Golden Fork Awards 2012
Featuring 25 of the best dishes in the Philadelphia suburbs, from appetizers to desserts
by Bill Donahue and Brian Freedman


It seems so simple: raw ingredients such as meats and vegetables, bathed in sauces and spices, then warmed to the textbook temperature and plated for easy consumption. Why, then, is it so rare—so exceptional—when we find a restaurant we truly adore that has perfected the formula and serves its cuisine in a way that makes us feel like we’ve experienced something truly life changing?


Like taking a paintbrush to a blank canvas or sculpting a statue out of a slab of rock, preparing food has become an art form. Lucky for us, the Philadelphia suburbs are increasingly blessed with gifted chefs—artists at their craft—and, with the 2012 Golden Fork Awards, we aim to exalt them for their accomplishments in the kitchen.


Here, we offer a lineup of can’t-miss cuisine crafted by some of our area’s finest restaurants, from the Main Line to the Main Streets of Doylestown and New Hope. We also present a list of top picks from gracious readers who shared with us where they go for the finest foods of the Philadelphia suburbs. Bon appétit.


Click here for a comprehensive list of the best restaurants in the Philadelphia suburbs, as voted by readers of Suburban Life.


WHOLE BRANZINO | Ristorante San Marco

Baked in a salt crust and deboned tableside, the branzino (also known as the European or Mediterranean sea bass) has been a San Marco staple for years … and it remains one of the best fish preparations in all of Montgomery County. As with so many standouts of Italian cooking, the branzino is as straightforward as it is elegant: fish, lemon juice and a generous splash of olive oil. After all, there’s no need for lily gilding when the focal ingredient is so fresh and swimming with flavor. 504 N. Bethlehem Pike, Ambler, 215-654-5000


MASSAMAN CURRY | Kinnaree Thai French Cuisine

Thai food with a French twist—or maybe vice versa—is what this cozy BYOB promises and delivers, and the massaman curry here is always a winner. Guests have a choice of chicken, beef or lamb (and many Thai curries are available vegetarian style), deliciously prepared with the likes of potatoes, peanuts, onions and tamarind, all steamed in a bath of coconut milk. 583 Horsham Road, Horsham, 215-441-5514


JAVA PORK TENDERLOIN | 333 Belrose Bar and Grill

Give the chef at 333 Belrose much credit for spawning such a memorable, incredibly flavorful dish with seemingly disparate components working together to create something truly magical. It all begins with the well-chosen tenderloin as the centerpiece, cooked to a rich and smoky juiciness, and then plated with an accompaniment of salsa that brims with the likes of mango, onion, peppers and cilantro. The veritable symphony of complementary flavors yields one of the best dishes of the Main Line. 333 Belrose Lane, Radnor, 610-293-1000


TOP SIRLOIN | na’Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse

There’s no single word to describe na’Brasa’s carved-from-the-spit selections of meats. (“Authentic,” “mouthwatering” and “achingly tender” come to mind.) Of the more than a dozen cuts of meat and fish on the menu at this Brazilian steakhouse, there’s no finer offering than the melt-on-your-tongue top sirloin—Picanha in na’Brasa lexicon—sliced to order and placed onto one’s plate as lovingly as an unopened gift. 680 N. Easton Road, Horsham, 215-956-0600



Built on a base of excellent dough, as all pies should, Radice’s Boscaiola pizzette brims with the smokiness of the oversized wood-burning oven that serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece—literally and figuratively. It takes a lot of personality to command attention away from the combination of Fontina, spinach, wild mushrooms and garlic, but this magical oven does so with conviction and elegance. 722 W. DeKalb Pike at Village Square, Blue Bell, 610-272-5700


TANDOORI SPECIAL | Cross Culture Fine Indian Cuisine

The tandoori special is a mixed-grill plateful that appeals to Indian-food devotees and novices alike. The elements—wildly tender yogurt-marinated chicken, earthier lamb and toothsome beef—demonstrated the many benefits of cooking in a tandoor clay oven. Despite the differences in each meat’s flavor and texture, all are imbued with the sweet smokiness of the oven. 62 W. State Street, Doylestown, 215-489-9101


STONE ROSE SALAD | Stone Rose Restaurant

We held our breath when a fire forced Stone Rose to temporarily close its doors earlier this year, because the menu here boasts almost too many inspiring, seasonally sourced items—complemented by an array of craft beers and an excellent wine list—that could quickly make it onto anyone’s “best” list. It starts with the simple yet satisfying Stone Rose Salad—a mélange of locally grown field greens, sharp cheddar candied pecans and apples, all marinated in cider vinaigrette—with or without fresh salmon, scallops or tuna. From there, the choice is yours. 822 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, 484-532-7300


CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA | Saffron Indian Kitchen

Indian food is finally getting its due in the Philadelphia suburbs, and residents along the Main Line in particular swear by Saffron Indian Kitchen. The chicken tikka masala, which is generally one of the most popular dishes among Indian restaurants in the area, is equally beloved at this spot in Bala and its sister locations elsewhere in Montgomery County. With tender cuts of tandoori chicken bathed in a spicy yet tangy paprika-spiked broth the approximate color of an orange Popsicle, it’s easy to see why. Visit for details on locations in Ambler, Bala Cynwyd and Huntingdon Valley.


EDAMAME FALAFEL | Sprig and Vine Pure Vegetarian

This cozy BYOB, which is tucked unassumingly within the confines of an upscale retail strip, serves 100-percent vegan delights in a smallish space made soothing by its natural lighting and luxuriant woods. And those who think “vegan” is a loose translation for “earthy and tasteless” will think twice after a meal here. The edamame falafel, available as either a small plate or sheathed in a wrap, vibrates with the rich yet subtle flavors of tahini and marinated vegetables. This is what every serious vegetarian dish aspires to be. 450 Union Square Drive, New Hope, 215-693-1427


DUCK BREAST | Freight House

Brilliantly tender, the duck breast at Freight House is the result of a deft hand with simple yet highly effective seasoning. Sliced finger-thick and fanned out like a pink-and-brown flower, the duck benefits from a sous vide bath with thyme and garlic. An accompanying dollop of grits gains character with the addition of applewood-smoked maple syrup. Simply, the dish is evocative from start to finish. 194 W. Ashland Ave., Doylestown, 215-340-1003


PEAR AND BLUE CHEESE FLATBREAD | Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar

This gem embodies Harvest’s bold ambition as well as how seriously good it can be when a dish’s execution matches up with its intent. The flatbread’s base of firm, cracker-like dough provides the perfect palette so the Birchrun Hills Farm blue cheese can shine. It’s topped with thinly sliced pears and a jam-like fig glaze, then crowned with a frizzle of gently peppery arugula. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. 549 Wilmington West Chester Pike, Glen Mills, 610-358-1005


HIBACHI | Ooka Japanese Sushi and Hibachi Steak House

Ooka has an indefinable charm—soothing and serene yet pulsing with a phantom energy. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the hibachi, an interactive experience where guests sit elbow to elbow and dine of a variety of made-to-order combinations, from fine cuts of New York strip steak to the most succulent of seafood intermingled with fresh-sliced vegetables as the snappy yin to the yang of the meat sizzling on the communal grill. Visit for details on locations in Doylestown, Montgomeryville and Willow Grove.



The meats at this humble, burnt-red space start off with a proprietary blend of spices, and are then treated to varying amounts of smoke and grill heat. Some meats speak more of the smoke (chicken and brisket), while others speak more of the hot metal (the gloriously fatty spare ribs), but all are worthy of one’s time and attention. Likewise, the side dishes—baked beans, hearty mac-and-cheese, corn muffins—stand above so many others in the region, perhaps helped along by the sheer excellence of the main course. 9 N. Main Street, Ambler, 215-646-7427



This mouthwatering preparation begins with a grass-fed New York strip from Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Kan. The tender steak comes sliced down and ringing with the character of a glorious adobo—an aggression with the seasoning few restaurants are brave enough to attempt—and parsley-bright chimichurri rimming each slice’s edge. The rich bone-marrow creamed spinach served alongside the steak is a gutsy and altogether winning move. The portions are impressive, too, with enough for next-day leftovers that will make one the envy of any office. 424 S. Bethlehem Pike, Fort Washington, 215-646-1320


NO. 37 | Pho and Beyond

The mysteriously monikered Pho and Beyond—a name at least partly derived from the popular Vietnamese noodle soup—has become an affordable, flavorful favorite of those living within driving distance of Willow Grove. The BYOB’s menu of simple, healthful dishes includes the “No. 37,” an overfull vermicelli noodle bowl priced under $10 that can be enjoyed with one’s choice of pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu. Each lovin’ spoonful is brightened by the blend of pickled carrots, crushed peanuts and sprigs of fresh mint. 47 Easton Road, Willow Grove, 215-659-3464



