Earlier this year I asked you what content you would like to see more of and the response was clear – more restaurant content. So this summer, I reached out to West Chester chefs, restaurant owners, and workers and asked them, what they would order for lunch and why? Read on for an inside look at perhaps the borough’s most underrated meal, lunch.
La Tartine, tucked between Gryphon Cafe and Malena’s on W. Gay Street, is one of the unsung heroes of the borough. A Mediterranean cafe with Lebanese influences, chef and owner Johnny Abi Khattar makes all menu items from scratch. So what to try?
Johnny recommends the Falafel sandwich. Falafel is an authentic Mediterranean dish made from chickpeas and fava beans plus spices. La Tartine’s version is made fresh daily and is baked. “Usually Falafel is fried but we bake them so they are healthier,” says Johnny. The freshly baked Falafel are then plunged in between chewy pita topped with pickled turnip, parsley, mint, lettuce and tomatoes then drizzled with homemade tahini sauce and served with Persian cucumber pickles.
“It’s full of crispy fresh ingredients. It’s baked so it’s not oily. And it’s a good, generous size,” says Johnny. Finish with freshly made lavender or rose lemonade for a perfect summer lunch.
Another good option, try the Mediterranean chicken. “What makes it pop for me is we marinade it in a house marinade then top with it a tangy garlic whip,” says Johnny. Then for summer there is fresh gazpacho soup served with za’atar pita chips.
La Tartine is open 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. during the week, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday.
What’s for Lunch? Blazin’ J’s
“We are finding it to be a popular lunch spot,” said Blazin’ J’s owner Gary Danehower. Gary thinks there are a couple of reasons for that. First, is the quality. The never-frozen chicken is the best available. “That’s what we do,” says Gary. “So we don’t cut corners.” Second, is the seasonings. Third, the cost. You can get a fresh-made sandwich for under $10.
Whatever the reason, open just over a month, Blazin’ J’s West Chester has already found its fans – so how do you join the growing list?
Start with the J’s Way sandwich. It’s a 6-oz breast of chicken that is floured and fried to perfection while you watch. It is then dipped in their specialty house hot sauce and topped with pepper jack cheese, hot house mayo, and pickles. It’s a truly unique eating experience. You just have to try it, says Gary.
Once you’ve had the signature you are ready to customize – experiment with sauces from mild to face-melting, swap fried chicken for grilled chicken or ditch the bread completely and add the chicken tenders to a salad. Want it uniquely Blazin’ J’s? Choose the Belgian waffle side.
Then wash it all down with lemonade made (fresh) for Instagram. Order the house-made juice with Blazin’ J’s blue raspberry or cherry syrup. The slightly heavier syrup sinks to the bottom – pretty and satisfying. And all ready in 10 minutes. Just like lunch should be.
Sometimes all you want for lunch is pizza and a salad where’s better than at conveniently located Couch Tomato? To get the scoop, I spoke with Jack Schilling, a manager at Couch Tomato, the Gay Street pizzeria that has been serving the Borough fresh, local, and organic options since 2015. He suggests starting your lunch with their popular Food Pyramid salad. The made-to-order salad begins with your choice of greens. It is then topped with chicken, strawberries, cucumber, farmers cheese – and a sprinkling of – according to Jack, “The best-candied pecans you’ve ever tasted.”
Pair that with a personal “Coach Tony” pizza. That’s a boardwalk-style pepperoni pizza with hot honey drizzle on their housemade organic pizza dough. Then finish your lunch with, what has to be my favorite part of this entire profile, the Chilled Strawberry Soup with Pound Cake croutons. Wow. Does that sound good on this 86-degree day or what?
But that’s just the tip of the menu, the Couch Tomato has something for everyone.
“We proudly advertise our house-made gluten-free pizza recipe and have a variety of options for our vegetarian and vegan guests. For example, all pizza sauces, sandwich spreads, and salad dressings are made in-house and are plant-based, gluten-free, soy and nut free!” Jack said.
So grab a friend and come on down for a relaxing lunch on their rooftop deck where you can enjoy a beautiful view of downtown while discussing summer plans over a personal pizza or panini – ooh, that Chickaletta sandwich sounds good, too.
Kildare’s Irish Pub
If you don’t have an afternoon to kill, lunch can be a perilous decision – do you try to squeeze in a sit-down meal or just grab something quick? At Kildare’s head chef, Stephanie Gray wants you to be able to do both.
“My menu items aren’t too complicated,” says Stephanie who consciously keeps her lunch menus simple so you have time for a nice sit-down lunch. So what to get?
At this traditional Irish pub try the Reuben on rye, suggests Stephanie. “We make the corned beef in-house,” she says. Then she tops it with swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and homemade Marie Rose dressing. Want something a little lighter? The spicy Chipotle Chicken Rice Bowl with pineapple vinaigrette has been a new favorite.
“Can’t tell all of the secrets but I try to make things a little different,” says Stephanie about her pineapple vinaigrette but the same goes for everything on the menu from the burgers to the fish. Want to know another secret? “We make everything from scratch. That is probably a big surprise for people. This is not ‘bar food,’” she says.
A quality, homemade meal kept to the confines of the lunch hour – how can you beat that? A Guinness, you say. I won’t tell if you won’t.
You know them for their wings (for something a little different give the house-smoked version a try), but Saloon 151 Manager Jill Lindenhofen says don’t overlook the tacos. “Believe it or not, our tacos are always a crowd favorite,” she shares. “Served with your choice of protein and piled high with cheese, chipotle ranch, lettuce, and our homemade pico de gallo these go perfectly with a sunny summer day.”
And when she says choice of protein, she means choice of protein. You have your staples – beef, chicken, and pork – but you can also choose from avocado, brisket, steak, shrimp, mahi, or scallops. For a lighter option, she suggests the Street-style tacos which hold the cheese, and ranch in favor of diced onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Both come fresh, made-to-order, with a side of house salsa verde.
Washed down with what else? “Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey,” says Jill. I’m eyeing the Strawberry Whiskey Smash myself (even as a mocktail, it sounds delicious) – but don’t worry if whiskey’s not your thing. There are over 50 craft beer drafts to choose from.
Want to hear something even better? Saloon 151 is participating in downtown West Chester’s TAPS Happy Hour every Wednesday this summer from 5 to 7 p.m. which also happens to be half-price taco night. So while 5 p.m. may be a little late for lunch, it’s a great way to end a summer day.
This was a sponsored post. Thanks to all the restaurants above for their support of Hello, West Chester. Make sure to pay them a visit next time you are in town – and tell them, Hello, West Chester sent you!
If you would like to participate in a sponsored post, please reach out. I’d love to have you.