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Sep 24, 2007 09:10 AM

Help! Anniversary dinner + dietary constraints = dilemma!

I'm in the suburbs west of Philadelphia, and looking for a nice place for dinner -- our fifteenth anniversary is on Wednesday, and even though it's a busy week (and our main celebration is planned for the weekend), we don't want to let the day itself go by without _some_ kind of event.

Now, here's the challenge: we don't want to schlep into Center City if we can help it, but we're not averse to traveling somewhat. I think we'd go half an hour to forty-five minutes for the right place. I know the city's even closer than that, but we'd rather not deal with the crowds and the noise you have at most of the better Philadelphia restaurants.

And, we have dietary constraints, too. Neither of us eat red meat, and I'm allergic to shellfish. And while we do eat fish and poultry, we don't like going to places that have a menu full of steak and lamb, and only two fish/chicken choices. Our preference is generally for a place that has a good selection of fish/chicken/vegetarian choices.

Anyone have any good ideas out in the suburbs? We're in Malvern, but as noted, we're willing to travel quite a bit for the right place. (To save some time, I'll mention that we eat so frequently at Nectar in Berwyn that it's not even in the running for this particular event.)

And, having said all of the above, I'm not totally averse to ideas in the city, if you know someplace that fits the bill and _isn't_ your typical loud, crowded, Steven-Starr-type of experience.

Thanks very much!


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  1. Have you been to Restaurant Alba? We were there once and had a wonderful meal - and I, too, have dietary restrictions.

    The menu for fall looks varied, although it's not a huge menu so it definitely depends on your particular preferences.

    1 Reply
    1. re: isadorasmama

      Thanks, we have indeed been to Alba, and I just looked at their early Fall menu last night. It's really limited (almost as bad as Majolica in Phoenixville!), and it looks like there are only two, possibly three choices for us (my husband isn't allergic to shellfish, but since I am, he usually doesn't eat it -- because then we can't even kiss until he's thoroughly brushed his teeth and washed out his mouth!). I'm hoping to have a few more choices than that!

      1. How about Spamps in Conshohocken? I've had some great meals there. Also Blackfish nearby, but I think they have less options

        Other options:Teikoku in West Chester
        Meridiths (new menu just started, I have not tried it)

        4 Replies
        1. re: readytocook

          Thanks, readytocook! We've been to Teikoku and Meridith's, but not for some time. Good thoughts. Last time we were in Conshy we ate at Chiangmai, which is right across the street from Blackfish, so of course we stopped by to look at their menu. Right now that's our strongest contender. Spamps is totally new to me -- they have about six things we can eat as entrees, so that's a possibility at some point, even if not for this Wednesday.

          1. re: Fjordstone

            Well, it is interesting to see that we are on the same page because while reading your needs, I immediately flashed onto Nectar only to be shot right back down again.
            Then I thought of Blackfish in Conshy only to, again, be shot down.
            I will mention a unique place that we found by accident while my mate railed at me for making him drive so far and on top of that, even forgetting to bring a bottle of wine to this charming BYOB.
            All was forgiven when we ate the food at Funky L'il Kitchen in Pottstown (which geographically I thought was maybe 25 minutes away but it became a good hour!) However, it is in your ball park so it should be perfect.
            There is a menu to peruse online.

            PS. Notice I didn't mention one of my favorite places also near you, Gilmore's, because I believe their menu to be limited and rich!

            1. re: idia

              We are fans of Funky 'lil Kitchen (although I will admit that our last meal there wasn't as fantastic as our first) but if the OP thinks Alba's has a limited menu she will for FlK as well. Not that I disagree...I think they are potentially tricky places for people who have food allergies/aversions.

              1. re: idia

                Thanks for the recommendation, idia and isadorasmama. I'll try to find out more about the Funky L'il Kitchen for a future dinner -- right now, they don't even seem to have a website, so I can't check out their offerings. But I do get up to Pottstown once in a blue moon, so maybe I'll just stop in some day.

                As for Blackfish and Nectar, don't feel bad, idia! Nectar is only 'out' because we've done it so often (living in Malvern, it's our closest hip/upscale joint). And Blackfish is still one of our top contenders for Wednesday night. Oh, and Gilmore's -- d'oh! -- thanks for the reminder!

          2. If you can bring yourselves to schlep to Philly, there's a wonderful vegan restaurant off South Street -- Horizons. My husband and I have enjoyed dinner there several times, and we're carnivores. They have the best "cheesecake" I've ever eaten, and I come from New York! They're on S. 7th Street, half a block south of South. But you would definitely need a reservation.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Beulah

              Thanks, Beulah. My husband would vote for this one, for sure -- he's currently doing a 90% plant-based diet, but says he's willing to eat poultry or fish or dairy if necessary for our anniversary dinner. We saw the review when this one opened, and have vegan friends in the city, so we've heard lots of good things about it already. I may want to back-burner it for a weekend, though. I'm not surprised to hear the rave about their cheesecake -- the best chocolate cake I have _ever_ had was a vegan one.

              1. re: Fjordstone

                IMHO...Alba'a overrated. Pond (radnor) is exceptional and can be very romantic if you ask for a good table. I tell everyone I know to steer clear of Meredith's. I've seen the kitchen and would probably be overstepping my bounds by accurately describing it. Birchunville Store Cafe (just outside of Phoenixville) is a winner...tough table to get, romantic, has a chef who'd be willing and able to accomodate any needs. Black Lab Bistro is a personal favorite (next to Majolica) great menu, great specs, lively atmosphere.


