Best of the Best 2012
The best of everything the Philadelphia suburbs have to offer
by Bill Donahue and Sharon A. Shaw

There’s a reason—more than just one, most likely—why you, like us, have chosen to live here. This month, with our 2012 Best of the Best report, we present as many reasons we could think of: the best of all things germane to living in a part of the world that truly offers something for everyone. Of course, we had plenty of help compiling this year’s list of Best of the Best winners. Dozens upon dozens of readers logged onto to cast their votes for the finest restaurants, boutiques and service providers throughout Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. Based on reader suggestions and our own more than thorough research, we give you the Best of the Best of … well, pretty much everything the Philadelphia suburbs collectively have to offer.


BEST NEW CASUAL-DINING SPOT. Mad Mex in Willow Grove opened its door in late 2011 in a space that had been something of a revolving door for the longest time. No longer. Mad Mex’s playfully devilish décor, well-appointed bar and approachable menu of SoCal-inspired Mexican food has been bringing them back since day one. The food is memorable, the drinks are cold and the vibe is laid back, all working in concert to make Mad Mex a welcome addition to Montgomery County’s casual dining scene. 2862 W. Moreland Road, Willow Grove, 267-495-5000,


BEST NEW PIZZA STANDOUT. Recently opened in Maple Glen, Gio’s Pizza Rustica makes one heck of a pie based on the smart, simple formula of a few well-chosen, fresh and bursting-with-flavor ingredients. Our favorite? The Margherita Rustica. Built on a base of thin and crispy crust, this signature rectangular pie swoons with a few basic standards—fresh mozzarella and marinara, for starters—made that much better by generous sprigs of fragrant basil and a drizzle of slightly sweet extra-virgin olive oil that ties everything together into a work of art guaranteed to make your taste buds happy. 1941 Norristown Road, Maple Glen, 215-643-3333,


BEST BURGER WITH HEAT. Doylestown’s Basically Burgers knows its way around a burger. We vote for the 6-Alarm Burger, a beef patty dressed with a tongue-searing concoction of hot sauce, horseradish, jalapeno peppers, Cayenne seasoning and … yes, there’s more, but it seems unnecessary to describe at this point. There’s more to this burger than heat, as this establishment is known for doing burgers right. Oh, it’s just a suggestion, but tacking a milkshake made from hand-dipped ice cream onto your order—you know, to extinguish the fire in your mouth—might not be the worst idea ever. 33 N. Main St. Doylestown, 215-345-8502,


BEST REUBEN. When you have a craving that can be sated only by a Reuben—the perfect amalgamation of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing between two slices of rye—your best bet is to head to Merion for one of these classics from Hymie’s Delicatessen and Family Restaurant. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Reuben latka, which substitutes a potato pancake for the rye bread. 342 Montgomery Ave., Merion, 610-668-3354,


BEST UNTRADITIONAL SLICE. A typical slice it’s not, aside from its rectangular shape as opposed to the customary triangle, but you won’t regret trying the hummus pie at one of Jules Thin Crust Pizza’s four area locations. Artfully daubed with roasted-red-pepper hummus, and complemented by an ensemble of organic tomatoes, feta cheese, red onions, greens and cucumber, this untraditional pie could forever change the way you define pizza. Visit for details about locations in Doylestown, Jenkintown, Newtown and Wayne


BEST SURPRISING SALADS. It’s easy to see why Arpeggio remains a favorite BYOB for those living nearby. The falafel salad, featuring flattened falafel patties served on a bed of tahini-seasoned greens, and the warm goat-cheese salad, starring an array of grilled veggies and spring mix intermingled with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts, are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Need another reason? Get to Spring House and find out for yourself. 909 Sumneytown Pike, Spring House, 215-646-5055,


BEST SMOOTHIE. It may look a little swampy, but the Mo’ Green smoothie at Bryn and Dane’s in Horsham is a delight in more ways than one. Packed with the nutritious yet delicious likes of banana, kale, wheatgrass, pineapple and mango, the Mo’ Green is high in fiber, with three grams of protein to boot. (Feel free to add shots of protein, energy and multivitamin, if the mood strikes.) And, like all Bryn and Dane’s smoothies, this low-fat smoothie has no added or unnecessary sugars—just the simple joys of fruits and vegetables at their naked best. 400 Privet Road, Horsham, 215-675-1599,


