Most "Chowish" Philly Burb: Doylestown?
I've lived in the Doylestown area for a couple of years now, and have complained about the dining options on a few posts. But a couple of new restaurants are coming to Doylestown, and I kind of re-evaluated things. A few of Doylestown's offerings:
Excellent sushi, modern atmosphere: Ooka
Modern restaurant, eclectic menu (think tea smoked sticky bbq ribs with ginger ice cream): Honey
French bistro/brasserie: Slate Bleu
Beer Bar (over 80) with great wings: Mesquito Grill
Absolutely Top Notch Burger (the frenchie- boursin and onion jam): Farmhouse Tavern
Great bakery: Cross Roads
Specialty takeout with excellent cheese and pate: Cote and Co.
Good Thai- place on State St. (I think it's called Black Walnut Cafe?)
Eclectic pizza (i.e. rosemary, gorgonzola, rosemary, and fig jam) - Jules
A couple new additions, that if they're good will add alot:
Sweet Lil's- bbq
A few places that are great ideas, but don't quite hit the mark:
Wine Bar- Pag's
Wood fired pizza- Cafe Alessio
We've got a gaping hole in italian restaurants (although Craig Laban really like Il Melagrano), but all in all, for a suburb, that's pretty darn good eats.
Which suburb do you think deserves the "Chow Crown?"
I don't know...I honestly think Ooka has gone greatly downhill lately. I'm forced to eat there out of neccessity fairly often, and they don't measure up to Tai Show or Osaka, but charge quite a bit more.
I've heard quite a few good things about Honey, and their menu looks quite good.
I've eaten at all the other places, and nothing is transcendent for me. At least to give each restaurant a "best 'blank' restaurant in philly suburbs to set it apart from the others.
Honestly...I think Doylestown is more of an introduction to real food for non-foodies, imho opinion. I mean that in the most non-offensive way. The waitstaff is rude in most places, they feel they have the inside edge on every innovation, they are overpriced for what they offer, parking is a pain, etc
I can go to Le Bec Fin for what most of these places are offering, price wise. I've had some exceptions meals in all of the suburbs, but not one stands out.
I think you may be missing my point. "Transcendent" meals are typically had in cities, I agree. To have all of these things in ONE SUBURB is pretty darn good. Heck, you even mention two other sushi options to Ooka. I like having the ability to have great wings with a Roquefort 8, get some Mt. Tam with duck pate, or enjoy a morning roll (which ARE transcendent) with some Small World coffee.
What other suburb of Philadelphia would you suggest has offerings like these? Collingswood? Kennet Square? Conshohocken?
I hadn't really had a chance to come back to this...why CAN'T transcendent meals be had in the suburbs as well?
For myself, personally, to tout to everyone "Doylestown is Best!" each of those restaurants would have to be the best at what they do..not just be a little beyond acceptable. Or acceptable or below in some cases.
Trust me, this isn't town envy. I'm in Bedminster/Perkasie..(technically I'm in Hagersville...all 13 houses of us) We have very few restaurants. We have to travel to everything.
But I will show that Bucks County is probably the 'Chowish' Suburbia I've seen so far. Beyond, maybe, Long Island. And they have a CIA school.
#1- Transcendent meals can happen in the burbs, they just usually don't.
#2- To be the best food suburb, you feel that ONE suburb would have to have the best:
There is no suburb, or even city neighberhood, that would have the best in all of those things.
My larger point is that there are some good eats in Doylestown and there's alot of variety here for a suburb. Bucks county gets alot of grief for lack of dining options. I've even complained about it before, but recently I've taken a step back and looked around and realized it ain't bad for a suburb. And I'm questioning if there is a Philly burb that has better food- there probably is, I'm looking for that answer/argument.
I don't think, as a singular 'burb' it deserves a 'chow crown'.
WTH is that anyway? Do I get to wear one? Will it give me hathead?
Sushi: Thai Show in Quakertown or Osaka in Hilltown. Osaka has a much larger menu, nicer digs, and I believer they have a liqour license. I've only eaten there twice, but I had two great meals. Very good spicy salmon and 'crunch roll'. Huge rolls. One is meal. Perfect rice.
