Our worlds have shrunk and, unfortunately, so have our menu options. With the stay-at-home order in effect since mid-March, my eating adventures have been limited to neighborhoods within reasonably close proximity of Center City — which explains why my recent lists of takeout recommendations have reflected that geography. And not being able to head out for a destination meal over the last couple months has been frustrating.
Good food and great restaurants can be found anchoring communities from Chester County to South Jersey and everywhere in between. It’s a fact I explored at length in my suburban dining guide and have reinforced with steady forays into the suburbs for reviews.
So this week, I turned to readers, social media followers, and friends who reside in the 'burbs for advice. Where have they been eating good takeout beyond Philly’s city limits? This multitude of promising replies have me tempted to outfit the back of my trusty wagon with a little table for in-car dining, and to hungrily hit the road again.
Ripplewood (29 E Lancaster Ave., Ardmore; 610) 486-7477; ripplewoodbar.com: One of my three-bell favorite gastropubs in the region was a recommendation on several lists, including Mary Beth Driscoll from Jenkintown: “We had burgers from Ripplewood in Ardmore last night, and they were delicious! Fries were tasty, too.”
Bluefin (2820 Dekalb Pike, East Norriton, 610-277-3917, restaurantbluefin.com; also, 555 Wellington Square, Exton, 610-458-3234): Chef Yong Kim’s Bluefin restaurants remain among the most consistently admired sushi outposts in the suburbs, and was noted by many, including Scott Rosenberg of Lafayette Hill, who recommends the tuna sundae and white tuna habanero appetizers. I’m a fan of Kim’s fluke usuzukuri.
Po Le (805 N. Bethlehem Pike, Lower Gwynedd Township, 267-663-7204, polecucina.com): Chef Po Le’s classic Italian kitchen near Ambler has a devoted clientele, like Horsham-based reader Hampton Randolph, who loves the veal chop and lobster risotto. Po Le also makes some of the best clams Casino in the area and a soulful duck ragù for the hand-rolled pasta.
Charcoal BYOB (11 S Delaware Ave., Yardley; charcoalbyob.com): Another perennial three-bell favorite, this ever-inventive BYOB racked up multiple mentions from my Bucks County correspondents, including Mark Morano of Yardley, who touted the beet spaetzle, kung pao Brussels sprouts, “Yardley" hot chicken, and chess pie (“the best dessert we’ve had so far this year”). The chocolate cake and doughnuts are worthwhile, too.
Domani Star (57 W. State St., Doylestown): Elizabeth Smith of Center City went to Doylestown to visit her parents and indulge in a longtime family favorite, Domani Star. They are fans of the three-cheese lasagna and the chicken marsala. I’m partial to Domani’s fazzoletti with short rib ragù and the baked polenta with gorgonzola sauce.
Andiario (106 W Gay St., West Chester, 484-887-0919; andiario.com): Few suburban restaurants have earned praise since the beginning of the pandemic as consistently as this Top 25 favorite. Chef Anthony Andiario’s turn to takeout containers is a change, but his approach to seasonal food, wood-fired flavors and extraordinary pastas hasn’t wavered, winning the admiration of from readers like Alex Christy of West Chester. Recent highlights from Andiario’s ever-changing three-course $30 menus include a hot-smoked trout with “foragings,” meatballs over polenta, pork Genovese with hand-rolled candele.
Mi Pais (477 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, 610-251-0956; www.mipaisusa.com): Longtime food hunter, blogger, and friend Jeff Towne has a laundry list of favorite stops near his Chester County home, including Vecchia Pizzeria, Uncle B’s BBQ, and Nui Nui Kitchen, all in Phoenixville. But he has a particularly soft spot for the traditional Colombian cooking at Mi Pais in Malvern, where the empanadas headline a menu that also serves arepas, a standout Saturday sancocho stew, Bandeja breakfast platters, and whole rotisserie chickens.
Estrella Tacos y Mas (202 E Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, 484-237-2423; estrellatacobar.com): Twitter correspondent Beth Seiwell of Downingtown can’t get enough of Estrella’s H-Town breakfast taco, beer battered fish taco, “and their freaking awesome Frito Pie!"
Margaret Kuo’s (6 W. State St., Media, 610-892-0115; margaretkuo.com): Margaret Kuo, who was the pioneer for authentic Chinese cuisine in the suburbs (including the region’s best Peking duck and first examples of xiao long bao), is doing takeout and delivery from all three of her locations, including Wayne and Malvern (the Mandarin). Longtime Monk’s Cafe employee Felicia D’Ambrosio, however, who’s been staying with her father and stepmother in Media during the pandemic, also recommends Kuo’s consistently high quality sushi and sashimi, including the black pepper tuna roll and simple tuna avocado roll. Other Media favorites from D’Ambrosio include the borough’s pizzeria and beer garden standby, Pinocchio’s (get the Buffalo chicken cheesesteak), and Middle Eastern-themed Desert Rose for the sabich sandwich with amba and fried eggplant, and the chicken shawarma platter.
Gennaro’s Italian Kitchen (4600 Pennell Rd., Aston, 610-497-3393: gennarosaston.com): When he’s not eating Royal Farms gas station convenience store fried chicken, my good friend David Haase of Swarthmore is plotting his next family meal deal from this red gravy classic in Aston, where the huge portions of lasagna or ravioli with sausage for four cost between $36 and $48 and include salad, garlic bread, and mini cannoli. The Haases recently splurged on the chicken piccata for Mother’s Day, which came with angel hair pasta and capers and “we literally licked the big tinfoil takeout tray.” Classy, my friend!
Sagami (37 Crescent Blvd., Collingswood, 856-854-9773; sagaminj.com): There may be no suburban restaurant more beloved than Sagami, the three bell oasis of traditional Japanese cooking that introduced sushi to the region in 1974, and has remained a beacon of understated old school excellence. Thankfully, owners Chizuko and Shigeru Fukuyoshi have managed to keep the business afloat in the era of takeout. My pal Andrea Billick, a wine merchant and Cherry Hill resident, reports that the unagi tobiko maki, salmon sushi, hamachi-avocado inside-out rolls, and roasted eggplant appetizer with miso-chicken gravy were up to their usual excellence. My forthcoming takeout order will surely include one of the most pristine chirashi bowls around.
Mount Masala Himalayan (300 White Horse Rd. E # 1, Voorhees Township, 856-281-9711; mountmasala.com: South Jersey has some of the area’s best South Asian flavors — including the Himalayan inspirations at this Nepalese BYOB. I can eat momo dumplings all day. But Joe Laudadio of Voorhees also advises not to miss the chicken lollipops and “dry” fish Manchurian.
The Farm & Fisherman Tavern (1442 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill, 856-356-2282; fandftavern.com): This go-local twist on the suburban neighborhood restaurant has long offered value-based “family bundle” meals as a core of its concept, and that’s transitioned well into the era of takeout. Carolyn Weber of Mount Laurel raved not only about her chicken Parm bundle — a four-portion deal with pasta, garlic bread, and dessert for $45 — but also the restaurant’s ease of online ordering and well-organized pick-up protocols with staff in masks and diligent with social distancing. The bundles change often, with fried chicken and blackened chicken with Alfredo gravy also popular. Even better news: F&FT plans to start up takeout operations at its Horsham branch by May 14.