Lively, Diverse Cuisine Is on Tap in Downtown West Chester

Downtown West Chester proffers a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights. Here you can savor everything from haute French cuisine to down-home Southern barbecue, spicy Asian specialties to hearty Italian dishes, rich pastries to roast prime rib, fresh fish and seafood to salads and sandwiches.

In addition to the impressive array of restaurants, the downtown district also is home to gourmet retailers who peddle an assortment of artisanal foods.

For example, a uniquely tasteful shopping experience awaits customers of A Taste of Olive, located on South High Street. The store’s knowledgeable staff guides patrons as they sample herb- and fruit-infused olive oils and authentic Modena balsamic vinegars.

“We try to provide tastings for as many products as possible,” says owner Nancy Smith. “All of our oils and vinegars are in stainless-steel fustis with spigots, so customers can taste and combine flavors. Our most unusual vinegar is the lavender-infused balsamic. Some of the most popular are the citrus, Persian lime, blood orange and pomegranate. Our most popular olive oil has Tuscan herbs actually pressed with the olives.”

The shop also carries gourmet olives, honey, sea salts and more. Or order online at www.atasteofolive.com.

When it comes to fine dining, Gilmore’s tops many lists, including those on Zagat’s and Yelp.com. Owner and Chef Peter Gilmore describes his food as French fare with a contemporary American twist.

“A good example of that would be the shrimp ‘corn dogs,’ ” he says. “I am constantly changing the menu to incorporate seasonal ingredients. I’m a lover of foie gras, so there’s always some kind of foie gras on the menu.
My latest creation is sautéed foie gras on grilled pineapple with truffle sauce.”

Or try the foie gras pizza with a puff pastry crust, asiago cheese, caramelized onions and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Chef Gilmore’s “candied apples” (actually spun sugar with a cloud of chocolate mousse inside) are among the restaurant’s signature desserts.

On weeknights, Gilmore’s offers a four-course bistro menu for $35, in addition to the regular à la carte menu. Visit www.gilmoresrestaurant.com to learn more and make reservations online.

Although Southern barbecue, collard greens and cornbread aren’t necessarily native to West Chester, folks around here love them, and they pile into Mabel’s Barbeque on East Market Street to get their fill. Mabel Spann grew up in a house full of Southerners, and that’s how she learned to cook her made-to-order menu items.

“We have a saying here,” she explains. “Southern food is not fast food. The fried chicken is made fresh when you order it.”

Also made fresh daily are the macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, beef brisket, barbecued chicken, ribs, sweet potato pie and more.

The historic Oyster and Eating Saloon of Spence Bros. first began serving up fresh fish and seafood more than 100 years ago. Today, Spence Café carries on that tradition, with selections such as chilled oysters on the half shell, smoked fish trio with pickled red onion and horseradish cream, blackened ahi tuna with coconut jasmine rice, and seared salmon with Tuscan white bean salad.

Other downtown dining options include Jazmine Thai restaurant; Limoncello Ristorante, serving authentic Italian cuisine; Three Little Pigs upscale deli; Ryan’s Pub, an Irish-American eatery and watering hole; and many more.

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