Road Trip: The Main Line in a Day
Heading west from Philadelphia on Lancaster Avenue, you’ll drive by an eclectic mix of large stone buildings, luxury car dealerships and global restaurants. Known as the Main Line, the area historically welcomed wealthy families from Philadelphia eager to escape the scorching summer heat.
Today, its connections to the city remain strong; several Philadelphia institutions, like La Colombe Coffee and White Dog Café, have outposts on Route 30. But working for more than a decade in the Malvern area gave me the opportunity to discover that the Main Line is home to its own bustling food scene. So grab some quarters for the parking meters and an empty growler, and discover my favorite eateries in the area.
Traffic can be heavy on Lancaster Avenue, so plan your excursion on a Friday or Saturday. With a few exceptions, most of these places are accessible by rail from Philadelphia.
9am: Malvern Buttery
Soak in the sunlight with a cup of Counter Culture Coffee at Malvern Buttery, a hip but unpretentious eatery located in the heart of Malvern. Depending on my mood, I sip my flat white at one of the large communal tables or on one of the couches. Malvern Buttery is best known for its artisan breads and pastries; the clever toast bar lets you sample the delicious organic bread without committing to buying a whole loaf.
10am: The Classic Diner, Malvern
Ten years after I first tried the peanut-butter- and-banana stuffed French toast, I still return to the Classic Diner for its generous breakfast menu. This Chester County institution serves elevated versions of breakfast classics in a sleek but relaxed setting. Try the buttermilk pancakes with thick sliced bacon or one of the many variations on eggs Benedict. If the line gets too long, check out the French pastries at Strawberry Bakery across the street.
Noon: Cornerstone, Wayne
Next, hit the road to Wayne, a small town with a European flair and plenty of shops, including an old movie theater and an independent bookstore. A block away from Lancaster Avenue, Cornerstone offers a quiet setting for an elegant lunch (or dinner). The menu features salads and sandwiches, but I recommend trying its carefully curated cheese and charcuterie boards. Sit by the counter and listen to the staff share the stories behind your food.
2pm: Chanticleer Garden, Wayne
If Chanticleer has been on your must-see list, now is the time to check it out. When it reopens for the season in April, the garden is home to blooms in every color and brand-new tree foliage. I like to think of it as a real-life fairy-tale garden. With 5,000 plants, more than 35 acres and over a dozen gardeners on staff, you’ll find plenty of inspiration to bring to your very own garden.
4pm: Carlino’s Specialty Food, Ardmore
For a glimpse of local Ardmore life, push open the door of Carlino’s, the Italian specialty food store that’s been serving the area for more than three decades. You’ll be greeted with large smiles. As you browse the shelves for olive oil, vinegar and Carlino’s famous tomato sauce, you might catch some of the regulars ordering a birthday cake or a takeout lasagna tray for dinner. A slice of tomato pie makes a great afternoon snack.
5pm: Green Engine Coffee, Haverford
With a show-stopping living wall, gorgeous lighting, and plenty of space to cozy up, Green Engine Coffee is worth the drive to Haverford. As a sommelier, owner Zach Morris takes pride in the drinks served at his shop, so trust the baristas to brew your cup of Rival Brothers coffee with care. Don’t miss the children’s bookstore across the street and the nature trails of the neighboring Haverford College grounds.
7pm: MAIDO!, Ardmore
Part grocery store, part cafeteria, MAIDO! is a Japanese-food lover’s heaven. You’ll find a dizzying array of Japanese pantry essentials, such as soba and udon noodles, seaweeds and rices, as well as bento boxes imported from Japan. The uncomplicated menu draws Japanese immigrants and locals alike; they dine next to a life-size teddy bear. Beat the chill with a hot bowl of udon soup before heading out.
8pm: Tired Hands Brewery Fermentaria, Ardmore
Finish the night at Tired Hands Fermentaria, Ardmore’s award-winning brewpub, and sit down to share some tacos, split a dessert or sip one of the many saisons and IPAs on tap. The food is crafted with the same care as the beer, so linger around a plate of churros and a fresh pint. With its “notes of spring days,” Helles Other People is the perfect lager to celebrate the warm days ahead.
233 East King Street, Malvern
THE CLASSIC DINER
352 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern
1 West Avenue, Wayne
786 Church Road, Wayne
CARLINO’S SPECIALTY FOODS
2616 East County Line Road, Ardmore
GREEN ENGINE COFFEE
16 Haverford Station Road, Haverford
5 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore
TIRED HANDS FERMENTARIA
35 Ticket Terrace, Ardmore