BEST ON TAP. At any one of McKenzie Brewhouse’s three suburban locations, belly up to the bar to sample the regular lineup of freshly made brews on tap, from the lighter McKenzie Wit Belgian wheat to the dark-as-night oatmeal stout, not to mention seasonal specials. Once you settle on a brew (or two) you can’t live without, snatch a “growler to go” and enjoy a glass from the comfort of your own recliner. Visit for details on locations in Chadds Ford, Devon and Malvern


BEST ENGLISH-STYLE PUB. If you’re in search of a proper pint, head to Coatesville and settle in at The Whip Tavern. In addition to a ridiculous selection of draught ales and bottled beers imported from across the pond (domestics, too), The Whip gets high marks for its traditional U.K. fare, namely, the fish and chips, bangers and mash, Scotch eggs and Welsh rarebit, among other pub favorites. If you crave a glass of wine, it’s BYO, but what right-minded person drinks wine at an English pub? 1383 N. Chatham Road, Coatesville, 610-383-0600,


BEST WINE LIST. At Buona Via Ristorante Italiano in Horsham, locals fill the dining room—and the artfully decorated bar—to enjoy fine Italian food complemented by one of the suburbs’ most impressive wine lists. Sure, it has a wide selection of draught beers and other libations available, but the folks at Buona Via understand that all Italian food is made better by a great glass of red. Simply walk in the bar and see the “wall of wine” on display behind glass to see how seriously this restaurant takes the grape. 426 Horsham Road, 215-672-5595,


BEST DISTINCTIVE COCKTAIL. Pomegranate vodka. Pomegranate juice. A splash of triple sec. A squeeze of lime juice. Three olives. When combined in a glass, it’s called the “pomtini.” Get it at the Gypsy Saloon in West Conshohocken. You’re welcome. 128 Ford Street, West Conshohocken, 610-828-8494,


BEST BLOODY MARY. If you want to beat the crowds, Sunday brunch may be the best way to enjoy New Hope. Known for its eclectic décor and personable staff, Karla’s offers a unique twist on tradition with a green tomato Bloody Mary sure to clear the cobwebs. Made with green tomatoes, tomatillos and jalapeño, it is bright green and spicier than the standard garden variety. Besides the Marys, Karla’s is known for its fresh-fruit martinis made from real mango, coconut, peach and more. 5 West Mechanic Street, New Hope, 215-862-2612,


BEST HAPPY-HOUR SETTING. Already known for its joviality, the happy hour at 333 Belrose in Radnor just got a little better. This Main Line restaurant—a favorite for lunch and dinner alike—benefited from a recent makeover, with an emphasis on warmth and elegance. As if anyone needs another reason to “stay a while” at 333 Belrose, the beautifully refreshed bar area encourages lingering, especially with $2 beers, $4 wines and well drinks and a half-priced bar menu as happy-hour specials. 333 Belrose Lane, Radnor, 610-293-1000,


BEST FAIR TRADE COFFEE. Whether your order is a cappuccino, espresso, macchiato or a plain old cup of certified Fair Trade organic Sumatran or Costa Rican roast, Newtown Square’s Burlap and Bean Coffee religiously serves up the freshly brewed antidote. But this family-run joint is more than just a coffee shop; it’s a way of life for regulars. Well-known independent musicians regularly pack the listening room, as do performers for open-mike Thursdays, while local artists fill the walls with their works. Oh, and it’s also got its own running team—Roasted Right Racing—fueled, of course, by coffees served on premise. 204 S. Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547,


BEST GOURMET CHEESE. For the finest cheeses from around the world—Manchego, Gruyere, aged Gouda and countless other difficult to pronounce but supremely satisfying selections—head to the Ardmore Farmers Market in Suburban Square. There you’ll find the newest location from Philadelphia institution Di Bruno Bros., which, like a ray of light from above, exported its wares to Ardmore last year. From the funky to the smooth, from the hard and semi-firm to the soft and semi-soft, you’ll be happy to find it here. 120 Coulter Ave., Ardmore, 484-416-3311,


