Amada’s New Main Line Location Is More Than Just a Suburban Money Grab

Twenty years after Garces’s original, Amada Radnor still has something to say.

amada radnor main line

A busy dining room at Jose Garces’s Amada in Radnor / Photography by Courtney Apple

Jose Garces has been trying to get Amada right since 2005 — that’s when the original opened on Chestnut Street. With its long, narrow dining room, approachable tapas menu and wine-cellar walls, it was the restaurant that made Garces. Consistently busy, consistently popular, and consistently consistent: That’s Amada. Never the best restaurant in town, but always one of the most dependable.

He expanded across two decades, with a dozen other restaurants and concepts. But Amada was the thing Garces kept coming back to. He brought it to NYC (where it failed), to Atlantic City (where it didn’t), and now to the Main Line, for his fourth attempt — this time with roughly 250 seats in an office park in Radnor, Porsches in the valet lot, a roving gin-and-tonic cart, a glassed-in terrarium patio, and a menu that’s equal parts surprisingly thoughtful and shamelessly nostalgic.

amada radnor

A table with ensalada de jamón, patatas bravas and calamari at Amada Radnor

Garces has always been at his best when he’s working with a theme — when he’s pulling a fantastical vision of Cuba or the Basque hillsides or Mexico City straight from his brain and fitting it into whatever space is available to him. The places his restaurants embody don’t actually exist. They’re dreams of places, garish and loud. Imaginary, sure, but often so attractive that it hardly seems to matter. Chifa was genius. Distrito was FUN in all caps. I loved the quilted chrome, pink neon, and late-night Cuba Libres at Rosa Blanca — ­even if I was maybe the only one.



555 East Lancaster Avenue, Wayne

CUISINE: Spanish


Order This: Croquettes, patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo, and any of the larger plates that involve pork.

With Amada Radnor, Garces is still dreaming of Andalusia. Of dark woods and oxblood banquettes, of hanging fixtures meant to look like flickering candelabras, and (weirdly) lots of hats. His Spain is the gleaming rotary slicer on a butcher-block table in the middle of the dining room. It’s little bites and extra dishes walked out to tables just for fun. It’s roast suckling pig if you give the kitchen 72 hours’ notice and, for the rest of us, a greatest-hits mix of Amada’s original tapas-and-raciones­ setup, but gilded here with fire. There’s a new “a la plancha” section that takes advantage of the charcoal grills Old City never had room for, plus a wood-burning pizza oven held over from when the space was a Harvest Seasonal Grill.

Amada uses the pizza oven for making paella, and for flatbreads topped with short rib and horseradish. From the grills come head-on prawns dressed in lemon and smoke, Ibérico pork tenderloin and Wagyu skirt steaks, thin slices of paprika-and-garlic­ chorizo Bilbao, blistered and so sweet, they taste almost candied. Three skewers of the sausage slices were about one and a half too many. The flavor was one-note, and they were exhausting to chew.

Service is personable, not polished. The team seems genuinely thrilled to walk you through the menu; suggest wines, cheeses, charcuterie; explain that gin-and-tonic cart; and tell you how wisely you’ve chosen your meal path, no matter what it is you pick. The plates come as they come. Endive hearts with Serrano ham and a blue-cheese cream, like a dull wedge salad suddenly made interesting by a semester overseas. A long white plate with an ellipsis of ham croquettes — ­perfectly crisp and held in place by dots of orangey-red Catalonian romesco that I smear up with a finger when the croquettes are gone. The gambas al ajillo need a soft bread to absorb the lemon and garlic sauce, not the spears of grilled bread, which are basically there just as a garnish.

Amada Radnor

Diners at Amada Radnor contemplate a roving gin-and-tonic cart.

I like the plating of the lamb albóndigas, served in their own little curl of a bowl, even if the sherry and foie gras cream is too rich, too slick, and the meatballs themselves are too dense. But the patatas bravas are as cute and smart as they’ve always been — a ring of golden potato cylinders all standing on end, impossibly fluffy inside and wearing hats of sharp paprika aioli. It’s a dish that has never changed for as long as I’ve been going to Amada. A touchstone for longtime fans. Something new for the fresh suburban converts.

Amada Radnor

Croquetas de jamón at Amada Radnor

Which, really, is the secret to this place. Amada is a vision of Spain that Garces has returned to over and over again, refined across decades and tens of thousands of plates, made consistent but never the same. And while a giant suburban version might seem, on the surface, like little more than a Main Line money grab in a season full of big-name chefs trying to do the same — or a guarantee of bland, office-park mediocrity packaged for a crowd that won’t go anywhere without a dedicated parking lot — this isn’t that. Twenty years gone from the dream of a young chef trying to make a name for himself in the city, Amada here, Amada now, is surprising because it feels new. It feels alive. It feels thoughtful in a way that fourth locations never do and as a result manages — even in the suburbs — to come off less like a carbon copy of something fondly remembered and more like a fresh-eyed return to someplace beloved.

2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood

Rating Key
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America

Published as “Amada, 20 Years Later” in the July 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.