Best of Montgomery County
A guide to first-class culture, dining and imbibing, shopping, and more.
by Bill Donahue

Montgomery County is very much the center of it all. It abuts the four other counties included in the greater Philadelphia area and lays claim to a significant swath of the Main Line, but its linchpin designation has to do with much more than good neighbors. From can’t-miss culinary and shopping destinations, to enlightening cultural attractions and a network of beautiful parks, “Montco” truly is in a class by itself. Following are some of the finest establishments that help make Montgomery County such a special place.

When megaplexes came onto the scene, it seemed the day of watching a film in an arthouse theater had reached its end. Institutions such as the Ambler Theater have proven that notion dead wrong. The nonprofit theater has a rabid following, thanks to its penchant for screening the kinds of new releases that routinely find themselves shortlisted for Best Picture and other prestigious awards. In addition to new releases, the Ambler Theater (much like its member-supported counterparts, the County Theater in Doylestown and the Hiway Theater in Jenkintown) regularly screens beloved classics and cult classics. For those who prefer live theater, Act II Playhouse is a few blocks away from the Ambler Theater’s inimitable façade.
Ambler’s dining scene is among the best and brightest in Montgomery County. One of the town’s standouts: Bridgets Steakhouse, which strives to deliver an elevated experience, from the small plates and starters, to the list of house-made cocktails, to the cuts of beef and other offerings from the kitchen. Speaking of elevated, check out the upstairs cocktail and lounge area, fittingly called The Second Story.
Two words: Sexy Fries. You’ll find such an aptly named creation only at The Butcher & Barkeep in Harleysville (and its sister restaurant, Northbound, in nearby Souderton). For anyone who has not yet partaken of Sexy Fries, picture perfectly crisped potato strings kissed with Hollandaise, parmesan cheese, herbs, and truffle oil. They’re decidedly perfect, as is much about The Butcher & Barkeep. It’s rightfully celebrated among locals for its mouthwatering mélange of starters, small plates, and mains, as well as its well-tended menu of beers, wines, and cocktails—the perfect place to spend a dreary winter’s day or, really, any time of year.
At its taprooms in Conshy and KOP, Conshohocken Brewing Co. pours some inspired brews that go well with a menu of handhelds and other culinary creations. Maybe pair a Jonesy hockey lager—a collaboration with current Flyers president of hockey operations—with a Bavarian soft pretzel and a bratwurst. There are options aplenty.
If you’re going to a party or gathering anywhere near Montgomery County, you’re very likely to find a tomato pie or two from Corropolese Italian Bakery and Deli. Corropolese is famous for its classic red tomato pie—homemade sauce and a dusting of Romano on a crispy crust—but nearly a dozen varieties are available through its locations in Audubon, Limerick, and Norristown.
Exhibit B Gallery, a Souderton-based cultural outpost run by the husband-and-wife team of Harry and Heather Boardman, is leading the revitalization of Souderton’s Main Street. Described by its owners as warm and “not fussy,” the gallery began its life as an early-twentieth-century cigar factory. It now features an abundance of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art, as well as jewelry, pottery, photography, and more. For those who want to do more than just appreciate art, Exhibit B also offers a range of workshops to help locals unleash their creativity.
Head to the King of Prussia Town Center for dozens of restaurants, shops, and other institutions (sightlines to a Wegmans, an REI, and CHOP’s new hospital, for example) designed to enhance locals’ quality of life. In kinder weather, the Town Center becomes a gathering spot for live music, special events, or just enjoying a sunny day out of doors. No wonder so many folks have chosen to move into the upscale residential buildings that have sprung up around it.
Jasper’s Backyard is the rare kind of place: an elegant yet casual restaurant with a wide-ranging menu that not only covers multiple points of the culinary spectrum, but also gets just about everything right. The Conshohocken standout also has a festive happy hour, especially in spring and summer, when its spacious outdoor setup is running on all cylinders.
