Monday, July 26 2021 10:22

Delco is Having Its Day

Written by Laurel Anderson

A diverse county, from Philly to the Main Line to the Delaware border

If you didn’t know about Delaware County before its recent moment in the spotlight created by the HBO series “Mare of Easttown,” you’ve likely recently been schooled on Delco lore. The extensive coverage of this pop culture phenomenon could not be ignored.

Maybe you’ve tried your hand (or your mouth) at the regional accent that British actress Kate Winslet mastered, with its distinctive vowel sounds in the words own, know, home, phone, hoagie, plus of course wudder. Surely you chuckled watching the “Saturday Night Live” pitch-perfect parody “Murdur Durder.”

With it’s own grizzled lady detective, the “Hoagie Broadchurch” series introduced a new and broader audience to the delicacies of Delco, featuring the classics from Wawa—coffee, hoagies and wrappers strewn across the series’ sets. Even the costume designer drew inspiration from the local convenience store’s customers, as several stories have reported.

And capitalizing on the free advertising, Wawa, which is headquartered in Media, introduced a limited edition Mare of Easttown spicy cheesesteak (beefsteak, spicy pepper relish, cheddar cheese sauce). Sadly it was available only at Delco’s 40-some Wawas for a fabled week in June.

Tour Locations

Although “Mare” series creator Brad Ingelsby featured both Chester and Delaware County locations—Phoenixville, Coatesville and a few Philly spots, too—it was Delco that was the breakout star this spring. So much so that fans have actually caused disturbances at some of the show’s locations. And since there’s no “Sex and the City” guided bus tours of the locations on this HBO series, it’s a DIY affair.

Police have had to patrol the Wallingford neighborhood and house that was used as Mare’s home on the series. In addition to drive-bys and selfies in front of the private home, some fanatic fans have trespassed on the property and reportedly even peered in the front window. Less has been heard about fan interest in the McMenamin house on Creek Road in Chadds Ford.

“Mare” fans have also cruised the public streets in Marcus Hook and Chester looking for shooting locations, re-enacted the river walk Mare and Zabel took under the Commodore Barry Bridge, and visited the store in Boothwyn (yes, it’s Aquarium World) where Mare bought the gift for her grandson.

Those who want to create their own “Mare” eating and drinking tour can head for the bar in Linwood or the Start Hotel Bar in Marcus Hook, New English Style Pizza location also in Marcus Hook, the Cascata Caffe that stood in for the Delrasso’s family restaurant, Duffer’s Mill in Chichester, and the ‘50s-style blue-booth diner in Essington where Mare interviewed a source. (It’s no Llanerch Diner from “Silver Linings Playbook” but still …)

And, if you need more Delco details, stream the March 2021 Delco-inspired movie, “Last Call,” starring Jeremy Piven and written and produced by local real estate developer Greg Lingo. See the sidebar (linked below) for more pop culture connections.

Yes, Delco is having a moment.

Other Towns to Tour

To get a sense of Delco’s range, move from the gritty streets of blue collar towns to another type of movie-set worthy location—the charming borough of Swarthmore, home to equally picturesque Swarthmore College.

Founded in 1864, this “Little Ivy” college has been ranked as the #1 Liberal Arts College in the country six times by US News & World Report. (It’s hit the #3 spot the past few years, after Williams and Amherst Colleges.) Notable alums include authors James Michener and Jonathan Franzen, astronaut Sally Ride, presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and suffragist Alice Paul.

Part of what makes Swarthmore College worth a visit, and earning it a nod from Travel+Leisure as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, is that its 425 acres are all part of Scott Arboretum. This “garden of ideas” promises to “sustain the body, enchant the eye, and soothe the spirit,” dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. Intrigued?

You can join a staff-led tour at the arboretum (like August 17th’s lunchtime tour of What’s New in the Garden) or do Gentle Flow Yoga on Zoom on August 6 and 20. Walking and hiking trails allow you to wander and see the many varieties of plants that thrive in our area—plenty of native species here—or enroll in programs for hands-on workshops, lectures and classes in the gardens.