Thai Show has Hibachi. Admittedly, they are a little shabby, but they are planning a HUGE remodel. Joe had moved back to the sushi bar after chatting about the remodel, so I couldn't quite make out whether they WERE getting a liqour license, or the insurance premium jump was too much and he decided not to. But currently they are very byob friendly. Completely transcendent spicy tuna and volcano rolls. Very good hibachi filet. He does a nice seared garlic tuna as well. Inexpensive.
There's a little place called Avocado's in Perkasie, they have a nice menu. For more modern things, I go to the city, so I'm sure there's more here.
Ethnic:Tacos Mexicana Hands down best around..I've eaten everywhere around here, all the ridiculous overpriced places multiple times, and this little 'taco shop' as the owner calls it is pure heaven. Super tender chicken tacos, very authentic guacamole, chunky with a kick, more like a sauce than a dip.
Great chilaquiles, tongue tacos..etc. I don't know if I've had everything yet, but I've had almost everything...he even has huitlacoche and squash blossoms. Hidden away in Quakertown.
Another good Puerto Rican Place, is a place I hate to visit, but am happy once I'm there...Quakertown farmers market. Latin Flavor.
Very authentic yellow rice, pulled pork with pernil, they have a very long, full menu. Out of this world cubanos. Chicken stew, etc. Chicarones, pasteles, pastillos..
I do have to disagree slightly on the Farmhouse Tavern...while I have had good burgers there, I just CAN'T place them in restaurant status, because of all the smoking going on. I won't eat there. YUCK.
I don't order ground beef out anymore, regardless. But, a local place, (country place) makes a mean burger..$2.80. Couldn't tell you where it actually comes from. And they are a functioning tavern, with many beers on tap, bottled..etc.
There's Joseph's Italian Deli on 313...he makes a pretty good pie. I tend to stay local with my pizza, but I'm honestly not a big fan of pizza in general. I always go white. Tacos Mexicana is now making pizzas and we intend to try one soon.
Where exactly is Cote and co? I'm a pate aholic and there just doesn't seem to a lot of people that like it here.
There is an italian place in Doylestown that serves family style, but I can't remember the name. DH really likes it. I've never been. He also is a fan of Roman Delight, of all places. Which I am not.
I have to agree with you on Ooka. I haven't been there for a while because of our last meal there.
We have gone to Honey numerous times and it has been delightful. We enjoy Thai at The Black Walnut. Don't like Cafe Alessio. We tried to have lunch at Rare, but they were only serving lunch in the bar. Not for me.
We like going to Doylestown because it is quaint and we love the fall craft show. But to give it a "Chow Crown"? I have to vote no on that one.
I think each area in burbs offers up at least one opportunity for exceptional food. There is Arpeggio in Lower Gwynedd, for example, but not a whole lot more really good choices in this area and there are many places to choose from. Just my opinion mind you.
PJ Whelihan's? Now that is sad! The biggest problem I see in the burbs is the lack of decent waitstaff and inconsistent kitchens. It is frustrating with the cost of dining out. So many places start out decent and after a couple of visits we don't want to go back. I really love coming to Doylestown. We love to walk around an look in the shops. We will be there on the 7th (providing it isn't 100 degrees) for the craft show and we will definitely be having lunch at Honey.
Skippack has the potential to be one of the more Chowish suburbs. The restaurant selection is somewhat varied but we have only found Parc Bistro and Brassiere 73 to be consistently good.
There is so much potential for the suburbs to have some great restaurants, and unfortunately most seem to fall short though I have no idea why. The burbs have a reputation for being a wasteland of chain restaurants. But there are so many great little walking towns like Doylestown, Ambler, Glenside, Jenkintown, Chestnut Hill (I know its technically Philly). Most have a few good restaurants, but nothing I'd call a mecca for food. These types of places are ripe to get some really good restaurants.
Part of it is a self-fufilling prophecy. People want a good new restaurant locally but then when one opens, they do not go. I have seen far too many good local spots empty on a Saturday night. Even on these boards, you see some people being overly harsh of suburban restaurants. Its a domino effect. We all need to support the local restaurants, encourage them, then these restaurants can thrive, and more restaurants will come in. If not, we will eventually have nothing but chain restaurants.
