(Note: November 2008 - Vickers reopened to the public on November 12 under the leadership of Arturo Burigatto, who had previously owned the restaurant for over 20 years!)
192 East Welsh Pool Road
Nestled in the picturesque Chester County countryside, Vickers Tavern beckons to lovers... and lovers of fine cuisine. The circa 1823 farmhouse -- originally home of potter and abolitionist John Vickers and way station on the Underground Railroad -- is an ideal destination for those who believe that romance and gastronomy make a perfect marriage.
You enter through the rustic bar/lounge... and would do well to pause here for preprandial libations. This will give you ample time to perk up your palate and also to peruse the menu and excellent wine list. Topping the charts are such wallet-busters as a 1997 Opus One ($275.00) or 1997 Far Niente Chardonnay ($125.00). A bit more down to earth, you might consider the 1999 Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($36.00), 1998 Sterling Cabernet Sauvignon ($45.00), 1997 King Estate Pinot Noir ($48.00), and 1998 Paul Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage ($30.00). If you prefer your vintages by the glass, give the Elmo Pio Pinot Grigio ($6.00), DeLoach Chardonnay ($10.00), or Latour Pinot Noir ($8.50) a try.
When it comes time to get down to the serious business of eating, your hostess will escort you to one of the four cozy, diminutive dining rooms, each with its own unique brand of charm... And the service is just as amiable as the ambiance. The members of the wait staff are delightfully personable as well as professional, exhibiting just the proper touch of sociability to make your evening at table a truly memorable occasion.
Chef/proprietor Chris Blank's excellent American/Continental cuisine will soon be your focus of attention, however. And the harbinger of good things to come is surely the complimentary spinach salad. Delicate leaves are artistically presented, embellished with crumbled bacon, and finished with a creamy Dijon dressing. There's just enough here to tantalize the palate without overwhelming it.
But don't let this gratuitous offering dissuade you from checking out the auspicious array of appetizers. The brochette of grilled shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage ($8.95), for example, is highly recommended. The crustaceans are delightfully crunchy, the chicken moist and succulent, and the chunks of sausage carry just the proper degree of spiciness.
Other likely prospects include the grilled portobello topped with escargot ($8.95); tri-colored cheese tortellini spruced up with spinach, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, and a sprinkling of Asiago cheese ($8.50); and a seafood crepe brimming with shrimp, scallops, crab, and basking in a tomato Parmesan cream sauce ($8.50). And, when it is available, the special eggplant starter is of particular note. Delicate slices are interspersed with proscuitto, spinach, provolone cheese, and consummated with an utterly irresistible tomato basil sauce.
Entrée-wise, among the possibilities piscatorial, the scallops à la Greque ($22.95) strike a most intriguing chord. Plump and succulent sea scallops are sautéed with artichoke hearts, tomato, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and tossed with an invigorating balsamic reduction. The filet of Atlantic salmon ($22.95), roasted with garlic and dill and served up in a light tomato fennel broth, is also a winner.
For those with heartier appetites, the special boneless veal steak ($26.95) is not to be missed. Pan seared to absolute perfection, it is topped with shiitake mushrooms, adorned with green beans and julienne carrots, and finished with a heady red bordelaise sauce and touch of tarragon. Also highly recommended are the grilled New York strip steak topped with crisped onions ($29.95), the pork loin served with a spicy honey mustard glaze and pineapple relish ($20.95), and the New Zealand rack of lamb ($27.95).
Desserts include such delights as a homey apple cranberry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream ($7.45) and a Katherine Hepburn recipe brownie jazzed up with cappuccino hazelnut ice cream ($5.95). And don't skip the espresso ($3.00), which is satisfyingly potent and right on the money.
Located just a stone's throw from exit 23 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, this charming restaurant is a wonderful gastronomic and delightfully romantic dining experience. Highly recommended!
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
Want to receive e-mail notification when a new review or article is posted? E-mail Artful Diner!