by Kate Brennan
I have to admit, I didn’t expect much when I first walked into Ram’s Head Bar & Grill on Market Street in West Chester. Other than the sign outside, the place doesn’t look wildly different from the previous tenant, Baxter’s, which still occupies the downstairs space. And Ram’s Head self-proclamation as a gastropub, a “public house which specializes in high-quality food,” simply made me hope for a good burger. Then I glanced at the menu.
This is not your typical college town bar food. While Ram’s Head offers traditional pub fare like burgers and wings, plates like the Sweet Corn Cakes with duck confit and goat cheese and the Atlantic Salmon with Middle Eastern spices, honey mint glaze, warm salad of baby spinach, raisins, fried garbanzos and bacon offer an exciting, deliciously different sort of dining experience. I tried both dishes and they were outstanding. Ram’s Head also features exotic spins on pub favorites – the Argentinian Burger with Manchego cheese and chimichurri mayo, served with plaintain chips, is probably one of my favorite cheeseburgers, ever.
The chef, Paris Roldan, is just as intriguing as his menu. Born in West Chester, Roldan moved to Colombia at a young age and picked up some culinary skills while working at his family’s restaurant. Despite his early proclivities towards food, Roldan moved back to the Philadelphia area and actually started his career as a steel worker until his wife pushed him into restaurant school. Smart move – he found success working in some of Philadelphia and Miami’s top restaurants, cooking side by side with ‘Top Chef’ contestants and down the street from the likes of Anthony Bourdain. However, Roldan wanted to raise his two young children in a good town, and left the high pressure, high profile world of fine dining in Miami to move back to West Chester. A stroke of luck found him collaborating with Ram’s Head’s owners, creating West Chester’s very first true gastropub.
While Roldan has achieved his goal of “bringing fine dining to the masses without pretention,” he still likes to get a little fancy with his desserts. The “Cracker Jack” is a reconstructed version of the baseball park favorite, with popcorn ice cream, peanut cake and caramel foam. Likewise, the “S’more” features crushed graham crackers, chocolate truffles and toasted marshmallow ice cream. Both were simply amazing.
Without a doubt, Ram’s Head is the most exciting new restaurant in West Chester. Daily drink specials and activities like quizzo, karaoke and beer pong still make for a fun college bar, but those of us looking for a special meal will certainly find one here. If you haven’t noticed it yet, go visit immediately – your stomach will thank you!
Ram’s Head Bar and Grill
40 E. Market Street
West Chester, PA 19382