BEST GOURMET MARKET. Approachable and appropriately understated, Sam’s Italian Market and Bakery in Willow Grove has earned its designation as a Montgomery County institution. This surprising market is a veritable treasure chest of gourmet foods, from the addictive tomato pie—get there early if you want one on weekends—to the finest just-baked Italian breads to the tubs of freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese to the freshly butchered meats and sausages. Find all this and so much more at Sam’s. 3504 W. Moreland Road, Willow Grove, 215-657-3666,


BEST ASIAN FARE. In Conshohocken, do Thai and Vietnamese food right at Chiangmai. This unassuming restaurant along Conshy’s main drag boasts some of the best Southeast Asian food in the ’burbs. In-the-know locals pack this diminutive restaurant at lunchtime, especially, to partake in the more-than-affordable fare. House specialties include the tom yum soup and the rather awesomely named crying tiger salad. 108 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, 610-397-1757,


BEST HEALTHY START. Few places do oatmeal as well as Nudy’s Café, especially because you have the option to design it yourself far beyond the standard accompaniments of raisins and brown sugar. Here, oatmeal lovers can add an assortment of fruit (bananas, apples with cinnamon, dried cranberries, blueberries and strawberries), nuts (almonds and walnuts), granola, honey and, on decadent days, chocolate chips. This is just one small but shining example of how Nudy’s does breakfast oh so right. Visit for details on locations in Devon, Downingtown, Exton, Eagleview, Frazer, Phoenixville and West Chester


BEST COLORFUL BREAKFAST NOOK. Furlong’s cozy Back to the 50’s Diner packs a lot of personality into a small footprint. The building’s hot-pink exterior sets the stage for what awaits once you walk through the door of this seat-yourself establishment. The walls and tables are festooned with pictures of Elvis and Marilyn and other memorabilia from a bygone era. The real star here, of course, is the food, which is largely of the bacon-and-eggs, pancakes-and-French-toast variety, with revolving from-scratch specials and a surprising number of vegetarian and vegan options. 800 Edison Furlong Road, Furlong, 215-794-9954


BEST BIGGEST BRUNCH. When preparing for brunch at The Waterwheel, don’t eat for a few days in order to have room to take advantage of the sheer variety of items offered on its buffet. If you can make it past the array of breads, pastries and salads, a tremendous selection of hot dishes and carving-station meats await. At the omelet station one can choose from a selection of vegetable cheeses and meats, including lump crab meat, to have folded into an omelet, topping a Benedict or eggs served any style. If there is room left after all that, made-to-order Belgian waffles, crepes and a dessert table will satisfy the morning sweet tooth. 4424 Old Easton Road, Doylestown, 215-345-9544,


BEST PEOPLE WATCHING. There are few greater pleasures than spending a weekend afternoon outdoors at The Logan Inn, centered along New Hope’s colorful Main Street. The outdoor dining area is spectacular, and the adjacent bar area provides a perfect vantage point for taking in the sights and sounds of one of Bucks County’s most interesting towns while sipping a Bloody Mary or, really, whatever poison you prefer. Start the weekend with a bang here by taking in the fireworks over the Delaware on Friday nights throughout the spring and summer. 10 W. Ferry Street, New Hope, 215-862-2300,


BEST ROMANTIC DINNER. Fashioned out of the bones of a former church, complete with intricate wall murals and panes of ornate stained glass, Marsha Brown in New Hope knows a thing or two about making an impression. Astonishing environment aside, Marsha Brown’s menu is packed with Cajun and Creole delights sure to cause a stir for that special night out. 15 S. Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-7044,


BEST UNTRADITIONAL STEAK SANDWICH. Café Alessio has it all: a high-profile corner in the heart of Doylestown, serving fine Italian entrées, crisp salads and even some of the best sushi you’ll ever have anywhere. It also has some terrific specialty sandwiches, led by the grilled rib eye panini. This revelation begins with cuts of choice steak, complemented by the likes of sautéed spinach, Gorgonzola, roasted peppers and a shake of Tabasco. It’s a can’t-miss delight … except, of course, if you’re a vegetarian. 24 N. Main Street, Doylestown, 215-340-1101,


