There’s something strange about Iron Hill Brewery—some odd bit of magic or luck or marketing genius that we haven’t yet been able to suss out. It seems that wherever a new location of the Delaware-based chain of American brewpubs opens, the surrounding neighborhood becomes charged with a new energy and vitality. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. We’re not sure whether Iron Hill can see into the future and know which neighborhoods are about to become hot, or whether the opening of a new location brings on a heat wave of openings and revitalization. But it happened in Media, it’s happening in Chestnut Hill, and it happened in Phoenixville, too.
When we talk about eating in Phoenixville to people who haven’t been to Phoenixville in years, they treat the entire area as though the feds used to use it as a dumping ground for uranium and never bothered to clean it up. That’s a shame, because in recent years the main drag of this Philly exurb has gone through a rebirth just this side of shocking.
There is, of course, the aforementioned Iron Hill Brewery
Want a reason to drive all the way from Philly to Phoenixville? Majolica is it. It would be it for the grilled octopus alone, but chef/owner Andrew Deery isn’t exactly selling the stuff on an overturned peach crate in the middle of the street. The setting is lovely, and the menu is full of things like fried squash blossoms and fazzoletti in a rabbit confit ragu. Those looking for simpler and more rib-sticking fare crowd the floor at Daddy Mims for shrimp and grits, and Creole étouffée.
Just down the street at Black Lab Bistro, chef Guy Clauson has spent the past few years navigating the complicated tastes and trends of a booming restaurant neighborhood. He was there on Bridge Street when the renaissance began, offering complex and worldly visions of New American cuisine, and his dining room is now packed with those who gladly took the trip with him.
The future of Phoenixville restaurants: For the moment, the area may have hit its carrying capacity for upper-end eateries; the latest openings have been smaller, more modest attempts at shuffling addresses and filling in blank spots in the scene. Antigua Guatemala (119 South Main Street, 610-935-2700) offers the only Guatemalan food around. In its new home on Bridge Street, Thai L’Elephant has the curries covered. There’s equally good Thai at the perfectly named strip-mall joint Thai Place. And for historic, regional stuffed sandwiches, there’s the new Hog Island Steaks.