As the self-proclaimed Mushroom Capital of the World, one would guess there is a substantial gastronomic culture in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. For a small town, visitors will find several exceptional restaurants for a memorable meal. Come with me for a chef’s perspective of the top three eateries in this cozy corner of Pennsylvania’s farm country.
A tasty wild boar option
First stop on your tour is Sovana Bistro in Unionville, PA, just two miles (~3.2 km) from downtown Kennett Square.
Located in a small shopping center is one of the best full-service restaurants in the area for lunch or dinner. Sovana Bistro specializes in Italian and New American fare in a modern, laid-back space, including a peaceful patio out back for warm weather dining or in front-of-the-house patio. Beware that it can get noisy when the dining room is full, so ask for a quiet table if this is a concern.
For lunch, try a Wild Boar Bolognese pizza and Sovana Greens salad for a perfect combo suitable for sharing with two to three people depending on your appetite. The Artisanal Pepperoni Pizza features local mushrooms, basil and cipollini onions for a spicy and earthy combination. Be sure and order the roasted mushrooms as a "table share" where they combine shitake, oyster and enoki mushrooms in a fragrantly seasoned side dish highlighting local mushrooms.
Save room for dessert
At Sovana Bistro dinner, try the cheese plate and a glass of wine from their excellent wine list to start your meal right. Looking for a different wine? The Idaho red-blend by Sawtooth is surprisingly good with intriguing notes of plum, blackberry and soft tannins. A glass of Sawtooth would pair well with the lamb Osso Bucco or ½ Roasted Chicken.
Sovana also has many French, Californian, and Italian wines on the list and a few from Pennsylvania. You can bring your own wine and pay an 8 USD corkage fee. Their pasta dishes come in half sizes for smaller appetites and feature wild boar, braised pork, sautéed wild nettles, or pancetta in the cast of lead characters. These half size pasta dishes make great appetizers.
From the "sides" part of the menu, don’t miss out on an order of Crispy Brussel Sprouts, or for garlic lover’s, Broccoli Rabe. Their desserts are homemade on-site and are fabulous. The Dark Chocolate Tart is to die for! The little “Thin Mint” wafer leaning on the scoop of Stracciatella ice cream is insanely good and the trio of chocolate tart, wafer and ice cream do a happy dance all over your taste buds you will long remember.
A communal option
Next up on the tour is Talula’s Table, at the corner of State Street and Union in downtown Kennett Square. This locally famous deli, coffee shop, bakery and restaurant has a large local following and significant reach to Baltimore and Philadelphia diner’s.
With a quirky mix of small tables and a large communal table, diner’s seat themselves after ordering from the deli case or self-serve refrigerators. Their cream of mushroom soup is one of the best in the area and is available for eat-in or take-out. Paired with their whole-grain rolls it is a combination that's hard to beat.
Great place for dinner and dessert
Planning to have lunch at Talula’s Table? Try the mushroom mac and cheese, or just about any salad in the deli case. Some salads and sandwiches are made ahead of time, and are found in the cold case by the check-out counter. The cheese selection is excellent and feature both local and foreign cheese. Check out the "cheese babies," which are very small portions of pre-cut cheese from what is on hand that day. It is a great way to sample a new cheese out before buying a larger chunk.
Talula’s Table in downtown Kennett Square is a perfect place to load up with picnic supplies for a lunch near Longwood Gardens or the Brandywine Art Museum. You will find most anything you need, other than a picnic basket. The baked goods are some of the best in Pennsylvania with the most notable being the peanut butter shortbread cookie, scones, multigrain bread, tarts, and pecan cookies. They rotate some of the baked goods so you never quite know what will be available on any given day, but it’s all good.
Talula’s "Farm Table Dinner" is an eight course affair. They are booked up to a year in advance for this special daily-dinner of ten to twelve lucky diners. The place is all yours and you get to bring your own beverages to this licensed BYOB restaurant. Reservations are taken a year in advance, but occasionally there are cancellations that provide openings. Call to find out about cancellations and the policy to secure such a reservation.
The current price is 108 USD per person, but doesn’t include tax, tip, or incidentals. This is one of the premier dining events in all of Pennsylvania and is highly recommended for those who love great food and wine.
My favorite of the three
Last but not least, is Portabello’s where Brett and Sandra welcome you to their fine dining hotspot on State Street. An intimate dining room, with only fifteen tables, insures a memorable meal with great food and service. Bring your favorite adult beverage to this licensed BYOB to make the most of their excellent food.
For lunch or dinner, start with a bowl of the State Street Mushroom Soup, or the Exotic Mushroom Crepe. The soup is one of the best in an area known for all things mushrooms and blends Stinson Farm’s mushrooms with toasted shallots and Madeira wine for a fragrant cream soup that is sure to please.
The mushroom crepes are possibly the best dish highlighting the area’s mushrooms anywhere in Kennett Square. The creamy, melt-in-your mouth blend of mushrooms and spices will have you swooning over each bite. The State Street Burger is a contender for best burger in America, it is that good. Chef Brett grinds beef in-house for this burger perfection then dresses it with pecan smoked bacon, onion rings, Vermont cheddar cheese, and house-made burger sauce for a roll-your-eyes eating experience! Served with house cut fries, you won’t leave hungry after this combo.
Fine dining on State Street
Dinner is when Portabello’s really shines. Bring your sweetheart or family here to indulge in a 3-course meal to remember. Start with a Grilled Caesar Salad and Portabello Fries, then move on to a classic Steak Au Poivre for a mouthwatering main dish. Brett also excels in seafood preparation with dishes like: Fruit of the Sea, Crab Cakes, and Mustard Crusted Salmon. Other notable meat dishes are Beef Stroganoff, Veal Madeira, Veal Bolognese, and Crispy Duck. Vegetarian dishes include Rustic Egg Noodles with mushrooms, or Eggplant Parmesan. Dessert is worth a try if you can fit it in. Try the local ice cream for a real treat.
Big surprises come in small packages
Kennett Square might be small, but the food scene is big and worth a visit. These three restaurants get many of their produce and meat items from local sources showing off the bounty of the region. If you love mushrooms, here you will find more mushroom items on offer than probably anywhere in the world. More importantly, you will find a commitment to dining excellence that will have you planning a return trip to the self-proclaimed "Mushroom Capital of the World".