BEST UNEXPECTED SUSHI ROLL. Ooka has been around long before sushi was en vogue. Consequently, it has had time to perfect the concept and take sushi beyond the traditional, maintaining customers’ interest by continuing to offer unexpected combinations of the classic and the unusual. The James Bond roll—featuring spicy king crab, avocado and almonds wrapped in seared salmon and finished with a basil olive oil—is one such a unique creation. Visit for details on locations in Doylestown, Montgomeryville and Willow Grove


BEST SMALL PLATES. Though the menu at Honey—the tiny small-plate concept restaurant opened by a husband-and-wife team in 2007—changes frequently to take advantage of seasonal ingredients, the black-tea-glazed spare ribs have remained a constant. It’s no wonder why, with Berkshire pork spare ribs cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection and accompanied by a spicy ginger ice cream good enough to stand on its own. Though the menu refers to this dish as a “shared plate,” you might want to order your own. 42 Shewell Ave., Doylestown, 215-489-4200,


BEST SEAFOOD. Though he now oversees two additional restaurants in Philly (Mica in Chestnut Hill and Ela in Queen Village), chef Chip Roman’s initial gift to the world, Blackfish, remains a suburban favorite for seafood of the most refined and inventive sort. It’s not just the food Roman wants you to enjoy, however; it’s the overall experience. He’s delivering on both counts. 119 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, 610-397-0888,


BEST SWEET TREAT. There’s something special about a cupcake—cramming so much goodness into a delectable treasure that fits neatly in the center of your palm. At Cupcakes Gourmet in Frazer, cupcakes are treated with the reverence and artistry they deserve, from the decadent triple chocolate to the cream-cheese-capped red velvet to the smooth-as-silk peanut butter. 288 Lancaster Ave., Frazer, 484-318-8057,


BEST AFTER-DINNER THRILL. It’s hard to go wrong in a place like Majolica in Phoenixville, with an exciting, well-devised menu from top to bottom. Save room for dessert here. We vote for the goat cheese sorbet or the served-warm Nutella crepes. The rundown of unexpected ingredients alone is worth the price admission. 258 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-917-0962,



BEST LADIES’ NIGHT OUT. Get the girls together and trek toward Delaware County for Salsa in the Suburbs, which offers group lessons in Latin dances such as Salsa, Merengue and Bachata. Or, if you’re looking to learn something even more exotic, take a lesson in the seductive art of bellydance. No matter the choice, get ready to have a blast with the girls. 1245 N. Providence Road, Media, 610-800-8182,


BEST GUYS’ NIGHT OUT. Parx Casino in Bensalem has table games and slot machines galore, an ample number of bars, including an in-house Chickie’s & Pete’s and the Play2 Interactive Sports Bar equipped with “amusement pods” that enable gamers to, say, play a round of golf with Tiger Woods or “rock out” with friends to a favorite rock or metal song—virtually, of course. Sounds like it’s time to make an excuse for the next bachelor party. 2999 Street Road, Bensalem, 888-588-7279,


BEST MOVIEHOUSE EXPERIENCE. There’s a lot more to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute than newly released Oscar contenders of the independent ilk. This iconic Main Line moviehouse also plays such classic films as “Casablanca” and “Ben Hur,” as well as cult favorites along the lines of “Big Trouble in Little China” and “They Live.” The Institute also hosts kids’ matinees in the fall and other limited-run engagements, making the Institute the suburbs’ the ideal vehicle for preserving the moviehouse experience, with fresh popcorn at the ready. 824 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, 610-527-9898,


BEST COMMUNITY THEATER. Center City doesn’t have a lock on emotionally stirring acts of live theater. Head to Ambler for the intimate and dynamic Act II Playhouse, which produces a number of interactive productions each season, all of which are designed to broaden the mind and provide a new way of looking at the world. It’s succeeding; the 130-seat theater has received dozens of award nominations, and taken away six Barrymore Awards for excellence in theater production, since its founding in 1998. 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, 215-654-0200,


