A Well-Known Food Critic Visited Malvern, And This Is Where He Ate

MALVERN, PA – Craig LaBan, the well-known food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, recently paid a visit to Malvern where he tried some of the area's best restaurants.

Here's where he ate, and what he thought. (Click here to read his full review of the Main Line's top restaurants.)


Restaurant Alba (designated as one of LaBan's favorite picks)
What LeBan says: "The slow-roasted pork may be Weinberg’s true masterpiece, the meltingly soft chunks of pig set over a polenta made with fresh sweet corn and chilies. For dessert? Butterscotch budino!

Malvern Buttery
What LeBan says: "... my highlight was the refined simplicity of an ultimate PB&J, a crusty slice from the bread station slathered with fresh-ground peanut butter and house rhubarb jam."

El Limon
What LeBan says: "I've been especially impressed with the hand-pressed sopes, the simple freshness of the marinated shrimp tacos, the crackly crisp tostada rounds, and pretty much anything in the excellent tomatillo-tanged salsa verde."


La Cabra Brewing
What Le Ban says: "The kitchen veers liberally from tradition, but leans on indulgent scratch cooking (lots of pork belly and duck confit) to embellish dishes ranging from tacos to Cubano sandwiches and foie gras pierogi."

What Le Ban says: "The sushi here is stellar and creative, but don’t miss the crisp lobster dumplings and great steamed pork buns, as well as the wild boar lo mein, tea-smoked salmon curry, butter-poached lobster pad Thai and seasonal specials.


Teresa's Next Door (designated as one of LaBan's favorite picks)
What LeBan says: "Teresa's Next Door... has blossomed into what may well be the single greatest place to drink well in the suburbs, no matter what your beverage preference — a distinction that has elevated it to a third bell."

Autograph Brasserie
What LeBan says: "A solid wine list with 35 choices by the glass, a handsome multiroom decor, and outgoing service that knows how to correct mistakes make Autograph feel like a properly posh special-occasion standby for the Main Line."

What LeBan says: "This branch serves similar excellent take on spicy Sichuan and Taiwanese flavors, with the signature noodles tossed tableside in nutty ground pork sauce, sweet and herbaceous basil chicken bubbling in dark sauce over a flaming mini-wok, heat-blistered string beans, plump shrimp with minced pickled Sichuan chili peppers and pork, and a lip-numbing cumin lamb over hand-ripped noodles — one of a few dishes exclusive to Wayne."

The Silverspoon
What Le Ban says: "... this kitchen delivered one of the best midday meals of my summer: a perfect waffle topped with fresh fruit; a textbook omelet with Highspire Hills Farm organic eggs folded over goat cheese and herbs; a frothy bowl of creamy mushroom bisque; addictive chicken salad studded with Granny Smith apples; and a bountiful fresh salad that popped with toasted hazelnuts, mustardy vinaigrette, and tender artichoke hearts."

The Gryphon Café
What Le Ban says: "I’ve been impressed with each visit with both the quality and complexity of his beans, whether it’s the round and fruity GST espresso (Gryphon Standard Time), or a bag of Guatemalan Rio Azul — full of raspberry, citrus, sage, and bitter-cocoa notes — inspired by a trip to the farm in Guatemala."

Lancaster County Farmer's Market
What Le Ban says: "... shoppers can taste an array of smoky-sweet Lebanon bolognas and an impressive cheese collection from S. Cyde Weaver, buy Flintstone-sized prime-beef chops from Sammy’s Superior Meats, gorgeous quiches from La Delicatesse, old-school German gingerbread men from D’Innocenzo’s, and Peking-style take-out dumplings and wonton soup from Margaret Kuo."

Margart Kuo's
What Le Ban says: "We come to hear the gong announce what is still the region’s best Peking duck, carved and wrapped in fresh pancakes tableside."

White Dog Café
What Le Ban says: "... White Dog remains true its organic mission with creative New American food built on quality ingredients."

Estia Tavern
What Le Ban says: "They are still some of the best destinations anywhere for whole Greek fish-lavraki (branzino), tsipoura (dorado), fagri (snapper)-butterflied cooked over the coals to minimalist perfection, glossed with lemony olive oil, oregano and capers."


Tired Hands Fermentaria
What LeBan says: "... this is the place to taste the widest array of the ever-changing brews along with a menu of traditional and unconventional tacos — curried cauliflower, carnitas, chicken verde — as well as hummus plates and a good burger topped with HopHands mustard.

Delices Et. Chocolat
What LeBan says: "French-born brothers Joseph and Antoine Amrani, two veterans of the Georges Perrier orbit, are behind the textbook truffles, colorful macarons, and flaky Viennoiserie. Norristown-roasted Valerio coffee is being brewed."

Delices Et. Chocolat
What LeBan says: "... this maki-to-go specialist takes budget sushi to the next level of quality, with consistently precise craftsmanship using good fish, and a creative touch to give some of its signature rolls some distinction."

