Best of Chesco
Explore the culinary, cultural, and other treasures of Chester County.
by Bill Donahue

Chester County has come a long way since 1682, when William Penn founded it as one of Pennsylvania’s three original counties. Horticultural masterpieces. Fabulous restaurants and gourmet markets. Excellent health care. Cool cultural attractions. Such attractions represent the tip of a rather large iceberg. Following are some of the most remarkable establishments that help make the towns of “Chesco” well worth visiting, or even calling them home.



Every summer, horror-loving hordes descend upon the historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville for a classic event known as Blobfest. Past iterations of Blobfest have included a street festival and screenings of horror classics such as The Creature From the Black Lagoon and, of course, 1958’s The Blob, parts of which were filmed in Chester County. In fact, every year the Colonial recreates a rather famous scene from the movie that was filmed at the theater. When the year’s Blobfest—the 25th—returns to the Colonial this July, organizers promise it will be bigger, better, and “blobbier” than ever. We can’t wait.
On the bank of the Brandywine River, right on the dividing line between Chester and Delaware counties, Chadds Ford’s Brandywine River Museum of Art provides the perfect experience for those who appreciate the fruits of artistic expression. The renovated mill houses a fine collection of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries, including abundant works from the Wyeth family of artists. The property is just as remarkable outside, with sylvan grounds that encourage lingering.
Folks who have a sweet tooth will be thrilled with Bridge Street Chocolates, which has been a Phoenixville staple since 2010. What to expect: a lineup of handcrafted gourmet chocolates, truffles, and seasonal offerings such as “Love Shrooms” for Valentine’s Day, cinnamon-sprinkled Irish potatoes for St. Patty’s Day, and chocolate Peter Rabbits for Easter.
For one of the most memorable meals you’ll ever have, make a reservation at Ground Provisions, a nine-table stunner in West Chester. The service is extraordinary, the atmosphere is just right, and the cuisine is revelatory—and it’s also all plant based. That’s no surprise considering GP’s owners: Rich Landau and Katy Jacoby, founders of Philly’s pioneer of plant-based cuisine, Vedge.
Longwood Gardens is a Kennett Square wonder worth returning to all year long, with hundreds of acres of formal gardens, meadows, and other landscapes that change with the seasons. Regardless of the calendar, Longwood will delight even the most accomplished landscape designer or horticulturist, or, really, anyone who appreciates spending time in the beauty of nature.
People’s Light is a theatrical masterpiece in Malvern that stages new and time-honored productions, with the goal of representing many voices, spurring community dialog, and challenging the way each of us views the world around us. The seven-acre campus includes not only a world-class theater, but also a restaurant that dishes up seasonally inspired fare, and a venue space that can accommodate up to 250.
Roots Café is aptly named. Every time the West Chester stalwart serves up a dish, it does so with a nod toward Mother Earth. Roots shows its eco-consciousness by supporting dozens of local farmers and artisans, including purveyors of locally sourced beer and spirits. While the “green” approach is wonderful, it just so happens that the food is nothing short of sensational. Two words: pretzel croissants.
Dunkin’ makes a perfectly serviceable Boston cream. For something a little more interesting—a vegan stroopwafel doughnut, say—head to Rose’s Little Donuts in West Chester. The doughnuts are baked fresh daily, all day, so you can taste the TLC. The coffee-based drinks are pretty darned good, too.
Artisanal general store by day and experiential dinner destination by night, Talula’s Table in Kennett Square is the brainchild of Aimee Olexy. Everything Olexy touches turns to gold, as anyone who has ever been to her other establishment—Talula’s Garden in Philly’s Washington Square neighborhood—knows all too well. At Talula’s Table, each tasting dinner is a work of art, designed to turn a meal into a celebratory event to be remembered.
Every child loves a treehouse. So does every adult, whether or not they admit it. West Chester’s Treehouse World offers the experience so many of us adored as children and long for as adults: tree climbing, zip lines, obstacle courses, and more. A day at Treehouse World is a challenge, a workout, and an opportunity to bond with family (or whomever you go with)—and you’ll be surrounded by sunlight, fresh air, and, naturally, plenty of trees.
Want to take the temperature of a community? Check out its bookstore. Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton is a rarity even among independent bookstores. It’s a favorite among book clubs, as well as a frequent stop for well-known authors looking to connect with readers through in-person readings and book signings. And if you’re looking for a cozy spot to simply spend a few hours choosing the next addition to your TBR pile, the Wellington can help you scratch the itch.
There aren’t too many places quite like the Westtown Amish Market. The West Chester marketplace has become known for everything from fine furniture and floral arrangements to baked goods and farmer cheese. We hear the lobster rolls are worth the trip, too.
Walk into The Whip Tavern and you feel transported to a different place and time. From the menu of traditional English culinary gems to the chumminess among guests, the Whip feels like it belongs somewhere other than Coatesville. If you’ve never had distinctly English dishes such as Welsh rarebit, bubble and squeak, or proper shepherd’s pie, this would be the place to find out what you’ve been missing.
In addition to the standouts already mentioned, the following artisans, institutions, and professionals contribute to Chester County’s greatness: Chester County Bamboo in Malvern (, Freedom Village at Brandywine in Coatesville (, Main Line Smile in Devon (, Meridian Bank in Malvern (, Scalpology in Wayne (, Phoenix Tax Consultants in Phoenixville (, and Keller Williams Main Line Realtor Anita Robbins (
Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, February 2024.