Voted top five in the Best Indian category of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CityVoter awards, Laxmi's Indian Grille serves a range of dishes?from spicy meats to subtle vegetable stews?designed to please all palates. A perfume of fresh ginger, rose water, and house-made cottage cheese drifts from the bustling kitchen out into the dining room of the Main Street location, where vibrant paintings provide an elegant contrast to walls of rustic exposed stone. At both Main Street and the newly minted Tilden Street eatery, a clay tandoor oven is kept aflame throughout the day, enabling chefs to bake breads, meats, and underripe bananas to a golden patina.
Warm aromas spill from Great Harvest Bread Co.’s bakery, as artisanal bakers craft whole-grain bread from Montana's hard red spring wheat that is stone ground each morning. They pack each loaf with hearty protein and nutrients, keeping the recipes as simple as possible to maintain the rich wheat flavor. In addition to their standard honey-whole-wheat loaves, the bakers create a variety of treats, including rosemary-garlic loaves, cinnamon pull-aparts, and asiago-pesto loaves. They also transform the bread into sandwiches, pairing the whole wheat with freshly sliced meats, cheeses, and ticklish pieces of lettuce.
Every morning at Jazmin Restaurant, chefs load morsels of freshly kneaded naan dough into the tandoor oven. The aroma of baking bread soon fills the dining room, mingling with the heady scents of curry and cumin that waft from grills sizzling with halal chicken and lamb. Chefs also flaunt seven vegetarian entrees that swap meat for lighter ingredients such as homemade cheese and lentils. To contrast the savory dishes, dining companions can share traditional Indian desserts of mango ice cream and mango custard, which stand as evidence of the mango’s worth beyond its inclusion in fruit hats.
There are only 16 tables inside Sola, but the intimate dining room is an echo chamber for camaraderie. Guests ferry their own libations to dinner under a BYOB policy, which encourages relaxed, familial meals lined with conversation. The menu refrains from overwhelming guests with too many choices or tablecloth-size pages—instead, it details a concise array of meat and seafood entrees. From the brown-butter skate wing to the roasted duck, these French-influenced dishes arrive stylishly poised on white tableware, framed against a backdrop of drizzled sauces and artfully arranged sides. Frozen white-chocolate hazelnut mousse and pumpkin cheesecake, flanked by a pear-cinnamon sorbet, draw evenings to a close.
Executive Chef Stephan Stryjewski composes these seasonally shifting spreads with help from local farms. He also receives organic ingredients, such as goat cheese and honey, from neighborhood producers, and orders his resulting creations into special prix fixe courses. Sola invests in the community through charities as well; every Sunday, it contributes 5% of its earnings to an organization of the month. Examples of past beneficiaries include The Wounded Warrior Fund and Melmark.
Since it was built in 1890, Cynwyd Station has survived three fires, water damage, and even a nest of Richard Geres in the walls. Thanks to the renovation efforts of the Lower Merion Historical Society, it has found new life as a sustainable storm-water reclamation site and education center?and an undeniably quirky cafe. As a nod to its home's heritage, Cynwyd Station Cafe and Tea Room is filled with steampunk-tinged Victorian imagery, a playful and boutique twist on the culture of a bygone area. It also has an eye on the future, relying almost entirely on biodegradable materials, composting, and recycling. This environmental focus also spreads to the seasonal menu.
Artificial ingredients are nowhere to be found in the nearly 20 loose-leaf teas that range from the traditional but complex to more adventurous, spicy blends. Six rotating ice-cream flavors go into old-fashioned ice-cream sodas and chocolate-egg creams, as well as European-inspired sundaes and pockets. Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin would swell with pride at the whimsical shop of curiosities, such as Fee Brothers botanical waters and handmade wooden games.
A completely personalized pizza is six quick choices away at Snap Custom Pizza. First, the foundation: traditional or gluten-free crust. The next two steps are choosing a sauce?with options that include herb cream and basil pesto?and a cheese, such as housemade mozzarella or goat cheese. A pick of proteins and veggies follows, with out-of-the-box options including veal meatballs, slow-roasted pork roast, roasted artichokes, and broccoli rabe. The sixth and final step is what Snap calls "finishing touches": a sprinkle of fresh basil, a drizzle of oregano oil, or a dusting of feta cheese are a few of the tasty possibilities.