Suburban Life's Main Line Best and Brightest
Celebrating the restaurants, shopping, culture, and history of a truly unique part of the world.
by Bill Donahue

From its rich history, to its varied landscape, to its famously sprawling estate homes, to its revered colleges, universities, and other educational institutions, there’s something uniquely special about the Main Line. Nowhere else in the world is quite like it.

Named for a Pennsylvania Railroad line dating back to the early 19th century that cut across a wide swath of towns in Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties, the Main Line has evolved to accommodate an elevated lifestyle for those who live, work, and play within its loose borders: an array of outstanding restaurants, boutiques, and cultural attractions; numerous concerts, festivals, and community events, particularly in the summer; and, given the significance of its name, convenient access to Center City and other Philadelphia neighborhoods.
The following pages celebrate the best and brightest of the Main Line in all its ivy-shagged glory—culinary, retail, and community hot spots worthy of a visit, if not more than one.
Looking out the window now, at a time of year when the trees and plants have gone dormant, it’s easy to think about March 27, 2024: the date when Chanticleer will reopen. Wayne’s famed public garden has been welcoming visitors for more than 30 years and counting. The 50-acre grounds (35 of which are open to the public) provide a lovely respite from the outside world, teeming with all kinds of artfully manicured fauna. The word magical comes to mind. Chanticleer also connects with the community through numerous classes, workshops, and other special events.
With every restaurant he has opened, Chef Marc Vetri has tried his damnedest to create an experience, where the food and atmosphere delight, if not enthrall, guests. He’s accomplished that feat (again) at Fiore Rosso in Bryn Mawr. The heavily Italian-influenced menu is a work of art, with a wine list to match. Speaking of art, some truly inspired works adorn the walls—including an original lithograph from none other than Pablo Picasso.
Few restaurants on the Main Line have a setup as versatile as Firepoint Grill in Newtown Square. This hot spot is perfect for just about any occasion, whether you’re celebrating a milestone with your spouse or sweetheart, meeting a friend for drinks at the well-appointed bar (or bars, plural, given its jaw-dropping outdoor space), or watching the game on a Sunday afternoon. Its menu is just as remarkable as the elegant space; we’re partial to the wood-fired pizzas. Several other members of the Paxos Restaurants family are within an hour’s drive—namely, Blue (stylized as blue) in Bethlehem, and Melt, Torre, and Top Cut in Center Valley, each worthy of a reservation.
Hope Chest has become known as a Main Line destination for lingerie, shapewear, pajamas, and bridal gifts—in other words, undergarments and shapewear of all kinds. It has also earned its place in the “best of” pantheon for its expertise in bra fittings. Whether you seek options for a special occasion or everyday use, this Haverford boutique caters to all sizes and styles.
There’s a lot to learn about a community based on its access to the arts. Main Line Art Center, a nonprofit artistic hub in Haverford, provides countless opportunities to grow, create, and experience joy by way of the visual arts. Through classes and camps, public exhibitions and events, and outreach programs, Main Line Art Center uses art not only to inspire but also to help members of the community find common ground.
Cathy Fiebach’s Main Point Books is one of the Main Line’s essential “third places” apart from home and the workplace. For 10 years and counting, the Wayne-based shop has been giving book lovers of all ages a destination to indulge their fondness for the written word, expand their horizons, and build community. Whether you’re looking for the latest novel from Ann Patchett or Kazuo Ishiguro, or just need a comfortable space to connect with others over creative pursuits, Main Point Books is one of those irreplaceable gems that hold communities together.
A premier cultivator of Asian-inspired and French-infused fare, as well as some truly nifty cocktails, Berwyn’s Nectar delivers an elevated dining and imbibing experience. Whether you prefer grilled filet mignon or a tea-smoked salmon roll, braised short ribs or lobster pad Thai, Nectar provides options to please every palate and appease every appetite. Pro tip: Don’t go without the hot mini-doughnuts at the meal’s end.
Main Line residents preparing for their next outdoor undertaking tend to rely on Out There Outfitters. Since 2008, this Wayne outpost has been providing gear, apparel, and other supplies (including good advice) to fuel their thirst for adventure—hiking, backpacking, travel, etc. Led by a pair of intrepid entrepreneurs, Out There Outfitters strives to help all would-be explorers and modern-day adventurers indulge their desire to get “out there.”
Anyone who says theater is a dying art form has not been to People’s Light. This Malvern masterpiece stages productions both new and time-honored, with the goal of representing many voices, challenging the way we view the world, and, more than anything else, connecting us through the power of story. On tap for early 2024: the ripple, the wave that carried me home. In addition to a world-class theater, the seven-acre campus includes a restaurant serving seasonally inspired fare within the confines an 18th-century farmhouse, and a venue space that can accommodate up to 250.
If the prospect of enjoying fine food and drink in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere excites you, then make a beeline for The Pullman in Bryn Mawr. The Pullman was once a freight house and part of one of the first rail stations on the Main Line. The words stylish and approachable apply to the menu and the ambiance in equal measure. In kinder weather, drop in for the alfresco experience at the 10/14 Bar on the Rails.
While it may be especially bustling this time of year, Suburban Square in Ardmore draws crowds all year long. That’s no surprise considering the curated collection of big-name brands in fashion, fitness, and beauty. It also boasts first-rate restaurants and food purveyors, including those nestled in the Ardmore Farmers Market, where visitors flock for homemade baked goods, fresh seafood, and just-picked produce, among other “musts.”
The Revolutionary War holds particular sway over the nation’s consciousness. Few destinations from that era are more enshrined than Valley Forge National Historical Park, regarded as the birthplace of the American army. Whether you adore U.S. history, enjoy spending time in inimitable outdoor spaces, or go for other reasons (an interest in the paranormal, perhaps), a visit to Valley Forge can quickly become a habit. Our favorite way to spend time there: hiking the Mount Joy to Mount Misery trail loop.
A new addition to downtown Wayne, The Vanilla Bean doles out some excellent ice cream. For newbies, every order begins with a base (chocolate or vanilla), with add-ins galore—fresh fruit, almost every kind of nut, chocolate-covered pretzels, cheesecake pieces, toffee, etc.—served in a cone, a shake, or an affogato (ice cream and espresso). Speaking of espresso, you can also choose from a host of coffee classics, as you might expect from a business with the word bean in its title.
The following businesses, artisans, institutions, and professionals contribute to the high quality of life enjoyed by those who live, work, and play on the Main Line: the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (, ACRE Windows & Doors (, the Ady McGowan Real Estate Team (, the Cirillo Institute (, the Erica Deuschle & Co. Real Estate Team (, Dilworth’s Custom Design (, Dunwoody Village (, Friends School Haverford (, Friends’ Central School (, Heiler Painting (, Holland Floor Covering (, Laurel Hill (, the Lynise Caruso Team of Keller Williams Main Line (, COMPASS RE Realtor Tammy Harrison (, Harth (, Matthew W. Gelber, M.S. (, Optima Jewelers (, Pinemere Camp (, and Salon Amar (
Photo by Jeff Anderson
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life, November 2023.