Michelle Mass takes in the sights, sounds and – most importantly – food at this culinary crowd-pleaser
AS THE sun beamed and the cool breeze made the September air crisp, vendors of all kinds stretched along Gay Street from Country Bagel to Landmark. Whether you had a craving for seafood, BBQ, sweet treats or, like many in our town, an alcoholic beverage, the Chester County Restaurant Festival had everything.
More than 50 restaurants attended the festival, feeding the masses from 12-5:30pm. Jimmy John’s offered their usual (delicious dogs), and Teca served paninis packed with mozzarella, prosciutto and roasted peppers. One of the longest lines was for Precious Pickles, who offered a handful of fried pickles with ranch dipping sauce for $4 – the best money I spent all day. Give me a brew and a handful of fried pickles and I am one happy camper.
If it was seafood you were yearning for, you might have checked out Gadaleto’s Seafood Market or Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House. As Brian Fantana said, “The smell of crab cakes in the fall breeze stung the nostrils.” If you had a sweet tooth like me, you probably hit up Cakes and Candies by Maryellen. I was not embarrassed a bit to stuff my face with mini cupcakes and pies.
Despite my constant snacking, I still had plenty of room for more, so I made my way to one of West Chester’s newest hotspots, The Social Lounge. Bands played while people piled in for a cold brew or (in my case) a spicy Bloody Mary. Co-owner Bill Shehwen commented that the Festival is “the best event in the county.” The Social Lounge is a great bar, one I look forward to visiting again, but considering how much of the festival I had left un-sampled, I had to press on.
Next I stumbled upon the Beer and Wine Garden at Church and Gay, and let me tell you, it was a beautiful sight. For $3 to enter and $4 per drink, you could enjoy beer and wine outside. Attendees crowded the haven and I think a tear of joy even made its way down my cheek as I grabbed my first beverage of the day. Okay, so maybe it was my third or fourth, but it was my journalistic duty to try everything. Anyway, it was glorious.
Bands played throughout the day, including Philadelphia rock group Soraia, rocking at the Beer and Wine Garden. Mark Risley, a bartender at Más raved that the band had an “old-school rock feel.” Down the street, Kyle Rheiner set up his BreakawayINK booth, and sold some of his new fall line to the masses.
Unfortunately the day was not long enough to enjoy everything the festival had to offer, and I promise you I tried. As it wound down, merchants and vendors slowly closed up shop, bars and restaurants along Gay and High emptied out, and a twinge of sadness filled the air. After all, a person can only eat and drink so much.