Out with the old in the with the new is how the saying goes, and this year in West Chester we said “good bye” to long-time jazz and blues legend Vincent’s. But, now it’s time to give an enthusiastic “Hello!” to the new Side Bar and Restaurant that has taken its place.
On the outside, not much has changed, but owners Justin Dougherty, Kevin Barry and Adam Wetzel have revamped the interior to restore this West Chester landmark. With the exposed brick and burgundy, steel-blue and beige walls, they created a fresh, modern and classy atmosphere. Among all the renovations, there are still glimpses of its past with the original tiles still in place complete with “Vincent’s” in the hand-tiled floor that greets you right inside the door.
The downstairs houses 2 full bars, with 16 draft-beer and more than 47 bottle selections and a small dining area. Upstairs boasts a third, fully-stocked bar and a larger, but still intimate, dining area with an urban (eg, exposed heating ducts) meets romantic (eg, candlelit tables with white linen) feel to it. I was seated windowside with a view of Gay Street in all it’s decked-out holiday glory. Just in case that wasn’t enough for me, 1 of 8 flat-screen televisions were well within eyes reach to keep tabs on the game which, oddly, was not the least intrusive.
The menu is slated as “globally-influenced” and is full of classics with a unique flair that you can only expect from kitchen talents Dave Young (aka “Big Dave”) and Blaise Labik. With 2 executive chefs co-piloting the menu, you’ll find fun offerings like hush puppies with a pablano cheese dipping sauce, smoked duck canneloni with butternut squash covered in a blush sauce and jerk pork tenderloin with sweet potato pierogies.
My date and I left the fate of our order up to the chefs and our first course was an evening special: lobster mac n’ cheese. Although this trendy dish graces many-a-menu, this one easily made my top list (sorry, mom!). Topped with panko bread crumbs, this twist on a classic delivered perfect cheesy bites with sweet chunks of lobster meat.
Another starter was a treat from the late-night menu (not normally available before 10 P.M.), Chef Dave’s savory French toast topped with spicy sausage, smoked mozzarella and maple syrup. This sweet, spicy and savory combination is the ultimate palate pleaser. I tried to push it away and take “just one more bite,” failing miserably each and every time.
My entrée was another evening special: pan-seared scallops and shrimp with pepperoni and cheese bread pudding with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. The components of this dish seemed so unlikey to work together, but the result was a smashing success and so much fun to eat! The sweet tomato sauce and skillfully prepared seafood dressed up the more casual flavors of the bread pudding and was, to me, the culinary equivalent of a tuxedo t-shirt: formal, but here to party.
My date had the prosciutto-wrapped filet with smoked mozzarella, mushrooms and a garlic demi-glace. When I took my sights off my scallops to tune in on the raves coming from across the table, I reached my fork out to give it a try and it cut through like butter…with just the edge of my fork. Yup, that good.
The whimsy continued through to dessert with their famous Twinkie tiramisu. It was a flawless dessert for taste alone and scored major bonus points for creativity and the fun factor.
With co-executive chefs the menu is explained to be 1/3 Dave’s, 1/3 Blaise’s and 1/3 a combination of both, making for a colorful collection to please everyone.
“I can’t remember the last time I loved waking up and going to work,” Dave told me. “We are working and learning together as a team and it’s great to not feel the weight of the world on just you; it’s on both of us and we have fun.” This particular evening, the evening entree specials were Dave’s.
When asked about the inspiration for his entrée, he simply replied, “I was in the mood for a pepperoni and cheese sandwich, and wa-la,” he laughed. “In this industry, it’s easy to make it all about business, but here we are also a family and I’m proud to be part of that.”
Other fun-filled items:
“Adult applesauce” with jalapeño-spiked apples
Cereal-topped with strawberries and bananas
Hummus plate served with Triscuits and Wheat Thins
Be sure to check out the new brunch menu featuring choices such as s’more pancakes, eggs over smoked duck hash or filet Benedict.
Check out reviews and information on The Side Bar page.
10 E Gay St
West Chester PA 19308