Friday, December 29 2023 9:14

Best of the Best: West Chester

Written by County Lines Magazine

Recommendations for best places to eat locally — morning, noon, night and more

Morning: La Baguette Magique

202 W. Market St., West Chester
484-947-5024 /

It’s not easy to deliver authenticity — whether in an Italian trattoria, English pub or French bakery. But step inside La Baguette Magique and you’ll almost swear you’ve left West Chester and been transported to Paris. Opened in 2015 by Lyon native Catherine Sessions, this gem is run today by Maria van Schaijik and Anthony Andiario, the masterminds behind nationally acclaimed Andiario. Despite its new American roots, La Baguette Magique retains that unhurried vibe of a French café where the glass shelves are stocked with a glittering assortment of creamy pastries and buttery croissants, bins overflow with loaves of fresh-baked bread and rolls, and patrons sit to enjoy a café au lait and a conversation to start their day.

Morning: Penn’s Table

100 W. Gay St., West Chester
610-696-0677 /

Sometimes all a morning calls for are some perfectly cooked eggs, a stack of banana pancakes and a bottomless cup of coffee. On those particular days, walk over to Penn’s Table, the Gay Street mainstay that first began frying up breakfast and lunch classics for residents in 1976. From the McGaffneys to the Marion family to the Lucas family in 2017, ownership has traded hands a few times over the years, but the dedication to friendly service, quality uncomplicated food and making sure you have a smooth morning has remained the same for almost 50 years.

Morning: DK Diner

609 E. Gay St., West Chester
610-692-2946 /

At some point in every road-trip movie, the protagonists enter the local diner where everyone knows everyone else. That would be the DK Diner on Gay Street, before you hit the business district. Opened in 1952, the decor maintains all the period details — chrome accents, neon lights and vinyl booths. Expect to be greeted by a friendly waitress who will call you “hon.” So, when you need some diner ambiance, grab a seat at the bar and join the debate over the strength of Penn State’s secondary, while you fork through a stack of blueberry hotcakes. Just don’t forget your cash — another throwback to the ’50s.

Brunch: Roots Cafe

133 E. Gay St., West Chester
610-455-0100 /

As any chef can tell you, good food can be traced to its source. For some, this means scouring the Earth for ingredients. Others believe that local is best. This farm-to-fork mantra has been driving Roots Cafe Chefs/owners John “JT” Hearn and Dan Merola since they opened in 2013. While the menu changes frequently, nearly 90% of the ingredients are sourced from area farms. For brunch, order a cup of West Chester’s own Turk’s Head coffee and a plate of French toast bites for the table, while you pour over the rest of the seasonally tailored menu. Even the beer, wine and art on the walls are local here.

Brunch: Two Birds Cafe

653 Downingtown Pk., West Chester
610-222-6200 /

Last year, West Chester’s Two Birds Cafe was named one of Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat. It came in at #51 thanks to a slew and a half of 5-star reviews. The acclaim is not surprising to those who frequent the quaint Downingtown Pike cafe known for its pillowy eggs Benedict and fresh-baked everything — including their amazing cinnamon buns. From the rustic feel to the friendly staff to the hearty farmer’s omelet, Two Birds is everything you want a brunch place to be. The only complaint — wait times can get a bit long on weekends. So show up early!

Noon: Limoncello Ristorante

9 N. Walnut St.,West Chester
610-436-6230 /

The Limoncello lunch buffet is one of many compelling reasons to indulge in West Chester’s dining scene. Although it was launched decades ago, it remains to this day one of the best values in midday dining. Tuesday through Friday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., fans flock to this welcoming Italian destination to pile plates with fresh antipasti, grilled veggies, pizzas and, of course, pasta … and more pasta. The warm, rustic atmosphere provides a welcome respite from a busy day but with ready-to-serve platters awaiting action that work-break can be as long or as short as you need it to be.

Noon: Teca

38 E. Gay St., West Chester
610-738-8244 /

You probably know Teca for dinner, but if you haven’t stopped in for lunch, you’re missing out. Not convinced? It’s in the name. “Teca” is the shared overlap between two words key to understanding this locally owned Italian restaurant — paninoteca, panini bar, and enoteca, wine bar. While paninoteca encompasses the restaurant’s embrace of lighter fare or tapas-style dining, it’s the actual paninis that should have you pulling up to the bar at lunch. Try the Cubano with roast pork or the Vegetariano, and if the day is light, add a glass of red to the order. You’ll see why Italians favor their midday meal.

Noon: Mercato

33 W. Market St., West Chester
610-701-6326 /

In Italy, lunch, not dinner, triumphs as the premier meal of the day. So it should be no surprise the lunch menu at Mercato features piles of fresh pasta and a full list of favorite Italian-American classics, like eggplant parmigiana and chicken piccata. But your best bet may be Neapolitan Chef Alfredo Giannaccari’s version of his hometown-style pizza. When the weather warms, nab a table on their popular patio overlooking Market Street and order a round of the Diavola. In that one fire-roasted pie, you’ll enjoy all the chef’s signatures, including cured meats, hand-pulled mozzarella and fresh-baked bread.

Night: Spence Cafe

131 N. High St., West Chester
610-918-1272 / Spence.Cafe

For over a century, West Chester’s dining scene has been anchored by a “Spence” café. In 1896, James Spence opened the original Spence’s Central Cafe and Restaurant on Gay Street. Then exactly a century later, acclaimed Chef Andrew Patton opened his Spence Café around the corner on High Street. While the location has changed and the vision evolved over the years, the quality of the food and richness of the dining experience have never faltered. In 2021, Spence was named to OpenTable’s Top 100 Restaurants list. Start your evening with the Baked Oysters Spence. End it with the crème brûlée. Where you go in between is completely up to you.

