Golden Forks Awards
The 20 best restaurants in the suburbs
by Brian Freedman

Where should we go for dinner? It’s a near-weekly conundrum as couples, friends and families ponder the countless dining spots across Bucks and Montgomery counties. To simplify your decision, we introduce the Golden Fork Awards, our list of the top 20 restaurants in the area.

Places that earn this distinction serve dishes that are not only delectable and well-cooked, but memorable—unforgettable even. The service isn’t just good, it’s engaging and personable. And the ambiance is first-class while still comfortable. So here’s an end to the debate over dinner—the definitive list of must-visit local restaurants.

Montgomery County

With all the BYOBs in the area, it takes a lot to top this category. But Avril is so enjoyable—and so utterly delicious—that it’s already one of the best. The bistro-inspired dishes, as interpreted by Chef Christian Gatti, are satisfying and unexpected. His strong background in pastry lends many of the offerings a sense of the hearty. For example, the duck with roasted pear and a savory cake is excellent. Gatti’s wife and partner, April Lisante, runs the front of the house, one of the most charming in the region. This is everything a BYO should be and then some.
134 Bala Ave., Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-2626

It’s impossible to talk about the great BYOBs of the region without mention of Blackfish, Chef Chip Roman’s Fayette Street standout. Rarely does a chef so seamlessly meld avant-garde and comforting as he does here. Fans come for memorable treats—like Cape May skate wing with Napa cabbage, Michigan chestnuts and caraway froth—that throw the familiar into a new and exciting light. The classics, like a stellar bouillabaisse, are fabulous, too. Just make sure to bring a range of wines—you’ll have no problem popping the corks of several bottles over the course of a meal here.
119 Fayette St., Conshohocken, 610-397-0888

Alison Two
Alison Barshak has always been one of the most talented chefs around. But lately, it seems as if she has taken her cooking to the next level at Alison Two. From standouts like halibut with truffled roasted garlic grits to flat-out revelations like her ginger-fried squid, this is the place to be in the northeastern suburbs. Just go with an appetite—and a sense of adventure.
424 S. Bethlehem Pk, Ft. Washington, 215-591-0200

Re-imagining Savona, this redux of the critical and local foodie fave, must have been a
tough decision. But the results—just-as-glorious food in a more casual, even sexier setting— speak for themselves. Chef Andrew Masciangelo puts his distinctive touch on everything that comes out of the kitchen, and standouts like Atlantic halibut with roasted porcini, sunchokes, and currants dabble in both the classic and the surprising. Combine his food with one of the best wine programs in the area and the results are pure joy.
100 Old Gulph Rd., Gulph Mills, 610-520-1200

Blue Bell Inn
The Blue Bell Inn may have been around for more than 200 years, but its classic American menu is just as relevant and delicious as ever. Much of its continued success is thanks to John Lamprecht Jr., who, upon taking the reins of the beloved Inn from his father, brought a newfound sense of excitement to the menu and the space without losing what made it so special to begin with. And it still serves some of the best steak in the region. Their filet mignon with “Blue Bell potatoes” and a side of creamed spinach is one of the great pleasures of the suburbs.
601 Skippack Pk., Blue Bell, 215-646-2010

Firecreek Restaurant
It hasn’t been open for very long, but Firecreek has quickly become one of the key destinations in the southern suburbs. The menu is part steakhouse, part homage to classic American cooking and 100 percent delicious. From favorites like grilled sourdough crostini with basil pesto, Roma tomatoes and melted mozzarella to stick-to-the-ribs treats like blackened pork chop with cider-braised cabbage and smoked three-cheese macaroni and cheese, Firecreek is a winner by virtue of sheer exuberance and expert execution.
20 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, 610-269-6000

Impeccably fresh ingredients and stunningly original preparations make this French-Asian superstar in Berwyn a must-visit restaurant for guests from all over the region. The best dishes offer a combination of western and Asian influences that charm as easily as they satisfy. the exotic, comforting preparations include wok-cooked lobster with asparagus and a black truffle tart; Amish chicken and gulf shrimp with a lime-basil sauce; and duck with squash and curry.
1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, 610-725-9000

Ambler has been on a roll for years now, and Dettera is the logical next step for this charming town. From casual lunchtime fare like thin-crust pizzas and oysters to more sophisticated dinner offerings and its fabulous wine bar, Dettera has become a Montco staple in a very short time. Wine-friendlydishes like risotto cakes with chives and parmesan, as well as more challenging ones like porcini-dusted black cod with couscous, black lentils and a white miso broth, make for fabulous pairings.
129 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, 215-643-011

Parker’s Prime
How can a steak house be healthy? Easy: Source only the best meat, offer lighter, Asian-inspired options like dizzyingly fresh sushi, and serve it all with a wine list both smart and food-friendly. Parker’s serves up snappy, light rock-shrimp tempura; yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, cilantro, and a ponzu sauce; and perfectly cooked, impeccably tender steaks; and well-informed, friendly service. Healthy never tasted so good.
4755 West Chester Pk., Newtown Square, 610-353-5353

Comfort and creativity coexist perfectly in this Phoenixville charmer. Bring your best bottle of wine and an appetite—this is one meal you’ll want to savor. Adventurous eaters will fall in love with offerings like the sweetbreads with roasted figs and a hazelnut vinaigrette. Guests with a sweet tooth will revel in comforting dishes like the flourless chocolate torte with house-made salted caramel ice cream and pistachios. Everything here, including the bread, is made in-house, and the service and ambience are appropriately sophisticated, yet never pretentious.
258 Bridge St., Phoenixville, 610-917-0962

