Craig LaBan has scoured the Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs and produced an Ultimate Dining guide with more than 150 recommendations for the best places to eat and drink. This preview highlights his top picks for places to drink. Go to philly.com Thursday for the full list or buy the print version at philly.com/store.
You can’t have a great restaurant scene without great drink. And the Philadelphia suburbs’ beverage game is strong, with entire town revivals (see: Phoenixville) built on craft booze and a roster of neighborhood gastropubs, brewpubs, wine and whiskey bars elsewhere to quench every thirst. Here are three of most notable destinations beyond Philly city limits for a stellar sip (or three), not to mention a great meal.
TERESA’S NEXT DOOR (3 bells)
124 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne, 610-293-9909; teresas-cafe.com
What began a decade ago as a Belgian bar with a novel Mexican twist has settled in, refined its Euro-taqueria bistro menu, and evolved into so much more. There simply aren’t many places on the planet where you can order a Waterzooi seafood stew alongside some tender goat tacos. Even more compelling, TND has blossomed into the single greatest place to drink well in the suburbs, no matter your beverage preference — a distinction that has elevated it to a third bell. There are nearly 400 whiskeys available in flights, a $10 G&T bar with 16 different gins and eight tonics, and an entirely gluten-free tap box with ciders, meads, wines, and sake. Beverage director Chris Peters’ 75-bottle wine list is about to go to entirely “natural” — with bottles also available for retail with just $9 added to the cost. And, of course, you can also still find some of the greatest beers in the world to accompany chef-owner Andy Dickerson’s menu disco frites and fricadellen meatballs, from Russian River’s Pliny the Elder to Val-Dieu blond and an Italian stout brewed with balsamic among the recent 24 draft choices. Still thirsty? There are about 150 more bottles on the list.
THE BUTCHER & BARKEEP (2 bells)
712 Main St., Harleysville, 267-932-8407; thebutcherandbarkeep.com
Can you imagine a bumping Northern Liberties-style gastropub slipped into a quiet retail strip “out in the sticks?” That’s exactly what Standard Tap alums Cody Ferdinand and Gerard Angelini have created at the Butcher & Barkeep in Harleysville, where chef Jeff Sacco’s neighborhood-friendly menu serves up hearty sSuthern accents, and they’re channeling a “city vibe by turning the lights down low and the music up.” The 21-tap draft system (plus a vast list of bottles) is loaded with one of the best beer selections in the suburbs, covering local and international stars. But I also had some of the finest craft cocktails of my summer there, including a perfect boulevardier softened by the vanilla oak of weeks in a barrel. Next time, I’m stepping up to the pyrotechnics of a North Country Fair, a bourbon-apple jack and Cynar concoction that gets smoked to order with a star anise pod, or perhaps a killer bloody Mary to bolster the chicken-and-waffles Sunday brunch.
TIRED HANDS (2 bells)
The Fermentaria, 35 Cricket Terrace, Ardmore, 484-413-2983; the Brew Cafe, 16 Ardmore Ave., Ardmore. 610-896-7621; the General Store, 20 Ardmore Ave., 484-413-2978; tiredhands.com
There are dozens of great beer destinations in the region. But no brewery has done more to put a suburban town on the national hipster map than Tired Hands, the iconoclastic producer of funky saisons and experimental “milk shake” IPAs that can incite blocks-long lines of beer geeks who’ve traveled from far and wide in hopes of scoring the latest release. (The owner of a beer store in Vermont told me he’d been to Ardmore “many times” — but never visited Philly). The sprawling Fermentaria brewpub is the primary draw. Set in the noisy industrial shell of a former trolley works filled with big oak barrels, this is the place to taste the widest array of ever-changing brews along with a menu of traditional and unconventional tacos — curried cauliflower, carnitas, octopus-chorizo — as well as hummus plates and a good burger topped with HopHands mustard. The original Brew Cafe is a more intimate destination for a distinct set of beers to sip along with pickles and tasty bread baked from beer yeast served warm with local butter. The neighboring General Store, meanwhile, is the spot to load up on T-shirts, cyclist gear, and growlers to go.