It was my original intention that this list would be titled “My FIVE Best Restaurants for the Past Year”. The problem with that was that two of my selections would have only fit that title on the first visit with the second visit falling somewhat short of the first. I decided on the current title because I really did want to include those two eateries because the original visit was outstanding. Keep in mind, therefore, this isn’t a ringing endorsement of any of these restaurants but simply a reflection on MY experience while dining there. The five are in no particular order as it is tough enough to select five from a group of 60 without listing them in order. Here they are then, my TOP FIVE DINING EXPERIENCES IN THE PAST YEAR:
A LA MAISON 53 W. Lancaster Ave. Ardmore, PA 19003
The food and service on our visit here were outstanding. It was just a few days before Christmas with plenty of snow on the ground but the mood inside was warm and inviting. Our server, Fabien, was a guy who knew his job and did it well. Great stemware for our wines, a first class menu and great conversations including a nice chat with owner Darlene Boline-Moseng made dinner at A La Maison an easy choice for my Top Five.
GILMORE’S 133 E. Gay Street West Chester, PA 19380
Gilmore’s is a BYOB that makes just about every “foodie’s” Top 5 List in the Delaware Valley. That’s the kind of high expectations that I had prior to our visit and fully expected it might be a letdown. It was NOT. We had the second of the two nightly servings at 8:30 on a Saturday night in March and words just don’t adequately describe the outstanding food and service. Visit my review on this website and just look at how tempting the food photos are. I don’t think any restaurant I visited in the past year did as good a job as Gilmore’s at food presentation. This one was an easy choice for my TOP FIVE.
MODO MIO 161 W. Lehigh Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19123
Located in the shadow of the Piazza at Schmidt’s in Brewerytown, Modo Mio is one of the two BYOB’s that did not perform as well on the second visit as it did on the first. In the case of both, the first was so enjoyable that they qualified for the list despite a less than stellar encore performance. Tha first visit last March, following a day at the Franklin Institute, was absolutely terrific. Our server, Maher was top-notch and Chef Peter McAndrews was on the top of his home-style Italian food game. Obviously, another visit to this popular Philly BYOB is required to clarify the culinary confusion. Still, it was so nice it qualified for my TOP FIVE.
DREAM CUISINE CAFE 1900 Marlton Pike (Rt. 70) Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
It was a dark and stormy night last October when we ducked into the somewhat difficult to find Dream Cuisine Cafe tucked into the shadows of the Tuscany Marketplace on Rt. 70 in Cherry Hill. The brightly lit room broke the gloom of the weather and Chris, our enthusiastic server helped make the setting just right. We had some great wines to go with Chef/Owner Vincent Fanari’s creative dishes and all in all it was just a perfect evening. It was so good that we were anxious to bring other friends to share what we had found. Unfortunately, the second visit was not quite up to par but, that October meal still qualified as a bona fide entry for my TOP FIVE.
SONATA 1030 N. American St. Philadelphia, PA 19123
This Northern Liberties gem was unknown to me until I found some reviews on it while looking for a BYOB located equidistant from 3 different areas. I am so glad I found it because although parking wasn’t easy, the food and ambiance were first class. Chef Mark Tropea does a fantastic job of creating flavorful dishes that sound good on the menu and taste even better on the plate. This is another BYOB that didn’t take a lot of thought in making my TOP FIVE for the year.