From the perspective of a devoted foodie, the restaurant scene in Montgomery County, Pa., is like a patchwork quilt. No one style of cuisine dominates; rather, the county is blanketed with dining options that cover multiple traditions, cooking styles, ethnic backgrounds, ingredient profiles and culinary imagination.
Covering the gastronomic gamut from frankfurters to foie gras, our chefs have sharpened both their skills and their cutlery in an effort to please palates and tantalize taste buds.
Often, the surroundings in which these masters perform their menu magic hold as much richness as the dessert trays on display.
Upscale with a dash of quaintness, the Joseph Ambler Inn Restaurant, North Wales, is celebrating its 30th year of operation in 2013. The restaurant's quiet candle-lit tables and intimate nooks fit perfectly with the property's 1920s-retro roots, with a restored elegance to ensure comfort and atmosphere. The finely appointed tables are from handcrafted cherry, and you'll nestle into a Windsor chair as your courses unfold before you. The flooring is random-width hardwood; the walls are original, exposed stone; and the wine list has garnered numerous Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence. On the less-formal side, you can sidle up to the bar at the JPub and nosh on a Philly Cheesesteak egg roll or a crab and asparagus omelet. There's also a terrace for alfresco dining and views of the lush grounds.
Looking for something a little less formal but no less delish? The Olcé Pizza Grill on Skippack Pike is doing things with dough that will swear you off pizza-chain takeout forever. You'll recognize the difference as soon as you bite into slices that explode with flavorful toppings that range from classical (tomato, mozzarella, oregano, all fresh) to one-of-a-kind (Brussels sprouts, gruyere, mozzarella, pecorino, prosciutto). Do not leave without trying a dessert pizza; you'll have difficulty choosing between the seasonal fruit pie (which starts with a crust layered with melty Nutella) and the s'mores pie (whose pizza-oven-toasted marshmallows pop off the crust like the delicious surface of some alien planet).
Toasted marshmallows sit atop the unique s'mores pie from Olcé Pizza Grill
At the Kitchen Bar, Abington, Greek brothers Teddy and Steve Makris resurrected a run-down former diner and gave the exterior a Jetsons overlay, transforming ramshackle into retro-chic. The inside hums with a lively vibe, accented by a kinetic waterfall wall that blocks out ambient noise but encourages quiet conversation with your table-mate. The menu, reflecting the talents of the Makris' 40 years in the biz, covers breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-nights, and the boisterous bar draws sports fans to a big-screen wonderland.
If you actually need a reason to get out from your slump of microwaved mac-n-cheese for five-star dine-out fare, the upcoming Main Line Restaurant Week is the perfect opportunity. Price fixe menus abound, meaning you can feed your hunger for quality without emptying your wallet of Franklins. The event runs September 23-29.
Main Line Restaurant Week was the brainchild of Sarah Lockard, CEO of AroundMainLine.com. "We are right next to a big city," she comments, reflecting on its genesis. "But I want people to know that they don't have to travel all the way into Center City Philadelphia to enjoy a vibrant restaurant scene. Right here in the western suburbs, we've got top chefs working very hard to create varied cuisines in exciting settings. Main Line Restaurant Week is a chance to give some of them a try, without the long drive. Chances are, residents are passing by some of these stellar restaurants every day during their commutes. It's time to stop in and take part in the largest suburban dining event in the area."
Ralph's of South Philly, for example, is one of the participants in the week-long food-fest. Ralph's opened its second location in the new Sheraton Valley Forge in King of Prussia in 2012 and very quickly proved that its deep-seated methods of Italian cooking (yes, the red sauce is referred to internally as "gravy") could translate to the suburbs. The original South Philly location, at 113 years of continual operation, has claimed the distinction of being the oldest Italian restaurant in the nation, but this satellite dining room is quickly gaining momentum as a worthy offspring. Ralph's spinach- and prosciutto-layered veal saltimbocca has already caught the eye of one local food critic, as has the tiramisu.
Locally, Ralph's is joined by these other memorable dining experiences in participating in Main Line Restaurant Week:
- Chadwick's Restaurant and Bar
- Citron + Rose
- Legal Sea Foods
- Seasons 52
- Stirling's Restaurant
- Sullivan's Steakhouse
- The Capital Grille - King of Prussia
- The Melting Pot
- Valley Tavern
If your hunger for fine cuisine in Montgomery County, Pa., can't wait for next week, know that Conshohocken Restaurant Week is going on until September 22. Among our faves on "the curve" are Gypsy Saloon, Pepperoncini and Stella Blu.
Tie that napkin around your neck, grab that fork and knife and dig in! And if afterward, you're feeling a food-coma kick in, duck into an area hotel and make a weekend getaway out of your evening out. Nearby accommodations to suit every taste can be perused here.
Valley Tavern at Valley Forge Casino Resort