BEST VENUE FOR LIVE MUSIC. New Hope Winery serves up an orchard’s worth of proprietary whites and reds, but what’s garnering most of its headlines of late is its ability to attract top talent to its in-house concert venue. Here, viewers can sway to the likes of Sophie B. Hawkins, the Smithereens, Dave Mason and Evan Dando’s Lemonheads, while enjoying a bottle or two of those reds and whites that made the winery famous in the first place. 6123 Lower York Road, New Hope, 215-794-2331,


BEST PLACE TO SPEND A SUNNY DAY WITH THE KIDS. Summer is perfect for wandering the copious indoor and outdoor gardens, fountains, ornate architecture and other attractions at Kennett Square’s Longwood Gardens. Kids will be in awe of nature at its flowering finest, and walking the grounds of this more than 1,000-acre destination also means your kids should sleep well on the drive home. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000,


BEST PLACE TO SPEND A RAINY DAY WITH THE KIDS. A visit to The Mud Shack in North Wales will busy the minds and hands of kids suffering from foul-weather cabin fever. Kids can paint a snake, turtle or elephant (in ceramic-pottery form, of course), learn how to fashion things out of clay or make a plate or plaque with their own handprints as the centerpiece. Lucky for you, walk-ins are always welcome. 515 Stump Road, North Wales, 215-393-8380,



BEST MASSAGE THERAPY. Men and women alike will feel refreshed, if not completely rejuvenated, after a massage from the Face and Body Spa in Yardley. Massage therapists employ all-natural products during each session, in as serene an environment as you’ll find. Whether it’s to treat sore muscles, address a lingering problem or simply add a touch of relaxing yin to the yang of your sometimes chaotic life, a massage from Face and Body Spa absolutely delivers on the promise. 9 S. Main Street, Yardley, 215-369-0699,


BEST HAIR REJUVENATION. A serene oasis in Malvern, offering everything from nails and makeup to skin treatments and massage, Style Masters Salon’s star shines brightest when it comes to styling and rejuvenating patrons’ coiffures. Blessed with low turnover, Style Masters boasts a team of talented stylists who know their clients almost as well as they do the art of the makeover. 549 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, 610-640-0677,


BEST NAIL REJUVENATION. For full restoration of one’s hands and feet, escape to Hatboro and spend some time at Spa Escape, where each step of your manicure and/or pedicure will be treated with the care and precision they deserve. 402 S. York Road, Hatboro, 267-803-0209,


BEST NO-SUN TANNING. If the healthy glow of a traditional suntan without the application of controversial UV rays is what you seek, Sunboat Tan has a solution in its menu of airbrush-tanning services. So whether you desire a light honey-golden tan or a deeper, darker shade of bronze, find what you’re looking for at the premier tanning salon in Southampton. 660 Second Street Pike, Southampton, 215-588-8891,


BEST DOSE OF VITAMIN D. Sunlight offers our bodies more than just a golden glow; the vitamin D its rays provide helps stave off deficiencies and disease. Island Sun Tanning offers options for those interested in tanning and those who want to improve their health, skin or mood with regular exposure to UV, red light or other treatments. Its staff is trained and certified to help customers make informed decisions about their health and beauty. Visit for details on locations in Bensalem, Neshaminy, Fairless Hills, Huntingdon Valley and Newtown


BEST FIRST-CLASS FITNESS. No matter your fitness goals, Horsham Athletic Club has it all: row after row of strength-training and cardiovascular machines, tons (quite literally) of free weights, personalized training programs, fitness assessments, nutrition guidance, martial-arts instruction, etc. Then there are the built-in perks, such as free child care at an on-site daycare center that kids will love and an in-house café serving fine foods for healthful, post-workout indulgence. 400 Horsham Road, Horsham, 215-675-4535,


BEST PERSONAL TRAINING. Sticking to fitness goals can be difficult but not at Devon Fitness. By discussing each client’s objectives and creating a program that continues to challenge, motivate and inspire them, the trainers here help “trainees” avoid plateaus and get results. Besides the human element, state-of-the-art equipment, including many interactive, customizable machines—virtual cycling machines that simulate nearly 30 courses, requiring riders to not only peddle but also steer the course, and step-mill escalators offering terrain from a variety of landmark buildings—all but eliminates the risk of boredom. 1340 Swedesford Road, Berwyn, 610-240-9916,