Visit on Thursday, August 12, when Swarthmore Town Center presents this summer’s Nights in the Ville, when part of Park Avenue is closed for al fresco dining, stores are open late, and live music, kids-zones and guest breweries are featured. Want to stay over? The on-campus Inn at Swarthmore is an obvious choice.

For a slightly larger, lively town atmosphere less than five miles to the northwest, we suggest a visit to one of our perennial favorites—Media, Delco’s county seat and the country’s first Fair Trade Town. Our July issue highlighted some of the major attractions of Media, with its much-copied summer dining in the streets program. Dining options all year long range from dim sum (Tom’s and Dim Sum Mania) to authentic Middle Eastern (Desert Rose) to sushi (Azie) to Irish (Sligo) to Indian (Shere E Punjab), plus plenty of Italian (Ariano, Spasso, Fellini Café), and the ever-present brewpubs (Brick & Brew, Iron Hill) and BYOBs (Rye).

Entertainment Options

Delco’s entertainment options are as diverse as its towns, ranging from live theater to MLS soccer and beyond.

We look forward to the reopening of the iconic 1927 Media Theatre, a landmark on State Street and home to Delco’s only professional musical theater. Not only is your evening enhanced by the wealth of pre-theater dining options, but there’s a live orchestra playing in the pit.

In nearby Rose Tree, Hedgerow Theatre Company announced its new artistic director, artist, producer and inclusion champion, Marcie Bramucci, who aims to make Hedgerow an artistic home for invention and possibility. This small theater has a mighty legacy as the creative playground of such storied playwrights as Bertolt Brecht, Henrik Ibsen, Eugene O’Neill and George Bernard Shaw who workshopped iconic works there.

For a different kind of drama, head to the riverside stadium of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union in Chester (near the site of the bridge scene in “Mare”). The renamed Subaru Park (former Talen Energy Stadium) will host four of the five games scheduled for August at home (on the 1st, 4th, 18th & 21st). The Union had a 9-game winning streak earlier in the season and won the 2020 Supporters’ Shield (awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season). If you ever played soccer or watched your kid from the sidelines, catch a Union game this season.

More Regional Dining

Beyond the diversity displayed in Media’s many dining options, Delco tempts your taste buds with everything from the greenhouse chic of Terrain Garden Café in Glen Mills to the hot dog haven of Jimmy John’s Pipin’ Hot Sandwiches in Chadds Ford and Delco institution Charlie’s Hamburgers in Folsom, dating back to 1935.

So what’s happening now? Well, the drink of summer may be Sunfest Strawberry Lemonade Shandy, another collaboration between Wawa and local 2SP Brewing. This drinkable, low-ABV, pink quencher sports a dude surfing on a hoagie on its aqua can. Find yours at Pennsylvania Wawas that sell beer, plus Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland’s Eastern Shore and toast local institutions.

Need some food with that beer? How about the winner of the Best Cheesesteak in the Delaware Valley? That’s at Parkside’s Phil & Jim’s Steaks & Hoagies, the 2021 Cheesesteak Madness Champion. Now under new ownership (Dan and Gia Miller and Costa Miller), this spot bested the best in the region in a March Madness-style competition based on steak, cheese, bread, extras and overall experience. Order the 12- or 18-inch size or a “travel hoagie” for your next flight and drive you seatmates crazy.

Need another classic option? Try the Original Thunderbird in Broomall, family-owned and operated since 1956 and specializing in the cheesesteak, hoagie, pizza and wings food groups. And buy the merch.

A final tasting note, and a tad more upscale, Penns Wood Winery in Chadds Ford boasts award-winning wines using 100% PA- grown grapes. Founded in 2001, the winery produces premium wines, recently winning top marks at the 2021 PA Sommelier Judgement for best red (2017 cabernet sauvignon reserve) and best white (2020 sauvignon blanc) wines. Visit the vineyard for tours and tasting or other events including paint and sip happy hour (August 6) or yoga in the vineyard (August 8 & 22). Penns Woods wines are available in area bars and restaurants, so drink local!

And celebrate Delco. It’s clearly Delco’s time.