Beau Monde Creperie

This authentic French creperie is located just a block from the lively South Street shops and bars in Philadelphia, and offers both elegant indoor and outdoor dining.

Beau Monde’s crepe menu is divided into two categories: savory and sweet. For either type, you can either order from a list of house recommendation crepes, or you can get creative and build your own crepe from a bevy of filling options. The savory crepes, which generally run for about $12-14, are served in a thin buckwheat pancake and can include fillings such as cheese or sauce and meats such as ham, chicken breast, andouille sausage, or fish, and vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms, or roasted leeks. The sweet crepes, usually from about $8-10, are made with wheat flour and also feature numerous options, such as flavored butter, chocolate, fresh fruit, ice cream, or custard.

Jeff’s Take:
For my savory crepe, I went with the coq au vin—a classic French dish that’s slow cooked with chicken, red wine, baby onions, mushrooms, carrots, and pancetta. Generally, coq au vin is great with some crusty French bread, but the idea of wrapping it up in a crepe intrigued me. While the coq au vin is included on the build-your-own menu, I ordered the version from the house recommendations section, which included swiss cheese and herbed butter. Beau Monde’s crepe-style coq au vin had a lot of the delicious, rich flavors that make this dish so good, and the swiss cheese added a nice bite to it. The presentation was especially impressive, as the neatly folded, crispy square crepe gave no hint of the sauce that would spill out as soon as I cut it. The one shortfall here was the chicken. Coq au vin is so much better when bone-in chicken is used, since the dark meat goes great with the robust flavors, and the meat stays juicier. Unfortunately Beau Monde used cubes of boneless chicken breast for this dish. The substitution makes practical sense for this purpose, since bone-in chicken can’t be served in a crepe. But the chefs at Beau Monde could simply de-bone the chicken before serving, and it would make up for this dish’s one flaw.

For my sweet crepe, I built my own, with fresh seasonal berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries), milk chocolate, and vanilla custard sauce. While the berries and chocolate were delicious, the custard sauce was a mistake, as it was a little too thin and lacking in enough vanilla flavor.

While not perfect, these are very good, authentic crepes, and Beau Monde is always a fun and reasonably priced restaurant with great atmosphere.

Mike's Take:

For my entree I went with the house recommended Chicken, Cheddar and Broccolli crepe. I have to agree with a lot of what Jeff has already said about the presentation, atmosphere, and food of Beau Monde. The presentation of the crepes is very impressive. Each crepe is neatly served as a clean little pillow of deliciousness. I was also very happy with both the interior and outdoor patio at Beau Monde which very accurately captures the feel of the Brasseries of France and Paris. Let's get back to the food. Beau Monde had everything going for it prior to my sampling of the chicken in my crepe. Don't get me wrong, the crepe was very delicious and the creamy cheese sauce was a delectable highlight, but as I chewed the chicken I was a little miffed. The sauces of the savory crepe really help disguise the rubbery diced chicken used in the crepe...I had to verify my suspicions by eating the plain piece of chicken (Beau Monde places your prime ingredients in the middle of the crepe to identify the dishes) on top of my crepe. So ultimately I was very let down by the quality and freshness of the slaughter.

For my dessert crepe, I went with a daily special of peaches and cream cheese. The dessert crepe didn't disappoint in any way, shape or form. The peaches were incredibly fresh and the cream cheese/sauce blend kept the crepe from being uber sweet. The dessert crepe definitely delivered.

All in all, Beau Monde is a very authentic French creperie. As with most creperies, the dessert is better than the meal. I am definitely curious to see if the meat of other crepes is of a superior quality to the chicken. Despite the lack of quality meats, Beau Monde oozes quality, presentation, atmosphere and service.

6th and Bainbridge Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 592-0656

Koch's Deli

Jeff's Take:
“Come on guys, finish this off.” The employee behind the counter didn’t have to ask me twice to clean the plate of honey smoked turkey he was offering as a free sample. And before I even got my order, it was no mystery to me why Koch’s Deli in West Philadelphia is almost a landmark around here. This place has got charm. With a little sleight of hand (read: free food), Koch’s turned a ridiculously long, crowded wait for a sandwich into a memorable experience. During my wait, I sampled two kinds of turkey, some Swiss cheese, and a few pickle spears. Koch’s is not only known for its free samples, but also its creative specialty hoagies and sandwiches and its generous portions of meat.

If you like pastrami, the Reuben here is a can’t miss. My mouth watered as I watched my chopped pastrami crisped in the toaster oven, and then was topped with Swiss cheese and cooked again until it bubbled. With the meat piled high and topped with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing and served on fresh and lightly toasted rye bread, this is an excellent Reuben.