BEST DISTINCTIVE YOGA STUDIO. Begin your journey toward inner peace and flexibility, or whichever destination at which you wish to arrive, at The Prancing Peacock. A distinctive yoga studio situated on a stunning farmhouse property in Yardley, the Peacock offers yoga classes of various levels, as well as pilates and reiki sessions for personal healing. Namaste. 524 Stony Hill Road, Yardley, 267-679-0791,


BEST SPOIL-YOUR-PET SPA. Pets deserve a vacation, too, and they’ll get one at Malvern’s Wagsworth Manor. Billed as a “luxury retreat for the furry elite,” Wagsworth offers canine and feline suites for daycare and boarding. Pets can even get some much-needed R&R in the form of grooming, swimming in an indoor pool and, yes, even doggie massage. 27 Spring Mill Drive, Malvern, 610-251-9247,



BEST HIGH FASHION. Make a beeline for Media’s Per Lei Boutique, one of the Main Line’s most fashionable boutiques. Here you’ll peruse the most stylish and sophisticated tops, jackets, skirts, dresses, accessories, etc., from the top names in women’s fashion—namely, Cleo & Cat, Joe’s Jeans, R.J. Graziano and Theory, among others. 2 E. State Street, Media, 610-566-1254,


BEST SWIMWEAR. Those who have tried finding a new swimsuit for the season—let alone for a tropical winter getaway—know how limited the selection can be at most retailers. Shirley & Co. offers the area’s largest selection of swimwear and accessories, including hard-to-find designer, plus-sized and off-season styles. Third-generation experience, personalized service and variety will make the dreaded task of swimsuit shopping more enjoyable any time of year. Visit for details on locations in Langhorne, Elkins Park and Ardmore


BEST FIVE-MINUTE MAKEOVER. Ladies in need of a “boost”—whether of confidence, comfort or a more physical nature—will find it at Lace Silhouettes Lingerie. Its professional bra fittings take into account a woman’s family, health and lifestyle, as well as her measurements, to prescribe the most comfortable and best-fitting bras. The right bra can improve a woman’s posture, thereby giving her a long, lean line and making her appear 10 pounds lighter. With more than 150 brands to choose from, every woman is assured of the perfect fit. Visit for details on locations in Peddler’s Village, Lahaska, and Princeton and Cape May, N.J.


BEST WOMEN’S SHOES. Shoe shopping is a team sport for many women, but for the owners of Vivi G. Shoes it is also a family affair. Sherri Guggenheim and her daughter Jennifer travel monthly to New York and often to Italy to bring their customers the latest in shoes, as well as handbags and jewelry. Featuring both well-known designers and hard-to-find labels, this mother-daughter team keeps local woman well dressed from head to toe … and wrist and finger, too. Visit for details on locations in Glen Mills and Wayne


BEST FUN FOOTWEAR FOR KIDS. Whether your kids seek the latest multicolored Crocs, dress-to-impress UGGs or a stylish pair of Jumping Jacks sandals, find them all—and then some—at OLLY Shoes. If there is such a thing as a hassle-free, one-stop shop for fun kids’ footwear, OLLY is, ahem, a shoe in. Visit for details on its multiple locations throughout the suburbs


BEST BRIDAL BOUTIQUE. Having been awarded a Brides Choice award from WeddingWire and Best of The Knot, brides certainly agree that The Wedding Shoppe offers everything they need for that special day. The shop features designer wedding gowns, dresses for the bridal party and mother of the bride, and accessories, including shoes, evening bags and jewelry. Its exceptional services include convenient fitting times, expert alterations and preservation services. 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-688-4988,


BEST MEN’S FORMALWEAR. If you’re a guy who wants to turn some heads at an upcoming special event—wedding, prom or any kind of formal affair—buy or rent the perfect tux from Ventresca Ltd. in Doylestown. The formal wear is elegant, the staff is incredibly knowledgeable and the experience is one you won’t soon forget. Smashing tuxedoes aside, the expertly tailored men’s clothing isn’t too shabby either. 145 W. State Street, Doylestown, 215-348-3139,