Bucks County

With clear, well-defined flavors and an ambitious menu anchored by a solid understanding of the classics, Rouget has become one of the best restaurants in Bucks County. Decadent preparations—like quail en crepinette are given far more love than the game bird is usually lavished with, in this case foie gras, mushroom duxelle, twicebaked fingerling potatoes, honey turnips, and a demi-glaze—are nothing short of revelatory. It’s a fine homage to French cooking and a real gem in the heart of Bucks.
2 Swamp Rd., Newtown, 215-860-4480

From savory to sweet, familiar to exotic, Honey does it all with a sense of whimsy and panache. Husband-and-wife team Joe and Amy McAtee’s Doylestown destination runs the gamut from avant-garde (black-tea glazed spare ribs with a spicy ginger ice cream, salted pine nuts and toasted sesame) to the simply sinful (foie gras sliders with duck bacon, pear, brioche and a sour cherry/black pepper ketchup). Even jaded Center City-dwellers are making the trip to Doylestown for some Honey.
42 Shewell Ave., Doylestown, 215-489-4200

Slate Bleu
Clean lines, a smart menu and an atmosphere that’s just as perfect for a longer meal as it is for late-night snacks, Slate Bleu brings big-city sophistication to the heart of Bucks County. Start with homemade boudin blanc with leeks and apples, then move on to a perfectly rendered classic like skate with capers and brown butter. For more casual fare, the bar menu offers both sophistication and comfort. Escargot en croute, lovely steak frites—it’s all there, minus the full-dinner time commitment.
100 S. Main St., Doylestown, 215-348-0222

With locations in Doylestown, Montgomeryville and Willow Grove, this serious Japanese restaurant not only serves up some of the best fish in the region, but also some of the most creative. Check out Chef Shuji Hiyakawa’s new fruit-inspired preparations for a real dose ofdelicious excitement. The New York Roll, for example, with its smoked salmon and Fuji apple, is a charmer. And if hibachi is more your style, Ooka prepares some of the most accomplished in the region. 
110 Veterans Ln., Doylestown,215-348-8185
764 Bethlehem Pk., Montgomeryville, 215-361-1119
1109 Easton Rd., Willow Grove, 215-659-7688

Easily one of the most sophisticated, well-considered restaurants in New Hope, Tastebuds has earned every one of its decade-and-a-half plus years of service. Dishes like baked cod with a sweet-and-sour chili jam are nothing short of stunning. Even salads, too often rather forgettable menu additions, are lifted from their more standard torpor and made into something altogether more rewarding. The mesclun and endive with jicama, Manchego cheese, apples and a maple-walnut vinaigrette just sings.
49 West Ferry St., New Hope, 215-862-9722

Augusto Jalon is a chef’s chef and the quintessential student. His desire to hone his already formidable skills, and his respect for everything that comes out of the kitchen, make Augusto’s a destination and a local favorite. Even standard fare like a Caesar salad is transformed here into something more surprising than you’d ever imagine. Augusto’s is exactly the kind of restaurant that this corner of Warminster has always needed.
530 Madison Ave., Warminster, 215-328-0556

Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille
For years now, Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille has proven that great food can be vegetarian, too. Gorgeous presentations and a nod in the direction of the exotic keep this Southampton favorite busy. Rarely is vegetarian cuisine this exciting. The green curry BBQ summer roll is a great example: Thai barbecue-glazed veggies, baby spinach, mango and red pepper are all rolled in unfried rice paper and given lift by soy syrup and a baby arugula, cucumber, beet and red grapefruit salad. If only all vegetarian food was this flavorful and clever.
772 Second Street Pk., Southampton, 215-942-8888

Lilly’s on the Canal
With breathtaking views of the water and an ambience as elegant as it is attractive, Lilly’s on the Canal is reason enough to cross the border into New Jersey. The food doesn’t disappoint, either. From casual lunchtime fare like a fabulous fried oyster po’boy, to more intricate dinnertime items like a mammoth 16-once pork chop grilled and served with sinful cinnamon-peach preserves, Lilly’s is a standout destination in the area.
2 Canal St., Lambertville, NJ, 609-397-6242

Triumph Brewing Company
Triumph Brewing Company’s well-thought out menu and gulpable, thought-provoking beers are a testament to the region’s evergrowing suds culture. But it’s the beer that really stands out here, and it does so with gusto. The brews are both food-friendly and excellent on their own, and the seasonal ones herald the time of year with flair. Right now, the coffee-and-cream stout is good enough to make the cold weather seem almost pleasant. And paired with a Black Angus rib eye, it’s pure magic.
400 Union Square Dr., New Hope, 215-862-8300

Copper Leaf Grill
Local ingredients are given the wood-firegrill treatment at this Buckingham bistro. The focus on freshness means that even the heartiest dishes, like herb-crusted rack of lamb with a mustard demi-glaze, maintain a sense of healthfulness. And the fact that the menu ranges from comfort classics like that one to more exotic fare, like grilled coffee-crusted tuna, keeps things every bit as interesting as they are tasty.
4950 York Rd., Buckingham, 215-794-1818