                1. re: Major504

                  this is an interesting thread. why have i not read about the pond until just this week, and now this is the third time! will def have to check it out.

                  i stayed over in conshy for a brief stint when i first moved to PA in '05. is spamps new? i used to live right by there and i've never heard of it!

                  meredith's is too casual for anything special. i don't even do business lunches there. sometimes a casual lunch on fridays with the girls, but nothing to write home about.

                  hmmm i guess considering menu hopes the general warren's inne isn't really up your alley much, either (the best thing i remember having there was a lovely lump crab + cocktail sauce appetizer).

                  you mention fish... i remember being torn between fish selections at places bistro (next to the people's light and theatre - hey, and then you could catch a play afterwards!). i was happy with what i got. i was happy with my wine as well. and i remember a particularly attentive bartender-slash-server (once we were seated). very happy with my pre-theatre dinner there! super-cute old place.
                  oh - though it should be mentioned - i think their menu is seasonal. posted on the website is a different menu from the one i saw on the site ~8 months ago. furthermore, that website menu was different from what was on the actual menu once inside the restaurant. i just specifically remembered this because a coworker was running late, and so she didn't miss the play she had me order for her. the order she picked from the website was no longer available, but they had something to the same tune that i got for her. there were a good few vege & fish options.

                  oh, and check out this website i just found!
                  i am all over this for the next couple weeks at work! i've hit a restaurant rut in the main line area. they also just reminded me that the fayette street grille gets high marks, but i've never tried it out!!

                  1. re: rabidog

                    Places is good (although service is spotty, at least at lunch), and I've been to the bistro at Pond (I think it's called Cassis). Had a very nice lunch there. I looked at the menu yesterday, and it seemed like I'd have very little choice this time around, so I'll probably skip it. Same with Birchrunville Cafe. And Black Lab is okay, but doesn't seem nice enough for a fifteenth anniversary. I got a few more good recommendations from friends (since Blackfish is booked up at the time we'd want to dine): Cresheim Cottage in Mt. Airy, the Marshallton Inn in Marshallton (which has a new chef sort of recently), and Simon Pearce On the Brandywine in West Chester. Cresheim looks homey, and the appeal there is local, sustainable, organic foods; Marshallton Inn is quite cozy-yet-upscale (and I'm told the food is leaps and bounds beyond what it used to be); Simon Pearce is a wildcard, though. I don't know anyone who can personally vouch for it.

                    We're not going this time, but I ought to pass on another good one I've learned about during this search: Margot's in Narberth.

                    And yes, is a great resource!

                    Thanks, everyone -- this has been very informative! I'll be sure to report back about whichever place we choose for tomorrow night. And I think we'll be trying the others in the near future, too!

                    One thing I'm surprised nobody mentioned is Savona. Any thoughts on that? I've been saving it for a 'special occasion' dinner for some time, but I never hear anyone talking about it anymore. My suspicion/worry is that it's become stodgy/old-style cuisine, and so nobody who's a real foody likes to eat there. Anyone been there recently?

                    1. re: Fjordstone

                      There are plenty of places I didn't bother to mention, Savona being one of them, because of your very own requisites. Jakes is another.
                      Remember, I didn't even want to speak about Gilmores because of your dietary restrictions.
                      I even think my favorite, Sola, might not even fit your bill.
                      So here are 4 favorites of mine which I don't think you'd be happy with unless you are willing to relax your specifications.

                      1. re: idia

                        Thanks, idia. I'm surprised to hear that Savona is an issue. I mean, it's Italian, which at the very least generally means a fair selection of no-meat pasta dishes. I've never had trouble finding something to eat in an Italian restaurant!

                        We ended up going with Simon Pearce, and I thought it was a good meal for the price. The ambience was lovely, and all of the dishes and glassware are their own pieces. My husband ordered a pint of Guinness that came in such a lovely, elegant-yet-rustic glass, that we couldn't wait to get to the showroom/shop after the meal. One thing of note is that for a small menu (about ten entrees), more than half of them were things I could eat (no red meat, no shellfish). That's one of the main reasons I chose them.

                        Both our appetizers were very good; my husband's entree was incredible (he had the apple/gorgonzola/walnut ravioli), and our desserts were great, too (but again, his was incredible: it was the chocolate Bailey's bread pudding). The service was very attentive even though our waiter had quite a few tables (including one with a large party), and plating was modern and beautiful (many things piled vertically in that oh-so-trendy style).

                        The only disappointment was my entree. I got the horseradish-encrusted cod, which is apparently one of their signature dishes. The menu lists it as coming with herb mashed potatoes and crispy leeks, and I expected an actual _vegetable_ on my plate. But the "crispy leeks" was actually a smattering of deep-fried leek shavings. I mentioned my disappointment to the maitre'd, and he suggested that maybe it ought to be listed as a garnish. I agreed. But to be fair, the waiter happily complied when I asked him to bring me a vegetable, and they did not charge us for it. We both each had a drink, an appetizer, an entree, a dessert, and coffee, and the bill with tip came to $131.

                        I'm looking forward to trying some of the other places that posters here suggested. Thanks again to all!

                        1. re: Fjordstone

                          All's well that ends well.
                          Happy Anniversary.

                          My turn next on Monday night at Jakes.