Little Black Book: Four Fantastic Foodie Day Trips

Intrepid concierge Ken Alan gets you out of town and into vacation mode with these easy epicurean getaways

One part of my job I especially enjoy is when a city-dwelling client comes to me to help plan a day trip to places off the beaten path. With so much history — and such great dining — to be had in the Pennsylvania hinterlands, I’m never at a loss for suggestions about special area destinations. You can really have a wonderful getaway without having to hop on a plane or head down the Shore. To make it even easier for you, I’ve put together four of my favorite food and wine-centric day trips to get you out of Philly and into a state of relaxation.

A Superb Day in St. Peters Village
One of the region’s best road trips is found along Route 23, which rolls a macadam carpet from City Line Avenue all the way west to the heart of Lancaster.

Meander through Valley Forge National Park (watch out for those deer!). Pass the G Lodge Diner on the right — which appeared in M. Night Shayamalan’s The Happening. As you enter Phoenixville, you’ll cross Whitehorse Road, which is where Becca’s, resides (19 S. Whitehorse Rd.), a friendly and flavorful New American BYOB set in a charming 18th-century cottage. It’s a wonderful little lunch & dinner find, one that deserves to be discovered.

As you approach the western edge of Chester County (just before French Creek State Park), turn right onto St. Peter’s Road and into the newly restored fairy tale village of St. Peter’s, resting idyllically above the rushing French Creek

Step in to the warming aroma of St. Peter’s Bakery & Café (3441 St. Peter’s Rd.) to enjoy coffee and one of Executive Pastry Chef Melanie Melle’s scrumptious croissants, pastries, or cakes. The café is an off-Route 23 turn worth taking for light breakfast and fresh lunches, too.

Next door sits the stunning Inn at St. Peter’s (3471 St. Peter’s Rd.). Though the gorgeously renovated inn (pictured above) has gone through recent chef/management changes (the former contemporary French menu is now Italian), you can’t go wrong with having a cocktail and an appetizer or two on the outdoor deck while listening to the creek cascading across massive black granite boulders down below. The view is simply breathtaking.

Now back to Rt. 23. Turn right heading west. A mile up the road (look for the PA Wine Trail sign) you’ll be directed down a country lane and on to the J. Maki Winery (200 Grove Rd., Elverson). The bucolic setting may resemble Provence, though make no mistake: wine maker Janet Maki produces PA’s best Blanc de Blancs. Her award-winning sparkling wine alone makes this trip so well worth it.

You now have a choice: Continue west on Rt. 23 to discover its many culinary options, like the civilized dining found in Churchville at The Inn at Twin Linden; the mother of all smorgasbords at the voluminous Shady Maple (East Earl), or, simply venture into the city of Lancaster and experience a farm-to-table supper at John J. Jefferies, located in the Lancaster Arts Hotel (300 Harrisburg Ave.). Or, head back home – but consider stopping by Phoenixville for a nice stroll along Bridge Street. You’re sure to appreciate this old steel town’s fiery resurgence.

Riding Down Route 10 (with a side trip to England)
Route 10, which runs along the Chesco border with Lancaster County, is reminiscent of “back in the day” Route 30 Lancaster Pike, thanks to all those farm stands, Amish homesteads  horse-drawn buggies, and signs for shoo-fly pie lining the old two-laner.

At its northern reaches there’s Honey Brook, a once countrified crossroads that’s quickly becoming an exurban residential hub. For all those transplants, the town offers Bistro on 10 (4690 Horseshoe Pike), a contemporary New American restaurant with tasty fare (the wood-fired pizzas are a standout) plus, a nice selection of wines, and 19 beers on draft.

Head south on Rt. 10 and soon you’ll see King’s Herb Nook (1060 Compass Rd.) on the left. Barefoot young ladies in simple bonnets will politely attend to you, as you get lost in over 200 varieties of culinary and medicinal herbs (all chemical-free), plus, loose leaf teas, organic grains, berries, seeds, plus, fresh vegetables and flowers (pictured).

Just follow the road as it rolls along. When you enter the community of Oxford, you’ll come to the Oxford Farm Market (193 Limestone Rd.) with its vast array of hearty to-go fare (fried chicken, great barbecue, homemade ice cream) and an assortment of plants and fresh veggies.