Night: Bar Avalon

116 E. Gay St., West Chester
610-436-4100 /

From the music selection to the cocktail menu to the shared plates, Chef/owner John Brandt-Lee has crafted Bar Avalon to be an escape from the day’s stresses. It’s probably why this Gay Street spot is among the area’s most visited destinations by out-of-town celebrities. If you have time — and can find a space — start your evening at the bar. Their smoked Manhattan is a sight. The Paper Plane is a classic. Move to your table feeling relaxed and order the baked mussels to share and the penne vodka just for yourself. As Chef Brandt-Lee says, “It’s a classic and we almost have it down.”

Night: Pietro’s Prime Steakhouse & Martini Bar

125 W. Market St., West Chester
484-760-6100 /

Pietro’s Prime, West Chester’s premier steakhouse, has been delighting diners with aged meats and perfectly poured martinis since 2007. While James Bond may have preferred his cocktail shaken not stirred and with lemon, many of today’s fans are partial to a perfectly balanced espresso martini sipped at Pietro’s bustling mahogany bar. In the background, live music from a favorite local band. A crisp drink followed by a classic wedge salad, the house signature filet and a slice of homemade peanut butter pie, well, that’s a night worthy of celebration. Whether that occasion is monumental or another week completed is entirely up to you.

Happy Hour: Saloon 151

151 W. Gay St., West Chester
610-701-8489 /

For eight years now, Saloon 151 has been the go-to location for sipping whiskey. Stocking nearly 200 different varieties of the spirit from around the globe, the bar created a special niche that matched the growing interest in stronger spirits. (They added tequila in sister bar next door.) Stop by for Happy Hour drinks and weekly food specials (Monday–Friday, 5 to 7) or the changing daily drink specials, from Guinness to Tito’s. Can’t make the earlier hours? Try the Late Night Menu (10 to 11) with all kinds of wings, fries, tots and jumbo soft pretzel. Or go any time for a Saloon old fashioned and crowd-pleasing tacos.

Happy Hour: Más Mexicali Cantina

102 E. Market St., West Chester
610-918-6280 /

A successful Happy Hour needs three things: a festive location with plenty of room to relax, sharable plates of fresh-made appetizers and drinks you can raise a glass to. So, it’s no wonder, Más Mexicali Cantina on Market Street ranks among the borough’s best Happy Hour locations. Inside it’s a bold design with rock n’ roll details, but outside is where Más really shines. When you get a chance, head up to the borough’s only rooftop bar. Grab a seat at one of the Skittle-colored picnic tables, order a signature frozen margarita and a bowl of the Rockin’ Guac or some Mexicali Fries for the table and just wait for your friends to show up.

Happy Hour: Slow Hand

30 N. Church St., West Chester
484-999-8638 /

Perhaps, more than most, Slow Hand has an urban feel. The polished granite bar, exposed brick, white tile backdrop, signature image of Conway Twitty. It hits all the boxes for a refuge from the world. And while the bar staff is friendly, there’s plenty of opportunity to retreat for a private conversation. The sophisticated interior carries over to the Happy Hours menu, offering $8 old fashioneds and negronis. Try their deviled eggs with blackened shrimp, hush puppies and Nashville chicken sliders. Foregoing alcohol for dry January? Swap for a refreshing cucumber and mint Mariposa.

Happy Hour Outside Town: Levante Brewing Co.

208 Carter Dr. Ste. 2, West Chester

Down a winding road of an industrial park you’ll find popular local craft brewer Levante. While the location may not be where you expect, the experience at the former workshop-turned-tasting room is just what you’d hope. Behind the generous bar, you’ll find 20 taps rotating through some of their freshest offerings and a knowledgeable bartender ready to answer all your questions. While Levante doesn’t have a kitchen, food trucks keeps the spirits in balance, and a more-the-merrier vibe (dogs included) make a fun post-work hang.

Happy Hour Outside Town: Four Dogs Tavern

1300 W. Strasburg Rd., West Chester
610-692-4367 /

You go to Four Dogs Tavern in Marshallton for the atmosphere. Whether you choose a table by the glow of the fireplace or a seat on the patio in the summer, Chef/owner David Cox has found a way to harness (pun intended) the charm of these former stables. Rich wood-paneled walls, simple slat-back chairs and unadorned tables create an English pub experience — a perfect counterpoint to the upscale elegance of the neighboring Marshallton Inn. Settle in with a pint and some pulled pork sliders, or if you prefer, a glass of red and their loaded charcuterie board to share. Whatever you choose know you’ll be well taken care of.

Don’t Miss: Iron Hill Brewery

3 W. Gay St., West Chester
610-738-9600 /

It’s been a quarter century since Iron Hill owners Kevin Finn, Mark Edelson and Kevin Davies signed the lease for the old Woolworth Building in the heart of downtown West Chester and launched the revitalization. Since that historic moment, Iron Hill has built a reputation for delivering an “all are welcome” environment throughout our area with a dependable menu, casual vibe and rotating selection of award-winning beers. For the love of craft brewing, this is a must-visit stop for some dining history. Plus it’s the most award-winning brewery east of the Mississippi. Right downtown!

Don’t Miss: Pizza West Chester

136 E. Market St., West Chester

Pizza phenom Pizza West Chester is not owner Speer Madanat’s first experience making pies. He and brother Joe Madanat also run Joey’s Pizza in Thorndale. It’s likely that on those Thorndale pies Speer perfected his decidedly uncomplicated process: a light, thin crust topped with the best ingredients, and finished with a healthy char and a gentle flurry of Grana Padano. The operation, while not accommodating, is simple as well. No phone or website, no credit cards and certainly no QR codes or pizzas of the week. Just place your order — cheese, pepperoni or white — and wait, cash in hand for that box of perfection to slide across the counter.

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