http://www.geecheegirlricecafe.com/

              1 Reply
              1. re: hungry100

                Re: Geechee Girl... my husband and I went for brunch last weekend, and both the food and service were fabulous. Our waitress was beyond, offering a taste of something before I ordered... garnishing our slice of cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries gratis... No complaints here!

              2. I love the food at "Citrus" (BYOB) in Chestnut Hill. Great food everytime I have been there.

                1. I have lived in Chestnut Hill for 5 years, and agree that there are not enough good (ethnic) eats. Our new favorite restaurant is Hokka Hokka, a Japanese next to Cin Cin that offers many more tasty vegetarian options than Osaka, and has a modern yet charming and inviting setting with a fantastic fireplace. It is our new place to take friends from out of town.

                  I found a web site that lists many of the restaurants I go to in Chestnut Hill.


                  We also really like Umbria (Italian eclectic BYOB in Mt Airy), Citrus and Flying Fish/Roller's (both in Chestnut Hill). Cafe Barcelona and Al Dana are okay/good. I have not yet been to Hamlet Bistro, a BYOB in Mt. Airyon Emlen close to lincoln Drive, but I hear its good.

                  Other casual places I really like for lunch are Top of the Hill on Evergreen, McNally's Tavern at the top of the Hill across from Border's (you can get the schmitter there, which is an all meat sandwich also featured at the Philadelphia pro sports stadiums). I find Bitar's to be hit or miss. I used to love that place, but their falafel sandwiches are very dry, and the tabouli salad varies in freshness. Mi Puebla (the new mexican) is cheery but I find the food okay/good.

                  Anyway, I am praying for quality Indian and Mexican restaurants to round out the hill, and some kind of upscale place as well. Why can't Munish Narula, Daniel Stern or Steven Starr come out here?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: chutney girl

                    Yes... Chestnut Hill has been lackluster in the restaurant category. Nothing much happening there that really stands out or lives up to the price. I'm a fan of Cafette, Umbria (Mt. Airy), some of the bar/pubs (McMenamin's, etc)... but nothing else really sticks to the ribs, so to speak.

                    Biggest ongoing gripe (and this goes for My. Airy too)-

                    Where's the good pizza? The last good pizza I remember in Mt. Airy/Chestnut Hill was Vivino's... at Germantown & Nippon... they closed down back in the mid 80's. Since then, nothing has been good. Golden Crust is nasty. Fiesta has never been that great. Cosimo's is just OK. The neighborhood really needs a good pizza place.

                    1. re: repoman

                      I must say that I think perhaps part of the problem with bringing a good pizza place to the area is that everyone has a differente definition of "good pizza" (as I think has been proven on this board time and time again). I live within walking distance of Cosimos and Fiesta, and have also had Golden Crust delivered. Were any of them groundbreakingly good? No. But, in my mind they were all different, they all had their strengths, and none of them made me so disgusted as to be unwilling to try them again. Cosimos has a wide variety of flavors and toppings available, in a nicer atmosphere than other places. Fiesta has greasy goodness that is cheap, and that accomopanies a fairly expansive and inexpensive menu for a location of its size. And, I can't really comment on Golden Crust since I only had it once, but I definitely didn't hate it. What I mean is, I think Chestnut Hill's restaurant scene is abominable in most regards. But, I don't think it is necessarily fair to say that they have no good pizza places when so few people can agree on what that is. If these places are paying rent on Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill then clearly someone thinks of them as good pizza places. Just my two cents...thanks.

                      1. re: repoman

                        i know i'm replying to a very old post here... but i hadn't heard anyone mention vivinos for ages! yeah, i agree - no pizza that good since then.
                        yes, some people like fiesta. not me. vivino's was the pizza i grew up on.

                      2. re: chutney girl

                        I've always wanted to try Hokka Hokka but have always stuck with my mainstay, Osaka. Are the prices at Hokka around the same as Osaka? What's a stand out dish?

                        1. re: FoolForFood

                          I believe the prices are less than Osaka, but I am vegetarian (no fish), so I base this on what my husband tells me. I love the mushroom tofu teriyaki dish. I cannot tell you what the standout fish dishes are! You should definitely try this restaurant and let me know what you think.

                          1. re: FoolForFood

                            I have only eaten at Hokka Hokka once, so it may be prudent to try it out for yourself. Based on my experience, I would say that their fish rolls tend to be about the same price as those at Osaka, and I have to say that the Unagi maki (eel), which is my favorite sushi dish is much better at Oskaka. I personally prefer the decor at Osaka, too. Give Hokka Hokka a try, though!

                        2. I recommend Mario's Pizza in the Superfresh Shopping Area (Crittenden/Willow Grove). I like it the best in Chestnut Hill, but they don't deliver. When I was pregnant, I craved their pizza every day. It has a thin and chewy crusty with perfect amount of sauce. Occasionally the crust is not as thin as I like (depends who is making that day). I always get broccoli or spinach on top to make it semi-healthy. Give it a try! 215-248-3232

                          1. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Cresheim Cottage Cafe in Mt. Airy. It has definitely been our restaurant of choice since it changed hands a couple years ago. The food is incredible, and it's affordable enough that we can eat there a couple nights a week. The place is beautiful, and the servers are all very nice and friendly. Plus, they have a fireplace, which has been great recently!

                            For pizza, I agree that Mario's in Market Square is the best around.

                            We also really like Hokka Hokka.

                            1. So I finally got to Geechie Girl tonight. I went for takeout. The place was mildly busy at about half to 3/4 full. So I place my order of Sweet Potato Pancakes as a starter and the Low Country Shrimp on grits. As a waited (and waited) I noticed that most of the eat-in diners were waiting too. I estimate that the typical turn around from order to serving is around 30 minutes. I ended up getting my order a half an hour later. Not eternity but . . (to be fair the hostess did tell me that it might take awhile because they just got slammed). Anyway, I race home to eat and was pleased. The Sweet Potato Pancake had a wonderfully strong "country" smell to them. It came with a chipotle sour cream sauce, but the flavor was so profound that I really didn't taste it. The Low Country Shrimp on grits were much more delicate so at first I didn't really taste much of anything. Then after a few more bites it came together texturally and flavor wise; the briney shrimp, the bite of green onion and the fluffy grits all swimming in a melted pat of butter. The shrimp were a tad rubbery but they were in a sealed takeaway container for an additional 10 minutes on the ride home. I will return

                              1. There are not enough restaurants on the Hill, because "they" won't let them in. By "they" I mean certain real estate moguls and the community association. Very sad - there is so much potential.

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: G Goo

                                    As far as I understand it, CH is "run" by the CH Community Association which seems to make it very difficult for anyone trying to do something creative on "The Avenue" especially as it relates to businesses or restaurants. As long as you can fit in their box, you're ok. If not, you may as well go somewhere else.

                                    As an example, there was a bridge out on Germantown Pike over the Wissahichon Creek and it essentially took 5-6 years to get replaced because of the community association wanting endless input and we still ended up with an ugly bridge.

                                1. Solaris sucks....drinks maybe, but i think the food and service are very hit and miss