A sweet favorite of mine in Oxford is the outstanding Neuchatel Chocolatier (461 Limestone Rd.) with an authentically Swiss selection of  pure indulgences created by fifth generation chocolatier Albert Lauber.

Now it’s time to spark up the GPS to plan your route back home. Type in “Whip Tavern, West Marlborough” (1383 N. Chatham Rd.) and soon enough, you’ll arrive at the area’s best pub, set amid heathery hillsides . The Whip is positively surrounded by hundreds of acres of hunt country scenery — you’d swear you were in the middle of the English countryside.
A pint of Guinness, maybe a crock of lamb stew and good friends — it doesn’t get any better.

The Other Bucks County (with a quick New Jersey wine run)
You know all about Doylestown and have done New Hope to death. Now it’s time to get lost in Bucks County’s hidden gems.

One of the county’s best kept secrets is the tiny hamlet of Carversville, nestled fifteen or so minutes northeast of Doylestown. At this quaint crossroads you’ll find the Carversville General Store (6208 Fleecydale Rd.). Inside, manager Ed McGinley will pour you a hot cup of La Colombe coffee to go along with one his locally-renowned breakfast sandwiches. Or, grab a nice picnic lunch at this quintessentially folksy back roads find. Ed’s chicken salad is awesome, too.

Dinner may be had across the road at the Carversville Inn, (6205 Fleecydale Rd.) a warren of romantic candlelit rooms await inside this cozy 19th-century charmer. Or catch a summer breeze while dining alfresco on the gas lamp-lit patio.

From there, ride two miles north on Fleecydale Road and you’ll soon be in scenic Lumberville, situated on the Delaware River. Consider drinks or dinner at the newly renovated Black Bass Hotel, (3774 River Rd.) or stop for a cocktail at the 1740 House Inn (3690 River Rd.), an adorable riverside gem.

Continue down River Road and cross the Delaware River and into tiny Stockton, NJ. Treat yourself to a visit at Phillip’s Fine Wine – (17 Bridge Street, Stockton). It’s what a real wine & spirits shops should be; you’ll find tasty bargains and dusty rarities within its bins.

Now take that bottle you’ve purchase and crack it open at an outdoor table at the excellent Hamilton’s Grill Room (8 Coryell St., Lambertville) — since, of course, it’s illegal to transport purchase out of state alcohol into Pennsylvania. Try Melissa’s beautiful borscht (pictured) or a steak or rotisserie chicken from one of their signature grills.

Berks County Has The Best Bars (Really!)
Situated a few miles above the workaday burg of Boyertown, you’d probably think Earlville, PA should be renamed “No-wheres-ville.” Guess again.

Hidden deep within the Berks County sticks are several unexpected finds, like the Tiki Bar (1150 Manatawny Rd.) – a tropical hideaway that’s half “Margaritaville” and half country roadhouse.  Situated next to the “raging” Manatawny River, this rollicking oasis has a real surf shack vibe (*Clang!* The bartender’s bell signals yet another round of Hurricanes and a cheer goes up); Cook-your-own grills (beef and chicken, elk, alligator and swordfish),  and, enough reggae and Red Stripe to curl your hair into dreadlocks.
There’s a second Tiki Bar at Spring Mountain, near Schwenksville and that one’s fine; though this is the real “raging” deal.

Also along the Manatawny you’ll discover Union Jack’s Inn (546 Manatawny Rd.), which offers friendly fun way deep in the Berks boonies. Banish thoughts of Deliverance though, especially when you learn this inn is dedicated to all things beer, with one of the best by-the-bottle selections in the state.

Route 422 isn’t far away. Head up it toward Reading, where you’ll find The Ugly Oyster (21 S. 5th St. — pictured), one of the town’s best bars, in the heart of the city. Or, enjoy a sophisticated European bite in the renovated factory space that is Judy’s Café (332 Cherry St.).

From there, take in Reading’s ever-expanding arts and culture scene. Goggleworks Center for the Arts (201 Washington St.) is at its creative core, an exhibition venue supporting creativity and education in the arts.

Ken Alan is Vice President of Concierge Services for BPG Properties, and he is a founding member of the Philadelphia Concierge Association. His motto is: Nothing is Impossible. Impossible simply takes a few more phone calls.