One of the highlights of this year’s West Chester Parks & Recreation‘s Chester County Restaurant Festival with was taking advantage of two full blocks of nibbling joy on Market Street that not only pleased the palate but also lightened the load on Gay Street.
Another bonus: trucking back and forth to Market Street made for some sweet exercise to burn off the calories consumed during this annual celebration of Chester County’s vibrant and diverse dining scene. That does count as exercise, right?
The Rest Fest is as much a feast for the nose, eyes and ears as it is for the tummy. On a magnificent September afternoon I wandered Dub-C to breathe in the amazing smells from chefs’ cooking up their best, enjoyed visiting the crafters and other businesses along the way and rocked to seriously entertaining bands.
For me, it’s all about the eats and bevvys to be had on the journey. Here are my top picks (with key input from fellow foodies):
- Push-up Cake Pops from Cakes and Candies by Maryellen. Layers of light and fluffy cake, icing and sprinkles in a to-go container: need I say more?
- Pumpkin Mini Cupcake from the same. The dreamy cream cheese icing was topped with a candy-like layer for three types of sweet flavors. I had my eye on a duel between those and a Dia Doce, but the latter sold out quickly. I’ll get to that cupcake truck earlier next year!
- Ka’Chi Truck — Korean with a Twist. They had me at Tofu Taco with roasted tomatillo salsa and kimchi fried rice. Did I mention all sauces are made from scratch? This truck oozes freshness.
- Firecreek Restaurant’s Duck Taco. The secret sauce here is the jalapeno-papaya salsa and crème fraiche. A tempered burn that enhances the duck confit.
- Cheesesteak Wontons by Ryan’s Pub: Somehow sizzling up cheesesteak inside a wonton should be illegal in numerous states. My taste-testers were thankful it’s perfectly legal to put forth these savory bites.
- Speaking of meat-cheese-bread: Jack’s Steaks & Shakes easily had the longest line. You know it’s delish when people are happily waiting in a long line for — you guessed it — cheesesteak and fixins.
- Pumpkin Mac and Cheese dished out by The Social Lounge. Creamy, pumpkin and spice, just-right pasta. A really amazing and fall-appropriate offering.
- Another The Social Lounge winner: Shrimp Tacos. This extremely humble-looking dish brought the heat and belied its simple presentation. Extra guacamole was required to tame the sauce, but it was worth it. Plus it was nestled in the most fragrant tortilla I think I’ve ever noshed upon.
- Tomato Pie a la Limoncello. Huge, fairly thick slices covered in a mouth-watering tomato sauce generously topped with fresh basil and a shred of parm. A party for the mouth.
Other highlights: the Beer Garden on Church Street, the Mas Mexicali Cantina Taco Man on Market Street, TheTownDish Photo Booth at High and Gay, the WCHE 1520 AM live broadcast from High Street and the Chester County Culinary Challenge on High Street. Oh, and watching everyone text their votes for the Town Dish Choice Awards.
It wouldn’t be the Rest Fest for me without stopping by Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant for a cold one, in this case a malty, crisp and clean dark lager, the Munich Dunkel, and then ending the day with the mellow Sangiovese-inspired Casalone at Teca.
My calendar is marked for the third Sunday in September 2013. I suggest you do the same, get there early and stay late. The Chester County Restaurant Festival is one to be savored by all the senses, and a must-do for food lovers.