I also tried The Drexel (named after the nearby University), which included corned beef, spiced beef, turkey breast, provolone, cole slaw and Russian dressing, served on a hoagie roll. Kudos to Koch’s for putting so many meats on one sandwich. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t anything special. The deli meats here are above average, but in the end, it’s still deli meat, and that just can’t stand up to the fresh corned beef or turkey you can find elsewhere. Nonetheless, for its generous portions and generous free samples, Koch’s is a decent deli option.

Koch's Deli
4309 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 222-8662

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Cafe Valentina

Located in a small strip mall behind a gas station, Café Valentina isn’t easy to find. This small, somewhat cramped neighborhood Italian restaurant offers a casual atmosphere, with an intimate dining area in the front and a tiny bar in the back. The menu isn’t imaginative by any means, but features a nice selection of Italian standards, including pasta, pizza, veal, chicken, and seafood dishes.

Jeff’s Take:

Café Valentina is known for its delicious garlic bread, and deservedly so. Each table gets a serving of large, pillowy dinner rolls, drenched in extra virgin olive oil with fresh chopped garlic and a sprinkling of parsley. What makes it so good is that rather than serving the olive oil on the side, like most restaurants, the plated garlic bread at Café Valentina is already swimming in the olive oil and garlic, so the bread has gotten a chance to absorb the flavor. Despite the large size of the rolls, a second helping was necessary.

For my entrée, I ordered the Veal Saltimbocca Romana—a thinly sliced veal cutlet topped with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, served in an olive oil, broth, and white wine sauce. The sauce was excellent—light and zesty with some nice Italian herbs. However, the veal was much too bland and tough. Veal is supposed to be much more tender than a regular beef steak, but this one was rubbery and overcooked. Not even the prosciutto, mozzarella, or the sauce could save this one.

The meal also came with an underwhelming salad and a side of pasta with marinara sauce. The light, simple marinara sauce on the pasta was on the sweeter side, which I liked, but was too watery.

It was disappointing to have a meal start off so well and falter at the main course. I wouldn’t consider Café Valentina to be a destination for great Italian food, but if you love garlic bread, a special trip is warranted.

Mike's Take:

I have quite a different take on Cafe Valentina than Jeff. While I agree that the salads are completely underwhelming and probably come from a Grocery Store Bag-O-Salad, I have thoroughly enjoyed my dishes on both my trips to Cafe Valentina.

Jeff has already touched on the fantastic garlic rolls, which are probably the best I have ever had, but I believe he made a mistake in ordering the veal. On an earlier trip, I had Cafe Valentina's Homemade Gnocchis. While these were not the best gnocchis I've ever had, they were very scrumptious. Cafe Valentina's strength is clearly in the starches and homemade recipes. On this past visit, I went with a homemade spaghetti pasta with meat sauce. Again, the homemade pasta was perfectly cooked and quite good. I also prefer my sauce to be on the thinner side, so I definitely disagree with the assessment that it is too watery. To me, too watery means a lack of flavor in the sauce and an overall blandness. While Cafe Valentina's sauce is thin, I think it has an excellent sweet flavor. The thinness of the sauce allowed my sauce to drip down into the pasta and left all the delicious meat on top allowing the sauce to be absorbed by the pasta.

Cafe Valentina's weak point is certainly its weak salad (and apparently it's veal) but is strong in its homemade italian recipes and starches. It's hard to penalize the place on its salad since the little restaurant is a great value with huge portions that include amazing garlic rolls and a salad. I definitely would petition Jeff to give Cafe Valentina another shot and recommend he try a pasta dish. Though, Cafe Valentina is clearly lacking in the slaughter department.

1323 McKennans Church Rd.
Wilmington, DE 19808
(302) 996-0301

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Landmark Americana Tap and Grill

The Landmark Americana Tap & Grill is a relatively new restaurant located on a corner in the heart of West Chester. It has a very slick and elegant appearance despite being a pub/tavern/sportsbar restaurant. Landmark has excellent roomy booths, flat screen televisions, and a very impressive and sturdy metal plated menu.

Mike's Take:

First let me say that this is my second time at the Landmark Americana, on my first visit I was very impressed with the Nacho appetizer and thought my burger was pretty delicious (though i am not sure which burger I ordered...I believe it was the Bison Burger). I was left with a very good impression on that first visit. Unfortunately, my second visit didn't quite live up to my memory of my first visit...though it's not a bad restaurant in the least.