Enjoyed during a special wine dinner crafted by Georges’ executive chef Chris Siropaides, the prawn escabeche shines in an experience pairing specially crafted Spanish cuisine with wines of the region. This exceptional dish—with a white Rioja as the perfect partner for the orange mojo accompanying the prawns—relies on the expression of just a few well-chosen and expertly sourced ingredients for its success. It’s a fine example of Siropaides’ chameleon-like creativity. For a choice selection from Georges’ everyday menu, it’s hard to go wrong with the chef’s personal favorite: the braised duck with pappardelle pasta. 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-964-2588



There’s a lot to fall in love with at this two-story Ambler hot spot, and every meal—whether at the elegantly appointed bar or a fireside table for two—should begin with a cheese board paired with a glass or two from one of the suburbs’ best wine lists. Guests have the good fortune of choosing from an array of artisanal cheeses, from the firm yet smooth Manchego to the bite of the blue, from the rich tang of the Crucolo to the creaminess of the Morbier. There’s no such thing as a poor choice here. 129 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, 215-643-0111



Balanced, generous and beautifully cooked, the potato-crusted salmon is one of the most interesting and successful dishes on the eclectic menu at Max & David’s, one of the few local restaurants to treat serious kosher food with the seriousness it deserves. Pan seared and served with a bright lemon-tarragon sauce, the fish is supremely moist and evenly complemented—if not heightened—by its shredded potato husk. Yorktown Plaza, 8120 Old York Road, Elkins Park, 215-885-2400



This dish is a masterful example of the sum being greater than its parts—the dumpling skin thin and slippery, the mushroom filling rich with melted blue cheese for ballast and an added sense of funkiness. Along with the likes of the spring roll and the hot and sour soup, the dumpling exemplifies what this Main Line institution does best: transforming standard Chinese fare into something fresh and unexpected. 1051 Conestoga Road, Bryn Mawr, 610-527-3200


GUACAMOLE | Xilantro

Guacamole is generally a simple dish composed of just a few key ingredients, but it’s surprising how few restaurants get the combination right. At new-to-the-scene Xilantro, the guacamole is a well-balanced, nicely portioned combination of the requisite avocado, pumped up with generous helpings of cilantro, lime, peppers and onions. Set against the Xilantro Especial, a mango-sweet margarita that brims with the heat of jalapeño, the guacamole is easily one of the highlights of any meal at Xilantro. 103 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne, 484-580-8415


PAELHA MARINHEIRA | Ricardo’s Mediterranean Restaurant

Paella, revered as something of a national dish in the Spanish culture, benefits from a Portuguese twist at this BYOB, which serves the authentic cuisine of Spain, Italy and, of course, Portugal. Each steaming serving blooms with juicy lobster meat, and a net’s worth of clams, scallops, mussels and shrimp, all mixed with an aromatic saffron rice. 20 Fetters Mills Square (along Huntingdon Pike), Huntingdon Valley, 215-938-6150



Although the Philadelphia suburbs aren’t exactly known for their fabulous Creole dishes, the ones on the menu at Marsha Brown—one of Bucks County’s most elegant and distinctive fine-dining venues, regardless of genre—are noteworthy exceptions. Guests who order the etoufée tend to swoon over this hearty fusion of Louisiana crawfish and minced vegetables that’s arguably superior to some of the best preparations of New Orleans. 15 S. Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-7044


VEGETABLE VINDALOO | Aman’s Indian Bistro

If you can stand the heat—or if, like us, you crave it—head to Aman’s for the best vindaloo preparation (vegetarian or chicken) in the suburbs. Tossed in a spicy, tangy sauce and served with garlicky naan and saffron rice, the vindaloo is thick with robust flavor that makes it an instant classic. Just in case, however, order a mango lassi to tame the heat. 3326 Limekiln Pike, Chalfont, 215-997-6555



Despite Nectar’s coming of age, the restaurant offers some of the best sushi in the region … and, thanks to pastry chef Julie Waters, it also has some of the most satisfying desserts. The mini doughnuts—light, dusted with sugar and bowled alongside a trio of dipping sauces—are the only way to complete a dining experience at seductive Nectar.1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, 610-725-9000


FLAN | Los Sarapes

Assuming one is able to save room after a meal at one of two Los Sarapes restaurants—beginning with the ceviche or guacamole and chips, then moving on to the excellent memela or mole poblano—there’s only one logical conclusion: End with the flan, an authentic take on Mexican custard, the fluffy and perfectly eggy custard humming with the brilliant notes of caramel and coffee. Visit for details on locations in Chalfont and Horsham.