Jesse’s Barbecue and Local Market in Souderton is probably best known for its pulled pork, but it’s hardly a one-trick pony. Jesse’s, which is situated right on the county line, slow-cooks its meats—pork, chicken, ribs, brisket—to perfection in a trio of outdoor wood-fired smokers. Pair your pulled-pork sandwich or rack of ribs with comfort foods such as mac-and-cheese, collard greens, and cornbread. Also, customers rave about the specials; recent favorites include the biscuits and gravy, fries loaded with Buffalo chicken, and a smoked scrapple sandwich.
Barnes & Noble is great, but there’s something special about an independent community-based bookseller like Open Book Bookstore in Elkins Park. It’s an intimate space with a carefully curated selection of books from all genres—especially YA and children’s lit, contemporary fiction (including novels from local authors), and cookbooks—each of which is worth the read.
Given its name, one might expect Panache Wood Fire Grill to make some of the region’s best wood-fired pizza. It certainly does, but this Blue Bell establishment also dishes out excellent pasta, seafood, sandwiches, and more, including a ballyhooed raw bar. Need a can’t-miss brunch destination? Panache has a fantastic brunch menu, with Bloody Marys, Bellinis, and mimosas aplenty. Once the weather turns its cheek away from winter, Panache’s outdoor patio provides one of the area’s finest spots for alfresco dining and imbibing.
Now, more than ever, Americans are more interested in where their food comes from. As a result, they’re getting more of their foodstuffs from local resources such as Quarry Hill Farm in Harleysville. Quarry Hill has long provided sustainably managed farm products such as eggs, chicken, and produce. Since 2021, when the Perlman family took ownership of the farm, it has expanded its offerings to include a few other in-demand products—namely, Wagyu beef and Berkshire pork.
A day with a doughnut is a good day. For the ultimate in special-occasion treats, head to Suzy-Jo Donuts for some of the most inventive and decadent doughnuts around. Suzy-Jo, named for its founders’ two daughters, has been turning out a huge assortment of “ridiculously good” doughnuts—the company’s words, and we agree—since 1955. The menu includes seasonal and specialty doughnuts, such as maple bacon, pumpkin, and apple cider varieties. Even more good news: You can pick up Suzy-Jo’s finest at multiple Montgomery County locations—namely, Bridgeport, East Norriton, and Limerick.
With a name like Troubles End Brewery, you’d expect this Collegeville hot spot to serve some exceptional artisan-made house beers—and you’d be correct. It also boasts a highly capable kitchen that turns out some elevated brewpub cuisine, beginning with starters such as the pretzel buns, tater tot nachos, and bang-bang Brussels sprouts. Troubles End also has complementary Frogger, as in the old-school arcade game, in case you need to get in some joystick action while waiting for a table.
The following artisans, institutions, and professionals contribute to the richness of Montgomery County: ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, which has communities in Ambler, Blue Bell, Fort Washington, Lansdale, and Lower Gwynedd, as well as in surrounding counties (; AIM Academy in Conshohocken (; Amada Senior Care (; Arbour Square of Harleysville (; Bella Fiona Ristorante, an Italian BYOB In Harleysville (; Bergin’s Chocolates, a Lansdale-based maker of handcrafted confections (; Boyd & Early Family Law in Blue Bell (; Terese Brittingham of Keller Williams Realty (; Buona Via Italian Seafood and Grill in Horsham, known for its festive happy hours (; The Cooking Studio in Telford, which offers hands-on cooking classes (; Dr. Goldberg Ear Nose Throat Specialists in Willow Grove (; Dudhat Dental Group, which has offices throughout the county (; Hickory Veterinary, which has offices in Ambler and Plymouth Meeting (; G. Fedale Roofing & Siding (; Harth Builders, a design-build-remodel firm in Lower Gwynedd (; JMT Awnings, a service-oriented provider of awnings based in Abington (; Jude Plum, a Bryn Mawr-based salon and creator of natural wigs and hairpieces (; The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz P.C. in Bryn Mawr (; The Meadowbrook School in Meadowbrook (; Meadowood, a vibrant retirement community in Lansdale (; The Pullman Restaurant & Bar in Bryn Mawr (; So Sweet Jewelers, a provider of fine jewelry, gits, and other accessories in Blue Bell (; Stampone O’Brien Dilsheimer Law in Cheltenham (; and Yang Institute of Integrative Medicine, which has a location in Bryn Mawr (
Photo courtesy of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, January 2024.