For an appetizer, we ordered some Buffalo Fries. The buffalo sauce was excellent and kept me going back for more. The fries were somewhat soggy, but I forgave this somewhat because they were drenched with delicious buffalo sauce. However, there is no reason that the fries with my entree be as soggy. The fries here at the Landmark are definitely a huge letdown. They are thicker steak style fries (which is not my favorite "cut" of fry) but what really kills them is that they are not crispy at all on the outside and can be somewhat soggy as well. They just were not appetizing fries.

For my entree, I ventured away from the burgers and tried a cajun chicken burrito. The burrito was actually a pleasant surprise. The cajun chicken had a really good flavor and was cooked very well. It is my experience that cajun chicken can become very dry, but this chicken maintained a lot of moisture had the great cajun flavor and was supported by the sour cream and guacomole in the burrito. Honestly, the burrito offered a pretty interesting combination of a classic mexican dish while mixing it with a pub-style chicken sandwich flavor. The burrito was not mind blowing, but was good and a dish that you can't find at every pub and american grill.

All in all, I remembered Landmark being spectacular and it's not quite there. Maybe I was just looking at everything with a more critical eye. Landmark is definitely a notch above many of the bars, pubs, and grills that you will find in the area. It presents itself in a much nicer atmosphere than your typical grill and has a sort of "fine dining" atmosphere and aesthetic. It has an excellent selection of beers and a pretty decent line up of food.

Landmark Americana Tap & Grill
158 W Gay St
West Chester, PA 19380
(610) 701-9900

Dome Restaurant and Bar

Dome Restaurant and Bar, located in Hockessin, Delaware’s Lantana Square, is the sister restaurant of Eclipse, located on Union Street in Wilmington. Both restaurants have a similar hip, modern feel, although Dome is much bigger than Eclipse, featuring a bigger bar area and outdoor dining, as well as another smaller room for private parties. Dome’s cuisine is described as “urban American,” including steak, seafood, pizzas, salads, and sandwiches.

Jeff’s Take:
The appetizers we started off with—fried calamari, pork pot stickers, and the hummus plate—were for the most part good, but slightly flawed. The pork pot stickers featured traditional Asian-style fried pork dumplings in a sweet and sour ginger glaze. Dumplings are usually served with a saltier soy-vinegar sauce, but Dome went in the opposite direction with the sweet and sour. This mild sauce was tasty, but was overpowered by the stronger flavors of pork, scallions, and ginger in the dumplings. The fried calamari, which featured a spicier Thai chili glaze that was drizzled over the plate, featured a breading that was a little too grainy and calamari that wasn’t as tender and fresh as it should have been. The hummus plate was highlight of the starters, featuring delicious toasted pita triangles dusted with garlic powder, and a creamy hummus dip topped with feta cheese and olives.

For my entrée, I went with the rigatoni Bolognese. This was admittedly a pedestrian choice that I would usually avoid, but I was attracted by the fact that the tomato cream sauce offered a trio of meats—veal, pork, and beef. I figured that Dome might be able to put a unique spin on a generally uninspired dish. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The light tomato cream sauce was smooth and sweet, which I liked, but didn’t have much else going on. Some other flavors would have made it more interesting. I found the crumbled meat in the sauce was delivered in dry, flavorless chunks. A proper Bolognese sauce features meat that has been slow cooked in the sauce, so the meat can absorb the flavors of the sauce and break down into smaller, juicy pieces. Dome’s version made it seem like someone threw the leftover meatloaf in some tomato sauce.

Mike's Take:

As far as the appetizers go, forget about the calamari. While I'm not a huge calamari fan, I'm even less of one after having Dome's version. The hummus was really good too, but it's hummus. I definitely liked the pork potstickers the most. I agree with Jeff that the pork flavor dominated the nice but subdued sweet and sour sauce, but I actually liked that since I found the flavor of the pork and other innards quite tasty.

As Jeff will admit, I got the far superior entree. I selected the slow braised beef with garlic potato wedges, honey glazed carrots, and au jus. Iwas delighted to get a delicious piece of slowcooked meat that melted in my mouth. I really have no complaints about the meat since it completely exceeded my expectations. However, the entree's side items were lackluster at best. The honey glazed carrots were undercooked and far too firm. The garlic potato wedges were bland and poorly cooked as well. The potato itself was very starchy and dry inside. The potato wedges were edible only after dipped in some delicious au jus from the braised beef.

The Bottom Line is that Dome is very inconsistent. There were elements of the meal that greatly exceeded expectations (Dumplings, Hummus, and Braised Beef for me) but there were always missteps along the way. Dome really needs to up their consistency and quality to compete with other "hip" fine dining restaurants. Maybe that's the problem....there's not much competition in Hockessin.

400 Lantana Square
Hockessin, DE 19707