Plus, I do not think the suburban restaurants even get alot of press. If you look at the Craig LaBan reviews, or Philly Mag, most reviews and features are focused on Philly restaurants (the few non-Philly restaurants that get a shout out are main line or NJ). Its like we are considered out in farm country though most inner tier burbs are only about 15 miles from the city.
I know some of the restaurants in the burbs can be pricey, but so can some restaurants in the city. My (personal) opinion I'd rather overpay a bit for my meal and not have the hassle/expense of driving and parking in the city. Plus, there is not that much competition in alot of these areas. If we increase our patronage, that will increase the competition, and bring down prices.
I probably went on a bit of a tangent but I would love to bfind a suburb worthy of the chow crown but have yet to fin one - but an still looking and happily eating my way though all of the local spots anyway!
I agree wholeheartedly with your larger point of a lack of great dining in the 'burbs- and I think this exists everywhere, not just Philly. I work in Manhattan and it's surrounding areas. I don't see any spectacular dining enclaves in West Chester county or Long Island.
Really, the only widely acclaimed suburb (and I'm stretching the definition of suburb here) I can think of for food is the Napa Valley.
I probably should have mentioned this in my original post, that my expectation for a "chowish" burb isn't like walking up and down Walnut St.
My definition is more a place where you can get a nice variety of good eats with some exceptional ones mixed in.
It is open. I was there for lunch yesterday (strangely enough, as I'm vegetarian). My friend wanted to go. It's very tight quarters, and at 12:15 they had no brisket or chicken. I'm not sure I get that. My friend got a crabcake as third choice, which she said was very good, and I had a spinach salad. Sweet potato fries, though good, were not hot. Onion rings were tasty. I probably won't go back because there's nothing but crabcakes for me to eat, but maybe once they work out the kinks it will be good.
If your looking for great sushi, try Madam Butterfly in Doylestown. Its not even comparable to Ooka. They have fresh seafood and are very accommodating. You can even ask them for fresh wasabi and they will make it from scratch right then and there. Quaint and Quiet and amazing service. Family owned and true sushi at its best.
Madam Butterfly Japanese Restaurant
34 W State St, Doylestown, PA 18901
Its interesting to reflect on this list 18 months after it was posted.
Deletions: Rare and Cote and Co have both disappeared.
I would suggest from a strictly beer standpoint Stephanies is head and shoulders above Mesquite Grill.
I find it interesting that you didnt mention either Domani Star, or Knight House (which has expanded and added another restaurant) 86 west with a small plate and sushi theme.
Jules Thin crust wasnt on the list. Probabl would throw in the Night Kitchen Bakery and Altomantes. I am not a fan of Le Maison de Cheese but many like it.
Worthy new comers include Philly Soup Company, Vine and FIg, Spice Thai.
Now other than Honey and Slate Bleu would I make a special trip to Doylestown if I didnt live there.. probably not. But for living in the area, there is significant variety. Most chowish suburb? Don't know. We are lacking in good chinese (sorry Hong Kong jack's doesn't cut it), mexican except if you go up to Plumstead, and I would probably agree about good italian, though I do not mind driving to Baci in Buckingham. Wish our farmers market were bigger/permanent, but you can travel to others including Quakertown as well as great local markets (None Such Farms, Illg's Meats, Haring Brothers, Hellers) , as well as butchers. So all and all Doylestown isnt a bad destination.
Nice post cwdonald. Where did the Night Kitchen Bakery move to? I still miss hornbergers and I know Night Kitchen Bakery closed down awhile back, did they reopen somewhere nearby? I like Let Them Eat Cupcakes although I had a true Doylestown moment last time I was there. Not their fault, he he! The guy was in back and didn't hear me come in. I wanted to decide anyway so I didn't say anything. A woman came in with her dog asking about her Huskie Rescue and just barged ahead of me like I wasn't standing there. I was so proud. I actually managed to stammer out "umm I was here first you know." My friend didn't fair so well one time at Cookies and Creme. A tough elderly woman just pushed in front of him. I do love Doylestown and it is a great walking around town in nicer weather but sometimes....