What LeBan says: "... it’s true prize is the okonomiyaki, the delicious savory pancake-omelet hybrid streaked with a lattice of tangy dark sauce and Kewpie mayo, plus shaved bonito flakes that seemingly dance atop the surface in the pancake’s heat

El Limon
What LeBan says: "I've been especially impressed with the hand-pressed sopes, the simple freshness of the marinated shrimp tacos, the crackly crisp tostada rounds, and pretty much anything in the excellent tomatillo-tanged salsa verde."

A La Maison
What LeBan says: "... this mustard-colored bistro has maintained its status as a solid destination for classic French dishes, including a bountiful bouillabaisse, a creamy crêpe Florentine and broiler dish of tender escargot in garlicky snail butter that got my Bastille Day off to a perfect start.

Carlino's Market

What LeBan says: "... it is those prepared food counters where Carlino's really excels, with great tomato pie, homey soups, myriad variations on labor-intensive lasagnas, tender chicken scallopine and fresh-baked sweets, including cannolis and an olive oil cake my friend Dan swears by.

What LeBan says: "Hymie’s is clearly a neighborhood hub that serves affordable, made-from-scratch takes on a wide menu of comfort foods, from wraps to smoked fish to huge salads and hearty all-day breakfasts.

Sabrina's Café
What LeBan says: "I... lean more towards reliable classics like the Mel's chicken cutlet sandwich, Islander grilled tuna sandwich, Southwest Buffalo chicken cobb salad, big omelets, and breakfast items with a Mexican twist, like the Barking Chihuahua and huevos Rancheros."

Sang Kee Asian Bistro
What LeBan says:"... the large original suburban locale in Wynnewood remains my favorite, with an expansive modern dining room for authentic Cantonese dim-sum, big bowls of restorative soup, ginger-scallion noodles, roast pork and the Peking duck rolls that are an essential, easy-to-devour nodto the restaurant's signature specialty."


The Apple Walnut Café
What Le Ban says: "The main attraction here, though, is the namesake apple walnut pie, a hybrid cheesecake baked into a pie with walnuts and apples that is worthy of the trip alone."


Green Engine Coffee Co.
What Le Ban says: "Chill beside the live plant wall with a crema-topped shot from the 'green engine' La Marzocco espresso machine, a glass of cold-brew off the nitro tap, or a hot pour-over of Rival Bros. beans at this very cool café beside the Haverford train station."

Brick and Brew
What Le Ban says
: "But it’s really the drink program that most impressed here, with one of the best whiskey collections in the burbs, serious cocktails and an outstanding list of craft beers on draft."

L'Angolo West
What Le Ban says: "... from excellent braised duck pappardelle to deftly grilled seafood (try the shrimp over zucchini puree), garlicky artichokes, fresh ravioli (we loved the special stuffed with sausage and broccoli rabe), and a stellar pork chop Milanese topped with salad that ranks among the region’s best."

White Dog Café
What Le Ban says: "... White Dog remains true its organic mission with creative New American food built on quality ingredients."


What LeBan says: "What impresses me more than those creative tweaks, however, is how [chef-owner Gianuluca] Demontis manages to coax powerful flavors from good ingredients with smart but simple combinations."

What LeBan says: "Try Da Bomb, Daytripper and “Pepe’s” (for a clam pie!), but also the charred carrots, fried cauliflower, farro salad, rigatoni with chicken ragu and spaghetti alla chittara."

Enoteca Tradici
What LeBan says: "The menu combines the Italian-Med plates of the downtown Tredici with the pizzas of its Zavino sibling, and the kitchen has been delivering with even more precision."

What LeBan says: ".. while Sola still occupies its long-favored status for the BYO regulars of Bryn Mawr, its kitchen is showcasing a fresh talent."

El Limon
What LeBan says: "I've been especially impressed with the hand-pressed sopes, the simple freshness of the marinated shrimp tacos, the crackly crisp tostada rounds, and pretty much anything in the excellent tomatillo-tanged salsa verde."


B2 Bluefin – Bala Cynwyd
What LeBan says: "...if you crave a tuna fix, the high-grade bluefin being sliced into toro tastings and platters of colorful maki rolls (Benty, Ramp Roll, Ai Maki)and sashimi set this ambitious newcomer a worthy half-step above the suburban average."

Cotoletta – Bala Cynwyd
What Le Ban says: "Owner Beth Amadio has mastered the genre down to an egg wash flavored with secret spice — excellent in the big 12-ounce veal chop that gets pounded thin and breaded for a deluxe veal Parm upgrade."

Le Petit Mirton – Narberth
What LeBan says
: "...the single best reason to visit this Main Line hamlet is Le Petit Mitron, a French patisserie from Patrick and Isabelle Rurange that is as close as we get to a true Parisian boulagerie Paris.

Bluefin – East Norriton

What Le Ban says: "... from the tuna-draped Marlee roll stuffed with spicy yellowtail to the live scallop, homemade dumplings, and noodle-wrapped 'spinning shrimp,' the transition hasn't dimmed Bluefin’s status status as a quality cut above the ubiquitous strip-mall sushi crowd"