Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Bustling with restaurants, Ardmore is a suburban dining epicenter

The 2-square-mile section of Lower Merion just saw the opening of Sophie's BBQ, the latest in a long list of restaurants. More are on the way,

“I look at it as an urban atmosphere in a suburban environment,” says developer Peter Martin, outside The Ripplewood and Bam Bam Seoul Kitchen.
“I look at it as an urban atmosphere in a suburban environment,” says developer Peter Martin, outside The Ripplewood and Bam Bam Seoul Kitchen.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

The pandemic has slammed restaurants all over, but you would hardly know it in Ardmore.

The bustling slice of Lower Merion Township has managed to maintain its long standing as one of the region’s dining epicenters.

Storefront vacancies are relatively few here on this Main Line rendition of Main Street USA. On Sunday, Nov. 1, Rittenhouse Place, a commercial strip just off Lancaster Avenue, got a new barbecue restaurant (Sophie’s BBQ). Just this summer and fall, a vegan juice/bowl/smoothie cafe (Blue Pearl) and a Japanese restaurant (Sakana) opened on the next block. Also recently, Autana, a Venezuelan restaurant, opened at the train station, and Sesami, an Southeast Asian-inspired bowl shop, opened at the corner of Wynnewood and County Line Roads.

Ardmore has long been in the crosshairs of real estate developers because of its location (less than 10 minutes over the city line, along Lancaster Avenue and a SEPTA Regional Rail line) and its schools. More than most Main Line towns, it also is a mixture of blue- and white-collar residents and patrons.

“I look at it as an urban atmosphere in a suburban environment,” said Peter Martin, who bought the Ardmore Music Hall and adjacent buildings several years ago on Lancaster Avenue and redeveloped them into a concert venue and two restaurants, The Ripplewood and Bam Bam Seoul Kitchen.

There is a lot of food packed into two square miles, including three locations of Tired Hands Brewing (a fermentaria, a cafe, and a general store). Hunan, the Chinese restaurant on Main Liners' speed dials since 1973, is among the region’s greatest assortment of Asian restaurants. The numerous popular pubs, such as John Henry’s, Jack McShea’s, and McCloskey’s, are joined by branches of HipCityVeg and Sweetgreen.

Owners of The Bercy say the splashy French restaurant will find its way back in 2021; for now, it’s booking small, private events.

There’s also Ardmore Farmer’s Market, with dozens of vendors, adjacent to Suburban Square, the sprawling shopping complex off Montgomery Avenue. Though Besito, a Mexican chain restaurant, has been closed by the pandemic, three restaurants are on the way: a vast indoor-outdoor operation called Lola’s Garden, the region’s third location of the Chinese restaurant DanDan, and another Shake Shack.

Lola’s Garden, whose target opening is spring 2021, is a homecoming for Lower Merion-bred restaurateur Avram Hornik, whose life has been in Philadelphia (Harper’s Garden, Juno, Morgan’s Pier).

Right after college in the mid-1990s, Hornik approached Suburban Square’s previous management with an idea for an outdoor coffee kiosk with seating — coincidentally at the very same spot as Lola’s Garden. He was rebuffed.

In those days, he said, shopping centers were built exclusively around commerce. Now, they are seen as community gathering spots. “We want to be part of that energy,” Hornik said.