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Jan 26, 2013 11:32 AM

LaBan's Saint James Review

No bells. This review confirms my belief that many if not most suburban restaurants (particularly those on the main line) are mediocre and overpriced. I wish it wasn't so, and I know there are exceptions, at least in other suburbs (I love Maize and Heirloom is very good). I ask again: Is it that they can get away with it because of people who don't want to travel to the city?

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  1. That's true for most restaurants even in the city. The vast majority are mediocre and overpriced. There's just more good ones downtown. We could all make a list of dining mediocrity in Philly, some big names would be on mine.

    4 Replies
    1. re: sal_acid

      85 percent turnover in the kitchen in 90 days speaks to the challenge in hiring talent in the suburbs... Or is an indictment of the management. Service in the suburbs is almost non existent especially in larger restaurants.

      1. re: cwdonald

        I agree with CWDonald.
        Service, especially in the burbs, is very lacking (except for Nectar and some outlying places like Birchrunville, now that Gilmores is no more).
        But I rise to defend Main Line restaurants -- some of which are really on a par with their downtown sisters.
        I have seen this mentioned a couple of times, so I am not sure what restaurants you speak of. No one ever seems to name names of these "lesser" restaurants. Perhaps if someone could come up with a small list, it would be easier to discuss it with them.
        Having said that, I am well aware that Center City restaurants hold more interest than the burbs because obviously there is much more to choose from.

        1. re: arepo

          I can't say for sure obviously, but the excellent service at some suburban restaurants suggests to me it is more a management problem than a location problem.

          Blackfish, for one, has excellent service. Maybe they pay more, or maybe it has something to do with the headwaiter Harold having been there since it opened and having good training for new staff.

          Whatever the secret, Saint James had better figure it out quick. A 0-beller is probably a death knell for business (I know I've suddenly lost all interest in going, and I was a Matt Moon fan from Talula's Table).

          1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

            Chip has retained folks for years at Blackfish (in fact regulars there request specific servers... ). It definitely feels more like the urban type of restaurant where folks are able to make a long term commitment to a business. I have no idea of the servers also have to hold down additional jobs but they are good at service, explaining food, and listening to your requests.

    2. I certainly won't be trying this restaurant anytime soon. However, I disagree with there not being any good restaurants in the Western Suburbs. Gilmore's was great and I still miss it although I don't think Peter was right in not reimbursing those who had gift cards.

      But among those restaurants still active, I really like Sola, Alba, Dilworthtown Inn,Spring Mill Cafe, etc. Maybe they pay their staff more.

      5 Replies
      1. re: FayeD

        Those I like too. Since you mention Dilworthtown, I would add their Pear Bistro. I don't like San Marco and Radice (poor service and rude to those who aren't regulars). Stopped going to Savona after one great dinner and two okay meals. Prices were very high, although this was before Bar Savona. Le Mas Perrier had very good service and okay food. Trattoria San Nichola's Italian food was nothing special, although it was always packed. Wanted to like Aperto in Narthberth but it was another meh (although reasonably priced). So many of the Doylestown restaurants are expensive and not great (Honey and Il Melograno are exceptions). I have to agree, though, with sal. There are overpriced and mediocre restaurants everywhere but the city has so many good choices.

        1. re: JanR

          Thanks for listing some restaurants you don't like.
          Aside of San Marco and Radice , both of which are not in the Western suburbs, the rest of your list -- except Savona (and particularly Bar Savona) -- I don't like either.
          However, I very much liked FayeD's list (not been to Dilworth Inn) and would like to add to her list, Susannah Foo's, Yangming, Silverspoon, Nectar, Pescatore, Sovana Bistro and Tiramisu.
          All of these are acceptable -- some being higher scale than others, but for neighborhood fare, certainly not mediocre or overpriced.
          Just my humble opinion.

          1. re: arepo

            arepo, just a small directional issue with your observation: San Marco in Ambler and Radice in Blue Bell are both in the western suburbs. Based on what I can see with my limited map reading ability.

            1. re: arepo

              I agree that Pescatore is very good. And if Tiramisu is anything like the original on third street, I will like that too.

              I was referring to all Philadelphia suburbs but San Marco (in Springhouse) and Radice (in Blue Bell) are, in fact, in the western suburbs (at least by Open Table standards).

              1. re: JanR

                And a thump on the noggin to me. I was attributing them to Montgomery County vs Delaware County I suppose.
                Never was very good at geography.
                Mea culpa!