BEST TIMEPIECES. Breitling. Zenith. Michelle. Raymond Weil. TAG Heuer. These names, all of which are associated with the world’s finest timepieces, can be found within Warrington’s Valley Square Lifestyle Center at Precision Watches, which is run by three generations of watchmakers. And if you need high-end sunglasses from the likes of Tiffany & Co., Bulgari and Prada, they’ve got you covered there, too. 1528 Main Street, Warrington, 215-343-4433,


BEST JEWELRY. For any occasion where diamonds, pearls and precious metals are an appropriate gift—and, if we’re being honest, when aren’t they?—seek out the experts at Fred H. Straub Inc. Jewelers. Family run for more than a century by the Straubs, this destination is famous for its breathtakingly jeweled accents, as well as an assortment of Rolex watches, watch accessories, elegant gifts and … well, you’ll just have to drop by and see the Straubs to find out. 1375 Old York Road, Abington, 215-887-1115,


BEST INDIE BOOKSTORE. People still go to bookstores? Yes, and they do so en masse—and for very good reason—at Chester County Book & Music Co. This community book shop, which has been giving the written word its due since 1982, has grown into one of the largest U.S. independent bookstores. Of course, you’ll find books galore among the stacks, though we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Magnolia Grill, an in-store BYOB that serves up killer Cajun and Creole fare. So the next time you’re in the mood for a bowl of jambalaya while you turn the pages of a new release or a classic tome from Updike or Bukowski, head to this gem in West Chester. 975 Paoli Pike, West Chester, 610-696-1661,


BEST VENUE FOR LOCAL ART. At Beauty – Art, Antiques and Gifts in Newtown Square, discover oil paintings, antiques and other distinctive items—most of which are from locally based artists and craftsmen—perfect for beautifying one’s home or serving as a unique gift to anyone who can appreciate life’s finer things. What’s more, the shop regularly hosts in-store events where patrons can meet and get inspired by the same local artists whose items are featured within. 3857 Providence Road, Newtown Square, 610-353-4569,


BEST OLD WORLD GIFTS. Via Bellissima’s name is rather apt. Its name translated as “the road to the beautiful,” this 15-year-old Via Bellissima boutique proffers Italian ceramics and home décor, among other treasures, imported from Italy’s heart. Colorful and warm, the space teems with distinctive items that just might make you feel as if you’ve been transported to the sun-drenched hillsides of Tuscany. 853 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, 610-581-7414,


BEST UNIQUE BOUTIQUE. Whether you’re looking to spruce up your or someone else’s home, or merely brighten a day (again, yours or someone else’s), head to Artisans 3 Gallery in Spring House. There you’ll discover some of the most inimitable crafts of American design—jewelry, pottery, glassware and other accents guaranteed to make an impression—in the Philly suburbs. 903 N. Bethlehem Pike, Spring House, 215-643-4504,


BEST BOUTIQUE FOR YOUR PET. Pets deserve pampering, too, so head on over to The Bark Avenue Boutique to see how to do it right. Now part of The Pet Village of Wayne, the boutique offers an assortment of edible treats, canine apparel and fabulously designed leashes to make your pampered pooch feel … well, pampered. 107 N. Aberdeen Ave., Wayne, 610-341-9800,


BEST EVENT FLORIST. Flowers are often one of the last details considered when planning an event, but savvy hosts make the call to Valley Forge Flowers first. More than just a florist, its two stores feature some of the world’s most beautiful flowers along with an eclectic range of furniture and accessories for the home and garden. What’s more, Valley Forge Florist decorates private homes for holidays and special occasions, provides interior- and exterior-design support and coordinates events ranging in size from intimate dinners to weddings. Visit for details on locations in Bridgeport and Wayne


BEST GARDEN CENTER. Bucks County has its share of garden centers and nurseries, all vying to offer the newest varieties of annuals perennials and accompaniments. Bucks Country Gardens offers not only these botanical delights but also a beautiful selection of outdoor and indoor home décor, a Christmas shop displaying professionally decorated trees and a boutique featuring jewelry and accessories. What really sets this garden center apart, though, is its experienced and helpful staff who can recommend the very best—whether tomato, tree or table. 1057 N. Easton Road, Doylestown, 215-766-7800,