The heart of Bucks County offers a
surprising variety of local flavors
Left to right: Zen Den, Empanada Mama, Andre’s Wine and Cheese Shop
PHOTOGRAPHS BY REBECCA MCALPIN
Sometimes I fear that when Philly folks think of Bucks County, only images of kitschy shops and casinos come to mind. But Bucks County is much more than that. In fact, a vibrant food scene has emerged here during the past ten years. We’ve seen a tremendous growth in new restaurants, breweries, distilleries and just plain good food. Doylestown is the center of Bucks County, although by no means the only place where delicious food is happening. But it’s a good place to start exploring. Join me as I lead you around the county seat, and point your stomach in the right direction.
9AM: START THE DAY IN A ZEN MODE
Forget the chain coffee scene; those who call this place home meet at the Zen Den. Tucked away on Donaldson Street a block from Main, you almost have to be a local to find it. Step in and you feel you’re in someone’s cozy and eclectically furnished living room. The vibe is relaxed and quiet and perfect for catching up with friends or having a business meeting. The coffee is good—La Colombe Torrefaction organic—as are all the drinks. And if you take a shine to that antique chair you’re sitting on, it’s probably for sale. Just ask.
10AM: TAKE IN THE TOWN
Doylestown is a great town to walk. Wander off into the quiet side streets, away from the shops and restaurants, and experience Doylestown, the neighborhood. Look closely and you’ll notice that many of the homes have a small plaque giving the year of construction and name of the original owner. Since Doylestown became the county seat in 1812, as you move out from the center, you can literally see the growth of the town. I love the mixture of architectural styles, everything from Victorian to mid-century modern.
11AM: MICHENER ART MUSEUM
I grew up going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When I moved to Doylestown 25 years ago and first visited the James A. Michener Art Museum, I was—let’s be honest—snobby. “Cute little museum,” I thought. But the first exhibit I attended changed my mind. The museum—named after the author, a native son—has excellent curating, interesting shows and a fine collection of works by Bucks County artists over the last century. Since opening in 1988 it has grown into one of the finest regional museums in the country.
James A. Michener Art Museum
Big Apple Pizza at Jules Thin Crust
12:30PM: HARD CHOICES
Being the county seat, Doylestown has a lot of hungry jurors spilling out of the courthouse come lunchtime. They must be overwhelmed, too, by the choices. The options include barbecue, tacos, hoagies, seafood and chicken tikka masala, to name a few. If you are coming from the museum, head back up into town by way of Jules Thin Crust. Try to choose from over a dozen kinds of flat pizza made with locally sourced ingredients. It’s not easy. One of my favorites is Meat #7: The Big Apple, topped with apples, honey, gorgonzola, bacon, caramelized onions and mozzarella.
Another preferred stop is Hickory Kitchen, a barbecue spot right near the courthouse. My bank is nearby. When I park to go in, I take a deep sniff of the air and, like a moth drawn to a flame, I turn toward Hickory Kitchen and the mouthwatering fragrance coming from its smoker. Go for the wings: meaty, smoky and with a choice of eight house-made sauces.
1:30PM: SHOP LOCAL
With a few exceptions, all the stores in Doylestown are independently owned businesses—which I think makes for more interesting shopping than chain stores. You’ll find unusual clothing, jewelry, books both new and used, vintage LPs and CDs, olive oils, and more. But make your first stop the Doylestown Food Market, a food co-op that strives to source at least 80% of its groceries from local farmers and makers. Pick up goat cheese from Giggling Goat Dairy in Perkasie, or pasture-raised pork from Purely Farm in Pipersville, or local vegetables, breads, and organic, locally roasted coffee.
3PM: EMPANADAS AND CHOCOLATE
By now you might be feeling a bit peckish. Go back to the Zen Den, look across the parking lot, and you’ll see Empanada Mama. There you’ll find freshly baked empanadas, including traditional Buenos Aires beef; bacon and date; chicken potpie; sweet onion and fontina; and guava and sweet cheese. Afterward, stop by Raymer’s Homemade Candies for some sea salt caramels. They are made from a family recipe that came over from Germany in the late 1800s. Two bites and a tang of salt. Perfect for dessert after a savory empanada
Doylestown Food Market
Andre’s Wine and Cheese Shop
5PM: COCKTAIL HOUR
Depending on the weather, you’ve got lots of choices. A cool spring day? Try Andre’s Wine & Cheese Shop, a wine bar in the Main Street Marketplace. Order a glass of local Cabernet, a cheese and charcuterie plate, and settle in. Warning: It’s such a mellow and relaxing place, you may not make it to dinner elsewhere.
On a warm day, sit out on the patio at the Penn Taproom on West State Street, enjoy a craft beer and people-watch. Or duck into Pag’s Pub, just a few doors down. With 24 beers on tap, over 50 whiskies and a great wine list, you’ll find something to please everyone. It’s also a lovely place for an after-dinner drink.
If I had only one evening for dinner in Doylestown, I’d go to Honey. Honey serves its small plates tapas-style, but instead of a server dumping everything you ordered on your table at once, the kitchen courses your meal according to how heavily seasoned the dishes you picked are. Lighter flavors are served at the beginning of the meal, with the boldest flavors arriving toward the end. It’s a small place, only 42 seats, so make your reservation in advance.
20 Donaldson St.
MICHENER ART MUSEUM
138 South Pine St.
JULES THIN CRUST
78 South Main St.
9 West Court St.
DOYLESTOWN FOOD MARKET
29 West State St.
21 Donaldson St.
RAYMER’S HOMEMADE CANDIES
21 East Oakland Ave.
ANDRE’S WINE & CHEESE SHOP
22 South Main St. (in the Main Street Marketplace)
80 West State St.
72 West State St.
42 Shewell Ave.
EDIBLE PHILLY’S D-TOWN FAVORITE’S
An easy day hop from Philadelphia, Doylestown offers historic quaint charm and lots of food-finding opportunities. Here are a few more things to love about the seat of Bucks County.
Altomonte’s Italian Market & Delicatessen, a family-owned business celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, is moving its Doylestown location to a new storefront this month. Customers requested a sit-down café, more organic choices, a larger butcher shop, parking, and gluten-free options for the new location, and owner Maria Teresa Nappi and her team were happy to oblige. According to general manager Vincent Grispino, “We were able to meet all those needs and exceed them.” Visit the website for news about their opening festivities. 856 N. Easton Rd. 215.489.8889 altomontes.com (also in Warminster)
Exploring Doylestown in a day is doable, but why not make it a mini getaway? Stay in one of 11 quaint guestrooms at this boutique hotel in the center of the historic borough. Make sure to relish the vintage decor and modern American tavern menu at The Hattery Stove & Still, the on-site restaurant. It has a speakeasy side door leading to the 16 taps pouring American craft brews. 18 W. State St. 215.345.6610 hatterydoylestown.com
MORAVIAN POTTERY AND TILE WORKS
Kitchen design is nearly as enticing as culinary art itself, and Doylestown is home to a national treasure on this front. Founded in 1898 by Henry Chapman Mercer, a proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement, and listed as a National Historic Landmark, this site’s tilework has influenced the art of kitchen and home design for more than a century. If time allows, consider this a must-stop, especially if you’re in the area May 14 and 15, the weekend of its 2016 annual Tile Festival. 130 E. Swamp Rd. 215.348.6098
This major name in quality tea is a homegrown company. Its iced teas and energy drinks are made with Kenya-grown, organic, Fair Trade green tea; you can buy them at grocery stores in Doylestown, including Weis Markets, and all around the region. steaz.com