Sampling some of the borough’s best meals in West Chester’s premier dinner destinations. This Month: Sedona Taphouse
Vapor trails unfurl across a cloudless blue sky, aglow in the late afternoon sun that highlights the brick rooflines of North Church Street. Strings of white twinkle lights from the holidays provide some leftover magic stretched along Gay Street. Pedestrians stroll past on the sidewalk, engrossed in their phones. Two guys in beanie hats ride skateboards down the street. Floor to ceiling windows, a rarity in the borough, frame the northwest corner of Sedona Taphouse’s dining room, allowing guests to enjoy this unique vantage point on the best of downtown West Chester’s charm.
The interior dining room can accommodate up to 112 patrons at a mix of generously spaced tables and booths, along with a rectangular bar in the center. In warmer weather, an additional 60 can sit outside. The open and brightly illuminated kitchen facing the dining area bustles, showcasing the tableau of production behind Sedona’s culinary offerings. “Some people call the kitchen the back of the house,” says Managing Partner Steve Jordan, “but it’s really the heart of the house.”
The music is upbeat and prominent but not loud, and the vibe is young professionals after work, along with a mix of families at the tables. Rustic wood accent walls and natural stone columns lend warmth that balances the spacious and modern lines of the interior and its furnishings.
Joey is my server. It’s a bit early in the day for me for a boozy cocktail, so I choose one of Sedona’s “Spirit Free” options, the Grapefruit Refresher, at Joey’s recommendation. It’s a combination of grapefruit juice, lime juice, blood orange, and soda, served over ice. The blood orange is muddled in the bottom, tapering up to the clear top layer, with a wedge of pink grapefruit on the rim. It’s delicious and refreshing, as the name suggests, and not too sweet, served with a lime green paper straw for a touch of whimsy.
Sedona has an expansive menu, one that Joey navigates deftly, telling me about features and options, asking me questions, and making suggestions. “Servers go through an intensive training process, including hours of paid online training about the various menu items. It’s one of the things that sets our servers apart,” Steve explains. “They are knowledgeable about what goes into each dish and how it can be customized before they ever hit the floor.”
I start off with an assortment of sliders, which appear on the main menu and as a happy hour special. Spencer, the managing chef today, brings out four sliders for me. His favorite is the Kobe beef, which features Wagyu beef, Vermont cheddar, house-made sauce, and caramelized onions.
“When it’s busy, there’s never time to eat a whole burger,” he says. “You eat a couple of beef sliders at the beginning of the shift and you’re good to go.” The burger patty is tiny and adorable (and really, isn’t that part of the appeal of sliders?), as well as juicy and tender, with a wonderful smoke flavor.
The pulled pork slider has a bit of house-made barbecue sauce tossed in with the meat that adds a delicious smokiness, and is topped with coleslaw, also made in house with jicama for a unique crunch and sweetness. Little details, such as the addition of the versatile tuber, set Sedona’s food apart—jicama also lends its appeal as a counterpoint to the heat in the Desert Fire Jalapenos.
Spoiler alert: I love crabcakes, so my favorite of the bunch is the…crab cake. All meat with no filler, it has a bold crab flavor with minimal other flavors to detract from it. The last slider is grilled salmon, tender and delicious for anyone who loves salmon.
When I was on my way to the Taphouse, I ran into my friend Jim, who raved about their Canyon Nachos, so I had to try them too. They arrive topped with a dollop of fresh guacamole, one of my all-time favorite food items. Made fresh daily, there is a little lime juice and a little jalapeno for a mild kick. The cheese is a fresh queso sauce with cheddar sprinkled over the top. The same pulled pork used in the sliders also sits atop the nachos.
Before moving on from appetizers, Steve says, I’ve got to try the truffle fries, thin and crispy and drizzled in truffle oil right out of the fryer, then topped with fresh parsley and shredded parmesan. They are served with ketchup (solid choice for the classicists) and truffle aioli, which has a hint of lemon and really pops with the fries.
For my entrée, it’s a tough choice. I almost get the butterfly shrimp stuffed with crab, because that slider was so good, and because Joey tells me it is his favorite, as well as his grandfather’s, who raved about it to family members after a visit last week. But ultimately, I choose the Chuckawalla Chicken because it just seems a bit unexpected. A generous portion (8 ounces) of chicken breast arrives topped with medallions of goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and a citrus garlic sauce, sprinkled with thin ribbons of fresh basil. A mound of creamy garlic whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus accompany it. The interplay between the tangy citrus and the earthy sundried tomatoes gives this dish a tinge of tropical adventure to fend off cold winter nights.
If there is ever anything involving lemon on a dessert menu, I am always going to choose that. Otherwise, I love to be surprised. The choices this evening are homemade brownies (two versions!), an apple tart, or key lime pie as a special.
Steve brings me the apple tart, which started its life as a special but was so popular it became part of the regular menu. It is delicate and pretty: A tiny apple blossom, edges folded up like flower petals around a center of luscious, warm apple filling, accompanied by a generous mountain of vanilla bean ice cream. Its mix of warmth and coolness make for the perfect end to a great meal, and the perfect nightcap on a cold January evening.